Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips has maintained throughout the recruiting process that he expects to bring in a good 2011 class.
Just how good, though, remains to be seen. Phillips and the UK staff will be anxiously waiting Wednesday as three in-state prospects announce their college decisions: Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson, Eastern tight end Jon Davis, and Christian County receiver/all-purpose player Bubba Tandy.
Dawson not only is one of the top players in the Bluegrass, but also ranks among the nation's elite. He's a consensus four-star recruit, was ranked as the country's No. 3 inside linebacker and played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"He's a player," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr said on the eve of the national signing period opening on Wednesday. "He immediately elevates Kentucky's class if he signs."
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Dawson, who plans to make his announcement at a 9 a.m. news conference, is also considering Tennessee, Oregon, Southern California and Central Florida.
Davis' whirlwind recruitment will come to an end with a 1:30 news conference. Davis was Phillips' first commitment for 2011 way back in December 2009 but, in recent weeks, has reopened his recruitment and has taken hard looks at Louisville and Illinois.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Davis is listed as a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 7 tight end by Scout.com.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Tandy isn't as highly touted as Dawson or Davis but would fill an immediate need for the Wildcats. The coaching staff is selling him on playing a multipurpose role similar to that of All-American Randall Cobb, who gave up his final year of eligibility to turn pro. Tandy will pick between UK and Marshall.
The Cats are also hoping to get a signature from Gadsden, Ala., receiver Daryl Collins, who originally committed to Alabama but visited Lexington last weekend and is expected to choose between UK and the Crimson Tide.
Kentucky has commitments from two four-star recruits expected to sign Wednesday: East St. Louis, Ill., safety Glen Faulkner and Bryan Station offensive lineman Darrian Miller. Faulkner is the highest-ranked recruit on UK's board and rated as the nation's No. 8 safety by Scout.com
But beauty is often in the eye of the beholder when evaluating recruiting classes. UK's current crop is ranked No. 31 in the nation by Scout.com, but Rivals.com doesn't rank the Wildcats' crop of 21 recruits among its top 50. Adding any combination of Dawson, Davis and Tandy would probably bump up the Cats, but Niebuhr spoke highly of Kentucky's class as is. He noted that out of its 21 players currently committed, only one is less than a three-star prospect: South Carolina defensive end Farrington Huguenin, who signed in 2010.
"When you look at their class, it's one of the more underrated ones out there," Niebuhr said. "Every one of Kentucky's guys is three stars or better, except one, so for them that's pretty good. Across the board, it's solid. You can win with three-star guys. Florida had the No. 2 class in the country last year, and the two guys who made the most impact were (quarterback) Trey Burton and (receiver) Robert Clark, a pair of three-star guys."
In fact, most of Kentucky's players who have gone on to the NFL were two- or three-star prospects coming out of high school. Myron Pryor, Jeremy Jarmon, Wesley Woodyard and Trevard Lindley are prime examples. Cobb, who's expected to be a second- or third-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, was given two stars by Scout.com coming out of Alcoa, Tenn.
"A lot of programs make a living off that," Niebuhr said. "You have to develop players, and sometimes that three-star guy has more want-to than a four- or five-star guy. You look at a school like Boston College. They don't get superstars, but they do fine. You just have to guess right."