Mark Stoops met with the media minutes after Jason Hatcher’s announcement to discuss Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class, how it all went down, and what’s next from here.
Here’s an overview of the press conference, written by someone who is very excited about Kentucky football, me:
— First and foremost, flipping Jason Hatcher from USC and signing him to Kentucky: Stoops said he had to make up a lot of time with Hatcher, as well as all recruits, and they were able to find success, despite his mother’s loyalty to the Louisville Cardinals. “Mama is a Louisville fan, so it was hard to get around that,” he said. Stoops took four assistant coaches with him to the last in-home visit with Hatcher and he’s very thankful that Jason and his family were so gracious to talk to them on a regular basis throughout his recruitment. He called Hatcher a tremendous person.
— The other highly-regarded in-state commitment, Ryan Timmons, was also a top priority for the staff. Timmons was the first recruit they went to see after taking the job 71 days ago. Stoops sent DJ Eliot to Frankfort to see Timmons as soon as Eliot was in place on the staff. He admitted the trip to Franklin Co. was convenient because it’s on the way to see Hatcher in Louisville. Stoops called Timmons a dynamic player and a high priority in Neal Brown’s system.
— As it stands now, which will hopefully change, Kentucky’s 2013 recruit class is comprised of 22 signees: 12 offensive players, nine defensive players, and one kicker. He still hopes to add at least one more to the group before wrapping up the class.
— Nine of the current 22 signees are from the state of Florida. Stoops said that’s in part because of relationships built when he was at Florida State, and it’s hard to say if they’ll pursue the area as hard in the future. He said he’s not putting limitations on anything, though.
— Alvonte Bell is one of the players he was very familiar with while in Tallahassee; he even offered Bell a scholarship to play football at Florida State. Bell, of course, chose the Wildcats with Joker Phillips, and Stoops said he was excited to see Bell’s name on the list of commitments when he arrived at Kentucky. He worked hard to maintain and build on his relationship with Bell as soon as he took the UK job.
Khalid Thomas is another Joker commit Stoops is very familiar with from his time at FSU. Thomas is from Tallahassee, as is his brother, current UK linebacker, Pancho Thomas.
— Stoops spoke very highly of one of my favorite players in the class, JoJo Kemp. He called Kemp a home run hitter on the football field. Kemp is another guy they targeted right away and were very excited to reel in.
— Jacob Hyde became a KSR favorite this morning when we posted a photo of him riding a lawn mower in a white tuxedo on his way to prom. Stoops also fell for the homegrown Kentucky boy, saying he loves Hyde’s Kentucky accent. Hyde, from Clay County, isn’t rated as high as many of the other players in the class, but he’s a big, strong guy and Stoops is excited to have him on board.
— Here’s a pretty incredible stat, if it’s true: Stoops said they “shot around” 70% with the guys they brought on campus for visits. That’s a pretty remarkable success rate for football recruiting. Keep in mind, not all visitors received offers or high interest, though. He’s only referring to the visitors they actively pursued.
— He credited Big Blue Nation and the passion of the fan base for playing a major role in putting this class together. He said recruits felt the presence of BBN, especially on Twitter. And kids love Twitter.
So pat yourself on the back for your contributions. It was a group effort by everyone.
— Do the recruiting rankings matter to Coach Stoops? Of course they do, silly. He said, “Let’s not kid ourselves. They matter. And we want to be higher rather than lower. And that’s what we try to do.” UK is currently ranked No. 28 by Rivals.com, the best of the four major recruiting services. Stuart Hammer will be by shortly to show you how Kentucky would measure up in other BCS conferences.
— Stoops noticed that a lot of people have been asking him why he decided to take the Kentucky job. “Why here?,” he’s constantly asked. He tells them he truly believes there is a lot of potential at Kentucky. “It’s a sleeping giant,” he said of the UK football program. “We can do great things.”
— He’s very anxious to get back and start working with his players, both old and new. The next phase is to develop the guys through a couple weeks of morning training sessions and see how they move without the ball. The players have been working hard on their own in the weight room and he’s excited to finally get settled in Lexington and join them during offseason training. However, the staff will still be recruiting hard, evaluating the class of 2014. He said they were on the phone with 2014 recruits this morning and they’re already a little behind in the class because the 2013 class took so much work. You have to admire his drive and aggression on the recruiting trail.
What a great day and a bright future for Kentucky football.