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2015 National Signing Day Postmortem

While the dust is settling, let's take stock a National Signing Day that didn't have quite the buzz of the last two cycles.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky finished this recruiting class stronger than most probably anticipated. The program adding six recruits in the last 48 hours had a lot to do with that, and the most recent recruits helped UK's rankings to what I think most fans would categorize as solid. Five years ago, UK's ranking would have led to dancing in the street, but the fanbase has higher expectations thanks to this coaching staff. Nevertheless, this class is not the variety that typically goes to major bowl games.

Recruiting Took A Step Back This Year Relative To 2013-14

In preparation for today's early position posts, I read through all the "Yahtzee" posts for this season and their comments (linked in the tables of the aforementioned position posts), and the buzz last spring, summer, and even early fall was strong. It was mostly a justified optimism. UK had over dozen commits by July, had brought Marcus Walker back into the fold, and were hosting big name recruits on unofficial visits. The zeitgeist was based on more than those events, but also the precedent of recruiting success that continued to defy expectations. Alas, it wasn't going to last. Behold:

Year Rivals Scout 247 Sports Avg. Difference
2013 (23 signees) 29 38 34 4.5
2014 (28) 17 21 22 2.5
2015 (21) 35 44 36 4.5

I'm not going to pretend that recruiting rankings don't matter because we know that they do. Success on the field is a lagging indicator of success in recruits' living rooms and schools. UK only signed two 247 Sports composite blue chips in this class, which is the fewest of the Mark Stoops era. Additionally, UK's recruits averaged 3.0 stars in this class, per Rivals (the service that regularly ranks UK the highest the last three cycles), which is lower than the previous two classes.

UK's opponents mostly all finished higher too. Georgia and Tennessee finished with Top 10 classes; South Carolina, Florida, and Mizzou were Top 15-25 range; and Louisville finished above UK, to varying degrees, in all the services. UK won't regularly beat these teams if they don't hold serve in recruiting on a near-annual basis. UK cannot afford to finish in the Top 30-40 range every year. It simply has to do better with its schedule.

...And Now Some Good News

  • This is the type of class that could be good after at least two years of needed development on the practice field and in the weight room. Luckily, they've got two higher ranked classes ahead of them to buy them that valuable time.
  • UK got recruits for the positions they had to get, and arguably the recruits for those positions are the best in this class. A few of them enrolled early too. UK had to get tight end and Y receiver-type inside receivers, and they landed some good ones. UK had to get some offensive tackles, and they got as many as three in this class. UK had to get linebackers, and they got two inside 'backers and two outside backers.
  • UK finished strong with six intriguing prospects including Alvonte Bell and Courtney Miggins. Both probably will play lots of snaps next season on the defensive line given depth issues. Miggins likely helps replace Za'Darius Smith and Bell likely helps replace Bud Dupree.
  • Length, length, length. Having great measurables is like having natural talent. It doesn't mean you'll automatically be good at something, but it does raise your ceiling and minimize deficiencies elsewhere in your game. UK added length in this class, especially among the receivers and defensive backs. In fact, only one player is listed as shorter than six feet tall and he's a running back.

...And Now Some Random Thoughts

  • 2015's crown jewel: CJ Conrad. He enrolled early, is athletic, and reportedly works hard in the weight room. I think he's a three year started for UK.
  • 2015's most important immediate contributor: Courtney Miggins, who will likely add much needed depth at Za'Darius' old position.
  • My favorite highlight tape from this class: it's a tie between defensive tackle Javon Provitt and running back Sihiem King. I think UK got potentially a few steals in this class, but these guys are my top two in that category.
  • The coaches confirmed today that versatility is a major factor when they evaluate recruits. A few of these signees' positions are not set in stone, and I think that's especially true on defense.