College football recruiting and college basketball recruiting are two entirely different worlds. With college basketball, almost everyone is familiar with the top 20 or so players. A roster of 12 for basketball (29 for Louisville) is much easier to keep track of than a roster of 60 or more for football. The number of college football recruits to keep track of is a daunting task and one that the casual fan often doesn’t follow quite as closely. Other than a few of the big name local players and other 4-5 star players Kentucky might be in the mix for from time to time, it’s usually not until a player commits that I even become aware of their name. If the player is one I haven’t heard a lot about, my first instinct is to skip over the number of stars, the city, the position, the 40-yard dash time, the number of Twitter followers, etc. and look directly to the list of schools/offers the player chose Kentucky over. If I see other SEC schools, I’m automatically thrilled. If I see other BCS schools, I’m happy. If I see Louisville, I try to send out a clever Tweet and then hashtag #L1C4. If I see Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Eastern Illinois, or another school of equal value– I tend to temper my excitement. I can’t help it. I try to convince myself that it’s more important that the Kentucky staff feels the player was worth offering a scholarship to than it is who else was courting the player. Until the season starts though and talent is proved on the field, I tend to rely on the “He Chose Kentucky Over _____ Theory.”
Is that “theory” correct though? Have the players who have picked Kentucky over the other SEC and BCS schools been more successful than those who have picked Kentucky over schools that may be from lesser conferences? I am going to take a look back at the past few years at Kentucky, highlighting those I would consider some of the most “successful” players while at Kentucky (especially including those who have made it in the NFL). Will the theory hold up? Is it worth getting bent out of shape about who a player had on their final list of 3-5 schools?
Sample of “Successful” Players since 2007 season (*Data from Rivals.com):
Danny Trevathan picked UK over Arkansas, Ole Miss, Purdue, Indiana and Central Florida
Winston Guy originally committed to Arkansas, but was offered by Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State and Cincinnati
Randall Cobb had late interest from Tennessee, but the only other offer at the time of his commitment was from Middle Tennessee State. He had interest from Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Cincinnati though.
John Conner was not offered an athletic scholarship.
DeQuin Evans had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State
Mike Hartline picked Kentucky over interest from Illinois
Micah Johnson chose Kentucky over Georgia, but was also pursued by Notre Dame, USC, Louisville, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami, Michigan, Auburn, Florida and LSU (what a list…)
Trevard Lindley chose Kentucky over offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, North Carolina and Southern Miss
Derrick Locke chose Kentucky mainly due to the chance to be a two-sport athlete. Some other schools showed interest, but Kentucky was the only to offer (Iowa State, SMU, Texas Tech and Wyoming showed interest)
Braxton Kelley chose Kentucky over South Carolina and Virginia Tech. He also held an offer from Middle Tennessee State
Corey Peters chose Kentucky over Michigan, Ohio State and Auburn
Alfonso Smith chose Kentucky over offers from Louisville, Indiana, Boston College, Miami (OH)
Jacob Tamme chose Kentucky over Northwestern, Louisville, West Virginia and Indiana
Keenan Burton chose Kentucky over Louisville, Northwestern and Indiana
Jeremy Jarmon chose Kentucky over Memphis and offers from Ole Miss and Southern Illinois
Stevie Johnson chose Kentucky out of JUCO, over BYU, Wyoming and Missouri. Stevie got loose on Louisville. Yeah, I threw that in there just because.
Andre’ Woodson chose Kentucky over a final 4 that included Louisville, West Virginia and Penn State. Woodson also had interest from Clemson, Colorado, Purdue and Tennessee
Wesley Woodyard chose Kentucky over interest from Georgia and Florida, as well as a scholarship offer from Arkansas
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the UK players from the past few years who have been extremely successful, many going on to have NFL careers, have at least held offers/interest from a number of BCS-level schools. Only a few rare exceptions on the list did not fall into that category. So perhaps there is something to the notion that looking at the list of other offers/interested schools can be a good way to gauge who some of the biggest stars will be. With that said, not every player was boasting a list of BCS schools full of powerhouses such as Micah Johnson’s list. The Randall Cobbs, John Conners and Derrick Lockes of the world are glaring exceptions.
Another important factor to note is that a number of players on the list (Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Micah Johnson, Jacob Tamme, etc) came from the state of Kentucky. When Kentucky produces top-level talent (which doesn’t always happen on a regular basis), UK has a better chance to jump some more prominent out-of-state programs. It doesn’t always happen, but the bigger the crop of talented in-state high school players, the better. And for a string of a few years, Kentucky was producing at a higher clip than in recent years.
In conclusion, I’m not saying that a list of offers is the only way to gauge how good a player will likely be while at Kentucky, but it’s certainly not a theory I can debunk due to the evidence.