Football Recruiting News
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 26th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
So far in the 2020 class, Kentucky has landed commitments from four in-state recruits, three from the city of Louisville. In the 2019 class, the Cats signed five in-state players, four from the Derby City. Considering that the 2018 class didn’t include a single player from the state of Kentucky and a player from Louisville hadn’t signed with the program since 2014, that’s a pretty impressive upswing, the credit for which should go to Vince Marrow.
Mark Stoops’ decision to put Marrow, who mainly focused on Ohio, Michigan, and other Big 10 territories, on Kentucky has helped the program reestablish its stronghold on the state at the expense of Louisville, its biggest rival. Since Vince took over in-state recruiting, the Cats have signed or secured commitments from nine players from the Commonwealth to Louisville’s three, and are becoming the preferred choice for Louisville’s top talent, who typically go with Cardinal Red instead of Kentucky Blue.
There’s a long way to go until Signing Day, but with two major in-state targets still on the table in four-star safety Vito Tisdale and three-star defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine, let’s take a look at how Kentucky has taken over the battleground for in-state stars.
We generally prefer to use Rivals’ rankings for football here at KSR, but because 247 Sports Composite’s state rankings are much more comprehensive prior to 2017, I defaulted to them for this exercise.
Kentucky – 4
- No. 4: Four-star OT John Young, Louisville (Christian Academy-Louisville)
- No. 6: Three-star QB Beau Allen, Lexington (Lexington Catholic)
- No. 7: Three-star WR Izayah Cummings, Louisville (Male)
- No. 10: Three-star ATH Jordan Watkins, Louisville (Butler)
Louisville – 2
- No. 11: Three-star S Josh Minkins Jr., Louisville (Ballard)
- No. 15: Three-star SDE Austin Collins, Louisville (Christian Academy-Louisville)
Still on the table:
- No. 3: Four-star safety Vito Tisdale, Bowling Green (Bowling Green)
- No. 5: Three-star defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine, Radcliff (North Hardin)
Another trend to keep an eye on: West Virginia. Since taking over, Neal Brown has landed three-star wide receiver Reese Smith from his old stomping grounds at Boyle County.
Kentucky – 5
- No. 7: Four-star LB Jared Casey, Louisville (Ballard)
- No. 8: Four-star DE JJ Weaver, Louisville (Moore)
- No. 10: Three-star WDE Shawnkel Knight-Goff, Louisville (Doss)
- No. 11: Three-star WR Demontae Crumes, Louisville (Butler)
- No. 14: Three-star C Eli Cox, Nicholasville (West Jessamine)
Louisville – 2
- No. 12: Three-star RB Aidan Robbins, Louisville (DuPont Manual)
What a difference a year makes. Obviously, the decision to put Vince Marrow in charge of Kentucky in the spring of 2018 started paying dividends with the 2019 class. Kentucky landed five of the top 15 players in the state, the most since the 2016 class, which included Landon Young, Kash Daniel, and Drake Jackson.
Kentucky – 0
Louisville – 2
- No. 2: Four-star CB Jairus Brents, Louisville (Waggener)
- No. 43: Two-star QB Drew Zaubi, Crestwood (South Oldham)
In 2018, Kentucky didn’t sign a single in-state kid for the first time in 78 years, a brutal wake-up call. Louisville may have snagged the second best prospect in the state, Jairus Brents, but another coach had cast a spell over the Commonwealth’s best: Jeff Brohm. Purdue signed five of the top 15 players from Kentucky that year, including No. 1 Rondale Moore. Obviously, a change needed to be made. After the ink dried and the dust settled on the 2018 class, Mark Stoops put Vince Marrow in charge of getting Kentucky’s best to come to Kentucky.
Kentucky – 2
- No. 4: Three-star QB Walker Wood, Lexington (Lafayette)
- No. 9: Three-star OT Austin Dotson, Belfry (Belfry)
Louisville – 1
- No. 2: Three-star OG Cole Bentley, Belfry (Belfry)
Jedrick Wills was far and away the best player in the state that year, and had he chosen Kentucky over Alabama, the Cats may have been able to build momentum in the state for the 2018 class; needless to say, that didn’t happen.
Kentucky – 5
- No. 1: Four-star OT Landon Young, Lexington (Lafayette)
- No. 2: Four-star C Drake Jackson, Versailles (Woodford County)
- No. 3: Four-star ILB Kash Daniel, Paintsville (Paintsville)
- No. 5: Three-star ATH Zy’Aire Hughes, Paducah (McCracken County)
- No. 7: Three-star CB Davonte Robinson, Lexington (Henry Clay)
Louisville – 3
- No. 4: Three-star WR Keion Wakefield, Louisville (Male)
- No. 10: Three-star DT Derek Dorsey, Louisville (DuPont Manual)
- No. 14: Three-star P Austin Johnson, Louisville (De Sales)
Stoops made a splash by signing five in-state stars in 2016, all ranked in the top ten in the state. Kash Daniel, Landon Young, and Drake Jackson became the cornerstones of Stoops’ “Stay home and be a hero” campaign in hopes of snagging an even bigger fish in the 2017 class: five-star offensive tackle Jedrick Wills.
