The 2016 edition of UK football media day has come and gone, but we’re just getting started when it comes to providing all the material you need to get your latest football fix as fall camp finally gears up. Take a deep breath. Relax. We made it. Football is officially here in the bluegrass.
I got the chance to meet with some of the biggest names of UK’s 2016 recruiting class, and take a look inside their time thus far on campus and the impact they plan on making this season and beyond. For this edition of “New Kids in Town,” I asked Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Kash Daniel, and Tobias Gilliam about their decisions to attend Kentucky, the recruiting process, and their backups options had they not become Wildcats.
Five-star offensive tackle out of Lexington, Kentucky
As far as your recruitment went, who was UK’s toughest competitor, commitment wise?
“I’d have to say Auburn.”
What was the draw to staying at home and playing for the “underdog” team in the SEC, as opposed to a school like Ohio State, Alabama, or Auburn? What made you decide UK was home?
“We have this new program coming up, new facilities, and it’s obvious this program is taking steps in the right direction. Not only that, this is my home town, and I have a group of guys that treat me like family. I’m not just another teammate, I’m one of them.”
Four-star center out of Versailles, Kentucky
As far as your recruitment went, who was the runner-up and how did that whole process go?
“I committed early. At the time, if I didn’t commit to Kentucky, it was either Alabama or Tennessee. I got offers later on from Georgia, Florida, and other big names like that, but those were the main two. But the decision was just so easy for me, I grew up here. I grew up a UK fan. As much as I told myself I would look into the other schools, there’s too much I liked about Kentucky to pass up on the opportunity.”
What was the recruiting pitch to get you to UK?
“The youth influx here that we’ve put into the SEC, the new facilities, stadium renovations, the coaching staff in general. We’re really close with the O-line coach, John Schlarman, and I really wanted to play for him.”
Four-star linebacker out of Paintsville, Kentucky
What’s the vibe you feel on campus and throughout the entire football program? How has it
“It’s something special, that’s for sure. We have so many leaders on this team from each position group, guys hold you accountable, guys expect a lot out of you, and you wouldn’t want it any other way as a player.”
If it wasn’t Kentucky, where would you have decided to attend?
“Probably South Carolina, I’m not sure though.”
Three-star defensive back out of Dayton, Ohio
Talk about your recruitment a little bit. What made Kentucky home?
“The people. When I committed, there weren’t any of these brand new facilities or anything like that to persuade me, it was the coaching staff. The staff had a vision, and I wanted to be part of that vision. The people here at Kentucky treated me like family, and I wanted to become part of that.”
If you had to name a runner-up in your recruitment, who would it be?
“Penn State, probably.”
In recent history, UK had to fight off the likes of Toledo, Akron, and Kent State for high two-star and low three-star prospects that coaching staffs felt were “diamond in the rough” recruits. Now, UK is fighting off Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, among countless other top programs in the nation.
Mitch Barnhart mentioned in his opening presser that one of the main reasons he supports Mark Stoops and stands behind him as the leader of the football program was his ability to recruit elite talent, something Kentucky has struggled with in the past. Jackson, Young, Daniel, and Gilliam are just a few examples of countless legit SEC talents Stoops has brought here to suit up in blue and white.
That success isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR.