Over the next month, elite football recruits will flood Kentucky’s campus for camps, official and unofficial visits. After an incredibly successful April gave UK an average four-star rating in the five-man class, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are poised to keep the positive recruiting momentum rolling.
In this edition of the 2020 recruiting class Big Board, you’ll see where elite targets fit into the roster-building equation. Obviously, it’s a fluid situation. Some prospects will rise while others fall. From top targets to a few under the radar prospects, allow this to serve as a baseline entering the summer football recruiting season.
Departures: Gunnar Hoak, Danny Clark
Returning: Terry Wilson, Walker Wood,
Incoming: Sawyer Smith, Nik Scalzo, Amani Gilmore
Committed: Beau Allen
Top Targets: The Cats already got their guy.
Departures: Benny Snell
Returning: A.J. Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, Chris Rodriguez
Incoming: Travis Tisdale
The nephew of Randall Cobb was expected to officially visit this spring, but that trip to Lexington was postponed. However, Hodge was in the Kroger Field stands for the Blue/White Game. Tennessee, Louisville, Ole Miss, Penn State, Michigan and Oregon have also offered Hodge.
One of the most explosive playmakers in America, Drennen is being pursued heavily by Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan and every other traditional college football powerhouse. Despite the big logos involved, John Young is leading the charge to keep UK in Drennen’s mind throughout the process.
Davis is eerily similar to A.J. Rose. Both are from Cleveland. Both are 6’1″ 210 pounds. When you see Davis cut through holes, his style mirrors Rose. Davis is choosing between UK, Michigan State, Penn State, Cincinnati and Pitt.
In 2018 McClain rushed for 1,754 yards and 35 touchdowns and caught 24 pass receptions for 416 yards and five more scores. Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State have offered the track star, but the Cats are the perceived leaders in his recruitment.
McClain plans on announcing his decision on July 4 with three other UK recruits from Greater Cincinnati, Winton Woods running back Miyan Williams, cornerback Miquan Grace and wide receiver DeMeer Blankumsee.
Holding offers from Michigan, Purdue and a slew of other Big 10 schools, the powerful running back rushed for 430 yards and six touchdowns in a playoff game in 2018. He finished the season with an astounding 2,824 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Departures: OT George Asafo-Adjei, OG Bunchy Stallings, OT E.J. Price
Returning: OT Landon Young, C Drake Jackson, OG Austin Dotson, OG Logan Stenberg, OG Luke Fortner, OG Kenneth Horsey, OT Darian Kinnard, OT Nick Lewis, OT Naasir Watkins, OG Mason Wolfe
Incoming: OG Eli Cox, OT Jake Pope
Committed: OT John Young
One of UK’s first commitments in the 2020 recruiting class, Leonard reopened his recruitment not long after visiting Lexington for the Blue/White Game. Feeling the heat from Florida State, Leonard most recently received an offer from Florida. Last weekend he officially visited Georgia Tech. Before he announces a commitment July 5, Leonard will take an official visit to UK next weekend.
Rogers, Allen, Young and Phillips committed shortly officially visiting in the spring. Buford is the final domino to fall from that wildly successful recruiting weekend. The Detroit native is also being recruited by Auburn, LSU, Pitt and Penn State recently got in the mix with a scholarship offer.
Just because he’s committed to Ohio State, doesn’t mean the Big Dog is backing down. Johnson visited UK’s campus unofficially this spring. Persuading him to use an official in Lexington is a more difficult challenge, but Marrow will remain in Johnson’s ear.
The tenth-ranked guard in the class was one of the first to take an official visit in the recruiting calendar year when the New Jersey native made the trip to Lexington in April. Purdue, West Virginia, Auburn and Maryland are also in the mix for Mayo.
Even though he has yet to visit UK, the Cats are in Jones’ top six along with Mississippi State, N.C. State, Florida State, LSU and the favorite, Tennessee.
Departures: C.J. Conrad
Returning: Justin Rigg, Keaton Upshaw, Brenden Bates
Incoming: Nik Ognenovic
Top Targets: As you can see above, Kentucky will have four serviceable tight end options. There’s really no need to acquire one in this class. Things could change, but UK will likely stick with what they have until the next recruiting cycle.
Departures: Dorian Baker, David Bouvier
Returning: B.J. Alexander, Josh Ali, Lynn Bowden, Allen Dailey, Isaiah Epps, Akeem Hayes, Bryce Oliver, Clevan Thomas, Ahmad Wagner
Incoming: DeMarcus Harris, Tae Tae Crumes
A one-time Michigan commit, that all changed following a visit to UK for the Blue/White Game. A few weeks later, he took his first official visit to Kentucky and left liking “everything” about Mark Stoops’ program. The Cats are in excellent position to land Branham, although there’s no timetable on his decision.
It’s going to be a dogfight between UK and UofL for the state’s top wideout. Beau Allen could ultimately end up being what gives Kentucky a slight edge over the hometown team.
Sidelined for half a season following a transfer, Watkins is one of those to keep an eye on throughout the summer and fall. He has the speed and skills to blow up; luckily, UK has been in contact with him for quite some time. Watkins was one of the standout performers from last year’s camp in Lexington.
If you watch his highlights, you’ll see Young primarily making plays as a running back. He has the skills, but his size will likely force him into the slot at the collegiate level. Packing plenty of speed, UK is one of Young’s five finalists joining Tennessee, Miss. State, Missouri and South Carolina.
Like Young, he’s not a big guy, but the track star has blazing speed. Another athlete that can excel out of the slot, his top seven includes UK, Ole Miss, Michigan, Purdue, Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois. Moore is one of a few incredible athletes Marrow and Co. are looking for to replace Lynn Bowden.
