One more week….
Since Mark Stoops’ first season ended with a 27-14 loss to Tennessee, there’s been a contract extension, an assistant coaching change, a stadium renovation reveal and another near Spring Game sellout. None of those are exciting as the recruiting class Stoops signed. With six four-star* commits, the Top 25 national ranking is the best in school history.
The 2014 Class is bringing playmakers, but most importantly, they’re bringing depth. Last year it was difficult to judge them simply because they didn’t have enough experienced players at important positions. Some will make an immediate impact (especially the JUCOs), but unfortunately the biggest names in the recruiting class will likely not see much action this Fall. Drew Barker and Matt Elam are bringing some buzz to campus, but they aren’t John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Depth and maturity play a much bigger role in football, so let me temper some high expectations for a moment on some of Stoops’ 4-star players.
The craziest recruitment of a football player that Kentucky fans have ever experienced, Matt Elam’s choice to stay home over playing at Alabama cemented Stoops’ status as an elite recruiter. As good as Elam is, it’s no secret that he needs to lose some weight and improve on his fundamentals. In just a few short months on campus, he’s already lost 35 pounds and has stayed close to Za’Darius Smith’s side to learn the tricks off the trade. The changes are a great first step, but there’s still a long way to go.
Elam is also in the middle of a very deep defensive line depth chart. Defensive tackles Melvin Lewis and Regie Meant showed dramatic improvements during their redshirt season and Mike Douglas is poised to have a breakout Senior year. Jimmy Brumbaugh runs a static two-deep substitution pattern, leaving only one vacant spot to be filled at DT. Letting Elam redshirt this year isn’t out of the question. If he can improve as much as Meant and Lewis did, the long-term investment would be rewarding.
Drew has done all of the right steps to have a horse in the quarterback race: arriving early on campus, displaying leadership qualities in and outside of the locker room while holding his own in the Spring Game in front of a large crowd. At the end of the day, he still has to beat out two guys that have been on a college campus for two years. Unless he’s head and shoulders above the rest, keeping Drew on the sidelines isn’t a bad idea.
Ware is the highest ranked defensive end Stoops has convinced to come to Lexington, but there’s two GIANT obstacles in the way: Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. No matter how well Ware adjusts to the college game, he isn’t taking any playing time away from the two Senior studs. Jason Hatcher will surely be in the mix a lot, leaving little room for another defensive end to get significant clock.
Stanley “Boom” Williams
Boom Williams might be the best “homerun” back on this year’s team, but the little guy (5’8, 190 lbs.) will have to bring a ton of Boom to find his way onto the field this Fall. The running back position is the deepest position on offense with two power backs (Clemons and Horton) and two speedsters (Kemp and Heard) splitting snaps. Boom’s best chance at seeing the field is in a Ryan Timmons-type role as a slot WR/RB (but can you take that many touches away from Timmons?). Last week Boom’s high school coach acknowledged that he has a long way to go, but is confident he’ll leave significant mark in Lexington before his collegiate career comes to a conclusion.
* – 247 Composite Score, of course