Would a commitment from Damien Harris, the current Rivals number one running back, bring the same recruiting flurry that Drew Barker’s commitment did? For Kentucky, Damien Harris is the equivalent of the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. 707 horsepower!
When Drew Barker committed last year on May 10th, Kentucky had commitments from Rivals (5.7) 3* LB Dorian Hendrix (3/22/13), (5.7) 3* WR Thaddeus Snodgrass (4/12/13), (5.8) 4* RB Mikel Horton (4/20/13), (5.6) 3* DE Tymere Dubose (4/27/13) and, (5.6) 3* TE Darryl Long (4/27/13). Barker immediately became a recruiter and helped bring 7 more in the fold in May and June. The remaining players in Kentucky's 17th ranked signing class of 28 were partly influenced by his commitment.
If Harris were to commit in July or August, I believe Kentucky would see a similar flurry of commitments. It seems we have the ears of some great players who may be waiting to see where Harris goes. It appears, however, that Harris wants to see how the Cats do this year before he commits. It appears his recruiting will be more like the Matt Elam effort than like Barker's. Kentucky is not considered the favorite, according to the 247 Sports Crystal Ball voting by the experts. That distinction belongs to the Ohio State Buckeyes with 66% of the votes.
The fact that Harris is even considering Kentucky is a major accomplishment for Stoops and his staff. If you'll recall, he had committed to Michigan last fall. I'm not sure why he decided to de-commit, but it opened the door for the Kentucky staff. When he made his top eight schools known a few weeks ago, the Wildcats made the list which is very exciting for Kentucky's fan base. His top eight are, in no particular order, are Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Florida State, Notre Dame and Kentucky.
The Wildcats are definitely a turkey in the company of eagles when considered as part of this group. That being said, there is plenty of evidence that the Cats are fairly close to becoming a junkyard cat who will be as tough as they come. The serious jump in talent will eventually begin to show. Not only is Mark Stoops bringing the talent that can play, but he is also building depth almost every position. Linebacker may be the sole exception.
A commitment to Kentucky would shock the recruiting world, but it would not surprise some simply because they've seen Stoops & Company pull off miracles before. Two good examples are Drew Barker and Matt Elam last year. If you'll recall, at one point during the recruiting battles, Barker was a lock for South Carolina and Elam was a lock for Alabama. At some point, they became unlocked, and Kentucky stole them.
The fact that the Cats have a chance with Harris, however remote, is a recruiting feat that is just as noteworthy. Larry Vaught at the Danville Messenger-Advocate interviewed Harris on June 7th and quoted Harris as saying,
"It is going to be hard. All these programs are great programs. They all have great coaches, great facilities and all are doing great things. I just have to make the decision that I feel is best for me and my family ...There is really not much more to say."
Vaught also interviewed Damien's mom. You can read his article here and see what she has to say.
Let's be honest, Harris was not considering Kentucky before Mark Stoops became the head coach. The same can be said of Elam, Barker, Ryan Timmons and Jason Hatcher. The Harris saga with Kentucky, according to 247 Sports, began with a camp on June 17, 2012 where Kentucky offered. He attended camp at Michigan and two days later received an offer from the Wolverines. He's taken unofficial visits to Louisville (09/02/12), Michigan (10/02/12 and 11/30/13), and Ohio State (11/24/12) before his commitment to Michigan on July 29, 2013. That was after he attended Kentucky's Junior Day camp on 2/09/13 and Ohio State's Junior Day camp on 2/10/13. After attending an Ohio State camp on 6/21/13, he committed to Michigan.
Harris visited Kentucky on 6/08/13, attended Junior Day camp on 2/15/14, visited on 4/26/14, and 6/7/14. He visited Ohio State on 2/11/14 and 4/12/14, Michigan on 2/13/14, Florida on 3/20/14 and Florida St. on 3/31/14. It isn't known if he'll visit Alabama, Notre Dame or Oregon. He still has all five of his official visits to take. Expect him to take his officials. Harris also attended the UK camp three weeks ago along with DE Darius Fullwood, LB and UK commit Eli Brown, OL and UK commit Logan Sternberg, DB and UNC commit Ronnie Harrison, 2016 OL Drake Jackson, 2016 QB Austin Kendall and 2016 DL Christian Colon. You can read about the camp at wildcatbluenation.com.
