New Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops has only been on the job about a month but has already generated a buzz around the program that hasn’t been seen in, well… ever. The optimism of Kentucky fans, after such a horrendous 2011 season, is based on two main things. First, Stoops has put together one of the best, young coaching staffs that a rebuilding program could ask for. Both he and new offensive coordinator Neal Brown have a clear plan for the program that they have immediately started to implement. Secondly, Stoops and Brown have hit the ground running recruiting. A big part of being a good football coach is having the talent to carry out what you want done on the field and these guys understand that. Kentucky has already landed JUCO-signee tight end and son of WCW star Sting, Steven Borden. Borden helps bolster a tight end corps that will now be a priority position in Kentucky’s offense. Stoops and company have also been able to sign pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, a guy that fills the biggest need on the defensive side of the ball. Smith has been called “one of the biggest lands in Kentucky football history” because of the type of talent he possess as well as the schools he spurned for Kentucky (FSU, Miami, Miss. State, Mizzou, Texas, and Texas A&M). Stoops’ defense is predicated on getting pressure on the quarterback, and with no guy like that on the current roster opposite DE/LB Bud Dupree, defensive end was a huge need. Even though the coaching staff has already signed two premiere prospects in Smith and Borden, they are from finished building the incoming class. Here are five recruits, albeit longshots, Big Blue Nation has on its on Christmas list:
-James Quick, WR
Weight: 180 lbs
40 time: 4.41 secs
Outlook: Quick to Kentucky is looking less and less likely by the day. The (Louisville) Trinity WR has said to be dialed in to Ohio State and Louisville, but he hasn’t completely dismissed the idea of playing in Lexington. Wide receivers I’ve talked to love the spread offense Brown runs and that could ultimately be Kentucky’s saving grace with Quick. Regardless of if he chooses Kentucky or not, Quick is a very dynamic player who is going to star in whatever offense he chooses. He’s a complete player.
-Jason Hatcher, DE
Weight: 240 lbs
40 time: 4.82 secs
Outlook: Even with the signing of Smith, Hatcher should still be a primary concern of Kentucky. A Southern Cal verbal commit, Hatcher is a powerful, bull-rushing DE that would be great in the Wildcats’ defensive end rotation. Stoops and company can sell Hatcher on the past success of Stoops’ pass rushers and also the idea that he would be immediately offered playing time. That is a great sells pitch to any guy who wants to be great, but I’m sure it’ll be hard to take Hatcher’s mind off the sunny shores of California.
-Hunter Bivin, OT
40 time: 5.1 secs
Outlook: There’s a reason Bivin is the number one rated recruit in the state of Kentucky. He’s an absolute hog. Bivin is great in pass protection and absolutely punishes people in the run game. The problem for UK is that he’s already verbally committed to Notre Dame, a school that’ll put more offensive lineman in the NFL this upcoming year than Kentucky has in its history. The Owensboro native will see former players Larry Warford and Matt Smith get a chance to play on Sunday’s this year and maybe that helps change his mind. We can only hope.
-Ryan White, DB
5-10-5 shuttle: 4.38
Outlook: White is a playmaker, plain and simple. For (Louisville) Trinty, White doubled as a cornerback and punt returner and was electrifying in both positions. White looks like he could play some safety at the next level, but looking at his tape, he looks pretty comfortable at cornerback. White is a solid Vanderbilt commit but hopefully something rubs him the wrong way when he takes his official visit on January 13th.
-The Alexander Brothers, DBs
Weight: 190 lbs
Outlook: I’m sure you’ll say, Rashawn, I thought you said five recruits that BBN should hope for. Well, yeah, I did but the Alexander Brothers kind of count as one. They are twins, and like every other set of twins in history, they will choose to play at the same school. These guys have been offered by almost every school in the South and had been said to be leaning towards Florida State earlier this year. The good news for Kentucky is that they we’re recruited to FSU by Stoops.