On Tuesday, I outlined how mismanagement of Kentucky’s roster by Joker Phillips and his staff have left Stoops and company behind the 8-ball. Yesterday, Coach Stoops took the first step towards fixing the mess by signing junior college players Steven Borden and Za’Darius Smith. Borden, a tight end, is 6’3 / 250 athlete with reported 4.5-speed. He immediately helps out a muddied tight end situation and gives Kentucky a receiving threat that can make plays after the catch. Smith, a defensive end, should come in and compete for playing time right away at what might be the Wildcat’s biggest position of need.
The best way to balance the unbalanced roster this season is probably to continue pursuing junior college players to help balance the classes out after so many defections from the junior and senior classes. Here are some other players to keep an eye on.
Javess Blue – WR – 6’1 / 195
Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown has made it clear that Kentucky plans to add several receivers to the roster and Blue could be an immediate contributor. He was heavily recruited by Brown at TTU as a high school senior, so expect Brown to make a push for him again this time around. Kentucky will have to beat out Mississippi State, Texas A&M, West Virginia, and others for his signature though.
David Washington – DT – 6’2 / 315
Washington is a former Kentucky commitment that failed to qualify the first time around. He recommitted to Joker this season, but opened back up as things headed south for UK. Now that Stoops has assembled his staff, it looks like it will be between Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech.
Riyahd Jones – DB – 6’0 / 185
Once upon a time, Jones was a Kentucky commitment and one of the most vocal ones in recent memory. After having his offer pulled (presumably for academics), he’s now a junior college corner with an offer sheet that includes UK, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and West Virginia among others. He was recruited at Texas Tech this year, so don’t be surprised to see the Cats make a push for him to add a quality corner and a player that could give some experience to a very green secondary.
Markeith Ambles – WR – 6’2 / 190
Two years ago, Ambles was a five-star receiver from Georgia that picked USC over offers for pretty much every school I the country (UK included). Fast forward to today and Ambles is a junior college receiver who’s best offers are Illinois and Iowa State. Don’t be surprised to see the Kentucky staff make a run at him and see if he still has some of the skills that made him a top-5 receiver in high school. He would fill a position of dire need as well.
Austin Douglas – OL – 6’2 / 300
Douglas isn’t the highest rated player Kentucky is after, but he’s an available player at a position of need (center). With Matt Smith graduating, Kentucky returns redshirt freshman Zach Myers and walk-on max Godby next season. Early reports on Myers have been promising, but Douglas could be an insurance policy of sorts.
Larry Butler – LB – 6’1 / 245
Butler was lightly recruited the first time around, but now as a JUCO stud, he is sporting offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. He is probably best suited as a middle linebacker, so he would most likely spell Avery Williamson next season if UK can get him.
Toby Johnson – DT – 6’4 / 305
Johnson is a huge player with huge competition. He’s been offered by just about every school in the SEC, BigXII, and Pac12. Kentucky will have to beat out the likes of USC, Florida, Georgia, Kansas State, and many of the other top programs in the country for his signature, and Johnson is probably a lock to start from day 1 if he inks with the wildcats.