University of Kentucky hires Georgia HS coaching legend to recruit the state’s top college football prospects

Steve Pardue (Courtesy of UK)

Steve Pardue, known for creating the "LaGrange-to-Kentucky pipeline" hopes to build a "Georgia-to-Kentucky pipeline" as an assistant for the Wildcats (Courtesy of UK)

Steve Pardue is one of the better-known college football scouts in Georgia — less than two months after being hired by Kentucky.

Pardue is easily recognizable in the state’s inner circle of high school coaches because he was part of it for so long.

Pardue resigned in November after 17 years as LaGrange High’s coach. After unexpectedly landing his first college job as an SEC assistant a month later, Pardue got another surprise when he started to travel across the state to recruit players for Kentucky.

“I was thinking about that the other day,” Pardue said with a laugh. “I’ve been to about 25-30 high schools in Georgia [during the recent recruiting period] and the funny thing is that I have yet to meet a new coach. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve known the head coach.

“And I didn’t pick the schools, Kentucky’s [recruiting staff] did. It has just worked out that way. I’ve known every head coach at every high school I’ve gone to so far.”

Pardue’s looming presence in Georgia was a main attraction with Kentucky’s job offer. He led LaGrange to the state playoffs in 14 of 17 seasons, winning three state championships. If Pardue didn’t meet an opposing coach during the season, he likely chatted with him at passing leagues or coaching clinics. He also was heavily involved with Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA).

Recruiting Georgia’s fertile grounds is one of the top priorities for Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, and he figured that Pardue knew them as well as anybody. It also helped that Pardue was born and reared in Kentucky.

“One thing that I wanted to do is hire someone that could recruit the southern part of Georgia and also had some Kentucky ties,” Phillips told reporters. “Coach Pardue has been [with the GACA] for a number of years and was a perfect fit for what we were looking for. We think that Georgia is really important for us, and we wanted to branch out [in recruiting the state].”

Coaching legend Conrad Nix, who retired from Northside-Warner Robins after the 2009 season, praised the hiring, adding that it likely will lead to more Georgia prospects having the opportunity to play at an SEC school. Nix said Pardue is well aware of both the high caliber and depth of talent in Georgia, as compared to surrounding states.

Camden County coach Jeff Herron, who says he can’t remember the last time Kentucky recruited one of his players, applauded the Wildcats for the personnel decision. “Steve knows the state, and he knows the coaches,” Herron said. “He knows where the players are and where they aren’t.”

Relationships are a critical part of the recruiting process, and Pardue already has that — at least with most of the state’s coaches.

“Absolutely it makes a difference when you know you can trust a coach recruiting your players,” Herron said. “It will help a school like ours, because I’m familiar with Steve and he’s familiar with me. It’s a good situation.”

Grady RB Marcus Caffey, who some (including myself) think is better than Isaiah Crowell, has committed to Kentucky (AJC)

Grady RB Marcus Caffey, who some (including myself) think is better than Isaiah Crowell, has committed to Kentucky (AJC)

Pardue said one of the job perks has been visiting with his old coaching buddies again in recent weeks. Because of the long-time friendships, both sides are direct and honest with player evaluations.

“If Jeff Herron or another coach tells me that they feel a guy can play in the SEC, then I listen to them,” Pardue said. “Because I know they know what a great player looks like, and I know they won’t tell me if they don’t believe it.”

With Kentucky putting the finishing touches on this year’s recruiting class, Pardue has focused on acquiring a wealth of inside information on the state’s future prospects. However, he made a favorable impression in a short time with two Georgia senior tailbacks committed to Kentucky, Grady High’s Marcus Caffey and Whitewater High’s Josh Clemons. Pardue, who coaches Kentucky’s running backs, and Phillips made in-home visits with both high-profile recruits last week.

“I really like Coach Pardue — he said he has a lot to come in and learn [at the collegiate level], just like me,” Clemons said. “Hopefully, we can grow together and get this thing rolling.”

When Pardue stepped down as LaGrange’s coach after last season, he did it simply because he “needed a change and the timing was right.” Pardue didn’t have much time to think about his next career move, which could have included athletic administration or working for the school system in another capacity, before Kentucky approached.

“I decided it was the chance of a lifetime, and if I was ever going to coach in college, now was the time,” Pardue said. “Honestly, if it hadn’t been Kentucky and Joker Phillips wasn’t the coach, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. If Joker had been coaching somewhere else, I may not have gone.