Kentucky – 2
- No. 2: Four-star OLB Eli Brown, Bowling Green (Warren East)
- No. 9: Three-star OG Mason Wolfe, Henderson (Henderson County)
Louisville – 0
A lot of Kentucky’s in-state efforts in the 2015 class were focused on Damien Harris, the No. 1 prospect in the state who eventually signed with Alabama. Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, Western Kentucky was booming after back-to-back eight-win seasons, signing the majority of the state’s two- and three-star talent.
Kentucky – 4
- No. 1: Four-star QB Drew Barker, Hebron (Conner)
- No. 2: Four-star DT Matt Elam, Elizabethtown (John Hardin)
- No. 3: Three-star WDE Lloyd Tubman, Louisville (Seneca)
- No. 5: Three-star DT Adrian Middleton, Bowling Green (South Warren)
Louisville – 1
- No. 3: Three-star ATH Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville (Trinity)
With his first season under him, Stoops made keeping Drew Barker and Matt Elam in-state a priority in the 2014 class. He succeeded, and even if their careers at Kentucky didn’t pan out, there’s no denying the swag of that Super Bowl ad:
Kentucky – 3
- No. 3: Four-star WDE Jason Hatcher, Louisville (Trinity)
- No. 6: Three-star RB/WR Ryan Timmons, Frankfort (Franklin County)
- No. 7: Three-star DT Jacob Hyde, Manchester (Clay County)
Louisville – 2
- No. 1: Four-star WR James Quick, Louisville (Trinity)
- No. 4: Four-star QB Kyle Bolin, Lexington (Lexington Catholic)
Stoops’ first initiative when taking the job in November 2012 was securing in-state talent. With very little time, he did pretty well, signing four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher, three-star athlete Ryan Timmons, and three-star defensive tackle Jacob Hyde.
Kalil Branham, one of Kentucky’s top targets in the 2020 class, sure seems like he is close to making a major announcement on Twitter. I say that with no inside info because football recruiting isn’t really my thing, but I am capable of reading tea leaves and his timeline is full of them.
A four-star receiver in 247Sports’s rankings, Branham has spent the last 24 hours thanking all of the coaches and universities that have been recruiting him. It started with a shout-out to Pitt, then Alabama, then Notre Dame, then Wake Forest, then, most recently, Cincinnati this morning. He also tweeted thank yous to his high school coaches and other people who have played a role in his upbringing as a prized high school athlete.
Notably absent from his shout-outs so far is the University of Kentucky. And if you’re more of the optimistic type, you may interpret that as a commitment is on the way. Everything he has written reads as a goodbye to those programs, leaving the door open for one final tweet, a commitment announcement, to wrap it all up.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on him today.
A four-star defensive tackle from Tennessee will not be heading north of the state line.
After participating in drills at the Five-Star Challenge, Dallas Walker committed to Texas A&M over Kentucky and Auburn. The No. 20 defensive tackle in America officially visited Lexington two weeks ago.
As Walker sets his sights on College Station, the Kentucky coaching staff has their eyes on another player at the Five-Star Challenge, Octavious Oxendine. The explosive four-star prospect from North Hardin High School has shown off a few exceptional moves so far at the camp.
2019 #RivalsChallenge OL vs. DL
2020 4-star DT Octavius Oxendine (Ky)
2020 4-star OG Jovens Janvier (FL) pic.twitter.com/izRpxj79wT
— Dave Lackford, Esq. (@RivalsDave) June 25, 2019
Louisville, Purdue, Tennessee and Texas are just a few of the players involved in Ox’s recruitment. Don’t expect a decision from the in-state star anytime soon.
By Nick Roush on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 8:00am
One of Kentucky’s top targets made a surprising revelation Monday night.
While meeting with media members at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta, defensive tackle Dallas Walker said he will announce his college decision today, choosing between Kentucky, Texas A&M and Auburn.
The decision comes less than two weeks after Walker officially visited UK. His only other official was to A&M, a school who only recently began heavily pursuing the four-star athlete.
Walker’s comments to Woody Wommack make it seem like the Cats are the team to beat.
“I just took my official visit up there. I thought it went well,” he said. “I enjoyed talking with the coaching staff and the environment. I spent a little time with the players and everything. I liked the facilities and everything like that. They have Justin Rogers committed and they told me that I would fit well with him because I’m versatile and I can play defensive end and defensive tackle. They said they really love my character, too, they said it’s more than just football. I’ve really enjoyed it every time I’ve been up there and with them winning a lot of games now it shows they are going in the right direction.”
If UK lands Walker, they’re getting an incredibly explosive 6’4″ 300-pound athlete, ranked by Rivals as the No. 20 defensive tackle and No. 243 player in the country. It also would put UK in unfamiliar territory in the recruiting world. The Cats have been finalists for prospects announcing at All-American Games, but have never successfully pulled in a player at an elite recruiting event. That kind of PR resonates with the rest of the recruits in attendance, guys like Enzo Jennings and Dekel Crowdus.
Kentucky could enter rarified air at today’s Five-Star Challenge. Stay tuned.
By Nick Roush on ©June 24th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Hello friends. It’s good to be back. I took one last final break of the summer to get my mind right and jump off trees into cenotes. Now that I have (mostly) detoxified from my week-long fiesta, I’m prepared to dive back into the world of Kentucky football recruiting. As a wise man once said, the dice are hot.
All the Receivers
Four commitments in two days is a pretty excellent rate of return on an official visit investment. Three of those prospects will provide plenty of firepower in the wide receivers’ room.
