This weekend is a vitally important one for the University of Kentucky football program’s recruiting class of 2016, a group that was nearly complete before the Wildcats took the field this past season.
The majority of UK’s 22 commitments started arriving on campus Friday for their official visits, and the next 48 hours will be crucial as the Wildcats’ coaching staff tries to hold together the class despite a disappointing finish to the 2015 season.
While UK’s 2015 recruiting class fell victim to several high-profile defections before national signing day, there have been zero decommitments this year. There haven’t even been signs that any of the Wildcats’ pledges are wavering in their decisions.
One reason for that is the speed in which UK’s coaches filled this class. Sixteen of the program’s 22 commitments for 2016 announced their intentions before May 1, and the other six were committed before the start of the 2015 season.
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The timing of those early commitments allowed for the recruits to become well acquainted with each other through the summer and during visits to UK on game days this fall. It also enabled the coaches to concentrate on keeping players committed, rather than identifying and recruiting a large group of unpledged prospects.
The next couple of days will be one of the final steps in continuing to build a family atmosphere among UK’s class before national signing day in February.
Though the 2016 class is largely complete, it’s expected that Mark Stoops and company will add at least four more players to the group over the next few months.
One candidate for a remaining spot is defensive tackle Trysten Hill, who backed out of a commitment to Georgia Tech a couple of weeks ago and will be among UK’s official visitors this weekend.
Hill — a 6-foot-1, 300-pound prospect from Live Oak, Fla. — is considered a two-star player by most of the major recruiting services and has talked openly about committing to the Wildcats during or shortly after this visit.
Stoops and UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh had an in-home visit with Hill earlier this month.
Rivals.com unveiled its postseason rankings for the class of 2016 this week, and several UK commitments were mentioned.
Lafayette offensive tackle Landon Young is now ranked as the No. 54 overall prospect nationally for 2016. That would make him UK’s highest-rated signee since Micah Johnson (No. 36) in 2006, according to the Rivals rankings.
Georgia cornerback Jordan Griffin joined Young in the Rivals 250 rankings, earning the No. 204 overall spot after a stellar senior season. Griffin will be among UK’s commitments in town for official visits this weekend.
Ten UK commitments were included in Rivals’ national position rankings: Woodford County’s Drake Jackson (No. 3 center), Young (No. 4 offensive tackle), Griffin (No. 14 cornerback), Paintsville’s Kash Daniel (No. 15 inside linebacker), A.J. Rose (No. 25 running back), Kobe Smith (No. 38 defensive tackle), Tobias Gilliam (No. 42 cornerback), Roland Walder (No. 42 outside linebacker), Kordell Looney (No. 46 defensive tackle) and Henry Clay’s Davonte Robinson (No. 63 cornerback).
UK’s class as a whole is now ranked No. 20 nationally by Rivals.com and No. 9 in the SEC, ahead of Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Ohio State has the nation’s No. 1 ranked class, according to Rivals.com. The Buckeyes are followed by Louisiana State, Stanford, Alabama and Florida.
Louisville, which has 22 commitments — the same amount as Kentucky — has the nation’s No 23 class, according to Rivals.