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Kentucky Football: A Look at the Top 11 Players from the 2012 Recruiting Class

Nick NafpliotisCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2012

Kentucky Football: A Look at the Top 11 Players from the 2012 Recruiting Class

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    The University of Kentucky's 2012 recruiting class is now complete.  

    Led by star quarterback Patrick Towles, Joker Phillips is hoping that this group will be a solid building block for the program...and help to keep him off of the hot seat.

    The following is a breakdown of the top 11 signees from this year's class.

1. Patrick Towles, QB

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    High School

    Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky

    2011 Record: 15-0, Kentucky 4A State Champions

    Senior Year Statistics

    Passing: 181-279 (65%), 3,820 Yds, 42 TD, 1 INT

    Rushing: 100 Car/589 Yds (5.9 avg), 15 TD

    ESPN.com Ranking: 4-star recruit

    No. 31 Quarterback Prospect

    No. 128 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 1 Prospect in the state of Kentucky

    Other Schools Offering

    Louisville, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Cincinnati

    Analysis

    The crown jewel of Joker Phillips' second recruiting class is undoubtedly Patrick Towles. Towles led Highlands High School to three state championships.  He also helped his team to break the Kentucky state record for points scored in a season.

    He also has managed to maintain a 3.47 GPA and volunteers extensively at his school and his church. It's not much of a stretch to imagine that this kid may have been wrapped in an American flag after he was born.

    According to Cincinnati Bengals receiver and current NFL TV analyst Cris Collinsworth, Towles is one of the best high school quarterback prospects he has ever seen.  In an interview with Larry Vaught, he had this to say:

    He can be anything, anywhere. He makes some throws in practice sometimes that I go, "Oh my gosh. There are NFL guys that can’t make that throw. [...] I personally think there are going to be a lot of universities that are just sick they did not get on Patrick Towles sooner and will be trying to by the end of this season.

    As an added bonus, Towles isn't shy about the fact that he hates the Louisville Cardinals.

    UK's offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Randy Sanders has shown great success developing young QBs like Andre Woodson and Mike Hartline into successful SEC players. Towles looks to have all the tools necessary to be one of the all-time great quarterbacks at Kentucky.

    But make sure to temper your excitement until he actually begins practicing and playing. Don't forget that Morgan Newton had the same type of mind blowing potential when Kentucky signed him in 2009. 

2. Khalid Henderson, OLB

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    High School

    Pebblebrook High School in Austell, GA

    2011 Record: 4-6

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    ESPN.com Ranking: 4-star recruit

    No. 19 Outside Linebacker Prospect

    No. 98 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 17 Prospect in the state of Georgia

    Other Schools Offering

    Ole Miss, UAB, South Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia Southern, Air Force, Tennessee, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee, Troy

    Analysis

    It looks like the Kentucky Wildcats will benefit greatly from Khalid Henderson's falling out with the University of Tennessee, the school to which he was previously committed.  

    As you can see in his highlight video, Henderson has explosive speed and and can lay some devastating hits on ball carriers (or anyone unfortunate enough to get him as a blocking assignment).

    With the late addition of Henderson to this year's recruiting class, Kentucky had made a significant step towards rebuilding its linebacker corps that graduated three seniors this year.

3. Justin Taylor, RB

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    High School

    Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, GA

    2011 Record: 5-4-1

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 36 Running Back Prospect

    No. 299 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 67 Prospect in the state of Georgia

    Other Schools Offering

    Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Alabama

    Analysis

    Big Blue Nation got a great signing day surprise when former Alabama commitment Justin Taylor decided to go to Kentucky.

    After a season-ending knee injury during his junior year, Nick Saban (who has gone very hard after the excellent running back from Georgia) offered Taylor the chance to greyshirt and sign with the 2013 class instead.

    Due to the new signing rules put into place this year by the SEC, Alabama was not able to sign him to the current class without giving up one of their 25 scholarship spots.

    The Crimson Tide's loss is most definitely Kentucky's gain.  Taylor is a devastatingly bruising running back with excellent speed for his size.  Watching video highlights of him knocking people over while still in stride is a true joy to behold.

    With his size and speed, Taylor should give Kentucky a great power back option for the future.  He may need to redshirt due to his injury, but running back is one position that Kentucky can afford to take some time to properly develop players.

