A few years ago, it seemed unthinkable that the University of Kentucky could sign an out-of-state football recruit with five stars by his name.
On Thursday afternoon, the first part of that goal was realized.
It will be more than two years before Mark Stoops and his coaching staff find out if it comes to fruition.
Jermaine Eskridge — the No. 2 wide receiver in the class of 2018 — announced his commitment to the Wildcats on Thursday.
247Sports ranks Eskridge — a 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect from Tampa, Fla. — as the No. 26 overall player in that class.
That recruiting service gives a five-star ranking to the top 32 players in each class once they reach the end of their high school careers, so — if Eskridge's status holds up — he could be UK's first out-of-state, five-star signee in the era of recruiting rankings.
Eskridge has played wide receiver, tight end, defensive end and linebacker for his high school team, and 247Sports director of recruiting Barton Simmons said that — while UK's coaches see him as a wide receiver right now — his optimal college position is still up for debate.
"What's exciting about these really young commits is we don't quite know what they're going to become," Simmons told the Herald-Leader. "He's a big-bodied kid, so I think he could really become a tight end. Or he could be a big receiver or a defensive end or an outside linebacker at the next level. Right now, what we ranked him off of was his size and athletic ability and upside.
"What Kentucky decides to do with him will depend on how he progresses over the next couple of years. But he's a guy that's attracted a lot of big programs, and he's clearly a guy a lot of people recognize as a special talent."
Eskridge already has reported scholarship offers from Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Southern Cal and many more of the nation's elite programs.
He had been hinting at a possible commitment to UK for days, and he seems to have already developed a chemistry with Mac Jones, a three-star quarterback from the class of 2017 who committed to the Cats this week.
The catch to Eskridge's commitment is that he won't be able to actually sign with UK until February 2018.
That's 21/2 years that other schools — like Ohio State and Florida State — will be able to continue to recruit him.
Simmons noted the uphill battle that UK's coaches will face during that time as they try to hold on to Eskridge's commitment while other schools on his list compete for national championships.
In the short term, the pledge can still be beneficial to the program's overall recruiting efforts.
It portrays UK as an "it school" to other prospective recruits while also raising the Wildcats' profile in the talent-rich state of Florida.
"Just having him on the commitment list can have a positive impact on the rest of the recruiting class as kind of a springboard," Simmons said. "You're always looking for angles that you can sell as a coach. You're looking for positives, you're looking for indicators that you can present to prospects. And this is one.
"This is a guy you can say, 'Look, not only do we have a great class in 2016. Not only are we making strides on the field, but we're already building for 2017, 2018 and beyond.' It's one thing to promise that, but it's another thing to be able to present tangible evidence of that."
Showing you can recruit and showing you can win are two different things, and Stoops and company know that changing the direction of the program on the field is of vital importance to its continued success on the recruiting trail.
There are three seasons of college football left to be played between now and the time that Eskridge can put pen to paper and officially become a Kentucky Wildcat.
What happens in those three seasons will almost certainly determine what happens on signing day 2018.
"There's no question that — when you get a 2018 kid at a place like Kentucky that is still trying to make a positive trajectory for the future of the program — you kind of have to stay on that path to fend off whatever other big fish are going to come knocking on the door," Simmons said. "What happens on the field is going to be crucial for holding on to these commitments.
"And, if Kentucky sort of plateaus, there's not a question that this is a guy that's going to have a lot of other opportunities. And it's going to be a hard sell to keep him on board."