Kentucky Football: Crossing the River


Ohio is a dark and mysterious place for a lot of Kentucky fans when it comes to football recruiting. I don’t know much about Ohio. I know they drive slowly in the fast lane with a boat in tow on I-75 on the weekends. It is especially bad between Lexington and Lake Cumberland in the summer. I often wondered if Ohio has any lakes for these people.

Many Kentuckians attend Cincinnati Reds games, or maybe a Bengals game, or go to Kings Island. I used to like to go on up to Montgomery for ribs at the Montgomery Inn after one of the above mentioned sojourns. While in college I once went to a Jimi Hendrix concert in Columbus (I was so drunk, I barely remembered it the next day. Purpled Hazed, you might say,), and I always stopped off in Dayton to eat at the Pine Cub after the IU-UK games at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis if we couldn’t get into St. Elmo’s due to the long wait.

I went up to Cincinnati for two UK – UC football games: one at Bengals Stadium and one at UC. We won the first one and lost the other. I’ve been to one Bengals game and to three Reds games (always on someone else’s dime). My son was recruited by Miami, so we went there for an unofficial visit. I also went to Cleveland to visit a friend one January weekend. It was the first and only time I’ve ever seen frozen waves.

As football fans, we’ve heard of Massillon from football lore and we’ve heard of Moeller, another high school football legend. We became a little familiar with Colerain last year. Some of us know that Miami was considered the birthplace of great college coaches. Most of us don’t know jack, however, about Ohio as a fertile recruiting ground.

I decided to do a little research and found that Kentucky has had some memorable players from Ohio (Jim Kovach and Jeff Snedegar immediately come to mind). I looked back as far as the 2002 recruiting cycle and found that Kentucky has received some commitments from Ohio, but not nearly as many as we could have if we had recruited Ohio as hard as Georgia. I used Scout’s High School prospect lists because they are easy to manipulate. Here’s what I found:

2002 – UK only had 19 commitments due to probation. Chad Anderson (NR-LB)( McKinley HS) was the only Ohio commitment. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #70 (Scout).

2003 – UK was still under NCAA sanctions and received 16 commitments, none from Ohio. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #54 (Scout).

2004 – Rich Brooks received 27 commitments coming off the NCAA sanctions. Ohio commitments were 2 Star LB Ben McGrath (Cincinnati Moeller), 3 Star DE Niiadjei Oninku (Northmont HS), NR-WR Jarrell Williams (Princeton HS) and NR-LB Ted Bulllock (Valley HS). I don’t remember these guys,... maybe Bullock. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #52 (Scout).

2005 – UK received 26 commitments. Those from Ohio were 2 star OL Michael Cross (Marion-Franklin HS), 2 Star OL Zach Dennis (Jonathon Alder HS) and 2 Star LB Ben Bates (Jonathon Alder HS). I don’t remember these either. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #62 (Scout).

2006 – The Cats received 28 commitments. 2 Star QB Mike Hartline (Glen Oak HS) was the sole Ohio commitment. We all remember Mr. Hartline. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #34 (Scout).

2007 – We had 25 commitments. None from Ohio. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #58 (Scout).

2008 – UK received 20 commitments – 3 star OL Chandler Burden (Cincinnati La Salle HS) was the only one from Ohio. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #58 (Scout).

2009 – UK received 26 commitments. None were from Ohio. This was the final year for Rich Brooks. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #27 (Scout).

2010 – First year coach Joker Phillips received 26 commitments. Ohio sent us three. (3 star TE) Alex Smith (Lakota West HS), 3 Star OT Teven Eatmon (Wynford HS) and 3 Star Tyler Brause (Wynford HS). If you’ll recall, Smith was booted from the team. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #46 (Scout).

2011 – 23 Commitment with none from Ohio. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #32 (Scout).

2012 – 26 Commitments, two from Ohio. 3 Star OG Zach Meyers (Miamisburg HS) and 3 Star CB Cody Quinn (Middleton HS). We also had a mutual flirtation with Scout’s #1 Ohio player – 4 Star Adolphus Washington before he committed to Ohio St. Scout isn’t very generous with their star ratings. Kentucky’s Team Ranking was #31 (Scout).

2013 – First year coach Mark Stoops received 23 commitments, three from Ohio. 3 Star DB Jaleel Hytchye (Cincinnati La Salle HS), 3 Star OL Kyle Meadows (West Chester Lakota West HS), and 4 Star DB Marcus McWilson (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney HS. Kentucky’s Team Ranking is #39 (Scout).

It isn’t as if Morris, Brooks and Phillips didn’t recruit in Ohio. They did, but they had very modest success, if you want to call it success. I think the perception from these coaches was that Ohio is Big Ten country. They were right to a degree. Stoops had 70 days to recruit Ohio and enjoyed the same success as Phillips who had a full year to recruit Ohio.

Where Ohio players went

I looked at Ohio high school players back to 2008 to see who they signed with:

5 Star players from Ohio (16 Total from 2008-2013) signed with Ohio State (10), Michigan (3), Notre Dame (1), Texas (1) and Alabama (1). So, 81% of Ohio 5 Star players are, indeed, Big 10 guys.

The distribution of 4 Star players from Ohio (90 Total from 2008 – 2013) is a little more wide-spread. It still shows that Ohio, by and large, is owned by Ohio St. and Michigan. Ohio St. signed 36 (51%) and Michigan signed 15 (21%) of the Big Ten’s 70 (77.8%) Ohio four star commitments. No other conference signed more than 6.7% (Big East and the SEC with 6 each).

If you are going to sign an Ohio player and you are not Ohio St. or Michigan, that player is most likely to be a 3 star player or even less highly rated. With 3 Star players, there is a mindset that is telling. Most Ohio 3 star players sign with MAC schools (200 players) if they can’t sign with Ohio St. (24), Michigan (25) or Cincinnati (31). All other schools across the fruited Ohio plain (31) signed 10% combined of Ohio 3 Star players.

I don’t think I need to go further into the 2 Star players other than to say out of a total 413 Ohio 2 Star players from 2008-2013, an astounding 85% (352) of them signed with MAC schools. Also noteworthy is the fact that very,very few non-rated players sign with any Division I school.

Bo Pelini

Nebraska fans and the Lexington media and some UK forums believe that Pelini owns Ohio and Youngstown’s Cardinal Mooney HS in particular. This is a myth and here are the facts.

Pelini became the head coach at Nebraska beginning with the 2008 season. From 2008 through 2013, Pelini has received commitments for a grand total of 9 Ohio players (seven 3 Star players and two 2 star players). I would not, therefore, conclude that Mark Stoops is raiding Pelini’s territory, or that Nebraska and Pelini have any lock on Ohio. As for Cardinal Mooney HS, Old Bo has signed a grand total of three.

I hope you’ve gained an appreciation for recruiting the State of Ohio. It is not an easy hunting ground. It is an understatement to simply say having Stoops and Vince Marrow in Lexington is helping our efforts in the Buckeye State. It is a huge help.

This is a two part series. In Part two, I’ll give some insights as to what schools provide the most Division I recruits. I also plan on doing a series on Florida and Georgia. I chose Ohio first because I knew almost nothing about recruiting in Ohio.

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