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Kentucky could add a Running back in the 2018 Recruiting Class

The Wetumpka Herald

Bryant Koback’s unexpected departure from the Kentucky football team has put the UK coaches in a pickle.  With Sihiem King and (likely) Benny Snell playing in their final season in 2018, it leaves just two running backs on the roster, A.J. Rose and incoming freshman Chris Rodriguez.

Kavosiey Smoke could solve the problem.

A three-star uncommitted 2018 athlete from Wetumpka, Alabama, Smoke is one of a handful of targets Kentucky will pursue in the final month of the football recruiting season.

Smoke first received an offer from Kentucky in June, a month before Rodriguez committed to Kentucky.  The conversations cooled down, but after Koback’s departure, that will likely change once the dead period ends on January 11.  Smoke is also considering Auburn, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia Tech and Miss. State among others.

Even after you watch his highlights, I think we can all agree Smoke’s greatest asset is his last name.

If the Cats can’t get (a) Smoke, the depth at running back can be solved in other ways.  I believe Lynn Bowden would be perfectly happy to transition into a role that puts the ball in his hands as much as possible.

How Mark Stoops Described the 2018 Signees

How Mark Stoops Described the 2018 Signees

After Mark Stoops signed 20 new players on Wednesday, he shared a little insight on what you’ll see from them on Kroger Field in the near future.

Nose Guard Marquan McCall

The top-ranked player in the class will play on the defensive line.

“That was our intention because that’s what he wanted to play when he got here, and we looked at him on both sides of the ball and felt like he was versatile enough to play on either side. The big thing is I wanted him playing at Kentucky, whatever side of the ball was good with me.”

Stoops praised Steve Clinkscale for pulling McCall and DeAndre Square out of the state of Michigan.

I think it was very important. I appreciate Coach Clink did a good job. He had some relationships in there, getting DeAndre out of Cass Tech is important. There’s some very good football players in there. I think he’s done a nice job.

Tight End Brenden Bates

“Brendan is another kid that I could just go on and on about because you love his athletic ability, but more important you love the type of person he is because he is a lot like CJ. In that regard I think he’s bigger than CJ was — I know he’s bigger than CJ coming out, and that’s a nice thing, but Brendan is much like CJ in that he is a great team player and he’ll do anything to help the football team win.

“He’s a competitor. Again, never wavered, not a bit, and was getting pulled and called and all kind of things, and he wouldn’t hear it and he wouldn’t visit. He wasn’t taking any calls. It just says a lot about him and his character and who he is. But very, very good football player, got unbelievable size.

“He’s, again, that prototypical tight end. Both him and Keaton [Upshaw] are exactly what you’re looking for at tight end. You watch their highlights, you see their size and how physical they are and how big they are already, they’ve become very close to the recruiting process. They’ll fit great in that room. I think we have a very good room with the tight ends, and it’ll be great to add those two guys.”

Wide Receiver Bryce Oliver

“I think he was a very big commit. He was obviously on our radar for a good bit, but again, very strong young man. He was taking some time, taking his visits, and we felt good about it, but he came here on campus, had a great visit, and we were obviously extremely pleased when we got that commitment because I believe he’s a big-time player, and he’s going to be a difference maker. He plays exceptionally strong. He’s very mature. He’s all business, tremendous basketball player, so a very good athlete. We’re very happy with him.”

An outside receiver, Stoops said they needed players that could spread the defense by making plays downfield.  Marvin Alexander is another player who can do that.

“You look for some guys that have the ability to stretch the field and go vertical and go up over people and make competitive catches, and so we want some outside guys, as well. And that’s what Marvin and Bryce, guys that can get down the field and go get the football. But Marvin was a guy that came here in camp, and after one day of camp, I said, ‘Eddie, we have to have him.’ Like there’s no way I want to play against him, and we need him here. So he was a priority. He’s dynamic.”


The Depth Chart Podcast: Early Signing Period Draft

To help you get to know the 20 recruits who signed with the University of Kentucky on Wednesday, The Depth Chart Podcast held a draft.  The order of selection will give you more insight as to how the new Cats will perform once they get to Lexington.  Hear who has the best team, a little Music City Bowl preview, and…

— Who’s ready to play right away on either side of the ball.

—  This is Stoops’ best offensive line class.

—  Keys to a Kentucky victory in Nashville.

