Eddie Gran’s persistence flipped DE Chris Whittaker to Kentucky
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Most coaches stopped calling Chris Whittaker after he committed to Central Florida, but Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was in contact with the defensive end prospect every day.
That persistence led Gran to flip two UCF commits, Whittaker and offensive lineman Sebastien Dolcine, to Kentucky in the same week.
Whittaker changed his commitment to Kentucky on Dec. 4 and became one of eight Florida prospects in Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class. A defensive end from Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Fla., he will join high school teammate Josh Ali in Lexington.
Whittaker held 25 reported offers including five from SEC schools: Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina. A 6-foot-4, 246-pound prospect, he was a consensus 3-star recruit and No. 66 among weak side defensive end in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
SEC Country met with Whittaker as part of the Next Generation series in which we’ll visit several signees in Kentucky’s 2017 class. Here’s part of our conversation focusing on his recruitment.
Q: What are you focused on before you get to campus?
A: Mostly just keeping up with my body structure, making sure I’m in good cardio. I don’t want to go up there and be all sluggish and whatnot. I want to make sure I’m healthy, and just gain and maintain.
Q: Eddie Gran was your lead recruiter. What was your relationship with him like?
A: I met Coach Gran in the spring of last year actually. I was committed to UCF, and even when I was committed to UCF, Coach Gran was still hitting my phone. He was still seeing how I was doing. He was the one that really gave me an open mind to Kentucky. Coach Gran, he’s just been there all the way.
Q: Even though you were committed to UCF, what did that persistence from Kentucky tell you?
A: Most colleges, when I committed to UCF, they already lost interest. Coach Gran was the main one that still hit up my phone every day, after every practice. He even came out to practice sometimes during the summer and spring to see how I was doing. That really helped out a lot in my process.
Q: UCF was clearly your second choice. What about them made you commit early on?
A: It was just close to home. I had family that lives literally 30 minutes away. They’d be able to come see my games. But after thinking, it would just benefit me more and make me grow as a man to be on my own.
Q: How hard was it to tell the UCF staff that you were de-committing?
A: It was definitely hard. It was almost like breaking up with a girlfriend after like two years. It was one of the hardest things. But, it’s all business and that’s how they saw it. Everything just falls into place.
Q: Did Kentucky’s coaches talk to you any about playing time for your freshman season?
A: Right now I’m just seeing how it all plays out. Just getting adapted to the plays, knowing my assignments, that’s mainly it. But if I can handle all that I don’t really see myself redshirting.
Q: Now that you’ve gone through the recruiting process, what advice would you give juniors who are about to do the same?
A: Just make sure you’re going there for the right reasons. Make sure you go there and play the position you want to play and not just to go there for a name, or a conference or whatever the case may be.
Check back later this summer for a full feature from our Next Generation visit with Chris Whittaker.
More from our Next Generation series
- Chance to play in the SEC lured Josh Ali to Lexington
- Still new to the game, Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald made an early impression on Kentucky
- Position promise gave Wildcats an edge with JaVonte Richardson
- Tyrell Ajian got the ‘gut feeling’ he needed from Kentucky’s coaches
- Big Ten schools stood out, but Wildcats proved best for LB Alex King
- Gone from a dying city, Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson finds life in Lexington
- Top Kentucky football signee Lynn Bowden not focused on comparisons