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Tracking the Kentucky Football Coaches on the Recruiting Trail

Stoops and Gran in S. Florida with Cedrick Dort, @CedrickDjr.

Stoops and Gran in S. Florida with Cedrick Dort, @CedrickDjr.

After spending an evening celebrating a Governor’s Cup victory, Mark Stoops’ staff hit the road recruiting.  The ten coaches have covered a wide swath of land, from Youngstown to Ft. Lauderdale.  It’s difficult to hunt down every player at every location, however, you can see a strategy developing.

Here’s how the coaches are spending the most important recruiting week of the year.

Recruit the Commits

@_tyrellajian

@_tyrellajian

One thing Mark Stoops had to learn the hard way is that you have to continue recruiting your committed players.  The big win over Louisville makes it easier to keep them in the fold, but they aren’t taking any chances.

Last night Vince Marrow was with 4-star athlete Tyrell Ajian in Mansfield, Ohio.  Marrow brought along Ajian’s future defensive backs coach, Steve Clinkscale.  The position coaches are usually involved with those that are already committed.  Jimmy Brumbaugh went with D.J. Eliot to see DT Quinton Bohanna and Matt House went with Mark Stoops to see LB Jamin Davis.

Position coaches aren’t always involved.  If he lives in Ohio, Vince Marrow will be there.  If he’s in Kentucky, John Schlarman will be there.  If he’s in Florida, Eddie Gran is probably there; if not, Lamar Thomas or Darin Hinshaw will be there.

Kentucky’s coaches have already visited most of their 14 commits in the 2017 class.  I expect they’ll see them all before the week comes to a close.

Ohio’s Uncommitted 4-Star Trio

Vince Marrow has put three players in his crosshairs over the last year.  This is the week he hopes to seal the deal with these unique 4-star prospects.

On the first day of recruiting, Marrow was with wide receiver Danny Davis.  The next day Marrow was in Youngstown to see Lynn Bowden, the no. 5 athlete in America.  Bowden visited Commonwealth for the Georgia game and UK is considered the favorite.  The following day Marrow saw offensive tackle Thayer Munford, Kentucky’s top target on the offensive line.

All three will take official visits this weekend.  All three could potentially commit.

Flip Commits

There are a variety of reasons this is the most important recruiting week of the year.  One that cannot be overlooked is the season-ending instability surrounding college football programs.  Coaches are getting fired and programs are trending down.  This year the instability favors UK.

Butch Jones won the championship of life but he’s losing recruits left and right.  Jones lost five commits in 16 days.  The Cats offered two of them last night, twin defensive linemen from Virginia, Breyon and Brandon Gaddy.  Meanwhile, Darin Hinshaw is trying to flip a Florida wide receiver still committed to Tennessee, Jacquez Jones.  Jones has scheduled a visit to UK and the Gaddy’s could have one scheduled soon.

The Gaddy Brothers, @GaddyBreyon.

The Gaddy Brothers, @GaddyBreyon.

Hinshaw is trying to flip another elite Florida receiver, USF commit Bruce Judson.  The 4-star athlete scheduled a visit for January 11 when Hinshaw and Lamar Thomas visited him earlier this week.  By the time he visits Kentucky, USF’s coach could be gone.  Bruce Feldman reported yesterday that Willie Taggert is a leading candidate for the Oregon head coaching vacancy.

Pass Rushers at a Premium

Arguably their top target at DE/OLB, Josh Paschal, will officially visit this weekend.  The Cats weren’t in his final cut, but his the stock of his suitors has fallen (Notre Dame, Maryland) and his brother is a UK graduate assistant.

The other big name pass rusher on UK’s list is Ft. Lauderdale two-sport star Jordan Wright.  Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops visited him at his school today.  He’s already taken an official visit to Kentucky, but they’ll need to do much more to keep him away from Florida State, Miami or Alabama.

@JayyDubb15

@JayyDubb15

If neither of those work out, coaches have also explored junior college options this week.

Looking Ahead to 2018

When the head coach is there for an in-home visit, you know you’re a priority.  That’s exactly what Mark Stoops was telling quarterback Jarren Williams yesterday.  Stoops was with Darin Hinshaw in the Atlanta area to see their only commit in the 2018 class.  Stoops’ timing was impeccable: the dual-threat quarterback hosted UofL’s Nick Petrino and Todd Grantham earlier this week.

