Varsity Preps

Yahtzee! Kentucky’s 2014 Recruiting Class Part IV

Before the Kentucky Football Program was taken over by Head Coach Mark Stoops, UK fans did not have much to cheer for. Recruiting was abysmal, wins were hard to come by, and the overall talent level of the Football team was laughable. UK quickly became the laughing stock of the SEC when Joker Phillips took over, mostly due to the 2-10 record in Phillips’ 3rd and final season as Head Coach. AD Mitch Barnhart had to make a change, and it had to be one that would save the Football Program overall. Barnhart made the move to bring the DC of the Florida State Seminoles, Mark Stoops, to the bluegrass. With only months to finalize a 2013 Recruiting Class, Stoops did the impossible, signing a class just outside the Top 25. With names such as 4 Star WR Ryan Timmons, 4 Star DE Jason Hatcher, and 4 Star HB Jojo Kemp, Stoops and his staff changed the mindset of UK fans of what was to come, and gave them a bit of hope for the future. Little did they know, things were just getting started for Stoops and company.

The 2013 Season has started off as expected, a lot of hype, good performances, but not much success. Although there is a lot of hype surrounding UK Football this season, the hype is mostly surrounding the 2014-2015 season, and the future seasons past that. Stoops has already been hitting the ground running on the 2014 Recruiting Class, carrying a Top 10 Ranked Class already, when National Signing Day is still months away. This class is remarkable, with headlining names such as 4 Star QB Drew Barker, 4 Star DE Denzel Ware, 4 Star RB Stanley “Boom” Williams, and 4 Star Safety Darius West. Those 4 names are just scratching the surface on how talented this class is already shaping out to be, and giving Kentucky fans a better prediction of what is to come with UK Football. I have gone in depth about every recruit currently committed to Kentucky, and those that could also be committing in the future. Here is what I have come up with, one by one, for every recruit suiting up in the Blue and White in the future.

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18. Mikel Horton

4 Star Running back Mikel Horton out of Ohio was one of the early commitments for the Wildcats. Horton has been seemingly forgotten as of late, mostly due to the huge commitments UK has recently received, but underestimating Mikel’s ability would be a huge mistake. Mikel is definitely considered a 4 Star for a reason, as his speed and toughness play a large factor in his dominance at the position. Horton’s talent was obviously noticed, as he had pulled in offers from huge schools such as Florida State, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Cincinnati, and Louisville, before ultimately pulling the trigger to attend Kentucky.

Mikel’s skill-set will benefit the Wildcats in numerous ways, as he has the size and strength to be a power back, as he is listed at 6’2, 230 pounds, but also the speed and agility to be a speed back. Under the new UK performance enhancement system implemented, Horton will likely gain several pounds of pure muscle and become even quicker, which could ultimately lead to an even scarier ballcarrier. Mikel’s Senior year has been even more impressive than the year before, as he is on pace to score well over 25 TD’s this season at Lakota West in OhioWith Horton joining forces with Boom Williams, Braylon Heard, and JoJo Kemp, UK is beyond set at Running Back.

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19. Cory Johnson

4 Star Defensive Tackle Corey Johnson is one of the special cases for the 2014 Recruiting Class. Johnson is a JUCO prospect out of Chambersburg, PA, and his talent level is one to be accounted for. Teams have clamored over this prospect, and they continue to do so, but Johnson pledged his commitment to the Wildcats over big schools such as Tennessee, Rutgers, Penn State, and Miami (FL). Despite recently setting up official visits this winter to Miami and Arizona State, Johnson is still committed to the Wildcats. Here’s why Wildcat fans should be hyped for Johnson’s presence on the D-Line for next season.

Standing at 6’3, 287 pounds, Johnson absolutely bullies opposing offensive lines with brute strength and athleticism. Offensive Linemen truly fear Johnson, which gives reason to believe UK’s Defensive Line next season will be one of the most tenacious in the SEC. If Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree opt to return for their Senior Seasons, and 5 Star DT Matt Elam pledges his commitment to the Wildcats in December as expected, UK’s DL will be formidable. Denzel Ware, Za’Darius Smith, Matt Elam, Cory Johnson, Jason Hatcher, and Bud Dupree will be a force not many teams would look forward to challenge.

Cory Johnson’s Highlight Tape HERE

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20. Derrick Kelly

3 Star OL Derrick Kelly is one of the underrated prospects of the 2014 Recruiting Class for Kentucky. When Derrick committed, he was only ranked 2 Stars, and most fans were hesitant to agree with Stoops’ decision in accepting his commitment, as Kelly’s other offers were from schools such as East Carolina, FIU, Marshall, and USF. That 2 Star ranking only lasted for a short period of time, as it seems the moment he committed to Kentucky, he jumped up to 3 Stars. Kelly has been tenacious thus far his Junior year, and his relentless hard work is beginning to pay off. Kelly is gaining national attention with his play as of late, proving doubters wrong.

Kelly’s greatest attribute is easily his SEC size, coming in at 6’6, 283 pounds. I caught up with an evaluator that has attended several of Kelly’s games at East Gadsden in Havana, FL that compared Kelly to a “pitbull“. “He’s relentless man. He doesn’t stop. If you go head to head with him, he will push you out of the way. He doesn’t care who you are or what you’re rated, he’s not letting you past him.” Kelly has been working harder  and harder each day, and the beast is just now getting unleashed. Once he gets to Kentucky under the new coaching staff including OL Coach John Schlarman, Kelly will develop into a huge player at UK for years to come. 

