Signing Day has come and gone for UK Football and they staff did a fantastic job holding the class together. Below is a synopsis of the class and a little wrinkle to your normal NSD analysis.
I wanted to take a different approach to National Signing Day and analyze exactly how the 2016 class and the 2015 redshirts/transfers will fit into the lineup next fall.
To start, let us look at our class for this coming season. I have included the list that Jason Marcum put up on the site yesterday but decided to add 'best offer' to the sheet, meaning who did we have to beat out for the guy.
I have highlighted the players I think will contribute in 2016:
*in all the following charts, the highlighted players will be new to the field for UK in 2016 (recruits/transfers)
We can start with the most important individual position on the field, the leader on the field, the QBs. There was a time when we only had Drew Barker waiting in the wings, but things have changed rather quickly and now we have 4 quarterbacks who will comprise the unit, with Barker and Stephen Johnson II battling it out for the top job.
The Running Back position is the only unit on the field that is pretty much locked down. You are going to see Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, and Mikel Horton leading the charge. It is possible that incoming freshman Benny Snell could break through as that 4th RB, but my guess is barring a lot of injuries, Snell will be redshirting.
Kentucky has every single contributor coming back from last year, but that is not necessarily a good thing. While Mark Stoops denies a locker room rift, it is abundantly clear there was one, and the receiving corps was involved. We had some prima donnas last season and hopefully some attitudes are being adjusted in this unit.
There are three large receivers coming into the fold this season and a whole new offensive coaching staff. What this all means is that the WR depth chart in 2016 COULD look much different than 2015.
This is where you are going to see the most impact in this recruiting class for UK. We are likely to see two starters come from this class. This is not a great position to be in for the program, but it is hard to ask for any better suitors than Landon Young and Tate Leavitt to fill those positions.
Leavitt is an immediate and significant upgrade to Jordan Swindle, George Asafo-Adjei will likely move to his more normal guard position and Landon Young is too talented to not play. Throw in a Senior and future NFL player in Jon Toth and for the first time in decades, the offensive line is going to be stocked for the future at UK.
Even with Toth leaving after this coming season, he will have super-recruit Drake Jackson sliding right into his position. I am not sure if Jackson will be a redshirt for that reason or if he will be too talented to keep off the field.
The defensive line is a unit that Kentucky needs help in, they thought they were getting a lot of help in Kobe Smith, until he spurned UK for South Carolina.
Kentucky will be leaning heavily on returning guys improving in the off-season. Matt Elam must take that next step forward, Courtney Miggins must realize his potential, and Reggie Meant has to become the next CJ Johnson. The 'Cats do have a few exciting prospects in Alvonte Bell and Jordan Bonner.
Bell is a redshirt and apparently could not be stopped in practice. Bonner would be a true freshman standout that UK beat out Nebraska and Tennessee for. Adding to the returnees will be Naquez Pringle and Kordell Looney. They bring depth to a position that needs it.
The Linebacker unit is one of the younger units on this team. The 'Cats lost Josh Forrest, Khalid Henderson, and Ryan Flannigan from this past season. Kentucky does return senior Jason Hatcher and a very promising Denzil Ware. The 'Cats also have a few returning freshman that should make a strong leap.
Probably the most underrated aspect of this unit is going to be Nebraska transfer Courtney Love being eligible. Reports are that he has already established himself as a leader in practices and it would be nice to see him fill Josh Forrest's role.
Kentucky also has mountain man Kash Daniel coming in and I have to think he is going to find his way onto the field.
The Kentucky secondary might be its strongest unit on the field. They return super freshmen Chris Westry and Derrick Baity at the corners, while adding a likely incoming 6'1" corner in Jordan Griffin. Add to that the returning safeties and the resurgent J.D. Harmon and this unit will be one of strength for this year and likely years to come.
Kentucky was able to get all 25 LOIs with no drama or flippage. The downside is that they were not able to pull any 'rabbits out of the hat' either. However, do not count out some post NSD additions per Justin Rowland.
I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Stoops is able to set that poor rabbit free on Sunday, or around then. pic.twitter.com/IhFXtC0ZZg— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) February 3, 2016
Not only is this class shaping up to be one of Mark Stoops strongest rated groups, it is shaping up to be one full of leaders and instant impact players that find their way onto the field with talent, instead of desperation.
This class will be around the 25th best in the nation, which is strong. One of the factors I prefer to look at over stars is a prospects offer list. If you look at who will be making instant impacts and then look out at the best offers they got besides UK, you are going to see teams like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, and such.
Mark Stoops continues to impress off the field, now the question becomes 100% on the field.