There are no rewards for finishing second place in football recruiting, but UK’s effort in the pursuit of four-star wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith was impressive just the same.
Smith — a 6-foot-6 prospect from Dayton, Ohio — announced his commitment to local powerhouse Ohio State on Sunday, picking the Buckeyes over Kentucky.
“I just felt like it was home,” Smith told 247Sports. “When I was at the camp (in June) it was the place to be. I felt comfortable in my decision and the opportunity they give players outside of football after they leave college.”
UK was the first program to extend a scholarship offer to Smith, who’s ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 29 recruit nationally in the 2018 class, and the Wildcats stayed on him throughout the process. They were even perceived as the favorites as recently as last month.
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But, as had become clear in recent weeks, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Buckeyes for a home-state kid that they really want.
“Obviously, Kentucky did a fabulous job recruiting him,” Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader. “It’s still pretty impressive — the job they did with a kid who is clearly a top-50 caliber player in the class.”
UK has signed 36 high school football players from Ohio since Youngstown natives Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow arrived in Lexington after the 2012 season, as well as bringing in several other transfers originally from the state.
That list includes such big names as Lynn Bowden and Mike Edwards, as well as great finds like Jordan Jones and Benny Snell, but none of UK’s signees from the state had been subject to a sustained recruiting effort by the Buckeyes, like Smith was.
His commitment gives Ohio State the No. 1 recruiting class nationally for 2018, and he’s the fifth top-30 prospect to join the Buckeyes for next year.
Kentucky is still in good shape with its 2018 class, which is ranked No. 16 nationally by Rivals.com. And the Cats’ success in Ohio should only continue, as evidenced by the program’s seven commitments from the state for next year, a number that is expected to grow as national signing day approaches.
“They just recruit the state of Ohio so well,” Helmholdt said “They’ve been getting legitimate top, top guys. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that they were in contention here.”