NCF On The Trail: Stanley Williams

Quietly, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops made an emphatic statement with his 2014 recruiting class: The Wildcats aren't going to sit idly by and watch the big boy have all the fun.

Just months removed from a 2-10 debut that resulted in Kentucky's fourth straight losing season, Stoops secured the No. 20 recruiting class in the ESPN rankings. It was the highest-ever finish for Kentucky in ESPN's recruiting rankings.

Stoops rubbed shoulders with the SEC's best, signing 28 players, including six ESPN 300 members and eight four-stars. Stoops flipped a Florida State commit and beat out Alabama for a highly coveted defensive tackle. He snagged a top-10 quarterback and filled critical holes on both sides of the ball.

Stoops has zero SEC wins on his Kentucky resume, but he got a major win on signing day.

"We hit on a lot of areas," Stoops told ESPN.com Thursday.

[+] EnlargeMatt Elam
Damon Sayles/ESPNFour-star DT Matt Elam is one of the key pieces in Kentucky's 20th-ranked recruiting class.
"Last year, we did a nice job of piecing together a good a class as we could in five or six weeks. From that point on -- from signing day last year to signing day this year -- I thought it was absolutely the most critical time for us to have a great year in recruiting. We needed good players, we needed guys at every position."

But the Wildcats couldn't afford to just fill space. That would have been counterproductive for a team looking to rebuild. Kentucky needed both quality and quantity, which can be a tough task for a new coach at a struggling program.

Stoops said he and his coaches set out with a simple message of building relationships and getting in front of as many quality prospects as possible. They got players on campus for junior days when Stoops' crew first arrived last year, they got them to last year's record-setting spring game, they got them to basketball games to see that other historic program on campus, and they stayed confident in their message of the future.

There was no magic selling point, just very detailed process of showing prospects exactly what they were doing in the program, not just in games.

"They understood that we were in for a little bit of a struggle -- that this is a rebuild -- and we need good players to rebuild this program," Stoops said. "They understood very clearly the success that we've had before and what we do offensively and defensively. These coaches have been very successful and showed them exactly what our plan was for the future."

Stoops held a top-20 class for most of 2013, proving that players didn't waver, despite the Wildcats' on-field struggles. He was able to keep ESPN 300 defensive end Denzel Ware, who flip-flopped between Kentucky and Florida State for months before staying with the Wildcats. He kept ESPN 300 early enrollee quarterback Drew Barker, who went through winter workouts and has a chance to push for the starting spot this year.

Stoops also kept ESPN 300 standouts Thaddeus Snodgrass (wide receiver) and Stanley Williams (running back), and he sold Kentucky to four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam, who picked the Cats over Alabama last month.

"It's very important to win your fair share of battles, and we're going to win our fair share," Stoops said. "We're going to recruit very hard, we're going to recruit the best players, and we're not afraid to go in and compete. You're going to win some and lose some, but I thought we did a nice job of hitting a very high percentage of guys we targeted."

Where Kentucky really succeeded was in the secondary, signing ESPN 300 cornerbacks Darius West and Kendall Randolph. Stoops desperately needed offensive playmakers, but gaining talents like this in the secondary was crucial.

"It's a real issue," Stoops said of the depth in his secondary.

"For us, it's hard for me to pinpoint an area, but we were clearly not very good in the secondary so I thought that was very important to hit that [hard] as well."

Stoops left fingerprint in 10 states and came away with a handful of players who could make an immediate impact in Lexington. But Stoops understands that this class can't do it alone. He needs development to continue with his current players already on campus. He needs competition to blossom and he needs his upperclassmen to mesh with the youngsters in order to get Kentucky up and running.

"We're at a point where we're still trying to put together a top-notch first team," Stoops said. "Not only do we need depth, we need some playmakers with our starters as well.

"In our business, no one has patience, everybody wants to win now. But it is a process, and we're working to improve every day and we're getting better."

SEC recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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Here are five things to watch over the holidays in the SEC:

Fournette set to announce

The nation’s top ranked prospect, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), is scheduled to announce his decision during the Under Armour All-America Game Jan. 2, which will be on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET. Fournette has made official visits to Texas, LSU and Alabama.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 23, 2013
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With football season now in full swing, there was plenty of recruiting news over the weekend. From Georgia's big win over South Carolina with several top prospects in attendance to some impressive high school performances, here is the latest news around the SEC.


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Five stories to watch: Atlanta NFTC 

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Stop six of 13 for the NFTC will take place Saturday at Buford (Ga.) High School in the Northwest sector of metropolitan Atlanta, and this event will not be short on star power. More than 300 prospects representing 20 states are expected to come out and compete, over 90 of which claim offers from FBS programs. Here are five storylines to watch at the Atlanta NFTC.

Will Lorenzo Carter emerge as the top pass-rusher in the Southeast?

Based on his junior season alone, Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) put his name is on the map as one of the best in the country off the edge. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end helped lead Norcross to its first state championship last fall, racking up 136 tackles, 45 tackles for losses and 18 sacks in Georgia’s highest classification. More than 30 programs have offered a scholarship to Carter, and he plans to showcase just why he is so coveted this weekend.


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The One Who Got Away: Da'Rick Rogers 

January, 31, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- To this point, no decommitment has resonated more loudly during Mark Richt’s Georgia tenure than when Da’Rick Rogers flipped from the Bulldogs to Tennessee just before national signing day in 2010.


