Steve Clinkscale is a top-notch recruiter–there is no denying that.
Without him spending the last five or so years as the defensive backs coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats very well would have missed out on big-name recruits such as Destin and Keaten Wade, Yusuf Corker, Justin Rogers, Marquan McCall, DeAndre Square, Brandin Echols, and many, many more. On the field, Clinkscale was just as important to Kentucky. The ‘Cats ranked in the top-four among SEC programs over the last three seasons when it came to pass defense.
But Clinkscale has moved on to the Michigan Wolverines staff, where he’ll now get to recruit in the state that he has had the most success at during his time in Lexington. Shortly after the decision from Clinkscale, questions began to circulate about the status of a few current Kentucky commits from the class of 2022, including Jeremiah Caldwell, Andre Stewart, and Alex Afari–a trio of defensive back prospects whose lead recruiter was Clinkscale. As of right now, all three are still committed to the ‘Cats, but it’s no secret that Clinkscale will make a move to gauge their interest in potentially flipping them to Michigan.
That’s why it was vitally important for Kentucky to hire a new defensive backs coach sooner rather than later. On Thursday, Chris Collins was officially named the new defensive backs coach for the ‘Cats after spending the last four seasons as the safeties coach at Georgia State. Much like Clinkscale, Collins has a reputation as a fearless recruiter and a coach who produces results on the field. Georgia State appeared in three bowl games during Collins’ four seasons and, with the help of Collins, brought in the school’s highest-rated recruiting class in program history in 2020.
Priority number one for Collins should be reaffirming the commitments already locked up, particularly Andre Stewart, who picked up an offer from Clinkscale and Michigan just this past weekend. Jeremiah Caldwell should be next on his list, as he plays his high school football at Belleville, which is roughly 30 minutes down the road from Michigan’s campus. He picked up an offer from the Wolverines on April 15, which, granted, was well before Clinkscale got there and about three months after Caldwell committed to UK, but Clinkscale has reached out to him since arriving at UM. Don’t expect the recruiter to go down without a fight–Clinkscale is actively trying to flip Caldwell to Michigan, according to a source.
The lack of a defensive backs coach the last few weeks has caused an expected drop in communication between some recruiting targets and the Kentucky football staff. Not that the staff is ignoring the recruits that Clinkscale was the leader for, but that it’s made it far more difficult to maintain that relationship. There is one prospect of note where this has already caused a rift in his recruitment: four-star athlete and a teammate of Caldwell at Belleville High School, Christian Rapley, who is currently undecided.
Rapley is considered the 226th best player in his class, according to 247 Sports, and one of the top prospects in Michigan. However, he does not currently hold an offer from the Wolverines. Rapley received his offer from Kentucky last April.
A source close to the situation tells KSR that Rapley’s communication with Kentucky has died off ever since Clinkscale left for Michigan and that it would likely stay that way until a new defensive backs coach was hired. As of right now, Rapley, who had the ‘Cats among his top 9 back in August, does not plan on taking a trip or camping at Kentucky, but the same source said that would likely change if/when UK does decide to get back into contact. Rapley does intend to go see Arkansas, Memphis, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, and Oklahoma in some form or fashion this summer.
It could be on Collins to rekindle the relationship between the Kentucky staff and Rapley, but also the many other recruits in a similar situation who were previously recruited by Clinkscale at UK. However, there is always the possibility that Collins doesn’t even recruit out of Michigan, considering all his links to the south. If that were to be the case, it’s likely better to cut ties now and look elsewhere instead of leading recruits on. But either way, there is work to be done in that area and it’s on the Kentucky staff to make it right.
Interestingly enough, Rapley was supposed to commit to Kentucky at the same time as Caldwell back in January, but some questions over which position Rapley would play as a Wildcat prevented that from happening. Despite that, UK is still considered one of the top preferences for Rapley. This happened when Clinkscale was with Kentucky, too. Perhaps a different perspective and fresh face in Collins will be able to mend whatever issue was previously clogging up a potential commitment. But that is purely speculation.
Kentucky’s recruiting momentum has dried up a bit ever since seven class of 2022 players chose to play for the ‘Cats in April and May, although the program is in the hunt for several top-tier prospects and is still on pace to haul in its highest-rated class in the Mark Stoops era. But in order to scoop up those targets, UK will need all hands on deck, and that includes Chris Collins hitting the trail with ferocity no matter which area he recruits out of.