The most highly touted football player in the state of Kentucky won’t be staying home to play for the Wildcats after all.
In what was seemingly the final twist in his high-profile recruitment, Wandale Robinson announced Wednesday that he had flipped his commitment from UK to Nebraska just five weeks after originally pledging to the Wildcats.
Robinson — a 5-foot-9, do-it-all star at nearby Western Hills High School in Frankfort — ran for 1,973 yards and 30 touchdowns to go along with 725 receiving yards and 11 TDs this past season and earned Mr. Football honors from the state’s coaches over the weekend.
He was the highest-ranked commitment in another solid UK recruiting class, but he now plans to play his college football for Nebraska, the school that was viewed as the leader for much of his recruitment.
Robinson announced his decision in a lengthy social media post Wednesday afternoon.
“Throughout this whole recruiting process I’ve always been told, ‘Do what’s best for you. You have to live your life for you and nobody else. Just follow your heart.’ Those words of advice got away from me as my verbal commitment date neared,” Robinson said. “I got overwhelmed by the pressure from outside influences, the pressure of staying home, and the pressure of trying to please everyone.
“Most people don’t realize the stress that goes on with recruiting, especially when it’s from your home state and everyone wants you to go there. Staying home is something I would have loved to do, but unfortunately my heart just isn’t there.”
Robinson went on to thank the UK coaching staff and the Wildcats’ fan base for their support during his recruiting process. “It was never my intention to hurt or mislead anyone or play any sort of game,” he said, before announcing his commitment to Nebraska and declaring an end to his recruitment. He will sign with the Cornhuskers on Dec. 19.
“He’s the No. 1 player in the state and a guy who’s a touchdown waiting to happen when he touches the football,” 247Sports national analyst Steve Wiltfong told the Herald-Leader. “I mean, it stinks to lose a guy like Wandale. He’s a game-changer, just a very explosive player for an offense that kind of lacks it outside of Lynn Bowden.
“It’s a guy that they put a lot of time and energy into recruiting. … It’s not a good day, but they’ve had a lot of good days under Stoops lately.”
Robinson — ranked by 247Sports as the No. 117 player nationally in the class of 2019 — acknowledged throughout his recruitment that Nebraska was his top school, but Kentucky — led by the recruiting efforts of Vince Marrow — stayed in the picture and won his initial commitment on Nov. 1.
Even with Robinson’s defection, the Wildcats have a solid class of 19 commitments for 2019, and UK is likely to add a pledge from Ballard linebacker Jared Casey — a four-star prospect — Thursday afternoon. Casey’s commitment would come a week after Moore defensive standout JJ Weaver — another four-star prospect from Louisville — committed to Kentucky.
“You look at Jared Casey and JJ Weaver, and you’re like, ‘Those are guys that we can continue to win a lot of football games in the SEC with.’ It’s just another solid Kentucky class with a lot of guys that have a lot of upside,” Wiltfong said. “These guys are good at evaluating.”
Wiltfong doesn’t expect Robinson’s decommitment to hurt UK’s in-state recruiting efforts at all as the Wildcats continue to target top players around the Bluegrass. “This is just a deal where Wandale sees a better situation for himself and his skill set at Nebraska than at Kentucky,” he said.
UK is coming off a 9-3 regular season and will play Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl appearance in 20 years. A victory in that game would give the Wildcats their first 10-win season since 1977.
Robinson’s decommitment will sting for a bit, but Wiltfong says Stoops clearly has UK on the right track.
“Kentucky wants to get to 10 wins this year, and they want to win more than 10. And Wandale’s a guy, I think, that could help you get there,” he said. “Now you lost him, so you have to score another evaluation win. Everyone thinks Wandale Robinson’s good. So Kentucky is going to have to find a guy who isn’t as touted; that not as many people think is good. But they’re out there.
“The program is on the right trajectory, and Wandale, you feel like, is a guy that can help you move it forward. But, look, Kentucky has recruited well across the board. And this ain’t the end of the Stoops era today.”