For those who don’t live and breathe football recruiting, National Signing Day is met with sighs and a common question: “Are any of these guys actually going to play this year?”
Benny Snell proved that the right true freshman can make an immediate impact, but it’s almost as rare as Mr. Clean with hair. This ain’t basketball. I’ve grouped the 24 signees into three categories to help you understand where they’ll stand this fall.
ATH Lynn Bowden: duh.
OLB Joshua Paschal: Josh Allen and Denzil Ware have secured starting positions, but they didn’t really have backups a year ago as JUCO transfer Jordan Bonner started his season late, while Kobie Walker and De’Niro Laster dealt with injuries. Paschal’s versatility will put him in position to play in some capacity, especially on special teams (a punt returner’s worst nightmare).
CB Lonnie Johnson: He’ll push Baity and Westry for playing time immediately, and could be moved around to nickel or safety to make sure the JUCO athlete is on the field.
DL Phil Hoskins: The only thing keeping the defensive lineman off the field is injuries. Today Jimmy Brumbaugh told KSR that should not be the case this fall.
Wide Receivers: Between JaVonte Richardson, Clevan Thomas, Joshua Ali and Isaiah Epps, at least one of them will receive significant snaps. It’s hard to guess who will breakthrough in the crowded position group, but my early money is on Thomas. The Cats need slots, he’s here early, he has more size than any other slot on the depth chart, and he shares the same name as his position coach.
RB Bryant Koback: The early enrollee has everything to put him in a position to succeed as a true freshman, if all goes according to plan during the rehabilitation process for the broken leg he suffered during his senior season.
LB Jamin Davis: Matt House returns his two-deep at linebacker, but today he didn’t hesitate to say a freshman could play right away. Kash Daniel had some success as a true freshman; this early enrollee could have similar success.
DB Tyrell Ajian: Even though it might be a stretch to see him play any safety this season, he could play an important role in special teams.
OLB Jordan Wright: Everything depends on how well he can pick up the outside linebacker position. Wright could be used situationally, or they might do what they did with Denzil Ware: redshirt him and let him learn from a pair of guys who will play in the NFL.
DL Quinton Bohanna: Usually true freshman don’t play on the defensive line, but they need big bodies in the interior. At 6’4″ 320, Bohanna qualifies as a big body.
Offensive Linemen: Landon Young is an exception to the rule John Schlarman instituted: freshmen offensive linemen redshirt. You’ll see Sebastien Dolcine, Austin Dotson and Naasir Watkins in the rotation before too long.
Alex King: The talented outside linebacker doesn’t need to play right away, but he does need to hit the weight room.
Cedrick Dort, Michael Nesbitt, Yusuf Corker: The cornerbacks will learn under Kentucky’s deep, talented secondary.
Danny Clark and Walker Wood: Wood needs the time to ensure he’s fully recovered from injury, but regardless, freshman years for quarterbacks are usually used for redshirts.
D-Line “Projects:” Chris Whittaker and Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald have tremendous upside, but need a year to grow into their bodies, improve technique and learn the defense.