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- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting the home state of Kentucky
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- D.J. Eliot understands coach Mark Stoops “very well” can bring new ideas to UK defense
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- UK coach Mark Stoops was patient with Neal Brown because he was “all-in” on hiring him
By LARRY VAUGHT
Here’s more with Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown:
Question: How many of the incoming freshmen do you need to be able to play next season just from a depth standpoint?
Brown: “I think the skilled guys have to be ready to go. I think the receivers and running back (JoJo Kemp) that we signed, they have to be ready to play. I would anticipate all four of the (receiver) signees coming in to have an opportunity to compete for playing time right away.”
Question: What do you like best about freshman receiver Alex Montgomery of Florida?
Brown: “He is consistent. He is from a winning high school program. He has great ball skills. His physical makeup is such that he is ready to play right now in our league. He is a big, strong kid and he has played in big games. He has always risen to the occasion. The state championship was probably the best game he’s had in his career. Even though they lost, he put up big numbers and had heck of performance.”
Question: What about Florida receiver Jeff Badet, a player some say is a bit cocky or arrogant on the field?
Brown: “He is a confident guy. He is a guy that didn’t show up on anybody’s radar until his senior year. He was a good player throughout his high school career, but had a great senior year. He is a guy that has speed, which is something we need more of. He is a guy that can make people miss, which is something we need more of. He will be given an opportunity to be a factor in fall camp. There is always a fine line between arrogant and self-confidence. I want those guys to be confident, but at the same time they have to respect what we are doing and who they are playing against.”
Question: How did you feel about tight end coming out of spring practice?
Brown: “It was probably one of our more consistent positions really. We have several guys that can play. Tyler Robinson. Jordan Aumiller. Ronnie Shields, we are kind of playing more of an inside receiver than a tight end. Steven Borden. Then Anthony Kendrick is kind of the wild card. I think he gets released full speed at the end of the month. That has a lot of depth there. We will be creative how we use those and get more than one on the field sometimes.”
Question: What did you like about Aumiller, a player who had a big freshman season catching the ball and then was basically a non-factor the last two years?
Brown: “He played really hard. He is a smart kid. He was physical in the spring. I think that was kind of his knock that he wasn’t, but he was. He played really physical. He made plays on the ball. He made a lot of difficult catches and did a really solid job for us.”
Question: Is there a receiver on campus who needs a good summer and then show you immediately in August he can contribute?
Brown: “Darryl Collins is a kid that has a lot of ability. I thought he showed some signs in the spring but was not as consistent as he could. I think he is a guy that can be a big factor for us.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops isn’t sure if all his signing classes will have such a large percentage of Florida players — 11 of 22 signees were Florida native — but he wants to continue to use his connections in that state all he can.
“There are a lot of great players that come out of Florida. It’s probably the way it fell because of our relationships with some of them. So I don’t know if it would be the exact percentage in the future, but I’m not going to put any limitations on it,” said Stoops. “There is a lot of talent down there but we’re going to work extremely hard to hit everybody we can within a four-, five-, six‑hour drive from Lexington.”
Chris Hays, Orlando Sentinel recruiting coverage coordinator, said he saw a “major push” from Kentucky this season in Florida that only intensified after Stoops, the former Florida State defensive coordinator, took over at UK.
“Stoops has a name to perk up the ears of players,” Hays said. “Kentucky did make a push here early. They got Blake McClain on board early and it was obvious they were trying to come into Florida and get things going like Iowa State has done. Look at Louisville with Charlie Strong’s connections and that roster and what they have done. Coming to Florida is a trend you are seeing more and coaches can be successful here getting great players because there are a lot of them.
“With Stoops, kids here are buying into his rah-rah philosophy of being part of a big turnaround at Kentucky. Pop Warner football is huge here. Kids start paying young and all buy into football.”
Florida high school football consists of eight divisions. There are 76 Class 8-A schools — and UK signees Alex Montgomery, Alvonte Bell, Blake McClain, JoJo Kemp and Jeff Badet all played for 8-A schools. Others played in 5-A or 6-A.
Recruiting analysts indicate 5-A to 8-A schools in Florida is comparable to the play of Louisville Trinity and Highlands, two of Kentucky’s best programs each year. Hays says Kentucky has a variety of playmakers with the Florida signees.
“Badet wants the ball and when he does get it, he gets the job done and is a big-play receiver,” Hays said. “I watched Kemp a lot. He’s a terrific running back. He can do a lot of things with the football. He has a tremendous upside. It will be fun to see him in the spread offense. He’s very athletic, has tremendous balance and does a good job after taking hits. He’s very determined and strong because he played linebacker the early part of his career.
