Certain days as a Kentucky fan just pack a little more punch than others. When you wake up in the morning, you feel as if you are on the eve of something big. Whether it’s an announcement or a big game, you just know that you are on the verge of a memorable and exciting day. This past weekend, waking up on Saturday morning, Big Blue nation collectively had that type of feeling. You just knew it was going to be a big day for Kentucky football. I would even argue that in football, due to the fact that a single player committing doesn’t necessarily have the same major immediate impact that a single basketball player could have (1 of 5 on the court has a lot greater impact), such big moments and announcements aren’t as frequent as in basketball. Nonetheless, in the brief period of time Mark Stoops and his coaching staff have been in Lexington, the football program has produced a number of big announcement moments that have led to those “special” types of days for Kentucky fans.
Amidst all of the 3, 4 and now 5-star prospects who have pledged their allegiance to Kentucky in the last couple of years, which announcements were the biggest? I would argue that the following 3 were the biggest announcements of the Mark Stoops Era. Feel free to agree, disagree, or banter in the comment section. And Go USA.
1. Drew Barker
I think we can all probably agree that Drew Barker was the commitment that really got the ball rolling for Kentucky’s 2014 class. Barker not only signified a top-level quarterback to anchor the class, but Barker became one of the main leaders on the recruiting trail to secure other top-tier players alongside him for Kentucky. Barker was relentless in his quest to make believers out of players who might not have otherwise considered Kentucky in the past. By picking the Cats and putting his faith in the vision of Stoops and his coaching staff, Barker proved that big time recruits could be comfortable picking the excitement and rebuilding efforts in Lexington over other higher profile schools such as South Carolina.
Barker looks poised for success in the future at Kentucky as a quarterback, but even before he ever put on the blue and white uniform– his contributions to the kickstart of the Mark Stoops recruiting era were second to none.
2. Matt Elam
While Barker was perhaps the most influential recruit for Stoops so far in bringing in other top talent around him, Matt Elam signified a different type of recruit and recruiting battle win for Stoops and his staff. Elam not only represented Stoops’ new stronghold on bringing in the top talent in Kentucky, but Elam was a 5-star in some services’ rankings and was a highly touted recruit that held an offer from the mecca of college football… Alabama. As talented as Elam might prove to be on the football field, it’s hard to deny the monumental moment of beating out Alabama for a recruit that the Tide really wanted. Stoops and his staff had already won some impressive recruiting battles with schools Kentucky had never been able to compete with before, but this was certainly the biggest of them all.
3. The D.C. Duo
When Jabari Greenwood and Darius Fullwood chose Kentucky on Saturday, an entirely new avenue opened up in the recruiting spectrum for Kentucky football. Mark Stoops and his coaching staff have already knocked down a lot of big walls. Kentucky has the monopoly right now on top in-state talent. Kentucky has moved itself into a position of significant stature in the state of Ohio. But now Kentucky has widened its recruiting range to a new area… and it’s not typical SEC stomping grounds. By reaching into the D.C. area for top talent, Kentucky is probably (at least as of now) the only SEC school going that far north. Kentucky has found at least one area in which it can go into those living rooms and say, “You can come play in the SEC.” And that argument right there will hold a lot of weight with kids whose other offers probably don’t include some of the more tradition-rich football programs ALONG with the best conference affiliation. To me, this duo of commitments begs the question… “What’s next for this staff?” Just when we think we’ve got them figured out as far as recruiting strategies… they flip the switch and turn over a new leaf.