HOOVER, Ala. — Tom Luginbill, who played quarterback one year at Eastern Kentucky University, is national football recruiting director for ESPN. He has been impressed with the talent Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has brought in since his arrival at UK and likes the direction the Kentucky program is headed.
He shared these insights during a break from his ESPN duties at Southeastern Conference Media Days here this week.
Question: Now that you have had a second year to evaluate the way Stoops and his coaches have recruited, could you see Kentucky making a major jump up this year?
Luginbill: “I think they are going to make a jump. Here is what is going to happen with that team in my opinion. I think they are going to be a better team that will play better on the field, but with the way their schedule plays out I don’t know if their record will necessarily reflect that. So while I think they will be improved in many areas, they will be forced to play with young guys that are more talented than some guys they inherited and that’s a good thing over the long run, but in the interim the improvement will be there even if I don’t know how much it will be reflected in the record in this particular year.”
Question: Does Kentucky have to win more this year to continue to be successful recruiting?
Luginbill: “I think they have been very honest in recruiting with where they are as a program. When they are out and recruiting, they look prospects know, ‘Hey, this is what we are right now and where we need to be.’ But nobody is going to wave a magic wand and have it happen over night. This is a team that if it ups from two wins to four or two to five, I think that is all they are going to need for the coaches and the university to say, ‘Hey, the proof is in the pudding. We are making the strides. But again, it is not going to come overnight. I would not be surprised at all if they get to four or five win range because they are going to be an improved football team.”
Question: Is there anything about UK’s recruiting that continues to surprise you?
Luginbill: “Nothing surprises me but the one thing I like that they are doing … the state of Kentucky is never going to be overly strong in terms of sheer numbers of SEC caliber guys. So what do you have to do? You have to go into everybody else’s backyard. You have to go into Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, the Carolinas. Where Mark Stoops has done a great job is that he has expanded the recruiting up north to Cincinnati into Ohio where he has great roots. Maybe they can’t supplement everything out of everybody’s states in the South, but they can pluck a guy here, a guy there in Ohio and that has not been a fertile recruiting ground for them in the past until he got there. I think he has done a good job of casting a wider net and maybe branding Kentucky and the lure of the SEC up in Big Ten country a little bit.”
Question: What does getting into the Maryland-Washington, D.C., recruiting area mean for UK?
Luginbill: “It is huge. You have Washington, D.C., and Maryland and Virginia and that whole area is so plentiful in terms of prospects and there’s enough to go around to supplement teams in the ACC and the SEC. I think what they have done is say we are going into a certain area and we are making overtures and if there is a positive response, our time is worth spending there. If we are not getting a positive response, then let’s not waste our time and get back into areas where we are. As they branched out, they have been very clear about areas where they felt it was a good fit.”
Question: How big was it to keep Drew Barker at UK and not South Carolina and then Matt Elam at UK?and not Alabama?
Luginbill: “I think that is big. You have to win the state. Louisville has been hot over the last several years, so you beat Louisville for guys even if you are in different conferences, it’s big. You don’t have a lot of guys in that state, so you have to keep the best at home.”
Question: What do you see at quarterback this year for Kentucky?
Luginbill: “I don’t know. I think they are going to be improved. I think they are going to be more athletic. But time will tell. They have to settle on a guy and settle full time.”
Question: What do you think of Neal Brown’s offense?
Luginbill: “He is fast paced. It is an exciting scheme. I think that is an attractive thing in recruiting as well. They can throw the ball all over the lot. They want to be an up tempo team. Right now that is what is resonating in recruiting. It is what is attractive to prospects, so I think that allows them to go in and recruit some skill that maybe they didn’t have access to before.”
Question: How much does finally renovating Commonwealth Stadium help?
Luginbill: “A lot. It shows a commitment on behalf of the university that football is important and that needs to be said and stated not just in words but in actions so recruits can see this is not just a basketball school because they are making serious commitment for football to be strong.”
Question: Could Kentucky be a SEC Eastern Division contender in three years?
Luginbill: “Let’s just say I don’t think they will be the Kentucky they are now.”