Kentucky has the nation’s No. 1 ranked football class for 2014, according to Rivals.com.
That’s an incredible statement.
Before diving into what Kentucky has done on the recruiting trail, it should be pointed out Kentucky isn’t ranked No. 1 by every scouting service. The Wildcats are ranked No. 7 by 247Sports, for example.
It’s also very unlikely Kentucky finishes with the No. 1 class or close to it on signing day. But the Wildcats are on pace to easily sign their highest-rated class in the history of the program.
Mark Stoops has changed the way Kentucky is viewed on the recruiting trail since he was hired as head coach in November. Less than three months after Stoops was hired, the Wildcats signed the nation’s No. 29 class for 2013, Kentucky’s best finish since Rivals started calculating team rankings in 2002.
Kentucky has 18 commitments for the 2014 class, eight of whom are from the state of Ohio. That will be critical as Kentucky continues to build relationships and create opportunities for future recruiting.
And without playing a game, Stoops has recruits believing Kentucky will be competitive in the SEC. That’s what sealed the deal for Bowling Green, Ky., defensive tackle Adrian Middleton, who committed to the Wildcats on June 15.
“I picked UK because Coach (Mark) Stoops is changing it around,” Middleton told CatsIllustrated.com. “He’s trying to make a championship program and I wanted to be a part of the family.”
It’s a group that’s received a lot of attention. Common knowledge of the recruiting process says schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU will catch and pass Kentucky by signing day. But the Wildcats have become competitive in recruiting with their SEC opponents, something we’ve never seen.
“It’s a very impressive job by an aggressive staff,” Rivals analyst Mike Farrell told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “They have overcome a lot of things that previous staffs have never been able to touch. Football recruiting has become relevant in Kentucky, and that’s big news.”
That’s the news for Kentucky. The Wildcats have gained credibility despite a winless season in the SEC in 2012. They’ll continue to sell momentum on the recruiting trail as they try to lure more highly-touted prospects, including Elizabethton, Ky., defensive tackle Matt Elam.
Meanwhile, Kentucky fans, who are used to signing top basketball classes, can enjoy the nation’s top football class. Here’s proof.
McMillan will return to Florida
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Ga., enjoyed last week’s trip to Florida so much that he’s decided to visit Gainesville again this weekend.
“It’s a great staff, campus is beautiful,” McMillan told the Gainesville Sun. “But the people here, man, they are great people.”
McMillan, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker by Rivals, is intrigued by the idea of playing for head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who also coaches linebackers.
“You always wants your linebackers coach to be the defensive coordinator because he builds the defensive around you,” McMillan said.
Most coaches will plan their defenses around McMillan, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution his leaders are Alabama and Ohio State with Clemson “up there, too.”
Alabama’s recent success has made the Crimson Tide an easy candidate for McMillan to consider.
“Alabama is Alabama,” he told the AJC. “You know they’re going to win regardless of who they bring in. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are great defensive coaches. They’re always going to have a strong defense at Alabama, and the offense is good.”
McMillan maintains Georgia is in the mix as well. He told the AJC he plans to take official visits to Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
“I’m still trying to decide if I will take officials to Georgia or Florida,” McMillan said.
Alabama finds recruiting momentum
Alabama received three commitments in the last week.
The first pledge brought the biggest news. Quarterback David Cornwell from North High School in Norman, Okla., gave his commitment to Alabama after receiving a scholarship offer from the Crimson Tide last week.
“I am very excited about my decision,” Cornwell told Rivals. “I am very blessed to be able to have this opportunity. I am ready to get started working back with my team in hopes of winning a state championship. That is my main goal now. I am just happy to have my decision made.”
Cornwell’s decision was followed up by commitments from wide receiver Derek Kief from La Salle High School in Cincinnati and offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer from East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minn.
Kief, who announced his decision in creative fashion, chose Alabama over Kentucky and Ohio State.
“I pretty much knew Alabama is where I wanted to go after my visit,” he told Rivals. “I let the coaching staff know on Thursday. I told Coach Saban on Friday about my decision. He was really fired up. He told me he can’t wait for me to get down there. All the coaches were really excited.”
Alabama fans should be excited about the state of the Crimson Tide’s recruiting. Their 2014 class, which has 13 commitments, is ranked No. 5 in the nation by Rivals.
Alabama is very much in the running for such top prospects as defensive end Da’Shawn Hand from Woodbridge, Va., cornerback Marlon Humphrey from Hoover, Ala., and running back Leonard Fournette from New Orleans. And there will be more top prospects to add to the list.
Vanderbilt adds two to 2014 class
Vanderbilt received commitments this week from offensive lineman Cole Hardin from Florence (Ala.) High School and Jashon Robertson from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn.
The Commodores offered everything Hardin required on the field and off it.
“My main thing in making the decision was academics and I wanted it to be a solid program,” Hardin told VandySports.com. “That’s been my idea of what I wanted to pick in a school since day one. And Vanderbilt’s the only school that can offer a top-notch education, it’s 17th in the nation among colleges, and it’s also in the SEC, which is the top as there is, no doubt, in football. There’s no one that can compete with that, and that’s why I made my decision.”
The commitments from Hardin and Robertson give Vanderbilt nine commitments for its 2014 class, which is ranked No. 26 in the nation and 10th in the SEC by Rivals.