Mark Stoops locked down his kicker for the future after Boyle County’s Jackson Smith committed to the Wildcats on Thursday. Jackson is the nation’s top-rated kicker and punter according to ProKicker.com. Kentucky has coveted Jackson’s talents for quite some time. Smith is the son of former UK All SEC punter Andy Smith and felt the time was now to announce his pledge.
“Coach Stoops and his staff are building something very special and I think UK is going to be really, really good in the next few years,” Smith told KSR. “It’s a great opportunity and I just don’t want to wait any longer.”
Jackson will be a Legacy Wildcat which is a prominent theme for Kentucky’s recruiting strategy for the Class of 2022.
The University of Kentucky football program is one that must lock down top in-state talent. This approach is especially applicable in the Class of 2022. Vince Marrow has done a tremendous job of building a wall around the commonwealth. To this point, 4-star recruits Treyveon Longmire (Corbin) and Grant Bingham (Johnson Central) join Jackson Smith in providing Mark Stoops tremendous momentum leading up to National Signing Day.
There are four top Kentucky products that have yet to make a college declaration. Owensboro quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and Frederick Douglass’s Ty Bryant and Dane Key are still on the board. Louisville native Kiyaunta Goodwin plays his high school football across the river in Indiana but is considered an in-state prospect. Goodwin is a vastly talented Top-50 recruit and has UK listed as a finalist.
Much like Jackson Smith, Bryant and Key are legacy prospects. It’s imperative for Kentucky to enjoy success when recruiting within its own family. I recently interviewed 4-star receiver Dane Key. Dane is the son of former Wildcat linebacker Donte Key. He mentioned playing at Kentucky like his dad is something that factors in his decision.
“UK is my hometown. It would be a really cool experience to play where my dad played. It would also be really cool to play with some really good friends at the next level.”
Ty Bryant is a versatile 3-star athlete and the son of former Wildcat receiver Cisco Bryant. Cisco caught 29 passes including six for touchdowns during his Kentucky career. Kentucky Sports Radio’s Zack Geoghegan interviewed the Bryant family earlier this year and provided context on their approach in making a college decision. The elder Bryant is intent on letting his son make up his own mind. “I’m just letting Ty do him,” Cisco Bryant said. “He knows I’m UK, he knows that. I graduated there, I played there, I’m Big Blue Nation without any question. What I’ve done is, when I started coaching, I saw a lot of guys my age who already had kids start pushing them and pushing them. I chose not to do that to my son. I did not want to push him like that. We’re now starting, now that’s he a junior, to say this is what UK was about when I went there.”
Ty Bryant is a priority for the Wildcats. The multi-talented junior understands the role that legacy recruiting plays in the big picture. He spoke with Zack about the situation, “He (Cisco) wants me to go wherever best fits me and he understands that. Even though he wants Kentucky, if I choose to go there he would love it, but he wants me to go wherever I feel best at. So we don’t really talk about me going to Kentucky a lot, we just talk about my recruitment as a whole.”
What Does All This Mean?
A specialist earning a scholarship is rare and a big deal. Landing an in-state kicker that’s rated as the nation’s best who is also the son of a former All SEC Kentucky Wildcat is a monstrous occasion. Kentucky got better today. Landing Jackson Smith is significant for many reasons. One, UK secured its kicker for the future. Two, Kentucky got its first pledge from a Legacy Wildcat.
Kentucky’s in-state recruiting is on a roll. Stoops has now gotten pledges from three highly sought after prospects in the past three weeks. Vince Marrow’s intent is for the dice to stay hot. Stay tuned.