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Kentucky Has Top 3 Recruiting Class... in Football?

This story appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by Wesley Eversole.

On Thursday, the UK football program received possibly its biggest commitment for the 2014 recruiting class to date, when Stanley Williams, the top ranked all-purpose back in the nation according to Rivals.com, committed to play for the Cats and head coach Mark Stoops.

Williams’ commitment moved Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class up to No. 3 in the nation. Since Rivals.com first began ranking recruits and recruiting classes in 2002, UK has never finished higher than 29th nationally, which occurred during Stoops’ first recruiting class in 2013. UK has never signed more than three players rated four stars or higher by Rivals.com in any recruiting class from 2002 to 2013. The 2014 recruiting class currently includes five such players — quarterback Drew Barker, running back Mikel Horton, wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass, defensive back Darius Westand Williams. All five players are ranked among the top 30 players nationally at their position and are also ranked among the top 250 players overall nationally according to Rivals.com.

From 2006 to 2013, the UK football program signed a grand total of five players who were ranked among Rivals.com’s Top 250 recruits for their class. Two of those players (defensive end Jason Hatcher and safety Marcus McWilson) were part of Stoops’ first recruiting class in 2013.

The question now becomes, can a recruiting class that is on pace to set a record for the highest ranked recruiting class since Rivals.com began ranking recruiting classes and a record for the highest number of players ranked among the top 250 nationally get any better? According to the Rivals.com database, UK has currently extended scholarship offers to 207 different players from the class of 2014. Excluding players that have already committed to Kentucky or elsewhere, 44 of those players are rated four stars or higher by Rivals.com.

Of those 44 players, two (running back Tony James and wide receiverDerek Kief) are currently listed as having high interest in the Cats, which means there is a chance that both could commit to Kentucky. James is currently rated four stars, has a 5.8 rating and is ranked third nationally at his position and 162nd overall by Rivals.com. Kief is rated four stars, has a 5.8 rating and is ranked 46th nationally at his position by Rivals.com.

Based on Rivals.com’s current rankings formula, which gives a team anywhere from 15 points for a recruit with a 5.2 rating to 150 points for a player with a 6.1 rating and also assigns anywhere from 100 points for signing the top ranked player in the nation to 3 points for signing a player ranked between 246th and 250th nationally, a commitment from both James and Kief would give Kentucky 230 recruiting points. This would bring their total number of recruiting points up to 1,771, which would give UK the top ranked recruiting class in the nation if the current rankings remained the same otherwise.

UK is used to No. 1 recruiting classes in men’s basketball, having had five in a row under John Calipari, but a top ranked recruiting class in football would be unprecedented. It would help make Kentucky a legitimate contender in a league where four different teams have combined to win the last seven BCS National Championships. And, perhaps most importantly, it would establish Stoops as another top head coach in a league where three different head coaches have won at least one national championship, another has won at least one SEC championship and another has coached in at least one BCS Bowl. While much would have to go in the Cats’ favor between now and February to secure the No. 1 class, one thing is for certain: Kentucky’s future looks a lot brighter with Stoops at the helm.

Wesley Eversole is a 2011 graduate of the University of Louisville’s sport administration program. He enjoys a lifelong love of sports, especially UK basketball and football. You can read more about Eversole’s pursuit of his life goals while living with Asperger’s Syndrome here.

Photo: Mark Stoops