Between Recruits and Rankings, the Kentucky Wildcats are Cleaning House

Mark Stoops has blown precedent clear out of the water as recruiting is concerned at the University of Kentucky Football program.  Blown. Away.  Currently the proud owner of the #3 ranked class in 2014, there’s a great likelihood they gain the #1 spot in the near future.  Granted that won’t remain but Top 25 isn’t unreasonable.  Dallas Jackson of Rivals frames it up this way:

While it is only mid-June, Mark Stoops has the Kentucky football program on pace to finish ahead of the Texas Longhorns and is currently inside the top five of the team recruiting rankings.

National recruiting analyst Mike Farrell dismisses those who want to squash the excitement surrounding the program.

“We have never seen anything like this from Kentucky, ever,” Farrell said. “I understand that it is only June, but I cannot remember that program having this kind of momentum in all my years covering recruiting. The class has added some tremendous playmakers, and they are getting guys from all over.”

As a point of fact, Kentucky has never had double-digit commitments prior to the ides of June, let alone a 16-man class ranked ahead of Notre Dame, Michigan and Florida State — Stoops’ former school.

The class was bolstered again Thursday when Rivals100 all-purpose running back Stanley Williams made his decision known.

Williams, from Bethlehem (Ga.) George Walton Academy, is the No. 96 overall player and the top-ranked player within his position group.

He joins three other Rivals250 members who are early verbals to Kentucky: Quarterback Drew Barker is ranked No. 117 from Burlington (Ky.) Conner; West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West running back Mikel Horton is ranked No. 131 and made his choice known at the Rivals Camp Series stop in Cincinnati, and receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass is ranked No. 205 and hails from Springfield (Ohio) High.

And just how is this setting with other programs across the country?  Not well.

The change in recruiting approach came from the top down with Stoops targeting players from Ohio and his ties to the south.

Farrell said that other programs are taking notice of what is happening in Lexington.

“Once people start throwing accusations around at your program, it means you are getting guys they want and you are doing something worth taking notice of,” he said. “Maybe in basketball people worry about who Kentucky is recruitin,g but now it is becoming an upstart in football.

“There is no doubt that it is getting under the skin of a lot of programs that wanted these kids, because it wasn’t long ago that none of them would have given Kentucky the time of day.”

Let’s take a trip back to when our former coach Billy Clyde Gillispie thought it smart to offer an 8th Grader a scholarship to the basketball team and he was lambasted for it.  Fast forward five (5) years and we are now watching Mark Stoops offer a scholarship to a seventh (7th) grader.  I know recruiting is cut throat but I’ve never seen a scholly offer that early.  Cameron Smith of Prep Rally has this:

On the heels of two scholarship offers to highly regarded eighth grade prospects from top Division I programs, an SEC school blew them both out of the water by handing out a scholarship to a seventh grade defensive back.

The player in question is young (by definition) Jairus Brents, a hard working (for a middle schooler) defensive back and running back from Indiana, where he plays for New Albany (Ind.) Hazelwood Middle School. He will still be playing for Hazelwood Middle School in the 2013 season because he’s still in middle school.

Brents received his first scholarship offer on Thursday when the University of Kentucky extended the pre-teen a verbal offer for when he graduates some six years from now. The news of Brents’ commitment was first reported by ESPN.

The Indiana native isn’t the first seventh grader to receive a scholarship offer. That honor goes to David Sills, the Deleware-based longtime USC commitment who became an overnight sensation after he received and accepted a verbal offer from head coach Lane Kiffin. To this point, Sills has stayed true to his initial pledge to USC, and the Trojans still appear excited that the still-growing quarterback will be suiting up in the Coliseum come 2015.

That’s because even though Sills committed to the Trojans in 2008, he still has two more years to play in high school before he graduates and heads off to campus.

To his credit. Brents brushed off the scholarship offer when interviewed by ESPN as if this was just another day in the life of an average American middle schooler.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s just an offer,” Brents said.

“It’s a good accomplishment, but I’m focusing on being the best cornerback ever and working hard.”

Apparently, Kentucky feels confident projecting that six years from now, Jairus Brents will be one of the best athletes in the country. They are doing so on the advice of Chris Vaughn, a former NFL player who now runs a training facility in Indiana. Vaughn also happens to be Brents’ godfather.

