UK football

Analyst sees potential in Kentucky football's recruiting class

Analyst sees solid possibilities

jsmith3@herald-leader.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Potential.

It is the word of the day around the country as national signing day commences on Wednesday.

Fax machines and the Internet seem to drip with it, run on it.

It's definitely the key word for the 2012 class at Kentucky, according to one recruiting analyst.

"They have a handful of potential difference-makers with a bunch of solid recruits, so the potential is there," said Keith Niebuhr, an analyst for Rivals.com. "The potential is there for these guys to do something special."

Barring any late or unexpected signings — which aren't out of the question because there are still a handful of players with UK on their short lists — Kentucky's class has at least 20 three-star prospects.

Those players are nothing to frown upon.

"Kentucky's class is loaded with three-stars," he noted. "To us, three-stars are guys who can contribute, guys who can play. They're kids who can start two or three years at a major program."

The gem of the Cats' class is expected to be quarterback Patrick Towles, a four-star prospect out of Highlands.

Niebuhr is a big fan of Towles, Kentucky's Mr. Football.

"You really need difference- makers if you want to win in the SEC," he said, mentioning another in-state quarterback who helped elevate UK football, Andre Woodson.

"You have to have players who can carry you over to the next level. They've found that in Towles, a four-star quarterback that we really like."

And even though one analyst likes UK's class based on potential, the Cats still have the lowest-rated class in the Southeastern Conference, according to Rivals' ratings.

Even before the late addition on Tuesday of Jalen Whitlow, a three-star quarterback/athlete out of Prattville, Ala., who announced his plans via Twitter on Tuesday, Scout.com had Kentucky's class rated 34th in the nation overall.

That still only puts the Cats as 12th overall in the new 14-team SEC, according to Scout.

No team in the SEC is rated lower than 59th overall, which is where Mississippi was as of Tuesday afternoon.

That's one of the dangers of being a member of the best football conference in the nation, Niebuhr said.

"You can have a solid class but, in the SEC, if you're not in the top 20, then nobody's going to really talk about you," he said. "It just lacks a little bit of a punch of some of the other classes."

But the analyst said UK has mined some talent.

"It's not a bad class, and I know for a fact the (Kentucky) coaches believe a lot of their guys are underrated," he said. "They feel like they've made good finds."

Among players Niebuhr praised specifically was Zack Blaylock, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound safety out of Marietta, Ga.

"He had an outstanding year," Niebuhr said. "That's a defensive playmaker, a guy who's always around the ball, a kid who is a true ball hawk. They have a few players like that in this class."

He also touted athlete Fred Tiller (6-1, 178, from Homerville, Ga.) and said Thomas Chapman (6-4, 290, out of Manual) has "a high upside at defensive tackle."

"Kentucky's done better than most people give them credit for; there just aren't a bunch of those so-called 'blue-chip guys,' " Niebuhr noted.

With the addition of Whitlow (6-3, 200), originally an Arkansas State commitment, Coach Joker Phillips' third recruiting class has 24 reported commitments from scholarship players. SEC rules stipulate a school can't exceed 25 signees.

But those numbers are never known until the final fax comes in.

UK has been known to have its share of signing-day surprises, including picking up wide receiver Daryl Collins from Alabama last season and grabbing safety Martavius Neloms and tailback Jonathan George late in the process two seasons ago.

Of those reported commitments, Kentucky is trying to fill some key positions in the secondary and on the offensive line.

The Cats are expecting to sign five linemen. The best of them is likely Jordan Watson (6-4, 285, from Fayetteville, Ga.).

"Jordan Watson is a solid player," said Niebuhr, whose Rivals site has Watson rated the 53rd best offensive guard in the nation. "He's a big kid; he's strong; he moves well. He had some decent offers."

Two Cats in All-Star game

UK's Danny Trevathan and Ryan Tydlacka have been chosen to participate in the inaugural Players All-Star Classic on Saturday at Little Rock, Ark.

The UK seniors will represent a South team coached by Kurt Schottenheimer against a North squad guided by Martin Bayless.

Players get a week of practices in front of NFL scouts leading up to the game.

Trevathan led the SEC in tackles for the second year in a row in 2011.

Tydlacka ranked fourth in the SEC with an average of 43.6 yards a punt.

Cornerback Derrius Brooks of Western Kentucky will play against the Cats on the North squad.

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