The early signing day is less than two weeks away and it is time to get into recruiting mode. The UK football staff is fresh off hosting some players this weekend and are currently making their rounds on the circuit visiting recruits in their homes. It’s a busy, busy time and UK looks set to put the finishing touches on a monster recruiting haul.
Now it is time to give you a little background about the players that are set to join the football program. Kentucky’s staff has done a remarkable job of riding the momentum of a 10-win season and now that hard work is going to pay off with the class of 2020. First up in our player preview series is the jewel of the class.
Justin Rogers is a consensus top-50 recruit who has been given the highly sought after fifth star by a few recruiting services. The Detroit native attends Oak Park High School and that is the same school that produced current UK defensive lineman Marquan McCall. Steve Clinkscale was the point man on this recruitment and UK’s cornerbacks coach continues to be one of the best recruiters on the staff and is making huge splashes in Michigan. Rogers committed to Kentucky back in May and has stayed firm throughout the season despite some big league competition.
In the month prior to his commitment, Rogers went on official visits to Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. After leaving Athens with no commitment, he quickly pledged to Kentucky three days later. There was a bunch of concern following an official visit to Alabama in June, but it appeared that Rogers never wavered. The high level recruit visited Lexington for three different games this season and was there in person for the thrashing of Louisville.
Kentucky has had issues with big time flips in the past, but this one appeared to never really be a major issue.
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A ton of people out there believe that the best position for Justin Rogers will be at offensive guard, but Kentucky is dead set on playing him on the defensive line. After a strong senior season, we have now seen the recruiting services list him as one of the best interior defensive line prospects in the country.
The 6-foot-2 and 311-pound defensive tackle plays with great pad level and has a very strong lower body. Rogers has the physicality and stature to play right away. The best part of his frame is the power he produces from his massive lower body. The big guy has a very low center of gravity with terrific leg drive that allows him to power through and disengage offensive lineman. Add in some nice arm length and he is a really intriguing prospect. However, his best trait might just be his versatility.
Whenever you see a player with his size and power, you might automatically assume that he should be plugged into that nose spot in a 3-4 scheme. Justin Rogers can most definitely play that role behind Quinton Bohanna and Marquan McCall, but he also has the ability to factor into other places. The quickness and length that Rogers possesses gives him a great shot to be a big time interior pass rusher. He has the size and physicality to hold off big offensive tackles and could easily play UK’s four technique (head up on the tackle) at a very productive level.
He is a very good football player with an extremely high ceiling.
The Kentucky football program has made a ton of strides under Mark Stoops, but to take their next big step they likely needed to make some bigger splashes on the recruiting trail. After a couple of seven-win seasons Kentucky had some success, but they finally had some proof of concept to sell following beating Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and finishing 12th in the final AP Poll. They cashed in during this recruiting cycle.
The recruitment of Justin Rogers debunked a lot of previous thoughts about the program. UK was able to go out of state in an area that they haven’t really recruited before Mark Stoops got here and landed the top player in the state of Michigan. That big time player just happens to be an interior defensive lineman and that might just be the hardest position to recruit in the sport.
There are going to be a lot of good players talked about as signing draws near, but the prized gem of the group will always be Justin Rogers. He gives UK some elite talent at a position they have historically not recruited that well and proved that this staff can attract top notch out of state talent. That ability added in with their proven development work is going to give this program a great chance to continue to take steps forward under Mark Stoops.