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Next Man Up: Nik Ognenovic is Built to be an SEC Tight End


As C.J. Conrad completes his final year at Kentucky, another tight end looks prepared to seamlessly fill his shoes.

Ft. Lauderdale’s Nik Ognenovic (Oh-Gin-oh-vick) is a 6’7″ 240-pound pass-catcher that will sign with Kentucky in December.  With three tight ends returning next fall, it may take him some time to climb up the depth chart to get on the field, but Ognenovic has the size and work ethic to become one of the best in the SEC.

Why UK?

The Cardinal Gibbons tight end first caught the eyes of Eddie Gran while UK’s offensive coordinator scouted his quarterback, Nik Scalzo.  Yes, Kentucky will sign a pair of Niks from the same team.

“We thought we were being creative,” Nik’s father Steve told KSR.  “Apparently the Scalzo’s thought the same way.”

The two Niks won a 7-on-7 National Championship and are on the way to a State Championship after upsetting rival American Heritage two weeks ago.  Scalzo gives himself credit for getting the tight end to commit to Kentucky.

Ognenovic’s recruitment essentially came down to four schools — Kentucky, Pitt and Louisville.  He had a teammate already committed to each school: offensive guard Jamari Brown to Louisville, running back Vincent Davis to Pitt and Scalzo to UK.

“I’m the reason why he’s going to Kentucky,” Scalzo said.  “He had to take his quarterback over his running back.”

Ognenovic tells a different story.

“I had them both in my ear, but ultimately you have to make the decision for yourself. I felt like Kentucky was the better decision for me,” Ognenovic said.  “Every time I was on campus it just felt like home. I just felt like I belonged there.”

Each school had its pros and cons, some more than others.  At the end of the day, Kentucky was the “total package.”

“He’s a perfect fit for the school,” Steve Ognenovic said.  “I can’t say enough about Coach Gran, Coach Stoops and Coach Marrow, (tight end GA) Mike Colosimo, all of those guys over there. We feel they’re in good hands.”

Nik’s parents will never be too far from their son.  They’re in the process of purchasing an RV to travel to every game.  When his parents aren’t around, they trust in Stoops’s staff.  Stoops told the Ognenovics,  “When you turn ‘em over to us, this is family up here. Don’t worry about it.”

Built to (Almost) Beat Dad

Before Big Nik committed to Kentucky, they visited schools all across the country.  At almost every stop there was a photoshoot.  In each photoshoot Nik was not the star.


Those guns didn’t get there overnight.  Steve will take his son to the gym to show him a thing or two.

“It’s exhausting, but it’s fun,” Nik said. “I try to do his weight all the time. Most of the time I can, until we hit our fourth set of 12 and I start to die.”

Then the trash-talk begins.

“That’s great that you’re this big, strong, aggressive, athletic athlete that’s a D-I SEC receiver. Don’t ever think for a second that your Dad won’t put you on your back,” Steve laughed.  After all, he’s gotta get in all the shots while he can.

“I don’t know how many more months of this I have left but I tell you what, I definitely was on top the last time we wrestled and I definitely beat him up in the gym. I might have to just quit while I’m ahead. After you guys get him at UK, I don’t think there’s going to be anymore of Dad out-performing him in the gym, I’ll tell you that.”

There is one area where Nik has a slight advantage over his pops.  “He’s got an eight-pack going, not even a six-pack, an eight-pack. I’m kind of jealous a little bit.”

Conrad Connection

One of UK’s best recruiters for Ognenovic was C.J. Conrad.  The senior hosted Ognenovic on his official visit this summer.  The two immediately clicked.  After speaking with Ognenovic for two minutes, I understood why.

A soft-spoken teenager, Ognenovic is physically gifted, but that’s not why he’s successful.  The tight end is a non-nonsense “yes sir, no sir” person.  All of his success is rooted in work ethic.  That approach and his personality mirrors a young Conrad.

“I don’t talk a lot. I just try to stay humble and do what I’m supposed to do,” said Nik.

Cardinal Gibbons coach Matt DuBuc has never had a problem with Nik or his “off the charts” work ethic. “Whatever coach tells him to do, he’s going to do it.”

“The kid has a really good head on his shoulders,” his father said.  “He’s a great student of the game. I think he takes direction very well.”

