Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow signed a pair of teammates from Ohio that could contribute on the field in 2019. Before defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson and Moses Douglass put pen to paper on Wednesday, each proved their loyalty to Kentucky in different ways.
“Here’s what people don’t understand about Moses. Moses had about 31 offers. He had everybody,” Vince Marrow said Wednesday. “You had everybody pulling at this kid. This kid never took another unofficial visit. He still had five visits where he could have taken visits anywhere, and the kid was loyal to this University and loyal to us.”
Douglass’ loyalty to the Big Blue Nation runs thicker than blood. The son of former Wildcat defensive back Moe Douglass, now the head football coach at Springfield High School, outsiders believed the Kentucky connection would lead him to UK. That wasn’t necessarily the case.
“That really didn’t play a role at all,” Moses told KSR last week. “I didn’t want to go there at first because of that. I don’t like being in nobody’s shadow.”
His father never thought Moses would end up at Kentucky. “He went down there and had a good time, saw it for the first time and just thought it was the right place for him to be.”
Even though Moses was quickly sold, it was far from a done deal. To create an unbreakable bond, Vince Marrow had to convince Camela Douglass that Kentucky was the perfect place for her son.
“I think she wanted him to have his own way because his dad played here. She wanted him to have his own life, and I had to convince her, ‘Just come up and visit.’” Once Marrow got her to campus, the city of Lexington did the rest of the work.
“The people in Lexington really played a big part in their hospitality and just treating these parents respectfully. Because, you want to know where your kid is going to school. You want to know what kind of people are going to be around. So, I think that was a big part.”
Douglass will move to Lexington with Isaiah Gibson in January. Each player will enroll early for the spring semester and participate in spring practice.
Before Gibson puts on a Kentucky uniform, he is already all-in on the Wildcats. While other schools pushed to flip the defensive tackle from UK, he confirmed his commitment to Kentucky with a Wildcat tattoo.
Gibson chose Kentucky over a few Big Ten schools, most notably Wisconsin. Like Moses, he had a Kentucky connection, even though it was not by blood.
“I didn’t really try to push him hard in any direction. I just wanted him to do what he felt was best for him and his family,” Moe Douglass said. “I think it didn’t hurt that Kordell Looney is down there presently playing that same position, being kind of like a big brother to Isaiah when he was in high school.”
Looney and Gibson played together for two years before the former made the move down I-75. The redshirt sophomore entered the regular defensive line rotation in 2018, finishing the season with 15 tackles, one for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries. Looney’s game has grown exponentially since he got to UK.
“Kordell has learned to play the game, because Kordell didn’t play but two years in high school. Isaiah’s been playing since he came out of his mom’s womb,” Moe Douglass said. “I think Isaiah is stronger at the point of attack at this time. When Kordell came out of high school, his knowledge wasn’t as strong as Isaiah’s. Isaiah has a great understanding of offensive and defensive line play because he’s played both the whole time in high school.”
Gibson’s punch at the line of scrimmage is impeccable. He’s not just a big guy either. Gibson can move. A member of Springfield’s basketball team, he has a combination that Mark Stoops needed to find in the 2019 class.
“Cavon and Isaiah are both really good football players,” Stoops said at Wednesday’s press conference. “They are big defensive tackles that are big and athletic playmakers. They’re hard to get and they’re hard to hold onto.”
Gibson has the talent, but cracking into an SEC defensive line rotation right away is rare. The same cannot always be said about the secondary, especially one that is losing all five starters. It was a big reason why Moses jumped at the opportunity to come to Kentucky.
“The situation at hand: five DBs are leaving,” Moses said. “It was the perfect situation for me. I can come in and at least attempt to play early. It’s close to home and they really had a good relationship with my mom. The coaches made my mom feel like she was at home.”
His mother could see him playing on Kroger Field this fall. Marrow believes Moses has the tools to contribute immediately.
“This kid is a good football player, and he will play as a freshman,” Marrow said. “He’s a big, physical kid, and I know you all say, ‘Are we going to move him to linebacker?’ No, you want guys like that. You want to be intimidating.”
There isn’t a more intimidating player on Kentucky’s 2018 roster than Darius West. The free safety is flat out scary. That’s what UK’s coaches want Moses to do in 2019.
“We both like to hit,” Moses said. His father took the comparison to D-West a little bit further.
“He’s a good open-field tackler. He does a good job of getting himself in proper position to make plays when they come his way,” Moe said. “I think they’re both students of the game. You can tell they’ve both put in a lot of time as far as film study and their teammates believe in them. They are guys you can count on to be in the right spot and getting guys in the right position.”
The “student of the game” tag gets thrown around often by coaches. For Moe Douglass, it isn’t hyperbole. One night last year, he went to his son’s room to check in. He found Moses buried in the upcoming opponent’s game tape. Friday night, the unprompted extra effort manifested on the field as Moses effortlessly read the opponent’s route combinations before jumping into passing lanes.
“It’s definitely a coach’s dream. The Dad’s dream is: ‘I want you to be doing your homework,'” he laughed.
By signing on the dotted line to play at UK, Moses Douglas and Isaiah Gibson just got one step closer to fulfilling their dreams. Talented enough to play SEC football, they’ll soon learn what it will take to compete with the nation’s best at Kroger Field this fall.