Jen Smith on UK Football

The Class of 2016 players as they commit

UK Football Head Coach Mark Stoops talked during an afternoon news conference held in the media room at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Monday, January 4, 2016. Stoops later introduced new offensive coaches Darin Henshaw and Eddie Gran.
UK Football Head Coach Mark Stoops talked during an afternoon news conference held in the media room at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Monday, January 4, 2016. Stoops later introduced new offensive coaches Darin Henshaw and Eddie Gran. cbertram@herald-leader.com

JORDAN BONNER

Linebacker, 6-5, 220, So.-JC, Lyndhurst, Ohio (Brush/Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College) – Rated a three-start recruit and the No. 10 junior college linebacker nationally by 247sports ... Recorded 37 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2015 for the Norsemen ... Redshirted the 2014 season ... Played wide receiver and linebacker at Brush High School under Coach Jeff Wells ... Charted 65 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and two sacks as a senior ... Also had two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and an interception ... Earned first-team All-Northeast Ohio ... Also a standout basketball player ... Will have three seasons of eligibility remaining ... Chose Kentucky over offers from Louisville, Tennessee and Nebraska.

Stoops on Bonner: “Jordan is a long explosive athlete that can play in space as well as rush the passer. He will have three years of eligibility when he arrives, which gives him the ability to develop in our system.”

KORDELL LOONEY

Defensive Tackle, 6-3, 285, Fr.-HS, Springfield, Ohio (Springfield) -- A three-star recruit who was rated the No. 57 defensive tackle nationally and No. 42 player in Ohio by 247sports ... Rated No. 36 by Rivals ... Totaled 93 tackles and seven sacks in just two seasons of varsity football ... Didn’t start playing varsity football until his junior year of high school ... Two-time first-team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference honoree ... Second-team AP Southwest All-District as a senior ... Blue-Grey All-American Bowl Watch List ... Two-sport athlete at Springfield as he also played basketball ... Coached by Maurice Douglass ... Chose UK over Louisville, Illinois and Pittsburgh.

Stoops on Looney: “Kordell has great size and quickness to be an impact interior defensive lineman. He comes from a high school program that is coached by UK alum Maurice Douglass and he will be a great fit in our system.”

JA’QUIZE CROSS

Defensive Line, 6-3, 315, Fr.-HS, New Market, Ala. (Buckhorn) – Pronounced ja-QUEZ ... Talented defensive tackle is a three-star prospect by ESPN, Scout and 247sports … Finished his three-year career with 84 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, adding 14 QB hurries and causing a fumble … Three-star prospect by ESPN, tabbed as the 37th best prospect in Alabama and the 77th best defensive tackle … Tabbed by Scout as a three-star prospect, the second-best defensive tackle in Alabama and the 79th best defensive tackle in the nation … Rated by Rivals.com as a two-star prospect … Tabbed by 247sports as a three-star prospect, the 75th best defensive tackle in the nation and the 40th best prospect in Alabama ... Coached by David O’Conner ... Had offers from several schools but chose Kentucky over Minnesota and Purdue.

Stoops on Cross: “Ja’Quize came to our camp last summer and impressed us with his ability and technique. He has the size and work ethic we need and is a great addition to our team.”

KAYAUNE ROSS

Wide Receiver, 6-6, 225, So.-JC, West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West/Phoenix College) – Pronounced KAY-waun ... A three-star recruit out of high school ... Caught 15 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in five games before injury sidelined him as a freshman at Phoenix College (Ariz.) in 2014 ... Redshirted the 2015 season ... Will have three seasons of eligibility remaining ... Will be reunited with former high school teammates Kyle Meadows, Mikel Horton and George Asafo-Adjei ... Named second-team All-Greater Miami Conference in 2011 for Coach Larry Cox at Lakota West High School ... Also played basketball ... Picked UK over offers from Arizona State, Indiana and Louisville.

Stoops on Ross: “Kayaune is another big wide receiver target. He’s 6-foot-6 and has the ability to go up and catch the ball at its high point. He will have three years of eligibility to play and we look forward to him having a big impact on our team.”