—  How a basketball win could lead to a football win.

—  You only get one Christmas movie to watch from now until forever.

—  The positives and negatives of the Early Signing Period.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Kentucky’s Early Signing Day Recap For The Casual Fan

Kentucky’s Early Signing Day Recap For The Casual Fan

Wednesday was a big day for the University of Kentucky football program as Mark Stoops and his staff signed almost the entire 2018 class of Wildcats in a single day during college football’s new early signing period. Of all the schools that took advantage of the new period in its inaugural year, I’m not sure any did so more than UK football. Stoops and Co. really made the most of the new opportunity to get guys locked in a month and a half ahead of time.

As you’ve probably seen, we here at Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com have coverage galore of the day’s events and the players who signed; so much coverage that it’s almost too much for the casual football fan to digest in one sitting. If you fall into that casual fan category — whether it’s because you’re too busy or simply uninterested in the day-to-day football recruiting grind — you probably need the dumbed-down version of what happened throughout the day.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not everyone spends every waking moment on UK sites and message boards. So for those people — the people who love the UK football program on game days but aren’t as in tune with the happenings in recruiting — here is a more simple and straightforward rundown of the day. Consider it like a “UK Signing Day For Dummies,” not that you’re a dummy.

Kentucky signed 20 players to its 2018 class. The staff will only add another three or four on National Signing Day in early February, which means they can rest easy knowing the majority of the class is set and there will be no detrimental and surprising decommitments at the last minute.

— All but one of Kentucky’s 20 verbal commits signed. If you were to look at the list Tuesday night, only Xavier Peters, a highly-coveted linebacker out of Ohio, did not sign on the dotted line Wednesday morning. Peters has until Friday to sign in the early period, and if he does, he will be Kentucky’s highest-ranked linebacker signee since Micah Johnson. If his LOI isn’t in by Friday, keeping him through February will be the top priority.

— The Cats also picked up a brand new commit on Wednesday with the addition of wide receiver Bryce Oliver, who filled the wide receiver spot that was left open by Meechi Harris’ surprise Tuesday decommitment. Harris had committed to Kentucky back in October and the staff was very excited to get him. His untimely departure opened the door for Oliver, who is a high school teammate of another signee, Stanley Garner.

Terry Touchdown is official. Despite some late interest from other major programs, JUCO transfer Terry Wilson remained true to his verbal commitment and inked his Letter of Intent to play quarterback at Kentucky for the next three years. He will be on campus as a participating member of the team this winter; therefore, the 2018 quarterback competition is on.

— Kentucky signed eight players from the state of Florida, which is more Floridians than in any other class in school history. It’s a pretty remarkable feat given the competition for players in the Sunshine State these days. Nicely done, Eddie Gran.

— Kentucky signed two players from the state of Michigan, one of whom is the state’s top overall player. Kentucky hasn’t had a player from Michigan in decades.

Marquan McCall is the aforementioned top player in Michigan, and he is also the highest-ranked player in Kentucky’s 2018 class. He is monster of a young man who can play either side of the line, but he is projected as a defensive lineman for the Wildcats. He signed with Kentucky over Michigan and Michigan State.

Vince Marrow is a happy man after signing two new tight ends of contrasting styles. Three-star Brendan Bates is a more of a pass-catching tight end, while three-star Keaton Upshaw is massive person who can knock some heads off. Both are from Ohio, and both are very good gets.

— John Schlarman’s offensive line might’ve benefitted most from the first wave of talent in the ’18 class. He adds Quintin Wilson, a top-15 center nationally; Darrian Kinnard, the eighth-ranked tackle in the class, according to 247Sports; another interior player in Kenneth Horsey; and maybe Marquan McCall, depending on which side of the ball he plays.

Aussie punter Max Duffy was the first member of the class to sign, given the fact he was several hours ahead when the signing period began. He will be 25 years old when he suits up for the Cats next fall, likely as the starter.

— Kicker Chance Poore signed, too. What a name.

— For the first time ever, the class includes zero players from the state of Kentucky. That could of course change before its completed, but for now, Stoops has zero in-state guys on board.

— Running back signee Chris Rodriguez has drawn comparisons to Benny Snell. That is a very unfair comparison for anyone, but both Freddie Maggard and Mark Stoops have said they see similarities in how the two running backs play.

