LEXINGTON, Ky. — Members of Kentucky’s 2016 recruiting class, including the likes of Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell, played a key role last season for the Wildcats.
Kentucky football signed 25 players in its 2016 recruiting class. The group ranked No. 34 nationally and No. 12 in the SEC, according to 247Sports’ composite ratings.
Here are last season’s statistics for the 2016 signees that played.
|Stephen Johnson||QB||12||2,037 passing yards, 13 touchdowns/6 interceptions|
|Benny Snell||RB||13||1,091 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns|
|Landon Young||LT||12||3 starts|
|Kash Daniel||LB||13||19 tackles|
|Naquez Pringle||DT||12||39 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack|
|Jordan Bonner||LB||11||10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss|
|Grant McKinniss||P||13||39.2 yards per punt|
|Kayaune Ross||WR||6||2 receptions, 10 yards, 1 touchdown|
|T.J. Carter||DE||11||11 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss|
|Jordan Griffin||DB||8||6 tackles|
|Jaylin Bannerman||LB||2||2 tackles|
Stephen Johnson quarterbacked the Cats to their first bowl appearance since 2010 and Benny Snell set Kentucky’s freshman rushing record. That’s not a bad haul for one recruiting class.
Johnson was brought in by quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw to provide depth behind former starter Drew Barker, but a Barker injury thrust Johnson into the role. The junior college transfer led Kentucky to a 7-win season and 4-4 SEC mark. He’s a surefire bet to open 2017 as the starting quarterback.
Snell, not even a top-10 prospect in Kentucky’s 2016 class, crossed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau in his first season. He led the backfield in carries and with Boom Williams gone, will be the primary option in Kentucky’s offense.
Young, the top-ranked prospect in the class, started 3 games at left tackle when starter Cole Mosier was injured. Young will again be in the two-deep offensive line rotation.
Naquez Pringle made the biggest defensive impact, but the class as a whole has promise.
Pringle didn’t enter the season as the starting nose guard, but over the course of the year he passed Matt Elam to earn the first-team role. The junior college transfer started 5 games and recorded 39 tackles as Kentucky’s man in the middle of the defensive front. He had a career-high 6 tackles in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia Tech.
Another key newcomer was Kash Daniel. The Kentucky product, a former 4-star recruit, primarily played on special teams and filled in as a second-team inside linebacker — a role he’ll continue in this season. Daniel has drawn early praise from the defensive coaching staff this spring.
Look for defensive end T.J. Carter, cornerback Jordan Griffin and redshirt freshmen linebackers Jamar Watson and Jaylin Bannerman to carve out key roles in 2017.
- QB Gunnar Hoak
- RB A.J. Rose
- WR Zy’Aire Hughes
- C Drake Jackson
- OT Luke Fortner
- OT Tate Leavitt
- DL Ja’Quize Cross
- DL Kordell Looney
- S Davonte Robinson
- LB Jaylin Bannerman
- LB Jamar “Boogie” Watson
- LB Roland Walder
- DB Tobias Gilliam
- WR Brayden Berezowitz
- WR Bryan Berezowitz
- DB Jack Jackson
- RB Zach Johnson
- TE Kevin Kirby
- K Tyler Pack
- LB Drew Schlegel
- RB Harold Turks
Johnson and Snell gave Kentucky instant production on offense, and while Johnson will graduate after the season, Snell has star potential and could turn into one of the SEC’s best running backs.
Local products Landon Young and Kash Daniel impressed in limited opportunities, and they’re likely to get more chances in their sophomore seasons.
Pringle exceeded expectations and turned into Kentucky’s anchor on the defensive front.
The goal in Year 2 for the 2016 class will be production from the players who redshirted. Rose, Fortner and Drake Jackson are the players to watch on offense. Looney, Bannerman, Watson and Robinson are the players to watch on defense.