Burning questions: Kentucky recruiting
Kentucky currently is sitting on another solid 25-member recruiting class in the 2016 cycle. The Wildcats rank No. 32 nationally and No. 11 in the Southeastern Conference currently and enrolled seven prospects early.
This is another building block for head coach Mark Stoops and staff and follows some of the same patterns we’ve seen out of UK since Stoops took the job. So with that, here are the key questions and answers about Wildcats recruiting just days before National Signing Day.
What are your overall impressions of the Kentucky class?
The Wildcats continue to build and have landed prospects in key positions — offensive line and quarterback — that I think can definitely help sooner rather than later. Offensive tackle Logan Young has elite potential at 6-foot-7, 270-pounds given that he has excellent athleticism and feet. The Lexington (Ky.) Lafayette product could end up being one of the best offensive tackles to ever play for the Wildcats, provided he develops as he is capable of. Young is part of what I think is one of the best overall offensive line classes in the SEC this cycle. Junior college transfer Tate Levitt has the ability to step in and earn a starting job right away and center Drake Jackson, who like Young is an in-state product, is one of the better pure center prospects in the country. I like Sylvania (Ohio) offensive tackle Luke Fortner as well. At quarterback, junior college transfer Stephen Johnson II is one of those sneaky-good players with running and passing ability who can revolutionize an offense if he can come in and win the starting job. Gunner Hoak, from the alma mater of Brady Quinn (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman), is a 6-foot-4, 190-pounder with a lot of tools. Both are already on campus to compete with Drew Barker for the job.
Kentucky continues to land large numbers of recruits out of Ohio. Your thoughts on this?
That’s been the strategy under Stoops, and I think it’s a smart one. When you get past the states of California, Florida, Georgia and Texas, no state produces the numbers of college prospects and NFL players like the Buckeye State. Kentucky offers an “SEC option” to players in Ohio, which is the talent breadbasket of the Big Ten and, of course, the MAC. The Wildcats have 13 Ohio prospects in this class (a high under Stoops), and it will give UK 33 prospects from the Buckeye State since Stoops took over, far more than any other program in the league. Those types of numbers could very well lead to Ohio prospects making up nearly half of the scholarship roster at Kentucky if the trend continues. The state of Ohio produces excellent linemen and the skill talent in that state is vasty underrated on a national level, so it’s a smart strategy given that the in-state numbers just aren’t there in the Bluegrass State on an annual basis. This cycle, the Wildcats have five in-state prospects in their class and that number is about the average out of the state, give or take a handful as the talent level rises and falls. The closest major talent-producer geographically is Ohio.
Who are some of the prospects you like in this class outside of the offensive linemen and quarterbacks?
Linebacker Kash Daniel is an in-state talent who has excellent athleticism and physicality. He could step in and contribute in some manner this coming season (he’s an early enrollee). The U.S. Army All-American looks like he was born to play linebacker when you see him in person. I also think that down the road, defensive end Jaylin Bannerman has the frame and length to be an outstanding pass rusher, and tight end Dakota Holtzclaw is a 6-foot-7, 215-pounder with hands and athletic ability who could be great in time.