— Stoops noted that many of his new signees were asked to wait until February by other top-tier programs. He said, “There’s guys on here that were getting poked at until last night, and constantly pulled and asked to not sign, and don’t sign early and come on visits, and being offered scholarships yesterday or the past couple days, and these guys didn’t waver.”

— The class is (currently) ranked No. 27 by and No. 28 in the 247 Sports Composite Rankings.

Go Cats.

Smooth December Signing Day

Smooth December Signing Day

Mark Stoops signed 20 Wildcats on the program’s first ever December Signing Day. The experiment went as good as could be expected; it could have also been described as “smooth.” Final class rankings will be released soon. Results will vary, of course.

Not too long ago Kentucky was battling mid-level programs for talent. One thing that jumped out at me on Wednesday was the schools that Kentucky competed against on the recruiting trail, and won. Just think about it. If the 20 Cats hadn’t signed on Wednesday, competing head coaches would have turned the heat up in the latter portion of the recruiting process. There’s no such thing as a fair fight in the fairytale term/world known as “committed.” Below you’ll see each position group broken down by the player’s name and list of a schools that Vince Marrow defeated for signatures.


Any of the three could compete for playing time in 2018 if necessary. Jamari Brown and Stanley Garner fit the mold of Derrick Baity and Chris Westry. Both are 6’2-plus. But, these two rookies may be a tad bit faster. Brown played continuous press-coverage. Garner is higher rated. Both appear to be fiercely competitive. Dom Williams played for Fulton High School in Knoxville prior to attending Highland Community College. This tells me that he’s extremely well coached and disciplined. Fulton’s coaching staff is known for player development.

Name Chose UK Over
Jamari Brown Auburn, SC, Oregon, Louisville, Pitt
Stanley Garner Miami, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Michigan
Dom Williams Iowa State, Colorado State

Defensive Line

Marquan McCall is the top player from the state of Michigan. He’s also rated as a top-5 guard in the nation. McCall has the size, mentality, and ability to play offense or defense. As of now, he’s projected at nose tackle and could press for immediate playing time. Qua Mahone is a late riser much like Josh Allen and TJ Carter were in prior classes. A basketball player that added 40 lbs., Mahone is raw and possesses and extremely high ceiling. Davoan Hawkins has something special about him; high effort/motor. Hawkins rarely left the field while playing for a Florida 3A state championship team. Hawkins and Mahone will require time in the strength and conditioning program. McCall could be ready now.

Defensive line and “Best Available” are the two target groups to close out the Class of 2018.

Name Chose UK Over
Qua Mahone Tennessee
Marquan McCall Michigan, Michigan St, Penn St,
Davoan Hawkins Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin,


Ashtan Pierre was labeled as an ATH. He’s fluid, twitchy, and explosive. Plays with a mean streak. Needs to add weight and upper-body strength but is fast enough to play safety and plenty physical enough to challenge at linebacker. Deandre Square is said to be an early enrollee. This could help the Cass Tech alum in his search for near-term playing time. The fact that Kentucky signed a linebacker from Cass Tech, one of the nation’s premier producers of college and NFL talent, is an incredible accomplishment. Stoops didn’t just sign any player from Cass Tech, but a linebacker with offers from LSU and most other major programs.

Name Chose UK Over
Ashtan Pierre South Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa, Ole Miss
Deandre Square LSU, Michigan St, Wisconsin

Offensive Line

All three are technicians. Darian Kinnard is a US Army All American. The massive tackle is agile and skilled. Kenneth Horsey is a mauler. His film was fun to watch. Quintin Wilson played tackle at Turpin HS, but is projected at center. All three are over 300 lbs., well coached, and could compete upon reporting to campus. The trio is the most college-ready collection of offensive linemen that Mark Stoops has signed during his stay in Lexington.

Name Chose UK Over
Kenneth Horsey Miss St, Ole Miss
Darian Kinnard Penn St, UCLA, Tennessee
Quintin Wilson Virginia, Northwestern, Duke


Terry Wilson’s offer sheet was close hold information but consisted of a “who’s who” club of college football. Wilson was arguably the most coveted junior college signal caller in the class. An elite athlete, Wilson will enroll in January and compete for the starting job from day one. Fast, elusive, and possesses a quick release; Wilson is dynamic with the football.