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21. Garrett Johnson

3 Star WR Garrett Johnson was another huge pickup for Mark Stoops out of Florida. Johnson is known for his superb hands, speed, and route-running ability. Johnson has been clocked as fast as 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, which only contributes to his gaudy numbers. Last season, Johnson was able to tear it up on the field, gaining 735 receiving yards with 8 Touchdowns, along with rushing the ball for over 300 yards. His Senior season thus far has been even more impressive, as he has been able to pull off well over 600 yards in 5 games, along with 10 TD receptions.

Johnson’s commitment slightly reminds me of Jeff Badet’s last year, as the play style of both are very similar. UK fans can only wish for similar Freshman year production out of Johnson, as Badet has already been able to pull in 6 Receptions, 124 yards, and a Touchdown for the Wildcats in only 3 games. Like Thaddeus Snodgrass, T.V. Williams, and Blake Bone, who will be discussed at #23 on the list, Johnson’s commitment is huge for the Wildcats not only due to his talent level, but his ability to provide depth for a very thin Kentucky WR corps. Having a depth chart of Demarco Robinson, Ryan Timmons, Alexander Montgomery, Jeff Badet, Javess Blue, Thaddeus Snodgrass, T.V. Williams, Garrett Johnson, and Blake Bone can only mean one thing: UK is absolutely stacked at WR next season.

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22. Nick Richardson

4 Star OL Nick Richardson was one of the latest commitments for the Wildcats, and it was a special one.  Richardson chose the Wildcats over Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, among 12 total BCS offers. Richards gave the Kentucky Wildcats a pledge that meant a lot to the program in more ways than one. With his tremendous speed and athleticism, along with great blocking ability to create necessary holes for his teammates, it is easy to see why he is listed as a 4 star prospect. What makes Richardson’s commitment so important for the Wildcats is that he has a “Team-First” mentality, and does whatever it takes to win ball games. Stoops believes he struck gold on this pickup, as he and the rest of his staff believe Richardson is one of the most underrated prospects in the 2014 class. With a huge 6-5, 285 lbs frame, Richardson comes into the program with an SEC ready body, in addition to filling a roster need on the Offensive Line.

But why else was Richardson’s commitment huge? Brady Taylor, a 3 Star OL out of Ohio was expected to pledge his commitment to UK, but instead opted for Virginia Tech. This left UK fans with a “stinger”, as most believed he was UK bound. The staff realized how important he was to UK’s Recruiting Class, which made Richardson’s commitment ease up on the sting of losing Taylor, if not overcompensate for the loss, as Richardson is a huge pickup for Mark Stoops and his staff.

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23. Blake Bone

If you’re a Kentucky fan, you’ve likely heard of 4 Star WR Blake Bone by now. Bone was the latest addition to the 2014 Recruiting Class, and it was one of the biggest. Bone pledged his commitment to the Kentucky Wildcats over schools such as Ole Miss, Tennessee, Louisville, Nebraska, Clemson, and South Carolina. Blake Bone is considered the 47th best WR in the country according to Rivals.com, and he has the talent to show for it.

What Bone brings to the table is something Wildcat fans haven’t seen in quite some time: a combination of height, speed, and agility. Standing 6’5, along with an absolutely crazy catching radius, Bone has the ability to go up and snag anything thrown his way. Bone is the type of WR QB’s like Drew Barker drool over, mainly due to the fact that they can toss up a difficult throw under pressure, and he somehow always manages to pull it in. Not only can Bone catch the necessary “jump ball” every now and then, he has the speed to get past defenders with ease. How can you stop a 6’5 WR that’s quick enough to pull off a 4.6 40 yard dash? Simply put, you just can’t. 

Having a target like Bone in the Red Zone will make life so easy for QB Drew Barker, as it is almost a guaranteed Touchdown conversion. If Bone’s success at UK forces other teams to double team him? Other receivers like Snodgrass, Williams, Johnson, Blue, Timmons, Montgomery, and Badet will be able to have a field day with less coverage. 

 

**Bonus Recruit**

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RB Braylon Heard

UK got a little “cherry on top” pickup in the last recruiting class when Nebraska RB Braylon Heard decided to jump ship to Lexington. Due to transfer rules, Heard must sit out the 2013-2014 season, and will be eligible to play in the 2014-2015 season, joining the stellar class listed above. But what makes Heard’s pickup so great? Braylon was listed as one of the top RBs coming out of high school, rated as a 4 star by every major recruiting service. Rivals listed Heard as the #5 RB in the country, and the #57 overall player in the class. In Heard’s Sophomore season at Nebraska, he rushed for 348 yards and 3 Touchdowns on just 52 carries. Due to limited carries, Heard transferred to Kentucky hoping to find a starting role to show off his true potential. Supposedly, Heard has been the most impressive RB thus far in practice, and those who have been able to see him up close have not only come away impressed, but blown away by his superb running ability. Known for his quickness, athleticism, and pure speed, Heard is an unbelievable pickup for the Wildcats, and will look to grab a majority of the carries his first year with the Wildcats.

Kentucky fans are used to making the statement “In Cal we trust” for every decision Coach John Calipari of the Men’s Basketball Team at Kentucky makes, whether it be in recruiting or a specific coaching technique. Before long, “In Stoops we trust” could be the latest trending topic with Stoops at the helm, as he is batting 1.000 thus far for the Cats in terms of recruiting and momentum moving forward for the future of the organization.

As the 2014 Recruiting Class begins to come to a close, follow along here at Varsity Preps to see a couple more games of “Yahtzee!” unfold, along with news on top 2015 recruits. 

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