Vaught's Views: UK recruiting coordinator Chuck Smith should not take blame for losing Lamar Dawson
Lamar Dawson said Kentucky recruiting coordinator Chuck Smith did all he could do to lure him to UK, but said he just wanted to go somewhere else. (Victoria Graff)
“I knew a lot of people would blame Chuck for Kentucky not getting Lamar even though it was because of him that Kentucky was even holding on by a thread with Lamar,” French said Wednesday. “He did an outstanding job recruiting Lamar. He did all in his power to get Lamar.”
Since French gave Smith his first coaching job at Mercer County after his playing career ended at UK, the Boyle coach knows some will dismiss his remarks as trying to protect a friend. Instead, he realizes critics will blast Smith, a former Boyle head coach who led the Rebels to five straight state titles, for not getting Dawson to sign with the Wildcats.
After all, Dawson’s former teammate, Jordan Aumiller, started 10 games at tight end last season. Another former Boyle player, Jacob Tamme, was an all-Southeastern Conference player at UK. Another former Rebel, Taylor Begley, was a standout placekicker. Yet another Boyle player, receiver Neal Brown, also played at Kentucky.
Dawson says both Tamme and Aumiller told him Kentucky was the right place for him. Two other former Rebels — brothers Travis and Bobby Leffew — encouraged him to look at Arkansas where their former Louisville coach, Bobby Petrino, is now the head man.
“Everybody had their opinions,” Dawson said. “Nobody at Kentucky did anything wrong. I liked coach Smith. He’s a good guy and treated me great. Kentucky was my first offer when I was a junior. I’ll never forget that. Coach Smith kept me informed on what was going on at Kentucky, talked to me all he could. He did his best, but I just didn’t think Kentucky was where I wanted to go.”
Dawson said again that UK was never his leader, a point he carefully emphasized time and time again in the recruiting process.
While French and his assistants who had also worked under Smith tried not to influence Dawson’s decision, they could not help being biased toward knowing Smith would be Dawson’s position coach.
“But Lamar has big dreams and there is nothing Chuck could have done to change his mind,” French said. “We all have our opinions about his decision, but nobody tried to change his mind. But I can guarantee you this. Nobody outworked Chuck Smith on this.”
Yet that has not stopped Internet message boards — including vaughtsviews.com — from having numerous comments suggesting Smith should be fired for not signing Dawson. The job he has done developing linebackers Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson, Johnny Williams, Sam Maxwell, Braxton Kelley and Danny Trevathan meant nothing to critics upset that Dawson was going to USC.
Listen to Dawson’s mother, Wanda Andrews, talk about Smith.
“Chuck did a wonderful job with Lamar,” Andrews said. “We love UK, and especially love Chuck, but this was Lamar’s decision and UK was just not where he wanted to go. Chuck did his job, but Lamar just decided not to go to Kentucky.”
French hopes once time passes, maybe the bitter feelings toward Smith by some fans will, too.
“If you have an outstanding player, who wouldn’t want your friend to coach him, especially when he is a good coach like Chuck? Everyone of us here would have liked to have seen him sign with Chuck and UK, but he just chose to go elsewhere,” French said. “Hopefully in time people will understand that Lamar is his own man and just had a desire to go play on what he feels is a bigger stage and there’s nothing Chuck, Joker (Phillips) or anyone else at Kentucky could have done differently to change that.”