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Two Junior-College Players Sign With Kentucky

Junior college star A.J. Stamps will join UK as a cornerback from East Mississippi Community College.

Junior college star A.J. Stamps will join UK as a cornerback from East Mississippi Community College.

Dec. 18, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two junior college standouts, defensive tackle Cory “C.J.” Johnson and cornerback A.J. Stamps, have signed letters of intent with the University of Kentucky, Coach Mark Stoops announced Wednesday.

“Cory and A.J. were outstanding players on the junior-college level and will help us address needs at their positions,” Stoops said.  “They will be able to enroll in January, go through our winter high-performance program and participate in spring practice.”


Johnson will have a clear opportunity for immediate playing time following the departure of starting tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph, along with Tristian Johnson, who was the top reserve at that position in 2013.  

Stamps will bolster the Wildcat cornerbacks, a position that had no seniors in 2013 and can use additional experienced presence.

The signees come from schools, ASA College (Johnson) and East Mississippi Community College (Stamps) that finished first and second, respectively, in the National Junior College Athletic Association in scoring defense in 2013.  Each player will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class now includes seven signees, including five high- school players who plan to enroll in January – quarterback Drew Barker, linebacker Dorian Hendrix, running back Mikel Horton, wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass and wide receiver T.V. Williams.

Here are biographies of the new Wildcats.

Cory “C.J.” Johnson, Defensive Tackle, 6-3, 275, Jr-JC, Columbia, S.C. (Chambersburg (Pa.)/ ASA College) – Had a great two years at ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., at defensive tackle … First-team All-Northeast Football Conference as a sophomore … Paced ASA College in tackles with 49 stops, including 15 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a pass breakup … Leading the team in tackles is a rare feat for a defensive lineman … Played in seven games as a true freshman with the Avengers, posting 23 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss, one fumble forced and one fumble recovery … Helped lead ASA to a two-year record of 18-2, including two NFC championships with spotless 5-0 records each season … Helped the Avengers to the first postseason win in school history with a 23-3 victory over the College of DuPage in the 2013 Carrier Dome Bowl … ASA won their last nine in a row en route to a 9-1 record and achieved a final ranking of No. 7 in the nation … Only loss was to Georgia Military College, which advanced to the 2013 national championship game …ASA led the National Junior College Athletic Association in scoring defense, allowing just 9.1 points per game … ASA head coach is Dennis Orlando … A four-star recruit according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, while Scout.com and ESPN.com rank him a three-star prospect … Ranked as the 31st-best junior college player in the ESPN.com Junior College Top 50 … ESPN.com ranks him the eight-best juco defensive lineman, while 247Sports rates him the ninth-best at his position … Chose UK over Miami (Fla.) and Texas Tech … “The city of Lexington, the people are great, the fans are great,” C.J. said when asked of his reasons on picking UK. “I got along with the players (during his visit), so I knew Kentucky as the right choice.”
High School: Originally from Columbia, S.C., he played three years at Chambersburg (Pa.) High School under Coach Mark Saunders … Played defensive tackle and end … Had more than 100 tackles his senior season, including a single-game high of 20 stops … Also participated in the shot put on the school’s track and field team … Set the indoor school record in that event … Signed with Temple out of high school before going to junior college.
Personal: Born in Columbia, S.C.… Son of Centuria Johnson and Carl and Angela Johnson … Major is undecided.

Coach Stoops says: “Cory comes from a very successful junior college, won a lot of games. He is a very active, productive player. The fact that he led his team in tackles as a defensive lineman is very impressive. I look forward to adding a big, strong lineman to help at tackle.”

