As college football’s national signing day arrives Wednesday, Kentucky appears to have a real chance to land both of its top two remaining targets in the class of 2018.
Four-star linebacker Chris Oats has been at the top of UK’s board for weeks — the Cats have been recruiting him for well over a year — and his change of plans over the weekend suggests that Kentucky is the likely landing spot.
Oats — a 6-foot-4 prospect from Cincinnati — took an unofficial visit to Lexington this past weekend instead of his previously planned official visit to Ohio State, which had ramped up its recruitment of the in-state linebacker in recent weeks.
Going into this weekend, Oats’ recruitment had seemingly been narrowed to a two-team race between UK and Ohio State, and a flurry of pro-Wildcats predictions hit Oats’ 247Sports Crystal Ball page shortly after he called off the Columbus trip.
The Cats are now the clear favorite, and — barring a signing day surprise — they’ll pick up a talented prospect at a future position of need.
Courtney Love, Josh Allen and Jordan Jones were UK’s starting linebackers for most of last season. Love was a senior in 2017 and Allen and Jones will both be seniors next season. UK also recently lost a commitment from four-star outside linebacker Xavier Peters, who flipped to Florida State late last month and would have been the highest-ranked member of Kentucky’s 2018 class.
Target “1A” on UK’s recruiting board is three-star running back Kavosiey Smoke, who immediately became the Cats’ top priority at that position following the transfer of freshman running back Bryant Koback last month, a defection that left Kentucky with just four scholarship running backs for 2018.
Smoke has taken official visits to UK, North Carolina and Florida Atlantic in recent weeks and is expected to announce for one of those three schools Wednesday.
Kentucky appears to have a great shot with Smoke — it’s notable that the Cats didn’t prioritize any other running backs in recent weeks — and he would join Chris Rodriguez as UK’s second running back commitment for next season.
If the Cats were to add Oats and Smoke, that would give them a total of 24 signees for the 2018 class. Twenty players signed with Kentucky in the early period in December, and two more — three-star wide receiver LiAllen Dailey and three-star offensive lineman Nick Lewis — have committed to UK since then and will officially sign with the Cats on Wednesday.
It’s possible UK could add a 25th player to its 2018 class this week, but it’s unclear who that player might be.
UK baseball signee Trevon Flowers has been given the opportunity to explore his football options after emerging as a defensive back prospect during his senior season. Flowers visited UK recently as a football guest, but it now seems more likely that he will end up at either Clemson or Tennessee if he wants to play both sports.
Highly touted tight end Leonard Taylor included UK on his list of four finalists and will announce a decision Wednesday, but the Cats have already signed two other talented tight ends for next season and Taylor is no longer an option at that position.
Kentucky is also still expected to pursue at least one graduate transfer for next season, though an announcement of a possible addition from that pool of players will not be coming this week.