Name Chose UK Over
Terry Wilson Florida, Nebraska, A Bunch More


Bryce Oliver was a surprise name that was called on Wednesday. But, several coach’s eyes lit up when discussing the Dillard product. Marvin Alexander has several of Lamar Thomas’ on-field traits. He could provide an immediate vertical threat. Akeem Hayes was a Louisville commit, flipped to UK and is more of slot receiver. These three aren’t projects. These Cats can flat out play and are more college ready than last year’s group.

Name Chose UK Over
Marvin Alexander Wisconsin, Syracuse, UCF
Akeem Hayes Louisville, Oregon, NC State
Bryce Oliver Louisville, Pitt, NC State, Iowa

Running Back

I said something on the signing show that I thought I was going to regret. I mentioned that Chris Rodriquez reminded me of Benny Snell. Seems like just yesterday that I was being asked which historical RB that Benny Snell most resembled. Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops said the same thing on Wednesday which made me look less like a fool than originally expected.

I saw Rodriguez force two fumbles and have a tackle for loss while playing defense; ON THE SAME PLAY! Bruiser, loves contact. One-cut RB.

Name Chose UK Over
Chris Rodriguez Ole Miss, Miss St, Troy

Tight End

Greg Hart is graduating. CJ Conrad will be a senior (wow, by the way). Vince Marrow put in serious work by signing two of Ohio’s best in Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw. Polished pass catchers. At least one may play vs. Central Michigan in the opener.

Name Chose UK Over
Brenden Bates Iowa, Pitt, Vanderbilt
Keaton Upshaw Pitt, West Virginia, Purdue


Back to the rankings. The Wildcats signed a kicker and punter plus one unranked defensive player. Rankings may reflect that as specialists normally don’t rate highly in the star system; however, it could be said that Kentucky may have signed the top kicker and punter in this entire class. Chance Poore was the South Carolina Specialist of the Year and a Ray Guy Award winner. Max Duffy is the top Australian punter prospect. Coach Dean Hood was a happy dude; as he should have been. 

Name Chose UK Over
Chance Poore All UK
Max Duffy All UK

You can match measurables and stars below if you’d like. The Class of 2018 is incomplete but got off to a strong start in December. Several multi-sport and positional players in this group; I like that even if other evaluators don’t. If I had to compare, I’d say that this bunch is similar to that of 2015. But, much like other classes, only time will tell. 

Name Position Hometown Height Weight  247 Composite
Marquan McCall OG Oak Park, Mi. 6-4 320 4-star
Darian Kinnard OT Cleveland, Oh. 6-7 336 4-star
Terry Wilson QB Omaha, Ne. 6-2 180 3-star
DeAndre Square S/OLB Detroit, Mi. 6-1 200 3-star
Brenden Bates TE Cincinnati, Oh. 6-5 230 3-star
Stanley Garner CB Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 6-3 180 3-star
Quintin Wilson C Cincinnati, Oh. 6-3 290 3-star
Marvin Alexander WR Hollywood, Fl. 6-3 175 3-star
Jamari Brown CB Pompano Beach, Fl. 6-3 180 3-star
Davoan Hawkins DE Hollywood, Fl. 6-4 270 3-star
Akeem Hayes ATH/WR Hollywood, Fl. 5-10 175 3-star
Keaton Upshaw TE Lima, Oh. 6-7 225 3-star
Bryce Oliver WR Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 6-3 205 3-star
Christopher Rodriguez RB McDonough, Ga. 5-11 200 3-star
Ashtan Pierre ATH Deerfield Beach, Fl. 6-2 191 3-star
Domonique Williams JUCO CB Knoxville, Tn. 5-10 190 3-star
Kenneth Horsey OT Seminole, Fl. 6-4 325 3-star
Jerquavion “Qua” Mahone DT Manchester, Ga. 6-4 195 N/A
Chance Poore K Anderson, Sc. 6-3 200 3-star
Max Duffy P Western Australia 6-1 176 3-star

WATCH: Stoops talks about his 2018 Signees on the SEC Network

@UKFootball did not capture one of Stoops’ more photogenic moments. 

Mark Stoops’ day did not end after he received faxes from 20 signees.  He had to attend a practice, a press conference, then hop on the SEC Network to talk about his 2018 recruiting class.

The Kentucky head coach told the SEC Network crew that, “things are going in the right direction.”  It’s not easy to get all of the NLI’s in around 7:00 a.m., but Stoops shared how he did it while juggling the final bowl practice before the holiday break.