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Breakdown of Mark Stoops’ Five Recruiting Classes at Kentucky

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On Wednesday, Mark Stoops signed his fifth class of Wildcats at the University of Kentucky. In his Signing Day press conference, Stoops said, “It’s our best class. Period.”

Tonight, we’ll look back at Stoops’ other Signing Day hauls and casually review the names from those classes. Some proved to be significant additions to the program, while others disappeared into the dark abyss that is the attrition of college football.



Class Ranking:

247Sports: No. 34
ESPN: No. 36
Rivals: No. 29
Scout: No. 38

Signees (22): Jeff Badet, WR; Javess Blue, JUCO WR; Steven Borden, JUCO TE; Tanner Fink, TE; Jason Hatcher, DE; Nick Haynes, OG; Jacob Hyde, DT; Jaleel Hytchye, CB; JoJo Kemp, RB; Melvin Lewis, JUCO DT; Austin MacGinnis, K; Blake McClain, S; Marcus McWilson, DB; Kyle Meadows, OT;  Regie Meant, DE; Ramsey Meyers, OG; Alex Montgomery, WE; Reese Phillips, QB; Za’Darius Smith, JUCO DE; Khalid Thomas RB; Ryan Timmons, WR; Nate Willis, JUCO CB

Four-Star Signees (4): Jason Hatcher, Marcus McWilson, Za’Darius Smith, Ryan Timmons

Biggest Get: Jason Hatcher (flipped from USC on Signing Day)

One Who Got Away (So We Thought At The Time): Asiantii Woulard… Four-star, No. 1-ranked Dual-Threat QB out of Winter Park, FL… Committed to UCLA over Kentucky… Transferred to South Florida… Dismissed as team’s third-string QB prior to 2016 season

Major Contributors: Jeff Badet, Javess Blue, Nick Haynes, JoJo Kemp, Melvin Lewis, Austin MacGinnis, Blake McClain, Kyle Meadows, Marcus McWilson, Za’Darius Smith, Ryan Timmons

Early Departures/Transfers (4): Jason Hatcher, Jaleel Hytchye, Khalid Thomas, Regie Meant

What They Said At The Time:

Mark Stoops left an assistant job with Florida State a little more than two months ago to become the head coach at the University of Kentucky — despite never once setting foot on campus.

He didn’t need to see Lexington. He didn’t need to tour the facilities. He didn’t care that the program had lost at least five games every season since 1990, was just 110-160 overall and 9-85 against ranked teams.

Stoops believed in his own plan, believed in the people at UK and believed in one thing that increasingly carries incredible power on the recruiting trail — membership in the SEC. – Dan Wetzel, Yahoo!

Looking Back: Stoops came in piping hot with an enormous recruiting class (by Kentucky’s standards) after only 71 days on the job. The Jason Hatcher flip from USC was one of the biggest football commitments in the program’s history, just as Hatcher’s dismissal following several off-field issues was one of its biggest disappointments.


Class Ranking:

247Sports: No. 22
ESPN: No. 20
Rivals: No. 18
Scout: No. 21

Signees (28): Dorian Baker, WR; Drew Barker, QB; Blake Bone, WR; Tymere Dubose, DT; Mike Edwards, S; Matt Elam, DT; Nico Firios, OLB; Ryan Flannigan, JUCO OLB; Dorian Hendrix, ILB; Mikel Horton, RB; CJ Johnson, JUCO DT; Garrett Johnson, WR; Josh Krok, OT; Jarrett LaRubbio, OG; Darryl Long, TE; Adrian Middleton, DT; Kendall Randolph, CB; Nick Richardson, OT; Thaddeus Snodgrass, WR; Bunchy Stallings, C; AJ Stamps, JUCO S; Lloyd Tubman, DE; Jared Tucker, S; Kobie Walker, S; Denzil Ware, DE; Darius West, S; Boom Williams, RB, TV Williams, WR

Four-Star Signees (12): Dorian Baker, Drew Barker, Blake Bone, Mike Edwards, Matt Elam, Nico Firios, Kendall Randolph, Nick Richardson, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Denzil Ware, Darius West, Boom Williams

Biggest Get: Drew Barker (picked Kentucky over South Carolina) and Matt Elam (picked Kentucky over Alabama)

One Who Got Away (So We Thought At The Time): James Hearns…Four-star linebacker out of Tallahassee who decommitted from Florida and named Kentucky his leader… Didn’t sign on Signing Day… Signed with Louisville in the summer… Was shot at a party in Louisville in December

Major Contributors: Dorian Baker, Mike Edwards, Ryan Flannigan, CJ Johnson, Garrett Johnson, Adrian Middleton, AJ Stamps, Denzil Ware, Boom Williams

Early Departures/Transfers (10): Dorian Hendrix, Mikel Horton, Josh Krok, Jarrett LaRubbio, Darryl Long, Nick Richardson, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Lloyd Tubman, Jared Tucker, TV Williams

What They Said At The Time:

This ain’t your grandfather’s Kentucky. It’s not your father’s or your older brother’s, either. Mark Stoops didn’t have the highest ranked recruiting class in the country or even the SEC, but the top-20 class far outpaced even the highest expectations . The signees speaks for themselves — an infusion of young talent desperately needed for the road ahead — but the overall statement Stoops and his staff made going out and landing the best of the best was huge. Nabbing four-star defensive lineman Matt Elam from Alabama sent shockwaves through college football. It not only said that Kentucky was here to play; it’s here to play and win. — ESPN

Looking Back: When you keep one in-state star from going to South Carolina and another from going to Alabama, it’s a job well done. When you throw in several other top high school talents to go with them and finish with the school’s best ranking ever, it’s a damn good job. (Although, many of those key pieces have since departed.)


