Vaught's Views: Losing Lamar Dawson a big blow to Kentucky's recruting efforts
Instead, the four-star Boyle linebacker signed with Southern California, not Kentucky, today in what was a huge hit on and off the field for coach Joker Phillips’ Wildcats.
Dawson also had Oregon, Tennessee and Central Florida in his final five choices after earlier eliminating Michigan, Florida and Louisville.
Kentucky needed Dawson desperately for a lot of reasons. First, UK needs playmakers at linebacker, especially if it is switching to a 3-4 alignment next season under new defensive coordinator Rick Minter that will require four linebackers on the field. Last season UK had only one consistent playmaker — Danny Trevathan. That’s why Dawson was needed on the field.
From a perception standpoint, he was critical for Kentucky. The Wildcats stumbled at the end of last year with a disheartening loss at Tennessee to end the regular season and a disappointing performance in a BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Pittsburgh.
If that wasn’t enough in the 6-7 season, star Randall Cobb opted to leave UK early for the NFL.
And now Dawson, a PARADE All-American and the state’s top-ranked recruiting prospect, not only said no to UK, but he decided to travel across the country to play for USC and coach Lane Kiffin despite the Trojans’ recent problems with the NCAA.
Boyle products Jacob Tamme, Taylor Begley and Neal Brown all played for UK. Dawson’s former teammate, Jordan Aumiller, was UK’s starting tight end most of last season.
Then there is Chuck Smith, who led Boyle to five straight state titles and now not only is the recruiting coordinator but also is the linebackers coach. Boyle coach Larry French gave Smith his first job at Mercer County. Most of the current Boyle assistants were on Smith’s staff at Boyle.
“I think it has been hard on us, and hard on Chuck, too,” French said. “We could have been biased in a hurry, but we had to make sure we were helping Lamar in any way we possibly could. Chuck understood that.”
However, Dawson also understood he had to make the decision with his head, not his heart. In the process, he broke hearts at Kentucky as the Wildcats lost a potential big-time playmaker to USC.
“In his heart, that is what he wanted and what he thought was best,” French said. “We all have our opinions, but this was his opinion and his is the only one that counts and he’s very, very happy with his decision.”