Now that nearly all of the nation’s high school football prospects in the class of 2018 have signed with colleges, it’s time to look ahead to the next group of star recruits.
UK has already issued dozens of scholarship offers for the class of 2019 — a group that looks to be especially strong in Kentucky and Ohio — and those players will be the main priority now that the Cats’ 2018 class has come together.
Many new names are certain to emerge over the next several months, but here’s a list of 10 recruits from the 2019 class to keep an eye on, starting with some talented in-state players:
Tanner Bowles: A 6-foot-5 offensive tackle from Glasgow High School and the younger brother of Hunter Bowles, a former Louisville football player, Tanner is ranked by 247Sports as a four-star prospect and the No. 19 O-tackle in the class. He has reported offers from Louisiana State, Oklahoma, Penn State and U of L, among others, but John Schlarman is working hard to keep him in state with the Wildcats.
Bryan Hudson: UK targeted the 6-4 offensive lineman from nearby Scott County early in the process, and the Cats have already hosted Hudson for several recruiting visits. The competition will be stiff, however. He also has reported offers from Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and several other top programs.
Wandale Robinson: Perhaps the most likely of the standout Kentuckians to ultimately join UK’s 2019 class, Robinson is a do-everything offensive star for nearby Western Hills High School. The 5-8 speedster averaged an amazing 13.2 yards per carry and scored 43 touchdowns last season, and he’ll be a favorite for Mr. Football honors this year. He’s already visited UK several times.
▪ There are also a few talented players from Louisville high schools that have early offers from UK, including Louisville Christian athlete Milton Wright, Moore defensive lineman J.J. Weaver, and Doss defensive end Shawnkel Knight-Goff.
And here are several out-of-state targets to watch:
John Bivens: Running back will be a key position for UK in 2019 due to the departure of senior Sihiem King and possible early entry of junior Benny Snell to the NFL Draft following the 2018 season. Bivens — a 6-1 prospect from Dayton, Ohio — is the top-rated back in the Buckeye State for next year’s class, and Vince Marrow has already made him a priority.
Moses Douglass: Sticking in Ohio, Douglass is a top-10 prospect from the state with a last name that UK fans should recognize. The four-star defensive back is the son of former UK standout Maurice Douglass, who played nine seasons for the Chicago Bears and is now Moses’ head coach at Springfield High School.
Jaren Mangham: Another running back, Mangham is a four-star prospect and consensus top 250 prospect nationally, and he’s already been on UK’s campus several times. The Michigan native is also a former teammate of new UK linebacker DeAndre Square. Michigan State is likely to be among the Cats’ top competition for Mangham.
Keontra Smith: Technically, he’s already committed to UK and remains the Wildcats’ only pledge so far for the 2019 class. But, as Kentucky fans know well, there’s a difference between landing a commitment and ultimately signing a player, and there will be no shortage of competition in Smith’s recruitment.
The 5-11 defensive back from Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Fla.) — which has sent several players to Lexington recently — committed to UK in June, but he’s received offers from Nebraska and Michigan since then, and the in-state schools are likely to continue to pursue him, along with powerhouses from the Southeastern Conference. 247Sports ranks Smith as the No. 10 safety in the country.
Jamari Williams: It’s obviously early in the process, but Williams — a 6-4 offensive lineman from Florida — has already publicly named UK as the leader in his recruitment. He was also mentioned among the standouts at the recent U.S. Army National Combine event in Texas.
Kyren Williams: Recruiting is all about relationships, and Williams already has a strong bond with new UK wide receivers coach Michael Smith, who is a close family friend. Williams described Smith to Rivals.com as being like “basically my uncle.” The 5-9 wide receiver from St. Louis has received several new offers in recent weeks, and Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 46 receiver in the class.
A quarterback: The Cats will add at least one player at this all-important position, and a few QBs from the 2019 class are already emerging as targets. UK has extended offers to Alabama native Paul Tyson (the great-grandson of Bear Bryant), Florida native Hayden Wolff and Ohio native Connor Bazelak — all ranked among the top 25 pro-style QBs in the class — as well as Louisiana native Lance Legendre, a dual-threat quarterback with a slew of new offers this winter. Another intriguing option could be former Knott County Central QB Cameron Jones, a 6-8 prospect who has moved to Lexington and will play his senior season at Frederick Douglass High School.