Walking into the University of Kentucky football team room with a limp and a brace covering his right knee, former Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood met with local reporters for the first time as a member of his new team Friday morning.
Wood, who graduated early from high school so he could enroll in college classes this spring, is now living his dream of being a Kentucky Wildcat, but the circumstances of his first few months on campus aren’t what he had planned on.
Still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Generals’ state title game loss to Trinity, Wood will not be healed in time to take the field with his new teammates this spring. He’s still taking advantage of his early arrival at Kentucky.
“I’m missing some stuff, but I’m staying in shape, I’m eating good and I’m getting adjusted to classes, which will make for a lot easier adjustment in the fall and during the season,” Wood said.
“I’ll still be there for everything (this spring), I just won’t actually be doing it. I think that’s one of the positives to being hurt. I can sit back and watch the other guys mess up, and I can learn from it.”
Wood smiled after that last statement, one sign of his positivity about the injury that’s keeping him sidelined this spring.
He underwent surgery for the injury — a dislocated knee that included some chipped bone and cartilage damage — on Dec. 13, and he’s doing physical therapy for about an hour every day following the standard morning workouts with his fellow midseason enrollees.
Wood noted that he’ll still be at every practice this spring, and he’s already learning the playbook while discussing the finer points of UK’s offense with the program’s veteran quarterbacks. He said he’d be cleared for on-field activities June 1, and he expects to be 100-percent healthy for fall camp.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Wood said.
Going after ‘the big one’
Walker Wood also expressed delight with UK’s 2017 recruiting class, which goes into this weekend with 23 commitments and ranked No. 19 nationally by Rivals.com.
He said he knows Coach Mark Stoops is working on adding a couple more players to that group before national signing day Wednesday.
“I think we all know the big one that I’m thinking of, and I hope we get that one,” Wood said. “I know I’m working on it. I’m excited to see what happens.”
“The big one” is five-star offensive tackle Jedrick Wills, one of Wood’s closest friends and a former teammate at Lafayette, and Wills was responsible for a very big development later Friday.
The Herald-Leader confirmed that Wills, who committed to Alabama in November, will be on UK’s campus for an official visit this weekend, a sign that the Wildcats are still alive in his recruitment.
Stoops was at Lafayette on Thursday morning, playing a game of badminton with Wills and some other students. The UK coach took Wills out to dinner in Lexington on Thursday night.
Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 25 overall player and No. 5 offensive tackle in the class of 2017.
“Whatever he does, I’m going to stick behind him,” Wood said. “That’s one of my best friends, so wherever he goes or what he does, I’m going to support him 100 percent. Obviously, I’m here, so I want him to play with me.
“I’m going to talk to him, and we’ll see how it goes.”
After an official visit to Penn State last weekend and a follow-up meeting with the Nittany Lions coaches, UK commitment Joshua Paschal tweeted late Thursday night that he is “110% committed” to the Wildcats.
Paschal — a four-star defensive end from Olney, Md. — is third-best prospect in UK’s recruiting class of 2017, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
▪ Kentucky will hold a major “junior day” this weekend, hosting some of the program’s top early targets from the 2018 class. Quarterback Jarren Williams, the Cats’ only 2018 commitment so far, is expected to be in town for the event.
▪ Under-the-radar defensive end Abule Abadi is planning to visit UK and Florida this weekend after receiving scholarship offers from both schools Tuesday. Abadi is a player to watch as a possible late commitment to the 2017 class.