Mark Stoops has recruited at an unparalleled level. From his initial class to most recent, UK has enjoyed unquestionable success. 247 Sports ranks Kentucky’s 2016 commitment list 7th nationally which is good for 4th in the SEC. Expectation meet reality. Recruiting wish lists are comprised of various traits: necessity, best available, positional need, geographical interests, depth, and so forth. For instance, the 2013 class was hastily constructed focusing on best available while 2014 was more star laden. Naysayers labeled 2015 as the Year of the De-commitment and focused on the one that got away. As usual, I dared to formulate independent thought and consider it Stoops’ best work to date. The following list is not comprised of the best or most talented signees, but focuses on the most significant personnel additions for program growth. I think you’ll find that talent and significance often cross paths.
Mark Stoops’ Five Most Significant Signees
Za’Darius Smith – East Mississippi Junior College (2013)
The 4 star JUCO DE had the coveted Mississippi State offer prior to signing with Kentucky. That is not in jest. Beating the Dogs for a Mississippi JUCO DL is an uncommon and a tall task. In addition to Miss. State, Florida State and pretty much the rest of college football offered. His signing was twofold, first positional improvement increased exponentially but mostly it served as an initial shot across the bow to traditional powers that Stoops’ and staff were not backing down. Not entering the ring to fight was a criticism to the previous staff. Smith’s signing was the first indication that the Cats were not only entering the ring but walking with a late 80’s Mike Tyson swagger to crawl between the ropes.
Boom Williams – George Walton Academy, Monroe, Ga. (2014)
Once ranked as the nation’s top all-purpose back the four star arrived on campus with 4.3 speed expectation to light up the scoreboard. Georgia, Clemson, Auburn, and many others offered but Derrick Ansley and Mark Stoops earned his signature. Another statement signee this time from the state of Georgia where UK has historically recruited well, but more so on a development basis. Another win vs. the establishment.
Jason Hatcher – Trinity HS, Louisville, Ky. (2013)
Believe it or not, there was once a time when UK selected, not recruited the city of Louisville. That is no longer the case. Not only did Stoops flip Hatcher from his original commitment to Southern Cal, he fought off the hometown Cardinals. Trinity has deep ties to U of L with a host of future Cards playing for the Rocks. By going against trend, Jason’s signing was imminent in UK’s re-entry to the Commonwealth’s largest city. Further, early in his recruiting process, Hatcher had very little interest in Kentucky. The quick nature of is de-commitment from USC to signing with UK will go down as an all-time recruiting win.
Kobie Walker – Good Counsel HS, Olney, Md. (2014)
Injuries have prevented Walker to display his talent, but it’s there. It will surface. Expected to add depth at OLB, Kobie hails from one of the nation’s top high school football programs, Our Lady of Good Counsel that annually produces a number of high level players. His signing christened Tommy Mainord’s entrance into the greater DC area. 2014 was also UK’s re-entry into the northeast, an area that has provided the BBN with all-time greats such as Art Still and Derrick Ramsey. Mainord has continued to show his worth in the nation’s capital by signing three Beltway players in this year’s class. All were from traditional powers.
Matt Elam – John Hardin HS, Elizabethtown, Ky (2014)
When a four star defensive lineman calls Kentucky home, signing him crosses from importance to obsession. Such was the case with Matt Elam. UK vs. Alabama hadn’t resulted in an on the field win for the Cats since 1997. 2014 saw a Wildcat win on the recruiting trail. Nick Saban did not hide the fact that Elam was a priority. Matt’s on the field potential will meet production but for now, his signature rocked the recruiting world and demonstrated UK’s priority for keeping Kentucky’s best at home.
Let the argument begin. I actually invite discussion. My goal is to provoke football thought.