This is the last piece in a series looking at the incoming recruiting class and their oportunities to play in the 2012 season. We’ve covered the offensive skill positions (HERE), the offensive line (HERE), the defensive front seven (HERE), and the safeties and hybrids (HERE). Today, I’m wrapping up the class by taking a look at the cornerbacks, the lone ‘athlete’ signee, and the lone specialist in the signing class.
Shawn Blaylock – DB – 5’10 / 166 – Lithonia, GA
Blaylock will come to Kentucky out of Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain and will be joining Ronnie Shields, Jababri Johnson, Raymond Sanders, and fellow 2012 signee DeMarcus Sweat as former panthers to play for Kentucky. More importantly, he’ll be coming in as a cornerback when Kentucky has a glaring lack of depth at the position. It’s unlikely that every defensive back in this class will play as a true freshman, but it’s starting to look like several will. Blaylock’s “ace in the hole” is that he is also a standout on special teams and could contribute as a kickoff and punt returner early in his career. Still, Blaylock is considered relatively raw as a defensive back and a year of learning from coach Cassity certainly wouldn’t hurt his development.
Chances of playing in 2012: 50%
Cody Quinn – DB – 5’10 / 163 – Middletown, OH
Cody Quinn’s interest in Kentucky spiked when new defensive backs coach Mike Cassity was hired and he committed shortly thereafter. He picked Kentucky over offers from Illinois, West Virginia, Purdue, and Cincinnati and was also recruited by coach Cassity when he was at Marshall. Quinn certainly isn’t the biggest signee in the class, but he has the speed and playmaking ability to make an impact at corner early in his career. The staff may look to redshirt Quinn due to him only weighing in at 163 pounds, but lack of depth at cornerback and Quinn’s ability to contribute on special teams could lead to him seeing the field in his first year.
Chances of playing in 2012: 50%
Jonathan Reed – DB – 5’10 / 185 – Indianapolis, OH
When Reed committed to Kentucky way back in June, he looked destined for a redshirt season. Sophomore Jerrell Priester, redshirt freshman Dale Trimble, and true freshman Daylen Hall were all preparing for camp at the time and none of them are on the roster today. Despite coming in with several other cornerbacks, Reed still has a very good chance to play as a freshman. The above mentioned depth at corner has the Cats needing bodies for the depth chart, and at 185 pounds, Reed has filled out physically better than some of the players he’ll be competing with. Add his blistering speed and that he was the consensus top corner in the state of Indiana as a senior, and it’s obvious he can play.
Chances of playing in 2012: 60%
Fred Tiller – DB – 6’0 / 180 – Homerville, GA
I’ve never made any bones about how much I like Tiller as a player and I won’t change that stance now. Much like current Kentucky standout Bud Dupree, he played for a tiny 1A high school in Georgia and didn’t get the type of exposure that a player in Atlanta receives. Homerville’s total population is about 2,800. To put that into perspective, Tiller’s hometown is about a third of the size of Versailles, KY. Despite coming from the middle of nowhere, Tiller can play with the best of them and finished his senior year playing both receiver and corner. At 6’0 and 180 pounds, he has the size to play with SEC receivers right now and he should be one of the fastest players on the team when he arrives. There is a chance Tiller could be redshirted and developed as a safety, but he has the skills to play corner right away. I don’t want to put undue pressure on him, but with the limited depth at cornerback and Tiller’s abilities, I would not be even slightly surprised if he has claimed a starting spot by the end of the season. I’m going out on a limb here, but I just can’t see a scenario where the staff can keep Tiller off of the field.
Chances of playing in 2012: 100%
Jalen Whitlow – ATH – 6’2 / 210 – Prattville, AL
When Kentucky received a commitment from Patrick Towles last summer, it didn’t appear the Cats would pursue another option at quarterback. Then, less than a month from signing day, it surfaced that the Wildcats’ recruitment of Whitlow was heating up and they were able to hold off Ole Miss until signing day to get a signature from the athlete. Whitlow will start out as a quarterback, but I seriously doubt even he thinks that’s where his future lies. More realistically, Whitlow could play any one of several offensive and defensive positions that will allow him to capitalize on his abilities to help the team win. Most will assume Whitlow is destined for receiver, but I would challenge that. At 6’2 and 210 pounds, he has the frame to actually develop into an h-back/tight end type player that could give Kentucky its first true receiving option at the position since Jacob Tamme. And remember, Tamme came to Kentucky much leaner than Whitlow (6’4 / 205). If Whitlow can get his weight up to 230 pounds or so, he could be an excellent option in the passing game and would give the wildcats a great option for trick plays. Florida has proven that high school quarterbacks can be converted to tight ends successfully (see Jordan Reed and Cornelius Ingram), so it can be done. Converting Whitlow would give the Cats an athletic option at the position and would fill the void created by not adding a tight end in the last two signing classes. Of course this is all based on speculation on my part. Regardless of his eventual position though, Whitlow is almost a lock to redshirt this season as the staff figures out how to utilize him.
Chances of playing in 2012: 10%
Landon Foster – K/P – 6’1 / 198 – Thompson Station, TN
Joe Mansour and Jay Willmott have been battling for the starting punter position this spring, but both have yet to impress the staff. Coach Phillips stated that the team’s punter “May not be on campus yet” on his radio show recently and that may be an indication of how much the staff likes Landon Foster. There’s no doubt that he’ll be given a shot to beat out the competition, but you never really know how specialists will go. Two years ago, I would have thought Mansour was a lock to win the starting job as the team’s kicker, but he has yet to do so. If Foster impresses this summer, his chances of playing in 2012 jump up to 100%. If he can’t win the job, he’s a guaranteed redshirt. I’m betting he shows up and impresses.
Chances of playing in 2012: 90%
That’s the entire signing class. Injuries, academics, and other factors may change some of these projections as the offseason continues, but this is where things stand now (in my opinion).