Hello friends. It’s good to be back. I took one last final break of the summer to get my mind right and jump off trees into cenotes. Now that I have (mostly) detoxified from my week-long fiesta, I’m prepared to dive back into the world of Kentucky football recruiting. As a wise man once said, the dice are hot.
All the Receivers
Four commitments in two days is a pretty excellent rate of return on an official visit investment. Three of those prospects will provide plenty of firepower in the wide receivers’ room.
The addition of Earnest Sanders came out of nowhere. His recent offer sheet tells me the Michigan kid has what it takes to be successful. I love Izayah Cummings‘ size for an outside wide receiver. He’s also a proven winner at one of the state’s powerhouse football programs. You can’t coach size and you can’t give a kid confidence. He will bring both to UK’s campus.
You’ve already heard about Jordan Watkins‘ speed. You probably remember his battles with Andru Phillips at UK football camp in early June. Here’s a little something you have not heard.
Four years ago a friend of mine who coaches high school football told me, “Roush, remember the name Jordan Watkins. This kid’s going D-I.” Naturally, I did not believe that my idiot friend could spot D-I talent before the kid played a snap of high school football. I will happily admit that I was wrong. Not only is Watkins a D-I athlete, he has SEC speed. If he remains on the right track, he will be an explosive weapon in Eddie Gran’s offense.
With all that being said, I don’t think Kentucky is finished stockpiling receivers. UK only signed two in the 2019 recruiting class. The biggest question mark on this year’s offensive depth chart, they need as many playmakers as possible, especially in the slot. You can’t count on Lynn Bowden to return for a fourth year. The three added this weekend all play on the outside, leaving a few candidates to potentially suit up in the slot in the near future.
Running back commit JuTahn McClain has enough speed on the edge and wide receiver skills to move to the slot position. The same applies to UK target Michael Drennen, the No. 5 all-purpose back in America. Beating the big dogs for Drennen could be a reach, however, I do feel comfortable with UK’s chances of landing Kalil Branham. The former Michigan commit has all of the speed to make plays and is an absolute work horse. He gave glowing reviews following an official visit to UK in the spring. Branham is in no rush to commit, but when he does, I think the impressive athlete will ultimately choose UK to complete the Cats’ wide receiver class.
Today the top high school football players in America traveled to Atlanta to participate in Rivals’ Five-Star Challenge. Along with Nike’s The Opening, it’s the premiere prep camp in the country. In previous years, UK and the Commonwealth of Kentucky were under-represented. Now there are Lexington kids rocking cowboy hats on media day.
Joining Clemson commit Walker Parks from the state of Kentucky is defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine and his Frederick Douglass teammate, Dekel Crowdus. The speedy wide receiver ran a 4.36 40-yard dash earlier this month at Ohio State football camp. The top-ranked rising junior in the Commonwealth, he’s one of just 17 players from the class of 2021 attending the Five-Star Challenge and the only receiver.
Oxendine isn’t the only high profile UK defensive tackle target attending the camp. Two weeks after officially visiting UK, Dallas Walker will run through drills at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Michigan cornerback Enzo Jennings will be in attendance, along with the dynamic duo from Cincinnati Princeton High School, outside linebacker Jaheim Thomas and defensive end Darrion Henry.
The Cats are finalists for each of the Ohio prospects. Today Henry revealed he will announce his college decision June 29. UK’s prospects aren’t great for Henry, but I think Kentucky can reel in Thomas if they get him on campus for an official visit.
Richie Leonard Nears Decision
The former UK commit completed his final official visit this weekend in Knoxville. Down to seven schools — Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, UCF and Tennessee — Leonard will make an announcement July 5. Florida State and Tennessee appear to be the Cats’ competition for the slugger.
— Richie Leonard IV™ (@RichieLeonardIV) June 10, 2019
If Leonard does decide to go elsewhere, Joshua Jones is a solid security blanket for the future of UK’s interior offensive line.
Kentucky Kid Commits to Notre Dame
Another Boyle County star is leaving the state. A few months after wide receiver Reese Smith announced he’ll play for Neal Brown at West Virginia, three-star running back Landen Bartleson committed to Notre Dame. I think it’s safe to say the Rebels will have a target on their backs when high school football season starts in just over two weeks.
Talking Season is almost Here
As much fun as it to dish on football recruiting, it’s only an appetizer. We get our first taste of the main course three weeks from today at SEC Media Days. Returning to Hoover after a one-year trip to Atlanta, Mark Stoops will take the podium on the final day of the event. As a wise Bart Scott once said, “Can’t Wait!”