Most of the football recruits who signed with Kentucky on Wednesday are unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the Wildcats’ 2018 season.
UK continues to build depth at key positions, and the majority of the program’s early signees for next year will likely spend their first season on campus getting acclimated to the college game as redshirt players.
There are, however, a handful of new Wildcats who could make immediate contributions on the field. Here’s a look at five 2018 signees that UK fans might see next fall:
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He’s been committed to UK for less than two weeks, but he’s already the highest-profile member of the Wildcats’ 2018 recruiting class, and with good reason.
Wilson — a junior-college transfer from Oklahoma City — could be Kentucky’s starting quarterback next season.
“They’re talking about me playing right away,” Wilson told the Herald-Leader after committing to UK this month. “I just have to come in, grind, and I have to take it. They’re not going to give anything to me. I’m definitely going to have to go out there and showcase what I can do.
“And they like what I can do, so I have to go out there and prove it.”
Next week’s Music City Bowl will be the last game at UK for current starter Stephen Johnson — another former juco QB — and the competition to replace him will start with spring practice.
Drew Barker, who will be a senior in 2018, is probably the favorite going into the spring. He won the job as a sophomore last year before a back injury knocked him out early in the 2016 season, and he didn’t do much in his (very limited) opportunities as the backup QB this season.
The other three scholarship quarterbacks on UK’s roster — sophomore-to-be Gunnar Hoak and redshirt freshmen Danny Clark and Walker Wood — have never played a down of college football.
Wilson — a pass-first QB who can also make plays with his feet — signed with Oregon out of high school and spent a redshirt year with the Ducks before transferring to Garden City (Kan.) Community College and starring there this past fall.
Another junior-college addition for Kentucky’s class, Williams is the No. 12 cornerback in the juco ranks for the class of 2018 — according to the 247Sports composite numbers — and comes to Lexington with the mindset of playing immediately.
He should have that opportunity.
Williams — a 5-11 prospect from Knoxville, Tenn. — is expected to compete for playing time at both of the corner positions and is an intriguing candidate to play the nickel spot in UK’s defense.
He’ll have three years to play two seasons for the Wildcats.
Everyone knows which Wildcat will get the lion’s share of the carries next season, and that’s Benny Snell, but there will be opportunities behind him.
Rodriguez — a 6-0, 220-pound prospect from Georgia — joins a group of running backs that will include Snell, senior Sihiem King, sophomore A.J. Rose and redshirt freshman Bryant Koback.
UK’s coaches have shown in the past that they’re not afraid to play a true freshman at running back if he has the talent, and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran didn’t shy away from comparing Rodriguez to Snell on Wednesday.
“What I love about him is his yards after contact,” Gran said. “That’s what you saw from Benny and his high school tape. Again, it’s hard to compare and say all that, but their styles are similar. ... That’s what Benny is.
“He’ll be a guy that I think will come in and compete. I really do. He’ll be just like Benny — he’s got that kind of attitude, and that’s what you want.”
King was second on the team with 72 carries this season. Rose couldn’t crack the rotation and ended up with just 13 carries for 32 yards, and Koback missed the season after suffering a broken leg as a high school senior.
The opportunity will be there for Rodriguez to earn a spot right off the bat.
This will be the last season at UK for All-SEC kicker Austin MacGinnis, who will leave the Wildcats’ program as the team’s all-time leading scorer, and he’ll leave UK fans with lasting memories of some huge game-winning field goals.
MacGinnis leaves big shoes to fill, and Poore is the most likely candidate to take his spot for the 2018 season.
The highly touted specialist from South Carolina earned a scholarship offer from Kentucky fairly early in the recruiting process — full offers for kickers are a rarity — and he’s rated by ProKicker.com as the No. 2 specialist in the 2018 class.
Poore’s longest field goal in high school was 48 yards, but he regularly connects from 55 in practice and is a touchback machine on kickoffs.
Another specialist, Duffy followed a similar rout to Kentucky as departing punter Matt Panton.
Both are former Australian Rules Football players, and Duffy is now making the transition to American football. The expectations are already high: Duffy is rated by ProKicker.com as the No. 1 specialist for the recruiting class of 2018. Duffy will be 25 years old by the time the 2018 season begins and has three years of eligibility at Kentucky.
UK already has a scholarship punter on the roster in Grant McKinniss, who averaged 39.2 yards per punt in 2016 before sitting out this season as a redshirt behind Panton.
McKinniss will be only a sophomore in 2018, but UK wouldn’t bring Duffy on campus as a scholarship player unless he was expected to take the starting job at punter, and that seems to be the most likely scenario heading into next year.