As I was working on our 2014 Football Recruiting Big Board last Saturday, I was converting all the player profiles from Rivals to 247 Sports profiles. My process was to de-link the players’ names from Rivals and then hyper-link to 247 Sports. Then on Sunday, I was checking all the profiles again to see if any players had the ratings and rankings changed.
I noticed two changes between Saturday and Sunday, both at the quarterback spot. First, E.J. Moss was switched from quarterback to Athlete. Another oddity was found in the Tyler Harris profile. On Saturday, his profile at 247 Sports showed an offer from UK. It had been showing that way since March. His profile had shown that he was offered on March 22nd and his chief recruiter was Bradley Dale Paveto. Even Rivals was showing an offer for Harris after Cats Illustrated had repeatedly said that that Barker was the only QB offer for UK.
On Sunday, there were two entries on the 247 Sports profile for Harris. He no longer was shown as having an offer. I took this as, maybe, a subtle sign to Barker that UK was ready to drop (withdraw) all the offers to other quarterbacks. Was this, perhaps, a sign of good faith towards Barker?
There was a problem, however. Both D.J. Gillins and DeShone Kizer still had offers at 247 Sports. Reggie Bonnafon, the Trinity QB who had committed to Louisville a while back is still showing a UK offer. Rafe Peavey still has an offer even though he committed to Arkansas before Mark Stoops arrived. So, while I thought there was some movement going on, I couldn’t say definitively that this was sign that something wonderful was about to occur.
Another sign has been widely discussed; when Barker revealed his announcement date, he had invited his school, fans and media to the event. Several articles have been written about how awkward it would be if all those people showed up and he announced he was committing to South Carolina. To me, that was probably the most important sign that the Big Blue Nation would be most pleased when he announced.
The thing is, no one could take that ball and run with it. If I recall correctly, Lamar Dawson did the same and announced he would be attending Southern Cal. So, with that kind of result with Dawson, Barker could possibly do the same. This was just another sign that left the door open for disaster. Imagine the tweets of hatred if Barker chose South Carolina after the subtle hint in his announcement. So, for even those who wrote about this, they all said it may not mean anything positive because there was precedent for it.
What made everyone doubt the signs was the hole that Stoops and Brown had to dig out of, which was created by the previous coaching staff. That’s well documented by Barker himself, and he even mentioned it the other day. Under Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders, Barker was not a priority and Barker knew it. Sanders wanted Peavey and/or Kizer. Both those players were recruited by Sanders. I believe Barker did receive a token offer from Sanders on 1/16/2012; non-committable at the time, of course.
Once they got out of the hole dug by Phillips & Co., there was still a mountain to climb for Stoops and Brown. While the past regime was ignoring Barker, South Carolina felt far differently and recruited him hard. So much so that Barker said in his announcement Friday that he hadn’t really made his decision until Wednesday.
The Spring Game may have been the "game changer" and Barker, himself, may not have even recognized the sign. The recruits in attendance formed something like a brotherhood. They got along so well that they all talked about playing together and how much fun that would be. Afterwards, we had Ohio kids recruiting a Kentucky kid to choose Kentucky. That’s pretty astonishing when you think about it.
No one trusted these signs, though. Justin Rowland of Rivals.com said he was going out on a limb by saying Barker was going to choose UK. He ended his tweet with an "I hope" or "Hopefully." Those close to UK said UK didn’t even know, but were hopeful. South Carolina said the same, but the national recruiting experts said South Carolina would be the choice. The Kentucky media said the choice would be UK; even so, they weren’t all that positive.
No one could trust their instincts. Barker played his cards very well. He created the most angst among UK football fans since Tim Couch. He’ll fit right in with this football staff. He, like the staff, knows how to generate marketing buzz. Bravo to Barker for a well played hand and a loud huzzah to Mark Stoops and Neal Brown for what they had to overcome.