Kentucky Football: Whither Jason Hatcher?

Jason Hatcher decommitted from USC, and UK is on his list with Florida and Louisville. - Bud Elliott (SB Nation)

Defensive end Jason Hatcher from Trinity High, one of the best players in the Commonwealth, decommitted from USC yesterday and is expected to chose between Louisville, Kentucky, and Florida.

We had this story from SB Nation up overnight because I didn't have time to write about it myself, but now I do. Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher decommitted from USC (that's the one over in California) yesterday, and Avinash Kunnath of SB Nation gives us the lowdown:

USC is close to the scholarship crunch due to sanctions, so Hatcher's decommitment could have had something to do with lack of space.

Which sets up a battle royal between the Charlie Strong, who just signed a 3.7 million dollar/year extension with the Cardinals, and Mark Stoops, Kentucky's new head coach. John Clay has a piece today describing the relative strengths of Stoops & Co.'s hand:

The key player in Hatcher’s recruitment? It could be Bjoern Werner.

Werner is the Florida State defensive end who is expected to be a top five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Some mock drafts even have Werner listed at the No. 1 overall spot.

And who coached Werner at FSU? Stoops was Florida State’s defensive coordinator the past three years, building a defense that ended up No. 2 in the nation in total defense last year. And Werner’s position coach was D.J. Eliot, who coached defensive ends at FSU and is now Stoops’ defensive coordinator at Kentucky.

The Cats Pause states the case a little more emphatically:

Ranked as the No. 5 weakside defensive end in the country according to the 247Composite, the 6-2.5, 240-pounder has reportedly been very impressed with Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot's resume' with defensive ends while at Florida State.

So what we have here is a Calipari-like situation where line is, Stoops and D.J. Eliot put Werner in position to be drafted high, and both those guys are now at Kentucky. Hey, it works for Cal, maybe it will work for Stoops as well.

But Louisville is not without a hand to play: Strong was the defensive coordinator at Florida when the Gators won a national title, the Cardinals are coming off a big Sugar Bowl victory, and, according to Clay:

Then there’s Hatcher’s teammate James Quick, the star wide receiver who recently committed to the Cards.

Which hand is stronger? I don't know -- maybe neither one, because the Florida Gators are said to be in the mix as well for Hatcher's services. As to visits, the Courier-Journal has this:

He visited the University of Kentucky the weekend of Jan. 11, and the Wildcats' coaches visited him last week. He has been scheduled to visit Florida this weekend and the University of Louisville the weekend of Feb. 1 in advance of national signing day Feb. 6.

I'd like to believe that Hatcher decommitted because he liked what he saw at Kentucky, and because the situation at USC is not as good as he'd like. Florida is said to be interested, but their fans are showing lukewarm support for Hatcher's recruitment, although that doesn't mean a thing as far as Will Muschamp & Co. are concerned. It doesn't help Kentucky's chances that his last visit will be to Louisville, either.

Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

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