(image courtesy of Rivals)
As the early signing period gets closer and closer, Justin Rowland of Rivals took some time to answer some questions for us. Here’s what he had to say!
Q: With the early signing period coming up, what percentage of the class do you think will sign during this period?
Justin Rowland: “There’s no way of knowing but based on what guys have told me I would assume around 75-percent. There have been a few who have said they will wait and sign later, like Tyler Bentley. Darian Kinnard said he has to talk it over with his coaches. Chris Rodriguez is coordinating a signing ceremony with high school teammates and friends, so even if he waits, that’s not cause for concern. Brendan Bates told me he may wait, but I’ve heard UK feels confident about keeping him on board.”
Q: What indication have you gotten from the guys who will hold out until February? What’s their status with Kentucky?
Justin Rowland: “Bates has gotten a lot of late interest from Michigan and some other big programs, but again, I’m hearing that he’s supposedly solid. Tyler Bentley visited Pitt over the weekend and all I can say is Kentucky is watching that situation closely and I’m not sure he has the leverage to drag them along.”
Q: If Kentucky gets a QB commit in this class, who do you think it would be out of the prospects the Cats have recently offered?
Justin Rowland: “I think JUCO QB Terry Wilson is the closest thing to a Kentucky lean. He will visit on December 15th, one weekend after his upcoming trip to Indiana. James Foster will visit and isn’t signing until February (he’s not an early enrollee), but between Missouri, LSU and Florida State there’s a lot of competition there. Matthew Baldwin is waiting to see if Ohio State will take him. If they don’t, he could become someone who looks at Kentucky closely.”
Q: Some have considered this season a disappointment. What are your thoughts on how the 2017 regular season went?
Justin Rowland: “I would say that the team did not improve quite as much as I expected them to from the 2016 season and the losses to Florida and Ole Miss leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, but Kentucky was not good enough to go 9-3 as some people said they should have. It’s the same team that nearly lost several other games, so in the big picture 7-5 is an accurate reflection of who and what they were.”
Q: The bowl game will be will be Stephen Johnson’s final game as a Kentucky Wildcat. Talk about the impact he had on the program and what you’ll miss the most about him.
Justin Rowland: “He helped change the culture at Kentucky. Johnson provided the kind of stability and confidence that Kentucky had not had at quarterback since Mike Hartline’s senior year. He did have limitations as a passer and I think he was probably playing at much less than 100-percent at the end of the season when his numbers tailed off. But he won over the locker room and helped other guys believe they could win close games. That goes a long way. As far as what I’ll miss seeing, probably his competitiveness. He’s a guy who knew to slide in the first and second quarters, but whenever he had to sacrifice he was more than willing and did so. That’s admirable and speaks to his competitive nature.”
Q: Mark Stoops has received recent criticism some warranted and some warranted in my opinion. What does Stoops need to sustain and improve?
Justin Rowland: “The first order of business will be to find a quarterback who can, first, be efficient and smart, and secondly, able to expand the passing game to make sure Kentucky isn’t one dimensional. He’s got to fix the defense as well. They should improve on that side because it will be a very veteran unit in 2018, but the secondary in particular has to make big strides because the talent is there and the production was not this year. He’s also got to replace two very good kickers in Austin MacGinnis and Matt Panton. I would not dwell too much on the organization or some of the other criticisms that have been tossed out so frequently. If he gets the right personnel in place, next year’s team can be good enough to take steps forward.”
I want to send a huge thanks to Justin for taking the time to conduct this interview with us!
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