Kentucky signed 22 members into its 2013 class yesterday. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be analyzing the entire class thoroughly, but for today, I’m going to highlight the five most important players in the class. Keep in mind that this is not the five best players, but the most important.
#5 – Alex Montgomery – WR – FL
Kentucky needed receivers in a bad way, and was lucky enough to grab several in this class. Montgomery sticks out from the rest due to his ability to play the outside receiver positions. The Kentucky roster and signing class are both heavy on slot receivers, but guys that can play on the perimeters are few and far between. Montgomery is a talented player, so add in the opportunity he has to play early, and he was a key signee.
#4 – Marcus McWilson – S – OH
As one of the country’s top rated safeties, McWilson was a huge “get” for the Wildcats. While grabbing a four-star player is important enough in its own right, McWilson means much, much more. After years if striking out in Ohio, McWilson’s commitment signaled Kentucky’s arrival in the state. The Wildcats were able to go into the Buckeye state and grab one of the top players away from Nebraska and other teams that are considered more prestigious. The signing of Marcus McWilson has solidified Kentucky as a potential force in Ohio.
#3 – Za’Darius Smith – DE – JUCO
To be honest, the performance of Kentucky’s defensive ends has been spotty ever since Jeremy Jarmon’s last season. Nothing against Collins Ukwu and the host of other players that have manned the spot, but the Wildcats have been in desperate need of a difference maker. Smith was the countries top rated junior college defensive end and he will be counted on immediately. Additionally, Smith’s presence will allow the staff to bring some of the younger players on the defensive line along more slowly.
#2 – TIE Jaleel Hytchye/Blake McClain – CB – OH/FL
It would be easy to look at the rankings and overlook both Jaleel and Blake but UK fans know better. These guys are coming in at a time when Kentucky’s defensive backfield is in flux with no proven corners. While this alone makes them important additions, their contributions to recruiting are what sets them so high on this list. Hytchye went strait to work on other recruits in Kentucky and Ohio as soon as he committed while McClain was instrumental in securing Jojo Kemp and Jeff Badet. These two certainly have futures as college recruiters but used their talents early to help Kentucky sign its highest rated class ever.
#1 – Jason Hatcher – DE – KY
The fact that Hatcher is a four-star recruit is actually only a small part of his importance. He’s extremely talented and can play defensive end or linebacker in the future, which are both positions of need for Kentucky. His real importance is a little more complicated though. Getting into Trinity has been a thorn in Kentucky’s side for decades and the pro-Louisville high school has rarely sent players to Lexington. Now UK has gone into the state of Kentucky’s top talent producing high school and come out with one of the countries top players. On top of it all, the Wildcats received national attention for stealing a player from USC and it has to chap Louisville fans that Stoops and company were able to pull Hatcher right out from under their noses…and in THEIR high school pipeline. Hatcher is a colossal slap in the face to anyone that doubted Kentucky’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the big boys for a big recruit.