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Xavier Peters shows power of positive recruiting

Xavier Peters shows power of positive recruiting

It’s been a huge couple of weeks for Kentucky football recruiting, and Xavier Peters’ decision to transfer to UK continues the exciting momentum.

For the most part, Kentucky fans are well aware of Peters’ whirlwind of a recruitment, both while he was in high school and again last December. He spent several months during his senior year of high school as a Kentucky commit, before ultimately flipping to Florida State. At the time, he was listed as a four-star recruit, the No. 12 outside linebacker in the nation and the sixth-best player in the state of Ohio.

After a year in Tallahassee, Peters was back in the news. He entered his name into the transfer portal in December, and speculation began to spread he was heading to Lexington. It didn’t take long for Peters to withdraw his name from the portal and decide to stay at Florida State, where he participated in spring football.

But in the end, Peters felt he was meant to be at the University of Kentucky. He cites his proximity to his family, specifically his young son, as the main reason for making the switch back to the Wildcats. However, there’s also a message there that also speaks to the way Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, and the rest of UK’s staff chooses to recruit players, both while they’re in high school and as transfers.

For Peters to decide to re-commit to Kentucky, he must still have a strong, positive relationship with the coaching staff. Otherwise, there are plenty of schools within a similar radius to his hometown of West Chester, Ohio. Kentucky became his original destination of choice during the summer of 2017, but his decision to re-commit shows no bridges were burned throughout a recruiting process that left some with whiplash and hurt feelings.

Fans may have criticized Peters for “flip flopping” while he was a high schooler, but it’s clear the coaches did not participate. If they were upset about Peters’ decision to de-commit (which, logically, they probably were), they kept it to themselves: no one aired grievances publicly, and it’s likely they were cordial toward Peters, too. Otherwise, why would he come back?

In the end, Xavier Peters is making a responsible decision that’s the best option for himself and his family. But his future also surely played a role, and Kentucky’s upward trajectory certainly didn’t hurt their chances at finally landing the star player. The Cats finished 10-3 last season and 17-9 over the past two seasons; they’ve had more than a hand full of players find homes in the NFL this year, and the culture is changing before our eyes – and his.

Sure, it took Peters a little bit longer than most recruits to wind up in Lexington. But Kentucky’s recruiting pitch worked in the long run, and a beast of a linebacker will be wearing blue and white in the future because of it.


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4 Things Sawyer Smith can do for Kentucky’s Offense

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This offseason Mark Stoops tried something new — he searched for a player in the transfer portal. His first excursion was a success.

With the help of two former Troy staff members, Jon Sumrall and Mark Perry, quarterback Sawyer Smith became Kentucky’s first grad transfer of the Stoops era. Smith is the right fit for Kentucky’s offense over the next two seasons.

1. Terry Wilson Runs Free

When Gunnar Hoak announced three weeks ago his intentions to transfer to Ohio State, the UK coaches knew they needed another quarterback. Not to take anything away from Walker Wood, Nik Scalzo and Amani Gilmore, but without Hoak, UK’s offense was one bad Terry Wilson hit away from being completely flipped upside down. To prevent that from happening, Eddie Gran would surely tighten up the playbook to keep Wilson as safe as possible.

With the addition of Smith, Gran does not need to restrict Wilson’s legs. UK’s most explosive playmaker on the ground in his first season, Wilson gained 6.75 yards per carry on 8.2 attempts per game. Now that Wilson has someone behind him with experience, the offense can naturally progress by giving Wilson up to 12 or 13 carries a game.

When Terry Wilson runs the ball, he’s one big play away from a score or one hit away from being sidelined. Sawyer Smith ensures the risk isn’t too great to gamble for the reward.

2. Serenade the Offense

If he isn’t throwing darts, Smith is know for his excellent singing on the sideline (even if he doesn’t know the words).

3. Throw the Deep Ball

The weakest link of UK’s offense over the past two years has been the vertical passing game. The long ball just so happens to be Sawyer Smith’s greatest strength.

Whether he’s in the pocket or on the move, Smith can muscle the ball down the field. In the opening drive of the Dollar General Bowl, he threw a pearl 48 yards in the air that hit his receiver in stride for a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty.

Arm strength aside, Smith’s most important asset is that his game isn’t too different from Terry Wilson’s. If Wilson goes down with an injury, Gran doesn’t have to bring out an entirely new playbook. Smith uses his legs well enough to escape pass rushers or execute a read option. At Nebraska he turned one simple read into an explosive 57-yard run.

4. Experience, Experience, Experience

What sets Smith apart from any UK quarterback not-named Terry Wilson — or any quarterback entering the 2018 season — is the invaluable experience he received as a redshirt sophomore.

Smith played sparingly, primarily as a rushing option, in each of the first five games of the season before Troy starter Kaleb Barker suffered a torn ACL. Thrust into action, Smith was not perfect, but he showed up when the Trojans needed him most.

His best game of the year was at the Dollar General Bowl. Seeking a tenth win, Smith rose to the occasion, completing 70.5% of his 44 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

That kind of experience you can’t teach. You can try to simulate a third and seven from the 46-yard line with a four-point lead in a bowl game, but the blitz does not feel as real in practice. In that situation Smith looked off the single safety and remained calm in the pocket before dropping an absolute dime for a touchdown.

Sawyer Smith’s addition gives UK’s quarterback room a pair of 10-win signal callers. If Terry Wilson cannot complete his duties, Smith is perfectly prepared to keep the offense on course.

Florida State defensive end Xavier Peters will transfer


After countless rumors, a handful of back-and-forths, and endless speculation over the last several months, we’ve finally found our answer when it comes to former four-star prospect and current Florida State defensive end Xavier Peters.

