I don’t mean to be a Nattering Nabob of Negativism (h/t John Clay), but I am only cautiously optimistic about Drew Barker’s commitment to Kentucky. Although I recognize the significance of the commitment and understand the message it sends, football recruiting is an inexact science. On-field success of individual prospects in college football is much harder to project than it is in basketball. Eric Fisher, an unranked 2-star recruit in the class of 2009 according to Rivals.com, was selected as the No. 1 pick in last month’s NFL Draft. In the current landscape of college basketball, a 2-star recruit has little to no chance of ever becoming a No. 1 draft pick. The AAU circuit, and the nature of the game itself, makes it easier to evaluate star basketball recruits in comparison to football prospects. There are way less games in football, which means there are less opportunities to be fully evaluated. Yes, there are passing clinics and camps for quarterbacks like Barker, but full-contact, 11-on-11 football is limited to a handful of Friday nights in the fall.
If all the dominoes fall for Drew Barker, he is going to be a very special player at Kentucky, but there’s so much that has to go right for him to meet the lofty expectations of some fans. Patrick Towles came to Kentucky with some of the same expectations that now Barker is faced with, but right now it’s uncertain if Towles will ever be the regular starter at UK. College football hasn’t been a walk in the park for Towles and it may not be for Barker either. Barker may prove good enough to be the starter as soon as he walks on campus, but the plan for him is to redshirt. Fans will have to be patient and not expect Barker to start or excel right away. Andre Woodson did not blossom until his junior year. On the other hand, Morgan Newton came to UK with high expectations and showed flashes of greatness as a freshman, but never developed into what he was expected to be.
Don’t get me wrong– Friday was a very big day for Kentucky football, regardless of what Drew Barker ever does in his collegiate career. Mark Stoops edging out Steve Spurrier for a top-10 quarterback, and Tennessee finishing a distant third in the race, is something to be very excited about because of the message it sends. The commitment of Barker, after he was once considered to be heavily leaning towards playing for the “ole ball coach” at South Carolina, shows that Stoops will not back down from anyone. He can recruit against the big boys and will not back off even when the odds may be against him. Be excited about the way Stoops is selling this program and winning recruiting battles in the SEC, but take it easy on the Tim Couch comparisons and be careful about putting too much pressure on one guy before he even begins his senior year of high school.
Enthusiasm should be tempered for Barker and any individual football recruit. What fans should be excited about are the entire classes that Mark Stoops is bringing in. Some recruits will be misses, and some will be hits. But when more four-star recruits are coming to Kentucky than ever before, the chances are that there will be many more hits than misses at this rate. Barker may become a huge part of Kentucky’s success, but for now, the focus should be on the message that his decision sends and the progress and hope that it represents. It’s not all on Drew Barker, or anyone else, but the numbers as a whole suggest very good things are coming to Commonwealth Stadium.