Kevin C. Cox
Shortly after his hiring Mark Stoops let it be known he was going to recruit his home state of Ohio harder than any previous UK coach had before. The idea is two-fold: one, Stoops can leverage his contacts in the state that roughly produces as many Division-I athletes as Georgia; and two, UK can win a lot of the recruiting wars of borderline line 4* star prospects in the state against the West Virginia's, Wisconsin's, and even Nebraska's of the world. These are recruits that the behemoths Michigan and Ohio State will likely pass over in favor of even higher rated recruits. In the South, Kentucky competes for these borderline 4* prospects against other SEC and ACC schools, but UK doesn't have the unique recruiting pitch of playing in a premier conference to these southern recruits. In short, 3* and 4* Ohio prospects are largely under-served by SEC programs, and recruiting Ohio will be very important to the development of our football program given Stoop's connections and UK's geographic proximity.
One specific way Stoops is making inroads is by hiring his old friend Vince Marrow. Coach Marrow was previously a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska, and is credited with getting the commitment of UK's highest rated recruit since 2010 over the weekend, safety Marcus McWilson. Want further proof that Marrow is a great hire? Just visit Nebraska's SB Nation website and see how they feel about him. The post illustrates to me UK's gains are being made at Nebraska's expense.
Finally (because we can't discuss UK football too long without feeling obligated to bring up the rising power that is our in-state rival and inevitably compare ourselves to them), Stoop & Co.'s connections in Ohio will be a net positive in the rivalry against U of L. In the South, we will win and lose our fair share of recruiting battles against Strong and his staff who all have their own connections in the region. This week alone saw Florida LB Keith Kelsey choose U of L over UK. However, Kentucky should beat out the Cardinals for Ohio's treasure cove of prospects, and they have to date in the form of Jaleel Hytchye and Kyle Meadows. Cincinnati produces top-level talent annually, and the city is essentially the same distance from Lexington and Louisville. It's a crucial neutral zone, and whatever program recruits the city and its environs the best could have the edge over the other in at least recruiting rankings.
At the end of the day our recruiting has improved substantially, likely at the expense of Nebraska and other B1G and Big 12 programs. Hopefully that will translate into a better performance on the field and more wins in the SEC and against Louisville.