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First Pass to National Signing Day

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Since joining KSR, Matt asked that I evaluate recruits and provide detailed, understandable analysis prior to National Signing Day. This task is right up my alley. Roster/personnel evaluation has been a hobby of mine for many years. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the past two UK Signing Day Shows and I have to admit, they’ve both been an absolute blast. Organized chaos overwhelms the facility as adult coaches behave like sugared up toddlers on Christmas. I was told that while walking by the set, DJ Eliot slugged me in the back of the head. I’ll give him that one.

But if that happens again next February, I’m throwing haymakers. If you watched the shows, you may have noticed that I’m continually shuffling a stack of papers. Following a completed segment, I toss a piece of paper on the floor. I spend countless of hours assessing both committed and uncommitted players. The number of prospects can fluctuate between 25 and 50. For each prospect, my evaluation starts with a “First Pass” sheet. I write these documents without interruption as I’m a firm believer in trusting my initial impression. Highlight films are not conducive for a thorough evaluation. I peruse Hudl to find actual game footage. (Hudl is an internet service designed for coaches to view prospective athlete’s video and is the greatest invention since the VCR.)

After the video session, I take a quick look at the recruit’s social media tendencies. Twitter provides a descriptive peek into an athlete’s character. Unlike professional recruiting folks, I’m not enthralled by the summer camp circuit or combines. While basic skills are certainly identified at these events, football is still a collision sport. The mere threat of physical contact can totally change a prospect’s assessment. I’ve watched 4.3-40 prospects with a 40-inch vertical leap that wouldn’t bust a grape in an actual football game.

To finalize my pre-Signing Day notes, I host a teleconference with fellow recruiting analysts. This group doesn’t include Rivals, 247, or Scout contributors. My confidential advisors are comprised of a car manufacturer, two doctors, a soldier, two attorneys, my wife, and a bean counter. We disagree on everything from pizza toppings to pulling guards but the diverse group offers quality control through opinionated and at times, heated discussions. To illustrate a “First Pass Sheet,” I’ll use 2016 QB commit Gunnar Hoak as an example. He’s a QB, and going to be a darn good one. He needs to get used to leading from the front.

2016 NATIONAL SIGNING DAY FIRST PASS SHEET

Name: Gunnar Hoak

Position: Right handed, pro-style quarterback

Measurables: 6’4 192

Hometown: Dublin, Ohio

High School: Coffman

Coached by: Mark Crabtree

Team record: 11-1

Home field surface: Artificial

Recruited by: Vince Marrow

Commitment date: 25 April 2015

Commitment status: Solid

Current star rating: 4 star

Film strengths: Intelligent passer with pocket composure. Technically sound in spread offense responsibilities. Suitable hand size. Quick, fluid delivery without hitch. Advanced sense of anticipation. Adequate torso strength on deep passes. Deceptively mobile with better than average speed. Natural leader, comfortable in pressure situations. Maintains focus throughout scramble drill to find open receiver. Efficient in immediate, shot-gun snap throws, three and five step drops. Can locate receiver and throw into tight windows vs. man/zone coverage. Familiar with passing tree, capable to make all required throws. Not influenced by rush.

Areas to improve: Typical of all incoming freshmen quarterbacks, requires upper body strength and development. Needs to add weight for durability.

Compares to: Connor Cook, Michigan State

Social media conduct: Respectful

Supportive teammate: Yes

Senior year honors: N/A

Academically eligible: Yes

Projected immediate impact: Dependent on Patrick Towles’ development/draft status. Best case scenario to redshirt but not mandatory. If necessary, could be a capable freshman back-up.

Miscellaneous: Threw for over 2000 yards and 30 TD’s as a junior. One of 12 Ohio commits. Multi-sport athlete that also excelled in baseball. Once broke his nose/face on outfield fence. Selfless competitor. QB with “it” factor. Excellent fundamentals, perfect fit for Dawson’s system. Cerebral football player with SEC quarterback ability.

Periodically throughout the summer, I’ll post committed player’s First Pass sheets. Please note that these documents are not proofread for grammatical or spelling errors. Merely summaries for me to use when the camera light turns red and producer yells “go” into the annoying thing in my ear.