Williams isn’t the only underclassmen being recruited this week.  While visiting the top targets in the 2017 class, coaches have dished out offers to dozens of rising juniors and sophomores, too many to keep up with.

Official Visits

After spending a week on the road, the coaches will return to Lexington to host about a dozen top prospects.  Uncommitted recruits will receive the red carpet treatment when Kentucky takes on UCLA at Rupp Arena.  If that spectacle isn’t enough, about half of the official visitors are UK commits that will try to add numbers to their ranks.

  • Cedrick Dort, Florida Cornerback**
  • Joshua Ali, Florida Wide Receiver**
  • Jamin Davis, Georgia Linebacker**
  • Walker Wood, Kentucky Quarterback**
  • Javonte Richardson, Ohio Wide Receiver**
  • Danny Davis, Ohio Wide Receiver
  • Lynn Bowden, Ohio Athlete
  • Thayer Munford, Ohio Offensive Tackle
  • Leroy Henley, Florida Wide Receiver
  • Joshua Paschal, Maryland Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
  • Lonnie Johnson, Junior College Defensive Back

** Class of 2017 Commits


Recruiting success has been unprecedented under Mark Stoops.  This year he has something he’s never had before — momentum.  All of the best pieces are still in play.  Stoops must seize the moment.


Two big football recruiting notes to start your day

@H_Huncho

@H_Huncho

Kentucky’s win over Louisville could have a huge impact on recruiting, some of which we’re already starting to see. Last night, Vince Marrow visited four-star athlete Lynn Bowden in Youngstown, Ohio, which is, of course, Marrow and Mark Stoops’ hometown. Bowden has offers from Kentucky and major programs in the Big 10 like Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan, but we’re hearing that his visit with Marrow went VERY well last night. Even better, he’ll be on Kentucky’s campus this weekend for an official visit. Here are his highlights:


@quezzz_5

@quezzz_5

Also of note: UK is trying to flip three-star wide receiver Jacquez Jones, who is currently committed to Tennessee. Darin Hinshaw visited Jones on Monday, and the Florida native tells the Herald-Leader he’ll still consider Kentucky right up until Signing Day in February. Not only that, he’ll take an official visit to Lexington January 14, and Knoxville the following weekend.

Could Stoops steal a player from Butch? We’ll see, but in the meantime, enjoy his highlights:

Later this week, Nick will have a big preview of all of the recruits in town for what’s shaping up to be a massive football recruiting weekend.


The Ones That Got Away

When Kentucky and Louisville take the field in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup, there are a few players that almost ended up on the other sideline.

A pair of Louisville defenders that will give Kentucky fits were close to committing to Mark Stoops back in 2013.  Stoops’ leader in his first season was senior Avery Williamson, but there was little depth behind him.  Desperate for linebackers, Stoops used his Florida State connections to try to lure to elite linebackers to Lexington — James Hearns and Keith Kelsey Jr.

Tallahassee native James Hearns was considered a 4-star prospect, a consensus Top 300 player in the class.  Stoops was able to get Hearns to officially visit Kentucky at an impeccable time — just a day after he decommitted from Florida.  The stars seemed to align, but it didn’t work out for UK.  This season Hearns has 8 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 5 forced fumbles.  Not too shabby.

Losing Hearns hurt, but Keith Kelsey is the thorn that will never leave Stoops’ side.

Keith Kelsey Jr. wasn’t ranked as high as Hearns, but the Gainesville native had even more upside.  An exceptional athlete, he could move like an outside linebacker but stop the run like an inside backer.  He was the perfect player for Mark Stoops to build his defense around.

Instead, we got SIKED!

The stupid SIKE! cuts deep, real deep, especially when you consider just how good Kelsey’s been.  Kelsey was a first-team All-ACC selection last year after leading Louisville in tackles with 107.  This year he once again leads Louisville with 72 tackles.

However, we cannot forget that this ‘what-if’ game goes both ways.  Mark Stoops signed a few recruits coveted by Charlie Strong.  The careers of Jason Hatcher and Alex Montgomery didn’t go the way we hoped, but there are a pair of players on offense that will make a difference in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup.

Louisville’s offensive line has been their most criticized unit since Petrino took over.  Fans have frequently blamed Strong for “leaving the cupboard bare,” but it wasn’t from a lack of effort.  Strong pushed his chips all in on Kyle Meadows back in 2014.  Instead, he’ll be starting at right tackle for Kentucky.

