In this AllWildcats feature, we take a look at the seven verbal commitments the Wildcats already have on the board for 2016:
In Drake Jackson, UK has a great anchor in place for its next class. The 6-foot-2, 284-pound Woodford County (Ky.) standout is ranked the nation’s No. 1 center by Scout after turning in a series of tremendous camp performances last year, including impressive stops at Kentucky at Alabama. He’s the type of mauler that Nick Saban has enjoyed for years on his O-Line and is should be a cornerstone of Mark Stoops’ program for years to come.
Watch Jackson’s impressive showing at the 2014 Nike Camp below:
Vince Marrow said Wednesday that the UK staff is really excited about the talent level in the Bluegrass State for 2016, and Davonte Robinson is another example of why. The Lexington Henry Clay standout opened eyes at UK’s camp last July by turning in multiple 4.3-4.4 range times in the 40-yard dash. He has excelled at both wide receiver and defensive back, but the Cats think he’d be a perfect corner with his long 6-foot-2 frame and terrific ball skills. This is the prototype for the kind of corner Stoops wants moving forward. Expect rivals to come forward with additional scholarship offers in the months to come. It might be helpful that UK has brought in some of his Blue Devil teammates, like Elijah Barnett and Sullivan Simpson, as walk-ons this year.
Football fans down in far Western Kentucky have been aware of Zy’Aire Hughes for years. One of the finest all-around athletes in the state, the McCracken County star is a do-it-all player in the mold of former UK star and current Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb. Hughes (6-2, 185, 4.47) plays quarterback for the Mustangs, but likely projects as a wide receiver at the next level. He pass, ran and caught for more than 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior. Louisville recently extended a scholarship offer, and Alabama has reportedly been showing interest.
See highlights of Hughes in action below:
Landon Young was the first 2016 player to give Stoops & Co. a verbal commitment, a pledge that came when he was just a sophomore. The Lexington Lafayette offensive tackle has an athletic, 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame that offers the potential to put on significantly more weight in UK’s strength and conditioning program. By his second year in the program, he could easily be 300-plus with the prototype long arms and quick feet that line coaches love at his position. Notre Dame is one of several top programs who have continued to remain in touch with Young. Scout currently ranks him the No. 5 offensive tackle prospect in the Midwest and Top 20 nationally at his position. Along with Hughes, Robinson and Jackson, Young helps give UK a strong command on the top talent in the Bluegrass State for 2016. Ashland Blazer's Quinton Baker, the No. 7 running back in the Midwest, was briefly committed to UK during the season, and many expect him to return to the fold.
The Ohio Pipeline’s first contribution to UK’s 2016 class is Trotwood-Madison linebacker Roland Walder. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound standout committed to the Cats in October. He also held an early offer from Pittsburgh. Walder is a teammate of 2015 UK signee Kei Beckham and 2016 target Messiah deWeaver. UK has long attempted to recruit the talent-rich Dayton school and have finally broken through with Stoops & Co. Marrow said on signing day that this could be the best crop of Ohio talent in seven years, so expect the Cats to be living in the Buckeye State once again. Scout analyst Dave Berk believes Walder may have the versatility to play either inside or outside at the college level.
Kentucky has always had a strong Georgia presence on its rosters, but the 2015 signing class was a bit of an exception with only two players from the Peach State. Marrow said he’d like to put more focus on Georgia moving forward, and Jordan Griffin is a good start. The 6-1, 175-pound corner from Jonesboro High School picked UK over early offers from programs like Clemson, Ole Miss and N.C. State. One of the top performers at last year’s Atlanta MVP Camp, Griffin has the size and man-to-man cover ability that Stoops desires at corner.
Ross was rumored to be coming to the Wildcats as part of the 2015 class, but has now been reclassified to 2016. He’ll spend another year at Phoenix College before joining Big Blue Nation. The former Cincinnati prep standout is a 6-foot-6, 220-pound target with exceptional speed. Ross has the potential to be a dangerous red zone target for the Cats. Arizona State, Louisville, Kansas and Texas have also been expressing strong interest, but the presence of several player from his old Lakota West High School on the UK roster (Mikel Horton, Kyle Meadows, George Asafo-Adjei) made Big Blue his favorite.