One of Jon Sumrall’s first recruits in Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss and Louisville are the Cats’ top competition. He’s expected to visit UK unofficially this June.
West Virginia, Iowa State, Cincinnati and Indiana are also involved in Blankumsee’s recruitment.
Departures: Adrian Middleton, Kengera Daniel, Tymere DuBose
Returning: Quinton Bohanna, Calvin Taylor Jr., Josh Paschal, Kordell Looney, T.J. Carter, Marquan McCall, Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald, Phil Hoskins, Davoan Hawkins,
Incoming: Isaiah Gibson, Cavon Butler,
Committed: Justin Rogers, Lamar Goods
It’s not often that one of the best interior defensive linemen in America lives right down the road. Coincidentally, Oxendine lives not far from Matt Elam’s stomping grounds. The vicinity of their residences and a high recruiting ranking is the only two things those players share in common.
You will not find many 300-pounders more explosive than Oxendine. He burns up the trenches out of a three-point stance and can dunk it on the hardwood. A target in the crosshairs of the UK commits, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisville and Purdue are the Cats’ stiffest competition.
One of the best defensive ends in America unofficially visited Lexington this spring with a few of his most talented friends. Vince Marrow is keeping the Cats in contention, but beating out Georgia, LSU and Ohio State will not be easy. He officially visited LSU in early May and has plans for an official to Ohio State in late June.
The Tennessee lineman has gotten offers from all of the big schools over the last month. Despite the increased recruiting traffic, UK is one of his top three schools, along with Auburn and Texas A&M. He has not set a date for an official visit to Lexington, but one will happen this summer.
When you look at Neal’s top eight, it’s hard not to get excited about UK’s chances for the stud nose guard from Miami — Rutgers, Virginia, Pitt, IU, West Virginia, USF, UK and Tennessee.
Departures: Josh Allen, Jordan Jones, Chris Whittaker
Returning: Kash Daniel, Chris Oats, DeAndre Square, Boogie Watson, Jordan Wright, Alex King, Jamin Davis
Incoming: Xavier Peters, Marquez Bembry, Jared Casey, JJ Weaver, Tra Wilkins, Shawnkel Knight-Goff, KD McDaniel
Anaele has been committed to Miami for over a year. He has stuck with his hometown school since Manny Diaz replaced Mark Richt, but he’s still taken a few visits. On a trip to UK this spring, he posed for a picture with Josh Allen. That’s gotta be worth something, right? He’s expected to return to Lexington next week.
Like Darrion Henry, his incredibly talented teammate is being recruited by every college football powerhouse in America. Thomas most recently visited LSU, but his recruitment is far from over. Vince Marrow will keep UK in contention until the very end.
In the middle of an Iron Bowl recruiting battle, Kentucky is making a significant impression on the Alabama star. In the month of June he has three official visits, starting with UK, he’ll then travel to Knoxville and Auburn.
Hailing from Brad White’s northeast recruiting territory, Austin-Cave first received an offer from UK just a few weeks ago. Despite being a little late to the game, they still made his top nine. He’s also considering West Virginia, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt, Nebraska, Rutgers, Minnesota and Temple.
Recruited by Jon Sumrall and Brad White, the talented Georgia outside linebacker will officially visit UK’s campus June 11. Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Louisville and Florida are also involved in Height’s recruitment.
This week Groce included UK in his top eight, alongside Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Miss. State, UAB and Georgia Tech.
The Georgia prospect has visited UK twice already. He’ll like officially visit later this summer. Jackson is also considering Ole Miss, Miss. State and Purdue.
Departures: Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards, Darius West, Chris Westry, Lonnie Johnson, Michael Nesbitt
Returning: Davonte Robinson, Jordan Griffin, Jamari Brown, Cedrick Dort, Stanley Garner, Tyrell Ajian, Yusuf Corker
Incoming: Taj Dodson, MJ Devonshire, Quandre Mosely, Brandin Echols, Moses Douglass, Jalen Geiger
Arguably the biggest name available on UK’s big board, the top-ranked player in the state has kept his recruitment quiet. There’s been plenty of scuttlebutt coming from Bowling Green. Lately, the word on the street is Tisdale’s leaning toward UK. Louisville and Oklahoma were big players early in the process, but after visiting Lexington with Young and Allen on more than one occasion, things are looking good for the Cats and Tisdale.
Justin Rogers’ incredibly talented teammate has been recruited by Steve Clinkscale since he started high school. Now the four-star cornerback is on the verge of taking an official visit to UK next weekend. Georgia, Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida and every other powerhouse program is trying to recruit Jennings, but the Cats’ toughest competition is the team they just beat in the Citrus Bowl, Penn State. Following his trip to Lexington, he’ll officially visit Pitt and Happy Valley in consecutive weeks.
The JUCO cornerback from Blinn College, the same place UK found Ryan Flannigan, will officially visit UK in the second weekend of June. He’s beginning his official visits with a trip to LSU. Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M are also heavily pursuing one of the best JUCO defenders in America.
Prepare to see the Ballard athlete blow up on the recruiting front. Named the MVP of the defensive backs at the Nashville Opening camp, expect Louisville, Purdue, Tennessee and other schools get involved in his recruitment over the next few months. Minkins already holds a scholarship offer from UK.
Like Minkins, Valentine is a late riser in the process who has a former teammate in Lexington, tight end Brenden Bates.
UK doesn’t have to sell it’s brand too much at Benny Snell’s former high school. The Cats are in contention with Hyatt, along with a slew of other Big 10 schools, most notably Michigan State.