According to Vince Marrow, the state of Ohio has already taken notice.
UK’s ace recruiter said Wednesday that the signing of four-star linebacker Chris Oats — a Cincinnati native who chose Kentucky over Ohio State — resonated immediately with the high school football community in the Buckeye State.
Marrow said recruits from the 2019 class — the next wave of prospects on UK’s radar — have been filling up his direct messages on Twitter.
He said coaches from the state have been calling him up, too. “You guys got a real good one,” they say, according to the Wildcats assistant.
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Oats, indeed, is the rare Ohio recruit who had an actual scholarship offer from the home-state Buckeyes but chose to head south to Lexington instead.
The decision couldn’t have come at a much better time for UK recruiting.
Recruiting analysts have been hyping the group of 2019 prospects in Ohio for a while, and Kentucky is already well-positioned with many of the state’s top seniors-to-be. A recruiting coup like the one UK enjoyed Wednesday certainly won’t hurt as Marrow continues to sell the Wildcats’ brand over the next few months.
“Beating (Ohio State) on this kid, it just speaks volumes for a lot of these other kids,” he said. “2019 is a big recruit class for Ohio next year, and I’ve been getting a lot of DMs already from kids like, ‘Wow.’
“It definitely is going to boost us in Ohio for the next year. I really do believe that.”
Marrow, always in sell-mode when it comes to UK’s program, acknowledges that the Buckeyes are the clear No. 1 program when it comes to Ohio recruiting. But he said Wednesday that Kentucky’s brand is No. 2 in the state.
And there should be plenty of talent to go around in the next recruiting cycle.
“I think this is the deepest class in Ohio in the last four or five years,” 247Sports analyst and Ohio recruiting guru Bill Greene told the Herald-Leader. “I think I have about 80 or 90 juniors that I have targeted in the rankings system, and there’s not much difference between No. 10 and No. 50. These guys are really good.”
Greene said this might be the year that Ohio State takes 10 or so in-state players — the Buckeyes signed just five local prospects for 2018 and six such players last year — but, even if Coach Urban Meyer decides to double down on the state, that shouldn’t hurt UK too much.
The Buckeyes will still recruit at a national level, and that’ll leave plenty of talent for everyone else.
247Sports already ranks a dozen Ohio natives as four-star or five-star prospects, including defensive back Moses Douglass — the son of former UK star Maurice Douglass — and running back John Bivens, who is one of UK’s top priorities at that position.
Another four-star recruit from the state, Cincinnati offensive lineman Zeke Correll, has had several family members play for the Wildcats, including his grandfather Ray Correll, an All-American lineman who was coached by Bear Bryant in the 1950s.
The list of three-star Ohio recruits includes linebacker Luke Fulton and offensive lineman Kyle Jornigan, teammates at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown — the alma mater of Mark Stoops and Marrow — and both have early scholarship offers from the Wildcats.
The state’s top-ranked quarterback for 2019 is Connor Bazelak, another UK target who also happens to be teammates with Bivens at Archbishop Alter in Dayton.
Several others have early scholarship offers from the Cats, and several more will likely join that list in the near future. Ohio State will get its pick of the litter. Programs such as Michigan State, Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame will also get their share. But UK will be battling all of them, and the Cats will almost certainly come up with some gems.
“This is just a really good year in Ohio — very deep,” Greene said. “I think there’s a lot for everybody. No doubt about it.”