For the University of Kentucky Football program, the goings on in San Antonio have provided Mark Stoops with a fictional recruiting billboard that stretches from the Commonwealth to the Alamo. At their respective positions; Center Drake Jackson, LB Kash Daniel, and OT Landon Young all have been named as top performers. Going a step further, Daniel and Jackson were named two of four game captains. In all-star game environments, the week of practice leading up to the bowl is the most valuable in terms of evaluation. Game day is normally a “don’t get injured and have fun” scenario before departing for home or for early enrollees, their college dormitory.
I’m not sure that the message has been effectively communicated just how vital the trio’s performance has been not only for the University of Kentucky but the overall perception of Kentucky high school football.
Five reasons why Kash Daniel, Drake Jackson and Landon Young’s performance and subsequent social media coverage by recruiting services have been so critical for Mark Stoops leading into National Signing Day:
- In the absence of a bowl appearance, the UK brand has been less visible than that of their competitors that participated in the post season. The trio being prominently featured by recruiting services has acted as an unofficial public relations platform for the Wildcats. This non-UK affiliated social media campaign validates and promotes the Wildcat football program leading up to National Signing Day. Momentum leading up to the first Wednesday in February can now be best described as energetic. Some teams manufacture positive vibes by postseason performance or through coaching changes. Others do so by clichÃ© laden and mostly ineffective marketing crusades. Regardless of how, high level prospects have taken notice of UK by and through the trio’s actions. By having trusted and knowledgeable recruiting analyst writing the script, national eyes have been on the UK commits.
- By February 3rd or National Signing Day, Landon Young could realistically gain a fifth star. Going into the US Army All American Game Week, Young was listed as the Class of 2016’s 4th ranked OT and 54th overall. Practice performance has earnestly advanced his recruiting service stock. Folks have taken notice. It’s highly probable that Landon Young will be UK’s highest rated signee since the inception of the recruiting service star system.
- 3-4 star players Kash Daniel and Drake Jackson have out-performed higher ranked players at their position. At this point, it’s uncertain if star or ranking increases are on the horizon. But in the world of college football recruiting, perception is reality. Being named as US Army All American Bowl game captains speaks of their intangibles and ability to lead the elite. It also tells me the pair won’t back down from lining the brakes of diva teammates. Both traits will be a welcome addition to the Kentucky locker room.
- All three UK commits are Kentucky natives. For years, the state has been disrespected in terms of the production and quality of high school talent, coaching, and player development. That myth is being exploded by the Alamo. You’ve read it here before and based on years of high school all-star game experience, the level of Kentucky high school football coaching is at an all-time high. What Daniel, Young, and Jackson are accomplishing are proof of such improvements and providing motivation as well as validation for future Kentucky football prospects. Just at Tim Couch revolutionized KHSAA football in the 90’s, these three are bringing credence to player development.
- Let’s be honest, prior to Monday’s press conference when Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw were introduced to the BBN, the existence of UK Football positivity was scarce. Much like perception; in terms of recruiting, timing is everything. Gran/Hinshaw unquestionably impressed the BBN and prospects in the same week as three future Wildcats are opening national eyes on high school football’s biggest stage. After the press conference I wrote that on Monday, Mark Stoops had a good day. After this week, it could be argued that the past few days have been the best stretch of Kentucky football recruiting publicity in the program’s history.
Am I overreacting? I usually do so probably. But again, when’s the last time that three UK commits played in the same national all-star game? Never. Same can be said about the trio being named as top performers at their positions and being named as team captains. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. The nation has taken notice of young Kash Daniel, Landon Young, and Drake Jackson. None have made a college football block or tackle. But in terms of perception and promotion, they’ve exceeded expectation and brought national attention to Kentucky’s Class of 2016.