This past week has seen yet another sign that Stoops & Co. are doing all they can to rebuild a Wildcat football team that had arguably reached the nadir of its history. We are all aware of how uncompetitive our team had become, but were not completely aware of the depth our talent had sunk. Now Stoops has taken the reins to refocus on what "depth" really means – depth of talent, not depth of despair.
In wamarsh's latest post he covered the announcement of our latest signees, AJ Stamps and Cory Johnson. As part of the ensuing comments girth mentioned a possible recension of the offer to Pullium which turned out to be false but still raised the question of pulling offers to recruits. There have been some discussions concerning the practice on ASOB but it has always been spurred by some other program. With Stoops now chasing real talent for our team this discussion is hitting much closer to home. I didn't see a problem when Saban did it and don't have a problem with Stoops pulling offers, it's the way the game is played.
Sure, it sounds cold but what is the alternative? Let's take Pullium's situation as an example and assume for argument's sake that his offer was pulled. There could be any number of reasons of which could come into play. First, was it contingent upon him being a December signee? Girth mentioned it was not mentioned anywhere but that seems like a detail that wouldn't be announced. A FOI request could uncover the facts but even if it wasn't written it could have been understood between the coach and player. But Pullium is in a position where he has other options; namely, Nebraska, Arizona State and possibly Oregon and Baylor. The first two have made offers and the other two have shown interest. It's not as if he has no other option. Now if we pull an offer the player stands a good chance of having other opportunities at legit programs, not just directional schools as in the past.
Plus, I'm not sure how fair it is to the player to keep the commitment and his hope alive when you know you have recruited over him or if the staff has determined they don't want three JUCO cornerbacks. Stoops is facing something a UK coach has never faced. In this case, Stoops has a plan to get players up to speed quickly and January enrollment is either explicitly or tacitly implied for these JUCO players at this point in developing the program. We have no spot on the team for JUCOs that cannot be immediate starters. Once again, he is setting his precedents. JUCOs in the future will take what he says to heart whether it is the opportunity start immediately or you can get a scholarship if you can sign in December.
UK is at a point where help is needed immediately EVERYWHERE. I think Stoops has struck a good balance between JUCOs and four year recruits. While some coaches, most notably Bill Snyder at Kansas State, have had great results with a significant role for JUCOs; Stoops feels (and I agree) it isn't a viable long term solution as also evidenced by the subsequent nose dive in the Kansas State program. If you can't keep the top JUCOs coming the team will have set backs.
The trade off is pretty straightforward. A JUCO likely won't start the season setting the world on fire because he is new to the program/system and, like all new players, has to get acclimated to the level of play. So at best he's trying to hold his own at the beginning of his brief tenure and hopefully comes into his own that year and excel in his second and final year. Two and through.
For Kentucky, we get two benefits from the JUCOs – game-ready players and red shirts for freshmen. Due to our situation roster spots are as valuable for us as any team. Stoops is driven to win games and build depth which can be diametrically opposing goals when JUCOs are thrown into the equation. Simple to say, difficult to execute. To date UK has seven 2-year JUCOs signed last year plus the two that signed this week giving us 6 on defense and 3 on offense. So that is 9 roster spots taken away from four year players that can build depth starting today but key spots filled on the field to allow 9 other four year players to red shirt and develop. It's a fine balance and Stoops must be very satisfied with his recruiting to drop from 7 to 2 JUCOs in one year. (Note: There is also a 3-year JUCO, WR Joey Herrick)
Overall, I really like the way Stoops keeps the balance in recruits. The staff looks like they have a plan to both win games and build depth with the right mix of JUCOs and four year players and they are successfully working that plan. Cross your fingers this year's recruiting class stays in the fold.