The recruiting dead period is over and the staff is out to try and improve the Kentucky program one player at a time. The new coaches have worked hard in their first month (or so) on the job and there are more high profile players seriously considering the Wildcats than at any other time in recent history. A commitment from Jaleel Hytchye (a 4-star CB per ESPN) yesterday got the ball rolling, so here are the names to know moving towards the first Wednesday in February.
Jason Hatcher – DE – 6’3 / 230 – Louisville, KY
Hatcher is probably the best defensive recruit from Kentucky since Derrick Johnson, and has a list of suitors to match his immense potential. He is still committed to USC at this time, but don’t count Kentucky out just yet. Defensive coordinator DJ Elliot has wasted little time getting in to meet with him and the Wildcats are in desperate need of defensive ends with the change in defensive scheme. Pulling Hatcher away from USC shouldn’t be too hard (considering the mess that the programs in), but keeping him away from home-town Louisville and other schools might be a lot tougher. Kentucky is probably still a long shot to ink Hatcher, but the immediate playing time available only an hour from home might make UK too hard to pass up.
Elijah Daniel – DE – 6’3 / 250 – Avon, IN
Just like Hatcher, the opportunity to play right away in the SEC is going to be a lot for Daniel to turn down. Florida has been hot on Daniel from day one, but the Under Armor All-American just might find the opportunity to play only one state away from his home more appealing than flying to and from Florida every time he wants to visit his family. Daniel is still a long shot for Kentucky at this point because of how late to the game Stoops and Elliot were, but if he wants to play in the SEC as a true freshman, there is no better opportunity than the short drive down to Lexington. He can even Carpool with any of the other UK players from Indianapolis!
Deadrin Senat – DT – 6’1 / 310 – Immokalee, FL
Senat has been a UK target since before Stoops came on board, but he was also a target of Stoops’ and Elliot’s at Florida State. The move to a 4-3 defense just means that Kentucky will need more defensive linemen and fewer linebackers, so Senat’s chances to play early will be very good at UK. He is a massive guy that can eat up blockers on running plays in addition to breaking through to the offensive backfield and wreaking havoc on running and passing plays alike. The biggest challenge might just be scoring a visit from him though, as he has been offered by just about every school in the country.
Ben Bradley – DT – 6’2 / 315 – Hutchinson CC (JUCO)
Bradley is an immediate impact defensive tackle that would challenge for a starting job as soon as he arrives on campus. He has 20+ BCS offers at this time, but has narrowed his choices down to Auburn and Kentucky. The Wildcats should be considered lucky just to be in contention for his services as he could very likely be in the NFL in 2014. Bradley will choose tomorrow at some point.
Asiantii Woulard – QB – 6’3 / 205 – Winter Park, FL
The Wildcats aren’t necessarily hurting for quarterbacks, but when you can get a consensus top-5 dual-threat passer, you don’t turn him down. Woulard will be visiting Kentucky this coming weekend and adding him to the roster could help facilitate a move for Whitlow to wide receiver to help bolster depth there. Woulard isn’t just another athletic quarterback though. He’s a converted receiver that has developed his passing game enough to have won the Elite11 competition earlier this season. Woulard is as dual-threat as it gets and should be in the mix to play as a true freshman in Neal Brown’s high octane offense.
Aregeros Turner – ATH – 5’11 / 180 – Akron, OH
Turner is a guy that could conceivably play defensive back or running back or even receiver. He can run with anyone and has the size to play any of the three positions at a high level. Turner should be a high priority for the staff due to his versatility and speed.
Shelton Gibson – WR – 6’1 / 175 – Cleveland Heights, OH
Gibson is probably the top receiver on Kentucky’s board at this point. He is a top 10-15 wideout in the country (depending on what site you’re using) and would immediately fill the Wildcats’ need for legitimate outside receivers. Gibson is a 10+ catch a game player in Neal Brown’s offense and could be a record breaker at Kentucky even if he only plays here three years.
Ryan Timmons – ATH – 5’10 / 185 – Frankfort, KY
Kentucky has been on Timmons for most of the year and he was a top priority of the previous staff and the new one alike. With a dire need for receivers in the new offense, Timmons could be one of the most important players on Kentucky’s board and could solidify the slot for the next several seasons. The only thing he needs to worry about now is competition. Timmons has had a standing scholarship offer for a while and the UK interest in him has been no secret. He’s supposedly held out for an Ohio State offer, but should be careful. If Kentucky were to get commitments from Turner, Samples, Blue, and Gibson, there may not be room left for Timmons.
RaShaad Samples – WR – 6’0 / 170 – Dallas, TX
Samples isn’t the most highly rated player left on Kentucky’s board, but he is a big play receiver that can change the game with his ability to make plays after the catch. He is tailor-made for Neal Brown’s offense and would challenge for one of the starting receiver spots on the outside as a true freshman. Talking him out of his commitment to Oklahoma State might be difficult, but it is certainly worth the effort for such a big-time player.
Mackensie Alexander – CB – 5’11 / 175 – Immokalee, FL
Alexander and his brother Makenro have flirted with Kentucky since back in Joker’s tenure. Now that Stoops has taken over, the interest in the Cats has only grown. He is a consensus top-5 cornerback nationally, so he’s likely Kentucky’s starter from day-1 of his freshman season. The icing on the cake, is that he could also be used as a receiver and kick returner. Think Chris Gamble, but faster and a bigger hitter. There is no player that could have a bigger impact as a true freshman at Kentucky than Alexander.
The Wildcats are in on several other players, but these guys are the real names to know. They are all rated as four-star players or higher on at least one of the major databases (rivals, scout, espn, 24/7) and all are seriously considering Kentucky. If Stoops and his staff can land 50% of them, then the 2013 class will be the best in the history of the program and second place won’t even be close.