After yesterday’s practice, Joker Phillips informed media Jerrell Priester would be transferring from the program. At first I was surprised, but then after thinking it through, I shouldn’t have been. The writing was all over the wall.
Priester was a very promising recruit. During his recruitment, he committed to Vanderbilt before signing with the Cats on signing day. In fact, he gave his verbal to UK days before signing day, but didn’t want to make it public knowledge. Personally, I believe Priester picked UK because he didn’t have the test score to attend Vandy and would have likely had to attend prep school. His mom wanted him to go to Nashville. His coaches wanted him to go to Lexington.
No one followed Jerrell Priester’s recruitment more than I did. I interviewed him several times as a recruit and then again as a player at UK. In fact, I believe I was the only member of media who requested an interview with him during media days. I was intrigued by Priester, simply because of his speed and because he was one of the first UK commitments I had ever interviewed. I always felt he was full of potential. During my interview with him at media days, he talked about “growing up” and “maturing” as a football player. Unless I’m missing something, his departure showed just the opposite.
Joker Phillips recruited and sold the speedster on returning kicks, lining up in the Wildcat and becoming a big time cornerback in the SEC. Well none of that happened, Rick Minter came in and the competition became fierce and attitudes were adjusted. While Priester was one of the fastest players on the team, he struggled fielding kicks. Fans caught a glimpse of that during fan day just a few weeks ago.
Based on people I have talked to, Priester struggled with the changes on defense. I’m told he didn’t jive with Rick Minter and his style. Not everyone will, we have seen that with Josh Gibbs and Qua Huzzie too. Players come and players go. At the end of the day, Joker Phillips and his staff need players who are willing to give 110% every day. Very few players can get by on talent alone.
Losing Priester does have an impact on the 2011 Cats. Based on feedback, he was the No 4 cornerback and he was the team’s nickel corner. He would have provided valuable depth and played a huge role covering kicks too. Like I said, he was one of the fastest guys on the team. He was poised to see a lot of action this season in various roles.
While Randall Burden and Anthony Moseley are the projected starters, Cartier Rice appears to be their back up. As long as the two seniors stay healthy, Preister’s loss won’t be felt this year. His loss impacts the 2012 season the most. That’s assuming he would have stayed and worked hard like he was supposed to. That’s water under the bridge now.
UK has several really good young cornerbacks on the team currently. Last season, walk-on Mikie Benton saw more action at the end of the season than Jerrell Priester. Look for Benton, Dale Trimble, Eric Simmons and Daylen Hall to all see action this fall. Steve Brown recently stated none of the freshmen were definite redshirt guys. Based on the feedback I have been receiving, Daylen Hall will play this fall. Simmons is one of the faster defensive backs on the team and Dale Trimble was named the Scout Team Defensive MVP several times last season. My point is the Cats will be fine.
UK has already picked up two verbal commitments from Shawn Blaylock and Jonathan Reed. The Cats are not done either. Jadarius West, Chris Bivins, Tyreece Jiles and Percy Minor could all be cornerback possibilities to sign with the Cats in February.
One thing we are learning from UK’s fall camp is the staff has set a new standard. Joker Phillips and Steve Brown were known as “player’s coaches.” I believe after last season, Joker realized he could have handled some things differently. In the process of setting a new standard, the staff is building chemistry and a bond with this team that could lead to special things this season.