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Five Notes from Mark Stoops’ NSD Press Conference

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Top to Bottom

The Class of 2014 is widely considered the best class in the history of the school, but they were top heavy.  From Bowden to Abule, Stoops believes each play will contribute.

“I just feel so good about this class top to bottom,” he said.  That’s no disrespect to the other guys, because I love them and they’re going to be great players, and we’re going to win a bunch of games. But it just takes a lot of great classes, and we want to continue to build on that, and we hope next year’s class is even better. And we anticipate that it will be.”

No Decommits

Stoops has suffered some late attrition in the past, but not this year.  In this year’s recruiting calendar they didn’t lose any commits.  After beginning with a “strong nucleus” of players, beating Louisville and finishing the season strong “certainly didn’t hurt” to help keep everyone in the fold.

“They’ve been so loyal to us,” he said.  “These guys could have gone a lot of places, and they’ve been very solid with us.”

Versatility at a Variety of Positions

The “athlete” title is given to three players — Lynn Bowden, Joshua Ali and Tyrell Ajian — but they are not alone.  The best part about this class — other than being bigger, faster stronger — is their versatility.  Most of the receivers can play inside or out, most of the defensive backs can play corner or safety, and the defensive linemen can play all across the line of scrimmage.

The most versatile big man is Joshua Paschal, who will start as an outside linebacker.

“Josh is a guy that definitely can play more positions, and you’ll see how his body grows, but I’d like to start him in a role like a Bud Dupree and play him standing up,” Stoops said. “He has the ability to drop, but he has exceptional bursts in pass-rushing ability, so he’s very versatile.”

Pack Commonwealth

Mark Stoops called for more support from the fans on today’s edition of KSR and in his press conference.  He told the group of reporters:

“We need to fill this place, because let me tell you, the guys that came here late in the season and watched our Georgia game and see that environment, that’s the environment that we have to play in front of every week, and that’s what we’re competing against. You guys know, you travel around and go look at the other SEC schools, winning or losing they are packing them in.”

Vince Marrow said the environment for the Georgia game is why Paschal came to Kentucky.  After seeing TreVaughn struggle through the Joker Phillips era, their father needed to be convinced Kentucky has changed.  After Josh attended the Georgia game, he was sold.  He immediately called his father and said, “This is not what you think, Dad.”

An Eloquent Closing Remark

After an exhausting few months of busy recruiting, Stoops ended with an eloquent and optimistic message:

“Thank you to all you. Thanks for your interest, thanks for your coverage. I appreciate our staff, our wives, our families for the sacrifice that they make. It’s been a long year, culminating with this class here today that’s going to represent this university the right way.

The fans are going to be very proud of this group. It’s a great foundation for a freshman class for next year. And it’s definitely going to help us in the future. We’re excited about this year. I’m really happy to get this wrapped up, to be honest with you, and onto developing our players and getting to work with our players next week. So thank you all very much.”


In other news… Thayer Munford to Ohio State, Danny Davis to Wisconsin

dawson_crying

This morning, Jedrick Wills broke the collective hearts of the BBN by staying firm on his commitment and signing with Alabama, though his official press conference will not be until 3:45 p.m.

In today’s press conference with Mark Stoops, we were told the 2017 class was complete, and no one would be added this afternoon, meaning Danny Davis and Thayer Munford were both off the table.

4-star OT Thayer Munford confirmed this news by signing with Ohio State this afternoon.

Later on, 4-star WR Danny Davis signed with the Wisconsin Badgers, officially putting an end to all rumors and speculation… for at least this class.

On that note, we are just 365 days from National Signing Day 2018!


Marrow on Lynn Bowden: “I will go on the record as saying this: we signed the best player in Ohio”

Marrow on Lynn Bowden: “I will go on the record as saying this: we signed the best player in Ohio”

lynnbowden

The gem of this year’s recruiting class has to be four-star athlete Lynn Bowden. Not only is the Youngstown, Ohio native is the highest-rated and most explosive athlete in Kentucky’s 2017 class, Vince Marrow thinks he’s the best player from the state of Ohio, period.

I will go on the record as saying this: we signed the best player in Ohio. Lynn Bowden is the best player in Ohio. And if you ask probably 30 reporters that cover Ohio football, they’ll all say he’s the best player in Ohio. Sometimes when they don’t go to that other school, now he may be the second best or the third best player.”

Like Bowden, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are Youngstown natives and Marrow said when he heard his friends back home talking about Bowden, he knew he had to get him.

“How good is Lynn Bowden? You know, I’m like Coach Stoops, I was a good player too coming out of Youngstown, and I remember my brother told me, ‘This guy is better than [anyone in] probably 30 years.’ I started to thing of Maurice Clarett, who’s the number one player in the country, Mario Manningham, man there are so many guys that come out of there. You know, everybody in their hometown, you have a guy you check references with and everyone I’ve talked to said this kid is just unbelievable.”

When four-star offensive tackle Thayer Munford visited UK, his high school coach raved about Bowden to Marrow, recalling how he scored seven touchdowns in the second half to upset Massillon, one of the top programs in Ohio.

“He saw Lynn on his official visit, and said, ‘That kid, we were up 21-7 at halftime, we ended up losing 41-38, he had seven touchdowns in the second half.’ Now, Massillon football, that’s the mecca of Ohio, Massillon and Canton. That told me right there how good that kid was. He’s good. He’s still gotta come in and improve, but he’s good.”

How loyal is Bowden? This morning, he told Ryan Allison of WKBN in Youngstown that Ohio State — a program from which he’s coveted an offer for years — reached out to him at the last minute and he turned them down:

Not one to heap expectations on teenagers, but this kid has folk hero written all over him.


Mark Stoops doesn’t expect to add anyone else to the class

@UKStoopsTroops

@UKStoopsTroops

It sounds like Kentucky’s Class of 2017 is done at 24 signees, according to Mark Stoops.

When asked if he expects to add anyone else to the class, Stoops told KSR, “I doubt it. It looks like that is about it right now.”

“The nice thing is we had no surprises today,” he continued. “We were very solid, these players have been solid for a long time, and it was a really great group to recruit. So we’re very, very happy with that.”

“Remember, we always embrace the ones you got. You got the ones you were meant to get, and we are very, very excited about this group… You never worry about the ones that got away; you embrace the ones you got.”


Kentucky currently has the No. 25 recruiting class in the nation

Kentucky currently has the No. 25 recruiting class in the nation

rank

With 24 of its 24 known commitments officially on board, Kentucky’s recruiting class is set in stone (barring any last-minute additions) for 2017.

That class is currently in the Rivals.com Top 25, coming in at lucky No. 25 in the nation and No. 9 in the Southeastern Conference. You may notice that it is also one spot ahead of what Louisville has going on on down the road. (Shout-out to that fumble, Lamar.)

Mark Stoops is currently on KSR radio with Matt and Ryan to discuss his new class and the impact he expects it to make going forward. He and his assistant coaches will hold a press conference at 1 pm for even more Signing Day talk later on today, which we will cover here on KSR.

Go Cats.


National Signing Day 2017

National Signing Day 2017

nsd-header

Refresh this page throughout the day for real-time updates on National Signing Day 2017. We will have profiles of each and every new Wildcat once their signature is received, as well as breaking news and up-to-the-second updates as Mark Stoops and his staff lock down their fifth class at the University of Kentucky, projected as one of the best in the program’s history.

*****

 

10:43 a.m.

Jordan Wright is in! That makes 24 of 24!!!

 


SIGNED: JORDAN WRIGHT


Jordan Wright
Defensive End| 6-5 | 250 lbs.
Fort Lauderdale, FL | Dillard HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 46 DE Top247  — | 28 DE
Rivals  — | 25 DE Scout  — | —

Bio: Wright is an absolute athletic freak of nature with aggressiveness and high motor. He’s raw as a prospect, and may need a redshirt year to develop, but will absolutely make an impact at defensive end in a few years.

