What you need to know about Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting class
As Mark Stoops continues Kentucky’s uptick, the positive results of 4 consecutive bowl seasons are starting to show on the recruiting trail.
For the first time in his tenure (and in several decades of UK football, if not longer), Stoops was able to redshirt his entire 2019 freshman class.
While his 2020 group will be tightly approaching the 85 scholarship limit, Stoops will look for offensive playmakers to supplement his dual-threat attack and defensive standouts to add depth, particularly up front. (Incidentally, all rankings referenced in this column are from 247sports.com.)
Here’s what you need to know about Kentucky’s class.
- National rank: 24th
- SEC rank: 10th
- 5-stars: 0
- 4-stars: 3 (+1 4-star transfer from 2018 class)
- 3-stars: 13
Best player: 4-star defensive tackle Justin Rogers
Rogers is a 6-2, 311-pound interior lineman from Michigan who will be UK’s highest-ranked signee in the past 14 years. Rogers is tabbed as the No. 44 player in the nation and the best player from Michigan. Hailing from Oak Park, Michigan, home of UK sophomore Marquan McCall, Rogers committed to UK in May. A month later, he took an official visit to Alabama but soon after indicated that he remained committed to UK.
Kentucky has done an outstanding job of developing defensive linemen, and again, has recently tried to redshirt as many players as possible, but it stands to reason that Rogers would be the exception.
He’s likely to join senior to be Quinton Bohanna and former high school teammate McCall to give Kentucky plenty of bulk in the middle of the defensive line. Rogers is also the centerpiece to perhaps Kentucky’s best defensive line class in memory.
Assessing the QBs
If Rogers isn’t the most exciting recruit, then it’s Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood, who was a 4-star QB in 2018 when he signed with the Tigers. Gatewood did little wrong at Auburn, but Gus Malzahn decided to go with Bo Nix. After a whirlwind courtship, Gatewood announced that he’ll play at Kentucky. Barring a waiver, he’s expected to miss the 2020 season due to transferring, but that will clear the decks on seniors-to-be Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith.
Meanwhile, freshman Beau Allen is also an exciting prospect. The in-state prospect (and UK legacy recruit) is a high 3-star prospect who is ranked 473rd in the nation, and 19th among drop-back QBs. Allen has excellent command of an offense, a very good arm, and is surprisingly mobile in the pocket.
He’ll probably develop behind Gatewood, and be ready to take over the UK offense in 2023 as a redshirt junior. Of course, if UK’s 2019 season has taught anything, it’s that you can never have too many quarterbacks.
Biggest need filled
Kentucky will need help on the defensive line, with starters T.J. Carter and Calvin Taylor graduating, and senior Phil Hoskins battling for a redshirt year to hopefully continue his career. With Kentucky losing 2 or 3 major players from the position group, at the very least UK will need depth to back up the returning contributors.
Kentucky has made excellent strides in defensive line recruiting, with Rogers factoring in immediately on the inside. Defensive tackle Tre’vonn Rybka is a high 3-star guy (411th overall) who could also contribute in that area. On the edge, Kentucky has added speedy pass rusher Samuel Anaele, a 4-star prospect from Florida who could also see time from day one.
Biggest needs that need to be filled
Kentucky could be hurting in terms of a playmaker at wide receiver. Lynn Bowden is off to the NFL. Senior Ahmad Wagner will also be missed, as his 6-5 size on the edge made him a constant threat, at least when UK passed the football.
While Kentucky has 3 receiver signees in the class, it’s unclear whether any of those guys have the skill set to replace Bowden or Wagner. Help could be on the way in athlete Michael Drennen, a 4-star recruit from Ohio who bears a passing resemblance to Bowden as a big-play threat. Kentucky is recruiting several other playmaker types, but Drennen could be the man to help fill this particular void.
Best position group
As good as the defensive line looks and as impactful as the 2 QBs are, it could be the offensive line that steals the show. UK has overachieved under the direction of line coach John Schlarman, and the Wildcats stand to get a pair of standout tackles in 4-star in-state recruit John Young and high 3-star Michigan recruit Deondre Buford (No. 393 in the nation). Add in under-the-radar Alabama recruit Joshua Jones and don’t be shocked if in 2 or 3 years, it’s the offensive linemen who everybody is noticing.
Best player still chasing
Kentucky would love to add Knoxville Catholic defensive end Tyler Baron. The 6-4 Baron is another explosive pass rusher and is a high-4 star recruit (No. 111 in the nation). Baron and Anaele would give Kentucky 2 ridiculously athletic pass-rushing ends. Of course, Baron’s father works on the Tennessee staff and recruiting a top player from Knoxville would be an impressive statement. Many believe UT, UK, and Ohio State are the final 3 schools on Baron’s list.
Four-star defensive tackle Josaih Hayes (a former Ole Miss commit) and athlete Drennen are two other big-name recruits who Kentucky is following closely. Of the three, Drennen is perceived to be the most likely to choose UK, but Kentucky could nab one or all of the 3.