Indiana high school, WKU building strong bond on recruiting trail

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Willie Taggart has talked about winning the recruiting battle with in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky since he arrived at WKU.

With Warren Central (Ind.) defensive back Eric Robinson-Berry’s decommitment from Louisville, followed by his subsequent signing with WKU on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Taggart may have actually won two battles.

First, WKU ends up with a three-star recruit that ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash, a speed that Warren Central coach John Hart said puts him in the “top one percent among athletes in all of Division I football.”

“There aren’t many guys playing in the NFL that can run a 4.28,” Hart said. “He’s very athletic. He went to state in high jump, so he’s got huge springs on him.”

Secondly, WKU could benefit in the long run because of how Robinson-Berry’s decommitment played out.

Hart said Robinson-Berry broke his clavicle prior to his junior season, and Louisville promised him that the injury wouldn’t have an effect on whether or not they would sign him.

But instead, Louisville decided to offer him a greyshirt, which meant he wouldn’t officially be allowed to enroll with the school until the spring semester.

The NCAA allows athletes a five-year window to exhaust their four years of eligibility. That calendar doesn’t officially begin until the player is enrolled. By waiting until the spring semester to “officially” begin college, a player will be playing his last season in the sixth year after high school rather than the fifth.

Hart said it wasn’t the worst offer, but he was still less than pleased with how Louisville handled the situation.

“They had a lot of excuses,” Hart said. “But what it really came down to, from what I heard, was that when Miami’s staff left, (Louisville) got some commitments from there and decommitted on some of our kids.

“I’m very disappointed in Louisville. They won’t be getting anymore of our athletes — I can assure you of that.”

But Hart and Warren Central have already built a strong bond with Taggart and the rest of WKU’s coaching staff.

The relationship started when former WKU offensive coordinator Kevin Wright joined the Toppers from Warren Central. Wright then recruited Warren Central defensive back Dexter Taylor, who he coached in high school, for WKU.

Current sophomore offensive lineman Ed Hazelett is also a product of Warren Central, and another 2011 commit, two-star tight end Devin Scott, hails from Warren Central.

“I committed about a week earlier than (Robinson-Berry), but we talked about playing together a lot,” Scott said. “We wanted to stay together. We have been together since second grade.”

Hart complimented both Taggart and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford for the way they went about recruiting his players.

He said Sanford has a bright future in the coaching business.

“Coach Sanford did a tremendous job and I think he’s going to be a star in this game,” he said. “He was a big player in this whole thing.

“We had a pretty bad ice storm and weren’t in school, so we have to give Coach Sanford a lot of credit for getting through to a lot of home faxes to get things done. He was kind of ahead of Mother Nature.”

The bond between WKU and Warren Central doesn’t just mean good news for WKU’s in-state recruiting efforts, but also its regional recruiting efforts — at least according to Hart.

Once word got out that Robinson-Berry was back on the market, Hart said several Mid-American Conference schools attempted to get him to commit. But Robinson-Berry wasn’t impressed with them as much as he was with WKU.

“I had the opportunity to go to Western Kentucky, and I loved it,” Robinson-Berry said. “The coaches made me feel at home and motivated me to come down there and help the program. The players have a bond. They’re all family, and I really want to be a part of that family.”

Hart said he wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a trend each year and predicted it to translate into some immediate success for WKU.

“I think the MAC schools are going to have a hard time competing with Western Kentucky if they maintain what they’ve been doing,” he said. “Western Kentucky will win the Sun Belt within three years.”