Kentucky is fresh off the heels of their record-breaking 2014 class that saw the Wildcats rank inside the Top 25 for the first time since such rankings have existed. That group of players will immediately upgrade the talent level in Lexington this Fall, regardless of how many snaps they actually earn as first-year players. It goes without saying that the driving force behind the recruiting class came from early commits, namely quarterback Drew Barker. A while back I pondered which 2015 recruit would step up and be the defacto leader like Barker was for 2014. At the time Kentucky had Montrell Custis and Marcus Walker on board, now neither are and the Cats have eight new players committed. Among those, none seem to be especially outspoken like Barker was, but linebacker Eli Brown can be seen doing some Twitter work, as can CJ Conrad and Alex Stump. All reports say that the group is becoming close already, just like we saw last year. Everything points to another banner year in the recruiting game for UK, especially if the team can show some improvement on the field.
It’s starting to look like the 2016 may have an outspoken recruiter of their own. Maybe not in the Drew Barker mold as much as the Matt Elam one. As you will remember Elam spent the better half of a year recruiting other 2014 players for the Wildcats despite not being committed himself. By the end of the cycle the 5* defensive tackle joined Kentucky instead of Alabama and Notre Dame.
Kentucky currently has one 2016 commitment, OL Landon Young of Lafayette and he appears to be solidly committed. Not necessarily the recruiter type though. Kentucky’s most valuable pick-up might just come in the form of Woodford County OL Drake Jackson. Jackson is a four star who has multiple high level offers and more coming in daily. He recently was rated the best offensive lineman at the Rivals camp series event in Columbus and the third best offensive player overall. His Crystal Ball is 89% in favor of Kentucky (there seems to be one random Purdue prediction) and he is already in the ear of other prospects about UK. Several area prospects in the 2016 class have said that Jackson has talked to them about Kentucky. And it has worked for several, many are now planning to camp in Lexington this Summer to see the campus and hopefully earn an offer.
There are no guarantees, however, as a player with Jackson’s talents is sure to draw some attention from college football’s big boys. Ohio State and Notre Dame are right up the road. Tennessee is good for stealing a Bluegrass talent every few years. Woodford County isn’t that far from (GASP) Louisville. But the evidence certainly suggests that Kentucky is in the driver’s seat and if we’ve learned anything about Mark Stoops’ staff, it’s that they can and will compete with anyone.