New class lacks big talent, will fill void left by grads

Rich Brooks’ job is never easy. Even when it seems like he should be tucked away enjoying the backside of a season with unprecedented high marks.

Still, Brooks and his staff were punching the clock on what some consider a holiday in college football — national signing day. This week, fans saw another signing period for their favorite football teams.

Some programs rich with history like those Alabama and Florida schools get an overflow of talented athletes that could mosey right into a starting spot from day one. With the powerhouses flexing their annual recruiting muscles, the up-and- (hopefully) coming programs like UK have to simply get what they can in the pile of leftovers.

Every now and again, teams in search for greatness will land a top-tier recruit that will have fans juiced up in hopes of him being a cornerstone for the future. But more often than not, schools in the fast lane for consistent success, as UK is, sometimes end up digging at the bottom of the bucket after losing kids on the top of their wish list to bigger programs.

After this class has been evaluated, UK didn’t beat the odds. They didn’t get the kid that’s going to be on the Heisman Watch List in his first year, or his second. And unless something drastic happens, there will be an absence from any Freshman All-American hopefuls.

It’s true, UK’s newest football players are mostly made up of project prospects. Guys that can develop into good players or could just flop.

But it doesn’t matter.

For what UK’s 2008 recruiting class lacks in raw talent, is made up  for with something that can’t be taught or developed over four years. Instead of budding blue chip stars, UK got speed, a weapon to be reckoned with, and it’s something that UK needed.

“We were able to get maybe one of the most athletic and fastest recruiting classes that we’ve signed since I’ve been here,” Brooks said at a press conference on signing day. “Five years ago one of my greatest statements was that what our team needed was speed. This class has a lot of that in it.”

The class is headlined by wideout Aaron Boyd, a local product from Henry Clay High School, and Winston Guy, a defensive back at Lexington Catholic who originally committed to Arkansas but pulled out to be a Cat.

But the absence of high profile recruits should not give room for despair. It’s all part of the building process. Brooks will have to continue working with what he’s got to keep grabbing wins. Which hasn’t been a bad strategy.

His system has produced a Heisman candidate, numerous all-conference performers and more seniors in the Senior Bowl this year than all his years combined. Brooks brings them in as projects then equips them with the skills to succeed. Like a church with a convincing minister — they never leave the same as they came. UK’s set to have a record of players selected in April’s NFL daft.

Of the notable 20 recruits, there is a handful of players that will challenge for playing time in the wide receiver spots with the absence of departing seniors Keenan Burton and Steve Johnson. Boyd is definitely one of them along with Eric Adeyemi from Miami and Gene McCaskill of Chester, S.C. Much like Burton, McCaskill took snaps as quarterback in high school, and is a playmaker on offense. But the conversion to play Southeastern Conference football is a tightrope walk, not an easy stroll at all.

J.D. Williams is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected].