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Signing Day wrap-up links

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Signing Day 2014 is in the books and with it UK's highest-rated class ever according to Rivals.com.

Mark Stoops and his coaching staff filled needs, adding much-needed depth along the offensive and defensive lines and wide receiver. They protected their home turf, securing pledges from four of the top five prospects in the Bluegrass. They brought in top-level talent, with 16 of their 28 signees rated as four-star prospects according to at least one major outlet.

Clearly, there's a lot to be said about the newest crop of Wildcats. With that in mind, here are links to some of the best stories on a historic Signing Day for Kentucky football.

My story on Stoops delivering a record class in a "critical" year

At last check, the Kentucky class ranks 15th nationally according to Rivals.com, 20th according to both ESPN.com and Scout.com and 22nd according to 247sports.com.

"I knew we'd recruit good players," Stoops said. "Where it was rated and all that and the publicity, I like it, and it helps our program and all that, but, again, that's not what I'm out for. I'm out to get great players to help build this program day in and day out."

On extremely short notice, Stoops and his staff did that with their first class. With just two months to work, they brought in a group that contributed immediately, which was vital to UK's future in both the short and long term.

This class, however, was even more important.

Sports Illustrated on UK's improved recruiting efforts

Kentucky's recruiting surge has coincided with the school's effort to upgrade its football facilities. The university board of trustees voted last Friday to approve a plan to construct a privately funded $45 million training facility. In November, the school unveiled the design for a $110 million renovation to Commonwealth Stadium. "It helps when prospects come on campus and see our athletic director making the commitment to upgrade the stadium and then put in a brand new football facility," Stoops said.

A turnout of nearly 51,000 fans at the Wildcats' spring game last April helped put the newfound excitement surrounding the program into perspective. Experiencing the game first-hand moved Barker to make his commitment. "When I saw all those fans, and how bad they wanted to have a really good program again -- that really piqued my interest," he said. "It just showed me a lot as to people really wanting to turn the football program around, and that they're not playing around anymore."

CBSSports.com on UK becoming an SEC presence in recruiting

Even Nick Saban, the recruiting king for a fourth straight year, was the runner-up for Elam, a 6-foot-5, 372-pound behemoth.

"We're definitely not afraid to compete with anybody in the country," Stoops said Tuesday.

In a recruiting cycle that many coaches say featured rampant player poaching. Kentucky would have been a logical poaching victim. But the Wildcats locked up much of its class a year ago and didn't lose traction. About sixteen of its 28 players committed before the end of last summer, Stoops said.

John Clay of the Herald-Leader on how a group of "different thinkers" made the class happen


Mark Stoops could have returned to Florida State for another year as defensive coordinator, been a part of a BCS national championship, maybe had a chance at a so-called "better" job than UK.

Surely there were those who told the Ohio native that to win these days you have to be able to recruit, and at Kentucky you can't recruit the quality players you need in the Southeastern Conference.

Stoops obviously thought differently. And in the Class of 2014, he has obviously signed some players who think the same way.

Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader on the UK signees' unbreakable bond

The special recruiting stories were aplenty on Wednesday, from offensive coordinator Neal Brown and offensive line coach John Schlarman's treacherous, icy trek to land Jervontius Stallings to running backs coach Chad Scott sitting in a class all day with a recruit, to tight ends coach Vince Marrow playing Monopoly with a family on an official visit.

"We got to know their families," Stoops said. "With me going on the road -- and I don't even know exactly how many living rooms I was in, but we got a very high percentage of guys that we brought in here for an official visit."

Brett Dawson of CatsIllustrated.com on how UK kept the class together

What you see is what you get. That's what coaches and players will tell you about Stoops. And the straightforward approach helped Kentucky clear perhaps its biggest hurdle in keeping its class intact.

Stoops and his staff knew that the on-the-field product would be lacking in 2013. So the Kentucky coaches took a calculated risk to say so to the players they were recruiting.

"I don't think we tried to -- we didn't minimize where we were as a program," Brown said. "We knew we were in the foundation-building process, we knew it was going to take a little bit of work, or a lot of work really. So we didn't sell them on a bunch of things that we knew weren't going to be possible early."

Video: Signing Day press conference with Stoops, Brown, Eliot, Marrow


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