NCF On The Trail: Kentucky Wildcats

SEC 2015 recruiting in review 

February, 13, 2015
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It was another incredible year of recruiting in the SEC. More than one-third (117 prospects) of the ESPN 300 signed with SEC schools. The conference also signed 12 of the 20 five-star prospects, and 218 four-star prospects. All but two of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the final ESPN class rankings. Here is a closer look at the 2015 recruiting cycle in review.

SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
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There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.
videoThe national signing day ceremonies have concluded, the ink has dried and the fax machines have been turned off. The Class of 2015 is mostly in the books. As is the case annually, there were a number of winners -- and a couple of losers -- on national signing day. Here is a look at the schools that excelled and the schools that had a rough day.

SCHOOLS THAT FARED WELL

UCLA: The Bruins began the day at No. 17 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, but they quickly moved up to No. 11 with a run of ESPN 300 commitments. No. 111 prospect Chris Clark, a tight end, got the day started and was followed by RB Soso Jamabo (No. 28), OG Joshua Wariboko (No. 105) and OLB Roquan Smith (No. 29). The day got even better in the early afternoon when No. 130 recruit Cordell Broadus, a wide receiver, picked the Bruins over Arizona State. All five of the recruits who committed to UCLA on Wednesday are from different states.

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Completed class: Kentucky Wildcats

February, 4, 2015
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Kentucky has announced its 2015 class:

ESPN 300

Marcus Walker S -- Lake Wales High School, Florida

Eli Brown OLB -- Warren East High School, Kentucky

Three-stars

Jabari Greenwood WR -- Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C.

C.J. Conrad TE-Y -- Keystone High School, Ohio

Kengera Daniel DE -- Millbrook High School, North Carolina

Tavin Richardson WR -- James Byrnes High School, South Carolina

Jordan Jones OLB -- Cardinal Mooney High School, Ohio

Sihiem King RB -- Colquitt County High School, Georgia

Christopher Westry S -- Oakleaf High School, Florida

George Asafo-Adjei OG -- Lakota West High School, Ohio

Levon Livingston OT -- Frank W. Ballou High School, Washington, D.C.

Javon Provitt DT -- Warren G. Harding High School, Ohio

Kei Beckham CB -- Trotwood-Madison High School, Ohio

Derrick Baity CB -- Plant Senior High School, Florida

Therrell Gosier WR -- Blanche Ely High School, Florida

Logan Stenberg OT -- James Clemens High School, Alabama

Mason Wolfe OG -- Henderson County High School, Kentucky

Ungraded

Will Jackson ATH -- Saint John's College High School, Washington, D.C.

Josh Allen OLB -- Montclair High School, New Jersey

Courtney Miggins DT -- Pearl River Community College, Georgia

Alvonte Bell DE -- Pearl River Community College, Florida

Greg Hart TE-Y -- University of Nebraska

Courtney Love ILB -- University of Nebraska

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

February, 3, 2015
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With national signing day only one day away, it is officially crunch time in recruiting. While some schools hosted several underclassmen for their junior day events, other schools hosted several official visitors in hopes of getting last-minute additions to their 2015 classes. Here is a closer look at some of the top news from around the SEC this weekend.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 27, 2015
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This was one of two remaining weekends for recruits to take visits until national signing day. The weekend was full of news including over 10 commitments in the SEC. Here’s a closer look at some of the top news from around the conference this weekend.


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Midyear additions:  Kentucky

January, 22, 2015
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Six players have enrolled at Kentucky and are expected to participate in spring practice, according to UKAthletics.com:

George Asafo-Adjei, OG
HT: 6-4 WT: 295
Positional Rank: #58 OG
Stars: 3

C.J. Conrad, TE-Y
HT: 6-5 WT: 225
Positional Rank: #11 TE-Y
Stars: 3

Kengera Daniel, DE
HT: 6-5 WT: 250
Positional Rank: #37 DE
Stars: 3

Greg Hart, TE-Y
HT: 6-5 WT: 240
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Transfer

Jordan Jones, OLB
HT: 6-2 WT: 210
Positional Rank: #36 OLB
Stars: 3

Courtney Love, ILB
HT: 6-1 WT: 240
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Transfer

SEC's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
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With national signing day less than three weeks away, it is officially crunch time. There are only three recruiting weekends left for visits, and most schools plan to take full advantage of those available weekends. Here are a closer look at some of the top visits around the SEC this weekend.

Auburn


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No. 2 running back Damien Harris announces at 1:15 p.m. ET Friday between Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio State, but this has always been a Crimson Tide-Wildcat recruiting battle.


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Damien Harris to announce Friday 

January, 8, 2015
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Running back Damien Harris announces his commitment on Friday at 1:15 p.m. eastern time, and has his list narrowed to Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio State. The No. 2 ranked running back has kept his decision close to the vest, which has everyone guessing where he will end up.

He has weighed the options and looked at the pros and cons of each school, but he has to pick just one.

"There is playing time, number of players at your position on the roster, distance from home, education levels," he said. "Those are some of the basic principles, and obviously great football tradition."

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UA game: The all-lobby team 

December, 28, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sunday was check-in day for the Under Armour All-America game week. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. ET. There were several moments caught on camera during the day that were posted on social media. Here's a closer at the best sights and sounds from the players during check-in.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, a Texas Tech pledge, startled everyone in the room when he gave his native island of Hawaii some love in the following Vine video:



Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart showed up to the check-in carrying a "Chucky Doll." The doll, which started as a tradition at Florida with Dominique Easley and then Dante Fowler Jr., has now found its way to Cowart. For Florida State and Auburn fans, it wasn't a tip as to where he is leaning toward committing. Cowart also was sporting FSU shorts and later mentioned Auburn as a favorite in an interview.



Four-star running back Damien Harris did a vine video announcing his final three and his announcement date of Jan. 9.



The best haircut at the UA check-in belongs to kicker Drew Galitz, a Baylor recruit, who showed off his unique hairstyle on a Vine video.

Top sleeper commits: SEC 

December, 19, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent it takes more than just those top-rated prospects to have success. Rosters are built largely with prospects which enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key. Every year we see prospects that flew under the radar but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we've come across many players who show promise and are great additions based on their upside for development and/or scheme fit.

Here are five commitments in the SEC that we feel are unheralded, but great additions worth keeping an eye on.


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Early Offer: The dead period is here 

December, 14, 2014
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What is the dead period and why is it an important time in football recruiting? Plus, Texas Tech’s loss at quarterback could be Baylor’s gain.

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video Kentucky is ascending on the field under Mark Stoops, improving from two wins in 2013 to five in 2014, and the Wildcats are reaping the rewards on the recruiting front. Kentucky is currently sitting at No. 24 in the ESPN 2015 class rankings, but the Wildcats' Class of 2016 may be the best yet. Over the weekend, the Wildcats grabbed a third ESPN Junior 300 commit when offensive lineman Drake Jackson added his name to a verbal list that includes cornerback Jordan Griffin and offensive tackle Landon Young.

Even in today’s age of attention-grabbing announcements, Jackson may have one-upped everyone by presenting Stoops and staff with a cake prior to committing:


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SEC season recruiting superlatives 

December, 8, 2014
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Looking back at the just-completed regular season, it has been another wild year in the SEC, both on the field and in recruiting. There have been several huge commitments, some big decommitments and, as always, a few surprises. Here’s a closer look at the the SEC’s recruiting superlatives.


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