“[Brents] is a different breed of kid. He’s super competitive,” Vaughn told ESPN. “He expects to win every route. He’s one of those kids who lights up the competition. Jairus is the best skill kid in the state right now.”


Among Mark Stoops newest recruits is Landon Young and John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader and Mike Fields of Fields Notes have some good stuff on the Lafayette stud.

Kentucky football received a commitment today from Landon Young, a 6-foot-7 lineman from Lafayette High School in Lexington who will be a sophomore this fall. Here is the highlight video Young submitted to the NCSA national recruiting site.

Mike Fields breaks him down this way:

Landon Young, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound sophomore lineman at Lafayette, has commited to play football at Kentucky.

Young said he was attending a UK camp on Monday when Coach Mark Stoops pulled him aside after watching him in a one-on-one drill.

“He told me, ‘You’re one heck of a player, son. We want you to play here at UK, and we have a scholarship for you,’” Young said.

After talking it over with his parents, Young told UK he would accept the offer.

“I’m just ecstatic,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this early for me.”

Young started as a freshman on the defensive line for Lafayette, and also saw time on the offensive line. He will start on both sides of the ball this season.

Lafayette offensive coordinator Dallas Kingsolver described Young as “very athletic for his size. You won’t see many kids run like he can at his size. And he’s very smart.”

Young showed his talent in other sports as a freshman. He finished second in the heavyweight division of the state wrestling tournament. He was runner-up in the discus and fourth in the shot put in the state track and field meet.

Young said getting his college commitment out of the way “takes a little bit of stress off my back, knowing I don’t have to worry about it.

“It also gives me a push to work every harder to be the player they want me to be.”

Young said UK projects him as an offensive tackle.

Not to be outdone, the aura and mystique of the Kentucky Wildcats and Rupp Arena has a far reaching impact..all the way to the 2015 class.  Skal Labissiere is a highly touted Forward in the 2015 class who is being recruited by the heavy hitters and holds offers from most of them, including Kansas and Syracuse.  But of all the attention, he only seems to be interested in seeing one place: Rupp Arena.  Dave Spahn of has this to say about the #6 recruit in that recruiting class.

Very few players have made ripples in scouting circles lately like Skal Labissierehas.

Arguably the top camper at the Elite 100 camp in St. Louis last weekend, Labissiere put his full arsenal of abilities on display. So far at the NBPA Top 100 camp, Labissiere has continued his hot streak.

Blessed with incredible length and athleticism, the 6-foot-9 Labissiere out of Cordova (TN) Evangelical Christian is a shot-blocking machine down low. He thrives as a face-up player who can knock down mid-range jumpers but post up smaller defenders when necessary.

The 2015 star has opened the eyes of many over the past two seasons, and college coaches have begun lining up at his doorstep in hopes of obtaining a commitment.

“Recruiting right now is still the same really,” Labissiere said. “Syracuse, Kentucky, Memphis, Auburn, and Kansas have all offered. UCLA, Georgetown, and Tennessee are showing interest. I’m pretty wide open with my recruitment right now.”

A native of Haiti, Labissiere fled to Memphis after the tragic Haiti earthquakes destroyed his community. He hasn’t visited many schools during his time in the states, but he did note one place he would like to see.

“A visit to Kentucky would be cool. I want to see Rupp Arena,” said Labissiere, currently ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.

Labissiere also knows the rarity of Kentucky offering players during their freshman or sophomore seasons and appreciates the offer.

“It’s a real honor,” he said. “It’s awesome. I’m so thankful they offered. I really like them.”

Mike DeCoursey of Sporting News has published a 5-Part series detailing the best in each position of 2013 Rosters across the country.  His fifth and final installment takes a shot at the Center position and our own Willie Cauley-Stein comes in at #3 behind #2 Montrezl Harrell of Louisville and #1 Mitch McGary of Michigan.

With his height (7-0) and athleticism and an adequate freshman season behind him, Cauley-Stein easily could have entered the NBA draft and made a career of being an extra big man. He wants more, and that ambition will be serviced by a second season with the Wildcats. Cauley-Stein still has so much to learn about how to influence every possession, how to position himself to be the greatest nuisance to the opposing offense, how to function as a full-time college player. He was only a useful reserve until Nerlens Noel’s injury last February. Now he’s a focal point of the nation’s No. 1 team.

For all things Kentucky Wildcats be sure to follow @wildcatbluenatn and @HunterWBN

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