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Kentucky Football Recruiting: UK poised to end 2017 on high note, possibly a top-25 class

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UK should end up with another solid recruiting haul in terms of class ranking, which matters more than you think.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Stoops has UK poised to land another great football class, perhaps even a top-25 haul.

That's something UK has done just once in his four-year tenure, but with this class already sitting in the 30-40 range of most team rankings (ranked 34th by 247 as of Tuesday, UK just needs to finish strong and sign 20-23 players for this class to contend for top-25 status.

Looking at the remaining targets UK is in great shape with, the best-case scenario will look something like this to finish off 2017:

*4-Star Athlete Lynn Bowden

*4-Star Offensive Tackle Thayer Munford

*3-Star Defensive End Jordan Wright

*3-Star Wide Receiver Leroy Henley

*3-Star Offensive Guard Sebastien Dolcine (UCF commit)

Other recruits UK is in good shape for include 4-star defensive end/outside linebacker Joshua Pascal, 4-star wide receiver Danny Davis, 3-star offensive tackle Zalontae Hillery (Miami commit), 3-star JUCO safety Lonnie Johnson, 3-star JUCO safety Brian Cole, 3-star JUCO defensive lineman Craig Evans, and 3-star offensive tackle Naasir Watkins.

Other than Wright (visited in Sept.), all of these guys either visited this past weekend or will visit this coming weekend. During his Monday meeting with the media, Stoops said recruiting was going very well, and that's the main focus right now before his team begins bowl preparation.

"I left last Sunday early and got back Friday, and we had 16 kids in this weekend, and that went very well," Stoops said. "Actually had to leave last night and was out of town for the night, came back this morning. Met with another recruit this morning, and going to have a team meeting at 2:00, and leave right after that."

Thanks to a 7-5 season, a win over No. 13 Louisville, and a bowl berth for the first time since 2010, recruits are higher on UK now more than ever. Now it’s up to Stoops and his staff to capitalize and finish strong in 2017, something they’re working hard to do this month. It helps that UK won’t play in the TaxSlayer Bowl for almost a month, giving them more time to hit the recruiting trail.

"It gives us a few weeks to really concentrate on recruiting. We have to,” Stoops said. “We only have two weeks to get in front of kids in December, so we'll do that, and we'll be recruiting for the most part these two weeks and then when we get back this weekend, we'll start our bowl preparation.”

If UK can land 5-7 of the above names, they'll be in a great spot to finish with a top 25-30 class. While recruiting rankings have to be taken with a grain of salt, they do matter more often than you realize.

Take this year's UK team for example. By the end of the year, it's safe to say they were one of the 30-40 best teams in America (got two votes in final Coaches Poll, tied with Appalachian State for 37th overall).

According to 247 Sports, UK classes under Stoops have finished 34th (2013), 22nd (2014), 38th (2015), and 34th (2016). That's good enough for an average ranking of 32, right about where this year's team is.

Sure, UK is two Austin MacGinnis field goals from being 5-7 and in the 50-60 range, but they're also a pair of second-half meltdowns vs Southern Miss and Georgia away from being in the top 25 as well.

Point being, class rankings do matter, as evidenced by where UK is right now compared to their average class ranking under Stoops. Teams that consistently finish in the 25-35 range of class rankings tend to be in position to win 5-7 games annually.

UK was in position to win seven games in each of the past two seasons, even though they finished 5-7 both times before winning those close games this past year and finished 7-5.

As long as Stoops and his staff can keep finishing with classes in that 25-35, UK should remain in position to make bowl games on an annual basis.