By LARRY VAUGHT
Danville coach Clay Clevenger has no doubt that D’Mauriae VanCleave can play college football at a high level. However, reports that he has already received a preferred walk-on offer from the University of Kentucky is not true — at least not yet.
A story originated Tuesday that VanCleave and Danville senior teammates Jaleel Warren and Christian Hill had been offered preferred walk-on spots by Kentucky just two days after the Admirals beat Mayfield to win the Class AA state title and complete a 15-0 season.
VanCleave had 82 receptions for 1,095 yards and rushed 72 times for 762 yards this season while scoring 29 touchdowns. He had 62 tackles and six interceptions. In the state title game, he had four touchdowns and intercepted two passes.
For his career, he had 220 reception for 3,012 yards and ran 148 times for 1,317 yards. He scored 73 touchdowns and made 16 interceptions to go with 112 tackles. He had four career punt returns for touchdowns.
Tight end/defensive end Warren had what Clevenger called the “best hands” on the team and the best he’s seen in years for a high school player. Hill, a defensive lineman, had 54 tackles this season.
Kentucky assistant coach Dean Hood visited with the three Monday and told them he liked what he had seen. But no preferred walk-on offers were made.
“He was just gauging their interest and seeing if they had mutual interest,” Clevenger said. “Kentucky needs to get through signing day and coach Hood told them they might also get other offers.”
The Danville coach, a former college assistant coach, said if the Danville players have not found a college option they like by February, then Hood will be back in touch to see what might work for all of them.
The buzz about all three having preferred walk-on offers was created by a tweet from a Danville assistant coach. Clevenger was not in the meeting Hood had with the three Admirals and called Hood to make sure about what was said and confirmed that no offers were made.
VanCleave, a Mr. Football candidate, recently improved his ACT score well above the NCAA minimum and Clevenger thinks a lot of schools should be looking at him but his size (5-7, 160 pounds) scares off many who don’t see his speed (4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash).
VanCleave reminds me — and Clevenger — of former Harrodsburg High School and University of Kentucky standout Craig Yeast. He was also undersized compared to many but had dazzling speed and agility. He set career records at UK and played in the NFL.
“I am still finalizing his highlight film now but hopefully some schools are going to see what he can do and see how he could make plays for them,” Clevenger said. “I think all three of them are going to get looks from small schools, but VanCleave is just special and hopefully that won’t be ignored.”