4. Jalen Whitlow, QB

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    High School

    Pratville High School in Pratville, AL

    2011 Record: 11-2-1, Alabama 6A State Champion

    Senior Year Statistics

    Passing: 44-73 (60%), 514 Yds, 7 TD, 0 INT

    Rushing: 92 Car/692 Yds (7.5 avg), 13 TD

    Receiving: 12 Rec, 165 Yds, 2 TD

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 72 Quarterback Prospect

    No. 450 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 42 Prospect in the state of Alabama

    Other Schools Offering

    South Alabama, Minnesota, Memphis, Arkansas State, Ole Miss

    Analysis

    To call Jalen Whitlow a dual threat would be a bit of an understatement.  He racked up 30 touchdowns at quarterback, wide receiver and running back during his senior season while playing for one of the best high school football teams in the country (and the top ranked high school football team in the state of Alabama).

    Whitlow has indicated that he is willing to play positions other than quarterback.  

    This is probably part of what helped Kentucky to flip him from his previous commitment from Arkansas State.  The Wildcats may be fairly stacked at the quarterback position, but if Whitlow shows the type of incredible play-making skills at catching and running the ball that he possessed in high school, he could see a decent amount of playing time as a true freshmen this fall.

5. Kadeem Thomas, ILB

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    High School

    Godby High School in Tallahassee, FL

    2011 Record: 9-3

    Senior Year Statistics

    Tackles: 142

    Sacks: 2

    Interceptions: 1

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 38 Inside Linebacker Prospect

    No. 469 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 160 Prospect in the state of Florida

    Other Schools Offering

    Georgia Tech, Louisville, UMass, NC State, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Cincinnati, South Carolina, Tennessee

    Analysis

    Kadeem Thomas had a bit of a drop off from his junior season (when he led the state of Florida in tackles with 166 and had six interceptions), but this is still a great pick up for the Cats.  In fact, I put him above some other Kentucky recruits who were ranked higher than him by most of the recruiting services.

    Why, you may ask?  Well, if you look at his offer sheet, it's fairly impressive.  Schools from multiple conferences (especially the SEC) wanted this kid badly.  Remember that the often misinterpreted "star ranking" system can often be a complete crap shoot.  The fact that so many teams want this kid and the fact that he was a leading tackler in a state like Florida should tell you something.

    And while three stars isn't a bad rating by any stretch, it looks like a lot of teams would like a kid that seems to live behind the line of scrimmage and can drop back into coverage if needed.  

    With Kentucky losing three senior linebackers from last year, Thomas may get a chance to prove himself in the SEC very soon.

6. Thomas Chapman, DT

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    High School

    Dupont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky

    2011 Record: 9-3

    Senior Year Statistics

    Tackles: 46

    Sacks: 5.5 Junior Year (Senior Season sacks unavailable)

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 60 Defensive Tackle Prospect

    No. 344 Southeast Regional Prospect

    No. 4 Prospect in the state of Kentucky

    Other Schools Offering

    None (committed as a junior)

    Analysis

    Thomas Chapman was going into his senior season getting interest from big name programs like Tennessee, Notre Dame, Louisville and Michigan, but he decided on his first visit to Kentucky (during his junior year) to commit to the Wildcats.

    As you can see in his highlight video (he's No. 92), Chapman not only gets great penetration at the line, but he can also move incredibly quickly for an interior lineman. While many tackles lack the awareness or speed to move in on a play that are not moving vertically, Chapman is great at cutting across the field to assist, keeping small gains from becoming big ones.

    The only disappointing part of his highlight video is the fact that out of all the Kanye West songs he could have picked, he went with "All of the Lights On."

    He looks to have fully recovered from a nasty injury he sustained midway through his junior season and has remained committed to the cats despite being surrounded by Louisville fans.

    He also says that he's always wanted to be a Cat.  At the very least, you know that this prospect bleeds blue and white.

7. Demarcus Sweat, WR

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    High School

    Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, GA

    2011 Record: 9-2

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 93 Wide Receiver Prospect

    No. 317 Southeast Regional Prospect

    No. 72 Prospect in the state of Georgia

    Other Schools Offering

    Indiana, Florida International, Purdue

    Analysis

    Stephenson has blazing speed (4.3 40-yard dash) and was a star on special teams this year, returning four kicks for touchdowns in his first five games.  