Signed with Kentucky over Alabama, Florida State, Miami, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Sky is the limit for Wright. Elite athlete, will rapidly improve with technical advancement. Preferred measurable for an edge rusher.


 

10:20 a.m.

Bowden looks good in his new uniform.

On the UKAthletics.com live steam, Darin Hinshaw said he plans to have Bowden in the quarterback room next season, as well as at running back and wide receiver.

Kid could be lethal in the Wildcat.

 

10:00 a.m.

The likely Wills scenario: My guess is Alabama has Wills’ Letter of Intent but Wills asked to have his big moment at the afternoon announcement. There’s no way Bama would tweet/list Wills as a signee without having his letter in hand, so this is probably the case of Wills wanting to drag Big Blue Nation along so he can announce the news himself at his press conference.

 

9:52 a.m.

NOT SO FAST!

Alabama deleted its tweet welcoming Jedrick Wills and pulled his name of the big board.

giphy1

 

9:41 a.m.

Jedrick Wills signs with Alabama. He gone.

 

9:30 a.m.

Jordan Wright to sign his Letter of Intent at 10:30 am and it will either be Kentucky or The U. The highly-touted defensive end, a South Florida prospect, is playing up the suspense on Twitter by retweeting fans of both programs. Last night he went as far as deleting a tweet from earlier in the week saying he is 100 percent committed to UK.

So is a last-minute flip in the works? Or is he toying with BBN to build up anticipation?

We’ll know in an hour.

 

9:24 a.m.

Freddie Maggard was up early and ready to go before sunrise this morning. Signing Day is Freddie’s Super Bowl:

 

9:21 a.m.

Four-star linebacker Levi Jones is COLD BLOODED. Watch him troll Florida and Florida State in one of the most ruthless announcements you will ever see:

 

9:15 a.m.

Isaiah Epps’ LOI is in, which leaves only Jordan Wright to go.

 


SIGNED: ISAIAH EPPS


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.45.52 PM Isaiah Epps
Wide Receiver| 6-3 | 185 lbs.
Jenks, OK | Jenks HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | — Top247  No. 1040 |  141 WR
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Epps is a college-ready receiver who had a remarkable senior season at national powerhouse Jenks High School. He set a Jenks HS receiving record with 1,209 yards, 59 receptions, and 12 touchdowns.

Very new to the game, but a natural at the receiver position. Has starter potential after learning Kentucky’s system. Extremely underrated prospect with high ceiling.

Signed with Kentucky over Illinois.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Pure receiver with sharp angles out of break. Can execute every route in a college passing tree.


 

9:09 a.m.

Alex King is the 22nd member of Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class.

 


SIGNED: ALEX KING


Alex King
Outside Linebacker | 6-4 | 225 lbs.
Mason, OH | William Mason
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 72 DE Top247 No. 637 | 38 WDE
Rivals — | 30 DE Scout — | 43 DE

Bio: The outside linebacker shares many qualities with Kentucky’s Josh Allen.  Built more like a basketball player, King’s long arms are beneficial in the pass rush and his wide shoulders will support significant weight gain.  A dynamic pass rusher with 7 sacks and 14 TFL in his senior season, King will likely spend his first year as a redshirt to gain weight and learn drops in pass coverage.  King also considered Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin and West Virginia before choosing Kentucky.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Prototypical “Jack” LB with superb speed, motor, and aggression.


 

9:08 a.m.

Three left…

1. Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, DE ★★★ ✔️
2. Tyrell Ajian, ATH ★★★★ ✔️
3. Joshua Ali, ATH ★★★ ✔️
4. Quinton Bohanna, DT ★★★ ✔️
5. Lynn Bowden, ATH ★★★★ ✔️
6. Yusuf Corker, CB ★★★ ✔️
7. Sebastien Dolcine, OG ★★★ ✔️
8. Austin Dotson, OT ★★★ ✔️
9. Isaiah Epps, WR ★★★
10. Phil Hoskins, DT ★★★ ✔️
11. Alex King, DE ★★★
12. Michael Nesbitt, CB ★★★ ✔️
13. Joshua Paschal, DE ★★★★ ✔️
14. JaVonte Richardson, WR ★★★★ ✔️
15. Nasir Watkins, OT ★★★ ✔️
16. Christopher Whittaker, DE ★★★ ✔️
17. Jordan Wright, DE ★★★

 

9:05 a.m.

Faxes are in from Michael Nesbitt and Naasir Watkins.

 


SIGNED: MICHAEL NESBITT


Michael Nesbitt
Cornerback| 6-0 | 185 lbs.
Fort Lauderdale, FL | Boyd Anderson
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 43 CB Top247  No. 1163 | 128 CB
Rivals  — | 60 CB Scout  — | 136 CB

Bio: One of the top corners in the state of Florida, where he went against several of the best wide receivers in high school football, Michael Nesbitt is a proven defensive back who can also play a little safety or nickel, if needed.

Signed with Kentucky over offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Louisville, South Carolina and Central Florida.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: “Havoc” stat producer, Nesbitt is a perfect, diverse defensive back in Mark Stoops’ scheme.


SIGNED: NAASIR WATKINS


Naasir Watkins
Offensive Tackle| 6-5 | 300 lbs.
Olney, MD | Our Lady of Good Counsel
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 94 OT Top247  — | 92 OT
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Watkins converted from a tight end to play right tackle, has agility to back that up. Extremely athletic and long, but still very raw. He will need a year to redshirt, but certainly has starter potential.

Signed with Kentucky over Pittsburgh and Virginia.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Built like a power forward, Watkins has the size and athletic ability to play Guard, Center, and Tackle.


 

9:01 a.m.

Right on cue… Quinton Bohanna submits his paperwork. It’s like he was reading the blog.

 


SIGNED: QUINTON BOHANNA


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 2.10.57 PM Quinton Bohanna
Defensive Tackle| 6-4 | 315 lbs.
Cordova, TN | Cordova HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 69 DT Top247  No. 1111 | 70 DT
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | 95 DT

Bio: Quinton Bohanna committed to Kentucky in February of last year, shortly after attending Junior Day in Lexington. A three-time All-State player in the state of Tennessee, Bohanna projects to eventually play nose tackle for the Wildcats, with a strong likelihood of a redshirt season in 2017.

Signed with Kentucky over offers from Louisville and Memphis.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Active defensive lineman with heavy punch and rapid burst from stance to engagement.


 

8:58 a.m.

Names to Watch: Jordan Wright and Quinton Bohanna. Though committed to the Cats, both are far from a sure thing on Signing Day with rumors boiling that either one, or both, could flip to another school.

Kentucky needs to lock those two down today and put the worry aside.

 

8:51 a.m.

Add another name to the D-line… Phil Hoskins is a Cat.

 


SIGNED: PHIL HOSKINS


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.46.35 PM Phil Hoskins
Defensive Tackle| 6-5 | 280 lbs.
Toledo, OH | Whitmer, Highland C.C.
Highlights
★★★
ESPN JUCO — | 11 DT Top247 No. 41 | 4 DT
Rivals JUCO No. 21 Scout — | —

Bio: The JUCO transfer might be the most important recruit in the ’17 class.  In need of defensive lineman, Hoskins has the size and ability to play any of the front three spots in UK’s 3/4.  An aggressive pass rusher with an exceptional spin move, Hoskins can play situationally until he’s ready to handle the every down grind.  The only concern: Hoskins will need shoulder surgery and could miss some of fall camp.  Hoskins chose Kentucky over Arkansas, Baylor, Colorado and JUCO factory Miss. State.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Versatile, high-effort defensive lineman with ability and size to play all 3 positions along the line-of-scrimmage.


 

8:50 a.m.

