Football Recruiting Kentucky Style

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

College football recruiting is very quirky and is played like a game of chess. The most important day, in the view of many, is Signing Day in the first week of February. I think even the least knowledgeable who follow recruiting know that. It is the most publicized day of the year.

The more experience I get, the more I learn about college football recruiting. I've never claimed to be an expert or a journalist. I just report what I've learned from observation and the information I pass on at ASoB is usually second hand. I do have a couple of sources who know the recruiting game far better than I do and the relationships are becoming friendships because I never put out information that is given without permission and I never use the names of my sources.

Recruits who are enrolled in January and August will be on a football scholarship (grant in aid). The same is true for those who enroll for summer school. Some won't make it due to academics and will go the JUCO or prep school route, or they may enroll at a Division I-A or Division II college where grade policies are more lenient. So, check the roster for both the spring and the fall.

Signing Day

Signing Day binds both the player and the school to each other. What it means for the fans is the verbal commitments during the recruiting cycle are either confirmed or are not confirmed. It also means that all the bickering between recruiting services about who has an offer and who doesn't, and who has a "commitable" offer and who doesn't, are put to an end. Some "experts" will have egg of their faces. Signing Day means the commitments are official because the agreements between the school and the recruit(s) are in writing and both have signed a contract.

Financial Aid

One of the really quirky things for me to grasp is the signed financial aid paperwork and how schools use the process. I am learning as I go.

If a recruit signs those financial aid papers, the school is obligated to give that player a grant in aid. For the school, it is an official offer and is no longer a verbal offer. Here's the quirky part. The financial aid paperwork does not bind the recruit to anything. The recruit can continue taking visits to other schools and can also de-commit from the school where he signed the financial aid papers. So, what is the value of this particular form of paperwork?

When a recruit signs the financial aid papers, the school gets unlimited contact with that player, AND the coaching staff can discuss that player publicly, something they are not permitted to do without that paperwork. You've read or heard the UK coaching staff talk about Drew Barker possibly becoming UK's starting quarterback next year and Stoops has talked about the other four high school recruits who signed those financial aid packages. We know that these guys are planning on enrolling for the spring semester and we know that Barker has been accepted for enrollment. That was in the news. The type of financial aid, however, will be determined on Signing Day. You can assume the other four high school recruits have or will enroll for the spring semester.

We also had two JUCOs, (Johnson and Stamps) sign those financial aid papers and we know they been accepted by the university to enroll (assume they have) for the spring semester. We also know that Pulliam didn't qualify for the spring semester because of (to put it kindly) a grade dispute. Some say his offer was pulled while others are saying our offer is still good. We'll find out the truth on Signing Day.

Here's an interesting case. We all know, or should know, that Marcelys Jones of Cleveland's Glenville High School has visited Kentucky several times and has had a good time with each visit. I don't know how many fans know that he signed financial aid papers with Ohio State back in December of 2012.

So, Ohio State is committed to Jones, yet he keeps visiting Kentucky. Why Kentucky wants him: he's a Rivals 5.8 four star and if you clicked on his profile, you will have seen that 247 Sports also has him as a four star player. Another reason he will be a big deal, if he flips, is the fact that Glenville has long been Ohio State's number one pipeline, along with Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller. Ohio State has had the pick of the litter at both schools for, like, forever! If Kentucky can pull this off, it will be huge news in Ohio and be a major coup for Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops, a couple of Youngstown Boys. While predictions don't really mean anything, 247 Sports is now predicting him to flip as you can see here.

Scout has Jones listed as a three star and a soft verbal to Ohio State. This is one reason why Scout is the worst of the three rating services mentioned so far for football. I won't even mention ESPN because they are associated with Scout and many believe they run a popularity contest anyway. Jones is an Army All-American, he's received an in-home visit from Nick Saban and he has offers from, in addition to Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas State, Michigan State, and UCLA.

Rank by Offers tells us that Jones has a total of 17 offers and seven of those are from top 25 schools. So, Scout and the Scout lackey (ESPN) says he's a three star? Considering he committed to Ohio State on Christmas Day last year, which affected the number of offers he received, you can see just how bad Scout and ESPN are as recruiting services. I'm not saying Kentucky is going to flip Jones, but some Ohio State fans are worried as you can see in this thread at the Kentucky Scout football forum which was started by an Ohio State fan. There is some entertaining sarcasm to read.

Early Enrollment

I spent some time on Friday and Saturday doing a little research on financial aid agreements and supposed early enrollees. 247 Sports is my source. Here's what I found and you should note that things are fluid until January 1st:

Early Enrollments by Conference

JUCO

HS

Prep

SEC

22

5

0

ACC

2

1

0

Big XII

26

0

0

B1G

10

10

1

Pac 12

18

2

0

AAC

7

3

1

Conference USA

29

5

1

MAC

0

0

0

Mountain West

8

4

0

Sun Belt

19

0

1

Total

141

30

4

Those listed as Prep Schoolers are all from Fork Union. It is difficult to tell if they are high school players or in Prep School.