“Montgomery, I am a huge fan of his. The show he put on in the state title game (nine catches for 199 yards and three scores) was something. He’s a very good kid, too. He is a tremendous athlete and the plays he makes are plays other guys can’t make. He just makes plays out of something that is not there. Javess Blue was highly recruited out of high school and then did well at junior college. I would think he can be terrific.
“McClain is surprisingly athletic for a defensive back. He played wide receiver on offense. He does a lot of different things. He can pick the ball and do a lot of things athletically to get the ball back to the end zone. He’s also a good kick returner. He will be a good locker room type of guy for Kentucky.”
Stoops called Kemp a “home run hitter” and a player that UK “targeted as a high priority” immediately. Badet was another player Stoops said his staff targeted immediately because of his “home run speed.”
The UK coach already knew plenty about Montgomery.
“He comes from a tremendous program, big‑time wide receiver that I knew about and had my eye on him for a good bit. Anybody that goes into the state championship game and has— what did he have 9 catches for 190 yards or something like that, you know he’s a heck of a football player. I’ve known Alex for a while. It was a great get for us, a guy that’s a strong receiver who can make plays,” Stoops said.
Another player he knew plenty about was running back Khalid Thomas and the Tallahassee high school where he played. “He is a solid player that’s going to give us some depth and have a punch to our class,” Stoops said.
Another player Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot knew they wanted to keep committed to UK was defensive linemen Alvonte Bell “We offered him at Florida State. Alvonte has great size range and great upside, and very excited to see him committed when I arrived here on campus. We worked hard at keeping that relationship with Alvonte with us because we think an awful lot of him,” Stoops said.
Offensive lineman Ramsey Myers was another early UK commit that Stoops says offensive coordinator Neal Brown and offensive line coach John Schlarman wanted to keep.
Offensive lineman Nick Haynes signed after being recruited for only about two weeks by Stoops and his staff. “Nick Haynes is a guy we just started working a couple of weeks ago and just had a chance to watch him and get caught up with him on film. Extremely impressed with his athletic ability. Again, great size, a guy that’s very versatile. We feel that he could play some center as well as guard. Excited about him,” Stoops said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
During his Franklin County career, Ryan Timmons was a dynamic playmaker at multiple positions.
He rushed for 1,306 yards and 25 scores as a senior and 62 times for 1,382 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior. He had 33 catches for 1,004 yards and 16 scores in 2012 and 38 receptions for 1,100 yards and 18 scores in 2011. All three times he returned a kickoff, he scored his senior season, including on the final play of the game to beat Anderson County.
That versatility had him ranked as the nation’s No. 23 running back by 247Sports.com, the No. 28 athlete by ESPN.com and the No. 46 wide receiver by Scout.com. That’s why Kentucky running backs coach Chad Scott said the UK signee will continue to play multiple spots for the Wildcats.
“He will play some in the backfield. We will motion him back there just to get the ball in his hands,” said Scott. “That’s the good thing about this offense. You can be so multiple in a variety of ways to get different guys involved in the offense and get certain guys the ball in space and let them make plays. So he will be in the backfield.”
“He’s a guy that’s been running this offense since the seventh grade. He knew the offense. He knew that he could come in here and have a chance to compete early,” UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “He’s a guy that’s versatile. We’re going to move him around. We’ll play him some in the slot, some at outside receiver, and then we’ll hand him the ball from the backfield some also. And at kick returner, too. He’s a guy that’s going to bring a lot to the table early in this program.”
Brown says he would love to see Timmons turn out like former Florida star Percy Harvin, a player Timmons says he admires.
“He likes Percy a whole lot. He better gain some weight. Percy’s about 215, so he better gain some weight. But he’s a guy that, sort of like how Florida used Percy, he can do a lot of things. So we have to put him in position where we can get a lot out of him — as a true freshman, hopefully,” Brown said.
Timmons will have a big advantage over high school signees Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet of Florida as well as junior college transfer Javess Blue because he has played in a system similar to what Brown uses for five years.
“The good thing with him is that is this is really a unique situation. We are installing our offense and quarterbacks are learning off video now and others will learn it in the spring. Other guys will have 15 practices in it (during the spring),” Brown said. “When he gets here in June, he will have had five years in it. It is really unique situation.
“Some of the verbiage is different, some of the terminology is different. Obviously we are bit more complex, but he has had five years training in the system and the players here will have had only 15 practices. So he is going to have more of a working knowledge when he gets here in June than guys have been in college three or four years.”