10 down, seven (or more) to go…

1. Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, DE ★★★ ✔️
2. Tyrell Ajian, ATH ★★★★ ✔️
3. Joshua Ali, ATH ★★★ ✔️
4. Quinton Bohanna, DT ★★★
5. Lynn Bowden, ATH ★★★★ ✔️
6. Yusuf Corker, CB ★★★ ✔️
7. Sebastien Dolcine, OG ★★★ ✔️
8. Austin Dotson, OT ★★★ ✔️
9. Isaiah Epps, WR ★★★
10. Phil Hoskins, DT ★★★
11. Alex King, DE ★★★
12. Michael Nesbitt, CB ★★★
13. Joshua Paschal, DE ★★★★ ✔️
14. JaVonte Richardson, WR ★★★★ ✔️
15. Nasir Watkins, OT ★★★
16. Christopher Whittaker, DE ★★★ ✔️
17. Jordan Wright, DE ★★★

 

8:48 a.m.

Sebastien Dolcine joins the Kentucky offensive line.

 


SIGNED: SEBASTIEN DOLCINE


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.44.16 PM Sebastien Dolcine
Offensive Guard/Tackle| 6-5 | 300 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Miramar HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 74 OG Top247  — | 31 OG
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Dolcine is an extremely physical prospect with a ton of potential. Great agility for a guy of his size, but needs to build more upper-body strength. Raw, but has the tools to become successful under John Schlarman.

Signed with Kentucky over UCF, USF, NC State, and Wake Forest

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Extremely raw talent with a nasty disposition and high ceiling. Steal of the class.


 

8:46 a.m.

See why everyone is raving about Pashcal:

 

8:42 a.m.

JOSHUA PASCHAL IS A WILDCAT LETS GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

HUGE get for the defense and now all of the committed four-stars have signed.

 


SIGNED: JOSHUA PASCHAL


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 2.44.59 PM Joshua Paschal
Defensive End | 6-4 | 255 lbs.
Olney, MD | Good Counsel
Highlights
★★★★
ESPN  — | 29 DE Top247  No. 191 | 8 DE
Rivals  — | 10 DE Scout  No. 292 | 29 DE

Bio: The younger brother of TraVaughn Paschal, a former linebacker at Kentucky under Mark Stoops, Joshua Pashcal is the star of the class and an immediate contender for playing time as a true freshman. One national analyst called him the most athletic defensive end in the country, and if you watch his film, you will agree. This is a HUGE get for the Wildcats.

Signed with Kentucky over Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and USC, among others.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Instinctive, productive, and disruptive defender that could make an immediate impact. Elite edge rusher.


 

8:38 a.m.

Russ Yeast has officially signed with the University of Louisville. The former UK commit and son of UK great Craig Yeast traded the blue and white to play for the second best team in the state. Best of luck to him.

 

8:26 a.m.

Yusuf Corker makes eight. This standout corner out of Georgia picked Kentucky over some big time offers from around college football.

 


SIGNED: YUSUF CORKER


Yusuf Corker 
Cornerback| 6-0 | 190 lbs.
Stockbridge, GA | Woodland
Highlights
★★★★
ESPN  No. 221 | 21 CB Top247 No. 646 | 62 CB
Rivals — | 50 CB Scout No. 261 | 27 CB

Bio: A major recruiting move by the Cats, Corker picked UK over Tennessee, Florida, Clemson, Georgia and Michigan State.  Like many other cornerbacks Stoops has recruited to Kentucky, Corker is physically gifted.  The cover corner does not waste energy, fluidly transitioning from back pedal to sprint, utilizing quick-twitch muscles to react quickly to the ball.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Top CB in state of Georgia. Possesses preferred skill set to lock down receivers in one-on-one situations.


 

8:25 a.m.

Tyrell Ajian is official. He played a little bit of everything in high school, but he’s expected to be a future contributor at safety for the Wildcats.

 


SIGNED: TYRELL AJIAN


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 2.13.37 PM Tyrell Ajian
Safety| 6-0 | 190 lbs.
Mansfield, OH | Madison Comprehensive HS
Highlights
★★★★
ESPN  No. 244 | 17 S Top247 No. 168 | 5 ATH
Rivals  — | 26 S Scout  — | 57 S

Bio: Ajian is an extremely versatile prospect, played QB, RB, WR, DB, and returned kicks in high school. Impressive size, speed, and instincts. Will play safety at Kentucky. Nominated for 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Chose Kentucky over offers from Michigan State, Tennessee, and Notre Dame.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Top 2 athlete in this class. High level speed and affinity for contact which project at safety.


 

8:17 am

Let’s check back in on that commit list:

1. Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, DE ★★★ ✔️
2. Tyrell Ajian, ATH ★★★★
3. Joshua Ali, ATH ★★★ ✔️
4. Quinton Bohanna, DT ★★★
5. Lynn Bowden, ATH ★★★★ ✔️
6. Yusuf Corker, CB ★★★
7. Sebastien Dolcine, OG ★★★
8. Austin Dotson, OT ★★★ ✔️
9. Isaiah Epps, WR ★★★
10. Phil Hoskins, DT ★★★
11. Alex King, DE ★★★
12. Michael Nesbitt, CB ★★★
13. Joshua Paschal, DE ★★★★
14. JaVonte Richardson, WR ★★★★ ✔️
15. Nasir Watkins, OT ★★★
16. Christopher Whittaker, DE ★★★ ✔️
17. Jordan Wright, DE ★★★

Six down, 11 to go. Or maybe more? (Hi, Jedrick.)

 

8:14 a.m.

Welcome to the Big Blue Nation, Cristopher Whittaker!

 


SIGNED: CHRISTOPHER WHITTAKER


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.48.08 PM Chris Whittaker
Defensive End| 6-4 | 260 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Chaminade-Madonna Prep
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 106 DE Top247 No. 1004 | 55 DE
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Whittaker is easily one of the most underrated players in the class, despite being rated as a three-star prospect. As a senior, he had 77 tackles (22 for loss), 10.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. The staff is extremely high on him because of his high motor combined with size and speed.

Signed with Kentucky over Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: “Jordan Jones” motor with stunt devil nerve. Fast and violent defensive lineman.


 

8:05 a.m.

Wide receiver JaVonte Richardson is officially a Kentucky Wildcat. An Ohio product (of course), Richardson is the No. 32 wide receiver in the class, according to the composite rankings.

 


SIGNED: JAVONTE RICHARDSON


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.40.02 PM JaVonte Richardson
Wide Receiver| 6-4 | 230 lbs.
Maple Heights, OH | Maple Heights HS
Highlights
★★★★
ESPN  — | 24 WR Top247 No. 227 | 32 WR
Rivals No. 114 | 5 WR Scout — | 47 S

Bio: Richardson is a freak of nature athlete with an NFL body, ready to contribute immediately. Fights for 50/50 balls, goes for the extra block, all-around winner. Great hands and body control, makes tough catches. Imagine Dorian Baker without the drops.

As a senior at Maple Heights, he compiled 1,190 all-purpose yards and earned a 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl nomination.

Signed with Kentucky over Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State, and Illinois

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Competitive, team-first athlete with freakish athletic ability and size/strength to win 50/50 situations.


 

7:47 a.m.

Kill some time by watching Lynn Bowden’s latest mixtape and then get excited about the ball being in his hands for the next three or four years in Lexington. (Language NSFW in the vid)

 

7:45 a.m.

Joshua Ali is the fourth member of the class to sign the page.

 


SIGNED: JOSHUA ALI


Joshua Ali
Wide Receiver | 6-0 | 180 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Chaminade-Madonna
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | 89 WR Top247  No. 999 | 71 ATH
Rivals  — | 92 WR Scout  — | 205 WR

Bio: Ali committed to Kentucky last summer out of the talent-rich South Florida area. ESPN Recruiting calls him a “very sound, sharp and confident player” who is very competitive and “knows how to get open.” His overall speed won’t blow anyone away, but he is quick and explosive with good route-running technique. Eventual contributor in the passing attack.

