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Kentucky Football strengthens its hold on in-state talent

So far in the 2020 class, Kentucky has landed commitments from four in-state recruits, three from the city of Louisville. In the 2019 class, the Cats signed five in-state players, four from the Derby City. Considering that the 2018 class didn’t include a single player from the state of Kentucky and a player from Louisville hadn’t signed with the program since 2014, that’s a pretty impressive upswing, the credit for which should go to Vince Marrow.

Mark Stoops’ decision to put Marrow, who mainly focused on Ohio, Michigan, and other Big 10 territories, on Kentucky has helped the program reestablish its stronghold on the state at the expense of Louisville, its biggest rival. Since Vince took over in-state recruiting, the Cats have signed or secured commitments from nine players from the Commonwealth to Louisville’s three, and are becoming the preferred choice for Louisville’s top talent, who typically go with Cardinal Red instead of Kentucky Blue.

There’s a long way to go until Signing Day, but with two major in-state targets still on the table in four-star safety Vito Tisdale and three-star defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine, let’s take a look at how Kentucky has taken over the battleground for in-state stars.

We generally prefer to use Rivals’ rankings for football here at KSR, but because 247 Sports Composite’s state rankings are much more comprehensive prior to 2017, I defaulted to them for this exercise. 

2020 (Commits)

Kentucky – 4

  • No. 4: Four-star OT John Young, Louisville (Christian Academy-Louisville)
  • No. 6: Three-star QB Beau Allen, Lexington (Lexington Catholic)
  • No. 7: Three-star WR Izayah Cummings, Louisville (Male)
  • No. 10: Three-star ATH Jordan Watkins, Louisville (Butler)

Louisville – 2

  • No. 11: Three-star S Josh Minkins Jr., Louisville (Ballard)
  • No. 15: Three-star SDE Austin Collins, Louisville (Christian Academy-Louisville)

Still on the table:

  • No. 3: Four-star safety Vito Tisdale, Bowling Green (Bowling Green)
  • No. 5: Three-star defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine, Radcliff (North Hardin)

Another trend to keep an eye on: West Virginia. Since taking over, Neal Brown has landed three-star wide receiver Reese Smith from his old stomping grounds at Boyle County.


Kentucky – 5

  • No. 7: Four-star LB Jared Casey, Louisville (Ballard)
  • No. 8: Four-star DE JJ Weaver, Louisville (Moore)
  • No. 10: Three-star WDE Shawnkel Knight-Goff, Louisville (Doss)
  • No. 11: Three-star WR Demontae Crumes, Louisville (Butler)
  • No. 14: Three-star C Eli Cox, Nicholasville (West Jessamine)

Louisville – 2

  • No. 12: Three-star RB Aidan Robbins, Louisville (DuPont Manual)

What a difference a year makes. Obviously, the decision to put Vince Marrow in charge of Kentucky in the spring of 2018 started paying dividends with the 2019 class. Kentucky landed five of the top 15 players in the state, the most since the 2016 class, which included Landon Young, Kash Daniel, and Drake Jackson.


Kentucky – 0

Louisville – 2

  • No. 2: Four-star CB Jairus Brents, Louisville (Waggener)
  • No. 43: Two-star QB Drew Zaubi, Crestwood (South Oldham)

In 2018, Kentucky didn’t sign a single in-state kid for the first time in 78 years, a brutal wake-up call. Louisville may have snagged the second best prospect in the state, Jairus Brents, but another coach had cast a spell over the Commonwealth’s best: Jeff Brohm. Purdue signed five of the top 15 players from Kentucky that year, including No. 1 Rondale Moore. Obviously, a change needed to be made. After the ink dried and the dust settled on the 2018 class, Mark Stoops put Vince Marrow in charge of getting Kentucky’s best to come to Kentucky.


