The recruiting norm under Coach Mark Stoops has been for UK to pick one weekend — usually in December — for as many of the Cats’ commitments and top remaining targets to converge on campus for official visits.
That’s the plan again this year, though every season under Stoops has also included a game or two that attracted a swarm of highly touted high school players to Lexington.
UK is expecting to host dozens of top recruits from all high school classes for Saturday night’s sold-out clash with the Florida Gators, and the guest list includes many of the Wildcats’ top commitments for the class of 2018.
The biggest name in UK’s 2018 class — four-star quarterback Jarren Williams — confirmed to the Herald-Leader earlier this week that he would make the trip from Georgia to see his first Kentucky game of the season.
Williams, who decommitted and then re-committed to UK over the summer, has said repeatedly that he remains solid with that commitment to the Cats, though several Southeastern Conference schools — including Alabama and Louisiana State — are still recruiting the talented quarterback.
Beating the Gators — and ending The Streak — with Williams in attendance would be a major statement for a UK program looking to climb the ladder in the SEC.
Big-time guest list
Jarren Williams will have plenty of company on the Kroger Field sidelines Saturday night.
As always with these big recruiting weekends, UK is expecting several top players from the state of Ohio to be in attendance for the game.
Class of 2018 commitments Tyler Bentley, Xavier Peters, Alex Reigelsperger and Keaton Upshaw, are all planning to make the trip. The Herald-Leader has also been told that four uncommitted Ohio seniors — wide receivers Meechi Harris and Kory Taylor, four-star athlete Leonard Taylor and four-star linebacker Chris Oats — are all on the guest list. All four of those players have scholarship offers from the Cats.
Four-star tight end commitment Brenden Bates was hoping to make the trip, but his father told the Herald-Leader that his high school’s homecoming is set for Saturday night. Bates, a Rivals 250 recruit, is a rock-solid commitment to the Cats.
Other 2018 commitments expected to make the trip include four-star offensive lineman Marquan McCall and four-star linebacker DeAndre Square, both of Michigan, and three-star kicker Chance Poore of South Carolina.
Junior college offensive lineman Damien Lewis — a standout at Northwest Mississippi Community College — will be in Lexington for his official visit.
Three quarterbacks from the class of 2019 — Ohio’s Connor Bazelak, Alabama’s Paul Tyson (the great-grandson of Bear Bryant) and Florida’s Hayden Wolff — all have UK scholarship offers and are all planning to attend the game.
The state of Ohio will also send a large contingent of high school juniors to Kentucky, including several nationally ranked players: offensive linemen Zach Carpenter and Zeke Correll, defensive linemen Steven Faucheux and Rodas Johnson, and defensive back Moses Douglass, the four-star son of former UK standout Maurice Douglass.
Expect several in-state players with UK scholarship offers to make the short trip, too. Scott County offensive lineman Bryan Hudson told the Herald-Leader on Thursday night that he would be there. Western Hills wide receiver Wandale Robinson and Glasgow offensive lineman Tanner Bowles — also 2019 recruits — are on the probable list, as is Lexington Catholic sophomore quarterback Beau Allen.
Preferred walk-on commitment Manny Harper of Waggener High has told the Herald-Leader that he, too, will be at the game. His teammate, four-star defensive back Jairus Brents, has not confirmed whether he will be there. Brents is the top-ranked uncommitted recruit in the state for 2018.
Many of the program’s Florida-based commitments are likely to take their official visits in December, and midseason unofficial visits from that far away are tough to manage for players who have their own games to play on Friday nights, but the five UK commitments from the state will no doubt be watching Saturday night’s game.
A win over the Gators would be big for those players, too, as well as the younger recruits in the state that the Cats are already targeting. (Florida defensive back Keontra Smith is currently UK’s only commitment for 2019, and he has an offer from the Gators).
At least one player from the state will make the trip to Lexington this week, however.
Three-star wide receiver Shocky Jacques Louis — a former UK commitment who has since flipped his pledge to Tennessee — told the Herald-Leader this week that he will be at Saturday’s game on an official visit.
Jacques-Louis has said that he’s solid to the Volunteers, but he is friends with UK commitment Jarren Williams and remains close to the Wildcats’ coaching staff. This week’s visit indicates Kentucky might still have a chance there.
Class of 2020 standout Justin Rogers — an offensive lineman from Michigan — was tentatively on the guest list for UK’s home opener against Eastern Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, but he didn’t make that trip.
Rogers will be in Lexington on Saturday night, and he’ll be yet another major prospect that the Cats can make a big impression on with a victory. Rogers, a teammate of UK commitment Marquan McCall, is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 25 overall sophomore in the country, a designation that could give him a five-star ranking down the road. Ohio State and Michigan State have also offered scholarships.
UK recruits on TV
A reminder that a handful of UK commitments will be playing on national television Friday night.
Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) will face American Heritage (Fla.) in one of ESPN’s national high school games of the week, and it will be shown Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
The Chaminade-Madonna roster features four UK commitments: wide receiver Marvin Alexander, defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins, wide receiver Akeem Hayes and defensive back Keontra Smith (the Cats’ only pledge for 2019).
Watch a UK recruit
Want to see a local UK recruiting target play in person Friday night? You have some options.
Western Hills offensive star Wandale Robinson will lead the Wolverines into Woodford County for a 7:30 p.m. matchup. Robinson, who has a UK offer for 2019, has 811 yards rushing, 96 yards receiving and 15 total touchdowns in just four games.
Scott County will host Bryan Station at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Stadium, and that game will feature Cardinals four-star offensive tackle Bryan Hudson, who has offers from UK, Alabama, Ohio State and several other top schools for the class of 2019.
Lexington Catholic quarterback Beau Allen will have a home game against DeSales, also set for 7:30 p.m. Allen has a UK scholarship offer for the class of 2020.