Signed with Kentucky over Central Florida, South Florida, Cincinnati, Utah, Louisville and West Virginia.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Smooth route running speedster. Immediately increases speed and Yards after Catch capacity at slot receiver.


 

7:29 a.m.

Belfry’s own Austin Dotson is the third on the board.

 


SIGNED: AUSTIN DOTSON


Austin Dotson
Offensive Tackle| 6-6 | 310 lbs.
Belfry, KY | Belfry
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 80 OT Top247 No. 1023 | 94 OT
Rivals — | — Scout — | —

Bio: The Kentucky kid led a dominant offensive line to four consecutive state championship games.  A tackle for Phillip Haywood, Dotson could make the move down to guard at Kentucky.  An aggressive, hard-hitter with a “mean streak,” I pity those who lined up against him over the last four years. In no need to play right away, it will be interesting to see Dotson’s development under John Schlarman.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Line of scrimmage mauler reminiscent of Logan Stenberg.


 

7:24 a.m.

Lynn Bowden makes two!

Vince Marrow is excited to add the Cats’ next playmaker:

 


SIGNED: LYNN BOWDEN


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.42.48 PM Lynn Bowden
Athlete| 6-1 | 185 lbs.
Youngstown, OH | Warren G. Harding
Highlights
★★★★
ESPN  — | 64 ATH Top247 No. 110 | 2 ATH
Rivals No. 197 | 17 ATH Scout No. 60 | 2 ATH

Bio: The Youngstown-native is the most explosive athlete in the class, arguably the most explosive athlete Mark Stoops has ever signed.  The runner-up for Ohio’s Mr. Football threw for 1,366 yards, rushed for 2,277 yards and accounted for 57 total touchdowns as a senior.  Bowden broke most of the school records held by Maurice Clarett.  In Ohio’s state record books, Bowden is ranked 6th in rushing yards and 10th in touchdowns.

Bowden will play right away, but where exactly remains uncertain.  A quarterback for Warren G. Harding, Bowden will likely play some Wildcat with Benny Snell.  He’ll improve the short passing game by catching screen passes from the slot and running back spot.  When Bowden enters the game, don’t blink, you might miss him.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Will become Kentucky’s best overall athlete on day one on campus. Could play significant role in Eddie Gran’s offense in 2017.


 

7:15 a.m.

Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald is the first to submit his paperwork! The three-star defensive end is the most recent commit, having committed to Kentucky two days ago, and the first to make it official today.

 


SIGNED: ABULE ADABI-FITZGERALD


Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald
Defensive End| 6-7 | 245 lbs.
Maple Heights, FL | Maple Heights HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN  — | — Top247  — | —
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Abade-Fitzgerald has been a quiet secret for UK for several weeks now, hoping no one else would find out about this kid. Florida State, Florida, Penn State, and several others sniffed around late, but UK swayed his decision on official visit. Extremely raw prospect, will need time to develop. Staff is in love with his size, could develop into monster in a few years.

Signed with Kentucky over Florida.

Freddie Maggard’s Take: 6’6 260-pound defensive end has an unlimited ceiling. Extremely raw, played only one year of football. Trend continues of strong late commits-signings for Stoops.


 

7:00 a.m.

Good morning, Big Blue Nation! The Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com Train left the station a little earlier than usual Wednesday for National Signing Day ’17.

Why so early, you ask? Because the Cats have a busy morning ahead as the football LOIs roll in, cementing what is all set to be another stellar class for Stoops & Friends; and I’m sitting at the computer, on my seventeenth coffee and three hours of sleep, ready to guide you through the madness.

There is lots to come over the next several hours, but until it picks up, here are Kentucky’s 17 current verbal commits who are expected to sign Letters of Intent today, barring any unforeseen changes of heart:

1. Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, DE ★★★
2. Tyrell Ajian, ATH ★★★★
3. Joshua Ali, ATH ★★★
4. Quinton Bohanna, DT ★★★
5. Lynn Bowden, ATH ★★★★
6. Yusuf Corker, CB ★★★
7. Sebastien Dolcine, OG ★★★
8. Austin Dotson, OT ★★★
9. Isaiah Epps, WR ★★★
10. Phil Hoskins, DT ★★★
11. Alex King, DE ★★★
12. Michael Nesbitt, CB ★★★
13. Joshua Paschal, DE ★★★★
14. JaVonte Richardson, WR ★★★★
15. Nasir Watkins, OT ★★★
16. Christopher Whittaker, DE ★★★
17. Jordan Wright, DE ★★★

Kentucky already has seven early enrollees on campus; see their profiles here.


NSD: Kentucky’s seven early enrollees

NSD: Kentucky’s seven early enrollees

KSR-7979

The following players are already on campus…


ENROLLED: DANNY CLARK


Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 3.18.16 PM Danny Clark
Quarterback | 6-4 | 223 lbs.
Akron, OH | Archbishop Hoban
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 13 Dual-QB Top247 No. 567 | 22 Pro-QB
Rivals — | Pro-QB Scout — | 25 QB

Bio: Clark committed to Ohio State early in his high school career and went as far as tattooing the Buckeyes logo on his arm, but when Ohio State continued to recruit his position, Clark reopened his recruitment and eventually became a Wildcat.

Expect him to start in 2017 and then compete for the starting QB job in 2018 and on. Don’t be surprised if he is Kentucky’s starter under center one day.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “Danny is an exceptional leader, competitor and winner, having led his team to two state championships.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Brash, bold, strong-armed QB that led his team to back-to-back state championships.


ENROLLED: JAMIN DAVIS


Jamin Davis
Linebacker| 6-4 | 210 lbs.
Ludawici, Georgia | Long County HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 53 OLB Top247 No. 902 | 58 OLB
Rivals  — | — Scout  — | —

Bio: Davis is a massive linebacker with elite tackling ability. He has a high football IQ and takes smart angles to the ball carrier, making him a force on the field.

In his senior year, Davis finished with 126 tackles (89 solo), good for 14 tackles a game. Also had a sack, a fumble recovery, forced two fumbles, and blocked both a punt and a field goal.

Signed with Kentucky over Georgia Tech, Louisville, and NC State.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “Jamin is a prototype will (weakside) linebacker, a very athletic player with great length. He is an exceptional person and leader.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Seeks intelligent contact with high tackle production. Tall-rangy linebacker; leader.


ENROLLED: CEDRICK DORT


Cedrick Dort
Cornerback| 5-11 | 170 lbs.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL | Dwyer
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 121 CB Top247 — | 157 CB
Rivals — | — Scout — | 124 CB

Bio: The early enrollee chose Kentucky over Wisconsin, Minnesota and Syracuse.  One reason why Dort came to Lexington early was to add bulk in UK’s strength and conditioning program.  Through two weeks he’s gained 8 pounds.  Dort boasts an extremely impressive stat from his senior season: he did not allow a TD pass, a first down pass or a pass over five yards during the regular season.  On a less serious note, Dort’s high school head coach is Jack Daniels.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “Cedric is a great cover corner. I’ve been familiar with that school for a long time and Cedric comes here from a winning program.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Didn’t allow a TD or miss a tackle as a high school senior. Former basketball player has only played 2 seasons of football. Boundless potential.


ENROLLED: LONNIE JOHNSON


Lonnie Johnson
Defensive Back (JUCO) | 6-3 | 190 lbs.
Gary, IN | Garden City CC/Gary West Side
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | — Top247 JUCO No. 51 | 4 S
Rivals — | — Scout — | —

Bio: It was a long road to the University of Kentucky for Lonnie Johnson, who will compete for playing time right away. The highly-touted defensive back out of Gary, Indiana committed to Ohio State out of high school, but turned to junior college when he couldn’t make the grade. After stops at San Bernardino Valley College and Garden City Community College, plus a failed attempt to enroll at Iowa State, Johnson buckled down and focused on his academics, allowing him to enroll at UK this spring.