Brown knows just from a perception standpoint how important it was to sign Timmons, a four-star player with offers from Florida and Ohio State.
“I thought it was huge for us. That was a great day for us (when Timmons committed). We were huddled around in the staff room watching that,” Brown said. “I thought he did a great job, thought he handled it well. His high school coach, Chris Tracy, they put on a great event there at the school. But that was big for us. He’s a guy who really showed other in-state recruits in classes to come to have faith in us.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Florida receiver Jeff Badet says there are two main reasons he signed with Kentucky — new offensive coordinator Neal Brown and the opportunity to play immediately in the Southeastern Conference.
“When coach (Mark) Stoops got the job at Kentucky, that changed the perception of Kentucky football. Then he brought in Neal Brown from Texas Tech to run that offense,” said Badet. “I used to watch Kentucky and thought, ‘This is a bad team that needs a lot of work.’ Kentucky offered me and I did not even consider it. But once I got to talking to these new coaches, a bond just got created.
“Having coach Brown calling me about every day and know the offense he is bringing from Texas Tech was among the best in the country last year is huge. I didn’t really know his name when he was out there, but I watched Texas Tech and knew about the offense. When I found out he was the one calling the plays and I would have a chance to maybe play early, I was hooked.”
The 5-11, 190-pound Badet, who originally committed to South Florida, had 63 catches for 881 yards and 10 scores last season. He also ran 28 times for 326 yards and six scores and had 319 yards in kick returns.
“He wants the ball and when he gets it, he gets it done,” Orlando Sentinel recruiting coordinator Chris Hays said. “He’s a big-time player.”
“I think Badet has really flown under the radar. Great athlete, nationally ranked high jumper, very explosive guy. I expect him to compete for playing time immediately,” Brown said.
Badet thinks UK sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith could be a “big-time” player as well.
“I met him on my official visit and talk to him about every day now. I saw him throwing on my visit and it seemed like he would be very, very good,” Badet said.
Badet admits some may think he has too much confidence in his own ability, but he says that confidence is what makes him able to make plays.
“To be honest, with me playing football, I just see the game different. Every time I touch the ball, I try to score,” he said. “Before this year, I had a bad habit of running out of bounds. This year I made things happen. I stayed in bounds and always tried to score.
“Down here, you better be confident. If I set my mind to something, then I am going out and doing it. On the field, I tell myself what I am going to do when I get the ball. I think how I will catch the ball and make the defender miss. I know I have a lot of ability, but I also know I have a long way to go. However, knowing what I can do makes me a great player and if I set my mind to do something, I am actually going to do it.
“I am not afraid to work and learn to get better. There are a lot of things I have to learn. I know the speed of the game will change. I know I have to learn to read defenses better. But I want to learn so I can make plays.”
Badet made his announcement that he was coming to UK the same night that running back JoJo Kemp did. The two are “buddies” and talked often during their recruitments.
“At first we were considering other schools, but once we visited Kentucky we talked about it and knew it was the school for us,” Badet said. “He is an all-purpose running back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, run between the gaps. He is fast and really a good guy and player.”
He’s also friends with defensive back Blake McClain, another UK signee.
“He’s really a good player, too,” Badet said.
He watched receiver Alex Montgomery play in the state championship game and is also glad he signed with UK.
“He’s very, very good. A great playmaker,” Badet said.
Kentucky signed 11 players from Florida Wednesday and Badet thinks that will help the UK program.
“Coach Stoops talked to us about goals and me knowing that Mark Stoops is such a good coach, that’s why I left Florida for Kentucky. There’s no reason for us (players in Flordia) not to want to go to Kentucky,” Badet said. “When I left for home Sunday after my visit (to UK), he came down Monday just to visit me. That’s impressive.
“Florida guys like to stay in Florida and play, but knowing the environment and attitude there is at Kentucky now, we want to be part of that and I think you’ll see more Flordia guys doing the same in the future. We all believe we can be part of something special at Kentuck
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.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Friday could be a big day for Kentucky football recruiting again as two Florida prep standouts — running back JoJo Kemp and receiver Jeff Badet — both will make their college choices and it looks like both could pick Kentucky.
Here is what Scout.com’s evaluation of Kemp says: “At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he has enough size already to grow into a potential 210+ pound running back who will be able to carry the rock 20 times a game and get the tough yards inside. He’s a tremendous athlete who can make a lot of people miss in short space, too. He changes directions well. He can catch the ball very well out of the backfield. He’s just a good football player with plus athleticism.”
