The state of Kentucky rarely produces elite football players. The 2019 class is one of the most talented in decades, but on Sunday Tanner Bowles became the latest four-star prospect to announce he will leave the Commonwealth to play college football.
There are five Top 300 football players from the state of Kentucky in the 2019 recruiting class. Four of them have already committed to perennial powerhouses outside of the state. A rare recruiting opportunity, Mark Stoops has missed out on the best of the bunch. History tells us the Cats are in trouble.
Stoops’ recruiting excellence at Kentucky is undeniable. He’s created an unprecedented pipeline in the state of Ohio, cultivated relationships in Florida pulled players from new areas like Michigan and Washington D.C. Kentucky has never had more recruiting success, but it’s hard to be successful at UK without building blocks from Kentucky.
The greatest Kentucky football teams all had deep roots from the state, dating back to Madisonville’s Sonny Collins. Kentucky won nine games, including the Hall of Fame Game, in 1984 with Elizabethtown’s Bill Ransdell under center. Before Ransdell’s three running backs had successful NFL careers, they started in Kentucky; George Adams (Lexington), Mark Higgs (Owensboro) and Marc Logan (Lexington).
The best quarterbacks to ever wear a Kentucky uniform all hailed from the Commonwealth. Andre Woodson receives much of the credit for Rich Brooks’ two-year run, but the Radcliff native was surrounded by homegrown talent. Louisville’s Keenan Burton and Danville’s Jacob Tamme were two of his top targets, and four of his offensive linemen were from the state of Kentucky. On the 2007 defense, Kentucky natives filled up half of the starting secondary and defensive line.
The previous two Kentucky bowl teams proved you don’t need your best players from the state of Kentucky to be successful. Stephen Johnson, Benny Snell, Boom Williams, C.J. Conrad and Juice Johnson never played a down of football in the Bluegrass before arriving at UK.
The stars of the 2018 team all started their football careers elsewhere, but the team’s foundation is made up of three high school All-Americans from Kentucky. Paintsville’s Kash Daniel will lead the defense as the starting middle linebacker, Lexington’s Landon Young will protect the quarterback’s blindside at left tackle and Versailles’ Drake Jackson will call the offensive line’s shifts as the center.
UK cashed in on the state’s top recruits in 2016, but is losing out in 2019.
There’s still time to salvage the loss. The 2019 class is as deep as it is talented. Kentucky is in the hunt for Milton Wright and TaeTae Crumes, two talented wide receivers from Louisville. Two others from Louisville, defensive linemen Shankel Knight-Goff and J.J. Weaver, could end up in blue. Western Hills’ Wandale Robinson is a Mr. Football frontrunner and has frequently visited Kentucky’s campus. Yesterday Kentucky became the fourth SEC school to extend a scholarship offer to Louisville Manual running back Aidan Robbins, a 2019 athlete who already has 19 offers.
For Kentucky to make up lost ground, Stoops has to make changes. According to Justin Rowland, that’s already happened. Vince Marrow is now taking the lead on in-state recruiting.
Mark Stoops has recruited better than his predecessors by being unconventional. So far it’s worked, but if the state’s top talent continues to leave, the Cats will not have history on their side.