JAMAR “BOOGIE” WATSON

Linebacker, 6-3, 225, Fr.-HS, Forestville, Md. (Bishop McNamara) – A three-star recruit who ranks as a top 100 outside linebacker by Scout despite not playing football until his junior year of high school ... Dual sport athlete in basketball and football ... Came on the recruiting scene after a great junior season which saw him chart 74 tackles and a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown ... As a senior, he helped lead the Mustangs to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoff berth for the first time in five years with 59 tackles, including five sacks and two interceptions, one he returned 68 yards for a touchdown ... Coached by Keith Goganious ... As standout basketball player, he also received several college scholarship offers after averaging 11.4 points during his junior year ... Earned back-to-back MVP honors at Bishop McNamara in basketball ... Chose UK after receiving football offers from Old Dominion, Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Hampton, Virginia and Rutgers.

Stoops on Watson: “He’s another great athlete who was a basketball player most of his career but had a great impact on the football field the last two years. He has the athleticism and explosiveness we are looking for at outside linebacker.”

ZY’AIRE HUGHES

Athlete, 6-1, 190, Fr.-HS, Paducah, Ky. (McCracken County) – A three-star recruit by all the major recruiting services ...Can play multiple positions after seeing time at running back, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in high school ... Concluded his prep career with an outstanding 4,914 passing yards with 46 touchdowns, 2,779 rushing yards with 53 touchdowns and 1,128 receiving yards on 89 receptions for another 10 scores ... After playing quarterback and receiver most of his high school career, he moved to running back his senior season and was named the 2015 Purchase Area Player of the Year by the Paducah Sun ... Compiled 1,170 rushing yards, 374 receiving yards and combined for 21 touchdowns in helping lead the Mustangs to a 10-3 record and a berth in the KHSAA Class 6A playoffs ... Earned 2015 All-State honorable mention by the Courier-Journal ... Fifth-highest scorer in the state as a senior, accounting for 128 points (17 TD runs, four receiving and one 2-point conversion) ... Completed 172 of 294 passes for 2,446 yards and 23 scores with just eight interceptions as a sophomore quarterback ... Also ran 116 times for 634 yards and 16 touchdowns ... Coached by Shawn Jackson at McCracken County ... Played his freshman season at Lone Oak High School before the McCracken County schools consolidated ... For the Purple Flash, he was 81 of 130 passing for 1,253 yards and 14 scores in just five games ... In addition, he ran 61 times for 390 yards and nine TDs ... Chose Kentucky over Louisville and Purdue.

Stoops on Hughes: “Zy’Aire is another great in-state addition for us. He is an explosive wide receiver with a great ability to change direction and make big plays. He will have a bright future in our program.”

JORDAN GRIFFIN

Defensive Back, 6-0, 175, Fr.-HS, Jonesboro, Ga. (Jonesboro) -- A four-star prospect by Rivals, which rates him as the 15th best cornerback in the nation and the No. 16 prospect in talent-laden Georgia, 191 nationally ... ESPN tabs him as the No. 23 corner in the nation and the 34th best player in Georgia … Ranked by 247sports as a three-star recruit, as the nation’s No. 37 cornerback and the No. 32 best prospect in Georgia … Scout ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 46 best cornerback overall, third-best in Georgia … Named First-team All-State by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ... At corner, he totaled 15 tackles and notched a pair of interceptions ... Also forced one fumble and had one fumble recovery … An excellent wide receiver as he caught 68 passes for 1,008 yards and 10 touchdowns in helped lead the Cardinals to an 11-2 overall record as a senior ... Accounted for 412 receiving yards and three touchdowns as a junior, while also intercepting one pass ... Also played basketball … Chose UK over Auburn, Clemson and Stanford.

Stoops on Griffin: “Jordan is prototypical cornerback. He has the size, instincts, speed and technique we are looking for in a player. He’s a gifted athlete, a great person and we are excited about his future at Kentucky.”

ASIM “A.J.” ROSE

Running Back, 6-1, 200, Fr.-HS, Cleveland, Ohio (Garfield Heights) – A 3-star, versatile athlete who is rated the No. 34 athlete in Ohio by 247sports ... Stepped in for an injured teammate at quarterback and passed for 616 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running 94 times for 770 yards and 12 scores ... Earned an invitation to the 2016 Ohio High Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic ... Named to the Northeast Ohio Conference All-Lake Division first team as a junior after leading his team to a conference championship and a Division II playoff appearance ... Coached by Chuck Reisland who said “He’s got tremendous size and he’s going to get bigger. He runs track and played basketball. He’s just a very talented player and a great athlete” ... Has been involved with the Boy Scouts for 13 years, earning his Eagle Scout in 2014 ... Picked UK over Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota.

Stoops on Rose: “A.J. is another big-time athlete with the ability to play many positions. He will compete for major playing time at running back this season because he has great size and breakaway ability.”

GRANT MCKINNISS

Punter, 6-1, 210, Fr.-HS, Findlay, Ohio (Findlay) -- A four-star recruit who is rated the nation’s No. 4 punter according to Scout ... Earned Three Rivers Athletic Conference first-team honors as a placekicker four straight seasons and was a first-team selection as a punter three seasons in a row ... Two-time first-team All-Northwest Ohio honoree ... Converted 38 of 40 PAT kicks and 10 of 11 field goals, including a season-long 52-yarder as a senior ... Averaged 39.4 yards on punts and put 11 of 32 kicks inside the 20-yard line ... As a junior, averaged 40.8 yards on 41 punts, dropping 12 punts inside the 20-yard line … Converted 40 of 42 PAT attempts and was 5-for-8 in field goal attempts, including a school-record 53-yarder … While kicking off in 2014, had 44 of his 60 kickoffs downed for touchbacks ... Earned second-team All-State honors as a junior, marking his second consecutive year honored … Named MaxPreps 2012 Freshman All-American First Team ... Also earned third team All-Ohio Division I as a freshman ... For his career, connected on 148 of 159 PAT attempts and 29 field goals ... His 235 points ties him for the sixth-highest total for points by a kicker in the Ohio prep football record books ... One of the Elite 88 high school seniors selected to compete in the 10th annual Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and the 2016 Ohio High Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic.

Stoops on McKinniss: “Grant has an extremely strong leg and is versatile because he can kick off as well. We look forward to him stepping in and competing for the starting job this year.”

DAVONTE ROBINSON

Cornerback, 6-2, 180, Fr.-HS, Lexington, Ky. (Henry Clay) – On top of the best cornerbacks in the state as a senior, he also was a running back, using his speed to score seven touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving and one 91-yard kickoff return) ... As a junior he rushed for 492 yards on 35 carries and six touchdowns, while recording 32 tackles and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown on defense ... Led the team in tackles three straight seasons, including a team-high 100 tackles and one interception in 2015 ... Coached by Sam Simpson who said, “Davonte possesses the on-the-field instincts and off-the-field work ethic that belong to the elites. Davonte is a hard worker. He’s a selfless individual. He doesn’t command a lot of attention; he doesn’t require all of that. He’s a team player” ... Named Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-city by the Lexington Herald-Leader as a senior ... ... A 2015 Herald-Leader “Class of Commonwealth” honoree ... Helped the Blue Devils advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 7-5 record in 2015 ... Class 3A state track champion in the 100 meters (10.85) as a sophomore ... Finished second in the state in 2015 in the 4x400 relay ... Winner of the 400-meter dash and second in the 100 meters at the 2015 Fayette County Public Schools Track and Field Championships ... Picked UK over Georgia, Louisville, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Stoops on Robinson: “Davonte may be the most underrated prospect in this entire class. He is a special football player and talent. He has the ability to play many positions but we will play him at corner. I can’t wait to work with him.”

