A recruiting class that was already in the discussion as Mark Stoops’ best at Kentucky added its most highly touted member yet with Saturday’s commitment from Lynn Bowden, one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country.
Bowden — a 6-foot-1, 190-pound prospect from Stoops’ hometown of Youngstown, Ohio — put up ridiculous numbers while playing quarterback for Warren G. Harding High School this past fall. The future Wildcat ran for 2,277 yards, passed for 1,366 yards and accounted for 57 total touchdowns as a senior.
Scout.com ranks Bowden as the No. 60 overall prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, and he projects primarily as a slot receiver at UK, though the Wildcats are expected to use him in a variety of roles.
“He is outstanding with the ball in his hands,” Scout.com’s Allen Trieu told the Herald-Leader. “He’s a guy who can score from anywhere on the field, and that’s not just because of his speed, but his elusiveness.
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“He was really good as a junior, but he really kicked it up another notch as a senior. He put up huge stats. And not only that, but he was the guy on that team that you went into every week game-planning for. Everybody’s goal was to stop him, and he ran right through everybody.”
Bowden, who chose UK over fellow finalists Penn State and West Virginia, is now the highest ranked player in the Wildcats’ 2017 class, which is ranked in the top 20 nationally. Vince Marrow was his primary recruiter at Kentucky.
Though he likely will be listed as a wide receiver in college, Bowden is a true athlete who could be used as a running back, wildcat-formation quarterback and kick returner, and he even has the ability to play defensive back if needed.
“The way that offenses are run now, you can do so much with him,” Trieu said. “I can see him being a tailback. He’s that good with the ball in his hands. But being in the slot allows you to hand it to him on some jet sweeps. He’s a guy you want to throw some quick screens to. I think slot is the best fit, but he’s a kid you can put a lot of different places.”
It’s almost always unfair to compare a high school kid to a highly successful professional football player, but many recruiting observers have likened Bowden’s skill set to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who played quarterback in high school before becoming a do-everything offensive star at Kentucky.
Bowden’s senior-season highlight film — which Trieu called one of the most exciting in the country — will also remind UK fans of Cobb.
“I think that’s a fair comparison,” Trieu said. “You don’t want to compare a high school kid to one of the best receivers in the NFL. But, at the same time, when you have a kid ranked in your national top 100, we obviously think he’s going to be an impact player and able to live up to some of those expectations. So I don’t think that’s crazy or out of line at all to see that he compares favorably at the same age.”
Trieu noted that Bowden might not be quite as speedy as the 5-10 Cobb, but the new Wildcat is bigger than the former UK star. Bowden is expected to be at about 200 pounds by the time he plays his first game for the Wildcats.
That debut is likely to come this fall.
Bowden joins a UK recruiting class already packed with commitments from offensive “skill” players — wide receivers Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, Javonte Richardson and Clevan Thomas, as well as running back Bryant Koback — but his dynamic playmaking ability and versatility will make it tough for UK’s coaches to keep him on the sidelines.
“I think he can absolutely play as a true freshman,” Trieu said. “He’s going to come in physically ready to go. He’s a competitive kid, so he’s not going to shy away from the competition.
“I think he can play even if he doesn’t know all of the playbook, because he’s going to be a guy you can create certain packages for. He has skills you can utilize as a role player as he picks up the rest of the system.”