UK Football

Lafayette football star Wills set to compete in Rivals Five-Star Challenge this weekend

Lafayette offensive lineman Jedrick Wills is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 17 overall prospect nationally in the recruiting class of 2017.
Lafayette offensive lineman Jedrick Wills is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 17 overall prospect nationally in the recruiting class of 2017. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Fresh off his recruiting visit to Notre Dame, local lineman and top University of Kentucky recruiting target Jedrick Wills heads to Atlanta this weekend to compete in the Rivals Five-Star Challenge, an event that draws some of the top high school prospects from across the country.

Wills — a 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman from Lafayette High School — goes into the camp ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 3 offensive tackle and No. 17 overall prospect in the class of 2017, and one of the most highly touted players from the state of Kentucky in recent years.

Earlier this week, Rivals.com recruiting analysts were asked to predict the MVPs at each position to preview the Five-Star Challenge. Three of the seven analysts said Wills would earn top offensive lineman honors. One of the three to pick him was national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell.

“I think he’s a guy that really does well in these settings, because he can play inside or outside,” Farrell told the Herald-Leader. “If he lines up at guard, he’s going to dominate whoever is in front of him. And it’ll be interesting if he does, because then he’s going against the Marvin Wilsons and Tyler Shelvins of the world.”

That’ll be some stiff competition.

Wilson — a 6-4, 320-pound defensive tackle — is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017, regardless of position. Naturally, he has scholarship offers from pretty much every major program in college football.

Shelvin — the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country — is already committed to Louisiana State, and Farrell called him “a taller Vince Wilfork,” referencing the five-time NFL Pro Bowl nose tackle.

If Wills plays his normal position, offensive tackle, he’ll face a different kind of opponent.

“On the outside, you’ve got these edge rushers that I think he can handle as well,” Farrell said. “There are guys that are ranked in his range — obviously, we’ve got some elite offensive tackles in this class — but in this setting, I just felt that he would be the best. We’ll see. It’ll be fun to watch.”

The Five-Star Challenge for recruits in the 2017 and 2018 classes begins Saturday morning, and this year’s competition will take place in the Georgia Dome.

Wills was named the No. 3 offensive lineman after last year’s Five-Star Challenge in Baltimore, despite being one of the younger players in attendance that weekend.

If you’re going to be confident about any highly rated kid going to Kentucky, I think it’s him. ... I think, right now, they’re a very strong leader for him.

Mike Farrell, Rivals.com national analyst

Off the field, Wills is one of the most highly recruited players in the country.

He recently narrowed his list to 10 schools — Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee — and he has scholarship offers from all of those programs.

Hometown UK has long been considered the favorite in Wills’ recruitment, though the Irish emerged in recent weeks as the perceived top competition for his commitment, and Wills visited South Bend on Wednesday.

Still, Farrell likes the Wildcats’ chances.

“If you’re going to be confident about any highly rated kid going to Kentucky, I think it’s him,” he said. “Obviously, he has teammates going there. He has ties to the area. He’s a local. It’s one of the those things where, the further you get from home and the higher rated they are, if you’re not a power program, then you have to worry.

“But I think he’ll end up there. … I think, right now, they’re a very strong leader for him.”

Wills has made it clear that he plans to take more recruiting visits and go through the process before announcing a college choice, and Farrell warned that UK cannot take a step back on the football field during that time.

“If they go 3-9 this season and absolutely deteriorate, he’s gone,” Farrell said. “That’s it.”

He compared Wills’ recruitment to that of UK defensive tackle Matt Elam — while noting that Wills is a much better prospect at this stage — pointing out that Elam enjoyed the recruiting process, accumulated offers from such schools as Alabama and Notre Dame, but always seemed like he wanted to be a Wildcat.

In the end, Elam did indeed commit to UK as part of the 2014 recruiting class that included 10 four-star players as the Cats’ coaching staff pitched a rosy future for the program.

“Now, the difference between those is that Elam was in the class that was selling the vision,” Farrell said. “And now we’re a few years removed from that.

“But I think he’s a heavy (UK) lean, let’s put it that way.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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