Mark Stoops, with a huge assist from Vince Marrow, has completely changed the culture of Kentucky Football since being handed the reigns to the program. The team has been more and more competitive on the field, culminating with a 10-win season and Citrus Bowl victory in 2019. A big reason for this has been their work on the recruiting trails. Not only have the Wildcats improved year to year on the gridiron, but they have been winning the recruiting battle as well. Take a look at how things have improved using 247 Sports as the indicator.
In 2013 – Stoops & Company’s first year – they landed 22 recruits with an average rating of 0.8486. This was a leap from the previous year, but still placed 13th in the SEC. The top recruit that season was Jason Hatcher, a 4-star with a rating of 0.9252.
Things really took a leap in 2014, pulling in 32 signees with an average rating of 0.8683. This recruiting class was rated #22 in the country and 10th in the SEC, led by high 4-stars Drew Barker & Matt Elam. On paper, recruiting took a dip in 2015, but that couldn’t be further from the truth after looking at how it played out on the field. Led by Eli Brown, this group rated 0.8509 and was back to 13th in the SEC. However, C.J. Conrad, Jordan Jones, George Asafo-Adjei, Logan Stenberg, Chris Westry, and of course, Josh Allen were all apart of that program changing class.
The 2016 recruiting class saw the highest-rated recruit to date, Landon Young, sign with his hometown ‘Cats. Drake Jackson and Kash Daniel rounded out an excellent in-state class. 2017 saw another uptick, getting a 0.8604 rating which was good for 30th in the country. Lynn Bowden led this class along with Josh Paschal. However, it also included Junior College transfer Lonnie Johnson who came in and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
In 2018, Darian Kinnard and Chris Oats headlined a group that received a 0.8611 rating. Of course, our QB1, Terry Wilson was a part of this recruiting class as well. Then, this year’s class comes in with a 0.8655, narrowly missing the 2014 class as the highest-rated under Coach Stoops.
All of this leads us to the 2020 class that is being constructed as we speak. Currently, this group has a 0.8841 rating and is 24th in the country. This will almost assuredly rise with a few more commitments as our “average rating” is higher than many schools ranked ahead because they win out in sheer numbers. All told, the primary victory on the recruiting trail has been in the depth of each class. Gone are the days of 1 or 2 “impact” guys and then a bunch of low 3-stars that we beat out just for a chance to play in the SEC. Now, we are consistently going against – and beating – a much higher level of competition. 10 wins, a Citrus Bowl victory, and multiple NFL draft picks will do nothing but continue pushing things in the right direction. If the staff can continue to move recruiting up the boards, it will only be a matter of time before 8-10 wins and serious SEC East contention becomes the new normal.