The foundation of UK’s 2021 football recruiting class is built on homegrown talent. Kentucky would like to add at least one more big name from the Commonwealth, Jager Burton.
A four-star recruit, the Frederick Douglass offensive lineman is the top-ranked player in the state and No. 158 player in America, according to Rivals. Burton has narrowed his list of choices to seven. Many believe it’s down to Ohio State, Kentucky and Alabama.
Dave Lackford, who recently predicted Burton to Bama, had a 30-minute conversation with Burton as his first order of business following a promotion to Buckeye Grove, OSU’s Rivals’ site. They talked at length about Burton’s finalists and Kentucky received an exceptional review.
“Kentucky has one of the biggest active fanbases on social media and stuff, which I think a lot of people overlook,” Burton said. “Also, however many years ago when coach Joker (Phillips) was here, it would be a lot harder for me to go to Kentucky if Kentucky wasn’t good and wasn’t becoming a big name. I think that was something I had to really understand to be able to put Kentucky in there. Whenever you grow up watching Kentucky win two games or whatever when Joker was here, now they’re beating Penn State in a bowl game and beating Virginia Tech and all these big-name schools. They’re beating them pretty bad. It’s a close score, but I was at both of the games watching and they’re physically dominant. You can tell their strength coach is the real deal.”
The Wildcats have improved, but Burton does not believe the BBN has seen them at their best.
“A lot of people say whenever they look at my top seven, it’s these schools and Kentucky. I think Kentucky, to me at least, is on the same level as all those other schools and they’re improving still, which is cool to see. I think one of the biggest sells for me to Kentucky is being able to — at some places you’re expected to win, and Kentucky is expected to win now, but they’re about to take the next step. Kash (Daniel) and all those guys laid the foundation to start winning games in the regular season. They started to at the end of Drake (Jackson) and all of those guys’ careers at Kentucky. They’re starting this tradition of winning postseason games. It’d be really cool to be a part of taking that next step — winning the SEC, beating Georgia, competing with Alabama, beating Alabama, beating LSU. If you’re a part of that, the people of Kentucky will take care of you for the rest of your life. ”
— Jager Burton (@jager_burton) January 1, 2020
The message Burton shared is one UK’s football program has shared frequently on social media. Of the last dozen Tweets, half have been dedicated to “Home State Heroes.”
One person that picked up what Kentucky is putting down is Jager’s high school teammate, Dekel Crowdus. The four-star slot receiver and UK commit has openly campaigned for Burton to join him in Lexington as part of a package deal. It’s certainly on the table, but early on in the process the two knew they could not let one person determine the other’s destination.
“I want him to be happy and I want me to be happy. Hopefully that’s at the same place,” said Burton. “I know we look for a lot of the same stuff. It’s very possible, but I’ve talked about that with Dane (Key), I’ve talked about that with Walker (Parks). Me and Dekel just made it more of a public thing.”
Interestingly, Burton shifted that part of the conversation toward establishing a brand as a recruit. In the era of NIL rights, it’s important to create a relationship with fans early in the process. Burton has embraced some of the modern day aspects of football recruiting, but he’s still old school at heart. The thought of de-committing disturbs him. Coronavirus’ delay on recruiting is the only reason he may visit another school while committed.
As of today, the plan is for Burton to announce his college decision August 24. Like all plans created right now, they could be changed by circumstances that are out of his control. If he does ultimately choose Kentucky, becoming a “home state hero” will play a significant role in his decision.
“That’s a big piece for me, just making the people that I’m around really proud, the people that I grew up around, making Kentucky bigger than it is now. Being a part of that and playing with the guys that I grew up with in high school at the next level, it would be kind of crazy.”