The addition of Earnest Sanders came out of nowhere. His recent offer sheet tells me the Michigan kid has what it takes to be successful. I love Izayah Cummings‘ size for an outside wide receiver. He’s also a proven winner at one of the state’s powerhouse football programs. You can’t coach size and you can’t give a kid confidence. He will bring both to UK’s campus.
You’ve already heard about Jordan Watkins‘ speed. You probably remember his battles with Andru Phillips at UK football camp in early June. Here’s a little something you have not heard.
Four years ago a friend of mine who coaches high school football told me, “Roush, remember the name Jordan Watkins. This kid’s going D-I.” Naturally, I did not believe that my idiot friend could spot D-I talent before the kid played a snap of high school football. I will happily admit that I was wrong. Not only is Watkins a D-I athlete, he has SEC speed. If he remains on the right track, he will be an explosive weapon in Eddie Gran’s offense.
With all that being said, I don’t think Kentucky is finished stockpiling receivers. UK only signed two in the 2019 recruiting class. The biggest question mark on this year’s offensive depth chart, they need as many playmakers as possible, especially in the slot. You can’t count on Lynn Bowden to return for a fourth year. The three added this weekend all play on the outside, leaving a few candidates to potentially suit up in the slot in the near future.
Running back commit JuTahn McClain has enough speed on the edge and wide receiver skills to move to the slot position. The same applies to UK target Michael Drennen, the No. 5 all-purpose back in America. Beating the big dogs for Drennen could be a reach, however, I do feel comfortable with UK’s chances of landing Kalil Branham. The former Michigan commit has all of the speed to make plays and is an absolute work horse. He gave glowing reviews following an official visit to UK in the spring. Branham is in no rush to commit, but when he does, I think the impressive athlete will ultimately choose UK to complete the Cats’ wide receiver class.
Today the top high school football players in America traveled to Atlanta to participate in Rivals’ Five-Star Challenge. Along with Nike’s The Opening, it’s the premiere prep camp in the country. In previous years, UK and the Commonwealth of Kentucky were under-represented. Now there are Lexington kids rocking cowboy hats on media day.
Joining Clemson commit Walker Parks from the state of Kentucky is defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine and his Frederick Douglass teammate, Dekel Crowdus. The speedy wide receiver ran a 4.36 40-yard dash earlier this month at Ohio State football camp. The top-ranked rising junior in the Commonwealth, he’s one of just 17 players from the class of 2021 attending the Five-Star Challenge and the only receiver.
Oxendine isn’t the only high profile UK defensive tackle target attending the camp. Two weeks after officially visiting UK, Dallas Walker will run through drills at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Michigan cornerback Enzo Jennings will be in attendance, along with the dynamic duo from Cincinnati Princeton High School, outside linebacker Jaheim Thomas and defensive end Darrion Henry.
The Cats are finalists for each of the Ohio prospects. Today Henry revealed he will announce his college decision June 29. UK’s prospects aren’t great for Henry, but I think Kentucky can reel in Thomas if they get him on campus for an official visit.
Richie Leonard Nears Decision
The former UK commit completed his final official visit this weekend in Knoxville. Down to seven schools — Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, UCF and Tennessee — Leonard will make an announcement July 5. Florida State and Tennessee appear to be the Cats’ competition for the slugger.
— Richie Leonard IV™ (@RichieLeonardIV) June 10, 2019
If Leonard does decide to go elsewhere, Joshua Jones is a solid security blanket for the future of UK’s interior offensive line.
Kentucky Kid Commits to Notre Dame
Another Boyle County star is leaving the state. A few months after wide receiver Reese Smith announced he’ll play for Neal Brown at West Virginia, three-star running back Landen Bartleson committed to Notre Dame. I think it’s safe to say the Rebels will have a target on their backs when high school football season starts in just over two weeks.
Talking Season is almost Here
As much fun as it to dish on football recruiting, it’s only an appetizer. We get our first taste of the main course three weeks from today at SEC Media Days. Returning to Hoover after a one-year trip to Atlanta, Mark Stoops will take the podium on the final day of the event. As a wise Bart Scott once said, “Can’t Wait!”
Kentucky could end the week with a commitment from one of the 150 best high school football players in America.
Four-star cornerback Enzo Jennings, a consensus top 10 cornerback ranked as the No. 11 player overall by the 247 Composite, teased a “big announcement” this Thursday at 11:00 a.m. Even though he did not say it outright, it appears Jennings will announce his commitment, choosing between Kentucky, Penn State, Notre Dame and Pitt.
For those who like to read the tea leaves, UK is the first image he shared in the Tweet.
If you’d like to read further between the lines, this afternoon Jennings’ talented teammate, Justin Rogers, reaffirmed his commitment to Kentucky following an official visit to Alabama. Another Michigan athlete, Earnest Sanders, committed to the Cats over the weekend.
Recruited by Steve Clinkscale, Jennings’ received his first offer from UK as an eighth grader. Since his official to Kentucky in early June, he’s taken official visits to Pitt and Penn State. The 247 Crystal Ball currently predicts Jennings will pick Penn State.
Jennings will spend the next two days at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta before returning home to Detroit for the big announcement.
By Nick Roush on ©June 24th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Kentucky’s top-ranked recruit in the 2020 recruiting class still bleeds blue.
Five-star lineman Justin Rogers went to Twitter Monday afternoon to let everyone know where his allegiance stands. It’s a statement so nice, he said it twice.
