Below are the five freshmen who have enrolled early and began their first day of classes today: Drew Barker, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Mikel Horton, TV Williams, and Dorian Hendrix. These five freshmen join the two JUCO's, Cory Johnson and AJ Stamps, who also enrolled early but signed in December.
Drew Barker QB
Connor High School
Rivals (5.9) 4 Star; Scout 3 Star; 247 Sports 4 star; ESPN 4 Star
US Army All-American and Elite 11 Quarterback
What is there to say about Drew Barker that hasn't already been said? He's most likely Kentucky's most important commitment this season and possibly the last several as well. After a summer that saw him make it to the prestigious Elite 11 finals, he had a strong senior season at Connor High. According to Mike Fields, Barker's unofficial career stats are 5,805 yards passing, 60 TDs thrown, and 19 interceptions. Barker is also a threat with his legs and rushed for 3,815 yards and 50 touchdowns. Equally important to his play on the field, seems to be Barker's innate leadership and communication abilities. He has been very active on social media courting UK targets throughout the year. Barker chose Kentucky over the University of South Carolina.
Barker will be given an opportunity to win the starting quarterback job this season, according to coaches Stoops and Brown. He will enroll early and will compete in spring practice, and if he does end up the starter, spring practices will be instrumental to that development. With Maxwell Smith opting for shoulder surgery, and the possible transfer of either Jalen Whitlow or Patrick Towles, Barker has a solid chance to be named the starter. The quarterback battle - most likely between redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, Whitlow, and Barker - will be a major storyline this spring and summer.
Thaddeus Snodgrass WR
Springfield High School
Rivals (5.7) 3 Star; Scout 4 Star; 247 Sports 3 star; ESPN 4 Star
Thaddeus Snodgrass became the second commitment in the 2014 Class when he committed on a visit to the spring game last year. The 6'1'' and 185 pound receiver boasts a 4.5 forty yard dash coming out of high school and Rivals ranked him the 24th best player in Ohio. After some time in the strength and conditioning program he will add more muscle and should develop into a high-end possession receiver that will the quarterbacks second choice in progressions. Snodgrass had offers from multiple Big Ten and ACC schools. Playing time at wide receiver should be available to Snodgrass immediately. The senior and junior classes only have a few scholarship receivers, and sophomore Alex Montgomery suffered a knee injury last season and may not be ready by the fall.
I made the short drive to Springfield, OH to take in one of Snodgrass' games this fall and came away impressed. He was clearly the best play-maker on the field for his team playing both offense and defense. I liked his physicality, his pass-catching ability, and all of his teammates seemed to enjoy him. Springfield HS supporters I spoke to had nothing but nice things to say about him. His route-running will be the big thing he works to improve upon at the next level especially given his speed limitations.
Mikel Horton RB
Lakota West High School
West Chester, OH
Rivals (5.9) 4 Star; Scout 3 Star; 247 Sports 3 star; ESPN 3 Star
US Marines Semper Fi All American
Horton was a huge high school running back at 6'1'' and 220 pounds, but nonetheless has been measured running the forty yard dash in 4.6 seconds. Rivals ranks him as the fourth best prospect in the state of Ohio. When Horton committed to UK last spring his other finalist was eventual National Champion Florida State which speaks to his abilities. In his senior year Horton rushed for 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns on only 178 carries. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield, and that was on display during the US Marines Semper Fi All American game when he scored on a 14 yard pass play. Horton received strong reviews from his coaches for the all-star game and the recruiting analysts covering the event.
Horton will have an opportunity to contribute this fall as a true freshman. The running back corps has been depleted with the graduation of Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George, and the transfer of Dyshawn Mobley. The majority of carries will go to junior Braylon Heard and sophomore JoJo Kemp, but depth at the running back position is very important given the wear of a football season. If sophomore Josh Clemons is able to return from his various injuries he and Horton probably will compete for the third string running back spot.
McKinney High School
Rivals (5.5) 3 Star; ESPN 3 Star, 247 Sports 3 Star
TV Williams is not a large receiver at 5'10'' 150 pounds, but he is probably the fastest player Kentucky signed in this recruiting class. Williams reportedly has run the forty yard dash in 4.31 seconds. Additionally, he boasts nearly a 40 inch vertical leap. Besides his physical abilities, coaches at the Nike Opening combine raved about his crisp route-running abilities. At the time of his commitment Williams decided to choose Kentucky over Nebraska. Williams high school numbers are not mind-blowing but he has promise down the line as a starter after a few years in the program.
At 5'10'' Williams possesses a good height and elite speed for a "slot receiver" in the SEC, but he will need to put on weight before he can contribute. The combination of his current size and the current depth at "slot receiver" on the roster, likely makes Williams a strong redshirt candidate this season. His physical attributes give him a high up-side. Enrolling early will give Williams additional time to add good weight going into his freshman year. He will also be effective playing special teams given his speed.
Dorian Hendrix LB
Wayne High School
Rivals (5.6) 3 Star; Scout 3 Star; 247 Sports 3 star; ESPN 3 Star
Dorian Hendrix was the first commitment of the 2014 Class, and it is for a position of need since Kentucky did not sign any linebackers in the previous class. Hendrix has a classic middle linebacker frame at 6'0'' and 230 pounds. Rivals has ranked him as the 34th best player in the state of Ohio. When he made his commitment to UK last March it was still very early in the recruiting cycle but several Big 10 schools were showing interest. I'm curios to see if Hendrix benefits from enrolling early and receives playing time this season. The middle linebacker position is fluid with the graduation of Avery Williamson, and although incoming JUCO Ryan Flannigan is expected to start immediately at MLB, Hendrix may be called upon to play some back-up minutes.
I attended one of Hendrix's games this season and came away impressed with his performance. He was excellent at stopping the run up the middle, and I liked his ability to make plays on the edge as well. He was active in various special teams units on a Wayne High School roster loaded with numbers and talent. He tallied around 12 tackles in the game that I watched. Establishing a Kentucky pipeline to Hendrix's alma mater is very important as it regularly cranks out quality talent (Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to name one) including next year's senior, and current Michigan commit, Tyree Kinnel.