This time of year, it’s fairly common for football recruits not previously on the radar of college coaches to emerge as highly sought-after prospects.
As coaching staffs wrap up their signing classes in the first week of February, they take a closer look at the next group of rising seniors, and new targets move up their recruiting boards.
Few prospects in the class of 2018 have had as rapid a rise as St. Louis linebacker Ayodele Adeoye, who went from zero scholarship offers in the final days of January to one of the top-rated players at his position a few weeks later.
“His film is extraordinary,” Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader. “It’s surprising that it took until late January for the first school to offer. … And I think, once that first one came, everybody else turned on his film and all of the sudden he blew up.
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“We don’t usually start guys that high that quickly, but he debuted in the Rivals 250. That’s how impressed we were with his film.”
Rivals.com installed Adeoye — a 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect — as the No. 8 inside linebacker and No. 245 overall prospect in the 2018 class. 247Sports has him ranked even higher (No. 5 inside linebacker and No. 77 recruit nationally).
Both websites list him as a four-star recruit.
“For the linebacker position, you want a guy who finishes plays,” Helmholdt said. “And the thing you realize with ’Dele on film is, ‘That kid finishes plays.’ He knows what to do when he arrives at the ball carrier. And he’s able to get to the ball quickly and efficiently. He has that natural feel for the linebacker position, combined with good size and athletic skills.”
Southern Illinois was the first school to extend a scholarship offer — on Jan. 25 — and Missouri followed suit that same day. Louisiana State, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Iowa and Arkansas are just a few of the other major programs that have offered since.
Kentucky is also on that list, and the Wildcats’ coaching staff hosted Adeoye as part of the program’s “junior day” weekend late last month. He recently listed UK as one of the schools that he’s been in the most contact with over the past few weeks.
“He goes from looking for that one offer to having 20 to choose from. So his mind’s swimming a little bit,” Helmholdt said. “But Kentucky was one of the schools he told me has definitely followed up on their offer and wants to build that relationship. It’s very early in his recruitment, but they’ve gotten off to a good start.”
‘Blue’ in Blue?
UK commitment Alex Reigelsperger told the Herald-Leader last week that he expects his teammate L’Christian “Blue” Smith — a possible five-star recruit — to eventually join him in the Wildcats’ recruiting class of 2018.
There’s a similar strain of optimism regarding that recruitment among the UK staff, and the 247Sports Crystal Ball currently projects the Cats as major favorites for Smith, who also holds offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan and several others.
Rivals.com ranks Smith — a 6-5, 215-pound athlete from the Dayton area — as the No. 28 overall prospect in the 2018 class, a ranking that would put him in five-star territory by the end of the cycle.
Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt put in perspective just how big it would be for Mark Stoops to land a commitment from Smith.
“That would probably go down as his biggest commitment yet,” he said. “Obviously Landon Young was a five-star, but at the same time he was an in-state guy. You’re talking about a kid from Dayton — Ohio State’s backyard — and going up there and pulling him away from Urban Meyer? Yeah, that would be pretty major.”
For UK football fans, the news that class of 2018 quarterback Jarren Williams was visiting Knoxville last weekend constituted reason for concern.
Williams’ words following that trip should soothe the Wildcat faithful, at least for now.
UK’s first commitment for the 2018 class told the Herald-Leader this week that he is still “firmly committed” to the Cats after his visit to Tennessee, which extended a scholarship offer last month. The Lawrenceville, Ga., prospect also has recent offers from Michigan State, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Miami, but he said he has not scheduled any more visits.
Williams also said that he plans to “shut my recruitment down” after the spring, which should eliminate any drama later in the process.
UK hosted Williams for a visit in January, and he’s expected to return to Lexington at least one more time this spring.
I feel like Coach Stoops is really turning the program around. They’re great coaches, and I feel like I can trust all of them.
Cats’ best class?
According to the Rivals.com rankings, the best recruiting class of the Mark Stoops era — so far — was the group that signed in 2014, the UK coach’s first full recruiting cycle in Lexington.
Rivals ranked that class at No. 18 nationally, and it included 10 four-star prospects. Three years later, more than half of the 28-player class is gone.
Linebacker Kobie Walker is the latest departure following Thursday’s news that he plans to transfer. Walker joins Nico Firios, Dorian Hendrix, Mikel Horton, Josh Krok, Jarrett LaRubbio, Darryl Long, Nick Richardson, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Lloyd Tubman, Jared Tucker and T.V. Williams as the 12th player from that class to transfer.
Also in that class were junior-college signees Ryan Flannigan, Cory Johnson and A.J. Stamps, who have since exhausted their college eligibility, and Boom Williams, who declared for the NFL Draft after last season.
The 12 players still at UK from that group: Dorian Baker, Drew Barker, Blake Bone, Tymere Dubose, Mike Edwards, Matt Elam, Garrett Johnson, Adrian Middleton, Kendall Randolph, Bunchy Stallings, Denzil Ware and Darius West.