February 1, 2012

Cassity catching up with new and old recruits

Most position coaches would be playing catch-up to get to know their incoming recruits less than two months after taking a new job.

Not Mike Cassity.

Cassity was hired from Marshall in December following the departure of former defensive coordinator Steve Brown. Even though he's only had a short time on the job, he's already familiar with many of the defensive backs Kentucky added on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Nine members of Kentucky's 25-man class figure to land in the secondary, and Cassity previously had ties to six of them.

Cassity knew Middletown (Ohio) defensive back Cody Quinn well. Quinn was being recruited by Cassity before he left Marshall even though he had been committed to Illinois. When Cassity changed jobs, it wasn't long before Quinn decided to follow him.

"Had I stayed at Marshall, would we have gotten him?" Cassity said. "Probably not. But when I came here, he was calling me. He had heard I was going to be here before I even took the job."

He also has a history with safety Kory Brown, who signed in December from a junior college and has already arrived on campus. Cassity coached two of Brown's brothers, Omar Brown and Evan McKelvey at Marshall.

Omar Brown was a senior safety for the Thundering Herd this season and a three-year starter who led the team in tackles in 2011 and could be drafted in April. McKelvey was a freshman who played sparingly at safety last fall. Brown will likely start at safety, but could move to the hybrid linebacker/safety position previously occupied by Winston Guy.

"I asked Kory 'Are you more like Omar, or more like Evan?'" Cassity said. "He said 'I'm more like Omar.' So I said 'Good.'"

Marshall was also recruiting Zack Blaylock and Daron Blaylock, twins from Marietta, Ga. Cassity said Daron will likely play safety and could grow into a linebacker, while Zack will arrive as a corner.

"I feel good about those guys," he said. "They're physical, they can run, they're athletic. They're what you're looking for in defensive backs."

Cassity also coached Josh Harris's father early in his career, when Cassity was an assistant at Western Kentucky. He's known the younger Harris for some time. Cassity was also recruiting UK signee Fred Tiller while at Marshall, though Tiller was never particularly interested.

Shawn Blaylock, Jonathan Reed and late addition Sterling Wright are the other defensive backs UK signed.

Cassity did visit each of the defensive back recruits in their homes after joining Joker Phillips' staff. He's well-acquianted with all of his incoming recruits, but he's certainly spent more time with a handful of them.

That familiarity could be key going forward as Cassity tries to replace both starting cornerbacks in his first year with the team. The Wildcats return their No. 3 corner from 2011, Cartier Rice, but are thin in the secondary beyond that.

"One of the selling points was you were going to have an opportunity to come in here and play," Phillips said.

Unlike many of the coaches, Cassity didn't have the benefit of evaluating each player in camp and through the course of the season. But he wasn't too far behind the curve. He hopes the players aren't far behind where they want them to be either.

"As I come in and started watching video on these guys, I'm very excited to get started with all of them," he said.

Ohio on the horizon

Quinn was one of just two players the Wildcats signed from Ohio, but Cassity expects that to change in the coming years.

Phillips indicated that the Wildcats could spend more time recruiting the state in coming years, and Cassity figures to be a big part of that. He's spent more than 25 years coaching, and has recruited in Ohio at nearly every stop.

"As close as southern Ohio is, we're going to consider that part of our in-state recruiting," Cassity said. "It should be. I know when I was here years ago, we had a lot of players from Ohio. We're making a strong push to get back into the state of Ohio."

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