By LARRY VAUGHT
His family has Kentucky football season tickets and he’s attended UK football games for years. His high school coach played at Kentucky and then coached at Kentucky. Plus, the Kentucky campus is less than an hour from Danville.
Yet Boyle County High School junior Reese Smith — who called his scholarship offer from UK a “big-time offer” — verbally committed to West Virginia, not UK, earlier this week. He also had eight over Division I offers, including Tennessee.
Of course, that should not have been a shock considering that another former Boyle County star, Neal Brown, is the new coach at West Virginia. When Brown was still coaching at Troy, he gave Smith is first Division I offer. Just a few hours after Brown officially became head coach at West Virginia, he offered a scholarship to Smith as well as Landen Bartleson, his Boyle teammate.
Smith caught 53 passes for 1,173 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior and has 139 receptions for 2,875 yards and 44 touchdowns. He also has 19 interceptions, including three he returned for touchdowns, and has broke up 29 passes along with forcing seven fumbles.
A few weeks ago I asked Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow how he thought Brown, an offensive coordinator two years at UK under Mark Stoops, would do at West Virginia recruiting against the Cats.
“I think everybody we have offered in Ohio, the next day West Virginia offers,” Marrow joked. “All seriousness, being in a (coaching) room with Neal for two years, I am not surprised at where he is at. He has a strong work ethic, is a high character guy.
“I kind of did not worry about him (recruiting wise) when he was at Troy. But when his name came up with that Louisville thing, I was not thrilled. But when he got West Virginia, I thought this could be interesting. It’s a Power-5 school and I think Neal is a perfect guy for that place.”