The pieces are falling into place for a massive recruiting weekend for the Kentucky football program, which will hold its first “junior day” event since wrapping up the signing class of 2017 earlier this month.
Dozens of high-profile prospects are expected to be on UK’s campus this weekend, a group that includes many of the Cats’ top targets in the class of 2018.
The state of Ohio — which was responsible for seven UK signees for 2017 — will be well represented in Lexington. The expected guest list includes four-star teammates L’Christian “Blue” Smith and Alex Reigelsperger, four-star linebacker Xavier Peters, three-star defensive lineman Tyler Bentley and highly touted tight ends Brenden Bates and Josh Whyle.
Smith — a 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete — is the No. 23 overall recruit in the 2018 class, according to Rivals.com. He has scholarship offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Penn State, Michigan and several others, but UK recruiting ace Vince Marrow has been pushing hard in his recruitment. Smith also visited Lexington twice in the fall.
Reigelsperger — a 6-5, 235-pound defensive end — has visited UK about 10 times over the past year. He has early offers from several Big Ten programs, and Kentucky is the current leader on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page.
Several prospects from Michigan will also be in town this weekend.
That group will include Tyrone Sampson, who picked up a scholarship offer from the Wildcats this week and immediately booked a trip to Lexington. He is considered the No. 1 center in the 2018 class.
Four-star offensive lineman Marquan McCall and four-star safety/linebacker DeAndre Square will also be part of the Michigan contingent, which will include other 2018 prospects, as well as recruits from the 2019 and 2020 classes.
Local lineman Bryan Hudson will be back on UK’s campus Saturday after visiting Lexington several times during the 2016 season and coming to the program’s first “junior day” event of 2017 the weekend before national signing day.
Hudson — a 6-5, 295-pound prospect out of Scott County — is ranked by 247Sports as a Top 100 national recruit and the No. 11 offensive tackle in the 2019 class.
The newest Cats
UK picked up its second and third commitments for the 2018 class this week, when Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) teammates Marvin Alexander and Davoan Hawkins announced for the Wildcats.
Rivals.com analyst Rob Cassidy has evaluated both players, and he spoke to the Herald-Leader this week about the newest Cats.
Alexander — a 6-3, 175-pound wide receiver — recently transferred from Flanagan High School (Fla.), the alma mater of UK early enrollee Clevan Thomas, also a wide receiver. That tie helped Eddie Gran get an early look at Alexander, who was not used much in Flanagan’s offense last fall.
“Kentucky really did a good job here of getting in there early. Nobody really knew who he was,” Cassidy said. “He’s a guy that probably would have had 15-20 offers if he had more exposure last year.”
Cassidy said there wasn’t much buzz around Alexander until he transferred to Chaminade-Madonna, which sent recruits Josh Ali and Chris Whittaker to UK for the class of 2017.
“He’s the kind of guy that can stretch the field,” Cassidy said of Alexander. “When you see him, he already looks like a college wide receiver. He has good length. … What kind of defines him is the blend of size and speed. He’s all of 6-2, 6-3, and he has incredible acceleration for that size.”
Alexander has already said that he will continue to take recruiting visits to other schools, so the Cats could have a battle on their hands. Cassidy said he wouldn’t be surprised if Florida, Auburn and some other Southeastern Conference programs get involved.
Hawkins — a 6-4, 250-pound defensive end — didn’t have a star ranking from Rivals.com at the time of his commitment because few have actually seen him play much at his college position. He was primarily an offensive lineman last season.
Cassidy said Hawkins has continued adding weight to his frame and still has more room to grow, noting that he’s probably a player UK will want to redshirt for a year, get him to his max weight and see where he goes from there.
“He’s kind of an enigma right now,” Cassidy said. “He hasn’t been seen by a lot of people playing his natural position, since he’s filled out. … He definitely has the body to be an SEC guy.”
Best of the Midwest
Scout.com analyst Allen Trieu was at the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis this week, and he had some positive words for several prospects from Kentucky.
One of the camp standouts was Madison Southern offensive lineman Trey Livingood, who played center at the event and picked up his first two scholarship offers, from Ohio and Marshall, on Thursday, then added an offer from Eastern Kentucky on Friday.
The 6-3, 290-pound prospect from the class of 2018 is listed as a guard, and he told the Herald-Leader that he and his coaches had also been in contact with Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo before this week’s camp.
Livingood said UK’s coaches have also reached out to his high school coaches, but he has not yet had any contact with the Wildcats. He did attend two UK camps last summer, and he will be one of the recruits at the program’s “junior day” Saturday.
Trieu told the Herald-Leader that he thinks Livingood “definitely has a shot” to play for a power-five program, especially at the center position.
Other Kentucky natives mentioned by Trieu as camp standouts included Pulaski County lineman Zack Ferris (2018), Western Hills wide receiver Wandale Robinson (2019) and Madison Southern lineman Dane Jackson, a 2020 recruit and the younger brother of UK’s Drake Jackson.
South Warren defensive tackle Jacob Lacey is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 37 prospect nationally in the 2019 class. He told the Herald-Leader that he’d like to visit UK soon, but his schedule will make that tough.
Lacey, who has visited Tennessee, Louisville, Michigan State and Virginia Tech over the past few weeks, will be at Penn State this weekend and Clemson next weekend. He’ll visit Vanderbilt a couple of weeks after that, then travel to Florida with his high school baseball team during spring break, squeezing in a visit to Florida State on that trip. A few days after that, he’ll compete at The Opening camp in Cleveland, and a few days after that he’ll visit Virginia.
“I’m not sure how I’m gonna do all that,” he said. “I’m just going where my dad drives me.”