LEXINGTON, Ky. — The signing period in December allowed Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow to zero in on one target for February: 4-star linebacker Chris Oats.
Oats signed with Kentucky on National Signing Day, representing a rare Kentucky recruiting victory over Ohio State. Kentucky has signed 41 players from Ohio in Mark Stoops’ six classes, perhaps none bigger than its latest.
“You see me smiling? I recruited Chris since he was a freshman, and that juggernaut there at Ohio State, they do great there, Urban [Meyer] recruits very well,” said Marrow. “And this truly was — I think there was times they came in on guys late that’s here now, but this was truly a kid that they targeted since he was a sophomore. And beating them on this kid just says volumes.
“[The Class of 2019] is a big recruiting class for Ohio next year and I’ve been getting a lot of DMs [direct messages on Twitter] already from kids, like, ‘Wow.’ I mean, until last week, everybody thought Chris was going to Ohio State. But I kind of knew where he was going. I just kept it to myself. But until he signed the papers, I was nervous all the way until last night. It was huge getting him.”
The Cincinnati native grew up a Buckeyes fan, but he spurned a late visit to Columbus and gave the Wildcats a win.
Oats is the 22nd-ranked outside linebacker in the 2018 class and the No. 325 overall prospect, according to the 247Sports composite. Oats is the third-highest ranked prospect in Kentucky’s class behind 4-star offensive/defensive lineman Marquan McCall and tackle Darian Kinnard.
Oats is not only a big win for the 2018 class, but Kentucky’s presence in Ohio moving forward.
“Our logo right now, probably the last three years, is probably the second-most dominant logo in recruiting in Ohio,” Marrow said. “It’s just when Ohio State came in [in the past], you’re always nervous like, ‘Are they going to come offer this kid?’ They had a lot of Big Ten offers, but when you get that Ohio State offer, every kid wants to play for their state school. This goes up a notch because I know they recruited this kid from Day 1.
“This kid is a real good football player. A lot of high school coaches have been calling me … saying, ‘You guys got a real good one.’ It’s going to boost us in Ohio for next year. I really do believe that.”
Oats is listed as an outside linebacker, but could play inside as well.
“Chris is a legit 6-4, 6-5, twitch, can bend,” Marrow said. “So he’s going to play inside … but he’s so long you can put him on the outside as a pass rusher because he can run.”
Kentucky ended National Signing Day with a 24-man class.
Kentucky signees from Ohio (ranked in top 25 in state)
2018 — 5 (15, 16, 20, 25)
2017 — 6 (4, 7, 12, 21, 22)
2016 — 11 (19)
2015 — 5 (11, 19, 21)
2014 — 11 (4, 8, 9, 13, 16, 24, 25)
2013 — 3 (10)