Kash shows us the hats

Four-star linebacker Kash Daniel’s announcement is only a few days away and to keep the hype flowing, Kash tweeted out this picture of the three hats that will be on the table Saturday. “The hat game” is always one of the best parts of recruiting announcements and based on this sneak peek, I think it’s safe to rule out Louisville. Seriously, that looks like a gas station hat.

The Kentucky and South Carolina hats look much nicer, and we know Kash wears the CATS one quite often:

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And it’s in the middle…the signs continue to point in Kentucky’s direction.


Kash Daniel will announce at 1 p.m. ET on July 4th

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We’ve known about Kash Daniel’s July 4th announcement for a while, but yesterday, Kash finally told us what time he’ll share his news: 1 p.m. ET.

Sadly, this puts KSR’s annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in peril, but we will sacrifice it for Kash. Anything for a future home state hero.

Anyone want to go to Paintsville and Periscope the announcement for us?


Tate Leavitt puts Kentucky in his final five

For the past few months, we’ve been telling you guys how important JuCo offensive tackle Tate Leavitt could be to the program. At 6’6″ 290 lbs., Leavitt is a monster who has offers from all the big boys, but late last night, released his top five. Right at the top? C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS:

Leavitt will take an official visit to Kentucky July 17-18 and is in the process of setting up officials to the other schools as well. Based on his remarks to Scout.com’s Derek Young, it sounds like he just wants one last visit to Lexington to make sure everything checks out before making the big decision:

“I have a great relationship with their coaching staff and all the Ohio guys,” he shared. “I’m very comfortable there. I love the staff. I’m in contact with a lot of the players, too, like Courtney Love, Kyle Meadows, Marcelys Jones, and C.J. Conrad and Drake Jackson. I’ve bought into what they have been saying. I need to clarify it all and make sure I fit in. I will find out on the official visit.”

Come on down and enjoy yourself, Tate.


Former UK commit is going to Marshall

Ashland’s Quinton Baker is headed to Marshall to play college football. Once a Kentucky commit, Baker announced his new destination today on Twitter.

Baker originally committed to the Cats back in October and then decommitted after UK’s loss to Louisville. He is the son of former UK running back Al Baker.

Good luck, bud.


Yahtzee! Three-star DT commits to Kentucky

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While you were out parading in the street for the past hour, celebrating Jamal Murray’s commitment, Kentucky football received a commitment of its own.

JaQuize Cross, a three-star defensive tackle from Alabama, picked Kentucky over Minnesota and Purdue. He received a scholarship offer from UK last week and it didn’t take long for him to accept.

I don’t know much about Cross, but if we’re judging books by covers, he is my favorite football player in the world.


Kash Daniel announced his top three schools last night

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While you were sleeping or doing whatever you do at midnight last night, Kash Daniel officially announced his top three schools: Louisville, South Carolina and Kentucky.

He thanked everyone for their support along with his final list in this message:

Daniel plans to announce on July 4.


Listen to Kash Daniel on Kentucky Sports Radio

Four-star linebacker Kash Daniel came on Kentucky Sports Radio this morning, and if you read between the lines, it’s pretty clear he’s coming to Kentucky. Just listen to his comments about his visit to Kentucky, and his visit to South Carolina:

KENTUCKY

“You got the grand campus tour. I had a meeting with the vice president of the university. I’m just a kid from Eastern Kentucky, you’re gonna meet me with the vice president of the university? This is unreal,” Kash joked. “It’s all about where you’re going to spend your life for four years. You want to see more than just the weight room and the practice field and Commonwealth–which by the way, looks awesome. It looks awesome.”

“I got to see the new dorms, unreal. Looks like an apartment, full-size Tempurpedic mattress. Took me to the academic center, talk to the academic advisors. I asked them about the Criminal Justice programs–that’s what I’d like to do. After that, they showed me around the entire campus and showed me how good life would be there if I chose to come there.”

SOUTH CAROLINA

“When I got back from Carolina, I knew where I was going to go. I went down there to South Carolina and it was a workout/visit,” Kash said, describing how he picked off South Carolina’s top QB commit, which caused 247 Sports’ Barton Simmons to boost him in the rankings from 226 to 96. “It wasn’t like the Kentucky visit. It was a football-related visit. I didn’t get to see the campus much. They put us on a tour bus and drove us around campus, but everything was so spaced out. When I got back from there, I knew where my heart was leaning to, I knew where I was going to school.”