Read more on Johnson’s long and difficult journey here.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “We’re very excited to add Lonnie. He has great size and athleticism, with the versatility to play multiple positions.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Can play CB, Safety, and Nickel. Immediate contributor on defense and special teams. Exceptional size/speed combination.


ENROLLED: BRYANT KOBACK


Bryant Koback
Running Back | 5-11 | 191 lbs.
Holland, OH | Springfield HS
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 50 RB Top247 No. 531 | 32 RB
Rivals — | 39 RB Scout — | 47 RB

Bio: Bryant Koback’s senior season in Ohio got off to an amazing start, until a horrific leg injury put him out for the remainder of his high school career. The speedy back, once an Ohio State commit, enrolled at UK early to focus on rehabilitating the injury, and will sit out the spring as a precautionary measure. He could see touches as a freshman if he gets back to 100 percent before the fall.

Comment from Coach Stoops:Bryant is a great kid and a home run threat on the field.  He is an electric runner, with excellent vision and top-end speed.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Multiple cut, highly productive runner with 4.3 speed.


ENROLLED: CLEVAN THOMAS


Clevan Thomas
Wide Receiver| 5-11 | 190 lbs.
Miami, FL | Charles W. Flanagan
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 143 WR Top247 — | 150 WR
Rivals — | 70 WR Scout — | 173 WR

Bio: The early enrollee’s father, Clevan Sr., was the starting cornerback for Florida State’s 1999 National Championship team.  Clevan Jr. knew he was legit once he beat his dad.  An explosive, physical receiver, Thomas immediately becomes the Cats most-physically gifted slot receiver.  With a semester of growing pains ahead, Thomas should be ready to receive significant playing time in the fall.  Thomas chose UK over UofL, Michigan, Syracuse and Vanderbilt.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “Clevan is an exciting wide receiver, an extremely tough competitor who has shown the athletic ability to play multiple positions. His father was a great player at Florida State and I see a lot of the same qualities in Clevan.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Extremely quick burst-change of direction receiver. Physically ready to play slot receiver now.


ENROLLED: WALKER WOOD


Walker Wood
Dual-Threat Quarterback | 6-1 | 187 lbs.
Lexington, KY | Lafayette
Highlights
★★★
ESPN — | 34 DT-QB Top247 No. 1279 | 25 DT-QB
Rivals — | 22 DT-QB Scout — | 62 QB

Bio: Walker Wood, a Lexington native, will get his shot at quarterback, where he completed 203 of 321 passes (63.2 percent) for 3,047 yards and 30 touchdowns in his senior season at Lafayette. But with the depth and potential at the QB position, many expect Wood to ultimately make a position change if he is going to see the field.

Comment from Coach Stoops: “Both of the quarterbacks in this class have similar qualities – Walker is an exceptional leader, competitor and winner. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can be the most dangerous when a play breaks down.”

Freddie Maggard’s Take: Highly productive quarterback that will benefit from early enrollment to rehabilitate injured knee.


Join us bright and early Wednesday morning for Signing Day coverage

Set those alarms a little earlier Wednesday morning and join me here on Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com for all of the National Signing Day coverage one can handle.

I will be a one-man band here on the website throughout the morning, delivering you the news of each new signee as those Letters of Intent come through the UK Athletics fax machine. We’ll have profiles of the new Wildcats and updates as they happen, as well as anything else of interest from around the SEC and the nation.

So check back here around 7 am, maybe even earlier if I can avoid the snooze button, as we tackle college football recruiting’s Christmas morning. It won’t be easy coming off a 9 pm basketball game tonight — WHO SCHEDULED THAT — but a cold shower and a Red Bull breakfast should have me ready to go.

Who knows, maybe Jedrick Wills will shock the world and really turn this thing into a party.

Go Cats.


Final Recruiting Update before National Signing Day

nsd-header

Freddie Maggard’s “Depth Chart Podcast” guest Andrew Eaton tweeted this morning “If National Signing Day is Christmas, then Happy Christmas Eve!” I never thought of it that way, but my goodness he couldn’t be more right.

Those Letters of Intent rolling in tomorrow morning is like running down the stairs on Christmas morning and tearing up wrapping paper and boxes filled with gifts for both the coaching staff and diehard fans like myself. It doesn’t hurt when all of those signed Letters of Intent combined give us the best recruiting class in Kentucky history.

Not only is National Signing Day the official close of an entire second season of football fun, it’s the start of our focus turning towards the next class of high-profile prospects. Just an early glance at that list will show you Kentucky is already in on countless four-stars and even a few five-stars, so excitement will begin building immediately after tomorrow.

For the most part, the class is solidified, and the staff expects everyone already committed to the Wildcats to sign on the dotted line. As you all well know, there are a few guys left on the board with UK on the final list, deciding tomorrow.

Let’s take one final look at the recruiting scene before tomorrow’s festivities:

Quinton Bohanna

Wait, why is the first topic discussed today a guy that’s already committed to play at UK?

Today, Bohanna tweeted out that he received an offer from Ole Miss, literally the day before Signing Day. I get a team has their last second needs, but good grief.

I don’t believe UK has anything to worry about, but it definitely makes things a little interesting. A few weeks back, some national recruiting analysts believed Bohanna was wavering on his commitment to Kentucky, and a flip to Memphis was on the horizon. That rumor has since been shut down, but is it possible the Rebels give him second thoughts?

Short answer, probably not.

Considering Ole Miss is about to get demolished by the NCAA for countless violations, I doubt the Rebels are a very attractive school for anyone right now. Offering the day before he’s supposed to sign on the dotted line probably didn’t do them any favors, even if Bohanna had any significant interest in the school.

If nothing else, it makes Bohanna’s offer sheet look better when he’s being discussed in NSD coverage tomorrow.

Prediction: Kentucky

Jedrick Wills

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever heard more conflicting reports on a recruit in my life. I’ve tried to talk to as many people as I could regarding Wills, and each of them are saying something different.

Kentucky’s staff is extremely confident, believing they have a legitimate shot to get his signature tomorrow afternoon when Lafayette hosts their ceremony at roughly 3:45 p.m. They genuinely feel they made a big impact on his decision during his official visit this weekend, and the draw to play offensive tackle (Alabama plans on moving him to guard) at home is definitely there. He has a great relationship with the staff, and really respects what they’re doing with the program right now.

It was discussed on KSR this morning that Freddie Maggard feels confident the Cats get him, and he’s certainly close to the program as a former player. Ryan Lemond, on the other hand, says he would be “shocked” if he flips to Kentucky.

I talked with an Alabama guy close to the coaching staff that says “Tide feels very good.” They have never shed any doubt on the situation, feeling he’s been a lock to Bama the entire time.

He tweeted this out this afternoon:

Both teams are extremely confident, so who wins out?

My head tells me Alabama, but my gut is telling me Kentucky. Why are other committed prospects like Jordan Wright tweeting about how “wild” NSD will be? Why has Wills not given a Paschal-esque “I’m 100% committed” statement if he was completely solid to Alabama? Why is the staff so confident?

Regardless of his decision, I absolutely applaud UK’s efforts to stick in this thing till the very end and not accept defeat. It shows they’re ready to go to war for their guys, and certainly makes an impact on future high-level recruits.

I know I’m probably wrong, but I’m going to go down swinging like the UK staff…

Prediction: Kentucky

Danny Davis

I talked to a guy from Davis’ hometown of Springfield, OH, and he said all of the local chatter has been about Davis heading to Wisconsin.

I haven’t heard much on Kentucky’s end of things, but several Crystal Ball picks by guys that would know are going to Wisconsin, as well.

