At times, I do my best thinking while driving. I’ve had hours upon hours of windshield time recently. I still loathe I-75 due to its endless construction and traffic, but that’s not the point of this post. However, yesterday it hit me right between the eyes. Four out of Kentucky’s top five December signees were pass catchers. The Wildcat’s lowest ranked signee, according to the recruiting services, may be the class’s most explosive player. I know why it happened, but how? The why is that UK desperately needed playmakers that can influence safeties as well as beat man coverage. In other words, Stoops required pass catchers that have the talent and mentality to improve the Cat’s 5.6 yards per pass attempt.
Think about that for a minute. The Wildcats have been the SEC’s basement dweller in passing offense for three consecutive seasons. Its current 124 passing yards per game is ranked 117th in the nation out of 127 teams. Quarterback Terry Wilson is graduating and moving on from the program. There is uncertainty at the QB position. I couldn’t shake this thought process for two consecutive days. Let’s try to make sense out of the situation:
First and foremost, Kentucky coaches identified a need and were exceptional in developing relationships with the prospects. UK is known for early evaluations and offers. Cultivating bonds with potential Wildcats is a proven program trait.
Vince Marrow was assigned the state of Kentucky. He’s excelled in that role by signing Frederick Douglass WR Dekel Crowdus and Bowling Green TE Jordan Dingle. Inside linebacker’s coach Jon Sumrall has been a bright spot in player development as well as his proven ability to recruit the south. He dipped into Alabama to secure WR Christian Lewis’ signature to go along with Lee County, Georgia’s Chauncey Magwood. Defensive line coach Anwar Stewart provided the Cat’s Signing Day surprise when UK announced the signing of Cartersville High School’s Devonte Ross.
-WR Dekel Crowdus committed to Kentucky on May 10th. Vince Marrow kept the four-star playmaker at home. The Big Dog had to fend off several national level suitors. Crowdus pledged his services to the Cats in an offseason that featured questions marks at quarterback for the 2020 season and beyond. The 2019 season was heavy-run, led by a receiver turned quarterback named Lynn Bowden Jr. Marrow sold the future and the dedication to upgrade the passing game to go along with home-state and hometown pride.
-WR Christian Lewis was recruited by Jon Sumrall. He committed on June 30th. Lewis’s career ascended as the calendar moved toward Signing Day. The 6’3, 190-pound playmaker’s high school career peaked with a five catch, two touchdown performance in the Alabama vs. Mississippi All Star game. Sumrall somehow held on to Lewis as several SEC programs recruited explosive receiver all the way up to December 16th. Lewis is the X or outside receiver that has been missing for the Cats. With preferred measurables, he’s proven to be an excellent Red Zone threat that finds the end zone on a frequent basis.
-TE Jordan Dingle was Vince Marrow’s priority at the position he coaches. Dingle’s recruitment was all over the place and at times, it looked like the 6’4, 240-pound tight end would be playing his college football elsewhere. But, Dingle committed on Kentucky Sports Radio on November 13th. Dingle is a plug and play tight end that brings versatility and play making ability to the position. A case could be made about being the most important signee for all seven pledges from the Commonwealth. But Dingle’s signature was colossal for many reasons. He was the best player on the field during the KHSAA’s championship weekend.
-WR Chauncey Magwood is another Jon Sumrall recruit that committed on April 22nd. Magwood started 56 games for the Georgia 6A powerhouse program, Lee County High School. Sumrall developed a close relationship with the prototypical slot receiver and secured his signature on December 16th. Magwood is a football player in every sense of the word. The three-way standout won two state championships and promises to be that elusive slot receiver that UK has sorely desired in recent seasons.
-WR Davonte Ross signed with Kentucky on Dec 16th. Coach Anwar Stewart shocked the recruiting world by flipping Ross from Marshall. Ross was not ranked by the recruiting services. I think that may come back to bite them in the future. But as you know, that happens at Kentucky quite often. Ross is an elite playmaker and was a three-way star at Cartersville High School. He could also be an immediate impact player for new offensive coordinator Liam Coen.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
These five players believed in the coaches that recruited them and were sold late on a promise for an upgraded, modernized offense. The fact that none of the early commits flipped is astonishing given the Wildcat’s struggles in the passing game. That speaks to their character. Respect.
Recruits are convinced to sign with college programs for a myriad of reasons. Tradition, head coach, assistant coaches, playing time, geography, jersey number and system all can be influential factors. Remember, we’re talking about teenagers. Mark Stoops’ new pass catchers committed their futures to the University of Kentucky who’s passing game was less than flashy and productive. For that, this group has the potential to become fan favorites and will surely have an impact on the program’s future. Stoops and his staff put in solid work and built a foundation for the Cat’s passing game for years to come. We may look back to December 16th as a substantial day in the program’s trajectory in the SEC East.