Kentucky finished National Signing Day with a total of 22 players inking with the Wildcats, including Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, who turned down Southern Cal to attend UK.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - With 21 player's national letters of intent in house, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and his staff were waiting on one more to complete their 2013 recruiting class - Trinity's Jason Hatcher.
Around 3 PM in Louisville, Hatcher made it official - he would play for Kentucky in 2013. Stoops and his staff were able to convince Hatcher to switch his commitment to Southern Cal to become a Wildcat.
With Hatcher's addition, Rivals.com moved UK's class to the 28th best in the nation. UK's previous high with Rivals was No. 36 in 2006. Rivals began its class rankings in 2002.
Below is a transcript of Stoops' national signing day news conference, followed by a list of all 22 UK signees as well as bios for each.
Mark Stoops National Signing Day News Conference
COACH STOOPS: Thank you. Appreciate y'all being here. It's been a tremendous effort by our staff. We went out and signed 22 players today, 12 on offense, 9 on defense and one kicker. So, tremendous effort. I want to thank my staff. They did a tremendous job, just a group effort all the way around.
Q. On the addition of Jason Hatcher …
COACH STOOPS: Tremendous, as you know the importance of recruiting the best players in the state. With the addition of Jason we signed three players from Kentucky and Jason was important in a lot of ways, important person, great family, Mama was Louisville, that was hard to get around for a while but a great person, gives us great credibility in moving forward.
Q. On putting together a quality recruiting class in such a short time frame …
COACH STOOPS: It was a group effort. The staff ‑‑ that's a big part of it is the staff coming into this. The first year it's important when you hire guys that they have some connections, so that's a big part of it, guys with relationships that they have had either with players or with coaches.
That was a big part of it, again, we feel we have an awful lot to sell. I would like to thank the BBN, tremendous support. I think our recruits felt their presence, they felt the support of the fan base, so there's a lot of things that go into it but great effort by our staff, great work ethic and did a fantastic job.
Q. On having confidence he could pull off a strong recruiting class in such a short time frame …
COACH STOOPS: I told you that, didn't I?
Q. You did!
COACH STOOPS: I did, and I said that in the first press conference when we introduced the guys at mid‑year, that we would go toe‑to‑toe with the best schools in the country and with the best schools in the SEC. We're not going to take a backseat to anybody; we're going to recruit hard. We will win our fair share. We don't win 'em all, but we're going to work hard.
Q. On the importance of recruiting in Ohio …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it means an awful lot as well. Three players from Kentucky, three from Ohio. The caliber of player that we're getting from Kentucky and from Ohio obviously means a great deal. With Marcus (McWilson), he's, again, a fantastic player but he's even a better person. He's just wonderful to be around. I told Marcus the whole time I said, "What's it feel like to be the second best player to play at Cardinal Mooney High School? (Laughter.) That was my high school (Laughter.) But just a fantastic person, a joy to be around.
Q. On Alex Montgomery, JoJo Kemp and Khalid Thomas …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, with Alex, again, he comes from a tremendous program, big‑time wide receiver that I knew about while I was at Florida State and had my eye on him for a good bit. Anybody that goes into the state champship game and has ‑‑ what did he have 9 catches for 190 yards or something like that, you know he's a heck of a football player. I've known Alex (Montgomery) for a while. It was a great "get" for us, a guy that's a strong receiver who can make plays.
Jojo (Kemp), he's tremendous, a home‑run hitter. As we assembled our staff and got together, he was a guy that we targeted right away and felt he was a "high priority" for us. So Jojo is a home‑run guy, can make some big plays for us.
Jeff (Badet), tremendous speed, again, a guy we targeted right away. The nice thing is, I want to say we signed 70% of the guys we brought on campus, we signed. Some of them we didn't have a "push" on for commitment, but Jeff was a guy that right away we targeted and loved. He's got that home‑run speed so it was important to us.
Khalid (Thomas), a program I'm very familiar with, out of Tallahassee, and he is a solid player that's going to give us some depth and have a punch to our class, but I've been familiar with Khalid for some time as well.
Q. On Jason Hatcher …
COACH STOOPS: Well, with Jason, you know, what makes him so dynamic is how explosive he is. He's very good on his feet, he's very good off the edge, he can do a lot of things but it's his first step, he's dynamic with his quickness and speed and athletic ability. We're excited about that. What was the second part of the question?
Q. On convincing Jason Hatcher to stay in state …
COACH STOOPS: I talked about it before. It's about relationships, it's about presenting a plan, how we ‑‑ we're going to use him. Things we have done in the past, the way our defense works, how he's going to fit into it and, again, we had to make up a lot of time in relationships and we spent a lot of time with Jason and his family, his mother, Donna, so, you know, we spent a lot of time and effort into that.
Again, whether it be a group of us going to his home, on our last visit when I went into the home we brought four of us with us, and we spent a good deal ‑‑ they were gracious enough to spend a bunch of time with us, and they got a chance to see us and see what we're all about.
Q. On recruiting Kentucky players …
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, very important to keep Jacob (Hyde), big, strong guy, I love his accent. Just a great person to be around. Big, strong guy and very excited to have him in our program.
