Official visit serves as confirmation for Jalen Geiger and family
Jalen Geiger is from South Carolina, but he's not a native of the Palmetto State. His father is from Ohio, his mother is from Tennessee. So, almost naturally, he's decided to split the difference and spend his college years in Kentucky.
According to Tony Geiger, the Class of 2019 Kentucky commitment's father, there are family members in the area already clamoring for football tickets to games at Kroger Field, looking ahead to when the younger Geiger will join the football Wildcats.
That time isn't too far off. Geiger will enroll early at Kentucky. It's more a certainty than ever after the family's official visit to Kentucky over the weekend. While Geiger has never allowed drama to creep into his recruitment, on Tuesday night he told Cats Illustrated that he will not take official visits to other schools and is locked in with the Wildcats. All that remains is to finish up high school, and his current season, before graduating early and leaving for Lexington.
The official visit was a helpful bridge weekend because Geiger's host, DeAndre Square, was in his shoes less than a year ago. Square also enrolled early.
"He's a cool dude," Geiger said of Square. "He's from Detroit. He's an early enrollee, just like me. He told me about what that's like and what the transition will be like."
Geiger also spent a little time with Josh Paschal, who has been out this season to date because of a well-documented health battle, but most of the prospect's weekend was spent with coaches. Mark Stoops, lead recruiter Vince Marrow, cornerbacks coach Steven Clinkscale and assistant coach Dean Hood made sure Geiger was taken care of and received plenty of attention throughout the weekend. There was a dinner at Malone's and good food, as always, and one of the highlights of the trip was the Wildcats 24-10 win against South Carolina, one of the Power Five schools in the state Geiger currently calls home.
Geiger was able to watch some film from UK's win against Florida with Clinkscale, the coach who will be tasked with instructing him in the years ahead.
"He talked to me about how their whole secondary is made up of seniors and so I have a good chance of playing early if I come in and work hard," Geiger said. "Of course I've been impressed with the guys up there now. Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards. Basically the whole secondary. I've been watching them a lot. Especially Lonnie."
There was no significance to the timing of the official visit and it was pure coincidence, it seems at least, that he came up for the game against South Carolina.
"It was my third time at Kentucky but my first game experience so especially with it being against my hometown team, South Carolina, it was crazy seeing us beat them," Geiger said. "I really wanted my mom and sister to see the campus and why I chose this school. And they loved it. Every time I go to Kentucky I always feel the same thing. I feel at home there and I have ever since I first got the offer and visited. It's always genuine."
Geiger committed to Kentucky in the offseason well before the Wildcats ripped off five wins to become the story of the early part of the college football season. Needless to say, he's a little excited about where the team is at.
"I'm real excited," Geiger said. "A 5-0 start and it's only the beginning. I kinda had a feeling when I went up there this summer because of the way they were real dialed in and with their leadership. I talked to Josh Allen and Benny (Snell) a little bit and you could just tell they were really prepared. They expected this."
Geiger's father, Tony, had visited Kentucky the previous two times with him. The elder Geiger told Cats Illustrated, as Jalen did, that this trip was about making sure his wife and daughter would get a better understanding of "the culture of Kentucky football." Their opportunity to meet the coaches was a big part of the trip.
"They literally rolled out the blue carpet for us from the moment we got there," Geiger's father said. "I'll be honest, man, we were blown away. Everything was very professional. It was very genuine, from the guys who were driving us around all the way up to Coach Stoops, and that's what attracted us to Kentucky. It's the genuine love that they showed. It was also very informative, which was probably the most important takeaway, especially for my wife and I as parents. Obviously the game was very exciting. It was electric. That was something that we thoroughly enjoyed, but just seeing the campus, the dorms, the student union center and all of those things you look for in an institution of higher learning. They absolutely exceeded our expectations. My wife and I have very high expectations for our children and Coach Stoops and his staff really exceeded them. We're super excited."
Geiger's father is also excited about where UK's team is currently at in its season.
"To be honest probably the biggest surprise was the Mississippi State game," he said. "All due respect, because it wasn't like, 'Wow, we actually won that game.' It was the manner in which we won. It was very exhilarating to say the least."
Geiger's father echoed the same sentiments shared by his son on that point. When they visited Kentucky in the spring for a scrimmage, they could both tell the UK players they observed were "super dialed in."
"I didn't have previous years to compare it to but we've been around the country and they seemed so dialed in and like they had such great leadership," Geiger said. "We spoke to Josh and Benny and it seemed like they were ready to lead the charge. I say that because I'm military of course."
That military background has made it easy for Geiger's father to connect with Freddie Maggard, who has brought his own military background to his role of UK football's Director of Player Development.
"Freddie and I met the last time we were there. By happenstance we actually began to talk military and we talked for about an hour the first time we met. Once two military guys get going," Geiger laughed. "His wife actually believes I was one of her former military instructors. It was great seeing him again. I believe the other guy's name is Jason and we spoke to him Sunday. He's part of the player development leadership and when we started talking leadership acronyms, and Coach Stoops got a big kick out of that, that's right up my wife and I's alley.
"Of course you know my wife and I have almost 50 years of combined service so when we see small components of the program that lends itself to a level of familiarity, it just helps the transition," Geiger said. "It's going to be tough, obviously. It's our baby boy. But knowing we have those types of mentors and someone he can look up to and kind of take the torch from us, if you will, that makes it a little easier. It helps knowing he'll be in great hands 400 miles away."
Geiger told Cats Illustrated he has 25 tackles (18 solo) and two interceptions on the season. One of those picks was returned for a touchdown in a recent game.