Mark Stoops has sent shock waves through Kentucky football. Without even playing a game, or even having a single practice, he has redefined what the program is and can be. His prowess on the recruiting trail cannot be ignored, and with just a few select players, Stoops has turned a program that was the laughing stock of the Southeastern Conference, into one that is making recruiting experts and fans across the league turn their heads.
Kentucky’s 2013 class currently remains small, but that is to be expected with a transition period between head coaches. However, several key targets remain on the board before National Signing Day next Wednesday.
A few notable players from a still long-list of targets include, JoJo Kemp and Aregeros Turner, both three-star running backs; Jeff Badet and Ryan Timmons, three-star wide receiver; Ra’Shaad Samples, a four-star wide receiver, Jason Hatcher, a four-star defensive end; James Hearns, a four-star linebacker; and Marquez White, a four-star cornerback.
Without these guys, Kentucky still has a respectable class, though short on volume. At this time, Kentucky has the 52nd-best recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals… But it is only 13th-best in the SEC, just ahead of Arkansas. Surprisingly, 52nd-best would be the second-best class for Kentucky since 2009. What’s more, the average rank of Kentucky classes over the last 11 years is 58th in the nation, so we’re still improving.
Because the class Stoops has assembled is far from complete, the thing to take note of is the average recruit quality. It currently sits at an average ranking of 3.00-stars with just a 17-man class. That average ranking is better than 23 teams ahead of Kentucky that are merely ranked higher because of a larger class. A few of those teams Kentucky beats are Wisconsin, Maryland, Baylor, Arizona State, Virginia, California, and Mississippi State. Adjusting the rankings based on quality; right now Kentucky has the 36th-best class in the country.
Furthermore, the current 3.00 average ranking is well ahead of any Kentucky class from the last 11 years, which averages to 2.52-stars. The previous high was in 2011, the class headlined by defensive back Glenn Faulkner, with an average ranking of 2.96-stars.
Projecting ahead, let’s say Stoops and Company land a few more of these recruits. Where does Kentucky’s class take off to? Add a three-star running back, a four-star wide receiver, a four-star defensive end, a four-star linebacker, and a few more three-stars here or there to round out the 2013 signing class.
All of the sudden that 3.00 ranking becomes a 3.13-star average. That bumps Kentucky’s class up ten spots in the current standings to 26th in the country, just behind the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee. It would also be just behind James Franklin’s Vanderbilt team for 9th-best in the SEC, which is quite an improvement over the dead-last or next-to-last finishes the Cats have had over the last six years.
One might argue that stars mean nothing. And to some extent that is true. A prime example from right here at Kentucky is Randall Cobb who was practically ignored by most programs; came to Lexington and developed to be a star. But over the long haul, stars do matter. Just ask Kentucky’s basketball team.
More important than stars, however, is coaching. And Mark Stoops seems primed to do a lot of it. The message from all of this should be clear: Mark Stoops is performing a miracle before our eyes. He is making Kentucky football a destination for top-level talent, and kids are taking notice and buying in already. We know Coach Calipari says he doesn’t have a magic wand to fix his team’s issues. But I think I might know who does have one.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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