Ryan (Timmons), again, Ryan is a home run. A big‑time important guy to us. Ryan was the first school we went into, this new staff, myself, or the assistants, first guy we went to see was Ryan Timmons, so that's the priority we had on him and, of course, that was on the way to go see Jason Hatcher. First guy – Coach (DJ) Eliot was in place, the first guy on staff, and sent him to see Ryan and Jason.
Q. On why signing Ryan Timmons was a priority …
COACH STOOPS: Dynamic player, and, again, high priority in state. The key point there is "dynamic player" and Ryan is fantastic. He's a home‑run threat every time he touches the ball. He's very versatile, and, again, tremendous family, great person, great student, joy to be around and, you know, was very high priority for us.
Q. Do you know much about Ryan or did you have to play catch‑up on him?
COACH STOOPS: I had to play catch‑up on him, being that I was on the defensive side of the ball and it wasn't my area. No, I wasn't familiar with him.
Q. Coach, you talk about the day‑to‑day processes, moving forward. What's your plan for the coaching staff?
COACH STOOPS: Great question. The big thing now is to get signing day behind us and, again, a tremendous amount of work for a lot of people. We are anxious to get back working with our staff and our players. The next phase is to develop our players. Now, they have been working in the weight room, working extremely hard in the weight room, and now it will be important in winter conditioning where our coaches get to go out and put our players through drills.
So we will do that in the a.m. as we put the schedule together, but we will go through a couple of weeks of training our players in the morning and we will get a chance to get out there and coach 'em, and see them and see them move. Obviously there will not be a football involved but you will get to see them move around and run around a little bit.
Q. You guys put this class together in a very relatively short amount of time. Is this something the Big Blue Nation can expect from you guys?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely. We feel like we have great momentum, but, yeah, we have we've been on the phone this morning talking to the top prospects in the '14 class, and we have been evaluating the '14 class for a week or so, which puts us behind, but we had to put so much time and energy and concentration into this class. And we are going to work hard the next couple of weeks, but a big part of our plan is just put aside ‑‑ get caught up with the 2014 class right now and get caught up with our players as well.
Q. On if the 2013 class still may grow …
COACH STOOPS: Yes.
Q. On Alvonte Bell …
COACH STOOPS: Alvonte is a guy I was familiar with when I was at Florida State, and as a matter of fact we offered him at Florida State. Alvonte has great size range and great upside, and very excited to see him committed when I arrived here on campus. We worked hard at keeping that relationship with Alvonte with us because we think an awful lot of him.
Q. On Javess Blue’s coach saying he rarely saw him tackled unless forced out of bounds …
COACH STOOPS: I don't know if I could be quoted saying that because there is probably some film of him being tackled somewhere. Chad Scott has known Javess for, I want to say ‑‑ you can talk with the assistants out there after I'm done but Coach Scott has known him for three, four years, has watched him so he had a great relationship with him.
Again, another guy that was right away, as soon as we had our staff together, started watching film, that's a guy we must have.
Q. On early commits recruiting other players through social media …
COACH STOOPS: It was very important because players want to play with other great players. They see what we're doing, they see the plan that you lay out for them, they understand your commitment to winning, but they also want to know that there are other great players around them. As you know, in football, it takes an army. It takes a whole bunch of us to be successful. It takes a great commitment from a lot of people, so I think that's part of it.
The players want to feel that there are other great players around them. Our players did a great job of communicating with each and building this class and making it special. That along with the Big Blue Nation and the social media out there, our players felt that, they felt that on Twitter and they felt the support of our fan base and I want to thank 'em for that because that makes a difference.
Q. On the Super Bowl commercial and signing day video and how important it is the marketing of all this and get momentum to try to move things forward …
COACH STOOPS: I think that's a big part of it, it is, to get it out there what we're doing, what our plan is, what we have going here at Kentucky.
Our people do a great job. Since I've been here I've been extremely impressed with everybody I've worked with, the administration, marketing, compliance, everybody does a fantastic job. Again, it takes us working together and I want to thank them for everything that they do.
Q. On life as a head coach …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it's been different, for sure. Being that I have two brothers that have been head coaches and watched them grow through the years and be head coaches and all the ups and downs and time commitments and those things, I was very familiar with it, but until you get into it and start doing it, it is a little bit different.
It is still an adjustment, so I'm working extremely hard to stay disciplined with everything that we're doing. We have a plan for what we're going to do, staying with that, staying on track and don't vary from it.
Q. On if being a head coach is as fun as he thought it would be …
COACH STOOPS: My brothers told me, "Be careful what you wish for"! (laughter) They told me that a while ago. But, no, it's been great. It's different and it's definitely more demanding, it's a little bit more challenging on your family and things like that, but it's been a lot of fun, because I'm not trying to be anybody that I'm not. I'm going to be exactly who I am, try to be very consistent and try to do things right and we know we're not going to be perfect but I'm going to strive to do the best I can every day and that's fun. It's good to put together this staff.
To work with the staff every day ‑‑ and, again, I'm not going to change. I am who I am and I'm going to stay consistent with that.