Ognenovic’s personality is a reflection of his favorite player, Larry Fitzgerald.  He’s not a fan because he was on the cover of a video game.  He models his game after Fitzgerald because of how Fitzgerald became great.

“He’s humble, he does his job. He’s very consistent, he does what he’s supposed to do and I’ve always looked up to him since I was like six.”

When Ognenovic first met Conrad, he could see many of the same characteristics.  Conrad wasn’t the biggest or most athletic tight end when he first got to Kentucky, but he developed into a monster in the SEC.  That didn’t happen overnight.

“I really like how he developed,” Nik said.  “I wanna play just like C.J.”

To get there, Ognenovic has plenty of work to do.  He currently plays in an Air Raid scheme, often detached as a slot receiver.  Vince Marrow will be tasked to mold him into a physical blocker in the trenches.  If Ognenovic takes one step at a time, the sky is the limit.

“I said it to Coach Stoops and Coach Gran before, this isn’t just a proud Dad talking, but he’s on pace to be one of the best tight ends in the country before his NCAA career is over.”

Louisville Linebacker Shawnkel Knight-Goff Commits to KENTUCKY


Another rising gridiron star from the state of Kentucky will stay home to be a Wildcat.

During senior night ceremonies at Doss High School in Louisville, outside linebacker Shawnkel Knight-Goff committed to Kentucky over UofL.

A three-star outside linebacker, the ninth-ranked player from the Commonwealth is a versatile athlete that can play a variety of positions in the middle of the defense.  Knight-Goff is the second Louisville athlete in Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class, joining Butler wide receiver Demontae “Tae Tae” Crumes.

Knight-Goff originally committed to the Cats back in May.  The short courtship from Vince Marrow drew caution from family members, leading to a de-commitment, but it was meant to be between Kentucky and Knight-Goff.

Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class is now ranked 36th in the country with 19 commitments.  Marrow has at least six spots to fill and up to three could be from the Commonwealth.  With Wandale Robinson and J.J. Weaver deciding next week, Knight-Goff could be the first domino to fall in an explosive recruiting season finale.

Former UK Wide Receiver could Return to Kentucky


After a year in junior college, one former Kentucky wide receiver is looking for a new Division I football home.  It may be his Old Kentucky Home.

JaVonte Richardson enrolled at Iowa Western Community College last spring after academic issues forced him to leave UK.  Halfway through an exceptional season of JUCO football, Richardson told 247 Sports he could be back in Lexington soon.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, and the school has told me if I go back to Kentucky I can go in December of this year, but if I go to any other school I have to stay at Iowa Western through next spring semester,” Richardson explained. “I have been talking to Kentucky and going back there is a possibility for me, because I really liked it there.”

“I have talked to Coach (Mark) Stoops about going back and that is a definite possibility,” he noted. “Right now, I’m just trying to play my best and get some looks from some bigger schools like Georgia or Alabama. There are schools talking to my coaches at Iowa Western, and there are college coaches here weekly.”

Having a one-semester head start and the familiar setting are incentives to bring the former four-star prospect back to UK.  In Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class Richardson was the fourth highest-ranked recruit, only behind Lynn Bowden, Josh Paschal and Tyrell Ajian, a trio that has already made a significant impact on the field.

A minor ankle injury has limited Richardson to just five games this season, but he’s been productive.  He’s caught 17 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns.  247 Sports ranks Richardson as the No. 2 JUCO wide receiver prospect in the country.

[247 Sports]


In-State Football Star to Announce Decision Friday Night


One of the state’s top uncommitted football recruits will announce his college decision Friday night.

Three-star outside linebacker Shawnkel Knight-Goff will choose either Kentucky or Louisville during halftime Senior Night ceremonies at Louisville Doss High School.

The ninth-ranked player in the state of Kentucky, Knight-Goff is a versatile athlete that can play a variety of positions.  A one-time Kentucky commit, most believe he’ll will rejoin UK’s 2019 recruiting class this Friday.

If Knight-Goff picks Kentucky, he will become the Cats’ second commitment from the city of Louisville, the third Kentuckian and the 19th member of the 2019 class.  Vince Marrow expects to take 25 players in this class.