The Kentucky rushing attack will once again be the heart and soul of the offense, but to put the Cats over the top, they’ll need to hit a few homeruns in the pass game (especially if Josh Harvey-Clemons is out again).  The man who will do it for the Cats is Jeff Badet.  Badet averages 24.66 yards per catch, the second-best in the nation.

In the summer before his senior season, Kentucky wasn’t involved in his recruitment.  He told the Orlando Sentinel in July of 2012:  “Louisville is standing high, actually No. 1 right now.”

Back when Badet liked Louisville in July 2012, via Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel

Back when Badet liked Louisville in July 2012, via Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel

“I just remember sitting there watching the Louisville vs. Florida game, and I saw Louisville playing really good.”  Badet said earlier this week he reacted like any young teenager would.  “I was like ‘oh man, I want to go to that school.'”

Badet only had three minor offers when Charlie Strong extended him a scholarship offer.  It almost worked, but the Cats had an ace in the hole: Jojo Kemp.

“I was really basing my decision off Jojo.  Wherever he went, I was going to go,” Badet said.

The Kentucky coaches never thought it was a done deal, going to great lengths to ensure Badet would commit to Kentucky.

“Most people don’t know, but I came on my visit, left Sunday.  Coach Stoops brought the whole staff and was at my house that Monday, the next day.”

Recruiting is a fickle unknown.  Stoops’ last-minute move is the type of bold move that can affect the program for years.  You can play ‘ifs and buts’ all day, but I wouldn’t trade any of these Cats for one of those Cards.


Jedrick Wills Commits to Alabama

jed-wills-drummond

We’ve known this was coming for a a few months.  Today Jedrick Wills made it official by releasing this video on Twitter, choosing the Crimson Tide over Kentucky.

The offensive tackle from Lafayette High School is an UnderArmor All-American and considered a Top 50 player in the class of 2017.  Wills is the second Central Kentucky star in three years to choose Alabama over Kentucky, joining Damien Harris in Tuscaloosa.


Images via The Columbus Dispatch & Hudl.

Two New Quarterbacks Will Be On Campus in January

Images via The Columbus Dispatch & Hudl.

Images via The Columbus Dispatch & Hudl.

The quarterback meeting room will be a little more crowded at the conclusion of the 2016 season.

Kentucky’s two quarterback commits in the class of 2017 said today they will enroll early in January 2017.  Justin Rowland reported Danny Clark’s decision and Walker Wood told LEX18’s Dorian Craft he will be moving out of his Lexington home and onto campus for the spring semester.

Even if Drew Barker is not healthy for spring practice, Kentucky will have five quarterbacks taking snaps: Stephen Johnson, Gunnar Hoak, Luke Wright and the two early enrollees.  Clark and Wood will have a long way to climb up the depth chart, but at least they’re starting at the same time.


The Five Biggest Recruits Visiting for UK-UGA

@JPaschal5

@JPaschal5

Earlier this week Mark Stoops said that the Cats are close to landing a few prospects that will be difference-makers at Kentucky.  There’s no better way to make a positive impression than by beating Georgia in front of more than 30 recruits.  Here are the best of the best.

Joshua Paschal

The 2017 four-star recruit is a Top Ten strong side defensive end with multiple Kentucky connections. Paschal attends Good Counsel High School in Maryland, the same school as Kobie Walker.  His older brother TreVaughn, played at Kentucky and is currently a GA for Mark Stoops.

Paschal is the perfect fit to play outside linebacker in Stoops’ system.  Josh Allen and Denzil Ware weren’t as big as Paschal when they were high school seniors.  The Cats have a few high-caliber defensive linemen on campus, but Paschal is the best of the best.  Landing him won’t be easy.  Kentucky is not in Paschal’s top seven — Notre Dame, USC, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina — but 17 percent has been allocated to the Cats in the 247 Crystal Ball.

Danny Davis

Wide receiver Javonte Richardson is arguably the highest rated commitment Mark Stoops has ever landed, the No. 29 receiver in the class.  Danny Davis isn’t far behind; the No. 35 receiver in the 2017 class.  They’ll both be on campus today. The Cats are considered the favorite, with Michigan State, West Virginia and Penn State looming.  An offer from Ohio State could change the game too.