Class Ranking:

247Sports: No. 38
ESPN: No. 43
Rivals: No. 34
Scout: No. 45

Signees (22): Josh Allen, DE; George Asafo-Adjei, OT; Derrick Baity, CB; Kei Beckham, CB; Alvonte Bell, DE; Eli Brown, OLB; CJ Conrad, TE; Kengera Daniel, DE; Therrell Gosier, WR; Jabari Greenwood, WR; Will Jackson, ATH; Jordan Jones, OLB; Sihiem King, RB; Levon Livingston, OT; Courtney Miggins, DT; Javon Provitt, DT; Tavin Richardson, WR; Logan Stenberg, OT; Calvin Taylor, OT; Marcus Walker, S; Chris Westry, CB; Mason Wolfe, OG

Four-Star Signees (4): Eli Brown, CJ Conrad, Jordan Jones, Marcus Walker

Biggest Get: CJ Conrad (UK got on him very early and fought off late interest from Ohio State, his home state school)

One Who Got Away (So We Thought At The Time): Damien Harris… Five-star running back out of nearby Richmond, Ky… Committed to Alabama

Major Contributors: Josh Allen, George Asafo-Adjei, Derrick Baity, Alvonte Bell, CJ Conrad, Jordan Jones, Courtney Miggins, Chris Westry, Chris Westry

Early Departures/Transfers (4): Therrell Gosier, Will Jackson, Levon Livingston, Javon Provitt

What They Said At The Time:

Kentucky was smacked around by various broken commitments down the stretch, and the beating left a Signing Day bruise. The Wildcats lost defensive back Jeremiah Dinson and a pair of four-star brothers in Andrew Dowell and David Dowell in the week leading into National Signing Day. By the time Saturday was finished, Kentucky had the second-lowest-ranked recruiting class in the SEC. To make things worse, top target Marcus Lewis, a Rivals100 wide receiver, chose Florida State over the Wildcats, leaving Kentucky with not-so-pleasant memories of the recruiting cycle’s final days. –

Looking Back: After six commits backed out in a span of eight days with Signing Day approaching, Mark Stoops scrambled to build a class that didn’t jump off the page in rankings, but may actually be his best, now that we’ve seen what they can do.


Class Ranking:

247Sports: No. 31
ESPN: No. 35
Rivals: No. 29
Scout: No. 39

Signees (25): Jaylin Bannerman, DE; Jordan Bonner, OLB; TJ Carter, DE; JaQuize Cross, DT; Kash Daniel, LB; Luke Fortner, OT; Tobias Gilliam, CB; Jordan Griffin, CB; Gunnar Hoak, QB; Dakota Holtzclaw, TE; Zy’Aire Hughes, ATH; Drake Jackson, C; Stephen Johnson, QB; Tate Leavitt, OT; Kordell Looney, DT; Grant McKinniss, P; Naquez Pringle, DT; Justin Rigg, TE; Davonte Robinson, CB; AJ Rose, ATH; Kayaune Ross, WR; Benny Snell, RB; Roland Walder, LB; Jamar Watson, OLB; Landon Young, OT

Four/Five-Star Signees (5): Kash Daniel, Jordan Griffin, Gunnar Hoak, Drake Jackson, Landon Young (*****)

Biggest Get: Landon Young (No. 12 overall prospect in the United States of America)

One Who Got Away (So We Thought At The Time): A

Major Contributors: Stephen Johnson, Benny Snell, Landon Young and many more to come

Early Departures/Transfers : None so far

What They Said At The Time:

“It won’t draw the headlines of some of the SEC powers, but Kentucky’s 2016 recruiting class is well-rounded, has instant impact players, long-term projects and is loaded in the trenches–where games are won and lost.” — Bleacher Report

Looking Back: Little did we know, that Stephen Johnson guy, a late addition for depth after Towles’ transfer, would be in a hero in his first season. That Benny Snell kid turned out to be alright, too. Plus the Kentucky boys all stayed home and a few others showed potential in limited action so far.


Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 9.11.42 AM

Class Ranking:

247Sports: No. 26
ESPN: No. 30
Rivals: No. 26
Scout: No. 35

Signees (24): Abule Adabi-Fitzgerald, DE; Tyrell Ajian, ATH; Joshua Ali, ATH; Quinton Bohanna, DT; Lynn Bowden, ATH; Danny Clark, QB; Yusuf Corker, CB; Jamin Davis, OLB; Sebastien Dolcine, OG; Cedrick Dort, CB; Austin Dotson, OT; Isaiah Epps, WR; Phil Hoskins, DT; Lonnie Johnson, S; Alex King, DE; Bryant Koback, RB; Michael Nesbitt, CB; Joshual Paschal, DE; JaVonte Robinson, WR; Clevan Thomas, WR; Naasir Watkins, OT; Christopher Whittaker, DE; Walker Wood, QB; Jordan Wright, DE

Four-Star Signees (6): Tyrell Ajian, Lynn Bowden, Danny Clark, Yusuf Corker, Joshua Paschal, JaVonte Richardson

Biggest Get: Lynn Bowden (Vince Marrow called him the best player in Ohio)

One Who Got Away (So We Thought At The Time): Jedrick Wills… One of Lexington’s highest-rated high school prospects ever… Committed to Alabama over the Wildcats

Major Contributors: TBD

Early Departures/Transfers: TBD


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

17 Comments for Breakdown of Mark Stoops’ Five Recruiting Classes at Kentucky

  1. trey
    9:54 pm February 2, 2017 Permalink

    The one who got away in 2016 was A. False. As a matter of fact, A was caught and unmasked to be none other than Charlotte DiLaurentis (previously known as CeCe Drake) in the year 2015. “A” was later brutally murdered by an unknown assassin of whom has yet to be captured.

    • ClutchCargo
      12:16 am February 3, 2017 Permalink

      I see what you did there!

  2. 3 fan
    11:03 pm February 2, 2017 Permalink

    Shows that rankings mean crap. Very few 4 stars make any difference here. So why get so crazy about recruiting classes

  3. WeareBBN
    11:35 pm February 2, 2017 Permalink

    I Bleed Blue………do you? Good song. Next one I post is guaranteed to bring tears.

  4. WeareBBN
    11:48 pm February 2, 2017 Permalink

    Get the tissues before you listen. Great moment in UK history.

  5. Angelo
    2:18 am February 3, 2017 Permalink

    What is this? We are in a basketball crisis. We need to beat Florida! Can we discuss men’s basketball…

    • ClutchCargo
      8:31 am February 3, 2017 Permalink

      It is possible to be interested in more than one sport, you know.

    • satcheluk
      12:01 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

      Many of us watch basketball to pass the time until football season. Feel free to steer clear of football articles.

    • UK Big Board Update
      1:32 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

      LOL. Sometimes Angelo can’t control his trollish urges. He tries to hide them in subtle remarks, but every once in awhile, he’ll drop a little nugget like this. “Basketball crisis”? Eat a dick.

  6. UK Fan In Nashville
    11:32 am February 3, 2017 Permalink

    If you average out all of the recruiting classes through his five seasons from all four services, UK is at 31.45. I know it sounds stupid, but I think UK will be about the 31st best team next year. Maybe these recruiting rankings actually mean something.

  7. TheDon
    11:44 am February 3, 2017 Permalink

    It seems like everyone forgot the one that got away this year, Mac Jones. Long considered a UK lock, Alabama came calling and took him away. Sure, it happened months ago, but dont forget it. I think its a good sign for the program that most of the high profile battles we lose come against Alabama…no shame there.

  8. BluKudzu
    1:13 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

    I have to give Stoops credit. He made some strong moves during 2016, which made the team more successful. Prior to that, I did not know if he was the guy. Taking over the defense was a very ballsy move, and it had immediate impact. So much so, Eliot left, because his tenure was, for all intents and purposes, done.
    It took a lot of courage to make that move.
    As far as class rankings go, it is nice to have a top 25, or whatever, program. It is what it is, people that have zero clue rating high school kids. All that matters is what you do with your team when you have them.
    I am getting optimistic, but I am also realistic. UK has a very long way to go before playing for division, conference or playoffs.
    It seems they are on the road to redemption. The hard thing for me is to remain realistic. I want my team to be a winner and respected. I am hoping the year that comes is a major step in making that happen.
    Go Cats.

    • UK Big Board Update
      1:33 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

      Thanks, Mr. UK AD…

    • BluKudzu
      2:46 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

      Hello UKBBU! It is truly wonderful to see you commenting again, albeit trolling your hero.
      As always, your cute, snarky remarks bear no substance, and offer even less to any conversation regarding UK football.
      But, at least, you care.
      Perhaps one day you will be like me, (your idol), by adding depth and viewpoints which enhances your posting experience. Don’t give up, you have come so far, grasshopper. It is much better than the copy and post, you have done in the past. Ultimately, those efforts, mean nothing, to everyone that reads your diatribe trolling others, if at all.
      I must add I am proud of the 4 words WITH punctuation, on your comment, it shows we are getting somewhere.
      I am so honored to mentor you, as you are my favorite forum harlequin.
      Hope your day has been made. I am here for you, my dearest, and closest friend. As always, feel free to ask me any questions you have about college football, and I will be glad to teach you. There are no stupid questions.
      Go Cats!

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:07 pm February 3, 2017 Permalink

      Thanks for dedicating 5 paragraphs to me. I’m truly honored. Bandwagon asshole.