Knight-Goff’s decision will be one week before J.J. Weaver and Wandale Robinson announce where they will play college football.  Friday night could be the first domino to fall for a monumental recruiting week.

CORRECTION: Wandale Robinson did NOT eliminate three finalists


Yesterday I published an update on Wandale Robinson’s recruitment titled, “Wandale Robinson Narrows List to Three Schools.” That was false.

The meat and potatoes of the post came from an Omaha World-Herald interview with Robinson’s father, Dale. I misinterpreted the following passage from the World-Herald article:

Wandale Robinson is now focusing on Nebraska, Kentucky and Ohio State along with Alabama, Purdue and Michigan as his finalists. He took official visits to each school except Kentucky — he was in Lincoln for the canceled Akron game — and was most recently at Ohio State on Oct. 6.

There’s no excuses for mistakes. To the fans, I apologize for giving you incorrect information. Most importantly, I apologize to the Robinson family. High-level college football recruiting is chaotic enough without media members publishing false reports.

Wandale Robinson Narrows List to Three


Time is ticking on Wandale Robinson’s recruitment.  As his decision day draws near, Kentucky remains in the mix.

Yesterday Dale Robinson, Wandale’s father, told the Omaha World-Herald there will be three finalists when Wandale decides November 1 — Kentucky, Nebraska and Ohio State.

“We’ve basically seen everything we need to see,” Dale Robinson said. “We’re gonna evaluate pros and cons and then also add the comfortability with the coaches and players and how he feels about each. Then we’ll go from there.”

Initially Robinson planned on spending his last weekend as a recruit in Nebraska, but those plans have changed.  He’ll stay in Kentucky to “focus on his final regular season game.”

Read into those quotes as you please.  You can also spend quite a bit of time trying to decipher Wandale’s latest Tweets.  On Saturday he used an emoji to Tweet about Nebraska’s offense.  The following day he sent out this:

Many will be on pins and needles until the four-star Adidas All-American makes his decision next Thursday.  While you’re waiting, enjoy his most recent highlights from Friday night’s game against Boyle County, vote for him to be the Midwest Region Player of the Year and check out this Friday’s game at Western Hills against Harrison County.

[Omaha World-Herald]

Kentucky Football gets 2020 Commit, Loses 2020 Lexington Star

UK Football

As the 2019 recruiting cycle nears its conclusion, two significant developments occurred on the 2020 front.  The Cats picked up their first commitment in the 2020 class as a star from just down the road announced he is leaving the state.

Before the good news, here’s the bad news: Walker Parks will be a Clemson Tiger.  The 6’5″ Frederick Douglass offensive tackle is considered a four-star prospect by the 247 Sports Composite.  John Schlarman recruited Parks, but the junior was sold as soon as he stepped on campus.

The Good News: UK picked up a commitment just moments later from a 2020 offensive tackle. Richie Leonard announced on Twitter he was going to be a Wildcat shortly after the 6’4″ 285-pounder visited Lexington with his teammates from Cocoa, Florida.

Leonard was also being recruited by Louisville, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Purdue, among others. Watch him do work:

Four-Star Pass Rusher is Officially Visiting Kentucky this Weekend


One of the state’s most talented uncommitted prospects will take his final official visit this weekend with a trip to Kentucky.

Four-star edge rusher J.J. Weaver will make the short drive from Louisville to watch the Cats take on Vanderbilt.  Weaver is no stranger to Kroger Field.  In his most recent unofficial visit, the pass rusher watched Josh Allen dominate Mississippi State.

The timing of the visit works well for Kentucky.  UK gets the final pitch before he makes his decision in two weeks.  A Broward County, Florida native, Miami is UK’s toughest competition.  UofL, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Purdue are also finalists, but the Cats are in the driver’s seat and could close the deal this weekend.

If Vince Marrow can seal the deal, Weaver will be a game-changer. Take a look for yourself.

Weaver will not be the only recruit on campus.  There will be a number of underclassmen in attendance and a 2019 commit, DeMarcus Harris.  The wide receiver is making the trip from Florida for an unofficial visit.  He’s already posted some outstanding numbers this season — 1,142 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns.  See some of Harris’ best work here.