I’ll leave you with two highlights form Davis. The first isn’t a catch, it’s a pass, a 45-yard bomb from the tailback position.

The second is a game-winner from more than 38 yards out with less than a minute left in QUADRUPLE coverage.

Lynn Bowden

Davis and Richardson’s rankings are impressive, but Bowden’s ranking is better.  A Top 10 Athlete and a Top 200 player in 2017, Bowden does unbelievable things on the football field.  My favorite thing about Bowden: he’s a Youngstown native.  But I have a feeling your favorite thing will be his ability to break ankles.

Kentucky is his leader, with Penn State, Michigan State and Indiana not far behind.

L’Christian “Blue” Smith

Blue is a Top 100 player in the class of 2018 from Wayne High School.  The national powerhouse located just outside of Dayton is the home of freshman Tobias “Cash” Gilliam and 2018 defensive end recruit Alex Reigelsperger.  With offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan State on the table, Vince Marrow is doing everything he can to land the multi-sport star.

Jarren Williams

The dual-threat quarterback is Kentucky’s only commit in the 2018 class.  He picked up an offer from South Carolina on Wednesday.  Williams is from Central Gwinnett, located right in between Athens and Atlanta.  Last night he completed 19-of-27 for 357 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Not too shabby.  He’ll probably bring some of his teammates to watch the Cats take on his home state school.


Stoops: Wins Will Help Cats Close on “Difference-Makers”

Mark Stoops was happy after last year's signing day, via UK Athletics.

Mark Stoops was happy after last year’s signing day, via UK Athletics.

Mark Stoops’ early recruiting success at Kentucky has been unprecedented.  Now he has some wins to reinforce what he’s been pitching to top prospects.

“We’re going to continue to step up our game, and continue to recruit at an even higher level, and with the wins, it’ll help us do that,” Stoops said in an interview with ESPN Radio’s Championship Drive.

There are many obstacles when recruiting at UK.  Recruits want to play in the SEC, but you can have a Top 30 recruiting class and still finish at No. 12 in the league.  Winning games against SEC opponents has put the Cats in a much better position.

“I’ve been extremely pleased with the way this class is shaping up, the way our coaches are recruiting.  We feel like we have many great players that have great interest in Kentucky.  I definitely see it moving the needle to a more positive direction and having an opportunity to close on some big-time difference-makers.  That’s what it takes.”

Stoops is pleased with the foundation they’ve built, but it takes big wins to get over the hump.  They have that opportunity with over two dozen top prospects planning to attend the Georgia game.  Three-star defensive end B.J. Sharpe and four-star defensive lineman Josh Paschal (brother of former Wildcat and current G.A. TreVaughn Paschal) are two that could be immediate difference-makers.

“Now we need to close on some difference-makers that take our program to another level.”


Russ Yeast Commits to Louisville

Craig Yeast’s son will not follow in his father’s footsteps to Kentucky.

A three-star wide receiver/defensive back, Russ Yeast committed to Kentucky in July of 2015.  Almost a year later in June, he decided his father’s alma mater was not meant for him.

“I just don’t feel like it is the best situation for me. Some people can’t see why because my parents played sports there and all but in the end I’m the one going to school,” Yeast told The Cats’ Pause.

“Nothing happened between me and the coaching staff that forced me to make my decision nor did any in my family force me to make that decision; unlike what some reporters and people may think. I just need to take some time to back off and fully evaluate some of these other programs and make a proper decision.”

Four months later, Yeast is a Louisville Cardinal.  Louisville was UK’s top competition while he was committed, and the Cardinals’ stock only grew stronger when the season started.  After taking an official visit to UofL this weekend, he had seen enough.


This Danny Clark Highlight is a Jaw-Dropper

This Danny Clark Highlight is a Jaw-Dropper

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-10-58-36-am-1

Football recruiting has not created the buzz that it used to.  Instead of sharing excitement after Yahtzees!, most would prefer it if you just got off their lawn.

Let Danny Clark inject some excitement into your life.

The night before Clark committed to Kentucky, the quarterback jumped over a guy into the end zone and it wasn’t the best part of the play.

damn

For more X’s and O’s on Clark, check out this scouting report from Jack Pilgrim.


