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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coaches were almost as giddy over UK’s national signing day success as fans have been.
Coach Mark Stoops and his staff recruited eight of the 10 highest-rated players in the recruiting class, including consensus four-star defensive end Za’Darius Smith and four-star receiver Ryan Timmons, despite having less than two months to recruit. Kentucky’s class likely will be ranked 30th or higher if Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher commits as expected at 3 p.m. and that’s a big step up for a program that has just three top-50 class in the previous 11 years.
Kentucky has signed seven four-star recruits — Hatcher would make eight. That’s the highest total ever for a UK recruiting class. The class also includes a record 10 players from Florida.
Here are comments from some UK coaches about today’s signing class.
— Bradley Peveto, special teams and secondary.
“One of the first things coach Stoops says in recruiting, we go out and try to get the best players we can. Everyone in this signing class will come in and have a chance to play. (Kicker Austin) MacGinnis will be like every player we have and will have a chance to play right away. Coach Stoops made it very clear to me that he wants our best players on the special teams unit, whether it’s starters, back-ups, or walk-ons. We will evaluate our personnel in the spring along with evaluating our new comers in the fall.”
He also had this to say about Timmons, who could return kicks: “He’s a very explosive guy with a great burst, great speed and he’s a young man that we want to get the ball into his hands every way possible. He is very excited to have an opportunity to be on our special teams units.”
— Vince Marrow, tight ends.
“I think Kentucky is a sleeping giant. We’re in the best conference in the country. Being close to Ohio, a lot of the big cities in Ohio are no further than three-four hours. What I’m selling is you get to play in the best conference in the country and you don’t have to go far to do it. What coach (Neal) Brown’s offense is bringing, a lot of guys would like to see themselves in that offense, so I’m confident about what we’re doing here. I’m still amazed the previous staff didn’t recruit Ohio. We’re really going to hit Ohio hard.”
He said this about junior college tight end Steven Borden, who is already on campus: “Steven’s a very athletic tight end. He’s actually the son of pro wrestler Sting from the WWE. What we’re looking for out of Steven is a guy who can get down the field and is very explosive in his route running. He’s got great hands. He will be really important to this offense.”
— Derrick Ansley, cornerbacks.
Ohio cornerback Jaleel Hytchye was one of the first recruiting targets for Stoops and his staff.
“Jaleel is a great person. He’s a guy that’s a very good leader. He’s got a strong personality that other kids tend to cling to. He’s the kind of person we want to model our program around with kids of his character. He’s a dynamic player on the field, and he’s a dynamic personality off the field. Once you mix those together, then you get a guy with a personality that can help attract other kids to the University of Kentucky.”
— Jimmy Brumbaugh, defensive line coach.
“In the SEC, we have to have guys with size and speed because it’s critical, you don’t want just a pass rusher, so it’s critical that you find a guy that can do both. I’ve never seen a fan base so fast … My twitter account, I had like 13 followers last night. In an hour, I jumped from 13 followers to 225 followers in an hour. Shameless plug, follow me @coachbrumbaugh.”
He had this to say about Smith, another junior college signee already on campus: “I’m excited to have a second year to be with him. He’s a good person and he wants to be good. Those are the intangible factors that he has. He has the size, strength and speed to be a good football player and he has a high ceiling.”
He also explained why he felt UK’s recruiting went so well. “I think the biggest thing was coach Stoops’ personality. His attention to the defensive line knowing that that’s where you build the foundation to the defense.”