Kentucky has not conceded the fight, and I think they have a better shot than some make it out to be, but momentum certainly seems to be with the Badgers right now.

Like Wills, Davis will be announcing after 3 p.m., so we won’t hear anything during the media availability at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Prediction: Wisconsin

Thayer Munford

A really interesting bit of information I was told on Munford was that Ohio State has not actually given him a committable offer just yet, and they are essentially hanging him out to dry until the last available moment when a spot clears up. He apparently tried to commit to the Buckeyes on his last visit to Columbus, but they held him off. He’s going to visit again this weekend, and my gut says they’ll finally accept his commitment then.

For a guy so set on attending OSU, it’s pretty weird they have treated him like an afterthought. I guess they know they have him in the bag, and are making 100% sure there isn’t anyone else out there they like better.

Considering the Wildcats have always been #2 on his list behind Ohio State, how funny would it be if this kid ended up in blue and white after everyone has brushed him off for the last couple weeks?

As I said earlier, I think they find a spot for him and get him signed up tomorrow.

Prediction: Ohio State

@JackPilgrimKSR


UK Athletics

Kentucky Football’s Family Approach in Recruiting Sets UK Apart

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

“Welcome to the family.”  

Those four simple words were said by 16 Kentucky NBA players to the crowd filled with former players, recruits and fans at this year’s Big Blue Madness.  Mark Stoops doesn’t have the same professional pull as John Calipari, but he employs a similar strategy on the recruiting trail.

While interviewing Kentucky’s seven midyear signees, they all echoed a similar sentiment.  After visiting other schools, some tried to sell their program as a family, but that wasn’t the case.

Wide receiver Clevan Thomas has only been on campus two weeks.  He works out with the other freshmen, but the guys he’s competing with for playing time are still going out of their way to help him, most notably Dorian Baker.

“Every receiver here, they’ve played a part in helping me.  You go to other colleges and they play my position so ‘I’m not going to help.’  It’s not like that here.  It’s actually a family,” Thomas said.  “They told me this in recruiting and I thought they’re just saying that, but it’s actually a family here.  And that really shows a lot to me.”

Linebacker Jamin Davis saw it right away.  “I knew early on that I was going to end up here.”

Quarterback Walker Wood always liked his hometown school.  Once he visited and experienced the family-like atmosphere, it made his decision an easy one.

“When I came here it felt like family.  On all my other visits, it really wasn’t like that,” Wood said.  “I always enjoyed coming over here.  It was laid back, relaxed and it’s not like they push you too much.  If you don’t come, they’re not going to forget about you.”

One guy the staff hasn’t forgot about is Jedrick Wills.  Even though he committed to Alabama months ago, the staff has continued to stay in touch.  If he doesn’t change his mind, the staff will not forget Wills.

Three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, kicking it with their coach this past Saturday, via @cjconrad1.

Three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, kicking it with their coach this past Saturday, via @cjconrad1.

Other schools forgot about Cedrick Dort, but not Kentucky.

“They really show love.  They don’t really hit you up one month, then not talk to you for two months.” Dort said he talked to Eddie Gran at least once a week.  “If they want you, they’re really going to keep in contact with you.  I had a lot of schools that texted me one month, then in three more months I don’t know what’s going on and they’ll text me again.  That’s not how you do things.”

For some, the meaning of family is a bit more literal.  Vince Marrow was the head coach at Bryant Koback’s Springfield High School when Koback was in elementary school.  Even though Koback doesn’t remember much from that time, his aunt was Marrow’s boss.

Danny Clark got connected to Kentucky through Marrow.  Clark first met Marrow in eighth grade.  When the Ohio State commit was ready for a change, he knew who to call.

“When it came down to turning things around and making a better decision for me and my family I went straight to him.  I said, ‘Coach, let’s make this happen.’  I’m so glad I did,” Clark said.  “I was blessed to be in the situation I’m in and I’m so fortunate I got to build that relationship when I was 14-years old in 8th grade.  It’s all paying off and I’m glad to be here.”

Tomorrow Stoops expects to add his best recruiting class to the Kentucky football family.  At this rate, Stoops won’t have to wait too long before he has enough players in the NFL to create his own, “Welcome to the family” video.


Class of 2017 Film Study

Class of 2017 Film Study

Untitled 

National Signing Day is two days out. We’ve watched hours upon hours of film leading up to Wednesday. With multiple observations from all 23 Kentucky commits at the ready, I thought we’d give a sneak peak of Kentucky’s Class of 2017.

Here are just a few highlights from each commit/early enrollee:

 Tyrell Ajian, Safety

  • Best athlete on the field regardless of position played or competition
  • Smart eyes with high impact

 Joshua Ali, Receiver

  • Explodes out of routes. High Y.A.C.
  • Quick acceleration, bursts to separate from defenders

Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, Defensive Line

  • Raw, but my goodness the body and athleticism equal limitless ceiling.
  • Long, rangy pass rush specialist.

 Quinton Bohanna, Defensive Line

  • Strong hands. Effective bull rusher
  • Early recognition of screen

 Lynn Bowden, Whatever and Wherever

  • Fluid hips. Twitchy. Elite change of direction to full-speed explosion
  • Wow
Photo via 247 Sports

Danny Clark (Photo via 247 Sports)

 Danny Clark, Quarterback

  • Strong armed, courage route thrower
  • Quick release, can complete all college routes

 Yusuf Corker, Cornerback

  • Capable in man-to-man and zone coverage
  • Stays low in back pedal, quick to locate-close on football

 Sebastien Dolcine, Offensive Line

  • -Raw, high aggression. Long arms-quick feet. High ceiling
  • -Rapid 1st step in pass protection

 Austin Dotson, Offensive Line

  • Natural run blocker. Winner
  • Line-of-scrimmage mauler

 Jamin Davis, Linebacker

  • Thumper, physical-rangy linebacker. Leader
  • Seeks intelligent contact, productive

 Cedrick Dort, Cornerback

  • Understands leverage
  • Shut-down elite competition

 Isaiah Epps, Receiver

  • Sharp angles out of routes
  • Polished route runner, pure WR

 Phil Hoskins, Defensive Line

  • Fights thru double team
  • Constructive with line-of-scrimmage spin move in pass rush situations

 Lonnie Johnson, Defensive Back

  • Blocked FG and punt on special teams. Competitor-team guy
  • Fast, covers distance quickly. Comfortable in press coverage

 Alex King, Outside Linebacker

  • Excellent lateral movement; natural
  • Effort player with high motor and nasty disposition. Quickly closes in pass rush

 Bryant Koback, Running Back

  • Football speed equals track speed equals FAST
  • Multiple cut runner
2

Michael Nesbitt

 Michael Nesbitt, Cornerback

  • ATHLETE
  • Havoc stat producing defender

 Joshua Pashcal, Defensive Line

  • Explosively fluid, superior athlete
  • Immediate burst to change direction in pursuit
  • Forceful upon snap

(more…)


Tuesday’s Top 10: A New Commit, More Checkerboard & Musburger’s Farewell

Tuesday’s Top 10: A New Commit, More Checkerboard & Musburger’s Farewell

(Clockwise from L) @CoachMHouse, J.J. Grazia via the Macon Telegraph, @UKSportsNetwork, AA-F commits via @JEdwar247.

(Clockwise from L) @CoachMHouse, J.J. Frazier via the Macon Telegraph, @UKSportsNetwork, AA-F commits via @JEdwar247.

Normally this part of the Top 10 is reserved for a cheesy dedication and a poorly executed segue.  Ain’t nobody got time for that today.  With faxes rolling into the Joe Craft Football Training Facility in less than 23 hours and a 9:00 p.m. tip-off with Georgia at Rupp Arena, there’s no time to waste (seriously, so much is happening I wrote this entire thing and forgot to mention Stoops promoted Matt House to defensive coordinator).  Here’s what’s up:

1. Stoops Adds 24th Commit

Mark Stoops got an “under the radar” steal with just two days left in the recruiting period.  Lakeland, Fl. defensive end Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald committed to Kentucky following a weekend of official visits.  After visiting UK on Saturday, he was in Gainesville on Sunday.  Still, the 6’7″ 250-pounder chose the Cats over the Gators.