Watch this Incredible Run from Wandale Robinson


Kentucky recruit, Wandale Robinson, is no stranger to the highlight reel and on Friday night he added to his extensive collection of impressive plays.

Watch as the Western Hills star spins out of two tackles and seemingly evades all other 21 people on the field.

In a 42-32 victory over Garrard County, Robison had a stat line of 288 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, a 35-yard touchdown pass, 16 tackles, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble & a sack. Sheesh.

Wandale Robinson will announce his commitment on November 1st, in honor of his late cousin. He will pick between Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Purdue, and Michigan.


Next Man Up: Nik Scalzo, The Next Baker Mayfield?


Nik Scalzo has quite a bit in common with the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.

Baker Mayfield set records as a high school quarterback.  The UK quarterback commit already has no shortage of school passing records.  Mayfield did not have a lengthy scholarship offer sheet.  Scalzo was primarily recruited by the Ivy League.  Each were over-looked because of their height.

We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it,” Scalzo told KSR. “He had to walk-on at two schools and now he’s the No. 1 overall draft pick.”

There was one person who always thought Scalzo could be an elite college football quarterback, Eddie Gran.  Scalzo does not plan on disappointing Kentucky’s offensive coordinator.

“A Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler”

Cardinal Gibbons head coach Matt DuBuc describes Scalzo as a competitor.  Like many of Mark Stoops’ best players, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, one he developed at a young age.

“He’s got that built-in chip on his shoulder,” said his father, Jerry.  “He’s like that Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler. Seriously, I never see him flinch. That’s the beautiful part about it. The moment’s never too big for him.”

Scalzo is no stranger to big opportunities.  In the 8th grade National Championships, the 7th-grader had to lead his team 80 yards to the end zone in less than a minute to get a chance to play in the title game.  His team left the tournament with a national championship trophy.

“He’s made play after play after play,” said DuBuc.  Scalzo has made plays for Cardinal Gibbons and in 7-on-7 tournaments.  Last summer he brought home another national championship, this time for the South Florida Express in the Adidas National Championships.  The top performer in the Florida regional Elite 11 camp, he did not get invited to The Opening because he’s only six-feet tall.

“For him it’s always been that. You’re too short. You’re not fast enough. You don’t have a strong enough arm,” his father recalled.

As outsiders doubted Scalzo’s ability, he never did.

“You put the work in, you did what you’re supposed to do and you can have a great story. Keep doing what you do,” Jerry Scalzo told his son.

The shots at his height don’t bother Scalzo anymore.

“All through little league and freshman football, I’ve always been the smallest quarterback, so I just got used to it and grew with it,” Nik said.  “All the height stuff, that’s overlooked in my opinion because if you’re a player, you’re a player. It doesn’t matter how tall you are. If you’re going to make the plays, you’re going to make the plays.”

Style Inside and Outside of the Pocket

Making plays is not a problem for Nik Scalzo.  He has a knack for making them in the most miraculous ways possible.

Defined by scouting services as a dual-threat quarterback, there’s no denying he’s an exceptional athlete.  However, that tag usually means the quarterback makes his money with rushing yards.  Instead of using his legs to get downfield, he uses them to create more time for his receivers to get open.

During a game against Dillard High School, Gibbons was backed up deep in their own territory.  The blitz got to Scalzo immediately.  Instead of panicking, he spun away from a defender.  Scrambling left, two defensive linemen were waiting for him.  He stopped, jumped, took a hit and released the ball for a first down.

If that doesn’t articulate his play well enough, this should:

What helps keep Scalzo from panicking is between the ears.  He was recruited by Ivy League schools for a reason.

“He’s a very smart kid,” his father said.  “He’s one of those kids who’s extremely athletic, but he’s very cerebral. He’s got a 4.9 GPA. He’s one of those kids that’s very, very cerebral. He’s playing chess out there.”

He prefers to use his athleticism to evade defenders before making a pass, but he’s wise enough to know when to run.  Once he takes off down the field, he kicks into a new gear.  Scalzo has one skill few have: he can do a standing backflip.  One of his favorite things to do off the field is flip off bridges into waterways.  That has use on a football field.