Kash will announce his decision on July 4th at Paintsville High School around noon or 1 p.m. He’ll have three hats on the table: Louisville, South Carolina, and Kentucky. In case there was any doubt he’ll pick Kentucky, when said he’s going to have a Louisville hat on the table, he stopped himself and apologized to the crowd.

The kid’s gonna be a Cat. You can hear it in his voice.


Gunnar Hoak upgraded to a 4-star by ESPN

2016 QB commit Gunnar Hoak is still a bit of a mystery to UK fans. The 6’4″ pocket passer from Dublin, Ohio committed to UK in April, and last night, was upgraded to a four-star by ESPN. Hoak is now considered the 15th best pocket passing quarterback in the country by the Worldwide Leader. ESPN’s scouting report goes as far to say he could be a “steal”:

“Hoak is flying under the radar to some degree in our opinion. He has measurables and arm talent with a high ceiling for development. We feel he has power five upside to be a viable guy in two-three years. Is developed at the proper rate he could be a steal.”

That’s huge news for Kentucky’s 2016 class, which is off to an excellent start. If you go by ESPN’s rankings, UK now has four four-star commits in the 2016 class: Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Jordan Griffin and Hoak. Like Young and Jackson, Hoak’s doing his best to add Kash Daniel to the class:

Us too. Congrats on the fourth star, Gunnar. Looking forward to seeing you in blue.


KASH DANIEL will be on KSR tomorrow live from Paintsville

KASH DANIEL will be on KSR tomorrow live from Paintsville

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Paintsville, are you ready? The KSR Summer Tour rolls to town in the morning and special guest KASH DANIEL will join the guys at Brown’s Auto Group (213 S Mayo Trail). The four-star linebacker will announce his decision on July 4 and has agreed to take the morning off work at Suds Car Wash to come chat with Matt, Ryan, and Shannon.

Kash says he’s already chosen his school, and based on all his recent radio interviews, it sounds it’s Kentucky, so hopefully he’ll give us some more great hints. I’ve spoken to Kash before and he’s a quality kid with a lot of Eastern Kentucky character, so this interview should be a treat. He’s ready:

This morning, the Summer Tour got off to a great start at StoneCrest Golf Course in Prestonsburg. A great crowd came out, including our friend Rose, who brought some of her special gifts for the KSR crew:

It’s so great to see Rose’s face, and she says she’s doing well after her health problems a few months back.

In case you missed it, here’s the podcast:

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

And the rest of the tour schedule:

June 23: Paintsville – Browns Auto Group of Paintsville
June 24: Columbia – Anderson’s Pizza
June 25-26: New York City

June 29: Shelbyville – Stonecrest Family Medicine
June 30: Leitchfield – Future Designs
July 1: Madisonville – Hudson Toyota
July 2: Morgantown – Final Finish
July 3: Hopkinsville – Holiday Inn

July 6: Morganfield – Southern States
July 7: Grayson – Simply The Best Bar & Grill
July 8: Pikeville – Bank 253
July 9: Williamson – Appalachian Wireless at South Side Mall
July 10: KY Speedway

July 13: Cynthiana – Cynthiana County Club
July 14: Whitley City – McCreary County Public Library
July 15: London – Sleep Outfitters
July 16-17: Peach Jam

July 20: Whitesburg – Pine Mountain Grill
July 21: Manchester – Clay County Middle School
July 22: Somerset – Sleep Outfitters
July 23: Harlan – Core Fitness
July 24: Fort Wright – Dickmann’s Sports Bar

July 27: Campbellsville – Mr. Gatti’s
July 28: Owensboro – Don Moore GM Center
July 29: Benton – Kennedy’s Fan Shop
July 30: Paducah – Buffalo Wild Wings
July 31: Fancy Farm

August 3: Bowling Green
August 4: McKee
August 5: Glasgow – Papa John’s
August 6: Jamestown – Jamestown Marina.
August 7: Monticello – Conley Bottoms.