“But with Kentucky being my home state and [Phillips] being the coach there and someone I really believe in, that was the reason I left [the LaGrange area].”

When Phillips was an assistant at Kentucky, he grew close to Pardue as they developed what rival recruiters refer to as the “LaGrange-to-Kentucky pipeline” with prospects. Six former LaGrange players were on Kentucky’s roster last season.

“If LaGrange has good players, I’m going to recruit them hard,” Pardue said. “I’d never try to get them to come to Kentucky just because I’m there. Will we continue to have that type of relationship with LaGrange High? I don’t know.

“That ‘pipeline’ deal has kind of been blown up by other people. It was [Phillips] who took a chance on some guys we recommended and they really shined. Then they kind of sold their buddies on Kentucky.

“If they want to call it a ‘pipeline,’ then hopefully we can get about 10 or 12 other schools in Georgia to do the same thing, and we’ll be in really good shape.”

11 comments Add your comment


February 1st, 2011
4:33 am


February 1st, 2011
4:37 am

One key question: if Caffey is truly better than Crowell, and palyed his high school ball in the media hotbed of Atlanta, why do more people not share this opinion (including the head coaches at the two major in-state Division 1A/FBS schools in Georgia)? I’m just curious–how does one player get all of the hype? I’ve heard about Crowell since he was a sophomore. I’ve heard about Caffey since this morning. What is the reason for this talented a prospect flying under the proverbial radar?

Palm City Dawg

February 1st, 2011
7:25 am

Ditto heeldog…

The Alchemist

February 1st, 2011
7:50 am

Agree that Coach Pardue should be a great resource in Georgia for UK, but how many times are you gonna feature/marquee this story?

South Ga Dawg

February 1st, 2011
8:01 am

Caffey better than Crowell??? I guess you and Pardue are the only ones in America that think that. Great eyeball for talent you two guys have.

johnny too good

February 1st, 2011
8:18 am

its really hard to say who’s better becasue of things like the offensive scheme and playcalling, surrounding talent, level of competition, etc. but i’m gonna agree with the masses on Crowell bein the better of the 2, when someone is annoited the best, skeptics typically place them under a microscope on a hunt for flaws, and if none are uncovered then his crown as the best back must be legit


February 1st, 2011
8:58 am

time will tell who has the best college career but i’m not gonna follow the masses and annoint crowell as the mythical best back in the state based on hype.


February 1st, 2011
9:44 am

HeelDawg. Hype comes generally from several phenomenal performances in games where the player has exposure and or extremely good measureables and stats. It’s impossible to see every player in the country or even in the state and employers of most media members don’t pay money even worth mentioning to most of the local guys who go out and actually watch games to report on them…. The small group of people able to do it can’t go to every game so they have to rely on what they know… and thus hype snowballs because there is only so much information available.

If you get a chance to see a guy play over maybe 3 or 4 years a few times you get to see his best and his worst performances and get a more complete picture, you may talk to a coach or be able to see the player practice or see if he is able to elevate his teammates or if he gets frustrated when taken out of the game etc.

That’s the problem with recruiting rankings really. It’s not possible to really fully evaluate every player and some guys have great games at the right time while others have a bad night. The only real numbers you can trust are physical measurables and hope for the best.


February 1st, 2011
9:46 am

You will know in 3 – 4 years just how good these two running
backs turn out at the college level.
Dawg fans are still waiting on Caleb King to consistently show
the skills he had at Parkview and GAC. Awfully glad that he did
show those skills at the “Joke by Coke”, November 2009 !


February 1st, 2011
2:32 pm

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February 1st, 2011
2:43 pm

Micheal Carvell, ….You Really think Caffy is better than Crowell? Child please…

Pardue…..Knows first hand Crowell is better than Caffey. Crowell has but 200 yards or better each time he faced Pardue Lg team..2008,2009,2010….So how can he think that? Maybe Michael Carvell is the only one to belive that BS. Just like Mack Brown was so great last year? Josh Clemons is better than Caffey, and will play RB at KY also….Tell KY ,Joker, & Pardue they are both not allowed at Carver High anymore after, pulling Carver DB R.Jones Ship after he has been a KY commit since July 2010. Just ask Auburn & UGA what happens when you screw-over Carver players…..