Kemp seems down to Kentucky, Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia. He made his official visit to Pittsburgh in early December and has been to UK and South Florida in recent weeks. One interesting note here is that Jaleel Hytchye and Blake McClain both visited Pitt the same weekend as Kemp and both have now committed to Kentucky.
The 5-11, 190-pound Kemp rushed for over 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
The 5-11, 170-pound Badet also has 4.5 speed. He has received late interest from UCLA and Wisconsin, but turned down a chance to visit UCLA this weekend.
Here is the Scout.com evaluation of Badet: “Badet has good speed but is quicker than fast. He’s elusive and displays good change of direction. Badet can sneak behind a secondary, will go over the middle and catch a short pass and make something happen. He really does a nice job of creating separation and getting open. Badet has good hands and concentration. He can go up and get the ball and can make the acrobatic grab. Look for him to play in the slot at the next level.”
Badet would give new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown another potential go-to receiver to go along with recent commit Alex Montgomery, another Florida prep standout.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Here is more with Orlando Sentinel recruiting coverage coordinator Chris Hays (@Os_Recruiting on Twitter) about UK targets Jeff Badet and Asiantii Woulard:
Question: Do you think Kentucky has a realistic chance at signing one or both of them?
Hays: “I think Badet is a Wildcat from what I am able to gather in conversations with him. I’m looking for him to don a blue-and-white hat next week sometime unless something drastic changes everything. As for Asiantii, it’s far more difficult to get a read on him. I know he is living it up with this UCLA trip this weekend and they are going to give him that Hollywood treatment that might be hard to match. If UCLA really wants him I have no doubt they can sew it up with an overwhelming shower of affection during this trip. Otherwise he’ll be down to Kentucky and Clemson, and I’m not sure how committable the Clemson offer is.”
Question: Could one or both of them play immediately at Kentucky?
Hays: “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. It’s hard to say how that will rub off on the rest of the team, but more importantly on the coaches. If he brings the right attitude and backs up any cockiness with his play, he will be in the rotation.
“Woulard will need seasoning at the next level. Wildcats have seen it before with Max (Smith) and those before him. Throwing Asiantii into the fire would be detrimental. I think it takes a certain mindset for a kid to step in right away and get pounded by college defenses. He’ll need to sit back and watch things happen for a bit, and then get on the field when he has a grasp for the offense and the speed of the game. It’s too easy for a young player to get discouraged if his line isn’t holding up or receivers aren’t running the right routes or breaking them off soon enough when he’s in trouble and that can lead to confidence issues, as well as pointing fingers far too early. Asiantii doesn’t need any of that right off the bat.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Chris Hays (@Os_Recruiting on Twitter) is the recruiting coverage coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel and offered these insights on UK targets Jeff Badet, a receiver, and Asiantii Woulard, a quarterback, both former South Florida commits who have a high interest in Kentucky as national signing day approaches Feb. 6.
Question: What do you like best about Badet and Woulard?
Hays: “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. 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.
“Asiantii has nothing but upside. He’s played the position for only two years and done a tremendous job considering. He’s accurate and gets the ball where the receivers can make a play. He could develop some more arm strength, for sure. He’s athletic but running the football is not his forte and I question the fact that he’s even listed as a dual-threat quarterback. Though he has that ability, he has never been much of a threat to run the ball other than out of necessity.”
Question: How do you think each would fit into the offense that Neal Brown ran at Texas Tech and will use at Kentucky?
Hays: “Badet is a spread guy, with the speed and skills to fit right into an Air Raid sort of attack and thrive in it. He wold love that offense and it’s not unlike what he saw at his own high school. As for Asiantii, anything he is presented will be a bit of a learning curve, but he does seem to pick thing up well. His newness to the position is his drawback, but that is a given for anyone who brings him in. It’s known there will be a learning curve, but it’s a price many are quite willing to accept.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Chris Hays is the recruiting coverage coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel and has seen the impact new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who came to UK from Florida State, have made on recruiting in Florida.
“Before those guys came in, Blake McClain was the only one in Central Florida (Orlando area) getting recruited heavily by Kentucky, but now there’s Jeff Badet, Asiantii Woulard, JoJo Kemp, Stafon McCray … and on and on. Every kid I talk to is suddenly listing Kentucky among his list of schools he wants to visit and, honestly that has not been the case around here,” Hays said.
“These guys know Florida recruiting and where to find the right prospects. It’s not just Central Florida, either. They kept Alvonte Bell onboard, who is a star in the making with very raw skills but a tremendous player. They landed Khalid Thomas, who is one of the unsung of an incredible group of 2013 Florida running backs and they’ll be bringing in a few others before signing day. Things have to be looking up.”