LUKE FORTNER

Offensive Tackle, 6-6, 305, Fr.-HS, Sylvania, Ohio (Sylvania Northview) – A three-star offensive tackle by ESPN, Rivals and 247sports … Rated as the 69th best offensive lineman nationally and the 36th best prospect in Ohio by 247sports ... Also played guard and center ... Coached by Doug Downing ... Scout says, “Physical player - does a great job of getting and maintaining leverage once engaged with defender. Majority of the time plays under control and balanced showing the ability to beat a defender on own. Played tackle and center in high school. We feel he’s got the raw talent to work with but a year in a college system will help him with his footwork and learning more about pass-protection. Solid pick up for the Wildcats as Fortner is a player who will benefit from a season or two in the college game” ... Earned third-team All-Ohio for Division II ... Named second-team All-Northwest Ohio in 2014 ... Dual-sport athlete as he also was a center on the Northview basketball team ... Honor-roll student ... Chose UK over Akron, Cincinnati, Marshall, Maryland, Toledo and Western Michigan.

Stoops on Fortner: “Luke has great size. He has the ability to play three positions on the offensive line and he gives us the physical presence we are looking for up front. We are looking forward to developing Luke.”

TOBIAS GILLIAM

Defensive Back, 5-11, 190, Fr.-HS, Dayton, Ohio (Wayne) – Pronounced Tobias GILL-ee-um ... Consensus three-star cornerback … Scout has him ranked as the 87th best cornerback in the nation and the third-best corner in Ohio … ESPN rates him as the 59th best cornerback in the nation and the 36th best prospect in Ohio … Rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 46 cornerback … Rivals.com says, “He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s always bringing his best. He’s always ready to play football. He has a very good skill set — it’s probably not an elite skill set, but he gets the most out of what he has. He’s not going to back down, no matter who’s standing across from him. The way he’s built, he should be an asset in run support. He’s not a wispy, little defensive back that gets run over by big running backs” … 247sports rates him as the 68th best cornerback in the nation and the 30th best prospect in the state of Ohio … Had 46 tackles and two interceptions as a junior ... Recorded 77 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a senior ... Notched a season-high 10 tackles in a 56-17 rout of Centerville ... Also forced two fumbles and grabbed two interceptions in 2015 ... Named AP First Team All-Ohio, the Southwest District and the GWOC Central Defensive Player of the Year ... Helped lead the Wayne Warriors to an undefeated regular season and its second straight regional title and appearance in the D-1 state championship game ... Was part of a stingy defense which held nine of its 10 opponents to 17 points or fewer ... Coached by Jay Minton ... Wayne finished the 2015 season ranked eighth nationally and second in the state of Ohio ... Had recruiting offers from several schools but chose UK over Minnesota, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

Stoops on Gilliam: “We are very excited about Tobias. He comes from a strong high school program and he knows how to win. We’ve had the opportunity to work with him in the summers at camp and we have been very impressed with his ability and work ethic.”

T.J. CARTER

Defensive End, Fr.-HS, 6-4, 245, Mableton, Ga. (Whitefield Academy) – Earned first-team All-South Region 6-A and first-team All-Cobb County honors as a senior playing defensive end and offensive tackle at Whitefield Academy ... Totaled 68 tackles, including 10 for loss as a senior ... Also charted six sacks and 18 quarterback hurries ... Was the Wolfpacks’ sack leader as a sophomore and junior ... Named Defensive Player of the Game vs. Walker after recording six tackles for loss and a sack in addition to four pancake blocks on the offensive line as a junior ... Coached by Quinn Gray ... Chose UK over Memphis, Samford and Wyoming.

Stoops on Carter: “T.J. is an explosive athlete who we watched on tape and loved the way he made plays. He is an aggressive player that has a tremendous upside.”

BENNY SNELL

Running Back, 5-11, 220, Fr.-HS, Westerville, Ohio (Westerville Central) – Three-star recruit who ranks in the top 50 running backs nationally by every major recruiting service ... Rated as the No. 41 running back nationally and No. 27 junior in Ohio by 247sports ... Rivals ranks him the No. 38 prospect in Ohio ... Helped lead Westerville Central to two Ohio Capital Conference titles, three straight Division I playoff appearances and an overall 35-6 record during his prep career ... Totaled 1,826 rushing yards, 264 yards receiving and 29 touchdowns as a senior ... Ran for 241 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns in a single game ... Named OCC Cardinal Division Player of the Year and AP All-Central District Offensive Player of the Year ... Two-time first-team All-Central District and Division I All-Ohio ... Earned an invitation to the 2016 Ohio High Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic ... Equally impressive his junior season when he compiled 2,077 rushing yards, 291 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns (26 rushing and two receiving) ... Coached by John Magistro ... Chose UK over Iowa, Cincinnati, Boston College, Toledo and West Virginia.