A.J. Stamps, Cornerback, 6-0, 190, Jr-JC, Vicksburg, Miss. (Vicksburg/East Mississippi CC) – Was an outstanding cover corner for East Mississippi Community College, helping the Lions to the 2013 national championship … Lead the team’s defensive backs with 51 tackles, including one sack, seven tackles for loss, one fumble forced … Strong pass defender with four interceptions and nine pass breakups … Returned one pickoff for a touchdown and also returned a punt for another TD … Part of the NJCAA’s No. 2-ranked defense, allowing a mere 9.8 points per contest … Earned NJCAA All-Region 23 honors and was honorable-mention All-America … Was a wide receiver in 2012 for EMCC, making nine catches for 73 yards before moving to defensive back for his sophomore season … Head coach at EMCC is Buddy Stephens … Was teammates with current UK defensive end Za’Darius Smith in 2012 at EMCC and was a player at EMCC when current UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was on staff … Chose Kentucky over Ohio State …  Regarding his reasons for tabbing UK, A.J. said, “The relationship with the coaches and players when I visited, also the city of Lexington and the fan support.”
High School: Played safety and wide receiver at Vicksburg (Miss.) High School … First-team all-state as a senior by the MAC and second-team all-state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger … Senior stats included 114 tackles, two pass interceptions and three pass breakups on defense; at receiver he caught 77 passes for 1,289 yards and 19 touchdowns … Was named one of the top individual performances of the 2011 season by MaxPreps.com when he had 19 receptions for 285 yards and five TDs vs. Northwest Rankin … Final two years he totaled 112 receptions for 2,310 years and 29 touchdowns … Had 210 tackles his final two years of high school, including two interceptions, seven pass breakups and two fumble recoveries … Played in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game … Coached at Vicksburg by Alonzo Stevens … Also played basketball (guard/forward) and baseball (right field) … Helped the basketball team advance to the state championship game his junior year … Member of the Key Club.
Personal: Born in Vicksburg … Son of Paulette Stamps and Alvin Stamps, Sr. … A.J.’s uncle, Sylvester Stamps, played college football at Jackson State and for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers … Considering a major in sports management.

Coach Stoops says: “A.J. brings a winning attitude, coming from the junior college national champion team.  He is versatile, having played cornerback and wide receiver in high school and junior college.  He is playmaker with the physical makeup to be an impact player right away.”

Kentucky Football News Conference
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening Statement …
“I hope everybody has been well. I have really missed you the past couple of weeks. It has been a good, productive couple of weeks since I have seen you.

“Pleased to announce two new additions today starting with Cory Johnson, a defensive tackle. He is a big guy from ASA Junior College, 6-foot-4, 300-pound D-tackle. A very productive player. He is a big, physical guy. He is very mature and very active in the D-line. Very excited for Cory and also for A.J. Stamps. He is a cornerback out of East Mississippi Junior College. A guy that really blew up this year. He started as a wide receiver his first year at East Mississippi and played corner this year. He did a fantastic job. Big, strong corner. Again, a guy that can come in here at mid-year and help us. Physical guy 6-foot, 195-pounds. Again, want to make it clear he is a cornerback and played corner and we recruited him as a corner. Really excited about that. Two new additions to go along with the five high school guys we already talked about. That will be very helpful for us to have seven guys coming in here to participate in our offseason workouts and spring ball and all those good things. Very excited to add those two guys.
“This past week, probably two of our biggest splashes in recruiting really came from (Alvin) Bud (Dupree) and Za’Darius (Smith) with both of those guys announcing they were coming back. That was big for us and very important for our defense and team and leadership to have those guys return. I am excited for them and to help them improve their stock in the draft the following year. Excited to have those guys back.

“Wrapping up 2013, obviously disappointed in the wins and losses, but very pleased and thought we made progress in a lot of areas. We are excited about recruiting and the offseason and moving forward with wrapping up this recruiting class and moving forward with the program. Some good things are happening right now with the renovations getting started and all those good things. Exciting time and looking forward to the future.”

On this past weekend’s recruiting visits …
“The weekend was fantastic. Really, this past weekend and really a good portion of how this 2014 class is coming together is one of the most unique recruiting experiences I have been a part of. Very, very good weekend and just encouraged with the ability and also the leadership and character of this group.”

On fans looking at what schools UK is beating out for recruits and if the coaches notice that …
“We really don’t. Coaches are all competitive, you know that. Believe me, we were working all night last night. This deal, one of these deals didn’t get closed until about an hour ago. We were working all the way through. It is not easy. We are all competitive. These guys are important to our program and these two guys I just talked about – the two junior college additions – that is very important much like Za’Darius a year ago to come on campus and go through the offseason and go through winter conditioning and be a part of the team and can be impact guys right away. That is why I am so fired up about these guys. Very good players, but it is a grind and never easy. But, going back to the question I just fielded about this past weekend, the junior college guys are always a little bit different. With the high schools guys coming out, it is really unique the way this is falling into place. It is a credit to the players we are recruiting and the staff so some good things are going on. And obviously the things we always talk about, this a great place and a great institution. Lexington is a great place to recruit kids, too, and the people really more than anything. It is the fans, it’s the staff and it’s the people that are affecting these kids and around these kids every day are doing a great job of just being themselves.”