— Justin Rogers (@AllAmerican52JR) June 24, 2019
— Justin Rogers (@Justinr96389662) June 24, 2019
Rogers previously gave Kentucky fans a reason to fear he would de-commit. Less than two weeks after his announcement ceremony, Rogers revealed he would take another official visit. That visit happened last weekend at the University of Alabama. Any de-commitment concerns should have gone away when Rogers posted this picture with Butch Jones from his time in Tuscaloosa.
Even though the Tide appeared to be turning Rogers away from UK, Kentucky’s coaching staff has reeled back in the No. 10 player in America following a trip to Alabama. All is well…for now.
177 days until signing day.
By Nick Roush on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Four Kentucky football commitments in three days? Not too shabby. Adding a monster from Alabama and three playmaking wide receivers? Excellent.
For the third time in the recruiting calendar year, this weekend campus was filled with blue chip recruits on official visits. Just like the first, most left campus ready to commit. This time it didn’t take quite as long.
The action started Saturday morning when Joshua Jones picked up the dice and committed to UK over LSU. Most high school offensive guards aren’t 6’5″ 300-pounds, but that’s how they grow them down in Alabama.
A few hours later, Jones handed the dice to Jordan Watkins. The fastest player in the state and one of the top competitors at UK’s football camp earlier this summer, the Louisville Butler wide receiver announced his commitment while officially visiting UK’s campus. He’ll follow his former Butler teammate TaeTae Crumes to Lexington. (For those counting at home, the fastest receivers from Louisville have committed to UK in consecutive seasons.)
Before the party ended in Lexington, Earnest Sanders decided it was time to commit to the Cats. A lengthy outside wide receiver, Sanders is the second player from the state of Michigan to join UK’s 2020 recruit class and the fourth in two years. The least heralded player from the Michigan pipeline by the recruiting sites, he had offers from almost every Big 10 school. Mike Leach, Jeff Brohm and Neal Brown all wanted Sanders in their offenses, yet he decided Kentucky was the best place to cultivate his talent.
Just when you thought the Cats had too many receivers, the third outside target officially visiting over the weekend announced he would play college football in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The addition of Male’s Izayah Cummings gives UK the top three players from Jefferson County in the 2020 class. A 6A state champion in 2018, the perennial powerhouse program that fueled UofL’s success in the late 90s and 00s is now sending its best to Lexington.
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the coaching staff brought a diverse group of talented wide receivers into the fold. Watkins will take the top off defenses, Cummings will haul in jump balls and Sanders will do everything in-between. Inside the trenches, they fortified the middle of the Big Blue Wall by adding a behemoth that has proved he’s capable enough to move down the line of scrimmage and into the second level of the defense to create holes.
All four look great on paper. They have the tools to become steady contributors in the SEC. Will they all follow the right blueprint to reach that goal? Time will tell. That’s not what’s most important right now.
A week after Scott Satterfield’s new Louisville staff brought out every recruiting trick in their arsenal, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow responded with nukes.
Scott’s Tots used the Stoops method to achieve early recruiting success. UofL sold recruits on a mission to “change the program.” After picking up a few reputable players, they took whoever they could get to create recruiting momentum. In two weeks 13 players committed to UofL. The shear volume catapulted the Cards to a top 20 recruiting class (only 19 spots below UK’s peak in 2014 at No.1).
While Louisville scoured the hills of North Carolina and the JUCO ranks, Vince Marrow convinced two elite athletes who live minutes away from campus and grew up cheering for the Cards to become Kentucky Wildcats. Not only did the Cats mark their territory in the city of Louisville, prospects from talent-rich Alabama and Michigan moved UK into the Top 25 in the nation with only 11 committed players.
In one weekend Kentucky loaded up on talented wide receivers and proved the narrative on the ground in the city of Louisville has changed. Checkmate.
The Cats played Yahtzee for the fourth time this weekend and this time there was some historical perspective behind the commitment. Louisville Male High School is apart of the biggest classification in the state of Kentucky and has won seven state championships (1960, 1963, 1964, 1993, 1998, 2015, 2018). Since the 6A classification was started in 2007, Male is one of only four schools to have brought home the hardware. They’re a football powerhouse in the state, but this entire time they have been a Louisville feeder program.
Former Male head coach Bob Redman won two state titles at Male and turned the school into legitimate competition for private school powers St. Xavier and Trinity. During this run, Redman’s son Chris was a blue-chip quarterback who would go onto great success at Louisville under John L. Smith and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. Since then, nearly every FBS prospect out of Male would continue their careers at Louisville.
Everyone knows Michael Bush, but there have been a handful of others. Montrell Jones (who ended up at Louisville after a pit stop at Tennessee), Sergio Spencer, Doug Beaumont, Dexter Heyman, Keion Wakefield, and there’s plenty more. Male has kept all of their alums in the city while Kentucky, under numerous head coaches, could never crack through and land a scholarship athlete.
That now all changes with the addition of high three-star wide receiver Izayah Cummings. The 6-foot-3 wideout led Male with 597 receiving yards on 41 grabs with 11 touchdowns despite missing five games with a leg injury. Cummings pledged on his official visit to Kentucky this weekend and had a lot of interest from surrounding schools. Both Louisville and Purdue were heavily involved in his recruitment with Ohio State having him on campus for an unofficial visit while Vanderbilt. Vince Marrow is making some moves in the city of Louisville and this may be his biggest recruiting win for a bunch of different reasons.
