Surprises abound on signing day

By Kevin Erpenbeck

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As national signing day concluded for UK, head coach Mark Stoops and his staff got the two JUCO transfer players they wanted as defensive linemen Courtney Miggins and Alvonte Bell committed to the Cats.

Both players are transferring from Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss.

“Those guys are difference makers,” Stoops said of the Cats’ final signees of the day. “It was very important to get those guys and to land them. We went through some good recruiting battles to land those guys.”

Both players’ commitments came as a surprise.

UK was not considered the favorite to land Miggins, who is ranked the eighth-best JUCO defensive tackle in the nation by 247Sports.com, as the Lithonia, Ga., native had offers from both Mississippi State and N.C. State.

Bell originally signed with UK in 2013, but did not qualify to enroll at the school at the time. The defensive end from Miramar, Fla., had offers from Florida State, Notre Dame and Mississippi State.

Stoops said he likes Bell’s explosiveness off of the line, something the coach was looking for in a defensive lineman in this year’s recruiting class. The Cats will need a pass rusher to fill the void recent-graduate Bud Dupree left. Dupree led the team in sacks last season with 7.5.

“He’s a very good football player, very explosive,” Stoops said of Bell. “Our coaches have gone (to Pearl River) and watched him practice and (have) been around him. We feel like he’s got a very bright future.”

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said the coaching staff wanted to remain quiet about recruiting Bell so that other programs wouldn’t snatch up the previously-committed UK signee.

“You never really want anybody to know what your plan is or who you want,” Ellot said. “There wasn’t a lot of media hype about him. He’ll get all his hype on Saturdays.”

Overall, the Cats had 23 commitments in the 2015 recruiting class, including Javon Provitt (Warren, Ohio) and Kengera Daniel (Raleigh, N.C.) rounding out the new defensive line.

Recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said the days leading up to national signing day were stressful, but is ultimately proud of the work the coaching staff did in collecting such highly coveted players.

“When we get commitments, we hold them. We don’t recruit other people at that position,” Marrow said. “We’re fishing in the right water. You want to be with that. That’s the type of people you’re going to recruit from here on out.”

Other news

During Stoops’ press conference, it was announced that Andy Buh, former California defensive coordinator, was hired to be UK’s new outside linebackers coach. Buh fills in the coaching spot vacated by former safeties and special teams coach Craig Naivar, who left the program in December. However, Buh will not be taking over the special teams coordinator position, as Stoops said the responsibilities of the job will be handled collectively by the coaching staff.

Stoops also said that he and cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley will coach the entire secondary in 2015.