If you're wondering if any of these eight schools have commitments from running backs, here's a list:
Alabama: 4* Desherrius Flowers, Mobile, AL Vigor
Florida State: None
Notre Dame: 3* Josh Adams, Warrington, PA Central-Bucks
Ohio State: None
Oregon: 4* Taj Griffin, Powder Springs, GA McEachern - All Purpose Back
Here's the current stable for each school (those not linked are not in the Rivals database):
As you can see, all eight schools have adequate numbers at the running back position and like any greedy child, more talent is desired. It is a logical desire because you never know when the injuries will come.
It seems to me that all eight schools are waiting on a decision by Harris and/or Jacques Patrick. Let's look at the recruits for the running back position and the all-purpose back position (top 10 for each position).
1. 5* Damien Harris (KY) - projected to Ohio State (69%) Kentucky & Michigan (15% ea)
2. 5* Jacques Patrick (FL) - projected to Florida State (100%)
3. Ronald Jones III (TX) - committed to Oklahoma State
4. Soso Jamabo (TX) - projected to Baylor or Oklahoma
5. Kerryon Johnson (AL) - committed to Auburn
6. Larry Scott (OH) - projected to Ohio State (72%), Michigan St. (25%)
7. Eric Swinney (GA) - committed to Mississippi
8. Desherrius Flowers - committed to Alabama
9. Derrius Guice - (LA) - committed to LSU
10. Mike Weber (MI) - projected to Michigan St. (84%), Ohio State (10%)
1. Taj Griffin (GA) - committed to Oregon
2. Kendall Busey (LA) - committed to Nebraska
3. Rodney Anderson (TX) - committed to Oklahoma
4. Tim Irvin (FL) - projected to Miami (100%)
5. Bryce Love (NC) - projected to North Carolina (92%)
6. Paul Lucas (FL) - projected to Arizona St. (83%)
7. JaMycal Hasty (TX) - committed to Baylor
8. Cameron Scarlett (OR) - projected to commit to Stanford (75%)
9. Nyheim Hines (NC) - projected tp commit to Clemson (50%) or North Carolina (36%)
10. Quadree Henderson (DE) - committed to Pittsburgh
From Larry Vaught's articles, you know his mother will play a very large part in his decision. Kentucky's advantage is the short trip for her from Berea to watch her son play. Will that be enough to get a commitment? Based on that alone, the answer has to be no. Mom is giving Damien good counsel, advising that he takes his time before making a decision. The decision probably won't be made until after Damien takes his five official visits, which means he going to have to narrow his list from eight to five.
I think Kentucky makes that list of five. I also believe Ohio State makes the list. If Oregon makes it, I would be very surprised because the distance is so great. I don't think Michigan makes the list either. There is a reason why Damien de-committed. I just don't see Florida in the mix. Will Muschamp is #1 on the Coaches Hot Seat. He may be gone by the end of the upcoming season. While I am not pretending to know or read his mind, I see his top five and his official visits as the following:
1. Ohio State - He has a great relationship with the Ohio State staff and he knows some of the other commitments. Distance is a minor problem. Of course, Ohio State is a big name school.
2. Kentucky - He has a great relationship with the Kentucky staff as well. He is almost already a member of the football family. Distance is not a problem and he knows the kind of impact a commitment to the Cats would make. Kentucky's lack of tradition makes this almost a rock-climbing adventure when you consider the other four on the list. Kentucky, however, is home and offer the opportunity to become a legend.
3. Alabama - This is a must visit. When the top program calls, you answer that call with a visit out of respect, if for no other reason. Nick Saban runs that program and it is an honor for any player to capture his interest. Distance could be a problem for his mother.
4. Florida State - Reigning national champions. Enough said. Distance might be an issue.
5. Notre Dame - The Grand Old Lady of collegiate football. The tradition and the excellence of Notre Dame academics still carry a lot of weight. A visit to Notre Dame is an experience because you feel the tradition the moment you step on campus: Touchdown Jesus, Fair Catch Jesus, the grotto, the basilica, the stadium all inspire. Notre Dame could be the real darkhorse.
Which one will it be? The Buckeye faithful fully expect Harris to commit to them this month, according to Landgrantholyland. com. You have to admire their confidence.
So, when it is all said and done and the decision is made the Big Blue Nationwill be singing one of two Roy Orbison songs. If goes elsewhere, we'll be singing Crying. If he picks the Cats, we'll be singing Running Scared.
Links: (Interesting reading)