August 10: Frankfort – Governor’s Mansion
August 11: Maysville – Laurel Oaks Golf Course
August 12: Danville
August 13: Lexington – All Sports at Fayette Mall
August 14: Louisville

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GuyOnTheCornerTickets.com is giving away UK basketball and football tickets at every tour stop this summer. That’s 33 chances to win, and all you have to do is come out to listen to your favorite radio show. That’s so easy even Ryan Lemond could do it!


UK Dad of the Day Wants Some Sunday Evening Notes

UK Dad of the Day Wants Some Sunday Evening Notes

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Good Sunday evening, friends. I hope you’re relaxing on the couch after a fun Father’s Day cookout or fantastic meal. In the spirit of the day, I wanted to give one last shoutout to my own dad, John, for bringing me up right to follow all things Cats. If he hadn’t needed a game watching buddy back when I was growing up, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post for you guys right now. Thanks, Dad. I hope you enjoyed your very loud card (it’s about steak and therefore moos), and you better take us up on our offer to take you to a Titans game. They’ll be better this year, promise. At the very least, they’ll be more entertaining with Marcus Mariota at the helm.

We’re shaking things up a bit on the site, so the night post you’re used to seeing around this time will now go up in the mornings. Yes, that means Matt’s typical Sunday night post won’t be on the site until 8 a.m. tomorrow, same for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. We’re making the change in hopes of preparing you for the news each morning instead of rehashing old news at night. It’ll take some getting used to, but bear with us.

That being said, before I start watching “True Detective 2″ and “Ballers,” let’s run through a few notes to close the weekend…

— Obviously, the huge news of the day was notice that Jamal Murray will announce his decision Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Sonny Bairos, a “Canadian hoops connoisseur” (because Canadian hoops need to be appreciated like a fine wine), broke the news on Twitter and said he believes Oregon is the leader for two reasons: 1) Murray’s father’s friendship with Oregon assistant Mike Mennenga; and 2) Murray’s friendship with former AAU teammate and Oregon forward Dillon Brooks. According to a screenshot from Adam Zagoria, Oregon senior forward Elgin Cook tweeted on Wednesday that Murray was the Ducks’ “newest commit,” another bad sign.

For an elite basketball recruit like Murray, picking Kentucky over Oregon seems like a no-brainer to me. Over the past six years, John Calipari has proved he’s by far the best coach in college basketball in putting players in the pros, and on Thursday night, SEVEN UK players could be drafted, the most by any school on one night. That’s insane; however, so are some of the decisions we’ve seen in the 2015 recruiting class this season, so who knows. As Calipari says, Kentucky isn’t for everyone, and maybe Murray doesn’t want to live under that spotlight. For that reason, I’m going into Tuesday hopeful, but with low expectations.

— Unfortunately, the other big story of the weekend kind of got overshadowed because it happened on a Friday night, but there’s no doubt that Marcelys Jones’ decision to transfer to Kentucky from Ohio State is HUGE for the program. Sure, Jones will have to sit out a year, but picture him, Drake Jackson, Landon Young, George Asafo-Adjei, and potentially JuCo stud Tate Leavitt on the line in 2016. Patrick Towles and Drew Barker are probably already breathing a little easier.

Yesterday, I went to see “The Wolfpack,” a documentary about seven children locked inside their New York City apartment by their paranoid father. Although a terrible movie to watch on Father’s Day weekend, it was fascinating; because they were trapped inside all the time (one year, they weren’t allowed out even once), the six brothers spent their childhood watching movies and reenacting them with homemade props and costumes. The filmmakers follow them as they slowly rebel against their dad and encounter the world outside their apartment, an exhilarating and terrifying experience, even for the viewer. I’m not sure if or when this movie will make it to Lexington or Louisville, but even if you have to wait until it’s on Netflix, check it out. It’ll definitely make you appreciate your father.

— Last night was a rare Saturday night at the house for me and my husband, so we spent the evening flipping between the US Open, the 2014 UK/Louisville basketball game replay on ESPNU, and the 2014 UK/South Carolina football game replay on The SEC Network. I walked into the room to see my husband watching the UK/UofL game and immediately cringed. I tried to sit and watch some of it, but I couldn’t handle it. Over two months later, The Loss is still so depressing that it’s tarnishing even my happiest memories of last season. That really sucks, because there are some GREAT memories. Unfortunately, I learned it’s going to take me a while longer before I can relive them.