On what makes this incoming class so unique …
“I have to be careful with who I talk about and all those things and the implications and all of that, but why it is so unique and I just talked about a couple of different things but closing out the two junior college guys was very important. Again, we battled that until an hour ago. That was hard fought. I am very excited they are here. Going back to the high school guys and some of the guys you all know and can read about and some guys that have been committed to us for some time. That part of it is very unique because this class is bonding so well together. I think, if you look at some of the characteristics of this class we are bringing in, obviously they are great and very talented football players, but they are great leaders, I think they are very humble. Kids when they are on campus, amongst themselves, they interact with each other in a way that they have known each other for years. They feel like they are almost brothers and that is coming from them and their quotes and different things. That is why it is unique because they feel a very strong bond with one another and they feel a very strong bond with Kentucky and with our fans and with our people here and all the staff. It is just a very pleasant group to be around.”

On who he had to fight for until the last hour …
“Yes (A.J. Stamps). He will get a few extra cross-fields (runs) when he gets here. I love him, but it’s never over until it’s over and the last 48 hours some things turned. It’s always a hard-fought battle going after players of this caliber.”
 
On what it feels like to be recruiting with major BCS title contending schools …
“It feels good. We are competitive people. We want the best players. We know that’s the lifeline of our program, is recruiting. I’m very encouraged because I feel like we really try and do everything right. We try to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ and don’t leave any stone unturned. We really try to go about everything the right way. After that, you let the chips fall where they may.”
 
On the advantages the offseason gives his team starting early for recruiting …
“The only advantage it gave us was the first week. The teams playing there in the last week is probably a disadvantage because there were only two weeks (of off-campus recruiting) in December this year. But outside of that, no, I don’t see it as an advantage. I really see it as a disadvantage because we are not in a bowl game. I have been going 100 miles per hour for a year now and this is the first week that you can decompress and put your feet on the ground and I’m pretty bummed out about that, to be honest with you. I’d rather keep on going.”
 
On the new NCAA rules allowing coaching in the offseason …
“We can spend a little bit more time with them meeting and things like that. We are limited to just two hours a week, so that time will be good in the offseason as far as watching film. As far as the offseason workouts and some of that, preparation hasn’t changed.”
 
On if the new junior-college players can make an immediate impact …
“I’m confident these guys will come in and help us. That’s the reason we recruited them. The fact that they’re here for the whole next semester, going through our off-season conditioning and going through spring ball is really important.”
 
On how badly he needed a corner …
“You just always need one. You just do. A.J. is a big guy. He is six foot and roughly 190, 195 pounds and he just needs some size. He is physical, he’s mature and it just helps.”
 
On the excitement of recruiting …
“We are all so excited. Our fan base, and everybody has a part in helping us land the caliber of player that we are. People are excited about it.

“Drew (Barker) coming in mid-year is different than a regular high school (player) coming in (in the summer). He is going through off-season conditioning, going through spring ball and in the spring you have a day off in-between every practice, so you have a lot of time to mentally soak things in. It goes in much slower than it does in the fall. I think that’s very big, and I think it’s big at quarterback. I’m excited to get him in here and get him rolling. I expect him to come in here from day one and compete for the starting job. That’s why we recruited him. But I think when you look at all the 2014 class that we either have them in here committed, or verbal -- that I can’t touch on -- there is no question that they’re going to improve our football team and help us get better for the future.”
 
On what Drew Barker has done for recruiting …
“He has played a critical role in this. He really has. Just his commitment to us early in the process. He did that to help solidify the rest of his class and help us recruit the last of his class, and he has helped us do that. He is a very mature young man and he has great leadership skills. Obviously those are important skills when you’re talking about a quarterback.”
 
On his 2014 recruiting class …
“We’re going to sign up as many as we can. We can count three off from last year so we can go up to 28 this year. We plan on signing all 28.”

On if recruiting physical players is a point of emphasis…
“I think you’ve heard me talk about it throughout the year and I said it day one since I walked on campus, this is a physical league. There is no getting around that. You have to be physical and we have to recruit good size. We have to develop the players we have here to get bigger and stronger, so I think that is a point of emphasis.”

On the transfers last week…
“It’s normal attrition. We’re dealing with 85 guys on scholarship and there is going to be some attrition and we appreciate the work that those guys did for our program and wish them the best of luck.”

On if there are any more transfers to report…
“I don’t think so. Sometimes I may hear that they are looking, but to this point that is all that I know of.”

On how much work the players who redshirted this season have to do…
“I think any time you are coming back with these guys who have some experience and playing in games and playing in this league, it helps. A guy like Braylon (Heard) has been there before, competing at a very high level. He sat out this year, but he knows what he’s getting into. I think that will be a much easier transition for a guy like Braylon.”

On the balance of bringing in juco players and high school players…
“I think there’s definitely a balance there that you have to pay attention to. Not everybody is very patient right? We all want to win some games and you have to bring in some guys to help fill spots, to help win some games. Ultimately, to build a great program, it takes great high school recruiting, so we’re trying to find that balance. I think we’ve done a nice job of it so far and we want to continue to work that way.”

On what he’s most encouraged about going into next season…
“I think we just know a whole lot more about ourselves. Offensively, defensively, as a coaching staff, as a program and I’m very encouraged of the overall attitude. The guys went right back to work on Monday (after the season ended). We had a great couple weeks and I’ve been running since that Sunday out recruiting, but I stopped in and met with the team and had some half days in the office. I pulled the team together and there is a great energy in the room. I think the guys are very excited about the future and excited – you know it was a tough year on everybody – but I think they are genuinely excited to get back to work, to get bigger, to get stronger, keep on working fundamentally to get better, to help us recruit more talent. I just think the overall mindset is much different and much more confident as we move forward.”

On what’s different now compared to this time last season…
“Any time, whether you’re a first-year head coach or not, I think anybody would tell you, after you go through a change that first year it’s very volatile. You are dealing with a lot of things. You are dealing with a lot of change. You are moving your family, your kids. You’re putting staff together. The big thing for me is also understanding our players. What they can do, what they can’t do and the areas we need to improve. Obviously, the comfort level is much greater. It’s much more comfortable this year than it was at this time last year. I was just trying to find my way around town last year.”

On the defensive line…
“We’ll be good. With Bud (Dupree) and ZaDarius (Smith) coming back and Corey (Johnson) coming in, we’ll be fine on the defensive line. I feel good about it.”

On the offensive line…
“I think we need to improve. I think with the guys getting a year older and both our tackles coming back, that’s a good sign. We’ll let those guys get a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger this offseason. I think some guys that redshirted will have a chance to come in and help us right away. A guy like Ramsey Meyers is a guy that jumps out at you right away. I thought you could really see the progress he was making the second part of last year as we were working with him. I think he’s a guy I’m excited about. Kyle Meadows is a guy I’m excited about. We need to continue to improve on the o-line, but that’s no different than a lot of positions.”

On another offseason of uncertainty at quarterback …
“Yeah, it is. I think any of us who have been around football would like to walk in here and say, ‘Yeah, that’s my guy.’ We’re not in that position and that’s the way it is. So we’ll go back to the drawing board and open it up in the spring. We got some new additions and we’ll see where that takes us.”

On Clint Hurtt’s comments about UK …
“No, like I said, I have no comment on that. I’m not worried about Clint Hurtt. That’s too easy of a target for me to go after.”

On the wide receiver position …
“Yeah, you’ve heard me talk about that since we arrived, that we need to improve at that position. I think the guys that we have returning will improve the newcomers will help us.”

On his former team (Florida State) facing an SEC school (Auburn in the title game) …
“Very proud of them. Very happy for Florida State. Very proud of those guys. I have an awful lot of good friends down there and just love the way they played. One more. I’m sorry I gotta go against the SEC on this one. I’ve got too many close relationships with the people there and some of the players there so I wish them the best of luck.”

On whether he feels he’s missing out not being at FSU …
“No. No, no, not at all. I think just happy and excited for them.”

On whether he knew FSU quarterback Jameis Winston …
“Yeah, what do you mean? He was my scout team quarterback.”

On Winston winning the Heisman Trophy …
“I coached him up pretty good last year. What the heck are you doing? (laughs) No, he’s a wonderful young man. He was fun to work with. He always—I think the biggest thing about him is just the way he carries himself. He just had a presence about him that was special. I couldn’t tell that from watching him on scout team that he’d be that good, but you knew he had that charisma about him. He had that great trait that you’re always looking for in a quarterback, so he was fun.”

On whether he has given Vince Marrow a new title …
“I’m working on some things that I haven’t been able to announce yet. I’m going to recommend some changes in certain spots and certain things. I’d like to handle that all at once and make sure I go through my bosses on that stuff and everything. But yeah, I’m planning on recommending Vince for a promotion in that area.”

On whether the staff will remain the same …
“I hope so. You never know. There’s always change, there’s always attrition and things like that, but I’d like to keep everybody intact and plan on keeping everybody intact.”

On whether recruiting is different having a season under his belt …
“Well, I don’t think it changes much in that area. We always go about it the way we have our plan set up in how we go about recruiting. Really we don’t stray from that much. So we try to stay within the parameters we have set with recruiting and I’m excited about the way that’s going.”

On Christmas …
“That’s good, I’m glad you reminded me right there. Happy holidays to all of you and I’ll see you after Christmas, alright? I won’t see you for a while. I just hope everybody enjoys the holiday season and I wish all of you the best and all your families. Thank you.”


 

 

2014 National Signing Day Commonwealth Stadium