The last few weeks have been a listening tour of sorts for three-star quarterback Jarren Williams, the first player from the recruiting class of 2018 to commit to Kentucky.
Williams isn’t “open” in his recruitment, per se, but he’s interested in what other college coaches have to say, and there have been quite a few bending his ear about his football future.
“It’s been good,” Williams told the Herald-Leader this week. “It’s a blessing for coaches to recognize the hard work I’ve been putting in, and my talent, and to offer me a scholarship to their school. I’m very blessed. It’s definitely a good feeling.
“It’s been building relationships and getting to know the coaches better, hearing what they have to say.”
9SEC offers for Jarren Williams: UK, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee
Williams — a 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect from Lawrenceville, Ga. — has visited Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Louisiana State and Tennessee in recent weeks. All of those schools have extended scholarship offers to the player who’s quickly becoming the “it” quarterback in SEC country.
In all, Williams has received offers from nine schools in the conference. Kentucky was the first, and — despite the overtures from other elite programs in and out of the league — he said Wednesday that he remains “100 percent committed” to the Wildcats, the team he pledged to back in June.
“They took me in early and treated me like I was part of the team,” he said. “We just built a really good relationship, a strong bond. We’re like family.”
Williams will be in Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night for UK’s spring game, and it’ll be his first trip to Lexington since his recent rash of scholarship offers.
The future Wildcat said he planned to arrive in town Thursday night and get to campus first thing Friday for another walk-through at UK. He’ll also get to meet with the program’s coaches, current players, and other visiting recruits.
Despite all of the travel and conversations with other coaches this spring, Williams said he’s been talking to other recruits about possibly joining him in Lexington. He was excited about the recent commitment of four-star tight end Brenden Bates — “I’ve watched his film. He’s a big target,” Williams said — and he’s staying in touch with the Wildcats coaching staff.
He talks to UK quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw about once a week and is in regular contact with head coach Mark Stoops.
“He’s just excited for me to get up there and watch the spring game, get to talk to him a little bit more,” Williams said. “He’s excited. We’re all excited.
“I want to see the offense and watch the coaches coach. I want to see what they do, see how they’re doing it this year. I feel like they might air it out a little more now that Stephen (Johnson) is more comfortable with the offense. He should be able to do a lot more this year. That should be interesting, to see how they do it.”
Johnson, who emerged as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback early last season, has apparently taken Williams under his wing, sending good vibes about UK to the young recruit who’s getting so much interest from other schools.
“He loves it,” Williams said. “He thinks it’s great and tells me it’ll be a great opportunity. He loves Coach Hinshaw.
“He just says a lot of great things about the program. A lot of great things.”
Friday night’s spring game will be one of the biggest recruiting events of the year, and that means UK will be welcoming several top prospects from the state of Ohio.
Wildcats commitment Alex Reigelsperger will be in Lexington for the umpteenth time, and the ebullient defensive lineman has been spotted at recent practices politicking on behalf of the UK coaches.
Here’s a quick look at five confirmed spring game visitors from Ohio that will surely be on the other end of Reigelsperger’s recruiting pitches this weekend:
L’Christian “Blue” Smith: Arguably UK’s top remaining 2018 target, Smith is a friend and high school teammate of Reigelsperger and has already visited Lexington several times. The 6-foot-5 athlete — UK is recruiting him as a wide receiver — is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 29 overall player in the 2018 class, and he’s on track for five-star status. UK is the current favorite on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page, and he also has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and many more.
Xavier Peters: Another player who has visited UK several times already, Peters is a 6-4 linebacker whose high upside has attracted recent offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, Michigan State and Tennessee. Ohio State is also showing interest. 247Sports ranks Peters as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the class of 2018.
Tyler Bentley: He’s a high school teammate of Peters’ at Lakota West — the school that produced UK linemen George Asafo-Adjei and Kyle Meadows — and he was one of UK’s early targets in this 2018 class. He’s also picked up several recent offers — Alabama and LSU, among them — but named UK as his leader as recently as a few weeks ago. Scout.com ranks him as one of the top 50 defensive tackles in the class.
Cameron Hoelscher: A talented linebacker in the 2018 class, Hoelscher was in Lexington for the Wildcats’ first junior day in January and returns for another visit. He plays for Springfield High, which produced UK’s Bryant Koback and Kordell Looney, and Scout.com ranks him as the No. 35 inside linebacker in the class.
Leonard Taylor: 247Sports national analyst Steve Wiltfong recently predicted that Taylor — a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end also from Springfield High — would ultimately commit to Kentucky. He has several major offers, and 247Sports ranks him as the No. 3 tight end in the class.
No recruit from the state of Kentucky has been hotter in recent days than Trinity wide receiver Rondale Moore, who told the Herald-Leader that he will be at UK’s spring game Friday night.
Moore — a speedy 5-8, 165-pound prospect — has picked up offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, South Carolina and several others, all in the past week. Kentucky offered Moore last summer, and the Cats have already hosted him several times.
247Sports recently ranked him as the No. 13 wide receiver and No. 79 recruit nationally for the class of 2018.
A long list
UK’s expected guest list for Friday night features many other talented recruits, including Tyler Baylor, a 6-5 defensive end with offers from Georgia, Tennessee, Louisville and several others. Baylor — the grandson of NBA great Elgin Baylor — plays for Good Counsel (Md.), the alma mater of 2017 signees Joshua Paschal and Naasir Watkins.
247Sports ranks Baylor as the No. 10 weakside defensive end in the class.
UK is also expecting to host a large contingent of Florida recruits, including defensive end Nikolas Bonitto, wide receiver Alonzo Clark, running back Andrew Cunningham, linebacker Rocky Shelton and defensive back Maxwell Worship.
UK football commitments for the class of 2018
Huber Heights, Ohio