UK Football

Five UK football recruits have officially enrolled for spring semester

Woodford County High School football player Drake Jackson receives his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey from Staff Sergeant Cody Tribble , left, and Sergeant First Class Jesus Davalos.
Woodford County High School football player Drake Jackson receives his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey from Staff Sergeant Cody Tribble , left, and Sergeant First Class Jesus Davalos. Herald-Leader

The University of Kentucky officially announced the early enrollment of five football players from the recruiting class of 2016 on Wednesday, the first day of classes in the spring semester.

Linebacker Kash Daniel, quarterback Gunnar Hoak, wide receiver Dakota Holtzclaw and offensive lineman Drake Jackson all left high school early to join the Wildcats for the spring. Junior college offensive lineman Tate Leavitt is also enrolled in classes at UK after signing with the program last month.

The five players will be eligible to participate in spring practice with the Wildcats.

Daniel — the state’s Mr. Football winner out of Paintsville High School — drew rave reviews at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio last week and is expected to compete for immediate playing time.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Kash, Kentucky’s Mr. Football, to our team,” said UK Coach Mark Stoops in a statement. “He exemplifies the definition of a blue collar player. He’s an extremely hard worker and he is very driven. Kash is what you’re looking for in a middle linebacker. He has the size, instincts and leadership you want in the middle of the defense.”

Hoak, an Ohio native, is ranked by ESPN as a four-star quarterback and will give the Cats some much-needed depth at the position after the recent departures of Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips.

“We’ve very excited to have Gunnar in our program,” Stoops said. “He has the mental ability and the technique a quarterback needs. He has a great throwing motion, great feet and he throws the ball on target. He has been a leader on a very good high school football program and it’s great to have him in here mid-year to begin learning the offense.”

Holtzclaw — a 6-foot-7 prospect from Ohio — has the size that UK’s coaches have been looking for at wide receiver.

“Dakota has great size and speed,” Stoops said. “We saw him run track last spring and he ran sub-11.0 in the 100 meters several times. He’s a 6-7 receiver who gives us another big target on the outside. He has great hands and a large catch radius. We think he has the ability to develop into a really good receiver in our system.”

Jackson is one of the highest-profile players in UK’s recruiting class after stellar performances on the national camp circuit. The Woodford County standout is arguably the No. 1 center prospect in the country.

“Drake is an outstanding lineman with polished technique for a player coming out of high school,” Stoops said. “He has the will to succeed and he thrives in a competition setting. Being elected captain of the West squad by his peers for the Army All-American Game just proves what type of person he is. He is a great leader and competitor.”

Leavitt might be UK’s most important addition for 2016. The Ohio native recently wrapped up his career at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and is ranked by 247Sports.com as one of the top 25 junior-college players in the country. He’s expected to start right away at offensive tackle and will have two seasons of eligibility in Lexington.

“Tate is a prototypical tackle, a complete player,” Stoops said when Leavitt signed in December. “Not only is he a great player, but he’s also a difference-maker off the field, with great presence, very confident.”

UK has a total of 22 commitments for the recruiting class of 2016, and the rest of those players will join the Cats in the summer. It’s likely that Kentucky will add a few more prospects to the class before national signing day on Feb. 3.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

UK football early enrollees for the class of 2016

Player

Pos

Hometown

Rivals

Scout

ESPN

247

Kash Daniel

LB

Paintsville, Ky.

***

***

***

****

Gunnar Hoak

QB

Dublin, Ohio

***

***

****

***

Dakota Holtzclaw

WR

Worthington, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Drake Jackson

OL

Versailles, Ky.

****

****

****

****

Tate Leavitt

OL

Thornville, Ohio

****

***

****

***

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