Three-Point Stance: Kentucky football flexes its muscle, Big 12 recruiting
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with analysis of Kentucky recruiting, a snapshot of Big 12 recruiting and discussion of Wisconsin’s odd decision.
1. KENTUCKY'S RECRUITING ROLL
Kentucky football recruiting is at it again.
That’s correct, I said football recruiting and didn’t utter the word basketball (until just now, my bad) at all. But this isn’t the first time. Kentucky recruiting has obviously taken off under head coach Mark Stoops, especially with his 2014 class that made such a splash in the summer of 2013. That class ranked No. 17 in the country followed by 35th in 2015, 28th in 2016 and 26th last year.
Those are lofty numbers for Kentucky, and this year could be the best of the bunch if it continues. Not only did they land the No. 1 recruit in the state of Michigan (Marquan McCall) over the Wolverines and others, but they also landed four-star tight end Brenden Bates out of Ohio.
But perhaps the biggest get so far was a re-commitment from quarterback Jarren Williams. Why would a three-star quarterback be the biggest deal over four-stars who are also out of state?
First off, Williams has been in line for a recruiting ranking bump since we saw him a few times this spring. He looks like a different quarterback than the one who was unimpressive last summer at our QB Challenge Finals. Many of the mechanical issues and launch point problems have been solved and that’s part of the reason he became so popular this spring.
Secondly, he’s a quarterback, and we all know many recruiting classes are made or broken by the play of the quarterback in that class.
And finally, unlike with Mac Jones last year, Kentucky was able to lose a quarterback commitment and have SEC schools drool all over him, yet bring him back into the fold. I can’t tell you how hard that is to do from my years of recruiting experience, but Kentucky did it. And the Wildcats are in the mix for more top players like L’Christian Smith, Xavier Peters, DeAndre Square, Leonard Taylor and others.
Now, the first thing fans love to do when I point out Stoops' recruiting success is his career record of 19-30 and his SEC record of 8-24, but remember that this Kentucky team went to a bowl game last year and finished .500 in the SEC after a 2-10 first season under Stoops and a winless in conference record. From hiring Vince Marrow to recruit Ohio to bringing Eddie Gran abroad to recruit South Florida, Stoops has made some great moves and progress is being made.
2. EVALUATING 2018 BIG 12 RECRUITING
Midway through the spring evaluation period, it’s time to look at each Power Five conference and take a quick snapshot of recruiting like we do every year around this time. Today we look at the Big 12…
Biggest get: RB TJ Pledger, Oklahoma – I put Pledger over in-state get Brey Walker simply because this keeps the California pipeline rolling, (Pledger is playing at IMG in Florida this season but hails from Cali) and he’s an instant impact runner to keep that running back tradition alive as well. He’s also very involved in recruiting and has numerous IMG kids interested in the Sooners.
Biggest surprise: WR Devonta Jason, Kansas – This one is easy, and you could throw in Corione Harris here as well if you want. For Kansas to land one Rivasl100 prospect from any state is a big deal, but how about two with LSU offers from Louisiana? That’s crazy.
Great start: Texas – The Longhorns have half of their commitments ranked as four-stars, they have flipped elite prospects away from Florida State, Oklahoma and LSU, and recruiting is as exciting as it’s ever been for Longhorns fans. Oklahoma State could be in here, as well as Kansas, but Tom Herman is showing his recruiting chops.
Surprising start: Kansas – Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 right now and Baylor is back from the dead and No. 3, but Kansas is clearly the choice here. Sure, it’s based on a couple of four-star commitments from Louisiana, but they have some very talented three-stars as well including quarterback Clayton Tune and defensive end Cartez Crook-Jones.
Rough start: Kansas State – Only one commitment so far for the Wildcats coming off a solid season and with a lot of talent in their main recruiting territory. There is plenty of time to right the ship here, but this is a slow start.
Recruiting battle to watch: Texas vs. Oklahoma – Duh, right? Well this is going to get a bit more interesting now that Herman flipped a quarterback (Cameron Rising) from Oklahoma and stole an in-state lock as well. I look for a more aggressive Bob Stoops than ever before in Texas and a recruiting battle that will eventually rival some of the better ones in the country.
Must keep: Anthony Cook – Cook could very well leave Big 12 country and it would be yet another Texas five star taking off. In fact, Erick Fowler is the last Texas five-star to stick in Big 12 country, as players like Gregory Little, Ed Oliver and all four of the Texas five-stars last year headed to different conferences. It’s not that Texas kids are under-ranked as many think, it’s that they are leaving the conference and making other conferences stronger.
Do or die: Texas Tech – A 5-7 season with a top-10 NFL Draft pick at quarterback? That’s what fans are asking. Kliff Kingsbury has kept the offense rolling, but the defense appears to be as bad as ever. He’s 24-26 without a winning season in conference, so year five is a big one.
3. WISCONSIN DROPS 2018 QB COMMIT BEN BRYANT
Don’t tweet about offers if you’re committed to a school kids, right?
There was a big deal made of Wisconsin dropping quarterback commitment Ben Bryant after he tweeted out that he was blessed to receive an offer from Georgia after he had been committed to the Badgers since December.
But, based on my helicopter view of this situation and experience in situations like this over the years, this has nothing to do with a tweet. The Badgers recently received a commitment from Ohio quarterback Chase Wolf and clearly head coach Paul Chryst was looking for any reason to drop Bryant.
Maybe I’m wrong - and we won’t know for a long time as coaches can’t comment on recruits until after they sign - but this reeks of a school looking for any excuse to drop someone. The term used these days is “processed,” and it appears clear that Bryant was “processed” by Wisconsin.
Is that a bad thing? Well, it’s not a great thing, and it wasn’t handled correctly by Wisconsin if indeed he was “processed,” but if a school takes a quarterback early with the intention of signing two and then changes direction when they get the guy they wanted more, can’t they drop a kid? Especially with eight months left to Signing Day?
This happens to schools 100 times more often when they lose prospects to decommitments (the school being “processed”), and you know adults are involved in those decisions as well. So whenever someone screams outrage that college football coaches could do this to a kid, I tend to roll my eyes.
Bryant is talented enough where he will land on his feet someplace, and it’s better Wisconsin did it now rather than wait for a big numbers crunch in December. But here’s a bit of advice to the Wisconsin coaches if this is truly how they handled the situation. Be honest. Call the kid and his family and tell them you overextended at his position and take your beating in the press that way. Because now, like it or not, Chryst and company look awful for something that is just part of the recruiting biz.