“The big storyline for this class is the state of Kentucky.”
Kentucky’s head coach is correct. In a year where Covid complicated how teams were able to recruit, the Wildcats only cracked the top 40 of the national rankings, but they had success where they had to win, in Kentucky.
“That was extremely important,” Stoops said. “We’re familiar with these young men. We know the programs they’re coming from. We know how they’re coached and we know what type of players they are as people. It was extremely important. It’s been a priority to concentrate on this state. I’m proud. Hopefully some of the work that we’ve done on the field at the college level is carrying down, inspiring some of the youngsters at the middle school and grade school (levels), helping in some small way.”
On Wednesday the Wildcats signed six of the state’s top eight high school seniors and added former Georgia Tech outside linebacker Justice Dingle, a four-star recruit and the second-ranked player from Kentucky in the 2018 class.
“Kentucky high school football is getting really good,” Vince Marrow said. “It’s getting good to where we can recruit our own kids here and sign about seven or eight from around the state. I think the athletes are better.”
Two of the top-ranked athletes from the state were the last to put pen to paper. Marrow said wide receiver Dekel Crowdus has been clocked at a 4.3 40-yard dash and recorded a 46-inch vertical. Stoops has evaluated a lot of offensive linemen, but few compare to Jager Burton.
“He’s unbelievably athletic,” Stoops said. “He’s a different guy. He’s a difference-maker. He’s an impact player. He runs and moves as well as any offensive lineman I’ve been around and had the opportunity to see at this point (in his career). I know he’s going to get here and get better. He has such a strong work ethic and is such a great young man.”
In addition to the Frederick Douglass duo, Kentucky signed two players from North Hardin, safety Jordan Lovett and running back La’Vell Wright. They’ll join a former Trojan teammate, Octavious Oxendine, in Lexington. Marrow first came across Wright when he was scouting Oxendine and was blown away.
“La’Vell Wright is one of the greatest young men I have met, and I’ve recruited a lot of guys who are good kids. He’s a 3.8 (GPA) student. He really loves God. He’s a leader. I was so happy to see him on that stage,” Marrow said. “I watched La’Vell. He kind of reminded me of Benny and Chris Rodriguez-type: very tough, catch it out of the backfield, pick up the blitz and will get those tough yards.”
A player folks haven’t talked too much about, Marrow added: “The Big Blue Nation’s really going to love this kid. He’s going to be involved in a lot of stuff off the field. He’s exactly what you want in a young man. It’s an honor and a blessing to get him.”
Another player Vince is blessed to get is Jordan Dingle. An elite athlete that has shown he can catch passes and put a hat on a head and block, Marrow was ecstatic to get the tight end to commit to Kentucky. He didn’t want to know the alternative.
“Coach Stoops, I think he was going to fire me if I didn’t get him,” Marrow laughed. “He’s going to be a great player here.”
Last, but certainly not least, Kentucky signed Somerset quarterback Kaiya Sheron. A hero in last year’s 2A State Championship, he threw a game-winning touchdown to give the Briar Jumpers their first state title.
“Kaiya, he’s an athlete,” Marrow said. “We watched him in that state championship game and that was my first time seeing him and I fell in love with him. He’s athletic.”
Kentucky’s success in the Commonwealth has come at the expense of the Louisville Cardinals. Scott Satterfield signed zero players from Kentucky in this recruiting cycle and only one top ten player from the state last year. The Wildcats are leaving the Cardinals in the rearview mirror on the recruiting trail.