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Don’t Forget About The Redshirts

UK Athletics

Stoops looks on as Justin Rigg Squares up against Chris Westry at Bowl Practice in Jacksonville, via UK Athletics.

Stoops looks on as Justin Rigg squares up against Chris Westry at bowl practice in Jacksonville, via UK Athletics.

Conversation now surrounds the new Wildcats of 2017, but let us not forget about the players that redshirted last season and will be available for game action against Southern Miss.

Below is a list of last season’s redshirts: 

Jaylin Bannerman, Outside Linebacker
6-5, 220, Fr.-HS, Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central)

A tall and speedy linebacker/defensive end who is a consensus three-star prospect PHS posted an impressive 34-10 record and won four straight Ohio Capital Conference Championships during his career. Coached by Jay Sharrett. Earned first-team All-Conference and second-team All-Central District honors in 2015.

Chose UK over: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State.

Ja’Quize Cross, Defensive Line
6-3, 315, Fr.-HS, New Market, Ala. (Buckhorn)

Talented defensive tackle is a three-star prospect by ESPN, Scout and 247sports Finished his three-year career with 84 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, adding 14 QB hurries and causing a fumble. Three-star prospect by ESPN.

Chose UK over: Minnesota and Purdue.

Luke Fortner, Offensive Line
6-6, 305, Fr.-HS, Sylvania, Ohio (Sylvania Northview)

A three-star offensive tackle by ESPN, Rivals and 247sports. Rated as the 69th best offensive lineman nationally and the 36th best prospect in Ohio by 247sports. Coached by Doug Downing. Earned third-team All-Ohio for Division II. Named second-team All-Northwest Ohio in 2014.

Chose UK over: Akron, Cincinnati, Marshall, Maryland, Toledo and Western Michigan.

Tobias Gilliam, Defensive Back
5-11, 190, Fr.-HS, Dayton, Ohio (Wayne)

Consensus three-star cornerback Scout has him ranked as the 87th best cornerback in the nation and the third-best corner in Ohio. ESPN rates him as the 59th best cornerback in the nation and the 36th best prospect in Ohio Rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 46 cornerback. Recorded 77 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a senior. AP First Team All-Ohio, the Southwest District and the GWOC Central Defensive Player of the Year.

Chose UK over: Minnesota, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. 

Gunnar Hoak, Quarterback
6-4, 190, Fr.-HS, Dublin, Ohio (Dublin Coffman)

Tabbed by as a four-star prospect, ranking No. 14 among quarterbacks nationally and No. 12 among prospects in Ohio. All-Central District Division I special mention as a senior. A three-star prospect by Ranked by as a three-star prospect, as the No. 37 pro-style quarterback in the nation and as the 36th best prospect in Ohio.

Hoak is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job along with Stephen Johnson and Drew Barker. 

Gunnar Hoak in the 2016 Spring Game via UK Athletics.

Gunnar Hoak in the 2016 Spring Game via UK Athletics.

Dakota Holtzclaw, Receiver/Tight End
6-7, 215, Fr.-HS, Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne)

A three-star prospect by all four major recruiting services. Totaled 28 catches for 421 yards and a touchdown as a senior for Worthington Kilbourne. Had five catches for 141 yards and a TD in a week-four win. All-Central District Division II special mention as a senior, helping lead his team to an 11-2 overall record. Three-star prospect by, which ranks him as the 39th best tight end in the nation and the 31st best prospect in Ohio. Ranked by Rivals as a three-star prospect and the 37th best player in the state. A three-star prospect by, ranking No. 20 among tight ends and 22nd in the state of Ohio.

Chose UK over: Indiana, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Duke.

Zy’Aire Hughes, Receiver
6-1, 190, Fr.-HS, Paducah, Ky. (McCracken County)

A three-star recruit by all the major recruiting services. Can play multiple positions after seeing time at running back, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in high school. Concluded his prep career with an outstanding 4,914 passing yards with 46 touchdowns, 2,779 rushing yards with 53 touchdowns and 1,128 receiving yards on 89 receptions for another 10 scores. After playing quarterback and receiver most of his high school career, he moved to running back his senior season and was named the 2015 Purchase Area Player of the Year by the Paducah Sun. Compiled 1,170 rushing yards, 374 receiving yards and combined for 21 touchdowns he ran 61 times for 390 yards and nine TDs.

Chose Kentucky over: Louisville and Purdue 

Drake Jackson, Offensive Line      
6-2, 302, Fr.-HS, Versailles, Ky. (Woodford County)

U.S. Army All-American, named a team captain for the West squad. Helped the West win the game, 37-9. Two-time first-team all-state selection by the Courier-Journal and The Associated Press. A 2015 Herald-Leader “Class of Commonwealth” honoree. A four-star prospect by all four major recruiting services who is tabbed by as the nation’s top center recruit. Invited to Nike’s The Opening – the most prestigious football recruiting camp of the 2015 summer – and the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge. The nation’s second-best center, according to, which also ranks him as the second-best prospect in the state and the 140th best in the nation. Ranked as the second-best center and the second-best prospect in the state by after recording 163 pancake blocks as a senior.

