About an hour down the road from Kroger Field, a special teams prodigy has popped up in Danville, KY.
Jackson Smith, rated by ProKicker.com as a five-star kicker and punter out of the class of 2022, has been hot on the Kentucky coaching staff’s radar for a while now. A Bluegrass native, he currently plays for Boyle County High School and has ties to the Wildcat program. According to ProKicker, Smith is the only prospect in his class to earn a five-star rating for both kicking and punting. UK brought Smith onto campus back in Jan. 2020 before officially extending him an offer later in June–and the communication hasn’t stopped since.
This past Tuesday, he met with several members of the coaching staff for a virtual visit that included head coach Mark Stoops, director of player development Courtney Love, and coach Louie Matsakis, who helps assist with special teams. The conversation focused on life for Smith if he were to choose Kentucky, such as weight lifting, his class schedule, and where he would live.
— jackson smith (@jacksonsmithh27) February 26, 2021
Kentucky is hardly the only school gunning for Smith’s services, although they are clearly one of the early frontrunners in his recruitment.
“I’m getting stuff in the mail from pretty much all the coaches at UK almost every day,” Smith told KSR on Friday. “It’s always something and we’re staying in close contact. Coach Stoops will message me every now and then. Coach [Vince] Marrow did today and Louie [Matsakis] and I talk a lot.”
Thus far, his only scholarship offers have come from Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University but Smith did say he’s been in contact in the past with the likes of Florida, Ohio State, West Virginia, and plenty of others. Several Ivy League programs including Harvard and Dartmouth, along with Princeton, who Smith said has been recruiting him hard over the last few months, are also in the mix. Smith attended a virtual Junior Day visit to Princeton earlier in the week. Nearby programs such as Louisville, Tennessee, and a couple of Ohio-based schools have also reached out.
Ohio State was initially interested in Smith back when he was a freshman in high school, but he has yet to hear back since. West Virginia head coach Neal Brown, who was a superstar athlete for Boyle County in the 90s, is also keeping a close eye on Smith’s recruitment.
Some schools, such as the Buckeyes and Louisville Cardinals, have recruited Smith as a punter while Kentucky would like him to bring him on as a kicker. Overall, he said it’s about equal in regards to which position he’s being recruited for more. Smith doesn’t have a preference, which should give you an idea of how comfortable and confident he is in his abilities to play either position.
“He’s an athlete, he’s a lifter, he’s not your normal kicker/punter,” Boyle County head coach Justin Haddix told KSR. “He’s an underrated punter. He can do the Aussie punt and he’s also a traditional punter.”
Smith’s father, Andy Smith, was a First Team All-SEC punter for the Wildcats back in the late 90s. He spent his freshman year at Western Kentucky University before transferring to Kentucky and setting a then-school record of 43.7 yards per punt in 1999. The younger Smith called it “special” that he has the opportunity to one day follow in his dad’s footsteps by attending UK and said that the two talk about how much the program has changed since Andy was there over 20 years ago.
Back in eighth grade, Smith buried a 51-yard field goal with some space to spare. While he hasn’t attempted a kick from further than 50-yards during his high school career, he has canned several from 40-plus yards.