The makeup of Kentucky's 2020 class tells you all you need to know about Mark Stoops' coaching philosophy: you can't win unless you win in the trenches.
Seven of Kentucky's 22 signees are linemen that are four-star recruits in at least one recruiting service. The real eye-opening additions are on the defensive line. Rivals ranked Kentucky's 2020 defensive line signees as the third-best group in America
, behind only Clemson and Alabama.
Kentucky’s 2020 defensive line crop is as impressive as any other team in the country. Our analysis begins with five-star Justin Rogers, the No. 16-ranked prospect in America and the No. 2 defensive tackle behind only (Clemson signee and No. 1 overall player Bryan) Bresee. The Wildcats also signed four-stars Josaih Hayes out of Mississippi, Tre’vonn Rybka and Octavious Oxendine, which amounts to four top-30 defensive tackles in 2020. Also, Kentucky signed Rivals250 defensive end Samuel Anaele out of South Florida, a top-10 weak-side end in the class.
"The games start up front and they end up front
," Oxendine said last week. "I feel like we have a great defensive line. We can win a lot of games this season and go get after it."
Of all the talented defensive line signees, Oxendine is the only one currently on campus. Sam Anaele will primarily meet with Brad White in the outside linebackers meeting room. Only on the rarest occasions would a true freshman earn immediate playing time, but it's a possibility in 2020.
Kentucky put a priority on defensive linemen in this recruiting cycle because it's one of the few defensive position groups where there is significant attrition. Calvin Taylor Jr. and T.J. Carter played a lot of snaps in Kentucky blue. Depending on where Josh Paschal lines up next fall, Quinton Bohanna may be the only returning starter in the room, giving inexperienced underclassmen an opportunity to get into the action.
"As many defensive linemen as we have, it's really up for grabs. We'll see who goes out there and works. I feel like they're going to put the best guy out there on the field. Whoever works is going to work this season," said Ox.
Arriving early to get a head start on the competition was important to Oxendine.
"I feel like it really is a jump start to SEC football, being able to come in early and go get after it," he said. "The goal is to get in there as a freshman and really start playing, go get after it and get on the field as much as I can."
Will Oxendine seize the opportunity to play right away? We'll start to get a good feel for how he is developing during spring practice. Until then, here are a few other things we learned by the four-star defensive line product from North Hardin High School...
Vince Marrow is a Father-Figure
You'll never believe this, but Vince Marrow played a significant role in the recruitment of a four-star recruit.
"I feel like he's a Dad to me
. He's always been there for me. Ever since I got that offer forever ago he always kept in contact, always came to see me at my school, came to a couple games this season. It was great having him in my life in this process all the way up to the end."
Even though he was heavily pursued by Tennessee up until Early Signing Day, Oxendine could not leave his UK family stranded.
"The family environment, that's the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the University of Kentucky. The family, Coach Marrow, Courtney Love, all of those guys right there. The way they bring you in is just different. It's like a home away from home."
Signing Day Theatrics
Mark Stoops was interrupted by Vince Marrow during his Early Signing Day press conference. The Big Dog informed Stoops at the podium that Oxendine was officially a Wildcat.
It made for a great moment, even though UK had already received Ox's National Letter of Intent
an hour before Oxendine made the announcement at his high school.
"It was crazy because I didn't really know up until like two days before I signed and then I called every school and just told them I loved that they recruited me and stuff like that. I called Coach Marrow last and told him I wanted to do it, so I already had my letter of intent. I ended up signing it that morning and then called in. Coach Marrow knew about an hour before he told Stoops at the meeting. It was amazing. It was crazy. It was fun."
Big Blue Ox
It's plain to see that Octavious Oxendine is the runaway winner for 'Best Name in the 2020 Recruiting Class.' Known by many simply as 'Ox,' he still takes pride in his unique name.
"Substitute teachers used to get it wrong, but other than that it's all good," he said. "I loved it until I had to spell it out, learn it. Then it was like the longest name in the class. It was hard."
It was even harder for his older brother, Xzavious.
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