By Nick Gray | @KYKernelGray
The short, intense road of recruiting the class of 2013 for the UK football coaching staff peaked in the mid-afternoon when Trinity (Ky.) defensive end Jason Hatcher announced his decision in front of family and friends at his high school.
Hatcher, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end, is ranked as the 8th-best weakside defensive end by Rivals and the 14th-best defensive end overall by ESPN. Both recruiting services rated Hatcher as a four-star recruit, and ESPN ranked Hatcher as the 182nd best prospect overall and the best in UK’s class.
Hatcher collected 13.5 sacks as a senior at Trinity, earning first team All-State honors at defensive end by the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Associated Press.
Hatcher wavered on two schools during his recruitment, first committing to the University of Southern California, then de-committed from USC via Twitter Jan. 22 before deleting the tweet shortly thereafter.
Hatcher (ranked 3rd in the state by ESPN and Rivals), along with Franklin County (Ky.) athlete Ryan Timmons (ranked 4th in the state by ESPN and 5th by Rivals), gives UK two Top-5 recruits in the state in the final two primary days of recruiting.
Stoops entered the press conference and asked to excuse himself before coming back with a banner depicting the vital statistics of Hatcher, pasting him on the wall alongside the other signees.
“(Hatcher’s banner) makes the room look better,” Stoops said as he gazed at the wall.
Stoops called Hatcher’s commitment “tremendous.” He explained how much work he and his staff put into Hatcher’s recruitment.
“It’s about presenting a plan about how we’re going to use him, things we have done in the past, the way our defense works, how he’s going to fit into (the defense),” Stoops said. “On our last visit when I went into the home we brought four of us with us, and we spent a good deal (of time with his family). They were gracious enough to spend a bunch of time with us, and they got a chance to see us and see what we’re all about.”
Defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh heaped praise on Hatcher about both his physical skills and mental capabilities.
“Anytime you take a guy that wants to be good and has that kind of ability to be able to do things, then you have something to work with,” Brumbaugh said. “He has athleticism. Not only does he have athleticism; he has power with that athleticism. He’s flexible and can change direction and do the things that it takes to win.”
With the addition of Hatcher, the 22-man class recruited by Stoops and his staff is rated as UK’s highest ranked recruiting class ever. Rivals ranks the Cats’ 2013 class as the 28th best in the country as of Wednesday evening. Since 2002, when Rivals began to keep track of team recruiting rankings, UK’s prior highest ranked class was 36th in 2006.
Stoops discussed the rest of the recruiting class, including Jojo Kemp, Jeff Badet and Timmons, each of which Stoops called “home run” type of players.
Stoops also talked about recruiting in state and in the state of Ohio, saying, “The caliber of player that we’re getting from Kentucky and from Ohio obviously means a great deal.”
The Cats signed three players from each state, including two players from each state (McWilson and Hytchye from Ohio, Timmons and Hatcher from Kentucky) who were considered a four-star recruit by at least one recruiting service.
Stoops was asked if he expected any other letters of intent to be faxed to the UK football office in the coming days and weeks.
His answer: “Yes.”
Due to NCAA regulations, Stoops would not elaborate on what recruits could be pondering their decision and the Cats, but Rivals reported Monday Denham Springs (La.) four-star defensive tackle Tevin Lawson will visit UK this weekend. Lawson has been an LSU commit since March 2012.
Lincoln (Fla.) four-star inside linebacker James Hearns is leaning towards UK but has not made a decision due to academics, Justin Rowland of Rivals reported last week.
Regardless of who is to come, Stoops was noticeably happy and welcome to praise his recruiting class and his coaching staff for the work, which began Nov. 27 with Stoops’ hiring and topped out Wednesday.
“I said that in the first press conference when we introduced the guys at mid-year that we would go toe-to-toe with the best schools in the country and with the best schools in the SEC,” Stoops said. “We’re not going to take a backseat to anybody. We’re going to recruit hard. We will win our fair share. We don’t win them all, but we’re going to work hard.”
|Name||Position||Height||Weight||Hometown (High School/Last College)||Stars (Rivals)|
|Jeff Badet||WR||6’0||170||Orlando, Fla. (Freedom HS)||3|
|Alvonete Bell||DE||6’5||255||Miramar, Fla. (Everglades)||3|
|Javess Blue||WR||6’0||190||Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler CC)||3|
|Steven Borden||TE||6’3||250||Waxahachie, Texas (Waxahachie/Kilegore CC)||2|
|Justin Day||OT||6’8||305||Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken)||3|
|Jason Hatcher||DE||6’3||250||Louisville, Ky. (Trinity)||4|
|Nick Hayes||OL||6’3||305||Niceville, Fla. (Niceville HS)||3|
|Jacob Hyde||DL||6’2||330||Manchester, Ky. (Clay Co.)||3|
|Jaleel Hytchye||CB||5’10||175||Cincinnati, Ohio (La Salle)||3|
|Jojo Kemp||RB||5’10||190||DeLand, Fla. (DeLand)||3|
|Austin MacGinnis||K||5’10||175||Prattville, Ala. (Prattville)||3|
|Blake McClain||DB||5’11||190||Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park)||3|
|Marcus McWilson||S||6’0||210||Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney)||4|
|Kyle Meadows||OL||6’5||270||West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West)||3|
|Regie Meant||DL||6’4||275||Cape Coral, Fla. (Baker)||2|
|Ramsey Meyers||OL||6’4||290||Orange Park, Fla. (Ridgeview)||3|
|Alex Montgomery||WR||6’2||210||Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay)||3|
|Reese Phillips||QB||6’2||225||Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain)||3|
|Za’Darius Smith||DE||6’6||250||Greenville, Ala. (Greenville/East Mississippi CC)||4|
|Khalid Thomas||RB||5’10||170||Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby)||3|
|Ryan Timmons||ATH||5’10||185||Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin Co.)||3|
|Nate Willis||DB||6’0||180||Pahokee, Fla. (Pahokee/Arizona Western College)||3|