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By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky high school coach Maurice Dixon is glad to see UK interested in North Gwinnett (Ga.) defensive end Dante Sawyer.
“Dante is upper echelon. He is a legit big-time player,” said Dixon, now the defensive coordinator at North Gwinnett. “My talk to him is keep your mind open and see this Kentucky offer as an opportunity, and I think he is very interested in Kentucky. Being from Kentucky, I would love to see some of our kids get a chance to go to UK.
“Kids down south have a lot of opportunities and they just don’t know about Kentucky unless they get a chance to go and see the facilities. There are no better facilities than Kentucky. Sure, they have some room to grow but I am extremely impressed with Mark Stoops and his new staff.”
So is the 6-3, 255-pound Sawyer, who has offers from Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, South Carolina and several more Division I schools. He is ranked the 19th-best defensive end by Scout.com in the 2014 recruiting class and has run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds.
“Dante loved having a big defensive guy like Stoops at Kentucky,” Dixon said. “When he went on his unofficial visit, he got to watch a basketball game in Rupp Arena and loved the excitement. I told him about the history of Kentucky football and how they sold out games with great fans and that might be a place he could also get on the field quicker.
“But I also told him Kentucky is a SEC school and he will have to prove himself. However, I told him how good the fans were and treated players and teams. If he comes and does well, he can be a Kentucky legend. I am not saying he is the greatest player ever, but he is a good player and good kid. He’s very excited about Kentucky.”
Sawyer was a tailback his first two years and last season was his first as a full-time starter.
“He is a big-play kid. He is really explosive,” Dixon, who coached at Hazard, said. “He’s a rush end and is very aggressive. He makes play. In the second round of the playoffs, he came up with an interception toward the end to seal the win. He ran it back 40 yards and got tackled inside the 10. On the opening drive they were driving on us and he comes though a gap that would remind you of a goal line play but it was no on the goal line. He lays out as the quarterback is reversing to hand the ball off and he rips the ball from the quarterback’s hands and stands up with the ball as the place goes crazy. That’s what he can do.
“He just makes plays. We opened the season in the Georgia Dome against the No. 18 team in the nation and he had 17 tackles. He thrives under pressure and just has that knack for making big plays.”
Sawyer is not the only potential North Gwinnett player that Dixon could see liking Kentucky. He says free safety Bobby Young is a possibility and that middle linebacker Tony Bradford has Lexington ties. He feels wide receiver Nate Brown “is somebody that (UK offensive coordinator) Neal Brown would be tickled to have in blue.” Dixon also says that junior Mitch Hyatt is drawing attention from “coast to coast” already.
“These guys are all players,” Dixon said. “We have sent defensive linemen to all levels in college and have a lot of really good players here.”