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UK head coach Mark Stoops’ influence is moving beyond the borders of Kentucky and Ohio.
Each state has been a key area for the Cats on the recruiting trail. Now, the energy surrounding the UK program has reached Washington, D.C., an area that has not produced UK recruits as often as the Commonwealth and Buckeye states.
Rivals three-star safety Kobie Walker, a member of the 2014 class, could be the first of many players from the D.C. area to join the Cats in the coming seasons.
Defensive back Marcus Lewis and wide receiver Jabari Greenwood, both 2015 recruits from Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.), attended UK’s Junior Day on Feb. 15. Lewis and Greenwood have offers from UK, and Gonzaga College head coach Aaron Brady said he could see them playing in the same college program.
“They are definitely close,” Brady said. “At the end of the day, though, they have to make their own decisions.”
Lewis said he and Greenwood have talked about attending the same college.
Lewis, a four-star according to Rivals, was offered a scholarship by the University of Michigan on Feb. 20. He said he will choose a school that “feels like home,” and that the size or prestige of the program does not matter.
“They get a guy like Kobie and if they could get me or Jabari, that would be big,” Lewis said. “Coming in, that’s three guys that know each other and are good players that can come in and make an impact.”
Brady said Lewis and Greenwood seek each other out in drills during practice.
“Both players are very competitive,” Brady said. “I don’t have to match them up, they do it themselves. That’s a good thing for a team, for them to compete.”
Both Lewis and Greenwood have played basketball in high school. Lewis started playing football as a sophomore, Brady said.
“I finally convinced (Lewis) during the summer before sophomore year to play football,” Brady said. “He’s already getting offers. He’s a special kid with special abilities and I think he’s handling it well. It’s hard mentally going from basketball to football and getting all these offers.
UK has opportunities for early playing time, something that interests Lewis.
“Going in there and playing as a freshman is really hard to do,” Brady said. “I think he has the ability to. (Lewis and Greenwood) are at positions where they can play right away.”
Brady said Greenwood’s physicality is unique.
“Most 6-foot-4-inch receivers aren’t physical, but he is,” Brady said. “He plays some safety and outside linebacker for us. He loves to hit. You don’t see that a lot in a receiver.”
UK wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord has recruited both players. Brady says he sees energy in Mainord’s recruiting approach.
“SEC is a tough league and it’s tough to turn a team around, but (former Vanderbilt University head coach) James Franklin did,” Brady said. “I see that same kind of energy in Coach Mainord. It’s exciting. It’s an exciting time at Kentucky, I think.”
Lewis said he likes the energy in Lexington and his interest in UK is high.
“I loved it,” Lewis said. “I love Coach Stoops. I love his energy. UK has a great atmosphere.”