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Building the Right Way

By Matthew Osborne
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Kentucky very well may struggle to contend on the gridiron this fall, but it is no longer to be taken lightly when it comes to recruiting.

Though we have yet to see him actually lead a team onto the field as a head coach, new Kentucky head man Mark Stoops clearly has a firm grasp on the schematic approach which a coach must take in order to win football games in the SEC: recruit your tail off.

Taking over a program which was quickly becoming the laughingstock of the conference, Stoops’ tireless efforts on the recruiting trail have helped secure verbal commitments from a number of elite high school prospects for the class of 2014.

And while obtaining six early verbal commitments would hardly generate a rise out of most SEC programs, this type of recruiting success is something which Stoops’ predecessors in Lexington had a difficult time attaining.

Stoops’ first full recruiting class at Kentucky got off to a great start back in January, when four-star defender Denzel Ware flipped his verbal commitment from Florida State, where Stoops had previously served as defensive coordinator, to the Wildcats.

The move generated a strong buzz for Kentucky on the recruiting trail, although the move did not necessarily result in an immediate slew of commitments.

Less than two months later, to the chagrin of Kentucky fans across the nation, Ware underwent yet another change of heart, de-committing from the Wildcats and naming SEC East rival Florida as his new leader.

Ware’s de-commitment left Stoops with just one verbal commitment – three-star linebacker Dorian Hendrix – in the 2014 class early in April.

Momentum having appeared to have shifted away from his program, Stoops did not get deterred by the de-commitment of a highly-recognizable prospect. Instead, Stoops and his coaching staff ventured back out on the recruiting trail in pursuit of coveted talent.

Thus far, the staff’s diligence is paying exceptional dividends.

Since Ware’s disheartening de-commitment, the Wildcats have picked up verbal commitments from five 2014 prospects, all of whom are ranked as top 70 players at their respective position by

Included in the recent commitments are four-star wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass and in-state quarterback prospect Drew Barker.

Kentucky’s most recent commit, Barker is ranked as one of the top 10 signal callers in the 2014 class. He committed to the Wildcats over offers from schools such as Miami, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The recent string of commitments has elevated Kentucky’s recruiting class inside of the top 20 of’s most recent team rankings, helping regain any momentum which the program had lost following Ware’s departure.

Kentucky’s football woes will not be solved overnight, but Stoops is undoubtedly focusing the majority of his attention in the correct area.

The Wildcats very well may struggle to contend on the gridiron this fall, but they are no longer to be taken lightly when it comes to recruiting.

Matthew Osborne - With an extensive background in both writing and high school recruiting, Matt serves as the Editor and Director of Recruiting for Southern Pigskin. Once serving as the South Region Senior Scout for a national scouting service, Matt is very familiar with the top football prospects in the south. If it is a weekend in the fall, you can rest assured that Matt is on the road watching some of the top high school and college games in the region. To keep up with all of the latest recruiting news in the south, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborneSP. You can email him at