With about six months to go until national signing day 2018 — and a little more than four months until college football’s first “early signing period” — Mark Stoops and his team of assistant coaches at Kentucky are on pace to bring in another highly touted recruiting class.
It’s still early, but the Cats have never completed a recruiting cycle with a 247Sports composite ranking that high. The best so far has been a No. 22 finish in 2014, which was Stoops’ first full recruiting year with the program.
This 2018 class is already well balanced — with at least one commitment at every position group — and it’s led by four players with four-star composite rankings.
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Michigan lineman Marquan McCall, Georgia quarterback Jarren Williams, Ohio offensive lineman Darian Kinnard and Ohio linebacker Xavier Peters are all considered four-star prospects in the 2018 class, a total that already ranks second in the Stoops era. (UK’s 2014 class had six signees in four-star territory, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.)
UK’s number of four-star commitments for 2018 is also likely to grow.
Four-star wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith is expected to announce his college decision later this month. UK and Ohio State are the top two choices, and the Wildcats have a legitimate shot to beat out the Buckeyes for the Ohio standout.
247Sports national analyst Steve Wiltfong is predicting that four-star linebacker Chris Oats and four-star DE/TE Leonard Taylor will pick Kentucky.
Three more UK commitments — tight end Brenden Bates, defensive end Alex Reigelsperger and LB/S DeAndre Square — are also within striking distance of a four-star composite ranking and could hit that level by the end of the recruiting cycle.
A few other notes on UK’s class:
▪ The Cats’ 2018 group is ranked No. 19 nationally by Scout.com and ESPN, No. 22 nationally by 247Sports (non-composite ranking) and No. 25 nationally by Rivals.com.
▪ According to the 247 composite ranking, UK has the No. 5 recruiting class in the Southeastern Conference. Only Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana State and Texas A&M have more highly touted classes. Alabama, with only 10 commitments so far, is No. 8 in the SEC rankings, but that will surely change in the coming months.
▪ McCall is the No. 152 recruit nationally, according to the 247Sports composite, and tops among UK commitments. Top UK target “Blue” Smith is No. 115 on that list and is ranked as high as No. 31 nationally (by Rivals.com).
▪ Vince Marrow is the nation’s No. 17 recruiter, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He’s the lead recruiter on Williams, Peters, Kinnard and several others in UK’s class.
▪ For those wondering, Louisville is No. 35 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings. The Cardinals have 14 commitments for 2018.
Moving into Michigan
As soon as Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow got to Kentucky, they started pulling some of the top prospects from Ohio to play for the Wildcats.
Under Stoops, the program has also landed several commitments from Florida, re-ignited recruiting successes in Kentucky and dabbled in the DMV region (D.C., Maryland and Virginia), among other areas.
Second-year defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale has added Michigan to that list.
Clinkscale, a former assistant at Cincinnati, Illinois and Toledo, told the Herald-Leader last week that he has recruited Michigan since 2009.
“I have a lot of great relationships with those coaches up there,” he said. “They do a very good job in Michigan developing their players.”
So far in this 2018 cycle, UK has landed commitments from Detroit-area standouts Marquan McCall and DeAndre Square. McCall is the No. 1 player from Michigan and the Cats’ top commitment for 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and Square is No. 5 on UK’s commitment list.
Clinkscale hopes it’s the start of more recruiting success in the talent-rich state.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “You take a couple of the top players this year, get a couple more next year, and then you just start to build a family. Those guys that would want to come this year would be the first players from Michigan we’ve had here in a while.”
McCall and Square will be UK’s first scholarship players from the state since standout punter Glenn Pakulak played for the Wildcats in 2002. Pakulak, a Lapeer, Mich., native, originally joined the team as a walk-on.
The 2018 duo will be the Cats’ first “recruited” scholarship players from Michigan since Detroit running back Martez Johnson came to UK in 1998.
The waiting game
UK could get some more good news on the recruiting trail in the near future.
Class of 2018 defensive backs Jamari Brown and Stanley Garner are both expected to announce their college decisions next week, and the Wildcats look to be in position to land commitments from both players.
Garner — a 6-foot-3, 180-pound prospect from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — is ranked by Rivals.com as a four-star recruit and the No. 31 cornerback nationally for 2018. He has narrowed his list to UK, Alabama, Clemson, Louisville and Michigan, and the Wildcats are considered the favorites. Garner will announce his decision Aug. 16.
Brown — also a 6-3, 180-pound recruit — is down to UK, Auburn and Temple, and he is scheduled to announce his decision Aug. 17. Rivals.com ranks Brown as a three-star player, and his 247Sports Crystal Ball page is starting to trend toward UK.
The Cats are still looking for their first high school defensive back of the 2018 class. The lone commitment from that position group so far is junior-college prospect Dom Williams.
▪ Top UK target L’Christian “Blue” Smith is still on target to announce his college decision Aug. 27 during his team’s nationally televised high school game. That broadcast is set for 1:30 p.m. on ESPN. There’s still optimism regarding Smith on UK’s end, but it’s worth noting that the last 12 picks on his Crystal Ball page have been in favor of Ohio State.
▪ Rivals.com released its first Top 100 rankings for the class of 2019 this week. Trinity defensive end Stephen Herron, who has committed to Michigan, is the lone Kentuckian on the list at No. 40 overall.