Chose UK over Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU.



Tate Leavitt, Offensive Line
6-6, 310, Jr., Thornhill, Oh. (Hutchinson C.C.)

Tate Leavitt, a native of Thornville, Ohio, comes to Kentucky after playing two seasons at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kan. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive lineman helped the 2015 Blue Dragons lead the Jayhawk Conference and rank eighth nationally in rushing at 244.8 yards per game. Hutchinson running backs rushed for 32 touchdowns and the Blue Dragons were second in total offense at 486.1 yards per game.

Chose UK over: Oklahoma

Kordell Looney, Defensive Line
6-3, 285, Fr.-HS, Springfield, Ohio (Springfield)

A three-star recruit who was rated the No. 57 defensive tackle nationally and No. 42 player in Ohio by 247sports. Rated No. 36 by Rivals. Totaled 93 tackles and seven sacks in just two seasons of varsity football. Didn’t start playing varsity football until his junior year of high school. Two-time first-team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference honoree. Second-team AP Southwest All-District as a senior. Coached by former Kentucky Wildcat Maurice Douglass.

Chose UK over: Louisville, Illinois and Pittsburgh.

Justin Rigg, Tight End
6-6, 245, Fr.-HS, Springboro, Ohio (Springboro)

A 3-star tight end who is rated the No. 47 tight end and No. 43 player in Ohio by 247sports. Voted team captain his senior season and hauled in 35 catches for 394 yards and a touchdown. Also key in the Panthers perimeter run and passing game. Helped Springboro finish 11-3 and advance to the second round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs. Named Greater Western Ohio All-Conference.

Picked UK over: Bowling Green, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Pittsburgh, Toledo and Wake Forest.

Davonte Robinson, Defensive Back
6-2, 180, Fr.-HS, Lexington, Ky. (Henry Clay).

On top of being one of the best cornerbacks in the state as a senior, he also was a running back, using his speed to score seven touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving and one 91-yard kickoff return). As a junior he rushed for 492 yards on 35 carries and six touchdowns, while recording 32 tackles and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown on defense. Led the team in tackles three straight seasons, including a team-high 100 tackles and one interception in 2015. Named Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-city by the Lexington Herald-Leader as a senior. A 2015 Herald-Leader Class of Commonwealth honoree. Helped the Blue Devils advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 7-5 record in 2015. Class 3A state track champion in the 100 meters (10.85) as a sophomore.

Picked UK over: Georgia, Louisville, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

A.J. Rose, Running Back
6-1, 200, Fr.-HS, Cleveland, Ohio (Garfield Heights)

A 3-star, versatile athlete who is rated the No. 34 athlete in Ohio by 247sports. Stepped in for an injured teammate at quarterback and passed for 616 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running 94 times for 770 yards and 12 scores. Earned an invitation to the 2016 Ohio High Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic. Named to the Northeast Ohio Conference All-Lake Division first team as a junior after leading his team to a conference championship and a Division II playoff appearance.

Picked UK over Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota.

Roland Walder, Linebacker
6-3, 215, Fr.-HS, Dayton, Ohio (Trotwood-Madison)

Ranked the No. 29 inside linebacker nationally and the No. 32 prospect overall in Ohio, according to the 247Sports. Rated the No. 40 middle backer nationally by Rivals. An all-around athlete, playing wide receiver as well. Named Southwest Ohio Division III Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state selection after an impressive senior season that saw him record 62 tackles, including seven sacks. Offensively, he had 16 receptions for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Had a great junior season with 92 tackles and three forced fumbles.

Chose UK over: Nebraska, Purdue, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Pitt.

Jamar Watson, Linebacker
6-3, 225, Fr.-HS, Forestville, Md. (Bishop McNamara)

A three-star recruit who ranks as a top 100 outside linebacker by Scout despite not playing football until his junior year of high school. Dual sport athlete in basketball and football. Came on the recruiting scene after a great junior season which saw him chart 74 tackles and a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown. As a senior, he helped lead the Mustangs to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoff berth for the first time in five years with 59 tackles, including five sacks and two interceptions, one he returned 68 yards for a touchdown.

Chose UK over: Miami, Boston College, Virginia, and Rutgers.

The KSR staff will track this group’s progress over the course of spring practice. There will be significant contributions.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

1 Comment for Don’t Forget About The Redshirts

  1. satcheluk
    9:27 am February 2, 2017 Permalink

    This pumps me up more than NSD. Before Stoops arrived likely none of these players would have redshirted. Now they are selling UK as a place to join a winner, not that you can necessarily play as a freshman. The pipeline is full and they just need to improve the quality marginally without the pressure of doing it right now. Love what they have done and glad all the naysayers have shut up.