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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.


National Signing Day Terms

football-glossary

Prepare for an onslaught of National Signing Day coverage from Kentucky Sports Radio. For the next few days, you’ll hear several hacks describe and analyze the newest Kentucky Wildcats. I thought we could break down evaluation terms so that we’ll all be on the same page come go-time.

 

Mauler: Term used to describe a physically tough offensive lineman with the size-mentality-ability to forcefully run block along the line-of-scrimmage. 

Thumper: A hard hitting linebacker. 

Navigate Wash: Ability for offensive/defensive linemen to work their way around other players within the line-of-scrimmage in order to execute assignments.

Get Off: Explosive or quick start movement upon football’s snap.

Space: Open areas on the football field. Can be used for ball carriers and defensive backs.

Smart Eyes: Applicable to most positions, refers to intelligent play and ability to foresee situations/result.

Twitchy: Fast-rapid explosion athlete. 

Courage Throw: Deep passes from a quarterback intended to be completed over the middle of the football field.

High Motor: High energy/effort, continual motion on the field.

*Think Jordan Jones.

Havoc: Defensive term referring to the following statistics: Interceptions, Tackles for Loss, Pass Breakups, QB Sacks, Forced Fumbles. 

Bull Rush: Pass rush method in which the defender pursues the quarterback by running directly at and over intended blocker.

Spin Move: Another defensive pass rush term, used when defender engages blocker then spins to avoid being blocked and to separate in order to sack the quarterback.

Y.A.C.: Yards after catch

 

Expect another post later today in which we’ll briefly discuss each UK commit’s film.


Monday’s Top 10: Kentucky falling, tweak coming?

Monday’s Top 10: Kentucky falling, tweak coming?

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Well, it’s been a day and a half and I don’t feel any better about Kentucky’s loss to Kansas. Sure, on paper, it doesn’t seem too bad — Kansas was the #2 ranked team in the country, after all — however, watching a team that looked so good and was ahead by 12 disintegrate into a rudderless heap at the mere sight of a zone was disheartening to say the least. Regardless, it’s technically still January and there’s a lot of basketball to be played, so we soldier on. I thought this picture of a young fan with some of the UK Cheerleaders after their 22nd national championship might cheer us all up a bit.

1. John Calipari will address the media this afternoon

After back-to-back losses, John Calipari sounded as defeated as I’ve heard him this season while addressing media after the game. After holing up in his office with his dogs and “Alaskan Bush People,” will he feel any better? We’ll find out when he previews the Georgia game around 2:30 p.m. Check the site for a live stream and afterwards for a full recap.

2. Is it time for a “tweak”?

Two out of the past three seasons, John Calipari has implemented a “tweak” midway through the conference season to attempt to fix his squad. After two straight losses in which Kentucky looked incapable of playing defense, is another tweak on the way? It sure feels like it. After all of the clamor for Bam Adebayo to get more touches, he was still only 3-7 from the floor Saturday night. Easy “tweak”: get the ball to Bam more. More necessary tweak: teach your guards to play better defense.

3. How bad was UK’s offense Saturday night?

This graphic from ESPN sums it up:

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AND IT’S NOT LIKE KANSAS HAS A GREAT DEFENSE. They just played a zone that wasn’t even that good but it still made the Cats look like toddlers trying to use silverware for the first time.

Sorry. Right now, Kentucky basketball just makes me feel like…

4. On the bright side, SEC Tournament ticket prices are down

If you’re looking for a silver lining to Kentucky’s recent dip, it’s that SEC Tournament ticket prices are down on secondary markets and Nashville’s always a fun time, right? I haven’t started my annual phone tour of other schools’ box offices to see if they have extra tickets, but given how bad the SEC is this year, I’d say that’s not a bad idea. If you find out which schools are selling extra tickets, let us know.

5. What will happen in the polls?

Yes, Kentucky will fall, but how far? The rest of college basketball was a mess last week as well, with only three teams in the Top 10 coming through unscathed: Gonzaga, Baylor, and Arizona. It seems absurd, but Gonzaga might become the number one team in the country this week, another reminder that even the dominant teams are struggling this season.

6. Meanwhile, I’m gonna try to avoid how good Louisville looked yesterday

To add insult to injury, the Cards beat NC State by 25 after beating Pitt by 55 earlier in the week. I really don’t like the way things are trending for both programs right now.

