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Why Kentucky Football Needs In-State Talent

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

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.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

14 Comments for Why Kentucky Football Needs In-State Talent

  1. Cousins Fake Tooth
    3:55 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    No, we need the best players we can get, regardless of what state they are from.

    • Ben27
      4:18 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

      I agree, you need the best players from any State! Ohio, Florida and Georgia have better players than Kentucky. I want player that want to be at Kentucky. If they want to go to Alabama or elsewhere, then stay there! I do not buy into having to get the best from Kentucky or you are a failure. Just not true! Writers make this stuff up to get hits! nothing more.

    • lex cath
      8:41 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

      Signed Damian Harris

  2. runningunnin.454
    4:02 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    Compelling argument; however, the Sonny Collins teams were not great. He was the only real threat, which made his records impressive…easy to play D when you know where the ball is going.

  3. Cmart0907
    5:41 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    Not Shankel. It’s SHAWNKEL Knight Goff. Proof read.

  4. az1006
    5:43 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    I disagree, just like I disagree with the sentiment that Kentucky basketball needs home-grown kids. Neither program NEEDS homegrown kids…They need good players, regardless of where they’re from. Does being from Kentucky give some guys extra motivation? Yeah, probably. But that extra motivation only carries one so far, and it will likely never make a significant difference, one way or another.

    The pipeline Stoops and staff have created into far more fertile football recruiting locales is more important than being able to snag a couple of in-state commits, even when they are highly-rated. Matt Elam and Drew Barker were both highly rated coming out of high school…Neither made any significant contribution to Kentucky football.

    Is it nice to have the big-name in-state kids stay home? Yeah…It’s cool. But, in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you’re getting equally talented and productive players from other places. And, quite frankly, I’d say that even lower-rated kids from places like Ohio, Florida, Michigan, etc are better prepared to play college football, because high school football, in general, is so much better than it is in Kentucky.

    • notFromhere
      9:46 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink


    • UoKFB PHAN
      10:19 pm April 25, 2018 Permalink

      You forgot to mention Damien Harris and Jedrick Wills Jr. down at Alabama. They were highly rated and has lived up to their billing so far. If anything the players both of listed prove the ‘star’ system isn’t always reliable.

      I do agree with you about the overall level of high school football between the states you listed.

    • UoKFB PHAN
      10:20 pm April 25, 2018 Permalink

      correction * both of us listed *

  5. notFromhere
    9:09 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    Andre, Keenan, and Jacob were not elite talent when they were recruited. Andre and Keenan sure played like it on the field. Tamme almost didn’t get an offer, then almost lost that offer by screwing around talking about taking other visits. I get where this is coming from, and it’s misguided, just as it would be if it was talking about basketball.

    You want the best available that WANT to be at UK. You don’t want highly ranked KY players that will screw around and then transfer. You want the kids like KashD that WANT to be here and lead with that heart and mindset.

    Some can’t do it. Playing for the underdog is not everyone’s cup of tea. Being highly rated AND coming in with an entitlement mentality isn’t a big help either. That’s got “transfer” written all over it. You have to find the best kids that fit your team. You can tell where a kid’s head and heart are at pretty quick on a visit, the family, too. No point wasting your time with some, but the coaches do and HAVE done it anyway.

    Not getting them says less about the staff than it says about the school or the players themselves. They had offers from the Cats. They didn’t reciprocate or weren’t interested. Pining for the “ex” you never really dated is pre-teen. No time for that on this level.

    You can send invites to the party, but you don’t stop dancing because someone on the list didn’t show. They’re getting great kids. Try to be happy about something

  6. unbridled
    9:43 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    Again I’ll ask, if you are an elite high school football player….why would you choose uk football? This isn’t basketball we are talking about.

  7. jaws2
    11:38 pm April 24, 2018 Permalink

    We don’t NEED to have KY kids, get the best players you can period. Name me 10 KY kids Stoops didn’t sign (that didn’t go to AL), that would have made more of an impact at KY than what he’s recruited. I’ll wait……..

    10:12 pm April 25, 2018 Permalink

    ‘There’s still time to salvage the loss.’ It’s not a loss until the guy signs his NLI with another school. It’s a long time till the early signing period in December.

    What I find as disturbing is the coaching staff doesn’t appear to be that well connected in their own state so much so that they have to pull their ‘ace’ recruiter from his primary territory. I agree with getting the best players regardless of where they’re from but given that the state has 5 in the top 300 the Cats should be among the top schools for at least 3 of those guys.