Mark Stoops immediately injected energy into the Kentucky football program by recruiting elite talent at a rate never seen before at UK. It all started in Ohio, but since Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw joined the coaching staff, the Cats have signed 16 players from the state of Florida over the last two years.
The epicenter of Kentucky’s recruiting pipeline is in Broward County. Located north of Miami in the area surrounding Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood is where you’ll find Chaminade-Madonna High School. In the previous two recruiting classes alone, Kentucky has signed five players from Chaminade-Madonna.
“It’s a takeover,” freshman defensive end Davoan Hawkins said at UK Media Day. “They got all of us up here. Eddie Gran, the man is a guru when it comes to recruiting. He told us if we come here and end up producing, we’ll get good results. We trusted the process. Now it’s time to take over campus.”
Hawkins, a three-star recruit who spurned late advances from Miami, is one of three Lions who decided to become Wildcats at the collegiate level after winning a 3A state championship in 2017, the program’s first state championship in 12 years. Hawkins is joined by a pair of wide receivers, B.J. Alexander and Akeem Hayes. Gran sold the trio a familiar message.
“Chaminade wasn’t a winning program until most of us got there,” Hayes, a former UofL commit, told KSR. “We’re trying to do the same thing to Kentucky that we did to Chaminade.”
“We can come up here and make an impact,” Hawkins said. “It will pave the way for a lot of new recruits that’s coming up. A lot of people look at Kentucky as not like a big name school, but we’re finna change the program so we can let the world know it’s one of the best in the nation.”
Alexander, a 6’4″ wide receiver who could contend for significant playing time this fall, said they were sold not long after visiting UK’s campus.
“That’s just good recruiting by Coach Gran. He talked to us and we bought into it,” Alexander said. “Then we came on a visit and we really fell in love. It was a package deal really.”
The three new guys have familiar faces helping them during training camp. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Ali is a Chaminade-Madonna alum, as is defensive lineman Chris Whittaker. While the receivers take pointers from Ali, Whittaker gave Hawkins some advice before moving to Lexington.
“He told me to come out here with an open head. No matter what, even if they’re veterans, just try to go heads up with them. It really doesn’t matter. There’s no hiding out here. They won’t sugarcoat nothing with you. You can’t sugarcoat anything with them. It’s time to go ahead and ball.”
At the midway point of training camp, some of the Chaminade-Madonna freshman have already impressed Kentucky’s coaches. Even though Akeem Hayes is only 5’8″, he’s been fearless in the slot. There’s a lot of depth at the defensive line, but Hawkins is determined to play right away.
“I’m going to let you know right now, the redshirt situation, it’s not on my radar,” said Hawkins. “I feel that I can do a whole lot better than a redshirt. If it comes down to that, I gotta take it, but the way I”m feeling about camp, that redshirt is not about to be on me.”
Got UK feelin Like SoFlo?? pic.twitter.com/qFIpvh9cCq
— DayDay Hawkins? (@mbk_55era) June 28, 2018
Eddie Gran has brought plenty of swagger from Chaminade-Madonna to Kentucky. The underclassmen are talented enough to play this fall. If they produce, this could be just the beginning of the “South Florida takeover.”