Neal Brown: "I think you always make the recruit tell you no"
Take a look at any national recruiting service's top 10 rankings and the old Sesame Street song "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other" starts playing in your head.
4. Texas A&M
7. Notre Dame
8. Florida State
10. Ohio State
1. Texas A&M
6. Florida State
9. Ohio State
10. Notre Dame
In both cases, it's a collection of the biggest names in college football, the titans of the game....and Kentucky.
The Wildcats have lit the recruiting trail on fire since the hiring of Mark Stoops and his staff. Sure, any new coaching staff always sees a nice bump in recruiting ranks shortly are a hiring. It's always easier to recruit when you're undefeated, after all. But it's never to this magnitude at a program that lives life this far off the radar of elite prospects.
So how does a program coming off a 2-10 season, without so much as an SEC championship in more than 35 years, win the trust of the most sought-after recruits over the college football elite? According to offensive coordinator Neal Brown, they ask.
"I think in recruiting, you've always got to make people tell you no. Never assume anything, because you never know what the family history may be, where they've lived, who you know, so I always think you make the recruit tell you no," Brown told VaughtsViews.com. "That's the approach we've taken. We're going to go after the best players we think fit our system and if they tell us no then that's fine. We'll move on and find the next guy. I think a lot of recruiters make the mistake of assuming that it may not be a good fit."
That they've been able to ride that aggressive approach to a consensus top 10 ranking is surprising even to someone who played a part in it. "It's a little bit surprising this early. I thought we could have that type of success, not necessarily this early," Brown said.
"Sure, they're having success now," the opposing fan or coach says, "but the staff hasn't even coached a game yet. What happens when the season starts and they go back to being Kentucky?" As Jerry Seinfeld once said, anyone can take a reservation. The important part is keeping it.
"I think it's a testament to Coach Stoops and the staff's hard work, but I also think the kids that are currently committed to us, they believe in the vision that we have for the program," Brown said of keeping the Wildcats' class together through National Signing Day. "They've created a real strong bond. Regardless of what type of year we have, I don't really think that that bond will be broken."
Brown was also asked about the practice of offering scholarships to eighth-graders, and defended it as a fact of life in college football in the year 2013.
"I think what happens is, when kids come to camp and there's serious talent that's recognized," he said. "Recruiting is a 365 day job, and it starts earlier and earlier. We didn't create the process, the process is what it is. I think that you either play by the rules or you get left behind."