The Kentucky football program got some bad news on the recruiting trail Sunday morning, when four-star linebacker Xavier Peters decided to flip his monthslong commitment from the Wildcats to Florida State.
Kentucky still has a chance to land another four-star linebacker in this 2018 class, however, and that recruitment is expected to go down to the wire.
Chris Oats — a 6-foot-4, 215-pound prospect from Cincinnati — took his official visit to Lexington in December, but he remains uncommitted heading into the last week before national signing day hits on Feb. 7.
The Cats’ biggest competition is a familiar one.
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“I think it’s Kentucky or Ohio State,” 247Sports recruiting analyst Bill Greene told the Herald-Leader, noting that Michigan State and others have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Oats, but it’s come down to UK or OSU at this point.
History suggests this isn’t a favorable scenario for the Wildcats.
Greene, a plugged-in source for Ohio recruiting knowledge, is among several analysts who have entered Ohio State predictions on Oats’ 247Sports Crystal Ball page. The high school senior — ranked by 247Sports as the No. 20 outside linebacker nationally — is expected to visit Columbus this weekend.
“As long as this Ohio State official visit takes place — and I haven’t heard any different — I think he’s going to go to Ohio State,” Greene said.
The major question surrounding Oats’ recruitment over the past few weeks — other than, “Where will he end up?” of course — has been whether or not Ohio State would have a spot left for him in its 2018 recruiting class.
Greene noted that the Buckeyes missed on a few major targets during the early signing period in December, and Coach Urban Meyer’s recent track record with in-state recruits shows he’s treating Oats like someone who has a legitimate scholarship offer.
“Going by the Ohio State history, when they bring in-state kids in for official visits late in the process, they are always takers, and they always get ’em. I can’t think of one kid that has fit this scenario and he doesn’t end up being a taker, and he doesn’t end up being at Ohio State. That’s usually the way this goes,” Greene said.
Ohio running back Tavion Thomas is also on the expected guest list for the Buckeyes this weekend. Greene noted that both players are at high schools where Ohio State plans to recruit in the future.
“You don’t play with guys like Oats and Tavion Thomas at this stage of the game,” he said. “You don’t bring them in and waste a visit weekend for those kids, when they could be going somewhere else. You don’t bring them in and tell them, ‘Hey, sorry, there’s no room.’ You don’t do that on the last weekend.
“That’s what makes me believe that there’s room for both.”
So, if UK fans log in to Twitter this weekend and see that Oats has indeed arrived on Ohio State’s campus for his official visit, is that game over for the Cats?
Not necessarily, said Greene.
“I don’t think this is etched in stone,” he said. “And I could see Kentucky still getting him even after this visit this weekend. He has a great relationship with Vince Marrow. He’s described that to me as like a father-son relationship, and I haven’t heard him say that about anybody at Ohio State.
“It won’t shock me if he ends up going to Kentucky, and I think Kentucky feels pretty confident that they can get him. This will not be a monumental upset if they land him.”
A few other UK recruiting notes with one week to go until national signing day …
▪ Three-star running back Kavosiey Smoke did make it to Lexington for his official visit last weekend, and he’s still UK’s top target at running back after losing freshman Bryant Koback to a transfer recently.
Smoke — a 6-foot prospect from Alabama — has also visited North Carolina and Florida Atlantic (and FAU Coach Lane Kiffin visited him on the eve of his trip to Kentucky). Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 29 running back in the class.
▪ UK baseball signee Trevon Flowers is still on UK’s recruiting radar as a football prospect. He visited Kentucky two weekends ago, posing for a photo wearing both baseball and football gear during the trip. He’s also expected to visit Clemson and Tennessee before making a final decision.
Flowers — a 6-foot prospect from Tucker, Ga. — projects as a safety on the football field.
▪ Four-star Ohio recruit Leonard Taylor remains uncommitted, but there hasn’t been anything lately to indicate he’ll end up at UK. Taylor wants to play tight end in college, and Kentucky already has two talented signees at that position: Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw.
247Sports analyst Bill Greene mentioned Louisville and Pittsburgh as more realistic options for Taylor with signing day approaching.
▪ Don’t expect the Cats to be finished adding players for next season once signing day wraps next week. UK will also be active with graduate transfers in the coming weeks, and look for the program to add at least one such player this year.