Kentucky and Louisville have crossed paths on the football recruiting trail many times in recent years. Those prospects often keep a close eye on the Governor's Cup matchup, which will be the case next Sunday for a talented Peach State receiver.
Three-star Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox County wideout Johnathan Howard says his current leaders are North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville. The Wildcats and Cardinals will be going head to head on Sunday, Sept. 2, at Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in a game that will be nationally televised.
"I'm going to be checking that one out," Howard said. "It should be a good game. I'll be interested to see how their offenses look and how they use their receivers."
Howard (6-5, 190) is coming off a junior year that saw him catch 38 passes for 837 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught six passes for 150 yards in a scrimmage last week in preparation for his senior year season opener next week against Wilkerson County.
That kind of big-play ability has drawn the attention of several BCS programs, including UK, Louisville, North Carolina, N.C. State, Central Florida and Mississippi State.
Clemson had also shown early interest, and at one point may have held the lead in Howard's recruitment, but he says the Tigers are no longer involved due to a lack of remaining scholarships.
Asked what he's heard from UK of late, Howard said: "Coach (Steve) Pardue stays in touch with me. He says that I'm up at the top of their recruiting board this year, that I'm the guy they really want at my position. They're talking like I could really come in and help them right away."
Howard says he's been getting to know Pardue, a former south Georgia high school coach from LaGrange, better during the recruiting process and likes what he has heard so far.
An official visit will likely materialize sometime this fall, but Howard says he hasn't set up any of those dates yet.
Asked what he likes about each of his current leaders, Howard said:
"With North Carolina, the thing that stands out to me is it's a great school with a strong combination of academics and athletics. They're good in everything -- football, basketball, baseball... you name it.
"Kentucky is similar to North Carolina. Great school. They have a good reputation for academics, too. I like coach Pardue and what he has to say about how they could use me. And, of course, they have the great basketball team. It just seems like a fun place to go to school.
"And with Louisville, I've gotten to know their coaches a little better. I like those guys, and they were the first to offer my quarterback, Makail Grace, who is also my cousin and like a brother to me. It was his first offer, and it sounds like he might take it. That cold draw me closer to them.
Howard said his focus for now is on helping Wilcox County win a state championship. The Patriots have moved up to No. 2 in the Class A state rankings.
"We've been working real hard all summer for that," he said. "I've been putting in a lot of extra time to get better. I feel like I'm stronger and faster than ever. I just can't wait to get going."
Asked if he's got an individual goal for this season, Howard did not hesitate with his answer. "No dropped passes. Not one."
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