Stoops on Snell: “Benny is hard-nosed downhill runner. Being the Ohio Division I player of the year says a lot about his abilities. He can get the tough yards when we need them and he will compete for playing time as well.”

JAYLIN BANNERMAN

Linebacker, 6-5, 220, Fr.-HS, Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central) – A tall and speedy linebacker/defensive end who is a consensus three-star prospect … PHS posted an impressive 34-10 record and won four straight Ohio Capital Conference Championships during his career ... Coached by Jay Sharrett ... Earned first-team All-Conference and second-team All-Central District honors in 2015 ... As a junior he totaled 87 tackles, including 17 tackles for a loss in helping Pickerington go undefeated in the regular season at 10-0 … Three-star prospect by Scout.com, which ranks him as the fourth-best defensive end in Ohio and the 56th best defensive end in the nation … Scout.com says, “Long framed athlete who is raw but shows signs of being a high level player in the coming years. Length will allow Kentucky to do a couple of things with him. First he can stay at defensive end and add bulk without losing athletic ability. He could also add less bulk and take a step back and line up as a linebacker depending upon the scheme the Wildcats want to run” … Rated by 247sports as a three-star prospect and as the 37th best prospect in Ohio … Tabbed by ESPN as the No. 37 prospect in the state of Ohio and the 96th best defensive end … Rated by Rivals as the 48th best prospect in Ohio … Also starred in basketball and track & field as a high jumper ... Had offers from Pittsburgh, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Toledo.

Stoops on Bannerman: “Jaylin is a dynamic athlete who has great size and length. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school who has the ability to develop as a standup edge player.”

ROLAND WALDER

Linebacker, 6-3, 215, Fr.-HS, Dayton, Ohio (Trotwood-Madison) -- Ranked the No. 29 inside linebacker nationally and the No. 32 prospect overall in Ohio, according to the 247Sports ... Rated the No. 40 middle backer nationally by Rivals ... An all-around athlete, playing wide receiver as well ... Named Southwest Ohio Division III Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state selection after an impressive senior season that saw him record 62 tackles, including seven sacks ... Offensively, he had 16 receptions for 280 yards and three touchdowns ... Had a great junior season with 92 tackles and three forced fumbles ... Helped Trotwood-Madison advance to at least the state semifinals all four years of his prep career ... Three-year starter for Coach Jeff Graham ... Reunites with high school teammate Kei Beckham ... Chose UK over offers from Nebraska, Purdue, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and Toledo.

Stoops on Walder: “Roland is an athletic linebacker with the versatility we like. He can play inside or outside linebacker and he is very explosive with great instincts.”

LANDON YOUNG

Offensive Lineman, 6-7, 305, Fr.-HS, Lexington, Ky. (Lafayette) --

A five-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports ... No. 1 prospect in Kentucky No. 12 overall prospect in the nation by 247sports ... Named top offensive lineman in the U.S. Army All-American Game for the West squad who won, 37-9 ... Rivals’ national analyst Mike Farrell said “He has tremendous feet and length. Young has always looked the part of a five-star and he was easily the best offensive tackle on the West team at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl” ... Helped the Generals average 36.7 points per game and advance to the Class 6A state title game ... Two-time first-team all-state selection by the Courier-Journal and The Associated Press ... A 2015 Herald-Leader “Class of Commonwealth” honoree ... A phenomenal athlete who wrestles and participates in track and field ... Ranked at the state’s top wrestler at 285 after finishing fourth in the state as a junior ... Was the 2014 Class 3-A track and field champion in the shot put and discus ... Named the 2014 Gatorade Kentucky Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year ... 2013 USATF National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships runner-up in both the shot put and discus ... Coached by Eric Shaw ... Officer in Lafayette’s Future Farmers of America chapter and also a member of the Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes ... Chose UK over offers from Alabama, Auburn and Ohio State.

