UK Recruiting

Several top football recruits give Kentucky chance to make impression this weekend

Drake Jackson,
in the Class of '16, hopes to make a college pick before his senior year.
Drake Jackson, in the Class of '16, hopes to make a college pick before his senior year.

The football recruiting cycle for 2015 is nearing its end, and this weekend marks the biggest opportunity for Kentucky to make a lasting impression on many of its top remaining targets.

Several highly touted high school seniors will be on UK's campus starting Friday, and many of those players will be using official visits to stay through the weekend and get a long look at Mark Stoops' program.

One of the most important visitors is Washington, D.C., defensive back Marcus Lewis, who is considered the No. 93 overall prospect in the senior class by Rivals.com.

The 6-foot recruit is ranked as the No. 6 safety in the country.

"He has the skill set to play cornerback and safety, which makes him a pretty valuable player," Rivals analyst Adam Friedman told the Herald-Leader. "His speed, his instincts, his length, his ability to quickly diagnose a play and then arrive with physicality — that makes him a special guy."

Lewis named a top three of Kentucky, Miami and Washington State this week. He's already taken an official visit to Washington State and is scheduled to be in Miami next month.

UK commitment Jabari Greenwood — Lewis' friend and high school teammate — is expected to accompany the four-star defensive back on this weekend's visit.

Friedman said Greenwood — along with D.C.-area commitment Levon Livingston and UK freshman Kobie Walker — have played a "huge" role in the Cats' recruitment of Lewis.

"Kentucky has a very good chance right now, but I see them as kind of neck and neck with Miami," Friedman said. "The Hurricanes have a lot of momentum right now. We'll see what ends up happening with them."

Vanderbilt commitment Josh Smith is another high-profile recruit expected to use an official visit on a trip to Lexington this weekend. Rivals.com ranks Smith as the No. 195 overall prospect and No. 12 outside linebacker in the senior class.

He committed to Vandy over Kentucky in July but has stayed in contact with the UK coaches. Oklahoma also extended a scholarship offer recently, and his recruitment is down to those three schools.

Junior-college offensive lineman Maurice Swain and high school cornerback Nate Dalton are among the top uncommitted prospects expected on UK's campus.

Auburn and Mississippi State are considered the leaders in Swain's recruitment, though he is still keeping an open mind toward Kentucky.

Rivals.com ranks Dalton — a 6-3 prospect from Texas — as the No. 42 cornerback in the class of 2015. Dalton took an official visit to Oklahoma last week and the Sooners look to be UK's main competition.

Several UK commitments, including Eli Brown, Mason Wolfe, Marcus Walker, Kei Beckham, George Asafo-Adjei and DaVon Hamilton, are expected to be in town. Many of those players will be here on official visits.

Stoops could also get a bit of good news beyond the class of 2015 this weekend.

Woodford County offensive lineman Drake Jackson is set to announce his college decision Saturday afternoon. Jackson is widely considered the No. 1 offensive center in the nation for the class of 2016 and has said several times in the past few months that UK is the favorite in his recruitment.

Jackson is also considering offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee.

No major recruiting event at UK would be complete without Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, who attended six of the Cats' seven home games this fall and is expected to be back in town this weekend for what could be the decisive weekend in his recruitment.

Harris — the nation's No. 1 running back — is coming off back-to-back visits to Alabama that seemingly established that program as UK's main competition.

Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell told the Herald-Leader that he has talked to commitments at both UK and Alabama recently, and it's been hard to get a handle on which way Harris is leaning as his Jan. 9 announcement date nears.

"Confidence is high on both sides," Farrell said. "Even on those visits he doesn't tell anyone anything. You'd think he'd tell secrets to kids, but he doesn't tip his hand at all. Just doing this so long, following running backs for so long ... every kid wants to see the team he's going to pick to show signs. And the string down the stretch did not help Kentucky in that respect."

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