The December signing period for college football recruits has taken much of the luster off the traditional national signing day in February, but Kentucky still has a few heavy hitters on its 2019 radar with just a few days left in the cycle.
The Cats don’t have many spots to fill after adding 21 new players in December — the second year of existence for the early signing period — and that means UK’s coaches have been able to narrow their focus to a small pool of 2019 recruits while also looking ahead to 2020.
With national signing day set for next week — Feb. 6, to be exact — a quartet of prospects have emerged as major UK recruiting targets in these final days of the 2019 cycle. The Cats will take no more than four new players to add to their December haul, and they could take fewer than that in anticipation of incoming transfers before next season.
Here’s who to keep an eye on in between now and national signing day:
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One of UK’s highest-profile guests over the weekend, Devonshire was on campus for his official visit and posed for a photo with Vince Marrow and Wildcats basketball coach John Calipari in the Rupp Arena locker room after UK’s win over Kansas.
The 5-foot-11 defensive back from Aliquippa, Pa., received his UK scholarship offer less than two weeks ago, but he’s already emerged as one of the Cats’ top targets to close out the 2019 class. Mark Stoops is expected to make a trip to meet with Devonshire this week, and West Virginia and Pittsburgh are also clamoring for his commitment in the final days before he’s expected to announce a college choice Feb. 6.
It looks to be a three-team race for Devonshire, who is the No. 50 cornerback in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Following a week of reports that Lee would make the long drive from Amite, La., to Lexington for an unofficial visit, the four-star wide receiver didn’t end up taking the trip. Lee was on UK’s campus in December for an official visit, however, and he remains the highest-ranked target on the Wildcats’ 2019 list despite not showing up this past weekend.
The 6-foot-2 prospect has also been a priority recruit for Louisiana State, the hometown school, and it’s the Tigers that Kentucky will have to defeat to win his commitment next Wednesday. That’s a tough task, but the Cats have built a great relationship with Lee and already have a signature from his friend and quarterback, Amani Gilmore, who was also a standout player for Amite High School this past season.
Lee tweeted after his December visit that he “fell in love with Kentucky” as a result of that trip, but LSU will have him on campus for an official visit this weekend — the final weekend before national signing day — and that will be a critical 48 hours in his recruitment.
Rivals.com ranks Lee as the No. 126 overall prospect nationally in the 2019 class.
There was some hope on UK’s end that the Cats might be able to land an early commitment — and signature — from Robinson after hosting him for an official visit just a few days before the December signing period, but, as expected, he took his recruitment into the new year and remains uncommitted.
The 5-11 defensive back from Georgia has narrowed his list to Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee, and the favorite status in his recruitment has shifted over the past few weeks. The Gamecocks have picked up a slew of Crystal Ball predictions from national analysts and recruiting insiders across SEC country in the past couple of days, and they look to be the frontrunners heading into the final days of his recruitment.
Robinson is a top 400 national prospect in the class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
A familiar name to those who follow UK’s football recruiting efforts — Ward was actually committed to the Wildcats before backing off that pledge in November.
Kentucky’s staff never let up with the talented defensive back from Georgia, and the Cats now find themselves back in a good position with Ward as he contemplates a final decision on his recruitment. He publicly named Kentucky, Florida State, LSU and Texas A&M his four finalists last week and spent this past weekend on UK’s campus for an official visit. It’s possible he could hit FSU’s campus this weekend for the final official visit of his recruitment.
Ward earned high marks for his play during his senior season, and he could be a difference-maker in the Wildcats’ defensive backfield. Heading into the weekend, Rivals.com analyst Chad Simmons, who has followed Ward’s recruitment closely, wrote that UK was the “trending” school for the 6-1 prospect. Rivals ranks him as the No. 55 cornerback in the class.
▪ The Herald-Leader was told Sunday that UK is looking closely at other players in the 2019 class beyond the aforementioned four, but it’s not clear who else might ultimately join the Wildcats’ class.
▪ UK did extend a scholarship offer to junior-college wide receiver JaVonta Payton this month, but he told 247Sports late last week that he’s still “100 percent” committed to Mississippi State and doesn’t anticipate taking other visits.
▪ At one point, Ohio offensive lineman Jonathan Allen was expected to take an official visit to Kentucky this past weekend, but the Herald-Leader has been told that he is no longer a target for the 2019 class.
▪ Going into the December signing period, junior-college teammates JaVonte Richardson and Elijah James were listed as UK commitments. Neither signed with the Cats, and both are still finishing academic work at Iowa Western Community College. Their status in UK’s 2019 class is still up in the air.