Cummings is at his best on vertical routes. He’s an excellent go-route runner and does his best work when he is able stop, locate the football, and make a jump grab. On his tape, you will see many plays where the quarterback short arms the throw, but that just may be by design. Similar to a basketball player, Cummings goes up for a rebound and then shows some solid run after the catch ability. This is where he is at his best.
Due to his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and athletic ability, Cummings does his best work in the red zone. On the road in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, Cummings comes up with a huge touchdown reception on third-and-11 to break a tie in the fourth quarter. The wideout runs your typical fade route and despite the safety bracketing Cummings over the top, Male still decides to toss up the jump ball.
Cummings essentially boxes out the safety while the corner goes running by. He high points the football and makes a clutch catch to help Male march towards a state championship. One of the best attributes Cummings presents is a big target in the red zone and this should translate to the college level.
The biggest issue that Cummings will need to address in college will be his route running and separation ability. At The Opening regional camp, he was clocked at 4.50 in the forty and that should be good enough to create consistent separation on pass routes. However, when you watch the tape, it seems that he struggles to create that consistent separation.
On the sluggo (slant-and-g0) route, Cummings stumbles just a bit and that prevents him from creating space. Thanks to the on target throw it doesn’t matter, but these are things at the next level he will have to work on. Cummings must improve on his technique in running routes. If he is able to become a true weapon on intermediate passes, that will make his ability to go vertical even harder for opposing corners to keep in check.
Cummings will enter Lexington in the class of 2020 as the first Male alum to go to Kentucky on a football scholarship in a very long time. He possesses the attributes that the Kentucky staff has had a hard time attracting on the recruiting. He’s a big, physical receiver who resembles some guys you would see on Sundays. He’s a true weapon in the vertical game and could be very reliable in the red zone.
Cummings has a lot to work on. He has the size and physical ability to be a dominant perimeter blocker, but that is to be determined. He must polish his route running ability because right now he is just a one-trick pony. However, that is a damn strong trick and he has a ton of potential. This is a big time recruiting win for a multitude of reasons and his play on the field should excite you alone.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 9:03pm
Huh, well would you look at the time… It’s YAHTZEE o’clock already.
Three-star wide receiver Izayah Cummings from the class of 2020 has committed to the University of Kentucky!
The commitment marks the fourth in two days for the program and the second receiver from Lousiville. Cummings currently attends Male High School and is joining wide-receiver Jordan Watkins – who committed on Saturday – out of Butler Traditional in Louisville as a future Wildcat.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide-out also had offers from Louisville, Duke, Cincinnati, and Indiana. Kentucky’s 2020 class now ranks No. 25 in the nation.
Cummings made his announcement just now via his Twitter account.
Commitment Video???? pic.twitter.com/KJBB0BZ2DI
— IC8? (@IzayahCummings) June 24, 2019
KSR’s own Nick Roush makes a quick appearance in the form of a Twitter notification at the 45 second mark.
Check out his junior year highlights.
The Kentucky football staff has the dice rolling HOT this weekend! Momentum is clearly on their side.
The dice continue to roll in Lexington with Mark Stoops and his staff picking up their 10th member in the class of 2020. The wide receiver position was a main focus for the football program this weekend with three prospects at that position taking their official visits. The Wildcats got a verbal from Jordan Watkins on Saturday evening and now they will add Earnest Sanders to the class.
Sanders will be the second Michigan pledge in this recruiting cycle joining consensus top-50 prospect Justin Rogers thanks to the recruiting work of corners coach Steve Clinkscale. The man they call Coach Clink is slowly becoming the staff’s second most valuable recruiter behind Vince Marrow and in Sanders the Wildcats are adding a high-three star recruit who had a ton of Power Five interest.
It’s time to step into the film room to breakdown Earnest Sanders’ game. In addition to being a football recruit, Sanders also has the ability to play basketball at the D-I level. He has some great athleticism and has shown some solid route running potential. He will be an outside receiver at Kentucky who will play the position at over 20o pounds.
One of the staples of the Eddie Gran offense has been teeing up deep shots after hammering opposing defenses with the running game and some quick passes. In 2016, Stephen Johnson made a bunch of big throws with the deep post and in the spring game we saw Terry Wilson make some big league throws on that same route. When you watch Earnest Sanders, it’s clear that this route is one of the best parts of his game.
The receiver is a long strider who gets to the top of his route very quickly. He makes a sharp plant step to get inside and that creates separation between the corner and the safety he ran by. He makes the big catch that results in six. This is exactly what Kentucky likes to do and Sanders fits that mold.
Speaking of those short routes to help setup the deep shot, Sanders is also a very effective receiver in the quick game. The Michigan native provides a big target to his quarterback and some impressive run after the catch ability to convert a fourth-and-short into a touchdown.
Sanders shows a little bit of wiggle to make the first two defenders miss on top of the balance to recover after reeling in the high pass. Those are nice, but the acceleration that the wideout shows is what you should be excited about. He takes off down the sideline and blitzes by the safety. The long strider can hit a high speed once he gets a few steps to pickup steam.
The deep balls are nice and the quick game is an easy way to pick up receptions, but at the end of the day a true outside receiver is going to be judged on what they do over the middle of the field. To move the chains and take advantage of the gaps in zone coverage, you need your outside guys to go across the middle and make some plays in traffic. There’s no doubt that Earnest Sanders is comfortable doing that.