Q. Have you kept track of how many living rooms you have been in?
COACH STOOPS: I have not. It's been quite a few. My family is here now though, so, my boy had his first day of school today, so that was fun.
Q. On Reese Phillips’ play …
COACH STOOPS: We're not allowed to work with them with a football right now, so I haven't seen him throw yet. But everybody that has been associated with Reese Phillips has been extremely impressed with what he does, and he's in the weight room doing a great job.
Q. On if he sold immediate playing time …
COACH STOOPS: We always present an opportunity. We're never going to guarantee anybody ‑‑ that wouldn't be fair or be right to the players that are in our program, but, you know, we always tell them they're going to have a great opportunity. They're only behind 15 practices, so when they arrive here in the fall, they're not going to be too far behind with learning the scheme and so on and so forth.
Q. On getting better up front defensively in the SEC …
COACH STOOPS: Very important. You know, you have to. We worked extremely hard to get some big guys, you need some size, you need girth but you always need size in this program because those guys take a bit of time to develop as well. Some guys come in ready to go and other guys need a couple of years to develop and get bigger and stronger.
Q. Speaking of "ready to go" are there any guys that you know of that will be red shirted for next year?
COACH STOOPS: No, we will see between now and then. That will be up to the players and how hard they work between now and then.
Q. On the evaluation of the previous staff’s commits …
COACH STOOPS: Just the same, just to make sure that those players would have a fair opportunity to play within our system, to fit our schemes and what we're looking for and to be up front and honest with them.
Q. On signing players from the state of Florida …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we signed 9 players from Florida of the 22, and I think it's percentage-wise about what you see, maybe, in this conference as well. There are a lot of great players that come out of Florida. It's probably the way it fell because of our relationships with some of them. So I don't know if it would be the exact percentage in the future but I'm not going to put any limitations on it. There is a lot of talent down there but we're going to work extremely hard to hit everybody we can within a four, five, six‑hour drive from Lexington.
Q. Talk about the process, the excitement, dealing with all of this on the phone and how exciting has this been for you and your coaching staff?
COACH STOOPS: It's been very exciting. Some people mistake exciting with intensity sometimes, but it gets intense and it gets exciting and, you know, recruiting is just ‑‑ it's another battle, it's just another challenge. Again, we're going to go to work every day to win our fair share of the battles.
Q. You talked about recruiting and relationships. Some of your staff members you didn't have relationships with, so how did you get to know your own people?
COACH STOOPS: I had a feeling about most of the guys before I hired them. That happened quickly. I feel very good and very comfortable with the staff. We do a lot of research before we hire anybody and get a good feel for who they are and what they're all about.
That's been relatively easy to be honest with you. You get a pretty good feel for your guys, we spend a lot of time together, we may spend the day from six in the morning until eleven at night driving in cars and planes and you get to spend a lot of time with them.
Q. The Rivals.com rankings say this is the highest class you have had since they started ranking, and it's getting you a lot of national attention. Does that matter? Rankings? Even just for momentum?
COACH STOOPS: I think that's fair to say, I think it matters a little bit. I think if anything it says to the 2014 class that these guys are serious, they know what they're doing and they're going to make a great commitment to recruiting and gives you some credibility, I would say, with y'all and with the people and with the buzz out there. It's an honest answer. Yeah, let's not kid ourselves, you want to be higher than not be higher, right?
Q. When you look at the rankings and you see that the SEC has over 12-13 teams ahead of you, is that a daunting task to look ahead?
COACH STOOPS: That is when you start looking at it that way a little bit, yeah. It's a real challenge but it's a great credit to this league.
It's a big reason why I'm here. I always felt like UK ‑‑ a lot of people asked me about why here, and why did you jump on this opportunity, and why did you seek this opportunity? I just felt there was great potential here. I felt there was a sleeping giant here that we can do great things and we will do great things.
It's a big part of it, the league. If you want to be the best, you want to play against the best.
Q. Your name carries a lot of weight in the state of Ohio. Coach Vince Marrow’s does too …
COACH STOOPS: It does, a lot. Coach Marrow ‑‑ I'm glad you pronounced it well, because Vince and I went to school together and I still call him "Morrow," and it's actually "Marrow," but, anyway, Vince does a fantastic job, and relationships is his specialty.
Just having a chance to spend time with Coach Marrow and traveling throughout the state and visiting prospects, to see him in his element, just spending time, building relationships with families is big. He does a tremendous job, he works extremely hard and it's been a great asset to have him in his program.
Q. What did you want to see out of the Big Blue Nation?
COACH STOOPS: Consistency. Keep on doing what you're doing. I appreciate it, it's been helpful and I think we can always improve and take things to another level, right? So keep on pushing. I think our players, our prospects, our commitments have felt the BBN.
Q. On if Neal Brown being on staff gave credibility in recruiting …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, yeah, very much so. He brings us tremendous credibility, again, a guy that's done it. Especially within this state and really nationally, they have done a tremendous job on offense as a coordinator, and it's helped. It's certainly helped with Ryan Timmons, with Ryan being very familiar with the offense.
