UK Football

The next Lynn Bowden? Kentucky favored against Ohio State for Columbus football star.

Ohio has been kind to the University of Kentucky football program under Mark Stoops. One of its best athletes might be the latest to continue that trend.

Mike Drennen II is considered a top-200 recruit by Rivals (159th nationally) and 247Sports (198th). Both services rate him as a four-star talent and as the No. 3 player in his state. And, now, both project UK as the favorite to land him.

Despite offering later than many schools, Ohio State for a while was considered the leader in Drennen’s recruitment. His high school, Dublin Coffman, is about 15 miles from OSU’s campus and his family is rooted in the area.

Two Ohio-focused recruiting analysts — 247Sports’ Bill Greene and Rivals’ Alex Gleitman — in the last week changed their predictions for Drennen, who’s rated as an all-purpose back, from Ohio State to Kentucky.

UK was the first FBS program to offer Drennen, back in 2016 during a summer camp before his freshman season. The Cats have never wavered.

“Out of all my teams, it feels like they show me the most love,” Drennen told Rivals analyst Josh Helmholdt this month. “Their offense really fits me.”

UK, Drennen says, wants him to be a Lynn Bowden-type weapon. He would be the highest-rated skill player to commit to UK since Bowden, if he ultimately chooses the Wildcats.

Greene doesn’t know if Drennen is as good as Bowden — “Lynn’s about as special as it gets,” he told the Herald-Leader this week — but he’s a “darn good player.”

He’s a strong student, too. Stanford University is among those who’ve offered, and Southern Cal recently entered the picture. USC is one of two official visits he’s hoping to take out west (the other is to Oregon), and Drennen has expressed a desire to take official visits to Florida and LSU, too.

Kentucky is the only school to which he’s taken an official visit so far.

“Kentucky has been the rock in his recruitment from day one,” Greene said. “… They are really persistent as recruiters and the key for them really seems to be if they can get the kid on campus, to come and see the facilities, the stadium to see the improvements they’ve made down there. That seems to really make a difference for these kids.”

Drennen had been on campus before but his official visit was the first time his mom was able to see UK in person.

“I just wanted to see her reaction, and she loved it,” Drennen told Rivals. “I really couldn’t ask for much more.”

UK currently has five players from Ohio committed as part of its 2020 class, including two other running backs — Torrance Davis, a power back, and Jutahn McClain, a speedier type. Wide receiver Kalil Branham, safety Rickey Hyatt and cornerback Carrington Valentine are the other Ohioans who’ve picked Kentucky ahead of signing day.

Drennen would be the cream of the buckeye crop.

“The kids that they’ve landed have been treated well and they just have a really good reputation inside the state,” Greene said of UK’s success in Ohio. “… When they target you, they stay right on you and it doesn’t bother them if Florida offers or Ohio State offers or whatever. They’re gonna hang right in there.”

Jordan Watkins

The University of Kentucky no longer appears to be an option for one in-state standout.

Jordan Watkins, a senior at Butler High School in Louisville, announced his decommitment from UK on Thursday. He committed to the Wildcats during an official visit in June.

Watkins is widely expected to commit to Louisville, where he visited last weekend. He did not indicate his intentions in a Twitter post Thursday night.

“I think it is best for me to open my recruitment back up and continue on my journey!” Watkins wrote after praising Kentucky’s fans and coaching staff.

Rivals has Watkins rated as the nation’s No. 13 “athlete;” 247Sports tabs him as the No. 87 player in that same category. Both recruiting services consider him a three-star prospect.


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Josh Moore is in his first year covering the University of Kentucky football team and in his fifth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore, a Martin County native, graduated from UK with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English in 2013. He’s a huge fan of the NBA, Power Rangers and country music.