On the slant he shows his numbers and makes a solid reception in between a couple of defenders. He then gets upfield and fights through a face mask grab to get to paydirt. Beecher High School asks for Sanders to go across the middle on slants and crossing routes very often and he is comfortable with making grabs in traffic. He will be asked to do the same in college.
At The Opening this spring, Sanders was clocked at 4.72 in the forty-yard dash and is listed at just six-foot tall. That’s a surprise when watching his tape. The Flint, Michigan native plays much bigger and faster than that. He appears to have a very long wingspan to give him a very large catch radius and shows plenty of acceleration to make big time plays in open space.
At the high school level, Sanders is asked to do a lot. Beecher uses him in the wildcat formation, on reverses, constantly puts him in motion, and to do just about everything for them on offense. In addition to that, he plays safety on defense and has the ability to play that in college on top of his basketball skills on the hardwood.
— ??????? ??????? ?? ??? (@erniesands11) July 13, 2018
The receiver has been wanted by a ton of schools on the recruiting trail. Offensive gurus Neal Brown, Jeff Brohm and Mike Leach each wanted him in their offense. Big Ten powers Michigan State and Penn State have been in hot pursuit. This is another solid recruiting win for Kentucky. Earnest Sanders is a straight up football player who will find his way onto the field. Of all the tapes I have evaluated this spring, this one was the best I’ve seen in the 2020 class. Sanders has a ton of tools and is the exact type of player UK has struggled to attract. A playmaking outside receiver who can effect the passing game at all three levels. Give props to Steve Clinkscale for continuing to do damage in Michigan, but there are still some more big fish in that state remaining on Kentucky’s recruiting board.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 4:37pm
The dice just keep on rolling! After picking up two commits on Saturday, Kentucky football has now added 2020 three-star recruit, Earnest Sanders.
The wide receiver out of Mount Morris, Michigan chose the Wildcats over schools such as Penn State, Michigan State, West Virginia, among others, according to 24/7 Sports.
Sanders made his announcement Sunday afternoon on Twitter.
— ??????? ??????? ?? ??? (@erniesands11) June 23, 2019
“First and foremost, I want to thank God for blessing me with my gifted talent and ability. Next, I want to thank my Mom, Dad and Grandmother. They have been with me every step of the way. I know my Grandfather is looking down at me and is so proud of how far I’ve come. My little brothers and sisters are my reason why. My dad in particular has pushed me to become the best player and person I can be. My family always taught me right from wrong. Now, I want to be an example for all the young kids growing up in Flint that look up to me.”
“I also want to thank Coach Hawkins and Coach Mike for always pushing me to be the best. I also want to thank all the teachers and staff at Beecher High School for helping me become a better student.”
“Finally, I want to thank all the coaches and schools that recruited me throughout the process. It’s a blessing to have so many options. With that being said I will be committing to the University of Kentucky. I believe that Kentucky will maximize my potential as a player, student and person over the next 3-4 years. I love all the players, coaches and staff here and can now call them family. I will continue to work hard every day and can’t wait to come to my new home #BBN.”
Sanders is the 73rd ranked wide receiver in the country, according to 24/7 Sports.
You can check out some of Sanders’ highlights here.
Can we go ahead and lock in another one?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
After rolling a Yahtzee this morning in the form of 2020 three-star OL Joshua Jones, the Kentucky coaching staff rolled yet another one this evening.
Jordan Watkins, a three-star wide receiver out of Butler Traditional in Louisville, is officially a Wildcat.
The 6-foot-0, 180-pound wideout made his official announcement on Twitter.
“First I would like to thank God for the abilities he has given me!” Watkins said. “I want to give my most appreciation to my parents. Y’all have gave up more than I could ever ask for to make my dream turn into a reality and I will always be grateful for that!
“Next, I would like to give a huge shoutout to any coach who has ever helped me get to where I am now. Whether it’s a baseball, basketball or football coach y’all have helped me become a better athlete and a better man. I would also like to give a shoutout to the Butler High School community for welcoming me with open arms and making me a part of the family.
“Thank you for all the coaches that took the time to build a relationship with me and gave me the opportunity to play for their program during this process. With that being said I am blessed to announce that I am 110% committed to the University of Kentucky. BBN here I come!”
— Jordan Watkins ? (@jordantwatkins) June 22, 2019
Watkins chose Kentucky over Louisville, Rutgers, and Central Michigan, among others, though the decision was widely expected to come down to the Cats and the Cards.
Rated as the No. 7 prospect in Kentucky in the Rivals state rankings, Watkins is known for his elite agility, lateral quickness, and vertical speed. At The Opening back in May, Watkins ran a laser-timed 4.38 40-yard dash.
Watkins’ addition gives Kentucky nine commitments for the class of 2020: Five-star prospect Justin Rogers, four-star prospects Beau Allen, John Young, Torrance Davis, JuTahn McClain, and Andru Phillips, and three-star prospects Joshua Jones, D’Eryk Jackson, and Jordan Watkins.
Check out the newest Wildcat’s most recent highlights below:
The best part of it all? Kentucky might not even be done rolling the dice this weekend…
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2019 @ 10:45pm
How about a huge YAHTZEE! for the Kentucky football program on this fine Saturday afternoon?
Joshua Jones, a high three-star offensive lineman in the class of 2020 from Phenix City, Alabama has committed to Kentucky, choosing the Wildcats over LSU, Florida State, and Tennessee, among others.