Stoops on Young: “What can you say about Landon Young except when you look up ‘left tackle’ in the dictionary there is a picture of him. He has unbelievable athleticism and agility for such a big man. He is your prototypical left tackle that every program would love to build their offensive line around. We are excited to have him on our team.”

JUSTIN RIGG

Tight End, 6-6, 245, Fr.-HS, Springboro, Ohio (Springboro) - A 3-star tight end who is rated the No. 47 tight end and No. 43 player in Ohio by 247sports ... Voted team captain his senior season and hauled in 35 catches for 394 yards and a touchdown ... Also key in the Panthers’ perimeter run and passing game ... Helped Springboro finish 11-3 and advance to the second round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs ... Named Greater Western Ohio All-Conference ... Earned an invitation to the 2016 Ohio High Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic ... Hauled in 23 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns as a junior ... Coached by Ryan Wilhite ... Also a letter winner and team captain on the basketball team at Springboro, averaging 9.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a senior ... Picked UK over Bowling Green, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Pittsburgh, Toledo and Wake Forest.

Stoops on Rigg: “We are very excited about Justin. He has the size we are looking for in a tight end. He has the upside to be a physical presence on the line of scrimmage and he also has the ability to stretch the field.”  

++++++++++ MID-YEAR ENROLLEES ++++++++++

KASH DANIEL

Linebacker, 6-1, 235, Fr.-HS, Paintsville, Ky. (Paintsville) – U.S. Army All-American, named a team captain for the West squad ... Helped the West win the game, 37-9 … Named Kentucky’s Mr. Football and Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year ... Named first-team all-state by the Courier-Journal and The Associated Press ... A 2015 Herald-Leader “Class of Commonwealth” honoree ... Winner of the Paul Hornung Award, honoring the top player in the state … A two-way star as a quarterback and linebacker at Paintsville, helping the Tigers compile a 13-1 record and advance to the Class 1A semifinals ... Rushed and passed for 2,245 combined yards (1,319 passing) and a 36 combined touchdowns as a senior (22 rushing TDs) … Defensively in 2015, he had 158 tackles, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions, returning a pair for touchdowns … Coach by Joe Chirico ... Rated as a three-star recruit by 247sports, as the No. 13 inside linebacker and the third-best prospect in the state of Kentucky … A three-star prospect by Rivals, is tabbed as the 15th best inside linebacker and third best prospect in the state … Ranks as a three-star recruit by ESPN, No. 8 in the state of Kentucky and the 42nd best inside linebacker … Three-star prospect by Scout, ranks as the 23rd best inside linebacker in the nation … 247sports says, “Tremendous athleticism, great work ethic. He’s strong and he’s good laterally. He’s certainly elite laterally. The guy can go to Kentucky and be the leading tackler for the Wildcats three years. Just tough as nails, knows the game, is extremely talented and has a good upside. When you’re trying to play football in the SEC, you can never have too many guys like this.” ... Also lettered in baseball and basketball at Paintsville … Picked UK over Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Ohio, Purdue, South Carolina and Illinois.

Personal: Born in Pikeville, Ky., ... Son of Scott Daniel and Lela Layne … Major is communications.

Coach Stoops on Daniel: “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Kash, Kentucky’s Mr. Football, to our team. 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.”

GUNNAR HOAK

Quarterback, 6-4, 190, Fr.-HS, Dublin, Ohio (Dublin Coffman) – Tabbed by ESPN as a four-star prospect, ranking No. 14 among quarterbacks nationally and No. 12 among prospects in Ohio … All-Central District Division I special mention as a senior ... A three-star prospect by Rivals … Ranked by 247sports as a three-star prospect, as the No. 37 pro-style quarterback in the nation and as the 36th best prospect in Ohio … Had 1,798 yards through the air and 14 touchdowns with only six interceptions during his senior season ... Was named Central District Player of the Year as a junior … Threw for 2,584 yards with 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions as a junior, leading the Shamrocks to an 11-1 record … Coached by Mark Crabtree at Dublin Coffman, which has produced seven Division I quarterbacks since 2003 … Crabtree says, “He’s very intelligent about the game of football. He’s got a very good arm, has a lot of nice touch and can throw all the various throws. The exciting thing is he’s only going to get better, too.” … Choose UK over Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kent State, Syracuse and Toledo.