Kentucky – 2

  • No. 4: Three-star QB Walker Wood, Lexington (Lafayette)
  • No. 9: Three-star OT Austin Dotson, Belfry (Belfry)

Louisville – 1

  • No. 2: Three-star OG Cole Bentley, Belfry (Belfry)

Jedrick Wills was far and away the best player in the state that year, and had he chosen Kentucky over Alabama, the Cats may have been able to build momentum in the state for the 2018 class; needless to say, that didn’t happen.


Kentucky – 5

  • No. 1: Four-star OT Landon Young, Lexington (Lafayette)
  • No. 2: Four-star C Drake Jackson, Versailles (Woodford County)
  • No. 3: Four-star ILB Kash Daniel, Paintsville (Paintsville)
  • No. 5: Three-star ATH Zy’Aire Hughes, Paducah (McCracken County)
  • No. 7: Three-star CB Davonte Robinson, Lexington (Henry Clay)

Louisville – 3

  • No. 4: Three-star WR Keion Wakefield, Louisville (Male)
  • No. 10: Three-star DT Derek Dorsey, Louisville (DuPont Manual)
  • No. 14: Three-star P Austin Johnson, Louisville (De Sales)

Stoops made a splash by signing five in-state stars in 2016, all ranked in the top ten in the state. Kash Daniel, Landon Young, and Drake Jackson became the cornerstones of Stoops’ “Stay home and be a hero” campaign in hopes of snagging an even bigger fish in the 2017 class: five-star offensive tackle Jedrick Wills.


Kentucky – 2

  • No. 2: Four-star OLB Eli Brown, Bowling Green (Warren East)
  • No. 9: Three-star OG Mason Wolfe, Henderson (Henderson County)

Louisville – 0

A lot of Kentucky’s in-state efforts in the 2015 class were focused on Damien Harris, the No. 1 prospect in the state who eventually signed with Alabama. Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, Western Kentucky was booming after back-to-back eight-win seasons, signing the majority of the state’s two- and three-star talent.


Kentucky – 4

  • No. 1: Four-star QB Drew Barker, Hebron (Conner)
  • No. 2: Four-star DT Matt Elam, Elizabethtown (John Hardin)
  • No. 3: Three-star WDE Lloyd Tubman, Louisville (Seneca)
  • No. 5: Three-star DT Adrian Middleton, Bowling Green (South Warren)

Louisville – 1

  • No. 3: Three-star ATH Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville (Trinity)

With his first season under him, Stoops made keeping Drew Barker and Matt Elam in-state a priority in the 2014 class. He succeeded, and even if their careers at Kentucky didn’t pan out, there’s no denying the swag of that Super Bowl ad:


Kentucky – 3

  • No. 3: Four-star WDE Jason Hatcher, Louisville (Trinity)
  • No. 6: Three-star RB/WR Ryan Timmons, Frankfort (Franklin County)
  • No. 7: Three-star DT Jacob Hyde, Manchester (Clay County)

Louisville – 2

  • No. 1: Four-star WR James Quick, Louisville (Trinity)
  • No. 4: Four-star QB Kyle Bolin, Lexington (Lexington Catholic)

Stoops’ first initiative when taking the job in November 2012 was securing in-state talent. With very little time, he did pretty well, signing four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher, three-star athlete Ryan Timmons, and three-star defensive tackle Jacob Hyde.


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

4 Comments for Kentucky Football strengthens its hold on in-state talent

  1. ukblue22
    1:08 pm June 26, 2019 Permalink

    Still the best writer at KSR!

    • 3 fan
      1:52 pm June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Gotta admit outside of Kash Daniel’s class Commonwealth hasn’t produced much at all for UK

  2. RAGE
    7:40 pm June 26, 2019 Permalink

    I agree 3 fan.. we may have a strong hold on the state but still ain’t exactly a state loaded with Power 5 talent…

    • RAGE
      7:42 pm June 26, 2019 Permalink

      With that being said I hope we get Tisdale from Bowling Green.. We def need him and missing on him would negate all the good we have done in state..