Here's a list of the top six schools for this early enrollment period:

Western Kentucky - Sun Belt Conference - 10 - all JUCOs

Middle Tennessee - Conference USA -9 - 8 JUCOs and 1 HS

Illinois - Big 10 - 8 - 5 JUCOs and 3 HS

UAB - Conference USA - 8 JUCOs

Old Dominion - Conference USA (new member for 2014) -7 - 4 JUCOs, 2 HS and 1 Prep

Kentucky - SEC -7 - 2 JUCOs and 5 HS

Here's a list of the other SEC schools for this early enrollment period:

Alabama - 2 JUCOs

Tennessee - 3 JUCOs

Texas A&M - 3 JUCOs

Auburn - 4 JUCOs

Florida - 1 JUCO

Ole Miss - 3 JUCOs

South Carolina - 1 JUCO

Arkansas - 2 JUCOs

Mississippi State - 1 JUCO

Georgia, LSU, Vanderbilt and Missouri show no early enrollees. UK is the only SEC school who is reporting high school player early enrollment, but you know Tennessee due to the 30+ commitments has some. They have to because of the SEC 25 limitation. Early enrollees do not count against the limitation. All schools, however, can only have 85 scholarship players under the NCAA rules.

Other schools not listed above who have high school or prep school players listed as early enrollees are Duke, Maryland, Purdue, Indiana, Arizona State, Cal, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, UNC Charlotte, UTEP, Nevada, Wyoming, and Texas State.

For the SEC schools, high school early enrollees do not count against the 2014 25 limit rule. This is a loophole which allows them to be counted in the 2013 class and as replacements for players lost through attrition. From the 2013 class, Khalid Thomas was dismissed from the team and Justin Day and Alvonte Bell did not qualify to enroll. From the 2012 class, we lost JUCO Korey Brown to graduation, Pancho Thomas was dismissed, and Patrick Graffree, Thomas Chapman and Dyshawn Mobley have transferred after enrolling last August. Demarcus Sweat and J.D. Harman were academically ineligible. Harmon earned a scholarship after walking on. It should be noted that he stayed on campus during the 2013 season.

After the first of the year, I will follow up with an article that deals with JUCOs and give you a list of positions filled along with what junior colleges and community colleges all these JUCOs who have enrolled came from.

Matt Elam

If Drew Barker is our most important recruit before and during the season, Matt Elam comes in a close second. Both are in competition for Kentucky Player of the Year. Before last week, Elam publicly stated that he was down to three schools: Kentucky, Alabama and Notre Dame. Last week, he eliminated Notre Dame. 247 Sports Crystal Ball has Elam going to Alabama over Kentucky. 59% of the voters say Alabama while 41% of the 46 who made a prediction say Kentucky. See all 46 predictions here. 247 Sports has Elam as a 5 star recruit. Elam is a U.S. Army All-American and is also a second team USA Today/American Family Insurance All-American. He has won the Paul Hornung Award for best player in Kentucky.

It is therefore interesting that Rivals has Elam as a 3 star recruit with a 5.7 rating while Scout has him as a 4 star. Someone should ask Justin Rowland at Cats Illustrated why Elam's rated so low at Rivals. You can also contact him via twitter. Does Rivals have a bias when it comes to kids from Kentucky? I suspect he's rated low by Rivals because he didn't attend Rivals events. If that is the case, I think it is snarky and petty when you consider he holds 13 offers, including Louisville, Tennessee, Ohio State, Indiana, Mississippi State, and Purdue. He also holds offers from both Eastern KY and Western KY. Clemson and Florida showed interest, but didn't offer. That's probably because they saw the hand writing on the wall.

Just for the record, Max Preps has Elam listed as a 5 star player and the #7 best player in the nation. If Elam signs with Kentucky, he will be the only player in the Maxpreps top 100 unless we were to sign another Glenville player by the name of Marshon Lattimore who is #33 on their list and is still uncommitted. In the spirit of full disclosure, it needs to be noted that Max Preps and Kentucky Sports Radio have a relationship with 247 Sports. While I don't care for the player rating system at 247 Sports, they do provide more information about players than either Rivals or Scout. My opinion, if it matters, is that these recruiting sites operate on their own respective agendas and have built in biases. To compensate for those biases, I use Rank by Offers. My 2015 (and future) class recruiting Big Board will reflect this.

Elam, like Barker, has made the most of the recruiting process and has played it well by keeping his name in the recruiting news. Like KSR or not, they've kept Elam's name in the news. Without knowing when this will be published, Matt Jones had Elam on his radio show on 12/23. I'll end this article with that interview.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season. As of Christmas Day, there is only 41 days until Signing Day which for UK will be known as the official Yahtzee Day.

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