After four-star quarterback Jarren Williams backed out of his commitment to Kentucky for the second time Sunday, the situation became clear.
Williams won’t be in Lexington next season, and the Cats will need to look elsewhere for a quarterback.
Less than 24 hours later, some new names had already emerged.
UK ace recruiter Vince Marrow reached out to Ohio quarterback Brennan Armstrong on Sunday afternoon, and he became the first signal caller from the class of 2018 to be confirmed as a UK target in the post-Williams era of this recruiting cycle.
Armstrong — a 6-foot-1 (pushing 6-2) prospect from Shelby, Ohio — is the No. 15 dual-threat QB nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He’s the top-ranked quarterback from Ohio in the class of 2018 and had been committed to Minnesota for nearly a year before backing off of that pledge last week.
“I like Brennan a lot. I think he’s a solid, three-star kid,” Ohio recruiting expert Bill Greene told the Herald-Leader on Monday morning. “I think Brennan would fit that Kentucky offense as a dual-threat guy that can make plays on the run and get the ball where it needs to go.”
Greene compared Armstrong to UK freshman quarterback Gunnar Hoak — also an Ohio native — noting that Hoak is probably an inch or so taller with a little better arm and delivery, while Armstrong is the better athlete (he plays safety for his high school team).
Armstrong is also a lefty. Hoak is right-handed.
“But in terms of how they play, how smart they are, arm strength — I think they’re very similar,” Greene said.
Armstrong has led Shelby High to a 12-0 record this season, and the team is still rolling in the playoffs. He’s passed for 26 touchdowns (with just four interceptions) and has 890 yards and 19 more touchdowns on the ground. Greene said Armstrong has always run a lot as a high school player — he’s been a starter since his freshman season, and he’s won a lot of games — but he’s a capable passer, too.
“He’s probably the true definition of a dual threat,” Greene said. “But I think — in a college system — he’s going to be more of a thrower than a runner.”
Virginia and North Carolina had both extended scholarship offers before Armstrong’s commitment to Minnesota earlier this year, and the Cavaliers are looking like the early favorites in his new recruitment, though Armstrong is clearly listening to other schools. And UK could rise to the top of that list.
“There is interest there on both sides — and we’ll see where it progresses from here,” Greene said.
The Herald-Leader was told Sunday night that Armstrong isn’t the only quarterback that Kentucky’s coaches are looking at going into this week. No other names have been confirmed as specific targets, but East Mississippi Community College quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. could be a player to keep an eye on.
Marrow followed Scott on Twitter after news of Williams’ decommitment from the Cats became public, and the QB from “Last Chance U” is set to graduate from junior college next month. He plans to transfer to an FBS-level school by January.
Scott — a 5-11, 210-pound prospect from Zachary, La. — was the Louisiana player of the year as a high school senior and led his team to a state title that season.
A three-star, dual-threat QB in the class of 2016, Scott signed with Louisiana State out of high school and spent one redshirt season with the Tigers before transferring to East Mississippi earlier this year.
He’s been phenomenal this fall, completing 243 of 370 passes (65.7 percent) for 3,311 yards and 27 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He’s also run for six TDs and led East Mississippi to a 10-1 record.
Scott will have three years to play three seasons with his next school.
Garden City (Kan.) Community College quarterback Terry Wilson could be another possibility for the Cats, and the Herald-Leader has learned that UK is now monitoring his recruitment.
Wilson — a 6-3, 200-pound prospect — originally signed with Oregon as part of the 2016 class but left the Ducks’ program earlier this year due to a lack of playing time. He’s completed 165 of 279 passes (59.1 percent) in 10 games this fall, throwing for 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
He’s also credited with 109 carries for 454 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilson — from Oklahoma City, Okla. — was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback nationally in the class of 2016, and he should also have three years to play three seasons at his next stop.
Florida dual-threat quarterback Kevaris Thomas — a three-star player in the Rivals.com rankings — has also been linked to UK. He told Rivals.com late last month that a Kentucky coach had been to see him and that the Wildcats might express more interest in his recruitment if they were to lose a commitment from Williams.
Thomas told the Herald-Leader on Monday evening that he has not heard from anyone at UK since Williams’ decomittment Sunday, and the 6-4 QB stated last month that Western Kentucky was the leader in his recruitment.
UK senior quarterback Stephen Johnson will be gone after this season, leaving Drew Barker, Hoak, Danny Clark and Walker Wood as the Cats’ QB options. Barker, who will be a senior next season, is the only player in that bunch that has played a down in college. Hoak is a redshirt freshman this season, and Clark and Wood are true freshmen.
Quarterback Luke Wright, who came to UK as a walk on, will also be a senior next season.