The former Kentucky commitment is no longer a Seminole and will be transferring from the school.

In an interview with Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports, Peters said that he has put his name in the transfer portal – and keeping it there – so he can move closer to home to be with his one-year old son.

“I just want to be home to support him,” Peters said. “If I was thinking just about me I’d stay at Florida State.”

Peters, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of West Chester, Ohio, played in two games as a Seminole last fall, registering one tackle and one pass breakup.

After putting his name in the portal back in December, Peters says his current family situation is forcing him to finally make this official.

“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home. This is a family move. I told Coach Taggart this had nothing to do with his program or Florida State. This is all because of family issues.”

Back on December 26, KSR’s Matt Jones broke the news that Peters was entering his name in the transfer portal initially, and that Kentucky was one of his top choices.

“KSR has learned that former 4 star Linebacker/Defensive End and ESPN Top 150 recruit Xavier Peters has put his name into the College Football transfer portal,” Jones said. “You may remember that Peters is from Ohio and picked Florida State over Kentucky last year. KSR has learned he is now seeking a transfer and Kentucky, along with two Big Ten schools, are his top choices.

“I suspect Kentucky has a VERY good chance of getting Peters, and for those of you who listen to KSR, he was my #2 transfer possibility I have been talking about for the past 2 weeks.”

At the time, I wrote a post breaking down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky football program, which you can find below:

Breaking down a potential Xavier Peters transfer for Kentucky

Now, Peters says, per Wiltfong, that he will be focusing on schools in the SEC and Big Ten when it comes to his transfer decision moving forward.

Is it finally time for Peters to head home to Lexington?

(247 Sports)

Mike Edwards to Play Nickel in Tampa Bay

After being drafted as the 36th pick in the third round of the NFL Draft, former Kentucky defensive back Mike Edwards is getting ready to step into his role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Saturday, Edwards hit the practice field and talked to reporters about adjusting to life as a pro athlete, and how playing in the SEC prepared him for the wear and tear of the pro game.

Edwards never missed a start during his time for Kentucky, as he managed to play in 51 straight games. New head coach of the Buccaneers Bruce Arians also talked to the press about how Edwards will fit with the team this season. He suggested that Edwards will play the “nickel” position and be on the field in situations where they will need five or six defensive backs on the field.

Last season Tampa Bay finished 31st in the league in points allowed and 26th in passing yards allowed per game. Edwards will get a chance to contribute and make a name for himself very quickly.

Updates from UK football’s annual trip to Ethiopia

Updates from UK football’s annual trip to Ethiopia

While many of us may be relaxing on a relatively-rare weekend without football, college basketball or any French hackers (fingers crossed), three members of the Kentucky football team are doing their part to better the world.

Offensive tackle Landon Young, defensive end Calvin Taylor and outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson are all currently in Ethiopia to participate in UK’s annual mission trip.

The trio obviously hasn’t had time to be active on their own forms of social media, but they have been able to share a few updates with the folks back home. The UK football Twitter account has been detailing their service trip, starting with their daily activities and how they’re contributing.

They began by delivering essential supplies (as well as nutrition, hope and love, according to the players) to families living in a slum named Korah. The area is made up of all the trash accumulated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Thousands of residents live in the dump, and they rely on the waste to survive. The care packages provided by Young, Taylor, Watson and the rest of their group could prevent families from having to dig for up to a month.


The group also visited an orphanage, run by nuns and other volunteers, that houses over 80 children. These kids had never been able to leave their village before, much less see a movie. That changed when the teens were able to see the latest Avengers film with the Wildcats’ group.



Their trip has also produced plenty of other heart-warming moments.





The trio of Wildcats is set to return from the life-changing experience next week. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of stories to share.


Five-star lineman Justin Rogers lists Kentucky in final top-5 schools


Kentucky is officially in the mix for one of the top-10 football players in the nation. Justin Rogers, a five-star prospect, is listed as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2020 recruiting class, and he just included the University of Kentucky in his final top-5 list. The other four? Georgia, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee.

Prior to the announcement, Rivals had Kentucky listed as the favorite at 44 percent (Georgia was the runner-up with 33 percent, followed by Tennessee and Ohio State). 24/7 Sports had a similar breakdown: UK at 33 percent, followed by Tennessee at 22 percent, Ohio State at 17 percent, undecided at 17 percent and Georgia at 11 percent. The inclusion of LSU and Michigan could shake things up a bit, while Ohio State is now apparently out of the running.

Rogers, a native of Oak Park, Michigan, is listed at 6-foot-2.5 and 311 pounds. Kentucky was the first school to extend an offer all the way back in 2016 – a fact that’s not lost on Rogers.

Although there are four other schools still competing for Rogers’ talents, the Cats seem to have the recent advantage. Rivals’ Justin Rowland submitted a prediction in favor of the Wildcats on the evening of April 28. Since then, 24/7 Sports’ Allen Trieu – who has gotten 93.75 percent of his 2020 picks correct so far – predicted Kentucky last Monday. 24/7 Sports’ Director of Football Recruiting, Steve Wiltfong, also lists Kentucky as Rogers’ top choice. Wiltfong has a 90.48 percent success rate so far with the 2020 recruiting class.

Rogers took an official visit to Lexington back on April 26, and he’ll visit the University of Georgia on May 17. His decision date is set for May 20. 

Until then, the UK coaching staff will be all over Rogers – and they won’t be alone. DeAndre Square, a current linebacker for Kentucky, and John Young, a recent UK commit, are also working their magic.

T-minus 11 days until Rogers makes his announcement. Let’s do this thing.