7. Hey, let’s look at a highlight of our NBA players facing off

Serious Cat on Cat crime yesterday when John Wall blew past on Anthony Davis for a dunk and then flexed on him:

More to come in today’s BBNBA roundup a little later…

8. Did UK’s big recruiting weekend have any impact?

@Joe_Mussatto

Walker Wood and Jedrick Wills Saturday night (Photo @joe_mussatto)

Signing Day is Wednesday, meaning Freddie Maggard’s probably already parked outside the training facility to prepare for the festivities. UK hosted a bevy of big recruits this weekend in both football and basketball alike, and although the final result of the game wasn’t what we all would have liked, the atmosphere at Rupp was impressive. Did that have any sway on Kentucky’s top targets, notably Alabama commit Jedrick Wills? At the game, Wills looked chummy with several UK players, including his Lafayette teammate Walker Wood. Alabama being Alabama, I wouldn’t bet on Wills flipping, but stranger things have happened in the days before Signing Day. We’ve got our ear to the ground, so stay tuned for scuttlebutt.

9. Shai Alexander’s teammate shattered a backboard Saturday night

Usually, it’s Shai Alexander stealing the headlines for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, but on Saturday night, his teammate, 6-10 Canadian junior center Kaosi Ezeagu, shattered a backboard, prompting a three hour delay as the game had to be relocated to another gym.

Still waiting on Bam to shatter a backboard at Rupp…

10. Congratulations are in order

Between sports, politics, and life, we could all use some good news right now, and thankfully, there’s some to share. Congrats to former KSR writer/current ESPN employee John Wilmhoff, who got engaged over the weekend on the rooftop of the Carew Tower in Cincinnati. Best of luck, you crazy kids.

Radio in an hour…


What would a Jedrick Wills flip mean to UK?

@Joe_Mussatto

@Joe_Mussatto

Last week, rumors began to spread about revamped mutual interest between 5-star OL Jedrick Wills and Kentucky.

As we all know, the Lafayette High School-product chose Alabama a few months back, opting for the national powerhouse over the home school Wildcats.

Fans understood and respected his decision to compete year in and year out for National Championships. It’s the equivalent of players committing to play for John Calipari at Kentucky over the home-state school, a la Malik Monk or Devin Booker.

Fans looked elsewhere. The coaching staff, however, did not.

Pictures of Mark Stoops at Lafayette High School surfaced late last week, where Stoops played badminton with Wills.

A KSR reader then sent us a picture of Wills having dinner at Malone’s with the UK coaching staff that night.

I was told the UK staff pushed to get Wills on campus this weekend for the UK-Kansas game, and the trip was deemed “likely” at the time. The extent of the trip, however, (longevity, what Wills would be doing, etc) was in question.

Later that day, Justin Rowland of Rivals.com broke the news that Wills would be taking an official visit to UK this weekend. By all accounts, the trip was extremely successful.

So here we are, just three days from National Signing Day, and the possibility of Kentucky flipping a five-star Alabama commit is very much on the table.

But what would a Wills flip mean for Kentucky?

The Effort

Mark Stoops and the entire Kentucky football staff is fighting tooth and nail for a five-star recruit committed elsewhere right up until he signs on the dotted line. That alone speaks for itself.

The Kentucky staff already got him on campus for an official visit on the final weekend of the recruiting season, where he was able to join former high school teammate Walker Wood (already enrolled at UK) and countless other recruits on campus.

For those saying Wills is pulling a Damien Harris,  just using the team for tickets to a high-profile basketball game, they are sadly mistaken. Wills took the visit out of genuine interest in the Wildcats, and has let it known to those close to him that who he will sign with on Wednesday is certainly not set in stone right now.

As far as Alabama’s side of things, they knew about the visit when it got scheduled, but absolutely were not happy about it. In many instances, Saban will pull a scholarship offer of a recruit taking other visits, but he realizes Wills is far too valuable to do something of the sort. They let him take the visit, but flirted with some other recruits and took in some official visits this weekend as a result.

As far as what I’ve heard about the visit and Wills’ actual interest in a flip, I’ve been told he’s definitely considering it and the staff is extremely confident. Really confident. One thing that sticks out is what Alabama already has on the line and who they have committed. They started a true freshman at tackle this season, the same position he wants to play in college. Alabama also has a commitment from the #1 OT in the class. There are rumors Alabama wants to move him to guard when he gets there, so the idea of playing tackle at UK is definitely a step in the right direction for getting him in blue and white.

