UK Football

UK football recruiting: Three Kentuckians ranked in Top 100 nationally is a first

Woodford County offensive lineman Drake Jackson is regarded as one of the best centers nationally in the recruiting class of 2016. He has already enrolled in classes at UK and will join the Wildcats for spring practice.
Woodford County offensive lineman Drake Jackson is regarded as one of the best centers nationally in the recruiting class of 2016. He has already enrolled in classes at UK and will join the Wildcats for spring practice. Herald-Leader

All four of the major football recruiting services have now finalized their player rankings for the class of 2016, and it was a good year for the state of Kentucky.

247Sports, which posted its final rankings Wednesday, included three Kentuckians in its Top 100 nationally, and all three of those players are committed to UK.

Lafayette offensive lineman Landon Young is the No. 12 prospect nationally and a five-star recruit, Painstville linebacker Kash Daniel is the No. 74 overall prospect, and Woodford County offensive lineman Drake Jackson is ranked No. 94.

It’s the first time in the era of modern recruiting rankings that three Kentucky high school players have been considered Top 100 national prospects by one recruiting service.

Rivals.com, which also bumped Young to five-star status this week, upgraded Daniel to four-star status Wednesday. Rivals also considers Jackson a four-star recruit, along with UK commitments Jordan Griffin and Tate Leavitt.

Daniel’s boost in the rankings means Mark Stoops now has 20 commitments from players ranked four stars or better by Rivals since taking over UK’s program following the 2012 season. The Cats had a total of 14 four-star commitments in the 11 years before Stoops came to Lexington.

Results on the field over the past three seasons haven’t greatly reflected the gains on the recruiting trail, but the highly touted players that Stoops and his coaching staff have brought in are still young.

The five four-star players in the 2016 class have obviously not yet suited up for the Cats, nor has four-star linebacker Eli Brown, who sat out last season as a redshirt. Nine other four-star recruits were either freshmen or sophomores last season.

The 2016 class is shaping up to be one of UK’s most highly touted in recent memory. As of Wednesday afternoon, Rivals.com ranked the group No. 19 nationally ahead of such perennial powers as Southern Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas.

Kentucky’s class of 2013 — the first full group recruited by Stoops — was ranked No. 17 nationally. That’s the only time the Cats have finished in the Top 25 in the Rivals rankings.

Since UK’s class is nearly full, it’s likely the group will slide in the rankings as national signing day (Feb. 3) nears and other schools add more commitments, but there’s still a possibility that the Cats will end up with a Top 25 class.

Big weekend

Kentucky still has a couple of openings in its recruiting class of 2016, and a few candidates to fill those spots are expected to be in Lexington for official visits this weekend.

Here’s a look at three players planning to visit UK over the next few days (weather permitting):

T.J. Carter: The 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end does not have a star ranking from any of the major recruiting services nor a confirmed scholarship offer from Kentucky, but the latter could change between now and national signing day. UK assistant coaches Derrick Ansley and Jimmy Brumbaugh have been recruiting Carter, who told the Herald-Leader that he might fly into Lexington on Thursday. He has offers from Memphis, Samford and Wyoming.

J.J. Holmes: The 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive tackle from Chipley, Fla., just wrapped up his freshman season at Hutchinson Community College (Kan.), where he was a teammate of four-star UK signee Tate Leavitt. Holmes had a team-high 8.5 sacks in 11 games this past season and could provide the Cats with some much-needed depth on the interior of the defensive line. He is also expected to visit Missouri next weekend and has said that he plans to announce a college decision on national signing day.

TaDarryl Marshall: The 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete from Leeds, Ala., is being recruited by UK co-defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and is supposed to be on campus for a visit this weekend. Marshall had his scholarship offer from Tennessee revoked last month — he says he’s in good academic standing and no reason was given — after being committed to the Volunteers since April. UK is among the schools that reached out, and the Wildcats are seen as a legitimate landing spot for the three-star recruit. He’s projected as a defensive back in college.

Three-star defensive back Javontay Smith is also on UK’s recruiting radar to fill out the 2016 class, though there’s been no confirmation that he plans to visit this week. Smith, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound prospect from Columbus, Ga., was committed to North Carolina until last weekend. Scout.com ranks him as the No. 43 safety in the class.

Change of plans

Highly touted tight end Charles Reeves is no longer committed to Kentucky, he announced Wednesday.

“After having a long talk with my family and coaches I’ve decided to decommit from the University of Kentucky,” Reeves said on his private Twitter account. “I would like to re-open my recruitment.”

Reeves — a 6-foot-5, 230-pound prospect from Steubenville, Ohio — is the No. 11 tight end nationally in the class of 2017, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He originally committed to Kentucky in October over a scholarship offer from Michigan and serious interest from several other major programs.

The loss of Reeves leaves UK with seven commitments for the class of 2017.

UK’s football commitments for 2016

Player

Position

Hometown

Rivals

Scout

ESPN

247

Jaylin Bannerman

DE/LB

Pickerington, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Jordan Bonner*

DE/LB

Lyndhurst, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Ja’Quize Cross

DT

New Market, Ala.

**

***

***

***

Kash Daniel

LB

Paintsville, Ky.

****

***

***

****

Luke Fortner

OL

Sylvania, Ohio

***

**

***

***

Tobias Gilliam

CB

Huber Heights, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Jordan Griffin

CB

Jonesboro, Ga.

****

***

****

****

Gunnar Hoak

QB

Dublin, Ohio

***

***

****

***

Dakota Holtzclaw

WR

Columbus, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Zy’Aire Hughes

WR

Paducah, Ky.

***

***

***

***

Drake Jackson

OL

Versailles, Ky.

****

****

****

****

Stephen Johnson II*

QB

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

**

***

Tate Leavitt*

OL

Thornville, Ohio

****

***

****

***

Kordell Looney

DT

Springfield, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Grant McKinniss

P

Findlay, Ohio

**

****

***

**

Naquez Pringle*

DT

Hemingway, S.C.

**

***

***

***

Justin Rigg

TE

Springboro, Ohio

***

**

***

***

Davonte Robinson

CB

Lexington, Ky.

***

***

***

***

Asim Rose

RB

Garfield Heights, Ohio

***

**

***

***

Kayaune Ross*

WR

West Chester, Ohio

***

***

***

Benny Snell

RB

Westerville, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Roland Walder

LB

Trotwood, Ohio

***

***

***

***

Jamar Watson

LB

Forestville, Md.

**

***

**

***

Landon Young

OL

Lexington, Ky.

*****

****

****

*****

*-Junior-college transfer

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