Wildcats Close With A Flourish
As recently as a couple of months, ago the 2023 Kentucky recruiting class was mired somewhere in the 60s. That’s well below their usual average of the ’30s or high 20s. Much has been made of the school and namely athletic director Mitch Barnhart’s seeming unwillingness to get aboard the NIL train. However, Mark Stoops told the Big Blue Nation “we’ll be fine.” His words certainly rang true as UK made a huge splash on signing day. Let’s break it down with our 2023 Signing Day Recap.
Some Instant Impact Players
Currently, Kentucky’s recruiting class sits 32nd according to 247 Sports. In addition they rank 12th in the SEC ahead of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. However, as we mentioned they doubled their standing from just a month or so ago. The class features several players who can earn playing time from day one.
Over the last couple of years, the Cats have had great success getting players from Nashville. Barion Brown was a freshman All-American wide receiver along with Destin and Keaten Wade from just outside of Nashville. The latest in the pipeline is another big-time receiver. Shamar Porter, a four-star player from Ensworth High School, is the highest-ranked player in the class.
Porter’s the 232nd-best player in the nation and fourth-best in the Volunteer State. Last season Porter hauled in 32 passes for 557 yards and 1o touchdowns. As a junior, he had 29 receptions for 446 yards and six touchdowns. This is despite missing four games due to a shoulder injury.
Welcome to #BBN, @porter_shamar!#RecruitAndDevelop x #NSD23 😼🏈 pic.twitter.com/zaimI9pFhb
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 21, 2022
On the defensive side of the ball, UK’s top-ranked incoming player is safety Avery Stuart. The Montgomery, Alabama native is another big win for Stoops and his staff in the state. He checks in as the 265th-best player in the nation and 19th-best player in Alabama.
The possibility exists Kentucky loses half their starting secondary and their entire starting linebackers after the season. As a result, the Cats went hard in recruiting on that side of the ball. In fact, four of their five highest-rated players are defensive guys.
Another player to watch is linebacker Grant Godfrey. The four-start player from Georgia looks to follow in the footsteps of Trevin Wallace who’s having a great career in Lexington. Jaremiah Anglin Jr., another four-star safety out of Florida had offers from Alabama, Cincinnati, Florida State, and Pittsburgh.
Signing Day Surprises
There are always some surprises on signing day, both good and bad as players flip from one school to another. In Kentucky’s case, they had two and were both positive. Four Star linebacker Jayvant Brown from traditional Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas flipped from Michigan State to the Wildcats. His timeline changed very quickly as he decomitted from MSU on December 18th and pledged to UK three days later. The Big Blue Nation can check him out in the U.S. All-American Bowl on January 7th.
The second UK flip came from defensive lineman Tavion Gadson. A defensive lineman from Savannah, Georgia committed to Florida State back on August 11th. However, he visited Kentucky on December 16th. Three days later he decomitted and signed with the Cats on December 21st.
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the top players as we continue with our Kentucky 2023 signing day recap let’s look at how the Cats struck gold in the transfer portal.
Instant Impact Transfer
The Cats won’t have Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez for the Music City Bowl as neither will play as they begin the NFL Draft process. As a result UK needed a quarterback and running back and they found both.
Devin Leary, the top-ranked transfer and fourth overall player, announced he was Kentucky-bound. He missed the last half of the season at North Carolina State due to a torn right pectoral muscle. Going back to 2021 Leary had a season to remember. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,433 yards. In addition, he had a remarkable 35 touchdowns and five picks. That made him the only quarterback in college football with those numbers. He’s missed parts of two seasons due to injury so that is a concern heading into 2023.
About four hours later the Cats got their running back as Ray Davis announced he was headed up Interstate 65 from Vanderbilt to Kentucky. Last year he ran for 1,042 yards, which put him fourth in the SEC in rushing. Cat fans remember Davis ran for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Commodores beat Kentucky 24-21, ending a 26-game SEC losing streak.
Help On The Offensive Line
It’s well known the Big Blue Wall had its struggles this year protecting the quarterback. The UK staff got some immediate help through the portal. Tanner Bowles, a four-star player originally from Kentucky, is coming back to Lexington. Bowles played in every game for Alabama in 2022 before putting his name in the portal.
The other lineman UK picked up was Marques Cox, a transfer from Northern Illinois. The six foot six, 309 pounds had an outstanding career for the Huskies.
Marques Cox started at left tackle for 33 straight games at NIU. PFF gave him an 88 (!!) pass set score in his four games before injury this year.
— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) December 15, 2022
Cat fans have to feel pretty good about who is protecting Leary next season. Throw in two more defensive secondary transfers in Ohio State’s Jantzen Dunn and Cincinnati’s JQ Hardaway and it’s easy to see why Kentucky sits 12th in the transfer portal rankings.
Thanks for checking out our Kentucky 2023 Signing Day Recap here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll get you ready for the Iowa-Kentucky rematch in the Music City Bowl.