Kentucky coach Joker Phillips was appreciative that he won the “trust factor” with Justin Taylor, the North Atlanta RB who decided to sign with Wildcats rather than accept a controversial grayshirt offer from Alabama.
After Taylor was safely signed with Kentucky, his high school coach made it point to say, “We trusted the coaches at Kentucky … We felt comfortable with them, and they promised to take care of Justin.” [Click here to read more]
Kentucky’s coach was thankful for the complimentary words from North Atlanta coach Stanley Pritchett.
“We feel good that Stanley would say something like that,” Phillips told the AJC. “It had to do with relationships we have built with Stanley throughout the years. This was not our first time dealing with Stanley and one of his players. We have four or four guys on our staff at Kentucky that had some type of connection with him. And everybody here that has dealt with Stanley in the past has been honest and upfront, therefore he trusts us.”
When Taylor trusted Pritchett (who is also Taylor’s legal guardian), then Kentucky had one of Georgia’s top prospects at running back fall into its lap on signing day after an unsettling turn of events with Alabama.
“Justin leaned on the guys he knew, and Stanley leaned on the guys he knew, therefore we were able to get him,” Phillip said. “And again, I understand the commitment that Justin made to Alabama but that commitment changed [with the grayshirt condition], therefore he became available. We threw our name in the hat also, and we were able to land him, based on our relationship with Stanley and people at the school from the past.”
Kentucky has created a pipeline of talent from Georgia. The Wildcats have five coaches that actively recruit the state, including former LaGrange High School coach Steve Pardue. This year, Kentucky’s 26-member recruiting class had eight Georgia signees, led by Walton safety Zack Blaylock, Stephenson WR DeMarcus Sweat, Pebblebrook LB Khalid Henderson and Whitewater OL Jordan Watson.
Blaylock is the son of former NBA All-Star and Atlanta Hawks point guard Mookie Blaylock. Zack’s twin brother, S-LB Daron Blaylock, also signed a football scholarship with Kentucky.
“We had Zack and Daron in camp, and we used our contacts,” Phillips said. “A lot of people here in Lexington were familiar with his dad. His financial planner lives in Lexington, and I think his interior decorator is around here. Sam Bowie and Mookie Blaylock actually played together [in the NBA], so we had some contacts that gave us their names early … I think maybe at the beginning of their junior year, which is really early. We got on it and [assistant Greg Nord] went down and started establishing a relationship with them.
“We had a chance to get to know those guys and they fit the profile of what we’re looking for at Kentucky. No. 1, it was authentic when they committed. It was hard for other colleges to turn them because of the type of relationships we had established with them … There were people coming in and trying to turn them, especially with the year those two had, and we were able to hang onto them because they understand what the word ‘commitment’ means with the type of character that they have.”
One more question with Joker Phillips: How did the SEC’s new over-signing rules affect Kentucky’s recruiting efforts this year? “It had a little impact. A guy like Justin Taylor probably doesn’t fall to us, and is probably signed by Alabama. With the new rules, you have to be creative with how you handle recruiting now. It’s not going out and signing 28 or over-signing. You also can’t sign guys who are on the fence academically. If you do, you take a huge, huge chance … a huge risk. There were some good players who got away from the SEC because of that. Some other conferences were able to sign some guys that were at-risk academically.
“Here and now in this league, it’s becoming where you have to feel really good and really comfortable that a kid is going to qualify. You have to feel even better than that, really. You can still take chances but if it doesn’t work out, then you’re down a number on your roster. You had to play different [recruiting strategies] this year than you did in the past. But I also think a team like Kentucky benefits from the rule. It’s pretty much the same way we’ve been doing business all along. It actually helped us. We didn’t have to change as much as other SEC schools had to do.”
SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU CHECKED YOUR LAPTOP …
IT’S RAINING RECRUITING STORIES
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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