One of the busiest times of the year for the Kentucky football program was forced to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. Each spring the sound of pads popping on the practice fields are heard by countless recruits on the sideline, many of which are visiting the campus for the first time. Not long after coaches are traversing the country to watch prospects work out and visit with coaches at the nation’s top prep programs.
Now, like everything else, Kentucky’s coaching staff must work from home. Few have struggled with the stay-at-home orders more than recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow.
“If you know anything about me on our staff, I’m the guy that moves a lot,” he said recently on Hey Kentucky.
Instead of traversing the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the state of Ohio, he’s had to contact players via Zoom or FaceTime. Those calls, often made with Mark Stoops, are the only thing getting him out of the house. While some may see it as a negative, the eternal optimist believes it’s just giving him more time to recruit.
“All it means now is that I get to zero in on something that I like to do. I FaceTime more than anything with players. I’ve been talking to a lot of parents. When you’ve got all this time on your hands it gives you a chance to really dive in deep and get to know these parents.”
Instead of hopping in the car and driving four or five hours to a high school, he can use all of that time to talk to different recruits. Just like the rest of America, coaches have exponentially more time on their hands to do what they can from home — recruit via Zoom and FaceTime.
There is one downside that may not cost UK in the class of 2021, but it’s impact will be felt in future classes. All summer camps at the University of Kentucky have been canceled. For the football program, summer camps may be the only time Stoops gets to watch these players compete in person. Much of Kentucky’s recruiting success has been the result of excellent early evaluations. Now their greatest evaluation tool has been taken away.
“It will affect us in our evaluation process and getting kids on campus,” Stoops said Monday morning. “It’s a way to get them introduced to the campus, to see Lexington, to meet our coaches and be around our coaches in a coaching environment, see the way we coach and interact with kids. It hurts us that way, really hurts in the recruiting aspect more than anything with us, a way for us to get our eyes on kids.”
For some, those workouts at camps can be life-changing. Last year Georgia linebacker D’Eryk Jackson earned a scholarship offer at a UK summer camp. Upon returning home he committed to the Cats. The staff is now handcuffed, unable to see exactly how these young prospects operate in person.
“The only part that’s bad for us is spring is a big recruiting period for us. We get out and really start seeing the players,” said Marrow. “Even though you can’t really talk to them, you can see them work out. That’s hurting right now for us. But because we always get ahead, just like the NFL (draft), we’re already on the 22s right now. We knew the ’21 class, and just in this state alone, there’s some pretty good guys here. We’re on track where we’re supposed to be.”
Like every college football program, this spring will serve as a setback on the recruiting front. As things begin to normalize, the time invested now will pay dividends when official visitors storm campuses this summer and fall.