As the Kentucky football team expands its recruiting boundaries, it’s important to note the Cats aren’t just going to new areas; they’re recruiting at the most talent-rich schools in America.
Mark Stoops’ first act as Kentucky’s head coach was to recruit the state of Ohio. With Stoops and Vince Marrow’s connections to a ton of schools — including their alma mater, Cardinal Mooney — it quickly paid dividends.
Two years ago, they upped the ante by heavily investing in Florida. Eddie Gran brought expertise from South Florida, while his running mate, Darin Hinshaw, took over the panhandle. In their first two full recruiting classes, Gran and Hinshaw have signed 17 players from the Sunshine State.
Recruiting Florida and Ohio makes sense. They are two of the most talented high school football states in America. Two years ago Stoops’ staff made another, more unorthodox change. Stoops has sent coaches to the most talented high schools in two new areas, the “DMV” (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and Michigan.
A state that has not produced a Kentucky Wildcat in decades, the highest-ranked player in the 2018 recruiting class is from Michigan, nose guard Marquan McCall. The other signee Steve Clinkscale brought from Michigan is outside linebacker DeAndre Square. Square attended Cass Tech, one of the Top 20 Power Five talent producers in America.
When Vince Marrow went to the DMV, he went to Maryland’s most-talented school, Our Lady of Good Counsel. There Marrow successfully signed offensive tackle Naasir Watkins and future superstar defensive end Josh Paschal. According to research by the College Football Data Lab (@redmondlonghorn), Good Counsel has produced the fifth-most Power Five college football players since 2004.
A look at Kentucky signees that have come from the most talented high school football institutions in America, based off players that signed with Power Five schools:
|Kentucky Players from Top High School Football Programs|
|Player (Recruiting Class)||School||Region Rank (National)|
|Austin MacGinnis (13)||Prattville, Al.||3|
|Marcus McWilson (13)||Cardinal Mooney, Oh.||13|
|Jaleel Hytchye (13)||LaSalle, Oh.||15|
|Dorian Baker (14)||Cleveland Heights, Oh.||26|
|Dorian Hendrix (14)||Wayne, Oh.||25|
|Jared Tucker (14)||Stephenson, Ga.||2 (8)|
|Mikel Horton (14)||Lakota West, Oh.||19|
|Kobie Walker (14)||Good Counsel, Md.||N/A (5)|
|George Asafo-Adjei (15)||Lakota West, Oh.||19|
|Kei Beckham (15)||Trotwood-Madison, Oh.||8|
|Jordan Jones (15)||Cardinal Mooney, Oh.||13|
|Sihiem King (15)||Colquitt County, Ga.||24|
|Kayaune Ross (16)||Lakota West, Oh.||19|
|Tobias Gilliam (16)||Wayne, Oh.||25|
|Gunnar Hoak (16)||Dublin Coffman, Oh.||23|
|Roland Walder (16)||Trotwood-Madison, Oh.||8|
|Jaylin Bannerman (16)||Pickerinton Central, Oh.||20|
|Lynn Bowden (17)||Warren G. Harding, Oh.||24|
|Naasir Watkins (17)||Good Counsel, Md.||N/A (5)|
|Josh Paschal (17)||Good Counsel, Md.||N/A (5)|
|Sebastian Dolcine (17)||Miramar, Fl.||17|
|Chris Whittaker (17)||Chaminade-Madonna, Fl.||19|
|Josh Ali (17)||Chaminade-Madonna, Fl.||19|
|Jordan Wright (17)||Dillard, Fl.||22|
|Jamari Brown (18)||Blanche Ely, Fl.||24|
|Davoan Hawkins (18)||Chaminade-Madonna, Fl.||19|
|Marvin Alexander (18)||Chaminade-Madonna, Fl.||19|
|Akeem Hayes (18)||Chaminade-Madonna, Fl.||19|
|Nick Lewis (18)||The Bolles School, Fl.||18|
|Stanley Garner (18)||Dillard, Fl.||22|
|Bryce Oliver (18)||Dillard, Fl.||22|
|DeAndre Square (18)||Cass Tech, Mi.||2 (17)|
|Brenden Bates (18)||Moeller, Oh.||6|
|Darrian Kinnard (18)||St. Ignatius, Oh.||5|
What Does This Mean?
There’s no denying Kentucky has stepped up its recruiting game under Mark Stoops. Kentucky used to beat out MAC schools for recruits; now they’re beating out the big dogs. That’s an obvious metric of improvement.
This analysis proves Kentucky football recruiting took the next step in the 2017 recruiting season, the first class after Kentucky played in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Of the 34 players signed from the nation’s top schools, half have come in the previous two recruiting classes. Not only are the Cats recruiting the best players against the best colleges, they’ve established a brand that is recognizable at the nation’s top high schools.
Kentucky might not always be able to land the best player from the best school (a la Josh Paschal), but if the Cats can get the second or third-best player from that school, it’s still a significant battle won in the recruiting war.