In an interesting paradigm, basketball’s heartache is now becoming football’s gain, for me at least. It was a million times easier to watch the football Cats upset Spurrier and the Gamecocks than the basketball Cats beat up on Louisville. Part of that is we’re closer to football season, which brings inevitable optimism and excitement, but part of it is also me as a fan still needing to detach from basketball. I’m excited for next year–in fact, the little time I did spend watching the UK/UofL replay was spent focusing on Tyler Ulis–but The Loss still lingers, so much so that I’m going into next season keeping everything at arms’ length. No more 40-0 dreams. No more do-or-die, no more crippling expectations. For Stoops 3.0 and the new basketball Cats, I’m just excited to see progress, even if it comes with a few losses. Winning at the level last year’s team did was amazing, but the fall was rough. I, for one, am ready for a climb.

— Believe it or not, the KSR Summer Tour starts TOMORROW in Prestonsburg. Matt and Ryan will be at StoneCrest Golf Course (918 Clubhouse Drive) to kick things off and entertain you. If you can’t make it, they’ll also be in Paintsville and Columbia this week before Matt goes to New York for the NBA Draft. Here’s the tour schedule:

June 22: Prestonsburg – StoneCrest Golf Course
June 23: Paintsville – Browns Auto Group of Paintsville
June 24: Columbia – Anderson’s Pizza
June 25-26: New York City

June 29: Shelbyville – Stonecrest Family Medicine
June 30: Leitchfield – Future Designs
July 1: Madisonville – Hudson Toyota
July 2: Morgantown – Final Finish
July 3: Hopkinsville – Holiday Inn

July 6: Morganfield – Southern States
July 7: Grayson – Simply The Best Bar & Grill
July 8: Pikeville – Bank 253
July 9: Williamson – Appalachian Wireless at South Side Mall
July 10: KY Speedway

July 13: Cynthiana – Cynthiana County Club
July 14: Whitley City – McCreary County Public Library
July 15: London – Sleep Outfitters
July 16-17: Peach Jam

July 20: Whitesburg – Pine Mountain Grill
July 21: Manchester – Clay County Middle School
July 22: Somerset – Sleep Outfitters
July 23: Harlan – Core Fitness
July 24: Fort Wright – Dickmann’s Sports Bar

July 27: Campbellsville – Mr. Gatti’s
July 28: Owensboro – Don Moore GM Center
July 29: Benton – Kennedy’s Fan Shop
July 30: Paducah – Buffalo Wild Wings
July 31: Fancy Farm

August 3: Bowling Green
August 4: McKee
August 5: Glasgow – Papa John’s
August 6: Jamestown – Jamestown Marina.
August 7: Monticello – Conley Bottoms.

August 10: Frankfort – Governor’s Mansion
August 11: Maysville – Laurel Oaks Golf Course
August 12: Danville
August 13: Lexington – All Sports at Fayette Mall
August 14: Louisville

Now pardon me while I go do this:

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Marcelys Jones commits to UK

Marcelys Jones commits to UK

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BIG FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS!

Marcelys Jones has committed to UK, a source tells KSR. The four-star offensive lineman in the 2014 class picked Ohio State over the Cats out of high school, but he left the Buckeye program earlier this week after one season and quickly made new plans to transfer to Lexington.

Yahtzee!

 

Posted via phone in the Applebees parking lot.


From their old Kentucky home to Commonwealth Stadium, Part Two

Continued interviews featuring Kentucky high school football stars who signed with the Wildcats. This post features three more Kentucky greats: QB Pookie Jones, FB Andy Murray and DE Dennis Johnson.

Pookie Jones, QB, Calloway County – Little known fact about yet another Kentucky Mr. Football, Jones was coached in high school by former UK, and current Cal offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin. Another note, Pookie may be the nicest human to ever walk the earth. As an all-state football and baseball player, the two-time UK team captain chose the Cats over Dr. Tom Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. After terrorizing SEC defensive coordinators he was drafted by the MLB’s Colorado Rockies. Pookie’s enjoyed business success in Lexington and remains heavily involved in youth baseball instruction.

