Kentucky has created some serious buzz nationally for the job the Wildcats staff has done recruiting talent-rich football states like Florida and Ohio.
In the Class of 2017, Mark Stoops & Co. landed eight signees from the Sunshine State and seven from the Buckeye State out of 24 new additions to the program.
That said, the UK boss gave a familiar refrain on National Signing Day, making it clear where his recruiting priorities begin on an annual basis.
"We know we're going to start inside out always. We're going to recruit our tail off in Kentucky and in our hometown. We're going to start here, and we're going to branch out from there," Stoops said.
With this year's signing class in the books, it's time to start taking a closer look at some of the top 2018 prospects from the Bluegrass State who could be priorities for the UK staff. (Note: Several others may develop in the months ahead, but this is the preliminary watch list.)
The list is headlined by a pair of Louisville Waggener teammates, defensive back Jairus Brents and defensive lineman Tahj Rice. Both are already four-star prospects ranked among the top prospects at their respective positions in the country. Brents (5-9, 160) is the No. 16 cornerback in the nation, according to Scout, while Rice comes in at No. 15 among defensive tackles.
Both have already picked up an early UK and UofL offer. Brents' list keeps getting longer seemingly by the day with elite programs like Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin in the mix. Rice holds offers from programs like Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke and Indiana, while Notre Dame and Ohio State have been showing strong interest.
Louisville Trinity never suffers from a lack of talent, and Rondale Moore is one of the Shamrocks' latest big-time playmakers. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound receiver had a dynamic junior year in helping Trinity add to its crowded state championship trophy case. He was limited to only four games, but made the most of them by catching 20 passes for 464 yards and nine TDs.
Down in Bowling Green, championships have also become second nature for the Purples thanks to athletes like Justice Dingle. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker may be the most intriguing prospect in the state. He can really run, and when he reaches the opposing ballcarrier, Dingle packs a punch. Kentucky, Louisville, Purdue and Tennessee have already offered. That list will get much, much longer between now and next February. He's originally from Tennessee, so it may be quite a challenge to fight off the Vols.
Dingle's teammate, wide receiver Ziyon Kenner, is another guy to keep an eye on. He has reportedly broken 4.4 on several occasions running the 40-yard dash. Austin Peay is the lone reported offer at this time, but Kenner has been a big playmaker for the Purples' explosive offense. As a junior, he had 42 receptions for 669 yards and five touchdowns sharing the ball on a loaded Bowling Green offense. As a sophomore, he played at Christian County, where he had more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Three-star Simon Kenton offensive lineman Colton Williams (6-5, 290) holds an early offer from Cincinnati and is picking up steady interest from UK and other major programs like Louisville, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Purdue, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. The Cats only took three offensive linemen in the Class of 2017, so look for that position group to be a priority in the junior class.
Another O-Line prospect to keep an eye on is Charles Allen from Louisville Doss. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound guard has drawn early offers from Purdue, Western Kentucky and Miami (Ohio). He's an athletic big man who has drawn some comparisons to former Cat Larry Warford, who also largely flew under the recruiting rankings radar until his senior season.
Allen's teammate at Doss, athlete Terez Traynor, has also draw UK's eye. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder could project at numerous positions at the next level. He's the type of athlete who is almost certain to blow up on this spring and summer's camp and combine circuit. Purdue and Cincinnati have already offered.
Spencer County standout Kadin Smith has yet to see the scholarship offers come rolling in, but his athleticism at 6-foot, 180 pounds makes him a prime candidate to pick a few up this spring and summer. He scored 21 touchdowns last season, including 15 rushing, three receiving and three on the defensive side of the ball. Smith averaged 14.1 yards per rushing attempt, finishing with 1,254 yards on the season. Defensively, he picked off three passes.
Playing at the same high school that produced All-American running back Damien Harris, Carter Smith is a versatile player who has drawn the interest of several in-state schools and a few Ivy Leaguers. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound linebacker has a terrific motor that never stops, as evidenced by his 294 tackles the last two seasons. He also rushed for 962 yards and 12 scores as a junior. He seems to be a "sleeper" prospect a this time, but could be poised for some major offers this spring and summer.