Abadi-Fitzgerald is a name that entered our radar about a week ago.  Considered a project, he’s only played one season of football.  If he works out like some of Mark Stoops’ other “projects” who committed late — Josh Allen, Chris Westry, Naquez Pringle — Abadi-Fitzgerald could become the steal of the class.

There’s only 23 hours until the faxes can become official, but Stoops could add one, maybe two more to his best recruiting class yet.

2. Get Excited for NSD!

Just like Lane Kiffin, we can’t wait for it to get here.

On a serious note, we’re about to turn up the heat over the next 48 hours.  The only thing getting in between you and excellent Kentucky football recruiting coverage on KSR is tonight’s basketball game.  Throughout today you’ll receive film evaluations from Freddie, hear Kentucky’s primary recruiting pitch and much, much more.  Tomorrow morning the NSD LIVE Diary will keep you updated as the faxes are received until KSR airs LIVE from the ground floor, followed by quotes and analysis from coaches and players.

It’s going to be crazy, but we love every single second of it.

3. Bye-Bye Brent

Legendary play-by-play broadcaster Brent Musburger will call his final game tonight when Kentucky hosts Georgia.  Musburger’s called some fantastic games in baseball, NFL, college football and basketball, most notably the 1985 National Championship between Villanova and Georgetown at Rupp Arena, making tonight’s conclusion at Rupp quite appropriate.

Making the most of his final stop to Lexington, last night he joined Coach Cal and Tom Leach on the John Calipari Show.  Musburger shared stories from the ’85 game and some of the best memories he’s had in the booth.  If you missed it, you need to take 20 minutes to listen to the second half of the show here.  It was without a doubt the best call-in show of the year, maybe ever.

4. Cal was Quick in Yesterday’s Pregame Presser

Not a shy guy with a microphone in front of him, John Calipari didn’t have any extra time to waste at the podium yesterday.  He cut things a little short and players were not available for comment.  They’ve been busy since the Kansas loss.  He met with them individually to make sure they shared the same goals and expectations.

Cal also did things a little differently in the film room.  He showed the team film of all 17 turnovers.  Calipari can live with turnovers, as long as they’re aggressive turnovers.  The plays they made Saturday were not aggressive.

“Aggressive turnovers don’t lead to baskets down the other end,” Calipari said. “Were you just dribbling across and just lose it? What happened? Did he grab you? ‘No, it just kind of got away from me.’ Excuse me? That’s the casual. The look away pass to a win when you didn’t have to.”

5. Heavy Favorites vs. Georgia

Kentucky opened as daunting 16.5-point favorites over the Georgia Bulldogs, who are coming off a win vs. Texas on Saturday.  Led by power forward Yante Maten (19.7 points, 7.7 rpg) and J.J. Frazier (15.5 ppg), if the Cats can’t contain Mark Fox’s dynamic duo, it could be long, late night in the Bluegrass.

6. There’s a New Team Photo

After adding Hamidou Diallo, the team needed to update the official 2016-17 group picture.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

7. New Baseball Uniforms are…

…covered in checkerboard.  For those who hate the pattern, brace yourselves for the jockey silks.  For those who love the checkerboard, prepare for a call to the post.

@UKBaseball

@UKBaseball

8. UK Hoops’ Win Streak Snapped

On the road in Columbia, Missouri, the Cats let a one-point halftime lead slip away, snapping a five-game win streak in a 73-67 loss to the Tigers.  Playing without a post for most of the second half due to foul trouble, the Cats got beat badly on the glass.  Trailing by 11 with five minutes to play, they made a valiant comeback that was cut short.  Read more here.

Kentucky returns to Memorial Coliseum Thursday at 7:00 to play No. 4 South Carolina.

9. Grayson Allen Tripped Somebody, Again

I guess he just can’t kick the habit.

10. Follow KSR on Instagram

Our newest creation is this fabulous conglomeration of photos from KSR photographer Dr. Michael Huang.  You’ll see everything “KSR,” featuring pictures from games, events and so much more.  Only the biggest UK fans make the feed, that’s why Katie George was one of the first to be featured.  Katie will deny it to the death, but deep down she bleeds blue.

FullSizeRender-110

Follow KSR on Instagram and listen to Kentucky Sports Radio, starting in one hour.


Lonnie Johnson’s Difficult Journey to Kentucky

John J. Watkins | NWI Times

John J. Watkins | NWI Times

“It feels amazing.  It’s a dream come true for real.  I’ve been waiting my whole life for this opportunity.”

Before Lonnie Johnson Jr. became a Kentucky Wildcat, before he went to one, then two junior colleges, before he committed to Ohio State, Johnson was just trying to stay alive.  “What I’ve been through, most people probably wouldn’t survive.”

Gary, Indiana

On the drive to Chicago, you’ll pass miles of cornfields, followed by miles of wind turbines.  Just before reaching the Windy City, there’s one final part of Indiana that’s much different than the rest of the state: Gary, Indiana.  A Google search describes Gary as “deteriorating,” “a ghost town,” and “a serial killer’s playground.”

Johnson’s talents on the football field provided him opportunities to leave the rugged, urban area.  Even early in high school, he could’ve attended school in the nicer suburbs, but chose to fight through and prove himself in Gary’s tough terrain.  Against all odds it worked out for Johnson, but not without enduring plenty of pain in the process.

As a high school junior, he caught the eye of Urban Meyer.  Johnson committed to Ohio State before the school year ended in May.  However, grades prevented him from ever making it to Ohio State.

“Where I come from, don’t nobody teach us that, to take care of your academics, get it done right now,” Johnson said last week.  “I’m from a city where you can get killed, like that (snaps his fingers).  It really wasn’t about academics for me in high school, it was about staying out of the way.”

Unfortunately, two of Johnson’s best friends couldn’t stay out of the way.  Two months after committing to Ohio State, he had to attend two funerals in a week.

“I tried my best not to cry but I couldn’t,” Johnson told The NWI Times back in 2013. “One day I saw them in school and then I saw them in a casket. Every touchdown I score is for them. Every touchdown I score I’m going to get on my knee and pray to God.”

Johnson eventually made it out of Gary, but there were many obstacles in the way before he could play Division I football.

JUCO is no Last Chance U

@JUCOFFrenzy

@JUCOFFrenzy

After failing to academically qualify to play at Ohio State, Johnson attended San Bernardino Valley College in California.  After a year in California, he transferred to Garden City Community College in Kansas.  He immediately excelled, totaling 35 tackles five interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2015, earning him an opportunity to play at Iowa State.  He committed and was prepared to sign, when once again he couldn’t academically qualify.

Johnson was running out of opportunities.  Needing to make the grade, he decided not to play football in 2016 to strictly focus on academics.

“Forget the football part.  The football is gonna be there.  I needed to focus on my academics, and look where it got me.”

Johnson said it wasn’t easy.  He couldn’t bear to watch football on TV, but he continued to watch Garden City from the bleachers.

“That was probably the hardest part. The academics part wasn’t that hard once I got into the flow of it.  It was actually me not playing and watching people make plays.  I’m in the crowd like, ‘Dang, he should’ve made that play.  I could’ve did that,'” he said.  “I know I can play with the best of them.  I could’ve played, but I had to watch.  It was tough for me.”

It was so tough, he almost gave up.

“I actually thought about giving it up.  The last year when I sat out I was like, ‘I’m probably not gonna do this no more.’  Then seeing my mom work two jobs and her crying and everything.  ‘Now it’s time to get it together.’  I got it together and now I’m out.”