The 6-foot-5, 299-pound prospect made his announcement today on his Twitter page:
— Joshua Jones (@almightybugg) June 22, 2019
After the announcement, Chad Simmons of Rivals.com published an interview with the newest Wildcat, who said he is officially shutting down his recruitment.
“I am shutting my recruitment down,” said Jones. “I am not one of those guys who commits, decommits and all that. I am focused on Central football and academics now. Kentucky is the school for me. I felt comfortable there, my parents felt comfortable there, I loved the people and the vibe around Lexington and my decision has been made.”
For Jones, he made up his mind last week during his official visit to Lexington.
“That visit changed everything for me,” said Jones. “It was amazing up there. It was my first time there and I felt at home. I loved it. My family loved it. I knew a day after I got back from the visit that I was going to Kentucky.”
Watch his junior-year highlights below:
Welcome home, big fella!
The dice are rolling in Lexington with Kentucky landing three-star offensive lineman Joshua Jones out of Phenix City, Alabama. The small town is located right on the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama-Georgia state line and produces FBS talent quite frequently. Jones had a ton of interest from some big time schools and in the end decided to pick Kentucky over LSU. Also included on his list were Florida State, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. The 6-foot-5 and 298-pound offensive line prospect is absolutely a fit for what John Schlarman likes to have on the interior.
Joshua Jones plays right tackle for his Phenix City Central team, but it’s expected that Kentucky will move him to guard when he gets to Lexington. When at the college level, UK’s scheme will call on the Jones to move around and pull to pick up play side linebackers on power run plays. Here he shows a little bit of the required athletic ability.
On this counter play, the running back appears to move too fast on the hesitation fake and that puts Jones in a bad spot. The big guy gets to the run blitzing linebacker and delivers a punishing blow that puts the defender into the dirt. The play is, for the most part, blown up but you see the physical strength and power that Jones possesses.
Evaluating high school offensive linemen can be very difficult due to the fact that when they are playing football with pads against defensive players that are much, much smaller. For any high school lineman that is around 300 pounds that is going to be the case and Jones is no different. When watching them it is important to look for motor, technique, and leg drive. Jones shows some of those skills on this play.
Jones loses the battle at the beginning of the play due to hand placement. The right tackle is beat to the point of attack by the defensive end and is at first knocked back. Due to this, his hands go outside and this immediately gives the defensive player the advantage. However, that happens some and any good offensive lineman must have quality recovery skills. Jones flashes those behind some brute force. Once he is locked on with his hands it is hard for the defender to break away and create separation. Once the defender tries to get outside, Jones buries him with leg drive. He’s got some issues to iron out, but the big guy has some tools that are hard to teach.
You want power? He’s got power.
It’s pretty easy to see why UK’s staff was so enamored with Joshua Jones. He’s an athletic kid who will easily play at around 320 pounds in college. Add that solid weight on to his 6-foot-5 frame and he physically looks like a really good SEC offensive lineman. Despite playing strictly tackle in high school, he’s a scheme fit for what Kentucky likes in offensive guards. Derrick LeBlanc was his primary recruiter and this was his biggest recruiting win since joining the staff prior to the 2017 season.
Kentucky has shown they are not afraid to have tall guards and there have been many projected tackles (Luke Fortner, Logan Stenberg, Mason Wolfe) who have turned into full-time guards once they get on campus. Jones has some next level power in run blocking and is doing it all without great technique. Once he gets some seasoning and is able to play out of a three-point stance at Kentucky, that physicality should become even more powerful. He’ll have a lot to prove in pass protection, but he is exactly what UK wants in an offensive guard prospect. This was a very solid deep south recruiting win for Kentucky and it feels like the Wildcats are on their way to an excellent offensive line haul.
Who will be the next to join the 2020 class?
By Adam Luckett on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 6:00pm
With the new rule that schools can now host official visits in the summer, June has become one of the most important months on recruiting calendar. Kentucky has been on a quite a roll in recent weeks, pulling in eight commits in the last two months and it could be possible that the dice will be hot again this weekend.
Louisville Wide Receiver Duo
Kentucky has been on a remarkable run recruiting in the city of Louisville. Since unleashing recruiting ace Vince Marrow on the city, the Wildcats landed four of the top six Louisville prospects in the class of 2019. If they are able to secure verbals from Izayah Cummings and Jordan Watkins this weekend, that would mean UK would have pledges from the top three Louisville seniors in the class of 2020. That’s big time.
— IC8? (@IzayahCummings) June 20, 2019
Izayah Cummings is a high three-star receiver who is likely at the top of UK’s recruiting board at the position. The 6-foot-3 prospect fits the mold of an outside receiver at the next level and the big man does his best work vertically down the field. Cummings is excellent at high pointing the football and using his big frame to create space and snatch the football. Louisville, Purdue, and West Virginia all really covet Cummings while Ohio State has kicked the tires. It would be a monstrous recruiting win for the program and would be the first time UK landed a scholarship football player from Louisville Male High School in a very long time. That’s not going to make people around the Louisville program too happy.
— Jordan Watkins ? (@jordantwatkins) June 19, 2019
Kentucky got into Butler High School last summer and scored a commitment from wide receiver Tae Tae Crumes and Jordan Watkins is built in a similar mold. The 5-foot-11 receiver ran a blazing 4.34 forty at The Opening Regional last month and has become a camp superstar this summer. The Wildcats offered the speedster back in February and he attended a UK camp two weekends ago. He’s a guy Kentucky will want to use outside to run vertical routes similar to Jeff Badet. Wrapping him up this weekend would be another big recruiting win for Vince Marrow. The big dog appears to feel good about his chances.
