UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow was working overtime last week to fend off a late charge from Penn State and hold on to the commitment of four-star defensive lineman Joshua Paschal, who officially signed with the Cats on Wednesday.
The 11th-hour scare came a few weeks after Kentucky beat out Notre Dame and Oklahoma for Paschal’s commitment.
There’s a reason so many traditional powers wanted the 6-foot-4 prospect from Maryland. He’s listed one of the top defensive ends in high school football, and, according to the numbers, he’s the most athletic defensive lineman in the country.
Paschal registered the highest SPARQ score — a series of drills used to measure speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness — among players at his position, and, while tests such as these don’t guarantee on-field success, they are an indication of what the Wildcats are getting with the 255-pound lineman.
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“He is a fast, powerful, agile prospect for the size that he is,” said Rivals.com analyst Adam Friedman. “And that’s really going to create problems at the next level in certain situations. It’s all about how the defensive staff wants to use him along the defensive line to create those mismatches.”
Paschal is so versatile that UK listed him as an outside linebacker in their signing day materials Wednesday, and Coach Mark Stoops says he expects him to play that position.
Friedman, who first scouted Paschal as a freshman, said the new UK signee has the versatility to play inside or outside at UK. He can hold his own against double teams and he has the speed and know-how to be an interior pass-rusher or get to quarterbacks from around the edge.
The third-best prospect in the Cats’ 2017 recruiting class, according to composite rankings, Paschal is another major addition who should be a difference-maker for Kentucky down the road.
“He’s someone that coaches can rely on to hold his responsibilities,” Friedman said. “He can hold up at the point of attack. He is such a strong, interior player. He’s got some good hands. He moves both ways, inside and outside. And he has this speed and quickness that players of his size and his strength don’t usually have.
“We saw in the offseason, at these camps, that he’s able to beat offensive tackles around the outside. He’s also able to overpower some interior offensive linemen. I think that versatility can really be valuable to Kentucky.”