Kentucky signed 21 new players on the first day of the early signing period Wednesday, but the Cats are expected to bring in a full 25-player class, and that means a few open scholarships remain heading into the final stages of the 2019 cycle.
Coach Mark Stoops said UK would largely take a “best available” approach — while also looking at possible transfers — over the next several weeks. The regular signing period begins Feb. 6.
“We’re on some really good kids that we knew were going to take it into February,” he said. “And we’re still going to continue to battle with those guys.”
Coming into this week, there were three recruits, in particular, that fit Stoops’ description — wide receiver Devonta Lee, and defensive backs Jammie Robinson and Jay Ward — and all three are likely to remain major targets for the Wildcats moving forward.
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Lee, a Louisiana native ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 80 overall recruit in the 2019 class, is teammates with UK quarterback signee Amani Gilmore and took an official visit to Lexington this past weekend. He tweeted that he “fell in love” with the program during that trip, and Gilmore will continue to help the Kentucky coaching staff recruit him going into February. Louisiana State has been seen as the favorite in his recruitment.
Robinson — a 5-foot-11 safety from Leesburg, Ga. — is also rated as a four-star recruit and also visited Kentucky over the weekend. Rivals.com ranks him as one of the top 25 safeties in the 2019 class. South Carolina is viewed as the Wildcats’ top competition in his recruitment.
Ward — a former UK commitment from Georgia — was expected to sign with LSU, but that didn’t happen Wednesday and his recruitment is now likely to extend into February (the early signing period technically ends Friday). Rivals.com gives Ward its highest three-star ranking designation.
UK landed two new commitments Wednesday, signing three-star defensive backs Quandre Mosely and Taj Dodson, both Georgia natives.
Mosely — a 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect — is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 2 junior college safety nationally, but he’s expected to contend for a starting spot at cornerback with the Cats.
“That was the best fit. When I went there, I felt at home,” Mosely said when announcing his decision. “I’ll be playing corner there. I won’t be playing safety anymore — strictly corner there.”
Dodson — listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds — has the highest three-star designation from Rivals.com, and, though he’s listed as a safety by the recruiting services, defensive coordinator Matt House suggested Wednesday morning that he’d start out at cornerback at Kentucky.
▪ Junior college teammates JaVonte Richardson and Elijah James were both listed as UK commitments heading into Wednesday, but neither signed with Kentucky and neither is expected to in the early period. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was unclear where they will end up.
Down to the wire
For the past few months, speculation centered on three-star defensive tackle Cavon Butler as a candidate to flip his commitment from Kentucky to a Big Ten power. Ohio State and Michigan State were the two likeliest choices, with many recruiting analysts expecting Butler to end up with the home-state Buckeyes, until this week, when the Spartans emerged as a popular prediction.
He signed with Kentucky, after all. UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow — Butler’s lead recruiter — got a lot of the credit.
“I was on the phone texting back and forth with Cavon until about 10:30, 11:00 last night,” Stoops said Wednesday. “I said, ‘I’ve got to get up early tomorrow, dog, I’ve got to get to bed.’
“And then I turned it over to Vince and said, ‘I’m going to bed, make sure he stays. I said, ‘Stay on him, big dog, all night.’ … We never take things for granted.”
Along with its official list of signees, UK released a rundown of recruits that are expected to enroll early in college classes next month. The Cats are planning to have 10 such players in the 2019 class: linebacker Marquez Bembry, Jared Casey and Tra Wilkins, defensive backs Taj Dodson, Moses Douglass, Brandin Echols and Quandre Mosely, offensive lineman Eli Cox, defensive lineman Isaiah Gibson and wide receiver DeMarcus Harris.
Getting the four defensive backs on campus early should be especially beneficial to a Kentucky team that loses five experienced starters in the secondary: cornerbacks Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson and Chris Westry, and safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West.