Kentucky signs pair of junior-college defensive standouts

broberts@herald-leader.comDecember 18, 2013 

Coach Mark Stoops announced the signing Wednesday of two players who he hopes will provide an immediate boost to the UK defense in 2014.

Defensive tackle Cory Johnson and cornerback A.J. Stamps — both junior-college players — signed with UK on Wednesday morning and plan to enroll in school next month.

They will both be able to take part in spring practice and will have two seasons of eligibility with the Wildcats.

Johnson, a native of Columbia, S.C., finished his high school career in Pennsylvania and played the past two seasons at ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and will be expected to compete for a starting job after the departures of Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph.

Stoops said he was excited to add Johnson to a defensive line that includes returning starters Za'Darius Smith and Alvin "Bud" Dupree at the end positions.

"Oh, yeah, we'll be good," he said. "We'll be good. With Bud and Za'Darius coming back and with Cory coming in, we'll be fine on the defensive line. I feel good about it."

Johnson had been committed to UK since July, but Stamps was a bit of a surprise.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder was not previously committed to Kentucky and ultimately chose the Cats over Ohio State.

Stoops said he and his coaching staff worked all night Tuesday to get Stamps' commitment, and the recruitment "didn't get closed" until about an hour before Wednesday's scheduled news conference.

"He'll get a few extra cross-fields when he gets here, you know, some extra running," Stoops said jokingly. "No, I love him. We've felt good about it for a while, but you know it's never over until it's over. Then the last 48 hours some things turned, and it's always a hard-fought battle when you're going after players of this caliber."

Stamps, from Vicksburg, Miss., was a wide receiver during his first season at East Mississippi Community College, the same school that Smith and UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh came from last year.

Stamps moved to cornerback as a sophomore and immediately attracted the attention of some top college programs.

Johnson and Stamps both earned honorable-mention All-America honors from the National Junior College Athletic Association this season.

"I'm confident these guys will come in and help us," Stoops said. "That's why we recruited them. The fact that they're here for the whole next semester and going through our off-season conditioning and going through spring ball is very important."

UK also has commitments from junior-college players Ryan Flannigan and Michael Mathis, who are expected to sign with the Cats but will not enroll in January.

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