Flipping is kind of a Scalzo family thing.  His younger sister is a gymnast who committed to Arkansas prior to her junior year.  Jerry Scalzo refused to reveal who he thinks is his most athletic child, but Nik did not bat an eye when the question was asked.

“Her. She’s In the gym like eight hours a day. It’s insane.”

Why UK?

Scalzo has quite a few Kentucky connections.  Before B.J. Alexander and Akeem Hayes were Kentucky Wildcats, they caught passes from Scalzo in youth football leagues.  He made them look good, but he made UK freshman safety Stanley Garner look bad when he dove over Garner into the end zone last year. However, Scalzo felt a connection to Kentucky long before his peers went to Lexington.

“The first time I met him I knew that’s someone I wanted to play for.”

The short quarterback was even shorter when Eddie Gran first saw Scalzo play as a high school freshman.  The UK offensive coordinator needed to see more from Scalzo before offering him a scholarship.  He showed improvements at a 2017 summer camp.  Scalzo was in Lexington for this year’s Junior Day and the Spring Game.  Shortly after receiving a scholarship offer, Scalzo committed.

“I didn’t commit there just because it was my only SEC school (to offer). I actually believe that I can play there. It’s just a matter of time.”

In his four years of high school football, he’s already accomplished quite a bit.  Scalzo has almost every school record for passing, most recently surpassing the single-game passing touchdown record with six.  Last night he led Gibbons to a 24-14 victory over national powerhouse American Heritage.  Throwing against future SEC defensive backs, Scalzo dropped dimes to snap an 11-game losing streak against Heritage.

Scalzo has checked many boxes on his list of goals and he’s met his football hero, Baker Mayfield.

“He’s my favorite player ever. I would consider myself the same play-style as him. I’m not as cocky as him, but we have the same mentality because we’re both short quarterbacks. We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it.”

Scalzo has been told his life he can’t be an elite college football quarterback.  He plans on doing just that at the University of Kentucky.

via @reesesmith_

UK Football offers 2020 in-state receiver, Reese Smith

via @reesesmith_

Mark Stoops and the rest of his staff have officially extended a scholarship offer to Kentucky’s own Reese Smith. The wide receiver, who is listed as 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, currently plays for Boyle County High School in Danville. He’s set to graduate in 2020.

As a junior, his numbers are already impressive: 27 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. 24/7 Sports has Smith listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 10 recruit in Kentucky. He’s already received offers from Tennessee, Cincinnati and Troy, among others. Check out some of his sophomore-season highlights here:

BBN, show the man some love on Twitter:

Kentucky fans love a Kentucky boy… just ask Kash Daniel. Reese Smith, come on down.


Cavon Butler will Visit Kentucky this Weekend


A week after receiving an offer from Ohio State, one Kentucky commit will visit UK’s campus for the first time.

Defensive tackle Cavon Butler told 247 Sports that he will make the trip from Toledo to Lexington this weekend.  Butler’s first visit to UK comes more than two months after he verbally committed.

“I’m still fully committed to Kentucky, and I’m going to be visiting there for the first time this weekend,” Butler said. “I talk to the coaches almost every day, and they are really good people at Kentucky. I’m 100% committed there, and this week’s visit might be an official but we are still talking about that.”

The lead recruited for Butler is Vince Marrow.  Butler still has official visits planned to Michigan State and Ohio State.  He’ll be in Columbus when the Buckeyes host Michigan.

[247 Sports]

Jared Casey Commits to Oregon

247 Sports

One of the best football players from the state of Kentucky will play college football outside of the Commonwealth.  Four-star Louisville Ballard linebacker Jared Casey announced he will attend the University of Oregon.

A top 300 player nationally, Casey is considered the No. 18 inside linebacker in the country, although he’ll likely play on the edge at the next level.

Casey’s path to recruiting stardom is one rarely used.  He flew under the radar as an unheralded recruit hampered by injuries, until he earned linebacker MVP honors at a Nashville Rivals camp.  Days later Oregon offered him a scholarship, narrowly beating Vince Marrow to the punch.

The Commonwealth has eight four-star prospects in the 2019 recruiting class.  Five have now committed to programs outside of the state.  As we learned earlier today, Marrow and Mark Stoops are in an excellent position to land the final three, as well as another talented linebacker from Louisville, Shawnkel Knight-Goff.