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution believes that he was overlooked by many college recruiters, who will be kicking themselves when he is shredding opposing defenses and special teams units in the SEC.

8. Jonathan Reed, CB

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    High School

    Pike High School in Indianapolis, IN

    2011 Record: 4-6-1

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 44 Cornerback Prospect

    No. 89 Midwest Region Prospect

    No. 9 Prospect in the state of Indiana

    Other Schools Offering

    Bowling Green, Temple, Marshall, Toledo, Western Michigan

    Analysis

    Despite his high school team having a lackluster season, Jonathan Reed was an excellent shutdown corner for Pike High School this year.  His highlight video (if you can stand listening to the music) also shows that he is a great kick returner and isn't afraid to lay a solid hit on a ball carrier.

    At 5'9", he is at a definite height disadvantage in the SEC, but 4.4 speed and his knack for jamming receivers off the line of scrimmage will hopefully make up for it.

    On an interesting and encouraging side note, Reed was recruited by new UK defensive backs coach John Cassity while he was still at Marshall.

    On another side note, Reed is a pretty talented piano player.

9. Langston Newton, DE

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    High School

    Carmel High School in Carmel, IN

    2011 Record: 14-1, Indiana 5A State Champions

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 70 Defensive End Prospect

    No. 64 Midwest Region Prospect

    No. 4 Prospect in the state of Indiana

    Other Schools Offering

    Indiana, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green, Marshall, Arkansas State, Florida International, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Grambling State

    Analysis

    Despite facing constant double teams from opposing offensive lines, Langston Newton was able to help lead his Carmel High School defense to an Indiana State title in 2011.

    As you can see in this video, Newton has an amazing ability to pop off the line of scrimmage and go right by his blocker.  If that doesn't work, he also seems to have no problem going through them, either.

    Despite the fact that Indiana isn't known for producing D-1 level defensive line studs, Newton spent a great deal of time in opponents' backfields during a state championship season.  Hopefully with some development, this carries over into future SEC play.

    Langston Newton is the younger brother of Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton. 

10. Fred Tiller, Ath

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    High School

    Clinch County High School in Homerville, GA

    2011 Record: 8-4

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable

    Junior Year Statistics

    Receiving: 31 Rec, 736 Yds, 9 TD

    Defense (DB): 65 tackles, 5 INT

    ESPN.com Ranking

    No. 81 Athlete Prospect

    No. 377 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 81 Prospect in the state of Georgia

    Other Schools Offering

    UAB, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, Marshall, Mississippi State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Georgia State, Kansas, Southern Miss, South Carolina, Troy

    Analysis

    Fred Tiller is a dual threat WR/DB prospect.

    He runs a 4.54 40-yard dash, will means he will never be the fastest player on the field in the SEC. His most impressive attributes, however, (which you can see here), are his great hands as well as his ability to catch the ball in traffic.

    On the defensive side of the ball (where I personally think he should and will end up), Tiller is a solid tackler and has a great nose for the ball, making him an ideal safety or linebacker/safety hybrid in Rick Minter's defensive system.

    Judging from his offer sheet, Kentucky isn't the only one who saw this kid's potential to make an impact on either side of the ball.

11. Cody Quinn, CB

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    High School

    Middletown High School in Middletown, OH

    2011 Record: 10-2

    Senior Year Statistics

    Tackles: 23

    Interceptions: 2

    Sacks: 1

    ESPN.com Ranking: 3-star recruit

    No. 68 Cornerback Prospect

    No. 136 Midwest Region Prospect

    No. 63 Prospect in the state of Ohio

    Other Schools Offering

    NC State, Bowling Green, Wisconsin, Marshall, West Virginia, Illinois, Cincinnati, Kent State, Purdue, Toledo

    Analysis

    After previously committing to Illinois and getting a lot of interest from Notre Dame (along with many other scholarship offers), Cody Quinn decided in January to become a Wildcat.

    As you can see here, Quinn is very adept at keeping with his receiver, has great ball awareness, and is an excellent open field tackler.

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