Somehow, the 2023 high school football regular season is already halfway complete for most teams. Some schools are only four games into their 10-game slates, but the majority of teams across the state are five games in. That’s enough of a sample size to give us a good idea of which teams are contenders and which are not. It’s also enough to give an update on how Kentucky football’s in-state commitments have been performing so far.
Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class currently ranks 26th in the nation, according to On3. After the flipping of four-star twins Jacob and Jerod Smith from Michigan to Kentucky on Friday, the Wildcats now have six commits locked in from the Bluegrass State (and all of the Top 5 players). That group includes a four-star quarterback, the aforementioned Smith twins, a pair of three-star offensive linemen, and a three-star tight end.
So how have they all looked through the first half of the regular season? Let’s dive in and take a look. All statistics are courtesy of the KHSAA.
Cutter Boley (QB) 6-5, 200 | Lexington Christian Academy
4-star: No. 154 overall, No. 12 QB
Cutter Boley has guided Lexington Christian Academy to a 4-1 record, including wins over three teams currently among KSR’s Top 25 rankings — No. 10 Christian Academy-Louisville (14-12), No. 20 Bowling Green (56-52), and No. 23 Pikeville (31-13). The fourth win came against intra-city rival Lexington Catholic with the lone loss a 47-38 defeat at the hands of undefeated Boyle County, which has held down the top spot in KSR’s rankings all season long.
As for Boley, he’s had an up-and-down season so far. He was excellent in LCA’s first two games against Bowling Green and Boyle County, throwing for a combined 748 yards and all six of his passing touchdowns on a nearly 60 percent completion rate. But in the two games after that, while dealing with a minor injury to his throwing hand, his stats dropped to just 224 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Boley would recover last week against Lexington Catholic, going 18-23 for 224 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
SEASON STATS: 87-144 passing (60.4%), 6 TDs, 4 INTs | 30 carries, 120 yards, 5 TDs
Jerod Smith (DL) 6-3, 255 | Corbin
4-star: No. 255 overall, No. 25 DL
Suiting up for the No. 2-ranked Corbin Redhounds (4-0), Jerod Smith has been the more impressive prospect between him and his twin brother Jacob. Corbin has allowed just 22 points all season long and zero in the previous two games — a 43-0 win over Pulaski County followed by a 6-0 nailbiting victory over No. 5 Frederick Douglass in the Kroger KSR Game of the Week. Both Jerod and Jacob announced their flips from Michigan to Kentucky after the latter game was over.
On the field, Jerod has been a menace to opposing quarterbacks. He’s already registered 33 tackles — 23 of them solo — to go along with team-highs in tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (three). Jerod also forced two fumbles in the win over Lexington Catholic and had another game where he forced and recovered the fumble. He’s looked the part of a college-ready prospect through four games against quality competition.
Jacob Smith (EDGE) 6-4, 230 | Corbin
4-star: No. 278 overall, No. 21 EDGE
As for Jacob Smith, his overall stats are actually better than Jerod’s. On the season he has a team-best 46 tackles (36 solo) in addition to three tackles for loss and one sack. He’s also forced one fumble, recovered two more, and even came down a clutch interception in the win over Frederick Douglass that he returned for 33 yards. Jacob’s 11.5 tackles per game rank among the top 50 in the state. With the Smith twins anchoring Corbin’s defense, the Redhounds have allowed the second-fewest points of any team in the Bluegrass. Not bad.
Aba Selm (IOL) 6-4, 295 | Simon Kenton
3-star: No. 622 overall, No. 51 IOL
Offensive lineman stats in high school football are hard to come by. There is no Pro Football Focus grading or anything like that. But looking at their team’s offensive stats, we can usually create a good idea in our heads of how they’ve been playing this season. In the case of Simon Kenton’s Aba Selm, we have a bit more information to work with too. When On3 updated its class of 2024 player rankings earlier this week, Selm did not fall far at all and remains one of the nation’s top 300 prospects. He dropped just 12 spots from No. 261 to No. 273, but when other recruiting sites are factored in, he settles in as a three-star.
Selm has actually played both sides of the ball for Simon Kenton this season, which sits on a 2-2 record. On defense, he’s registered 22 tackles (13 solo) and a team-high five tackles for loss plus one sack. On offense, Selm has helped guide the Simon Kenton rushing attack to 960 combined yards and 14 touchdowns. Pioneer running backs are averaging nearly 5.5 yards per carry behind the big man. Simon Kenton’s two losses have come against ranked teams, too — a 50-12 loss to No. 6 Covington Catholic and a 58-54 heartbreaking loss to No. 16 Beechwood.
Willie Rodriguez (TE) 6-4, 225 | Covington Catholic
3-star: No. 897 overall, No. 48 TE
Willie Rodriguez and No. 6 Covington Catholic couldn’t have started the season off any better. The Colonels are 5-0 so far, having scored at least 31 points in all five games while giving up an average of 22 per game. They boast wins over No. 11 Highlands and No. 16 Beechwood.
Covington Catholic has leaned heavily on Rodriguez and he’s been showing up. Although he has just 11 receptions for 235 yards on the year, five of those touches have turned into touchdowns. He’s proven to be nearly impossible to bring down with just one defender — you need at least two or three to take him down. When he catches the ball, the majority of his yards come after the catch. He’s as physical as they come. Rodriguez is also lining up on defense as an EDGE rusher in spots, having recorded 19 tackles (15 solo), three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Hayes Johnson (IOL) 6-3, 295 | Taylor County
3-star: No. 1,097 overall, No. 103 IOL
Hayes Johnson and Taylor County are coming off a rough 48-3 loss to No. 1 Boyle County last week, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of the Cardinals’ season. Taylor County lost its opener to Mercer County 38-22 before rattling off three straight wins over Bardstown, Elizabethtown (Kroger KSR Game of the Week), and LaRue County. In those wins, Taylor County outscored the opponent 103-32 — most of that offensive production coming on the ground behind Johnson.
Taylor County has run for 1,019 yards on 6.8 yards per carry so far this season for 11 touchdowns. Cardinals’ running back Peyton Smith ranks 28th in the state with 132 rushing yards per game. Johnson has shared some time on defense, too, having recorded eight tackles (one solo).