Man get them ? rolling. BBN if fired up.
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) June 19, 2019
A Familiar Face
Torrance Davis committed to the Wildcats on his visit to Lexington two weeks ago and now he will be returning to campus for another visit.
I will be an Lexington Kentucky tm #BBN home sick??????
— Torrance Davis (@TorranceDavis8) June 20, 2019
The bruising tailback will likely be used to help recruit both Izayah Cummings and Jordan Watkins as it feels to be an “all hands on deck” type weekend to get the two Louisville natives to commit to Kentucky. Davis should, in theory, be able to help in that regard.
Joshua Jones is a high-three star offensive lineman from Phenix City, Alabama who is down to two schools. Both Kentucky and LSU have risen above contenders Florida State and Tennessee. The 6-foot-5, 299-pound prospect is listed as a tackle by most recruiting services, but will most likely play guard at the next level.
— Joshua Jones (@almightybugg) June 12, 2019
Kentucky currently has their right tackle of the future committed in four-star John Young, but they also must address the interior of the line. Getting Jones on board would be a substantial win in the deep south. Stay tuned to KSR on Saturday to see if Jones becomes the next member of John Schlarman’s offensive line room. Derrick LeBlanc appears to be the top recruiter for Jones and this would be his biggest recruiting win since joining the staff.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 1:45pm
Who will land four-star offensive lineman Chris Mayo, Mark Stoops or Neal Brown? The 6’5″ 300 lbs. New Jersey native is considered the 14th best offensive guard in the 2020 class by Rivals, and tomorrow, will choose between Kentucky and West Virginia:
— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) June 21, 2019
The timing doesn’t look great for the Cats. Earlier this week, Mayo visited West Virginia, whose staff also includes former Kentucky assistant Chad Scott, now the Mountaineers’ co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach:
— Chris Mayo (@chris_mayo76) June 18, 2019
Mayo visited Kentucky back in April, telling 247 Sports he enjoyed Keeneland and getting to know defensive coordinator Brad White:
“My relationship with Kentucky has definitely gotten better because my communication with the coaches has been great. I’ve gotten to know (Brad White) more on a more personal level. He is a really nice guy. He is really homey as a person. He knows how to make you feel welcome, which is really nice. He is the guy that offered me and it was a good time getting to know him more personally.”
— Chris Mayo (@chris_mayo76) April 7, 2019
Could this be what Vince Marrow was hinting at earlier this week?
Man get them ? rolling. BBN if fired up.
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) June 19, 2019
We’ll find out tomorrow.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 20th, 2019 @ 8:40am
Justin Rogers sent out a tweet early this morning that should ease some of Big Blue Nation’s worries about a potential decommitment.
The tweet was simple: a blue heart emoji with a fancy of graphic of him wearing Kentucky gear.
— Justin rogers (@Justinr96389662) June 20, 2019
Rogers of course took a visit to Alabama last weekend and got a lot of one-on-one time with Nick Saban, who reportedly made a similar pitch as Kentucky in that he sees Rogers as a defensive lineman, Rogers’ ideal position.
But today’s tweet suggests Rogers is still loyal to the Bluegrass. He even added “university of Kentucky” back to his bio.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 19th, 2019 @ 2:45pm
Fresh off an official visit to Florida, four-star defensive tackle Lamar Goods has rescinded his commitment to the University of Kentucky. Crap.
Goods, who is ranked as the 30th-best defensive tackle in the Class of 2020 in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, announced his decision via Twitter with this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“After long and thought out conversations with my mom and I we have made the decision that it is in our best interests to open my recruitment and announce that I have decommited from the university of Kentucky.thank you for all that the staff and coaches that have been amazing during this process.”
The Canadian, now a Connecticuter (?), had originally pledged his commitment to Kentucky back on April 8 after being recruited by new defensive coordinator Brad White. When he committed, Goods said, “I’m a big believer of going with your gut and knowing that it’s the right place if you truly feel it is.”
I guess that gut feeling wore off.
It is unclear at this time if he will still consider the Cats as he reopens his recruitment to welcome new suitors like stupid Florida.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 17th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
I was on vacation for the last nine days and I did a wonderful job of staying off my phone, so I’m a little behind on everything that happened in the world during that time. In catching up on all the fun I missed, I saw the photo of Justin Rogers with Butch Jones on Rogers’ official visit to Alabama and holy cow the replies are incredible.
My dog ??? pic.twitter.com/qgjkSo2EOU
— Justin Rogers (@AllAmerican52JR) June 16, 2019
The best responses are from Tennessee fans (for good reason), most of which are .GIFs of people laughing. It seems Rogers was able to do what I never thought was possible: bringing Kentucky and Tennessee football fans together.
On a serious note, Josh Helmholdt of Rivals makes it sound like Nick Saban made a solid pitch for UK’s coveted commitment. Helmholdt wrote, “I have been told it was an eye-opening visit for the five-star. One of the keys to this past weekend being a successful official visit was the personal time Saban spent with both Rogers and his mother. Alabama, like Kentucky, is recruiting the two-way player as a defensive tackle, which is the position he prefers.”
BACK OFF SABAN