Kentucky Football: Recruting the Sunshine State

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

It is time to talk Florida since we will soon be receiving some commitments from the land of oranges.

Florida is a recruiting Shangri-La. Every team who played in a BCS bowl game had some Florida players on their roster. If you'll recall, Mark Stoops came in the door late and managed to sign nine players for the 2013 class. He did that in approximately 70 days! Don't be surprised if he doesn't do it again with the 2014 class.

I know. You're thinking that we have zero commitments from Florida. Zero, zip, nada. All I can say is, "Oh ye of little faith." I think you can reasonably expect to hear about commitments from Florida, Georgia and Alabama between now and national signing day which is February 5, 2014.

Recruiting Florida isn't easy. Ask Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa head coach. His recruiting coordinator, Eric Johnson, announced recruiting in Florida would be a priority for the near future. You can read about it here. This is almost a must read. It should remind you of Kentucky. Here's a comparison.

Kentucky received commitments from the following number of Florida players:

2002 - 3 of 15

2003 - 0 of 22

2004 - 2 of 28

2005 - 1 of 26

2006 - 2 of 31

2007 - 2 of 29

2008 - 3 of 21

2009 - 1 of 28

2010 - 2 of 27

2011 - 2 of 25

2012 - 3 of 26

2013 - 9 of 23

Charlie Strong has built a program on the backs of Florida players. Here's his Florida commitment numbers at Louisville, just for another comparison.

2010 - 6 of 27

2011 - 12 of 21

2012 - 7 of 22

2013 - 8 of 17

So far 2014 - 8 of 13

In my mind, you have to ask why didn't Kentucky recruit Florida? I don't know. Like Iowa, I guess Florida wasn't a priority for Kentucky under Joker Phillips. Marks Stoops and his crew casually walked in the door in Lexington and got commitments from not one, but two states where Kentucky hasn't recruited seriously in the past. And you just thought we were getting a new offense and a new defense with this staff?

The state of Florida sends more than 300 high school football players to play at the NCAA Division-I level every year. The Orlando Sentinal

Just as Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops understand how Ohio works because both are from Ohio, Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot know how Florida works from their days at Florida State. The same can be said of Neal Brown and Chad Scott and Texas, a state this staff hasn't paid much attention to ... so far.

Since most fans know little about Florida because we've not recruited there in the past, it might valuable to discuss the talent we've signed for 2013 and those we are recruiting for 2014 the schools they attended or attend. First, however, we need to look at Florida's high school football structure.

Florida has eight classes of schools based on student population for football. There are 594 schools that participate in football. Some of the schools were in the national top 25. I looked at the MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 and the Massey Ratings that USA Today uses. Just like the recruiting services are with talent, these two ranking services can't agree on much.

In the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, University (Ft. Lauderdale) ranked 10th, Booker T. Washington (Miami) ranked 13th, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale) ranked 20th and Miami Central ranked 23rd.

In the Massey ratings, St. Thomas Aquinas ranked 11th, Manatee (Bradenton) ranked 18th and Miami Central ranked 24th.

Let's look at these schools one by one.

University:

The full name of this school is University School of Nova Scotia. They are commonly known as Ft. Lauderdale University. Their first game at Homestead, FL is going to be televised by ESPN as part of their ESPN Kickoff Classic. The Suns are a 3-A school which makes you wonder why MaxPreps has them rated so high at the national level. The most likely reason is they won their first ever state championship this past season, defeating Madison County 24-17. In 2011, they lost in the regional finals. Kentucky has offered University's Richard Yeargin III. Yeargin is a Rivals (5.7) 3 star at linebacker.

Booker T. Washington:

Washington is a 4-A school that isn't afraid of playing teams from other states. They open this season with a game on the road against Norcross, Ga. It will be televised on ESPN2 on August . In 2012, the Tornado won their second state championship by beating (Jacksonville) Bolles 35-7. In 2011, Washington was state runnerup. Kentucky has offers out to (5.6) 3 star WR Lamar Parker and (5.8) 4 star DB Nigel Patten.

St. Thomas Aquinas:

St. Thomas Aquinas is a 7-A powerhouse program that plays at the national level. Aquinas has had a couple of down years, but are expected to become a top 10 team at the national level this coming season. Their schedule hasn't been finalized yet, but they play 2012 # 1 River Ridge, LA's John Curtis in the New Orleans Mercedez-Benz Superdome on September 24th in what MaxPreps says is the #1 game to watch for the 2013 high school season. Read about the top 10 games of the year here.

When I say the Raiders were down the last two years, down is a relative term. Aquinas won the 7-A state championship last season, beating (Tallahassee) Lincoln 41-25. "Down" means that the Raiders lost two games last year. They lost to New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep 20-10 and they lost to 8-A Miramar 27-24 in overtime. In 2011, they lost to (Palm Beach Gardens) Dwyer 6-3 in the regional finals. (5.8) 4 star defensive lineman Anthony Moten and (5.8) 4 star WR Corey Holmes both have offers from Kentucky. Moten has commited to Florida.

Miami Central:

Central is a 6-A school that is a tough nut to crack. Clint Hurtt managed to get two Central kids in the 2011 class along with Miami Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater. The Rockets won the 2012 state championship by beating Gainesville 37-14. In 2011 Central lost to (Seffner) Armwood 40-31 in the championship game. However, both teams suffered a forfeit their season were vacated. Both were placed on probation by the FHSAA. Armwood was also on probation in 2012. This year the the Miami Central Rockets travel to New Jersey to play Don Bosco Prep on September 21st. The New Jersey team has never lost to a Florida team. This game is also one of the top 10 games listed as a must watch. Kentucky has offered (5.4) 2 star defensive lineman Raul Diaz.

Manatee:

Bradenton's Manatee HS is a 7-A school that has been a powerhouse in Florida for years, They won the 2011 state championship by beating (Jacksonville) First Coast 40-0. Manatee lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in the 2012 state semi-finals 38-18. The Hurricanes play Baltimore's Gillman in Baltimore on September first, and Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, DC at home on September 13th. Kentucky has not offered any players from Manatee, but the staff visited the school last week. Manatee is in the news and it isn't pretty. Read and listen to Tampa's Channel 10 News.

That's it for today. Coming up in the next will be a look at all the schools where we've offered and also where the 2013 commitments came from.

As always, thanks for reading.

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