In this edition of All Wildcats' "Four Downs," we take a closer look at four Kentucky signees who may be able to make an early impact for the Wildcats during the 2017 season.
1. Lynn Bowden
Scouts have described Bowden as the most dynamic player to come out of the Youngstown, Ohio, area in almost 30 years. A brief review of his highlight film seems to validate that hype. Simply put, Bowden is just a "football player," in the Randall Cobb sense of the term. He has played quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back in high school, and was often the best player on the field no matter where he lined up. Scout ranks him as the No. 2 athlete in the entire country, and that kind of talent will be hard to keep off the field next season. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bowden, who accounted for more than 4,000 yards and 57 touchdowns as a senior, will likely be used in the slot, where he'll likely be a mismatch nightmare for defenders. With the unexpected grad transfer of Jef Badet (21.6 ypc, 4 TD), UK will need to compensate for his big-play ability. But don't be surprised if the Cats also feature Bowden prominently in the "Wildcat" formation. He passed for 1,366 yards as a senior, so it brings an added dimension to the package that Benny Snell did not offer in an otherwise productive 2016 campaign.
2. Joshua Paschal
Kentucky finished the 2016 season with only 21 sacks in 13 games, which ranked 92nd nationally among 128 Division I programs. It marked the second consecutive season that the Cats have experienced difficulty putting pressure on the quarterback, and that's a big issue in this era of wide-open, pass-happy offenses. What better way to address that problem than to sign a player who drew comparisons to former UK standout and current Pittsburgh Steelers star Bud Dupree when Mark Stoops announced his new recruiting class? Paschal, the younger brother of former UK defensive end TraVaughn Paschal, is considered by analysts to be the most important player in the Cats' 2017 class because of that raw pass-rushing ability. Rated the No. 28 defensive end in the country by Scout, he had 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a senior playing in the talent-rich DC-Maryland-Virginia area. He has exceptional speed for someone 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, which is why Stoops & Co. envision him as a good fit for their hybrid D-End/outside linebacker position. Pashcal should be an excellent complement to junior-to-be Denzil Ware coming off the edges.
3. Phil Hoskins
A three-star prospect from the JuCo ranks, Hoskins tends to get lost in the shuffle when one talks about this class as a whole, but Kentucky has a big opportunity for a player to come in and log some significant playing time on the interior defensive line. The Cats have experienced inconsistency at that spot, and Hoskins (6-5, 280) should at the very least be able to give them some immediate reps in the rotation. Scout ranks him the No. 77 JuCo prospect in this year's class. He had 25 tackles and four sacks while playing multiple techniques this season at Highland Community College in Kansas. His 84-inch wingspan is one of his best physical attributes and translates well to being disruptive in the passing game. Look for him to challenge the Cats' returnees at both tackle and end early in fall camp.
4. Lonnie Johnson
Kentucky will be seeking to fill the shows of some quality defensive playmakers like Blake McClain, Marcus McWilson and J.D. Harmon in 2017. Johnson, another JuCo signee who enrolled last month, should be a good candidate to compete for playing time at corner, nickel and safety. At 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds, he's a tremendous all-around athlete with a track and field background. He sat out last season to focus on academics, but when he was last on the field in 2015, he picked off five passes. His high school background as a wide receiver (40 catches for 772 yards and 14 touchdowns at Gary West Side in Indiana) reminds us a lot of Harmon's path from Paducah Tilghman to UK. He has also displayed a knack for blocking kicks on special teams in his past.