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By LARRY VAUGHT

He’s a three-star player who had nine catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns, including two-one handed grabs, in Florida’s Class 8-A state championship game. Yet new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops managed to go into Weston, Fla., and convince 6-1, 180-pound receiver Alex Montgomery of Cypress Bay High School to verbally commit to the Wildcats.

Montgomery, who had been committed to Wake Forest, was a target of former UK coach Joker Phillips and his staff after attending Kentucky’s camp last summer. However, he didn’t seen to have any genuine interest in UK until Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown arrived.

“He catches the ball, no matter where it’s at. Over his head, at his knees, diving … he gets to the football,” said Chris Hays, the recruiting coverage coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel. “Doesn’t even matter how many hands he needs, one-handed, two-handed. He brings it in. He stole the show in the Class 8-A state title game and even though Cypress Bay lost a 53-50 thriller to Apopka, everyone was talking about Alex Montgomery afterward.”

Hayes referred to Montgomery as a “stud” and big-time prospect.

Here are some other thoughts Hays, who writes a weekly recruiting column as well as overseeing the newspaper’s recruiting coverage, shared on Montgomery.

Question: Why is he just a three-star receiver?
Hays: “First of all, I put no stock in the star system whatsoever, but he’s not higher than a three-star because the stars are not always right. He’s a tremendous player who didn’t score over 100 on the Nike SPARQ testing, maybe that’s why. He’s kept to himself, done his thing and had a terrific career. Cypress Bay has been a run-oriented offense during his time,  but he’s still been able to put up numbers.”

Question: Will he be immediate impact player in Neal Brown’s spread offense?
Hays: “Can’t keep a player of this caliber off the field. He makes plays. He’s not a burner-type, but not slow either. He runs good routes and catches the ball defensively, and by that I mean he does a great job of shielding the defender away from the ball when going one-on-one, almost like a box-out in basketball. His field awareness is natural, instinctual.”

Question: How do you think Kentucky managed to come into Florida and steal him?
Hays: “They stole him because they have coaches who know Florida recruiting and I think that given the number of receivers the Wildcats are going to need in the new offense, he’s bought into the Air Raid philosophy and sees an opportunity.”
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Hays can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting, Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.

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