I’ve also been told Wills has kept close tabs on UK’s offensive line this season, and sees the progression under John Schlarman. He has seen UK listed as the #1 offensive line in the SEC, even ahead of Alabama, and is impressed. It isn’t a world-beating statistic to him, as he feels he’ll be able to make a massive impact wherever he goes, but he is impressed with UK’s development on the line.

Long story short, the effort of UK fighting after “their guy” when everyone else counted them out has paid off in the long run, and recruits (including Wills) are taking notice.

The Statement

Whether Wills flips or not, the headlines are going to read “Five-star OL Jedrick Wills decides between Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Michigan, and UK.” It’s like one of those “one of these is not like the others” pictures you see on the internet. An Alabama message board last week said something along the lines of “Of all schools, why are we battling Kentucky for elite recruits.” Other schools have taken notice, and the recruits have as well.

If he does flip… Can you imagine the statement it’d make to the recruiting world?

“Kentucky flips five-star OL Jedrick Wills from Alabama.”

Kentucky has already proven they aren’t afraid to go head-to-head against the big boys, even signing Matt Elam away from Alabama a couple years ago. But taking a guy the Crimson Tide want desperately (they’ve visited him in Lexington multiple times in the last few weeks) would be absolutely massive.

Going into the future, Kentucky is LOADED with high school talent in the next couple years, and a guy of Wills level pulling the trigger would certainly make an impact on those guys. We saw it with Drew Barker, Matt Elam, Landon Young, and Kash Daniel (among others), but a recruit seeing Wills say no to Saban and yes to Stoops would definitely make them think twice before automatically looking elsewhere for college.

The Impact

The recruitment is one thing, but Wills as a player is on a whole new level. He’s a five-star prospect for a reason.

I saw him play several times in person, and every time I walked away saying “This kid is an NFL lineman.” Every camp, event, and game he’s been a part of, those in attendance see the potential of an All-SEC guy. They see high-level draft selection with this kid.

He already has the size, technique is there, and has a mean streak like no other. He’s cutting some of the unnecessary fat, working on building strength, and perfecting his technique, and he hasn’t even set foot on a college campus yet. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when some strength and conditioning coaches get ahold of him?

Kid is going to be a freak of nature on the line, and Kentucky would benefit tremendously with him on it.


The staff is confident right now, so I have no reason not to be right now either.

We’ll keep you updated, but as of now it’s looking like we’ll be letting you know where a fax is received on Wednesday morning.

@JackPilgrimKSR


The Lynn Bowden Hype Train Grows

lynn-bowden

Apparently, this Lynn Bowden kid is something else. With National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, there’s no better time to get excited for Lynn’s arrival in the Bluegrass. Our friend Joe Mussatto over at SEC Country interviewed coaches who have squared off against Bowden in the past, and if their comments don’t make you excited for this fall, nothing will:

SEC Country caught up with four coaches who game planned against Kentucky’s top 2017 commit during his senior year of high school: Dominic Menendez (Howland High School), Jeff Gough (Hudson High School), Mitch Hewitt (Chardon High School) and Jason Black (Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School).

We wanted to get their thoughts on what it was like to face Bowden. The consensus? He’s the best or one of the best Ohio prospects they’ve ever seen.

Check out the full article here, and laugh like an evil genius while you read it.

@JayWinkKSR


IG: jedrickwillsii

Report: Jedrick Wills taking an official visit to Kentucky tomorrow

IG: jedrickwillsii

IG: jedrickwillsii

Kevin Knox won’t be the only five-star recruit in Rupp Arena tomorrow; according to Justin Rowland, five-star offensive tackle Jedrick Wills will also be in attendance on his official visit. The Lafayette star is currently committed to Alabama, but Mark Stoops and the UK staff haven’t given up hope on him yet, playing badminton with him yesterday morning and taking him to dinner at Malone’s last night:

@PetersLHS_HC

@PetersLHS_HC

FullSizeRender-108

With Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, does UK have a shot at convincing the five-star recruit to turn down Alabama to stay home and be a hero? Don’t get your hopes up, but stranger things have happened…


The Kentucky Coaching Staff Took Jedrick Wills Out to Dinner

The Kentucky Coaching Staff Took Jedrick Wills Out to Dinner

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Mark Stoops is doing everything he can to get Jedrick Wills to Kentucky.

The five-star offensive tackle and Lexington-native is committed to Alabama.  After receiving a visit from Nick Saban earlier this week, Stoops has not stopped recruiting Wills.  Earlier today, Stoops was spotted playing badminton with Wills at Lafayette High School.  Tonight, a KSR reader sent us this picture.

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Stoops has six more days to convince Wills to stay home.