Again, Neal has done a great job building a relationship with that family, with Ryan and his mother, Melinda.
Q. On not signing any linebackers …
COACH STOOPS: It's just how it played out. It is. A big part of our philosophy ‑‑ you know, you obviously need great linebackers, you need great everything. But putting a priority on the front, that we talked about earlier, was very important.
I felt like we needed more skill as well at the secondary position. I would like to have had maybe one but it didn't work out that way and we will make some things work and we felt we had guys in the secondary that needed to move up, just athletically.
Q. On selling his defensive success …
COACH STOOPS: I don't know if there was necessarily a specific point there other than to say that we're going to be very good in everything that we do. Statistically I'm not sure what it was but we had the most three and outs when I was at Florida State than anybody in the country by far, so I know we present the offense with a lot of opportunities. So I would imagine that would be appealing but that's just like ‑‑ you know, Tim mentioned that and Mitch mentioned that, everybody in this room realizes that you need to be good defensively to win consistently.
Q. On Bud Dupree staying at linebacker …
COACH STOOPS: Possibly. He's so versatile, he's such a good football player that I know wherever we settle in with that he's going to have a big role in this defense. From what I've seen he's impressive and he's a guy we need to feature in the defense.
Q. I haven't heard anybody mention the kicker. That can win or lose games, ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: Austin (MacGinnis). Yeah, you're right, strong leg, great person, fun to be around. He's a tough kid, a guy that wants to be in the mix. He doesn't want to be treated off by himself, he wants to be right in there with the rest of his team lifting and running and training so very excited about Austin.
Q. Can you talk about the offensive line now?
COACH STOOPS: Individually? Justin Day, again, just a great size, tremendous athlete, great size. We list him here at 6‑8, 305 and that was somebody we watched right away and watching the film we were encouraged with what we saw, that he was committed and excited about keeping Justin.
Nick Haynes is a guy we just started working a couple of weeks ago and just had a chance to watch him and get caught up with him on film, and again, we brought him in here just this past week, and extremely impressed with his athletic ability, again, great size, a guy that's very versatile. We feel that he could play some center as well as guard. Excited about him.
Kyle Meadows, tremendous all‑around player, extremely athletic. He's the guy you're looking for at tackle, very long, he will get stronger. He needs to put on weight and get stronger between now and the fall but tremendous upside with him.
Ramsey Meyers, again, another guy we're excited about, had chance to evaluate his film when we got here, and Coach Brown and Coach Schlarman were excited about keeping him and that commitment.
2013 KENTUCKY FOOTBALL SIGNEES
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl.-Exp. Hometown (High School/Junior College)
Jeff Badet WR 6-0 170 Fr-HS Orlando, Fla. (Freedom)
Alvonte Bell DE 6-5 255 Fr-HS Miramar, Fla. (Everglades)
Javess Blue WR 6-0 190 Jr-JC Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler Community College)
Steven Borden* TE 6-3 250 Jr-JC Waxahachie, Texas (Waxahachie/Kilgore College)
Justin Day OT 6-8 305 Fr-HS Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken)
Jason Hatcher DE 6-3 250 Fr-HS Louisville, Ky. (Trinity)
Nick Haynes OL 6-3 305 Fr-HS Niceville, Fla. (Niceville)
Jacob Hyde DL 6-2 330 Fr-HS Manchester, Ky. (Clay County)
Jaleel Hytchye CB 5-10 175 Fr-HS Cincinnati, Ohio (La Salle)
Jojo Kemp RB 5-10 190 Fr-HS DeLand, Fla. (DeLand)
Austin MacGinnis K 5-10 175 Fr-HS Prattville, Ala. (Prattville)
Blake McClain DB 5-11 190 Fr-HS Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park)
Marcus McWilson S 6-0 210 Fr-HS Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney)
Kyle Meadows OL 6-5 270 Fr-HS West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West)
Regie Meant DL 6-4 275 Fr-HS Cape Coral, Fla. (Baker)
Ramsey Meyers OL 6-4 290 Fr-HS Orange Park, Fla. (Ridgeview)
Alex Montgomery WR 6-2 210 Fr-HS Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay)
Reese Phillips* QB 6-2 225 Fr-HS Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain)
Za’Darius Smith* DE 6-6 260 Jr-JC Greenville, Ala. (Greenville/East Mississippi CC)
Khalid Thomas RB 5-10 170 Fr-HS Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby)
Ryan Timmons ATH 5-10 185 Fr-HS Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin County)
Nate Willis DB 6-0 180 Jr-JC Pahokee, Fla. (Pahokee/Arizona Western College)
* indicates player who enrolled in January and will participate in spring practice
Note: Class is eligibility for the 2013 season
Jeff Badet: bah-DETT
Alvonte Bell: al-VON-tay
Javess Blue: JAY-vess
Jaleel Hytchye: jah-LEEL HI-chee
Regie Meant: same as “Reggie”
Za’Darius Smith: zah-DARE-ee-us
Khalid Thomas: kah-LEED
2013 KENTUCKY FOOTBALL SIGNEES BIOS
(note: NCAA rules do not allow media relations personnel to speak with prospects or coaches until after signing day; this information is gleaned from internet, newspaper and other sources)
Jeff Badet, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 170, Fr-HS, Orlando, Fla. (Freedom) – Possesses great quickness and a sudden burst that help him project as an ideal receiver … Has displayed great hands, body control and the awareness that make him great at making tough catches in traffic … Caught 63 passes for 881 yards, 10 receiving touchdowns and six rushing scores as a senior … Played for Coach Andy Johnson, helping Freedom HS to a 7-4 record and state playoff berth as a senior … Junior stats featured 46 catches for 718 yards and 11 TDs … Ranked No. 13 on the Orlando Sentinel Central Florida “Super 60” … Finished fifth in the long jump at the Florida state track and field championships … Last name pronounced “bah-DETT.”
Alvonte Bell, Defensive End, 6-5, 255, Fr-HS, Miramar, Fla. (Everglades) – Explosive defensive end at Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla., where he was coached by Rodney Rumph … The nation’s No. 24 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com … The No. 34 overall defensive end according to Scout.com … “Bell is a raw athlete with speed, length, and quickness that attracts attention his way. He has long arms to get into passing lanes, he can move well in space, and he really pursues the ball well,” according to Scout analyst Chad Simmons … Was timed at 4.88 in the 40 with a 27-inch vertical … Made 40 tackles as a junior, with his 18 total tackles for loss including 11 quarterback sacks … Helped led the team to the Florida Class 6A regional quarterfinals his freshman and sophomore seasons … Missed much of his senior season because of injury … Began high school career as a basketball star before making the move to football … Name is pronounced “al-VON-tay.”
Javess Blue, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 190, Jr-JC, Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler Community College) –Second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American during his sophomore season at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas … Also was named first-team all-conference … Ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college player by ESPN.com … Led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65, receiving yards with 1,064 and receiving touchdowns with 12 … Ranked in the top-10 nationally in each category … Averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt returns … Helped the team to a 11-1 record in 2012, winning the Region VI Championship before falling in the Graphic Edge National Championship Bowl … Grizzlies were the Region VI Champions, KJCCC Champions and played in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl his freshman season … Great freshman season with 27 receptions for 586 yards, a 21.7-yard average, and three touchdowns … Coached by Troy Morrell at Butler Community College … Big-play receiver at Lake Wales (Fla.) HS … Caught 88 passes for 1,774 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards catch, during his final two seasons at LWHS… Helped team advance to the Class AAA state semifinals his junior season with an 11-2 record … Clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash … Coached in high school by Rod Shafer … Name is pronounced “JAY-vess.”
Steven Borden, Tight End, 6-3, 250, Jr-JC, Waxahachie, Texas (Waxahachie/Kilgore College) – Enrolled at UK in January … Second-team all-conference tight end at Kilgore (Texas) College … Caught 11 passes as a sophomore for 181 yards, a 16.5-yard average, and four touchdowns … Versatile athlete who has the size to play tight end and the athleticism to play as a slot receiver … Coached at Kilgore by J.J. Eckert … Played defensive end during the 2010 season at Southwestern Assemblies of God, an NAIA school in Waxahachie, Texas … Made 35 tackles, featuring 7.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 quarterback sacks … Played his senior season as a defensive end at Waxahachie High School, helping team to a 12-1 record and the quarterfinals of the state Class AAAA playoffs … Earned first-team all-district honors … Coached at Waxahachie by David Ream … Played three seasons at Santa Clarita Christian High School in California as a quarterback, receiver and linebacker … Coached at Santa Clarita by Garrick Moss … Also played basketball in high school.
Justin Day, Offensive Tackle, 6-8, 305, Fr-HS, Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken) – First-team all-state by SCVarsit.com … Offensive tackle with a huge upside … Long arms and big frame give him the potential to be an outstanding pass blocker … Has only played one year in the offensive line … Started his high school career playing defensive end before he moved to the other side of the ball as a senior … Played at South Aiken High School, coached by Jeremy West … Also first-team all-state and all-region … Was a standout at the Rivals.com South Carolina Elite 100 Camp in the spring of 2012 … “Day was the biggest surprise of the week,” Rivals analyst Mike Farrell wrote. “(M)ore often than not his opponents ended up on the ground with the big man lurking over them when the whistle blew.” … Played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which pits the best high school players from North Carolina and South Carolina against each other.
Jason Hatcher, Defensive End, 6-3, 250, Fr-HS, Louisville, Ky. (Trinity) – One of the nation’s top prospects at defensive end … Rated No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com, #10 by Scout.com, #14 by ESPN.com and #16 by 247Sports.com … Helped lead Trinity High School to three-consecutive Class 6A state championships and a three-year record of 41-2 … First-team all-state as a senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Associated Press … Made 37 tackles as a senior, including 13.5 quarterback sacks and four additional tackles for loss … Played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas following senior campaign … One of the nation’s top-200 prospects by ESPN … Scout.com’s Scott Kennedy says Hatcher “has the speed to play outside linebacker and the frame to grown into an every down defense end. He is tremendously quick off the line and fast in pursuit. He relies on speed and quickness rather than strength.” … Had 40 tackles his junior and sophomore seasons, including 12 sacks his junior year and 11.5 TFL his sophomore season … Coached by Bob Beatty.
Nick Haynes, Offensive Lineman, 6-3, 305, Fr-HS, Niceville, Fla. (Niceville) – A great athlete with a high upside after having played football only two years in high school … Ranked as the nation’s No. 40 guard by Rivals.com … Extremely versatile player who has experience as a tight end, fullback and defensive lineman as a high school player … Played predominantly as a tackle in high school, but could transition to guard or center at UK … Excels as a run blocker as he compiled an impressive tally of pancake blocks in high school … Relies on great footwork as he also lettered in basketball as a prepster … Attended Niceville (Fla.) High School, helping team to a winning record both seasons he played … Coach by John Hicks.
Jacob Hyde, Defensive Lineman, 6-2, 330, Fr-HS, Manchester, Ky. (Clay County) – Was Kentucky’s first verbal commitment of the 2013 signing class … One of the nation’s top-50 defensive tackles by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … First-team all-state as a senior as chosen by The Associated Press …Comes to Lexington from Clay County High School, where he played for head coach Evan Napier … Played defensive tackle and offensive guard in high school, but is projected on the defensive side for Kentucky … Helped Clay County finish 8-4 his sophomore season en route to an appearance in the Class AAAAA state playoffs … Helped lead Kentucky all-stars to a 29-27 win over Tennessee in the National Guard Border Bowl … Played for the USA national team in the International Bowl on Feb. 5 in Austin, Tex. … Named All-SEKC by MaxPreps.com … Also chosen first team on the All-Mountain squad.
Jaleel Hytchye, Cornerback, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Cincinnati, Ohio (La Salle) – Talented athlete who also had a successful track career at La Salle High School in Cincinnati … One of the nation’s top-25 cornerbacks as evaluated by ESPN.com, which gives him a positive rating in man coverage, zone coverage, ballhandling and instincts … ESPN.com ranks him as the 20th-best prospect in Ohio and wrote, “Hytchye has the coverage skills to see early playing time at the BCS level of competition.” … Has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is considering running track at Kentucky … Finished the 2012 season with two interceptions – one for a touchdown – and a fumble recovery … Second-team all-conference in the highly competitive Greater Catholic League …During his junior campaign in 2011, he posted four interceptions and 14 pass breakups … Helped Lancers to third-place finish in the city in 2010 with a 9-2 record and a 7-3 record his junior season … Coached by Tom Grippa … Name is pronounced “jah-LEEL HI-chee.”
Jojo Kemp, Running Back, 5-10, 190, Fr-HS, DeLand, Fla. (DeLand) – Earned Associated Press all-state first-team honors his senior season … Rushed 255 times as a senior for 1,469 yards and 23 touchdowns … Equally as impressive his junior season when he rushed 178 times for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns … Had a great game on the big stage, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns on a game televised by ESPN2, which featured several Division I prospects on defense … Rated the nation’s No. 10 multipurpose back by Rivals.com … The No. 28 running back by ESPN.com … Scout.com’s Mike Bakas says Kemp “has enough size to grow into a potential 210-plus pound running back who will be able carry to carry the rock 20 times a game and get the tough yards inside.” … Bakas also says Kemp is “a tremendous athlete who can make a lot of people miss in space … changes directions well … can catch the ball very well out of the backfield … he’s just a good football player with plus athleticism.” … No. 10-ranked player in the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida “Super60” prospects … Coached by Al Manning.
Austin MacGinnis, Kicker, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Prattville, Ala. (Prattville) – One of the nation’s top three kicker prospects according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Played his senior season at Prattville (Ala.) High School under Coach Chad Anderson … Handled punts, field goals and kickoffs for the Lions, making seven of 10 field goals, including a 50-yarder … 76 percent of kickoffs went for touchbacks … Named to the all-area team … Participated for the winning National team in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl in Houston following his senior campaign … Played at Randolph County High School before moving to Prattville his senior season … Converted six of nine field goals and made all of his extra points as a junior, with 81 percent touchbacks on kickoffs … Participated in the National Underclassmen Challenge and performed well … According to ChrisSailerKicking.com, MacGinnis “is a tremendous kicker. He has a huge leg … kickoffs are Division-I ready right now. A great competitor that kicks well under pressure.” … Spent time with One-on-One Kicking.
Blake McClain, Defensive Back, 5-11, 190, Fr-HS, Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park) – Versatile defensive back could be either a cornerback or safety on the collegiate level … Considered the nation’s No. 66 safety by ESPN.com, which says McClain’s strengths are zone coverage, ball skills and run support … The No. 61 cornerback by Rivals.com … Good senior season at Winter Park (Fla.) HS, gathering 60 tackles and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown … Ended his high school career with nine picks … Also played wide receiver, with two receiving touchdowns his senior season … Ranked as the No. 25 prospect on the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 … The Orlando Sentinel wrote that McClain “has top-notch footwork and an ability to keep his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage to keep quarterbacks at bay.” … Named a Central Florida All-Star … Coached by Larry Gergley … Has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash … All-around athlete who also played basketball.
Marcus McWilson, Safety, 6-0, 210, Fr-HS, Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney) – Physical, athletic safety who is ranked as one of the nation’s top-20 safeties by Scout.com and Rivals.com … Ranked No. 18 nationally in the athlete category by 247Sports.com … The No. 10 player in talent-rich Ohio by Rivals … Played at Cardinal Mooney HS in Youngstown, Ohio, the alma mater of new UK head coach Mark Stoops and tight ends coach Vince Marrow … Helped Cardinal Mooney to a Division III state championship his junior and freshman seasons … Team went 15-0 his freshman season and 11-3 his junior year … First-team All-Ohio in 2012 … Had eight interceptions as a junior, two picks as a sophomore … Also played running back in high school, including posting 124 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a single game last fall … Coach P.J. Fecko told the Tribune-Chronicle before the 2012 season that, “Marcus is a tremendous athlete. He does a lot of different things. He kicks the ball. He returns the ball. He's a defensive guy. He's a receiver. He's a running back. His ability to want to compete and to do so wherever he's called upon helps. He's been successful to do that.”
Kyle Meadows, Offensive Lineman, 6-5, 270, Fr-HS, West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West) -- Combines great footwork with tremendous length and playing strength … No. 38 overall offensive tackle according to Scout.com … The No. 31-ranked player in the 247Sports composite of the talent-rich state of Ohio … Ranked No. 5 among the top 50 players in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Greater Cincinnati to watch list of the 2013 … Played for Larry Cox at Lakota West High School … Helped his team to an 8-2 record as a senior … A former basketball player who exhibits an all-around combination of quickness, balance and strength … Went to the same high school as former UK fullback John Conner, now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Regie Meant, Defensive Lineman, 6-4, 275, Fr-HS, Cape Coral, Fla. (Baker) – A speedy defensive line prospect with a huge frame to go along with quickness … Has been timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a remarkable time for a defensive lineman … With his great combination of size and speed he could project as a defensive tackle or end … Second-team all-state in Florida Class AAAAA as a senior … Did not begin playing football until high school … Attended Ida Baker High School, where he played just three seasons for Coach Brian Conn … Totaled 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, two sacks, a caused fumble and two quarterback hurries his senior season … Finished junior season with 23 tackles, four sacks and three caused fumbles … Name pronounced same as “Reggie.”
Ramsey Meyers, Offensive Lineman, 6-4, 290, Fr-HS, Orange Park, Fla. (Ridgeview) – First-team all-state senior season in Florida Class 6A … A big and athletic offensive line prospect with great run-blocking ability … Physical attributes could help him project into multiple offensive line positions … The nation’s No. 60 guard prospect by 247Sports and ranked No. 61 by Scout.com … Played for Coach Tom McPherson and the Ridgeview Panthers in Orange Park, Fla. … Helped Ridgeview to a 9-2 mark and a spot in the state playoffs his senior year … Senior honors also included All-First Coast, All-County and the Florida Times-Union “Super 24” … Played in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic following senior campaign … Honorable-mention all-state as a junior … Named the top sleeper at the Nike Elite Camp last spring ... A first-team all-combine performer at the US Army combine in 2012 … The first Southeastern Conference signee in school history.
Alex Montgomery, Wide Receiver, 6-2, 210, Fr-HS, Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay) – First-team all-state wide receiver from Cypress Bay High School, where he helped his team to the 8A state championship game his senior season, regional semifinals his junior year and state semifinals his sophomore season … Ended his high school career in fine fashion with a tremendous performance in the 8A state championship game … Had nine catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the final, including a nifty one-handed touchdown catch … His 199 receiving yards was a state finals record … Also played defensive back and had what appeared to be the game-winning interception in the state championship game before a late penalty nullified the play … In the two playoff games before the state final, Montgomery returned an interception for a touchdown in each, first for 34 yards and then 56 yards … Had 42 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year en route to first-team all-state honors by the Miami Herald … Ended his junior campaign with 27 catches for 556 yards and 10 touchdowns … Coached by Mark Guandolo … ESPN.com lists key traits as good hands and speed … Ranked as the nation’s No. 51 wide receiver by Rivals.com.
Reese Phillips, Quarterback, 6-2, 225, Fr-HS, Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain) – Two-year all-state quarterback at Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School … Led team to a 7-4 record as a senior and an appearance in the Tennessee Class AAAA state playoffs … Completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions to earn all-state honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … District Player of the Year … Was named the MVP of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic after going 10-for-10 for 95 yards and a touchdown … Led the East to a 41-20 win, setting a record for most points in the all-star game … Solid junior season as a first-year starting quarterback, throwing for 1,895 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions while completing 71 percent of his passes … Was named a first-team all-state performer in 2011 by Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Started at tight end and defensive back as a freshman and sophomore, including sophomore campaign which saw Signal Mountain win the Class AA state championship with a 14-0 record (SMHS competed in 4A during his junior and senior seasons) … Known for a strong arm and consistent accuracy … Coached by Bill Price … “Reese is a very intelligent kid with a work ethic that is tremendous,” Price said. “He has a very strong arm and his accuracy is a big plus.” … A two-year all-district performer in baseball, playing shortstop and pitching …Junior year pitching stats featured a 7-1 record with an 0.85 earned run average, striking out 60 in 49 innings of work … Honor-roll student and member of the Beta Club … Reese’s grandfather, Harry, and great uncle, Dick, were members of the football team at Georgia.
Za’Darius Smith, Defensive End, 6-6, 260, Jr-JC, Greenville, Ala. (Greenville/East Mississippi Community College) – The nation’s No. 1 junior college strongside defensive end prospect as ranked by JCGridiron.com … The nation’s No. 10 overall juco prospect, and No. 2 defensive end, by ESPN … Listed No. 15 overall, and the No. 2 weakside defensive end, by 24/7 Sports … Totaled 47 tackles, including 6.5 quarterback sacks and 11 total tackles for loss, as a sophomore at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss. … Named second-team All-America by the National Junior College Athletic Association … Also named to the juco all-region and all-state teams … Helped EMCC to an 8-2 record … Made 19 tackles, featuring 4.5 sacks and seven total TFL, as a freshman … EMCC won the 2011 NJCAA national championship with a 12-0 mark … Head coach was Buddy Stephens and his defensive line coach was current UK assistant Jimmy Brumbaugh … A relative latecomer to the game as he grew up playing basketball at Greenville (Ala.) High School and didn’t begin playing football until his senior year …Coached at Greenville by Ben Blackmon …An older brother, Bob Meeks, played center at Auburn from 1988-91 and for the NFL’s Denver Broncos … A cousin, Davern Williams, played at Troy and for the NFL’s New York Giants … A niece, Kristi Mokube, currently plays basketball at Florida State.
Khalid Thomas, RB, 5-10, 170, Fr-HS, Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby) – Skilled athlete who was named the 2012 Tallahassee Quarterback Club’s Most Valuable Player of the Year after helping Godby High School win the 2012 Class AAAAA state championship … Had 13 carries for 70 yards in the state championship game … Scored the game-winning touchdown on a 28-yard run, breaking multiple tackles in the process, in Godby’s 21-20 title triumph … Team posted a 14-1 record under Coach Ronnie Cottrell … Outstanding senior campaign, rushing 184 times for 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns … Also had 23 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown last fall … Led Godby in rushing and receiving his junior season … Had 958 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns his junior season, while also posting 421 receiving yards … Also played some defense in high school, making some interceptions … Named Class 1A-5A all-state second team his senior season and was a Tallahassee Democrat All-Big Bend Co-Player of the Year … Brother of current UK linebacker Kadeem “Pancho” Thomas … The nation’s No. 27 all-purpose back by 247Sports.com … 4quartersonline.com said Thomas is “an elusive multi-purpose back that can give opposition teams nightmares.” … ESPN.com praises Thomas for versatility, being a playmaker and his ball skills … Name is pronounced “kah-LEED.”
Ryan Timmons, Athlete, 5-10, 185, Fr-HS, Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin County) – Dynamic playmaker who was all over the field offensively in high school … Played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks … Produced eye-popping numbers … First-team all-state as a junior and senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal … Also all-state as a senior by The Associated Press and a member of the Lexington Herald-Leader “Class of the Commonwealth” … Rushed for 1,306 yards and 25 touchdowns his senior season, averaging an amazing 15.7 yards per attempt … Caught 33 passes for 1,004 yards and 16 TDs, averaging more than 30 yards per reception … Opponents kicked off to him only three times and he returned them all for touchdowns … Had equally incredible numbers his junior season … Rushed 62 times for 1,382 yards, averaging 22.3 yards per carry, and 20 touchdowns … Also had 38 receptions for 1,100 yards, a 28.9 average, and 18 touchdowns his junior campaign … Versatility makes him difficult to define as he ranks as the nation’s No. 23 running back by 247Sports.com, the No. 28 athlete by ESPN.com and the No. 46 wide receiver by Scout.com.
Nate Willis, Defensive Back, 6-0, 180, Jr-JC, Pahokee, Fla. (Pahokee/Arizona Western College) – Rated as the No. 3 junior college cornerback in the nation by 247Sports.com … Helped Arizona Western College to an 8-2 record last fall and a victory in the El Toro Bowl – the team’s first bowl game win in more than 40 years … Team finished the 2011 regular season No. 1 in the nation and hosted the national championship game before suffering its first loss of the season to finish 11-1 … Solid sophomore season at AWCC, earning 19 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups … Had 31 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one fumble forced and three interceptions his freshman season … Also returned kicks in junior college … His freshman season, he return four kickoffs for 133 yards and two punts for 135 yards and a touchdown … Had three kickoff returns last season for 65 yards … ESPN.com gives Willis praise for his man coverage, zone coverage, instincts and ball skills … Helped his team win the 2B state championship his freshman and sophomore seasons … Focused on basketball and did not play football his last two years at Pahokee (Fla.) HS … Did play one season at Glades Central HS.