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Take Two: Can UK, Louisville take advantage of talent uptick in Kentucky?

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Michigan commit Stephon Herron
Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

MORE TAKE TWO: Who should be No. 1 WR in 2019? | Will Harrison Bailey earn fifth star?

THE STORYLINE

There are more four-star prospects in the state of Kentucky this recruiting cycle than in any other year in Rivals.com history dating back to 2002 and it’s a state where more talent is coming from every season.

In recent years, five-star offensive linemen Jedrick Wills and Landon Young and five-star running back Damien Harris have come from the state and there have been plenty of other talented four- and three-stars as well. This recruiting cycle there are seven four-star prospects from the state, led by Michigan pledge Stephen Herron.

Out of those seven, three are committed with Herron, four-star offensive tackle Bryan Hudson (Virginia Tech) and four-star defensive tackle Jacob Lacey (Notre Dame) already off the board.

There has not been one team - not even Kentucky or Louisville - that has dominated recruiting the state of Kentucky in recent years, especially as talent has ramped up. Can those local programs take a lion’s share of the talent or will the national and regional powers like Alabama, Ohio State and others be able to dip in there to take the top players?

FIRST TAKE: DAVE LACKFORD, CARDINALSPORTS.COM

“The state is wide open for national programs to plunder. In the past, Alabama has picked off the top player in the state in the form of Damien Harris and Jedrick Wills, two five-stars in UK's backyard. This year we have already seen Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Alabama, and Michigan land commitments form some of the top players in the state and Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Purdue, and Alabama are heavily involved with players like Milton Wright, Wandale Robinson, DeMontae Crumes, Jared Casey, and JJ Weaver.

Kentucky and Louisville will have a hard time fending off the blue blood programs this year and by no means should they mop up. Will Louisville win out over a few schools due to proximity to home? Sure, as will Kentucky. But some of the top players like Bryan Hudson, Stephen Herron, Jacob Lacey, and Tanner Bowles are already committed to schools out of state. That trend seems to be the mean, and I expect the top players to continue on that path.

“This year's class is exceptionally deep for the Bluegrass. That being said, last year's class was very talented but somewhat slept on. The 2020 class has a good number of high-caliber players who should be in the conversation for four-star status as well as 2021, and 2022.

"Football is becoming more popular in Kentucky due to the 7-on-7 teams gaining traction, more personal trainers becoming involved with the recruiting process, and more high school teams are putting an emphasis on getting their players to Rivals camps and college camps in the summer. I expect some ebb and flow from cycle to cycle, but the floor in Kentucky will rise and there will be more power-five level prospects than there has been in the past for the foreseeable future.”

SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM

“Kentucky is a state that is going to be raided until Louisville and Kentucky can be consistent winners. I compare it a little bit to Tennessee, but not on the same level. Tennessee’s talent has increased quite a bit over the last few years to the point where you’re talking about potentially 10-15 four-star kids every year. I don’t think Kentucky is going to get to that point, but it has certainly increased its talent level there with the coaching and the kids getting out and competing against the best.

“Until Kentucky breaks through and competes for the SEC East and until Louisville comes out of the ACC Coastal, which is really hard to do with Clemson and Florida State, that’s a state that can be raided for sure.”