UK Football

Weekend visitors, a look at EKU’s ‘star power’ and more UK football recruiting notes

Kentucky has 18 football commitments for the class of 2018.
Kentucky has 18 football commitments for the class of 2018. AP

UK’s first home football game of the season Saturday means the Kroger Field sidelines and recruiting room will be swarming with top high school prospects once again.

As always, a large contingent of Ohio players is expected — four-star defensive end Alex Reigelsperger told the Herald-Leader that he’ll be making the trip — and Kentucky high schools should also be well represented, with Western Hills star Wandale Robinson among the expected guests.

One of the highest-profile players reported to be visiting this weekend is Oak Park (Mich.) offensive lineman Justin Rogers, who could emerge as a five-star player in the class of 2020.

Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt recently scouted Rogers — a 6-foot-2, 290-pound prospect — along with a trio of older, four-star offensive linemen: UK commitment Marquan McCall (2018), Syracuse commitment Tyrone Sampson (2018) and Michigan State commitment Spencer Brown (2019).

“And Rogers was clearly the most impressive,” Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader. “That says a lot when you’re talking about three upper-class four-stars. He is just so fundamentally sharp for a kid that is just starting his sophomore year.”

Helmholdt added that Rogers was going up against an FBS-level commitment in that game and got the better of the matchup.

“He physically manhandled that kid up and down the field,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more impressed with what I saw from Justin Rogers in Week 1. And we’ve been seeing that all summer. He’s pretty impressive.”

Rivals.com has not yet assigned star rankings for the 2020 class, but it sounds like Rogers will be no worse than a four-star player when that happens. 247Sports ranks Rogers as the No. 1 offensive guard and No. 25 overall player in the class, a grade that would put him in five-star territory at the end of his recruiting cycle.

Rogers visited Michigan State last weekend and picked up a scholarship offer from the Spartans during that trip. Ohio State extended an offer over the summer. UK was the first program to offer Rogers, who is a teammate and friend of McCall, and the Cats hosted the sophomore for a visit this summer.

Though reported to be visiting for the UK-EKU game, Rogers has a game of his own at 7 p.m. Friday and that will make getting from Michigan to Kentucky tough for a noon kickoff Saturday. If he ends up not being able to make the trip, Rogers is expected to be down for another home game in the near future.

(Update: It appears Rogers is now planning to visit Michigan instead Saturday).

UK assistant coach Steve Clinkscale is expected in Michigan on Friday to see Rogers, McCall and a couple of other Oak Park players on the Wildcats’ recruiting radar.

“They got in early on him,” Helmholdt said of Rogers. “He’s tight with Marquan, and that’s going to help them a lot. They’re in the ball game. But they’re going to have to battle everybody. Because, eventually, everybody is going to offer.

“He’s going to be a national recruit.”

▪  Lexington Catholic quarterback Beau Allen told the Herald-Leader on Thursday night that he wasn’t yet sure if he would be at UK’s home opener Saturday, though it remained a possibility. Allen has a Kentucky offer for the 2020 class.

▪  Two big-time, in-state offensive linemen from the 2019 class will visit elsewhere this weekend. Scott County’s Bryan Hudson is expected to be at Virginia Tech’s game against Delaware. Glasgow’s Tanner Bowles is planning to be at Louisiana State’s home game against Chattanooga. Both have UK scholarship offers.

▪  UK quarterback commitment Jarren Williams will not be at UK’s home opener Saturday afternoon — he lives about seven hours away and has his own game Friday night — but the four-star prospect is expected in Lexington for the Wildcats’ game against Florida in two weeks.

Star power

UK’s opponent last week, Southern Miss, had a roster that included zero players who had been ranked higher than three stars as recruits by Rivals.com.

Eastern Kentucky has the Golden Eagles beat in that category.

Two Colonels were ranked as four-star recruits coming out of high school: starting cornerback Nigel Bethel II and sophomore running back Jason Lewis.

Bethel — a senior in his second season at EKU — was considered the No. 24 cornerback nationally when he signed with Texas Tech out of high school in the 2014 class. He started 12 games in two seasons with the Red Raiders before transferring to EKU.

Lewis — a sophomore in his first season with the Colonels — was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 18 running back and No. 167 overall prospect nationally when he signed with Arizona State in 2015. He redshirted his first season there, then was moved to linebacker and played sparingly last season.

Listed as one of four “ors” at starting running back, Lewis had five carries for 16 yards in EKU’s loss to Western Kentucky last weekend.

The Colonels’ roster also features eight other players that were considered three-star recruits by Rivals.com coming out of high school. All of those players signed with FBS-level teams before coming to EKU.

Notables in that group: Jared Tucker, who signed with UK in 2014 and is listed as a backup safety at EKU; LJ Scott, a former U of L player who is one of the other “ors” at running back; and starting quarterback Tim Boyle, who came to EKU from UConn and was ranked as the No. 25 pro-style QB in the 2013 class.

Eastern Kentucky quarterback Tim Boyle talks about living away from Connecticut for the first time and the support he gets from his family.

Recruiting memories

At his Tuesday press conference this week, EKU Coach Mark Elder mentioned that he had recruited UK tight end C.J. Conrad during his time as an assistant coach at Tennessee.

Elder, who was the Vols’ tight ends coach at the time, said Conrad came to a one-day camp in Knoxville the summer before his junior year and left an impression. The UK junior was the No. 8 tight end nationally in the 2015 class, and his play last weekend in the Cats’ victory over Southern Miss left Elder impressed, too.

“I think he’s a really good football player,” he said. “He’s a complete tight end, which is — they’re hard to come by. Usually you get either that guy that really is about a couple of Big Macs away from being a tackle, or you get the guy that should be a receiver who doesn’t really want to block anybody and is upset every time he has to line up in the box. He’s a guy who can do both.

“Obviously you saw him a week ago. He had a touchdown, a really long catch, 90-some yards on three receptions. But, yet, you also see him in there blocking his tail off. He’s physical. Really impressed with him.”

Eastern Kentucky football coach Mark Elder talks about recruiting UK tight end C.J. Conrad while an assistant coach at Tennessee and what he thinks about him now.

Big game tonight

One of UK’s top commitments in the class of 2018 will be in the area Friday night.

Four-star tight end Brenden Bates and Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) travel to Georgetown to face Scott County in a game that is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Stadium.

Bates is one of only two Rivals 250 players in the Cats’ class of 2018, and that website ranks him as the No. 10 tight end nationally.

One of UK’s top 2019 targets — four-star offensive lineman Bryan Hudson — will be on the other side of the field Friday night. The Scott County star has scholarship offers from UK, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Louisiana State and several other top schools.

Other area games

Can’t make it to Georgetown but want to see a UK recruit play elsewhere in central Kentucky tonight?

Western Hills star Wandale Robinson will be at home against Bath County at 7:30 p.m. Robinson, a do-it-all offensive player in the 2019 class, is being recruited as a wide receiver and has a UK scholarship offer.

Lexington Catholic quarterback Beau Allen will play at Lexington Christian, also set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Allen, a class of 2020 recruit, already has a UK offer.

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