Personal: Born in Columbus, Ohio ... Son of Frank and Holly Hoak … Major is undecided.

Coach Stoops on Hoak: “We’ve very excited to have Gunnar in our program. 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.”

DAKOTA HOLTZCLAW

Wide Receiver, 6-7, 215, Fr.-HS, Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne) – A three-star prospect by all four major recruiting services … Totaled 28 catches for 421 yards and a touchdown as a senior for Worthington Kilbourne … Had five catches for 141 yards and a TD in a week-four win … All-Central District Division II special mention as a senior, helping lead his team to an 11-2 overall record ... Coached by Vince Trombetti ... Three-star prospect by 247sports, which ranks him as the 39th best tight end in the nation and the 31st best prospect in Ohio … Ranked by Rivals as a three-star prospect and the 37th best player in the state … A three-star prospect by ESPN, ranking No. 20 among tight ends and 22nd in the state of Ohio … Tabbed by Scout as the 29th best tight end and the fifth-best tight end in Ohio … Scout says, “He has the ability to run by people, or go up and over defensive backs to get the football at its highest point. He should eventually be a first-down machine, and of course an excellent red zone target.” … Chose UK over Indiana, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Duke and Ohio.

Personal: Born in Columbus, Ohio ... Son of Ray and Sharmin Holtzclaw … Major is undecided.

Coach Stoops on Holtzclaw: “Dakota has great size and speed. 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.”

DRAKE JACKSON

Center, 6-2, 302, Fr.-HS, Versailles, Ky. (Woodford County) – U.S. Army All-American, named a team captain for the West squad … Helped the West win the game, 37-9 ... Two-time first-team all-state selection by the Courier-Journal and The Associated Press ... A 2015 Herald-Leader “Class of Commonwealth” honoree ... A four-star prospect by all four major recruiting services who is tabbed by Scout as the nation’s top center recruit … Invited to Nike’s The Opening – the most prestigious football recruiting camp of the 2015 summer – and the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge … The nation’s second-best center, according to 247sports, which also ranks him as the second-best prospect in the state and the 140th best in the nation … Ranked as the second-best center and the second-best prospect in the state by Rivals after recording 163 pancake blocks as a senior … ESPN ranks him the third-best center and No. 2 overall in the state … Rated by Scout as the 83rd best prospect in the nation … Coached by former UK All-SEC defensive end Dennis Johnson … Johnson says, “Good footwork, works hard in the weight room, is super-duper smart and asks a lot of questions about what to do, which is great because not many high school linemen do that. His mental capacity is way above most high school kids.” … The four-year letterwinner picked UK over Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU.

Personal: Born in Lexington, Ky. ... Son of Brian and Candy Jackson … Major is business.

Stoops on Jackson: “Drake is an outstanding lineman with polished technique for a player coming out of high school. 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.”

STEPHEN JOHNSON II

Quarterback, 6-3, 190, Jr.-JC, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Los Osos/Grambling/College of the Desert) – Dual-threat quarterback ...Rated as a three-star recruit and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the junior college rankings ... Is coming off a dynamic season at the College of the Desert (Calif.) after a pair of seasons at Grambling … Redshirted the 2013 season ... Completed 59 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns while carrying the ball for 91 yards and another score in the first four games of his redshirt freshman season in 2014 ... Suffered a high ankle sprain midway through his redshirt freshman season at Grambling, which sidelined him for a month ... Transferred to College of the Desert in Palm Desert , Calif., and played for head coach Jack Steptoe ... In 2015, threw for 3,210 yards and rushed for an additional 429, while leading the Southern California Football Association in passing yards per game (321.0) and passing touchdowns (34) ... Added eight rushing scores for the Roadrunners in his impressive sophomore season ... His 2015 total yardage and quarterback rating was first among all quarterbacks in Southern California ...Recruited out of high school by Doug Williams at Grambling ... Steptoe says, “He’s a complete guy. Not only that, he’s a great character kid. Stephen has no problem with mechanics. He’s got a great touch pass. He’s got a great zip pass. ... He has great football intelligence. He’s amazing to watch, man, but he’s a very humble kid. Players elevate to him. It’s real simple: when the going gets tough you want to put the ball in Stephen’s hands” … Named Mountain American Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year after leading College of the Desert to a 6-4 record and share of the league title for the first time in more than a decade... Named to the Region IV All-California first team ... Totaled 1,712 passing yards and 34 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons at Los Osos High School ... Chose Kentucky over offers from Hawaii and Arkansas State.