Not playing was difficult, but even when he was playing it wasn’t easy.  Most people are acquainted with JUCO football from watching Netflix’s Last Chance U.  If you thought they had it bad, Lonnie had it worse.

“I think ours was worse.  They were eating off plates.  In my room, I didn’t have plates.  We’re eating off bags and putting hot sauce on bags and all type of stuff.  It was a struggle.”

The documentary crew planned on filming season two at Garden City, but opted to return to East Mississippi.  “We ended up winning the whole thing, so they felt stupid about that.”

Johnson couldn’t be happier to be finished with JUCO life. “Life in junior college is terrible.  We don’t eat.  The beds are small.  It’s just like the difference between poor and rich.  This is rich right here.  I love it here.  There’s no better experience.”

A New Kentucky Home

Many schools stayed away from Johnson in the last year, worried about his ability to fulfill academic requirements.  Steve Clinkscale and Vince Marrow were confident Johnson could make the cut.  Before Alabama and others got on the bandwagon, Kentucky’s coaches contacted him.  After being treated like a number at other places, Kentucky felt like family.  Coach Clinkscale and the others are like uncles, and Marrow is like another father.

“He’s like a father.  He’s not going to tell you bull.  He’s going to be on you straight from the jump.    That’s what you need.  You need a coach that’s going to be real with you,” Johnson said.

Once he heard from Coach Stoops and learned his background, it was an easy decision.  “It played a big part because I didn’t know he coached the Miami dogs.  Once I seen that, it was pretty much wraps.”

@Lonnie30Johnson

@Lonnie30Johnson

Johnson’s enjoyed his first two weeks at Kentucky.  He’s befriended his fellow defensive backs.  They ride to campus together, workout together and exchange tips of the trade inside Nutter Field House.  Still, he’s adjusting.

“The first two days I threw up,” after failing to eat before working out.  It’s simply not something he’s used to.  “I’m still in my JUCO mindset. I’m trying to break myself out of that, but I really can’t.  That’s where I’m from.”


After years of struggling, when Johnson received final clearance he thanked God.  He made it.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet.  I’m here, but probably in the spring.  The Spring Game I’m gonna see the crowd and actually start making plays and hear the noise.”

When Johnson does finally take the field, years and years of hard work and perseverance will finally produce results, results that will terrify opponents.

“Going through all that, it just makes you hungrier.  It’s like if you don’t feed a dog for so long, then you let him out the cage and see what he does,” Johnson said.  “Now I’ve got a huge chip on my shoulder.  There’s about to be some terror here.”


More on Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald and What He Means to Kentucky

More on Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald and What He Means to Kentucky

“I’ve decided to commit to the University of Kentucky. Go Wildcats #BBN” – @abizzle42

A Raw Talent

Born in Nigeria, Abadi-Fitzgerald came to the country in middle school.  He stuck to basketball and excelled, surpassing 1,000-points for Victory Christian Prep in Lakeland, Fl. this December.  Last year was his first football season.  Blessed with excellent size (6’7″ 250) and agile feet, if given the proper technique he has the potential to become an excellent defensive lineman.

An Outstanding D-Line

Mark Stoops is known as a developer of defensive backs, but in his final years at FSU his best players were edge rushers.  He’s seen marginal production through development, but Denzil Ware is the only notable name in the recruiting front.  That changed this year.

Stoops has five excellent edge rushers on the defensive line.  Josh Paschal can play right away; Jordan Wright and Alex King will compete for a starting spot after a redshirt season; Christopher Whittaker and Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald are considered projects, but they would not be considered that under previous administrations.

There’s no doubt this is Stoops’ best defensive line.  The only other position group in a single recruiting class that is comparable is the 2015 defensive backs (Baity, Westry).

Growing the Florida Pipeline

Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow have made their money on the recruiting trails in Ohio.  The pipeline has flourished, but it can’t run forever.  Stoops needed to diversify to other territories.  Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw are getting it done in Florida. Ohio boasts the two highest-ranked recruits (Bowden, Richardson) but if you prefer quantity over quality, you prefer Gran/Hinshaw over Marrow/Clinkscale.  There are eight committed prospects from the state of Florida, six from Ohio.

That isn’t the craziest part about Abadi-Fitzgerald’s announcement.  After officially visiting Lexington on Saturday, he traveled to Gainesville on Sunday for an official visit to the University of Florida.

what-pratt

That is correct.  A 6’7″ 250-pound defensive lineman from the state of Florida, took back-to-back visits to UK and Florida and still turned down the Gators.  This is not an alternate universe, this is Kentucky football recruiting under Mark Stoops.

“First”

The latest trend in major college football recruiting is “find out who Kentucky just offered.”  Abadi-Fitzgerald only had offers from FIU, FAU and other Florida-acronym schools when Kentucky quietly extended a scholarship offer last week.  Shortly after, Florida extended an offer, then Miami and Florida State called.  Stoops’ staff certainly knows how to evaluate talent.

Late Additions Work Well

Stoops has a knack for finding productive talent just before National Signing Day.  Chris Westry might be his best, might.  Tavin Richardson is just getting started, T.J. Carter proved in the bowl game he’s a future star on the D-Line, Courtney Miggins was a team captain, Pringle was the most improved player on the defense and Josh Allen is on his way to a career in the NFL.  Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald could be the next great, late addition.

One day until National Signing Day, here’s what the 2017 class looks like…

Kentucky Football Class of 2017

NamePositionHometownHeightWeight 247 Composite
Javonte RichardsonWRMaple Heights, Oh.6-42104-star
Tyrell Ajian ATH/DBMansfield, Oh.6-11854-star
Lynn BowdenATHYoungstown, Oh.6-11854-star
Joshua PaschalSDEOlney, Md.6-42554-star
Yusuf CorkerCBStockbridge, GA 6-01854-star
Danny ClarkQBStow, Oh.6-42253-star
Alex KingDEMason, Oh.6-42353-star
Phil HoskinsDT (JUCO)Toledo, Oh. 6-52753-star
Bryant KobackRBHolland, Oh.5-111913-star
Joshua AliWRHollywood, Fl.6-01803-star
Clevan ThomasWRHollywood, Fl.5-111903-star
Michael NesbittCBFt. Lauderdale, Fl.6-01853-star
Jamin DavisOLBLincolnton, Ga.6-32053-star
Walker WoodQBLexington, Ky.6-11873-star
Quinton BohannaDTCordova, Tn.6-32753-star
Nassir WatkinsOTOlney, Md.6-63003-star
Christopher Whittaker DEHollywood, Fl.6-42463-star
Cedrick DortCBPalm Bech Gardens, Fl.6-11653-star
Austin DotsonOTBelfry, Ky.6-63053-star
Sebastien DolcineOLMiramar, Fl. 6-42853-star
Lonnie JohnsonSGary, In.6-31903-star
Jordan Wright DEFt. Lauderdale, Fl.6-52253-star
Abule Abadi-FitzgeraldDELakeland, Fl.6-72503-star
Isaiah EppsWRJenks, Ok.6-31853-star

BREAKING: Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald Commits to Kentucky

@CoachTommyLewis

@CoachTommyLewis

Two days before National Signing Day, Mark Stoops has found a diamond in the rough.  After officially visiting Lexington this weekend, Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald has committed to Kentucky.

Abadi-Fitzgerald is unranked by many major scouting services.  At 6’7″ 245-pounds, he’s a raw talent that received a ton of attention over the last week, drawing late offers from Florida and Miami.  Luckily, Stoops’ staff recognized his potential early.  He’s extremely athletic for his size, an 1,000-point scorer on the basketball team, but without much experience in football, Abadi-Fitzgerald’s ceiling is through the roof.

Enjoy these highlights from his senior season.

The 24th commitment in Stoops’ 2017 class will be considered quite the steal in years to come.