Danny Clark Commits to Kentucky

@DClarkQB

@DClarkQB

KSR heard good things about Danny Clark’s status earlier this week.  Vince Marrow let out a little tease this morning, but the 18th-ranked QB in the class of 2017 couldn’t wait much longer.

The left-handed pocket passer from Columbus, Oh. wasted little time after removing his Ohio State pledge. He decommitted on September 27, he visited UK on October 8 and today he committed to UK in Lexington.

You’ll like what you see when you watch his highlights.


Clark back on campus this weekend, very likely to commit

KSR’s sources on the football recruiting scene tell us Danny Clark is coming back to Lexington this Saturday, which just so happens to be the day he plans to commit. Knowing that, and what we’re hearing on the streets, you should go ahead and plan on Clark committing to the Cats this weekend.

The four-star quarterback took his official visit to Kentucky earlier this month, and said Darin Hinshaw is the kind of guy he could see in his wedding one day. He’s obviously very high on UK and the upcoming visit suggests he’ll soon pick the Cats.

Get in here, Danny. Bring your Ohio State tattoo and let’s do this.


Danny Clark to announce his decision next weekend

We have an announcement date for Danny Clark, the former Ohio State commit. Clark tweeted his intentions of making his new commitment next Saturday, October 22.

The four-star quarterback was on UK’s campus recently and Kentucky is the heavy favorite in his recruitment.

He may have an Ohio State tattoo, but this would be a huge get for the Cats.


Top QB target likes Darin Hinshaw so much he could see him “in the front row at my wedding”

Top QB target likes Darin Hinshaw so much he could see him “in the front row at my wedding”

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-2-37-59-pm

@DClarkQB

This weekend, former Ohio State quarterback commit Danny Clark took an official visit to Kentucky for the Vanderbilt game, and, based on social media, enjoyed himself very much. Clark, considered the 18th best pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class by 247 Sports Composite, decommitted from his home state Buckeyes a few weeks back after they accepted a commitment from another QB. This was Clark’s first trip to Lexington, and this morning, he doled out some VERY high praise for Darin Hinshaw, tweeting that he could see UK’s quarterbacks coach “in the front row at my wedding”:

Whoa. Clark brought his brother, 2020 tight end Caden Clark, along with him, and it looks like the two had a grand old time:

The 6’3″ Caden got an offer from Kentucky last Wednesday and has already received interest from Michigan State and Ohio State. Will we see both of the Clark brothers in blue and white?


Ohio State QB decommit taking official visit to Kentucky this weekend

Remember Danny Clark, the 2017 quarterback that decommitted from Ohio State last week? After committing to the Buckeyes three years ago, Clark — a diehard Ohio State fan — parted ways with the program after they got a commitment from another quarterback and is now looking elsewhere. KSR is hearing Kentucky could be his next destination, and this weekend, Clark will be taking an official visit to Lexington. From the looks of it on Twitter, he’s “stoked”:

Kentucky offered Clark a scholarship during his sophomore year and now, could be in the driver’s seat to land him. He’s considered the 18th best pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class by 247 Sports Composite and a four-star prospect by ESPN. Last season, he went 140-272 for 2,405 yards and 23 touchdowns for Archbishop Hoban High School, leading them to the Ohio state championship. Kentucky already has a commitment from Lafayette dual threat quarterback Walker Wood in the 2017 class, but this could be a nice addition, especially after Mac Jones flipped to Alabama.

Enjoy yourself, Danny. After watching your highlights, I’m willing to overlook that giant Ohio State tattoo on your arm:


Florida Defensive End Picks UofL over Kentucky

Scout

Scout

Mark Stoops said Monday he hoped to have six or seven defensive linemen in the 2017 recruiting class.  Unfortunately, Jabreel Stephens will not be one of them.

The three-star pass rusher from Tampa was one of Kentucky’s top targets.  A top 50 defensive end in the 2017 class, he would have been the perfect fit in UK’s 3/4 defense.

Stephens camped at UK over the summer after receiving a scholarship offer in May.  UofL got to him with an offer about a month before.  He told 247 Sports he liked the fit of UofL’s scheme.  I’m sure their top ten ranking helped quite a bit too.

Moving forward, Kentucky will first look to junior college prospects to provide immediate help on the defensive line.  A name to keep an eye on in the 2017 class is Andrew Chatfield.  The No. 11 defensive end from Ft. Lauderdale picked up an offer from UK earlier this week.