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Kentucky Football Recruiting: Why the Cats are doing better than you might think

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On the surface, Kentucky’s loss of several flips with the 2015 class seems disastrous. The loss of the kid from Berea to Alabama didn’t help either. When you consider, however, that Kentucky suffered from two straight 2-10 seasons and finished 2014 with six straight losses, I’m not sure what fans expected.

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You have to wonder what the value of a Kentucky offer is to recruits. I'll give you a clue. How about a 64.21 weighted average?  So, what's that mean? Rank by Offers gives an answer:

The relative value of each offer is determined by the recent success of the team extending the offer. A three year weighted average of the "Elo Chess" computer ranking of the team extending the offer is used as the value of an offer. The most recent year counts for half of the weighted average, the previous year counts for one-third, and the year before that counts for one-sixth.  Elo Chess rankings are a component of the BCS formula. A description of Elo Ratings can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system . This site uses Elo Chess rankings published by Jeff Sagarin.

Under this method, a Kentucky offer ranks 79th in the nation for the class of 2016. Compare that to the top five:

1. Ohio State 99.59

2. Florida State 96.86

3. Oregon 96.10

4. Alabama 95.50

5. Michigan State 94.21

In the SEC, Kentucky ranks below Alabama, # 7 Missouri (87.91), #10 Georgia (86.97), #11 South Carolina (86.42), #13 Auburn (85.33), #14 Texas A&M (85.08), #16 Ole Miss (84.73), #17 LSU (84.72), #23 Mississippi State (82.54), #32 Florida (77.72), #38 Tennessee (74.42), #39 Arkansas (74.31), and #63 Vanderbilt (68.55). Kentucky is dead last, which is nothing unusual for a program with a long history of losing. Just for the record, Louisville ranks 21st with a 82.73 weighted average. You can see the weighted averages here.

What this should tell every member of the BBN is that Kentucky has a big mountain to climb. While expectations should be tempered, nothing will help the weighted average more than a winning season or two.

It should also tell you that Stoops & Company has actually done a remarkable job with recruiting beginning with his first year. Consider this, Kentucky currently ranks 12th in the latest Rivals team rankings for the 2016 recruiting season. That's good enough for 5th best in the SEC. We all know that won't last long because Kentucky's 16 commitments is tops for the SEC as of this date.  Rank by Offers currently has Kentucky ranked 16th, still good enough for 5th in the SEC.

Since Stoops arrived, Kentucky was ranked by Rivals as #29 in 2013, #17 in 2014 and 35th in 2015. For perspective, Kentucky ranked #50 in 2010, #62 in 2011 and # 63 in 2012. Even last year's 35th rank far surpasses anything done in the Joker Phillips three years. During the Stoops era, Kentucky was ranked 24th in 2013, 16th in 2014 and 35th according to Rank by Offers. Stoops has also brought more four star players (15) to Kentucky in three years than the previous four years. Here's some illustrations regarding Kentucky's recruiting history between 2002 - 2015:

3 & 4 #1

3&4 #2

3&4 #3

While I don't like to bash Joker Phillips (I wish him well with his NFL job since he's a Cat), he was hired to take the Wildcats to another level. You can see from the charts that he elevated Kentucky's recruiting, but that doesn't tell the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. He totaled 67 commitments in three years under his watch, but....four never made it to campus, eight were dismissed, 21 transferred and only one of his recruits was drafted by the NFL.  You can read Bryan the Intern's article regarding the Real Joker Phillips Era concerning this over at KSR. While Phillips inherited a program with moderate success, Stoops inherited a program on the decline. I don't think anyone can argue this.

The bottom line is Kentucky fans should be ecstatic with the job done by Stoops when it comes to recruiting. Going into Ohio was pure genius on his part in the manner they've worked the system.  Hiring Vince Marrow and keeping him was one of the most astute moves he's made. Remember, though, this could not have happened if AD Mitch Barnhart and President Eli Capilouto had not convinced the UK Board of Trustees to make then needed financial commitment to football. They also had to go through the Kentucky legislature to get bond funding approval for the football projects.

In addition to the financial commitment by the school, Stoops made a couple of good hires when two spots came open.  First, he hired Shannon Dawson away from West Virginia to replace OC Neal Brown and then he hired Andy Buh as Linebackers coach. Both have already made their mark with recruiting. In the past week alone, Buh has made trips to New Jersey and offered three players from the Garden State. Dawson has made several trips to Florida during high school spring practice to scout several players and build relationships with Florida coaches. He also convinced QB Gunnar Hoak to commit to the Cats.

There are several things going on as Kentucky seems to be waiting on their top targets to make a decision. They are still making offers for the 2016 class, but they are also offering a lot of players for 2017.

So, what does Kentucky have to offer?  Here's Drake Jackson's sales pitch to Paintsville's Kash Daniel from this very worth reading article over at KSR:

Drake's sales pitch has four key points:

§  The chance to represent your state;

§  Stoops' record of developing defensive talent;

§  Erik Korem's high-performance training program; and

§  The chance to play in the SEC in your own backyard.

The same pitch can be made to the out of state recruits with the exception of the first point. The Stoops staff took Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith to another level as evidenced by the NFL Draft. Erik Korem's program certainly contributed to that. And, the chance to play in the SEC is, indeed, a selling point.

The dynamics within the SEC is trending in Kentucky's favor. First, Vanderbilt's loss of Head Coach James Franklin to Penn State has the Commodore's on the decline. Second, Florida's recruiting is on a temporarily mild decline after Will Muschamp was let go. New Head Coach, Jim McElwain, should bring the Gator offense back to where they once were. Third, Steve Spurrier won't last much longer at South Carolina. Recruits will begin to notice that his career is near an end.

The next step for Kentucky, obviously, is to get that first winning season. With eight home games for 2015 (LA-Lafayette, Florida, Missouri, EKU, Auburn, Tennessee, Charlotte and Louisville), Kentucky could get a winning record. Good recruiting after a winning season will result in getting more great commitments and a rise in the value of a Kentucky offer.