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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky got commitments from two players with the playmaking ability that offensive coordinator Neal Brown wants in his offense in a 30-minute period Friday night when receiver Jeff Badet and running back JoJo Kemp, both of Florida, both verbally committed to sign with the Wildcats on Wednesday during the first day of the national signing period.
Both were expected to pick UK over a host of other schools, but Kemp said he wasn’t convinced what he would do until Brown and running backs coach Chad Scott made a visit to him Thursday after coaches from West Virginia, South Florida and Pittsburgh had stopped by in the previous 24 hours.
The 5-10, 210-pound Kemp is ranked as the nation’s 10th best multipurpose back by Rivals.com. He rushed 255 times for 1,459 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012 for DeLand High School.
“They said they were not going to spend their time negative recruiting against the other programs,” Kemp told the Daytona Beach News Journal.. “They said they were going to spend their time explaining Kentucky’s program. And I just thought, ‘Those are the type of guys that I want to play for … positive, respectful guys like that.’”
Kemp had verbally committed to South Florida last summer, but changed his mind midway of his senior football season.
Several national recruiting analysts project that his versatility as a runner and receiver will be a perfect fit in Brown’s spread offense.
Badet, who played for Orlando Freedom High School, had narrowed his college list to Kentucky, Wake Forest and Iowa State. He turned down late scholarship offers from UCLA and Wisconsin.
The 5-11, 190-pound Badet, who also originally committed to South Florida, , had 63 catches for 881 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. He also ran 28 time for 326 yards and six more scores and had 319 yards in kickoff returns.
“Jeff has always impressed me with his speed after the catch. He’ll catch a ball on a slant pattern across the middle and then turn it on. Rarely have I seen defenders be able to collapse fast enough to contain him if he has any kind of space,” Chris Hays, recruiting coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel, said. “In three years of watching him, I can only remember one time that he dropped a ball, and that time he came right back and caught a long TD pass on the next play. He’s pretty sure-handed.
“Badet is a spread guy, with the speed and skills to fit right into an Air Raid sort of attack and thrive in it. It’s not unlike what he saw at his own high school.”
Hays thought for the last week or more that Badet would pick Kentucky despite the late push from UCLA and Wisconsin.
“Badet should be on the field with the first-teamers early, with his only drawback possibly being his confidence, or should I say, over confidence,” Hays said. “If he brings the right attitude and backs up any cockiness with his play, he will be in the rotation.