Usually when you talk Kentucky recruiting it is all about John Calipari and the basketball program. Very little is said nationally about football. However with the progress Mark Stoops has made over the last couple of years, ESPN picked the squad as one to cover this season. How did the Cats fare? Let’s find out in this Kentucky Wildcats Signing Day Recap.
Best Class in School History??
The 2017 class ranks anywhere from a high of 26th in the nation to a low of 30th. Looking at the pledges via all the recruiting sites it is pretty uniform across each.
Rivals- 26th in the nation and 10th in the SEC
247 Sports- 29th in the nation and 11th in the SEC
ESPN- 30th in the nation and 11th in the SEC.
As you can see that is a pretty solid number across the board. The Cats have four four star recruits and 17 three stars which is a great number. Most noteworthy is the fact Kentucky went into signing day with 24 commitments and ended with 24 signatures.
Throughout the years True Blue Fans have seen player commit to the Wildcats only to see them “flip” to a another school who comes calling late in the process. That was not the case this season and something the staff is pretty proud of.
Stoops says it's very difficult to not lose any commitment by Signing Day, but this class stuck together the entire way.
Stoops: "By far, this is our best class. I feel so good about it top to bottom. Character, leadership, competitors, winners."
While numbers-wise it doesn’t quite match up to the 2014 class that ranked 18th, you have to remember almost half of those 28 commits are no longer with the program.
Two Positions of Emphasis for the Cats
At first glance the signing of five wide receivers seems a bit odd until you look at the Kentucky roster. Already losing Jeff Badet to a transfer, the Wildcats will lose four more players to graduation in 2017.
To that end wide receives coach Lamar Thomas brought in Josh Ali, Lynn Bowden, Isaiah Epps, Javonte Richardson and Clevon Thomas. Much has already been written about Bowden, who ranks as Kentucky’s best recruit. He will play from day one at a number of positions including receiver. Right behind him is Richardson who has the size at 6-4 and 230 to be an immediate impact player.
In addition to the wide receiver position the other position the Cats recruited hard is the secondary. While Kentucky has one of the best secondaries in the SEC, as a former defensive backs coach Stoops is always looking to bring in more players.
Kentucky brought in five defensive backs, Tyrell Ajian, Yusuf Corker, Cedric Dort, Lonnie Johnson and Michael Nesbitt. While all five will be expected to contribute Corker, ranked as the best secondary player in Georgia, could step in immediately.
Two Areas of Concern for Kentucky
Probably the most interesting aspect of Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class is they only signed one true running back. Since the Wildcats lost three backs from last season, “Boom” Williams, JoJo Kemp and Mikel Horton experts thought the Cats would look for more help. As it stands right now Kentucky only brought in one player for 2017.
Behind All-SEC running back Benny Snell there isn’t a whole lot of experience. A.J. Rose and Sihiem King will be the backups. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has already said they expect to line up Bowden in the Wildcat like they do with Snell.
In addition to Bowden the Cats have early enrollee Bryant Koback, a 5-11 180 pound player out of Springfield, Ohio. Ranked as the 36th best back by 247 sports Koback was one of Stoops’ first commits for 2017. However he broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg during his senior season and will not participate in spring practice.
As a result Kentucky is banking on nothing happening to Snell because they will have almost zero experience in the backfield.
Another area the Cats failed to address is tight end. As a result Kentucky has C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart and that is pretty much it. Incoming outside linebacker Jordan Wright does have experience playing tight end in high school catching six touchdowns.
While nothing will be proven until they take the field, on paper this looks to be Kentucky’s best recruiting class ever under Stoops. As a result they hope to take another step forward in the SEC in 2017.