Personal: Born in Inglewood, Calif. ... Son of Stephen and Paula Johnson … Major is economics.

Stoops on Johnson: “We are extremely excited to add Stephen to our team. He is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who has all of the skills to compete in the SEC. He will be able to learn the system and compete with the other quarterbacks in spring practice and as a junior he brings experience and a wealth of talent to our program.”

TATE LEAVITT

Offensive tackle, 6-6, 310, Jr., Thornville, Ohio (Hutchinson Community College) – Highly regarded junior offensive tackle ... Comes to Kentucky after playing two seasons at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kan., where he helped the 2015 Blue Dragons lead the Jayhawk Conference and rank eighth nationally in rushing at 244.8 yards per game ... Hutchinson running backs rushed for 32 touchdowns and the Blue Dragons were second in total offense at 486.1 yards per game ... Listed as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, which rates him No. 8 on the top 100 junior college prospect rankings ... Fifth-best junior college offensive tackle and seventh-best player in state of Ohio by 247sports.com ... “On the field he has the ability to throw that switch and be a tough physical player and a guy you want,” Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades said. “He’s light on his feet in the passing game and can also finish in the run game.” ... In high school, Leavitt was a two-time All-MVL honoree for Sheridan High School who registered 149 pancake blocks in just two years ... He helped his team a 9-2 season as a junior and a trip to the state playoffs ... Two-time varsity letterwinner in both football and basketball ... Scout.com scouting report says he “has great size for the offensive tackle position. The strength and power is readily apparent as he drives downfield on his blocks very well. He’s very natural at sliding to the right to down block and does a great job at getting inside defensive lineman to block them away from the play.” ... Chose Kentucky after offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Buffalo, Illinois, Kansas State, Louisville, Missouri, NC State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

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

NAQUEZ PRINGLE

Defensive Line, 6-2, 330, Jr.-JC, Georgetown, S.C. (Carvers Bay/Itawamba CC) – Three-star defensive lineman out of Itawamba Community College (Miss.) … Had 21 tackles and a tackle for a loss, adding a fumble recovery in 2015 for Itawamba … Is rated as the 25th best defensive tackle and the 31st best prospect in South Carolina by 247sports … Totaled 19 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one interception and blocked two kicks as a freshman for Itawamba … Coming out of high school, ESPN rated him as a three-star recruit, No. 66 at defensive tackle and the 20th best prospect in the state of South Carolina … As a senior at Carvers Bay, had 66 tackles and six sacks, earning invitations to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and the 2013 Under Armour All-American Combine … Starred on both sides of the ball for Carvers Bay and after an injury to the starting kicker, stepped up and served as the team’s placekicker … Was coached by Nate Thompson at Carvers Bay who says, “He makes you look good. He works hard. He makes others work hard and makes them believe they can do what they want to do” … Had offers from Clemson and South Carolina out of high school.

Personal: Born in Georgetown, S.C. ... Son of Ben and Nakeya Armstrong … Major is physical education.

Stoops on Pringle: “We are excited to have Naquez in the program. He is an extremely powerful and fundamental interior defensive lineman who was heavily recruited out of high school. We are very pleased he was able to enroll at Kentucky mid-year and that he will be able to work out and participate in spring practice. He will add much-needed depth to our defensive line.”

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