UK Football

These football recruits top UK’s list to close out 2018 class. What are Cats’ chances?

Leonard Taylor, right, played quarterback at Springfield (Ohio) High School, but he’s likely to be a tight end or defensive end in college.
Leonard Taylor, right, played quarterback at Springfield (Ohio) High School, but he’s likely to be a tight end or defensive end in college. Dayton Daily News

With college football’s new early signing period in the rearview mirror, Kentucky now has five weeks to go until the traditional signing day, and most of its 2018 recruiting class is already locked in.

UK Coach Mark Stoops has said the Wildcats will look to fill four more spots to go with the 20 players they signed last month.

Heading into the home stretch, three prospects — all from Ohio — are at the top of Kentucky’s wish list.

Bill Greene, the 247Sports recruiting analyst for Ohio, spoke to the Herald-Leader this week about UK’s chances with each of those players, and the Cats appear to be in a pretty good spot as Feb. 7 approaches:

Xavier Peters

Starting with the only UK commitment who didn’t sign in the early period, Peters would be one of the Cats’ most talented additions if he does make it official for Kentucky next month, and signs point to that being the most likely scenario.

“As far as I know, I think Kentucky is the school that he wants to be at,” Greene said.

Ranked by 247Sports as the No. 156 overall prospect and No. 13 outside linebacker in the 2018 class, Peters committed to UK in July over scholarship offers from major college powers but has been largely quiet about his recruitment since.

There have been questions about the strength of his commitment — and that uncertainty was amplified when he didn’t sign early — but Peters hasn’t taken any official visits to other schools. There have been reports of a possible visit to Florida later this month, but he hasn’t officially scheduled anything between now and national signing day.

“The key will be to see if he ends up visiting anywhere else,” Greene said. “He had all fall to go visit wherever he wanted to. As long as academics work out, I think it’s going to work out (for Kentucky).”

If the Cats can sign Peters, he’d be the No. 2-rated player in their class behind Michigan lineman Marquan McCall.

“I think his upside is tremendous,” Greene said of Peters. “I love the speed and the power and the size — you can just put the film in, watch about five clips and you see what you need to see. He’s an impact player. And he’s still really raw as a player.

“The thought would be: Get him in there, have him work on one position under college coaching and a college strength and conditioning program, and you might have something pretty special there.”

Chris Oats

Another linebacker highly coveted by the Cats’ coaching staff, Oats is a 6-4 prospect out of Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, the same school that produced current UK star Mike Edwards.

247Sports ranks Oats as the No. 240 overall prospect and No. 20 outside linebacker in the 2018 class, and lead recruiter Vince Marrow looks to be in a great spot to add him to the Wildcats’ signing class.

I think their chances are real good,” Greene said. “He has a great relationship with Coach Marrow. Chris’ high school coach, I think, is going to play a big part in his recruiting. And (his high school coach) also has a good relationship with the Kentucky staff. That really helps things.”

As is often the case when UK wants a top prospect out of Ohio, one school has emerged as possibly the biggest threat in the Cats’ pursuit of Oats.

“I think he wants to see what happens with Ohio State,” Greene said. “Ohio State has been really good the past four or five years with waiting until about 10 days before signing day, and then if they go issue an offer to an in-state Ohio kid, they usually get him. And that’s actually impacted Kentucky a couple of times in past years.”

Oats took an official visit to UK last month and has one set for Mississippi in three weeks. That leaves a few open weekends for a possible trip to Columbus between now and signing day

“If you don’t see an Ohio State visit from Chris, then I think he’s going to Kentucky,” Greene said. “That’s going to be the key: Does Ohio State bring Oats in for an official visit? And do they extend an offer that he can commit to?”

The 247Sports analyst compared both Oats’ and Peters’ physical, athletic playing style to that of senior-to-be linebacker Jordan Jones, although the two recruits are bigger and taller than the current Wildcat.

“Just a big, fast, long athlete,” Greene said of Oats. “Chris is a really good kid, too. Plays hard. To add him and Peters, those are the kind of kids that can become all-league players in the SEC.”

Leonard Taylor

Late last month, Greene logged a Crystal Ball projection in favor of Kentucky for Taylor, who is listed on the 247Sports website as a tight end but might project as a defensive lineman if he comes to UK.

The Cats have already signed two tight ends in this class — Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw — and the coaching staff is expecting a lot from both players.

Taylor is the No. 14 tight end in the class — according to the 247Sports composite rankings — though Rivals.com recently classified him as a strongside defensive end (and ranked him No. 13 nationally at that position).

“A lot of it is going to be them coming to an understanding,” Greene said. “What I think will probably happen is they’ll tell Leonard, ‘Hey, you can come in and we’ll start you as a tight end. But, if things don’t go really well, would you be receptive to moving to the defensive side of the ball?’

“And I think that’s going to work out, and Leonard really likes Kentucky.”

Taylor, who played quarterback for Springfield (Ohio) High School, also visited UK last month and is scheduled to visit Louisville next weekend. The new coaching staff at Texas A&M has shown interest, and others are likely to join that mix in the coming weeks.

Still, Greene is predicting that the 6-5 prospect ends up in Lexington.

UK football signings for the class of 2018

Player

Pos

Ht

Wt

Hometown

Rivals

ESPN

247

Marvin Alexander

WR

6-2

175

Miami Gardens, Fla.

Brenden Bates

TE

6-5

240

Cincinnati

Jamari Brown

CB

6-2

180

Sunrise, Fla.

Max Duffy

P

6-1

200

Perth, Australia

Stanley Garner

CB

6-2

180

Parkway, Fla

Davoan Hawkins

DL

6-4

275

Hollywood, Fla.

Akeem Hayes

WR

5-10

175

Hollywood, Fla.

Kenneth Horsey

OL

6-4

330

Sanford, Fla.

Darian Kinnard

OT

6-7

330

Cleveland

Jerquavion Mahone

DT

6-3

300

Manchester, Ga.

Marquan McCall

OL

6-4

350

Detroit

Bryce Oliver

WR

6-3

200

Sunrise, Fla.

Ashtan Pierre

LB

6-2

200

Pompano Beach, Fla.

Chance Poore

K

6-3

200

Anderson, S.C.

Chris Rodriguez

RB

6-0

220

McDonough, Ga.

DeAndre Square

LB

6-1

205

Detroit

Keaton Upshaw

TE

6-6

240

Lima, Ohio

Dom Williams

CB

5-10

180

Knoxville

Quintin Wilson

OL

6-3

320

Cincinnati

Terry Wilson

QB

6-3

205

Oklahoma City

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