UK Football

In-state recruiting misses like Jedrick Wills a rarity for these UK coaches

UK lost out on a high-profile, in-state recruit Wednesday with Alabama’s signing of five-star offensive tackle Jedrick Wills, who played his high school football at Lafayette, just a couple of miles from Commonwealth Stadium.

Not landing Wills, who committed to the Crimson Tide in November, is a tough one for the Cats — especially coming just a couple of years after five-star running back Damien Harris picked Alabama after a lengthy flirtation with UK — but in-state recruiting losses like this one have still been uncommon under Coach Mark Stoops.

Soon after he took over the UK program late in the 2013 recruiting cycle, Stoops said a priority would be keeping the best high school players in the state of Kentucky home for college. So far, he and lead in-state recruiter John Schlarman have largely followed through on that promise.

Since the current coaching staff got settled in following the 2012 season, the Wildcats have seriously targeted 18 in-state recruits. Fifteen signed with UK, a success rate of 83.3 percent.

Wills, Harris and quarterback Elijah Sindelar (Purdue) are the only in-state players with scholarship offers from UK who have turned down Stoops.

The Cats’ in-state recruiting successes include such coveted players as Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Kash Daniel, Matt Elam, Drew Barker, Eli Brown, Davonte Robinson and Jason Hatcher — all of whom chose UK over national powerhouses.

“When you’re born in Kentucky and grow up in Kentucky, usually — if you’re not a UK fan — there’s a UK fan in the house,” Schlarman told the Herald-Leader. “But one thing I think we’ve done a really good job of with in-state kids is identifying them early in the process and building a great relationship with them. At the end of the day, families want their young men to go off to schools where they feel comfortable you’re going to take good care of them.

“And we’ve not taken anything for granted with in-state guys. We offer guys when we’re ready to offer and accept their commitment. And Coach Stoops has stood by that all the way and been up front and honest with everybody every step of the way. … And sometimes that means telling a kid we’re not offering them, but it’s the truth. We’re being honest and up-front with everybody in the process, and I think that’s meant a lot to in-state coaches, families and players.”

This year’s in-state signing class consists of Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood and Belfry offensive tackle Austin Dotson.

The next couple of recruiting cycles will also be interesting to watch from an in-state perspective.

UK has already extended scholarship offers to at least three highly touted, local prospects in the 2018 class: Waggener cornerback Jairus Brents, Bowling Green linebacker Justice Dingle and Trinity wide receiver Rondale Moore.

Three players in the 2019 class are ranked among the top 100 prospects nationally by 247Sports — Trinity defensive lineman Stephen Herron, Scott County offensive lineman Bryan Hudson and South Warren defensive lineman Jacob Lacey — and all of those players have early offers from UK.

Other programs that have offered at least one of those in-state players include Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida, Oregon and Tennessee.

“One thing we’ve proven is that we’re not afraid to go and battle anybody in the country,” Schlarman said. “We want to keep the best in-state talent right here in Kentucky. We’ll start on that next class today.”

In-state recruits with scholarship offers from Mark Stoops

Class

Player

High School

College choice

2017

Austin Dotson

Belfry

Kentucky

2017

Jedrick Wills

Lafayette

Alabama

2017

Walker Wood

Lafayette

Kentucky

2016

Kash Daniel

Paintsville

Kentucky

2016

Zy'Aire Hughes

McCracken County

Kentucky

2016

Drake Jackson

Woodford County

Kentucky

2016

Davonte Robinson

Henry Clay

Kentucky

2016

Landon Young

Lafayette

Kentucky

2015

Eli Brown

Warren East

Kentucky

2015

Damien Harris

Madison Southern

Alabama

2015

Elijah Sindelar

Caldwell County

Purdue

2015

Mason Wolfe

Henderson County

Kentucky

2014

Drew Barker

Conner

Kentucky

2014

Matt Elam

John Hardin

Kentucky

2014

Adrian Middleton

South Warren

Kentucky

2014

Lloyd Tubman

Seneca

Kentucky

2013

Jason Hatcher

Trinity

Kentucky

2013

Ryan Timmons

Franklin County

Kentucky

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