Every team has walk-ons and most people might assume that these players are not very good. The truth is that most want to play football in college and they may have been overlooked by Division I teams due to size or lack of speed.
Mark Stoops and his staff have been using walk-ons to increase the Wildcat talent pool since their arrival, if you haven't already noticed. You might see some results from these unsung players beginning this season. Here's a list of walk-ons by recruiting cycle from our Spring roster:
(if you click on the players' names, you will go directly to their profile in the Spring Media Guide)
TE Thaddeus Kazunas, Louisville Trinity HS - redshirt FR
DB Keron Wakefield, Louisville DuPont Manual HS - redshirt FR
RB William Mahone, Cincinnati Lakota East HS - redshirt FR
OL David Baumer, Cincinnati LaSalle - redshirt FR
LS Matt Howard, Berea (KY) Madison Southern HS - redshirt FR
OL Cole Mosier, Walton-Verona HS - redshirt FR
WR Cameron Fogle, Hebron Conner HS - redshirt FR
DB Patrick Sermersheim, Louisville St. Xavier HS - redshirt FR
LB Robby Irgang, Wilmore West Jessamine HS - redshirt FR
LS Connor Itani, Vienna, VA McLean HS - redshirt FR
WR Miles Thompson, Louisville DuPont Manual HS - redshirt FR
P Bryan Kirshe, Sarasota (FL) Out of Door Academy
QB/WR Ryan Kendall, Waxhaw (NC) Cuthbertson HS
P Jake Ryan, Lexington Tates Creek HS
LB Blake Spencer, Betsy Lane HS
RB Charles Walker, Louisville St. Xavier
Carson Whitehead, Harlan County HS
WR David Bouvier, Lexington Catholic HS
Kentucky and Stoops have retained several of the walk-ons from the previous coaching staff. Here's that list:
Hold-Overs from the previous regime:
RB Jerry McCray, Detroit Romulus HS - redshirt SO
K Max Strong, Louisville Trinity HS - redshirt SO
FB Jeff Witthuhn, Bowling Green Greenwood HS - redshirt SO
WR Austin Sheehan, Ft. Thomas Highlands HS - redshirt SO
DB J.D. Harmon, Paducah Tilghman HS - redshirt SO
Holder Jared Leet, Powell (OH) Olentangy Orange HS - redshirt JR
DB Rodney Cox, Louisville DuPont Manual HS - redshirt JR
LS Kelly Mason, Rockton (IL) Hononegah HS - redshirt JR
OL Max Godby, Louisville Christian Academy - redshirt SR
OL John Gruenschlaeger, Newport (KY) Central Catholic HS - redshirt JR
DL Zane Williams, Lexington Paul Laurence Dunbar HS - redshirt SO
Several of these players have already made an impact on the team, most notably J.D. Harmon. However, Jack Gruenschlaeger has also seen a lot of duty on the field as has Jared Leet. Max Godby has also been a contributor.
Our latest is Punter Bryan Kirshe. He's been ranked the # 1 HS Punter in the country. You can read Paul Jordan's interview with him at Wildcat Blue Nation.
Ryan Kendall may, however, be the most interesting and also the most strategic of the walk-ons since his younger brother, Austin, is a coveted 2016 quarterback. Ryan, for whatever reason, did not receive a Div. I offer. Here's his profile at Scout. Brother Austin is a 247 Sports and Scout 4* entering his junior season and Kentucky is a school of interest. Apparently, he favors Tennessee and Kentucky. Perhaps, Ryan's commitment to the Cats will be the tipping point.
Even if these players don't see playing time on the field, they contribute to the program on the practice field. It seems to me, however, that our coaching staff is looking to have walk-ons that serve as more than cannon fodder. With Erik Korem's high performance strength and conditioning program, we may have some "ugly ducklings" turn into full fledged swans. Korem has already increased the size and strength of several players and if the walk-ons dedicate themselves, we may very well see some of them on the field during the games. For me, it will be exciting to watch these players develop.