Kentucky’s star-studded 2020 football recruiting class had an opportunity to add another high-profile prospect to its ranks on National Signing Day. It did.
Mike Drennen II, a four-star recruit out of Dublin, Ohio, committed to UK on Wednesday, the start of the regular signing period for Division I football recruits who intend to sign national letters of intent.
For Kentucky, it was a satisfying conclusion to a recruitment dating back to the summer before Drennen’s freshman year of high school. UK offered him during a camp in Lexington in July 2016, and was the first Power Five school to extend a scholarship. His next reported Power Five offer — from Indiana — did not come until April 2017.
Ohio State — about a 15-mile drive from Dublin Coffman High School, where Drennen starred as a running back and wide receiver — did not offer him until June 2018. An offer from Alabama came last March, but neither the Buckeyes nor the Crimson Tide materialized as significant players in his recruitment.
UK was perceived as the favorite for his services throughout the fall but USC — which didn’t offer until Sept. 25 of last year — generated momentum heading into the early signing period, and ramped up its intensity leading up to Wednesday.
“I think Mike is gonna be ready to play right away,” said Bill Greene, an Ohio recruiting analyst for 247 Sports. “He started as a freshman at Dublin Coffman and he’s played against great competition every week since he started playing. He’s played a lot of football at a high level and has been really-well coached at Coffman. He’s probably as mentally ready to play, as a freshman, as anyone.”
A name oft-mentioned when looking for comparisons to Drennen is Lynn Bowden, who won the Paul Hornung Award after taking the reins at quarterback for UK midway through last season. The two are similarly-sized — Bowden’s final listed weight at UK was 199 pounds; Drennen is listed at 196 — but the latter is listed at 5-foot-10, two inches shorter than Bowden’s listed height.
Greene isn’t sure Drennen would be able to handle the volume of touches that Bowden ended up with last year, but it’s not likely UK would demand that of the true freshman anyway. It didn’t ask it of Bowden, who early in his career publicly lamented his limited role: he finished his freshman year with 17 receptions (210 yards), 12 carries (37 yards) and 37 kick returns (869 yards) without a touchdown.
Ultimately, though, he could bring a level of dynamism similar to that Bowden showed at Kentucky.
“I think they want to play him as an all-purpose back,” Greene said. “Maybe run him four or five times, throw it to him three, four, five times. I think he can do that. He’s got a high football IQ and is a really smart kid. He’s going to learn that offense real quick.”
Kentucky’s 2020 class prior to Drennen’s signing ranked in the top 25, nationally, in the two major recruiting services.
Rivals had the Wildcats’ signing class ranked 22nd overall and ninth among all Southeastern Conference teams heading into Wednesday. UK’s class sat No. 24 overall and was also ninth among SEC schools in 247Sports’ rankings. ESPN’s class of 2020 rankings had UK at No. 22 nationally and ninth in the SEC as well.
Drennen’s signing as well as those elsewhere over the coming days could budge UK from its respective spot in every ranking, but the Wildcats will almost certainly finish with their first top-25 recruiting class since 2014, the first class fully recruited by Mark Stoops’ staff.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers finalized their 2020 signing class Wednesday with the additions of Campbellsville athlete Malachi Corley (6-foot, 190 pounds), offensive lineman Quantavious Leslie (6-3, 300, from Rome, Georgia), defensive back Kendrick Simpkins (6-foot, 195, from Montgomery, Alabama) and defensive end JaQues Evans (6-2, 240, from Dublin, Georgia).
“All four of those guys, we (knew we) can take our time and get past the first signing period — guys who wanted to wait, anyways,” WKU head coach Tyson Helton told the Bowling Green Daily News. “I think they were smart in playing it out, so I was glad we were able to get them in the end.”
Jeriah Hightower, the Madisonville-North Hopkins running back who led the state with 3,001 rushing yards this past season, committed to play for Eastern Kentucky University.
The University of Louisville did not sign anybody Wednesday, but they signed 25 players during December — with all of them joining the Cardinals as three-star prospects.