The University of Kentucky Wildcats' football program has taken some blows in the month of January. The month started off well with Vince Marrow electing to spurn Michigan and stay in Lexington. Then Damien Harris committed to Alabama, and his potential backfield teammate Braylon Heard left early for the NFL. Then some good news as UK flipped defensive back Chris Westry from Auburn. If the pattern held true, there was going to be some bad news next, and it happened when UK lost its own defensive back to Auburn. Predictably, UK then picked up another commitment, but the pattern held and UK has lost three commits in a row. Guess that means good news is on the horizon, right? Right...?
Overall, in the month of January UK has had a net loss of two commitments, missed out on Damien Harris, but retained its ace recruiter in Vince Marrow. That's not bad, but the impact may feel larger because this is happening in January rather than December. National Signing Day is a week away, and compressed timelines are, well, compressed.
I tried to make the case that UK's recruiting was actually doing fine two weeks ago. I felt that the 2014 Class inflated expectations by virtue of being a 28 man class, and the coaches were maximizing what was currently possible at UK. However, I also made the false assumption that UK wouldn't lose more than a commit or two going forward. That seems silly in retrospect as things can always get worse, and in fact they still might.
The Wildcats can sell jumping from two wins to five wins, but Michigan State can sell the Dowells on winning The Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. Auburn can sell Jeremiah Dinson on playing in last year's National Championship game, and the hire of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. Ohio State can sell Davon Hamilton on this year's championship. UK's progress pales in comparison.
In some respects, UK left one card table comprised of MAC and bottom shelf B1G schools, and joined another card game with professionals with tall stacks. For a while, UK got by on moxy, luck, and the promise of future winning seasons, but if you stay at the table with professionals long enough you will lose some. That's especially true if your chip stack isn't appreciating at the rate comparable to the rest.
UK is now targeting a level of recruit that will appeal to these major programs. UK has to win more ball games if it hopes to hold on to some of these recruits. Next January, when the major programs are looking to fill their last roster spots, they'll come calling again for UK commits and their siren song will be strong. UK can fortify their relationships with more victories. That's the single best chance they'll have. Ace recruiters and signing class ringleaders are ancillary. Even if UK wins six games next season, it may still lose commitments to these major programs.
There's one week until NSD, so I'm going to keep my hand-wringing to a minimum for now. Let's see who visits this weekend, and let's see what these coaches can do with their backs against the wall. I'm not aware of them being in a tougher recruiting stretch before. I'm personally going to let them prove themselves before drawing conclusions on the 2015 Class.
If this class meets or exceeds the 2013 Class by three of the four recruiting services, I'll consider that a worthy accomplishment. If UK falls in that range for the third straight season that doesn't mean they'll compete for national titles, but it's a good enough foundation that they should start winning SEC games in the seasons ahead. Success breeds success, and the long-term trajectory remains solid despite this month's hiccup.