Q: Other than UK, what other schools did you consider?

Jones: Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisville, and Penn State

Q: Tell us about your official visit to UK.

Jones: Al Baker showed me around. I think he was disappointed because I wanted to head back to the hotel early. I was a kid from the country and wasn’t used to the bright lights of Lexington.

Q: How would you describe the current state of the UK Football program?

Jones: I think we’re heading in the right direction but it takes time. The SEC is the most competitive conference for a reason and it usually takes coaches longer to achieve their goals due to the conference grind.

Q: What was your deciding factor in choosing UK?

Jones: My dad. He was big on me getting my degree and C.A.T.S (Center for Academics and Tutorial Services) just opened on campus. That made my choice much easier.

Dennis Johnson, DE, Harrodsburg – College coaches and accolades poured into Harrodsburg as Johnson was named as Kentucky’s Mr. Football, USA Today National Player of the Year and Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year. Dennis is in the same category as Tim Couch and considered as one of Kentucky’s all-time greatest athletes.

An unknown fact about Dennis Johnson is that he played in his first high school varsity game as a six-year-old second grader. At UK, Johnson continued to dominate and was an All-SEC performer who was later drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Today, Dennis Johnson is the Woodford County Head Football Coach, a traditional path for a member of the First Family of Kentucky Football.

Q: What other schools did you visit before committing to UK?

Johnson: Notre Dame, Florida, Colorado, and Miami

Q: What is your take on the state of the UK Football program?

Johnson: I think our program is improving. I love Coach Stoops and his staff. Regardless of what anyone says, you have to have players to win. We are bridging the gap with other SEC schools but it takes time to build a football program to be a contender in the SEC.

Q: Every player has their own pre-game ritual or superstition, what was yours?

JohnsonThe few rituals I had were wearing the same shirt every game. I wore it in high school, college and in the pros under my shoulder pads. I had written my favorite scripture on it in marker (Philippians 4:13). I also liked new cleats every time I could get them because it made me look and feel good.

Q: Why did you sign with UK?

Johnson: I signed with UK because Hal Mumme and his staff had brought a lot of excitement to the program, plus I had 4 guys from my hometown who were playing for UK.

Q: What is your best UK moment?

JohnsonBeating LSU my freshman year at their place.

(more…)


Potential Major Football Get on the Horizon

Potential Major Football Get on the Horizon

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UK got some very positive recruiting news today when Marcelys Jones officially decided to transfer from Ohio State. Jones just completed his Freshman year there and after being a High School All American, decided his time in Buckeye land should come to a close. As part of the transfer, he has been given permission to talk to Kentucky and will likely take a visit to Lexington this weekend. I am told by a source that if all goes well, that it is likely Jones will join the Wildcats after the visit and could be a major get here in June for the program. You may remember that Kentucky nearly stole Jones from Ohio State before he became a Buckeye, but the payoff for that recruiting may come slightly later than we had previously thought.

For Kentucky this would be a major pull…this is a High School All-American level Offensive Line talent. He was recruited by all the major schools and decided to stay home and play in Ohio. If the Cats are able to finish this off and make the transfer occur to Lexington, it would be as big of a commitment as Kentucky has had in the 2015 class (even though he is technically from 2014) and major good news here in the dog days of June.


Marcelys Jones given permission to speak to UK

Four-star offensive lineman Marcelys Jones did not last long at Ohio State University. The Class of 2014 star is already leaving the program and we’re hearing he has permission to speak with Kentucky and a visit may follow.

You may recognize Jones’ name from the past. He was a very serious option for Mark Stoops’ offensive line before he signed and enrolled early with his home state Buckeyes in January ’14. UK led Jones’ Crystal Ball over Ohio State, 75 to 25%, when he reaffirmed his longstanding commitment to Urban Meyer in a group ceremony with two of his Glenville High School teammates, who are also Buckeyes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. He could be a HUGE transfer for the Cats.

*** Update ***

Apparently Kentucky wasn’t winning enough when he picked tOSU over UK: