Cats add players amid NIL concerns | local sports

Head coach Mark Stoops and the University of Kentucky football coaching staff have dived into hostile waters in recent weeks and, so far, have seen positive results.

The Wildcats secured commitments in July from three Alabama prospects and a Louisville-area wide receiver for the 2023 promotion, giving Britain a total of 11 tough commitments for what was previously considered as a dull group as a whole.

Four-star defensive back Avery Stuart of Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery heads the incoming quartet that also includes three-star offensive tackle Koby Keenum of Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, Alabama; three-star running back Khalifa Keith of Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama; and Pleasure Ridge Park setter Jakob Dixon of Louisville.

Although Stoops is not allowed to comment on incoming commits until they have signed their letters of intent, he noted the difficulties that new name, image and likeness offers presented when recruiting. .

“We’ve had between 40 and 50 different players who received NUL deals,” Stoops said of the current Wildcats during a recent appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio. “From top to bottom, everyone in our building, everyone in administration, has been very supportive of this – educating, helping, whatever they allow us to do. At first it was very vague. It’s a new world, so everything is new.

“We still want players to receive money based on their name, image and likeness. I think the complex issues that come into effect, that everyone in our league – the top of the food chain with Nick Saban, all the way down – is concerned with the pay-to-play, the collective, so to speak, and guarantee high school money. Technically, it’s illegal. Is this happening? Let’s get our heads out of the sand, of course it continues.

Instead, Stoops said, UK players have the option of getting their money once they’re on campus.

“The players are going to win it here,” he said. “They will make a living. We’re going to earn it, we’re not going to give it away, whether it’s a spot on the roster or things of that nature. I want to keep this, keep this hunger. We’re going to have the guys we’re supposed to have and we’re going to have the same mentality that we’ve always had.

This mentality, of course, is the ‘recruit and develop’ mantra that defined the UK during Stoops’ tenure.

Stuart, 6ft 2in and 174lbs, enters as the highest rated player in the UK class of 2023. According to 247Sports, he is the 12th best safety player in the nation and the 16th best player overall in Alabama. He chose the Cats over offers from Auburn and Florida State.

Keenum, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive tackle, is ranked 77th best at his position in the nation and 32nd at Alabama. Keenum, who Rivals consider the No. 3 center in America, chose the UK over Louisville.

Keith, a 6-foot-2, 217-pound runner, is the 82nd-best running back in the nation and Alabama’s 47th-best player. Last season he rushed for 1,877 yards and 28 touchdowns in 12 games, averaging 9.9 yards per carry and 156.4 yards per game.

Last year at PRP, the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dixon had 33 passes for 663 yards and nine touchdowns.

The incoming group gives the UK the No 50 recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports, but Stoops noted how an increased NIL funding effort could help the Cats close the gap – if they do so from the start. good manner.

“We are late,” he said. “Essentially we need people to understand that it’s legal and it’s OK. Look, I don’t want to break the rules. I have been here for nine years. I did things well. I built this program the right way, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of sacrifice from our former coaches.

“There are good, well-respected coaches who publicly say, ‘Yeah, we need the money’, so I’m not going to sit on the bench anymore. I’m going to fight the fight as best we can.

However, this taking shape, Stoops noted, will not affect the program’s field production.

“We’re going to be the same tough, scrappy, physical football team you always see and we’re not going to change,” he said. “I want players who come here because they want to win it. Yes, I want to help them earn it. I want them to do it because they deserve it. I don’t want guys who want handouts.

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