GIDEL: 'Teammate Strategy' Good for UK?

GIDEL: 'Teammate Strategy' Good for UK?

If the shoe fits, then wear it. Wildcat offensive coordinator Joker Phillips realized at an early period in his tenure at UK, that things weren't going to be as easy recruiting Kentucky as it was at Notre Dame and South Carolina.

So he changed his course.

In an effort to help sell his up and coming program and possibly snag a star prospect, Joker Phillips offered scholarships to teammates as a way to spice up the equation.

The strategy has been tremendously successful dating back to Phillips' first season as recruiting coordinator at Kentucky, where he landed commitments from Marcus McClinton and Gabe Wallace from Fort Campbell (Ky.), Shomari Moore and Shukree Barfield from Camden (NJ) and Tony Dixon and Cole Mason from Parrish (Ala.).

Although the commitments of Barfield and Mason did not stick up into signing day 2004, it was perhaps a sign of things to come.

2005 would see the fruits of their labor to an even bigger extent, landing teammates E.J. Adams and Ross Bogue of Suwanee (Ga.), Demoreo Ford and Braxton Kelley of LaGrange (Ga.), Ben Bates and Zach Hennis of Plain City (Oh.) and nearly scooping up Cory Zirbel, in addition to Tim Masthay in Murray (Ky.).

All in all, the Wildcats offered teammates of as little as five signed athletes in 2005. Zipp Duncan (Elizabethtown), James Alexander (Atlanta, Ga-Douglas), Kalavi Blanchard (Fresno CC), Ventrell Jenkins (Columbia, SC) and Kenny Ray Turner (Cadiz, Ky - Trigg Co.) all had teammates offered scholarships from their respective schools, and helped pave the entrance for Kentucky in possibly landing their star teammates.

So the question remained; would new recruiting coordinator Ron Caragher, whom moved a desk over and took over the scene in February of 2006, continue the legacy instilled by Joker?

The answer was a quick one to find, as no less then a month into his job, Caragher offered his first set of teammates in Cincinnati-Winslow H.S. pair Robert Williams and Kallen Wade.

Despite missing out on Wade and most likely Williams, the 'Cats did strike gold 2 months later, when the 'Cats landed Richland Northeast CB/S Calvin Harrson.

The Wildcats are hoping the commitment of Harrison will help pave the entrance for Kentucky into the recruitment of DE Adam Patterson and LB Rodney Paulk, both of whom are going to be extremely highly recruited in the next few months.

Still the question remains, is this strategy good or bad for UK?

The ladder take Justin Hermes as their poster child. The famed wide receiver of Brock Berlin at Evangel Christian in Louisiana, Hermes didn't last more then five minutes in a UK uniform yet wasted a precious scholarship that could have been for someone else in 1998.

"Claude thought by getting Justin, Brock would come," a former coach at UK would say later, "I don't think they were even that good of friends though. I believe Brock would later say they weren't even that close and Justin didn't have any other offers."

But still many suggest the gold at the end of the rainbow and the possibility of landing a kid like Mike Davis (who nearly chose UK last year) is still worth it.

At least for a school like Kentucky.

"I think it's a great idea," Richland Northeast High School coach Duane Wages said. "It certainly doesn't hurt having a kid on their side, in their face, every single day. It's a strategy that has many advantages to it, especially for a school like Kentucky. It immediately makes them a player."

And that impact is fully felt from a departing senior, down to a rising junior.

"It makes a little difference," Trigg Co. offensive lineman Jeff Adams said on having his teammate Kenny Ray Turner sign with UK in 2005. "It certainly doesn't hurt having somebody I'm comfortable around and someone I can call on about 'what's going on,' and stuff."

But even that little advantage could be the difference between getting a player and not.

"Having Wesley and then Demoreo had a definite impact on Braxton's decision," LaGrange coach Steve Pardue said following the commitment of Linebacker Braxton Kelley. "Being able to have them at UK makes going away seem not so far."

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