Mark Stoops has grown Kentucky’s program from an SEC bottom-feeder to a modestly competitive team in just two years, thanks in large part to his successes on the recruiting trail.

The Wildcats were depleted with talent when he took over as head coach after the 2012 season, but he still salvaged a top 40 class his first year on the job despite having just two months to recruit.

Last year’s class was all the way up to No. 22 in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and Kentucky won more games in 2014 than it did in 2012-13 combined.

As of this year’s recruiting dead period, Kentucky has the 28th best class in the country, which unfortunately is only the 11th best class in the SEC. Nevertheless, Stoops continues to sell Kentucky as a destination for football stars, overcoming UK’s identity as “just a basketball school.”

Here’s how we graded Kentucky’s class of commitments at the dead period:


Kentucky’s seven offensive commits are headlined by four-star tight end C.J. Conrad of Lagrange, Ohio and four-star tailback Andrew Dowell of Lakewood, Ohio.

Conrad is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound athletic freak capable of playing with his hand in the ground or on the outside as a receiver. He can stretch the field vertically in the passing game with his combination of size and speed, and there was rarely a jump ball at the high school level that he didn’t win.

Conrad’s skill set and athleticism should fit perfectly into Kentucky’s Air Raid offense, provided the Wildcats stick with the Air Raid when they hire their next offensive coordinator.

Dowell is regarded by 247 as the No. 25 tailback in the high school class of 2015, and would add even more depth to a UK stable of running backs featuring Boom Williams, Mikel Horton, Jojo Kemp and Braylon Heard.

Kentucky’s five remaining commitments on offense are all three-star prospects, and four of those five play along the offensive line. Those four linemen (three tackles and a guard) are led by tackle George Asafo-Adjei of West Chester, Ohio. Asafo-Adjei is considered by 247 to be a top-50 offensive tackle in this year’s class, and the 21st best prospect from the state of Ohio.

The lone receiver in the class is three-star prospect Jabari Greenwood of Washington, D.C. Kentucky has recruited the receiver position aggressively since Mark Stoops’ arrival two years ago, and Greenwood will have to prove himself among a crowded group of wideouts.

It’s worth noting that should Kentucky change its system on offense with its next offensive coordinator hire, this class could look a bit different by National Signing Day.


Stoops is a head coach with a defensive background, and he’s recruited well on that side of the ball with this year’s class.

The Wildcats’ 10 defensive commitments are led by four-star linebacker Eli Brown and four-star safety David Dowell, twin brother of Andrew Dowell. It is likely the Dowell twins are a package deal this recruiting season, and both are tremendously talented prospects overflowing with athleticism.

Brown, a Bowling Green, Kentucky native, is a bit undersized at 195 pounds, but he is lightning quick for an outside linebacker. The No. 20 linebacker in the 247 rankings was a takeaway machine in high school, and if he bulks up without sacrificing much speed he’ll be difficult for opposing offenses to keep track of in the SEC.

Kentucky built depth at every level of its defense with this year’s crop of recruits. The Cats have commitments from two linebackers, two cornerbacks, two safeties and four defensive linemen, including three defensive ends. Those linemen will be tasked with eventually replacing departed seniors Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, and simply adding depth at that position will help Kentucky transition from Dupree and Smith to its next batch of pass-rushing monsters.

This group of recruits has a little bit of flash and a lot of substance, which is exactly what Mark Stoops is looking for as he continues to grow the Kentucky program.


Kentucky has a commitment from at least one player at virtually every position except quarterback, where it’s set for the time being with returning starter Patrick Towles and four-star redshirt freshman Drew Barker.

Where Kentucky must continue improving on the recruiting trail is in its pursuit of playmakers, especially in-state prospect Damien Harris. The Wildcats have a four-star tailback already committed in this year’s class, but Harris, a Berea, Kentucky native, is the No. 2 back in the nation (according to 247) and the No. 33 player at any position in the country.

Harris has the kind of talent that will translate to the college level no matter where he plays, what system he plays in or who else is on the roster. For Kentucky to lock down that kind of playmaker would be a huge step forward for the program.

Unfortunately, Kentucky is competing with power programs in Alabama and Ohio State to woo Harris, and without an offensive coordinator in place Kentucky’s chances may be waning.

Nevertheless, a signature from Harris is truly Kentucky’s greatest need this winter.