Kentucky’s 2019 class now has a quarterback. Nik Scalzo is an atypical recruit that could be the perfect fit for Kentucky.
The right-hander from Ft. Lauderdale first entered Kentucky’s radar last summer when Scalzo made the trip to Lexington for a camp at Kroger Field. Undersized with little hype, the 5’11” athlete did just enough to catch Darin Hinshaw’s eye.
Between last summer’s camp and today’s commitment, Scalzo threw for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, earned 15 scholarship offers and is now considered the No. 16 dual-threat quarterback in America.
Eddie Gran has developed a knack for finding talent early in South Florida. It’s what make Kentucky such a coveted destination.
“He was one of my first believers,” Scalzo told Justin Rowland after he received an offer at Kentucky’s Junior Day in February. At the time, only a handful of small schools and Ivy Leaguers were interested. Once Gran and Hinshaw got involved, it completely changed Scalzo’s recruiting outlook. The offer from Kentucky all but sealed the deal, until Hinshaw visited Scalzo’s home four days ago.
Scalzo has succeeded against some of the best competition the country has to offer.
A starter for Cardinal Gibbons since he was a sophomore, the only team Scalzo has not beat is American Heritage, the Power-Five talent producing perennial powerhouse that finished the season ranked in the top five nationally. Scalzo led a tremendous comeback in the final quarter of the Regional Final, but fell to American Heritage in triple overtime to end his junior season.
Once the offseason hit, the Kentucky commit found more success on the camp circuit. Last month Scalzo quarterbacked the South Florida Express in the Adidas 7-on-7 Championship in Torrance, California. Dubbed by 247’s Steve Wiltfong as “one of the most talented 7-on-7 fields of all-time,” Scalzo threw a 40-yard touchdown in the championship game to bring home a title.
He LOVES the Baker Mayfield Comparison
It’s not just because he likes to plant flags at midfield after big wins, like he did following the Adidas National Championship.
Baker 2.0 pic.twitter.com/g7uIbXjhgk
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) April 16, 2018
Or because he shares an affinity for headbands.
Like Mayfield, Scalzo is an under-sized quarterback that plays with a chip on his shoulder. Teams were hesitant to recruit Scalzo, so he had to work hard to prove to Kentucky that he was worth the scholarship. He did that by using a skill-set that’s similar to the Heisman Trophy winner’s. He runs plenty of RPOs, but is most explosive when he’s moving around in the backfield, slinging the ball to all corners of the football field.
Is it fair to compare Scalzo to the Heisman Trophy winner? Probably not, but he embraces and welcomes the comparison (one UK’s coaches use) with open arms.
When point guards or quarterbacks commit early, they often pledge to recruit others to join their class. Scalzo does not have to look far to find talented UK recruits.
Cardinal Gibbons’ offense features three players who hold UK offers: three-star tight end Nikolas Ognenovic, three-star running back Vincent Davis and three-star offensive lineman Jamari Williams. Ognenovic and Williams are in the middle of a Louisville-Kentucky recruiting battle. Playing with their high school QB at the next level might be just the advantage Kentucky needs.
A Wise Guy
Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth weren’t recruiting Scalzo because he’s an idiot. Last fall he posted a report card with a 4.92 GPA, a grade-point average that should be impossible.
There will be Speculation
Kentucky fans have been here before. They remember what happened after Mac Jones Tweeted, “We’re building something great.” They also remember when Jarren Williams committed, de-committed, re-committed, then de-committed again. Those were the last two quarterbacks to commit this early in the process.
While many will wait to share their excitement until later, Stoops will continue to target quarterbacks early in the recruiting process. Why? Because they kind of have to.
“A lot of times you develop that relationship early and you get honed in with a certain guy,” Stoops said last fall shortly after Jarren Williams de-committed. “And the quarterbacks are always looking for that perfect fit and you as a program are looking for the perfect fit.”
Will this be the perfect fit for Scalzo and UK? Only time will tell. If the commit sticks, the Cats have a gunslinger who plays with a chip on his shoulder; the perfect person to lead the SEC’s perennial underdog.