LEXINGTON Ky. — Landon Young will suit up Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium with a label no other teammate or opponent can claim — a former Rivals 5-star recruit.
Kentucky and Southern Miss will square off two miles from where he prepped at Lexington’s Lafayette High School. It’s where the 6-foot-7, 305-pound tackle became the state’s No. 1 recruit in the 2016 class.
No. 1 in the state, and No. 29 in the country, according to Rivals.com. The site’s recruiting rankings date back to 2002, and in the 15 years since, Young is the only 5-star recruit the Wildcats have ever snagged.
But the stars that once followed his name have vanished.
“Five stars go in the trash,” Young said at UK’s media day last month. “Once you start here, you’re a freshman and you’re equal just like everybody else. You get in the SEC, you don’t really have one guy that’s better than the other. They’re all the same caliber athletes.”
Senior center Jon Toth anchors the middle of UK’s offensive line and he’s flanked by two juniors on both sides. It’s a veteran position group where each member has recorded multiple snaps.
The depth chart released Monday had Young listed as the second-team left tackle. Now coach Mark Stoops and his staff have a dilemma: Insert Young into the rotation if needed or try to save a year of eligibility by redshirting the pearl of UK’s 2016 class.
“A guy like Landon Young, we will see, because you know we have some flexibility with the sixth, seventh, eighth offensive linemen, the next best offensive lineman off the bench,” Stoops said Monday.
“We’ll see how it goes, see how he progresses,” Stoops said. “But he’s practicing with the two-deep and he’ll be ready to go.”
Kentucky opens against Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a matchup in The Swamp lurking in Week 2. The season doesn’t get easier after that with road trips to Alabama, Tennessee and Louisville along the way.
Stoops was noncommittal on when the biggest commit of his tenure will see the field, but the former 5-star isn’t as stuck on playing time as might be expected.
“To tell you the truth I don’t have any expectations on myself,” Young said last month. “I’m just waiting to see what my best interest is, and the coaches best interest is for me. If it’s to redshirt then I’ll be completely content with that. I’ll develop my body another year and come out next year. If they don’t redshirt me I’m going to come out and work as hard as I can to try to get playing time.”
But since he said that, the Kentucky coaching staff has glowed when talking about Young.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, careful not to overhype any freshman, said Young is pushing the older guys in front of him. Offensive line coach John Schlarman pointed to the obvious physical attributes of Young, but went a step further talking about the freshman’s maturity.
“You never know how a guy’s going to come in and pick up on scheme or adjust to the blitzes they see at the speed they’re run at this level,” Schlarman said. “He’s a smart football player so he picks up on those things. That gives a guy the chance to play early.”
Saturdays have a habit of sorting out speculation. Until then, Young seems content to follow the plan laid before him, whatever that may be. But when he makes his debut, the 5-star hometown prospect is sure to fire up the Commonwealth Field faithful.
“I just like being able to represent my hometown,” Young said, “represent Kentucky and wear this name across my chest.”
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