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Two on top for WR Demarre Kitt 

December, 29, 2012
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Demarre KittRadi Nabulsi/ESPN.comWide receiver Demarre Kitt, who was committed to Georgia, now has Ohio State and Clemson on top.

Coming off a junior season in which he caught 76 passes for 1,236 yards and 11 touchdowns, returned a punt for a touchdown, and helped his team to a 15-0 record and AAAA state championship, ESPN Watch List wideout Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) has become one of the most sought-after Class of 2014 prospects in the Southeast.

As it stands now, two programs are on top for the 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior.

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Notebook: Rising Seniors registration 

December, 27, 2012
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ATLANTA -- The third annual Rising Seniors program kicked off Thursday with the arrival of 98 of the best players in the state of Georgia in the Class of 2014. The weeklong event is unique among All-Star games because it honors the top juniors, educating the emerging players on the recruiting process and providing a chance to showcase their talent against the best in the Peach State. The All-Star game will be aired live on Monday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com and WatchESPN.

One player participating in this year’s Rising Seniors program has been a household name in recruiting for almost two years now.

[+] EnlargeStanley Williams
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comUGA 2014 running back commit Stanley Williams committed in 2011, but recent developments have made him question his pledge.
Stanley Williams’ commitment affected by changes at UGA

When running back Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton Academy) committed to Georgia at Dawg Night in 2011, he was the second sophomore in the country to announce his decision. Since then, Georgia has signed two running backs in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, they have one committed in the 2012 class in A.J. Turman (Orlando, Fla./Boone) and are hot on the trail of another in ESPN 150 prospect Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). Williams has also seen his recruiter, Rodney Garner, leave Athens recently as well. The recent news has not gone unnoticed by the 5-foot-9, 192-pound junior.

“My commitment is obviously not as strong as it was before when I first committed because of the running backs they have now and Garner leaving,” Williams said. “It definitely had an effect on how I feel now, but we have a while to go so we will just see what happens.”

Williams spoke to Bulldogs running backs coach Bryan McClendon a few weeks ago, where McClendon indicated he would likely be recruiting him directly in the future anyway. But the departure of Garner has put another school in the mix as well.

“Coach (Rodney) Garner told me that even though he is at Auburn he does not expect it to affect his recruitment of me,” Williams said. “He wants me to get to know Coach (Gus) Malzahn more and him being at Auburn has them standing out more.”

A couple other programs are standing out as well to Williams.

“I have been talking with Coach (Tony) Eliott at Clemson and they are standing out,” Williams said. “With the production at Alabama, them sending guys to the league and the National Championship, they stand out. Kirby Smart said if they do not get Alvin Kamara, they will likely need another running back in the 2014 class and I could very well be that guy. He said to keep my options open and try to give them a look over the summer.”

Although Georgia or Alabama look to likely add Kamara to the roster next year, Williams says he is not worried about being buried in the depth chart at either program.

“Wherever you go you will have to work to be a starter, so I am not going to worry about who goes where,” Williams said.


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Weekend Rewind: Georgia 

December, 17, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- As the dead period in college football approached, the Georgia coaching staff tried to make the most of this past weekend.

Assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner and offensive line coach Will Friend were dispatched to the Georgia Dome to see and be seen by the Bulldogs’ targets playing in the Georgia state championship games.

Between them they witnessed cornerback commit Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), offensive line commit Josh Cardiello (Buford, Ga./Buford), running back target Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), linebacker target Korie Rogers (Buford, Ga./Buford), athlete target Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and wide receiver target Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) win state titles. They also saw defensive tackle priority Montravius Adams and his Dooly County (Ga.) High School team come up short in their championship game.

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Georgia RB commit takes in FSU game 

November, 27, 2012
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Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton) went to go see an SEC school play on Saturday, but it wasn't the Georgia Bulldogs -- the program he's committed to.

Instead, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound tailback saw Florida State host its in-state rival Florida in its regular season finale.

"It was crazy watching them go head to head and play for the bragging rights for the rest of the year," he said. "It was a fun place to be in."

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UGA fills 2014 ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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Mark Richt is in the midst of his 12th season at the University of Georgia, and the SEC’s longest-tenured head coach has consistently brought in top-ten recruiting classes every year. It helps to be in the backyard of one of the deepest talent pools of any state in the country.

While it might be hard to match this year’s depth of top-tier prospects -– Georgia has 31 prospects in the ESPN 300 for the 2013 class –- there is no shortage of talented in-state juniors either. Twenty-five recruits from Georgia are in the initial ESPN Watch List, including three already committed to the Bulldogs in running back Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton Academy), wide receiver Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) and defensive back Nick Glass (Atlanta/St. Pius X).


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Soph DB Nick Glass commits to UGA 

April, 4, 2012
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Georgia's recruiting class for 2014 just doubled in size.

Atlanta St. Pius X defensive back Nick Glass committed Wednesday to the Bulldogs. Glass is UGA's second verbal for the Class of 2014, as he joins RB Stanley Williams (Winder, Ga./Apalachee), who committed at Dawg Night in July 2011.

"I'm a Bulldog!" Glass said in a text Wednesday night to DawgNation, which was accompanied by a photo of Georgia coach Mark Richt.

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