At one point last summer, four-star football recruit Joshua Paschal released a list of his top seven schools, and Kentucky wasn’t on it.
The Maryland native was plenty familiar with the Wildcats’ program. His older brother, TraVaughn, played for UK not long ago. A former high school teammate, Kobie Walker, is currently on the team. And Joshua Paschal had been actively recruited by Kentucky for months.
There wasn’t much continuity in the Wildcats’ recruiting approach to the mid-Atlantic area, however.
At the beginning of the Mark Stoops era, that was wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord’s territory. He was let go at the end of the 2015 season. After that, Andy Buh briefly took over recruiting duties in the area, but he left for a job with the Maryland Terrapins not long after.
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Paschal was regarded as one of the best defensive linemen in the class of 2017, and Stoops didn’t want to miss out on him. He decided to send in Vince Marrow, the Wildcats’ recruiting ace who has drawn national attention for his success getting players out of Ohio.
A few months later, Paschal committed to UK. On Wednesday, he officially signed with the Wildcats.
“Vince Marrow is one of the best recruiters in the nation,” said Adam Friedman, Rivals.com’s mid-Atlantic analyst. “I’ve heard about that for a long, long time. Wherever he’s recruiting, Kentucky is going to get some commitments.”
Marrow also landed a commitment from three-star offensive tackle Naasir Watkins, a teammate of Paschal’s at Good Counsel (Md.), one of the top football programs in the region.
The “DMV” area (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) regularly churns out top football talent, and it’s a region where this UK coaching staff has tried to build relationships in recent years, to varying success.
Friedman told the Herald-Leader that he doesn’t necessarily think UK would be able to build a recruiting “pipeline” into the area — like the Cats have in Ohio and, more recently, south Florida — but having their top recruiter on the case should pay off with more commitments down the road.
Kentucky has already extended scholarship offers to a couple of Good Counsel players from the class of 2018, and it’s likely Marrow will be a presence at that school, and others in the area, for years to come.
“It’s important that they keep their relationships here, because they are able to get some big-time players out of here,” Friedman said. “It might be just spot recruiting, but I think he’s done a great job. The way that they’ve been able to kind of cherry-pick some of these players out of here is a good sign for the Wildcats.”
Vince Marrow is one of the best recruiters in the nation. I’ve heard about that for a long, long time. Wherever he’s recruiting, Kentucky is going to get some commitments.
Adam Friedman, Rivals.com’s mid-Atlantic analyst
Benny, Part II?
Kentucky will go into next season with just four scholarship running backs on the roster: Benny Snell, who starred as a freshman last fall, the largely unproven Sihiem King, redshirt freshman A.J. Rose and new signee Bryant Koback.
Koback — a 6-foot, 200-pound prospect from Holland, Ohio — suffered a broken leg during his senior season but is already on campus as an early enrollee and should be fully healed by the time fall camp rolls around.
If Koback is healthy, UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran says he can “absolutely” see the field right away. Gran noted that he’s “a couple of biscuits away” from being in the 220-pound range, and Koback has track-star speed to go with that size.
Scout.com analyst Bill Greene recently told the Herald-Leader that Koback might end up being “very similar” to Snell, who Greene also scouted in high school.
Gran didn’t shy away from that comparison.
“I think you can compare him to that,” he said. “He’s got that size. … He’s explosive. He can catch — great soft hands. Pays attention to detail. Just unbelievable character. Everything you love about a football player.”
College coaches rarely say on national signing day that a new signee is likely to redshirt, but it seems a safe bet that UK’s three new offensive linemen — Sebastien Dolcine, Austin Dotson and Naasir Watkins — will be watching from the sidelines this fall.
That doesn’t mean UK’s coaches aren’t excited about them. And their recruiting rankings — none of the trio is considered a Top 100 offensive tackle nationally — don’t meant they’re not talented.
Offensive line coach John Schlarman was giddy Wednesday when talking about his new additions. He said Dotson — from Belfry High School — is a hidden gem who didn’t go to the kind of recruiting camps that usually result in star rankings. Schlarman says Watkins has all of the traits of a left tackle, and he said Dolcine is a player who’s just starting to tap into his full potential.
The UK assistant sees all three as undervalued in the recruiting rankings.
“That’s true probably for all three of them,” Schlarman said. “Rankings? … we evaluate talent, and we trust our evaluations.”
UK’s obviously doing something right in that area.
The Cats’ starting offensive line for much of the season consisted of two three-star players, two two-star players and one zero-star player, according to the Rivals rankings. That “lowly rated” offensive line was judged by SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic to be the best unit in the conference last season.
Lynn Bowden is the highest-rated signee in UK’s 2017 class and is expected to fill a variety of roles on offense right away this fall.
He’ll likely spend most of his time as a slot receiver, and UK wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas is looking forward to his arrival in Lexington.
“We’re excited about getting Mr. Lynn,” Thomas said, adding that he didn’t want to mispronounce Bowden’s last name and wasn’t quite sure how to say it yet. “Whatever it is, it equals excitement. So maybe I should just call him Mr. Excitement. I can’t wait to see the kid.”
For the record, it’s pronounced BO-den, according to UK.