Kentucky’s top football players in the Class of 2024? Certainly among them…

Cole Hodge, 2024's top player (easily)

When KPGFootball first went on line we scoffed at ranking players before they played middle school, varsity football, which is 8th grade. It is so hard to determine what a kid is going to be as a junior pro player. The best running back in junior pro grows into a long snapper. I have had junior pro players play for me, when I coached at that level in Clarksville, Tennessee, whom I would have assured you would be college players, one day, and they aren’t playing high school ball, right now. Eighth grade superstars transition into high school starters with a fair amount of certainty. Being a sixth or seventh grade superstar doesn’t really mean a thing. That being said, there are some outstanding 2024 players across the Commonwealth which we thought it would be fun to feature. We realize that every youth league, Rock-Top National Champion coach across the Commonwealth is going to raise holy Hell we left their star RB, QB, or LB off this list. Of course, our counter to that is; if you aren’t subscribed to this site, or you haven’t attended one of KPGFootball’s combines (which you would know about if you were subscribed to the site), then how are we supposed to know about your superstar 12 or 13 year old playing for either Tenth Street or Flaget? The following is a list of 2024 players whom we have personally seen play and which we believe to be extraordinary players in the 2024 class. This list is far from complete, but, here it is…

No. 1, Cole Hodge, QB, 5-9 and 145 pounds, Goshen;

At KPGFootball, we want to tell you one thing right off the jump; if you are trying to tell us there is a better football player entering Kentucky’s 7th grade this year than North Oldham’s Cole Hodge, don’t waste your breath. You’re wrong. There has never been a class, in the history of the Commonwealth, whose number one player was any more definitively clear than Cole Hodge. He’s not just the best QB in the 7th grade, but he may be the best QB in the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades too. Cole isn’t even a hold-back player. As far as his being an athlete, Cole is also a star in basketball which gives us a favorable impression of his athleticism and feet. As a basketball player, the 5-9 Hodge made All-State, Division 1, in leading his AAU basketball team to the State Championship this past season. Hodge, in basketball, was named 2nd team, National NYBL AAU Circuit All-American. That particular circuit boasts some of the best players in the nation. What Cole has accomplished, both in 2017 and this summer leading Team Kentucky to an improbably victory in the Future Stars Classic, can neither be discounted nor dismissed. For KPGFootball, it can neither be forgotten.

Last year in middle school, Cole started on the eighth grade varsity team for South Oldham, though only a sixth grader. The same South Oldham which won a conference championship with him under center. Cole led the conference in TD passes thrown with 17, was only picked off 4 times (and three of those occurred after his receiver had tipped the ball), and he completed 45 of 59 pass attempts for 861 yards. So this sixth grader, playing up two whole grades, completed over 76% of his passes attempted with 17 TDs against only 4 picks, three of those being tipped?

Okay, the sixth grader has a great season for his 8th grade football team, but surely he choked under pressure, right? Wrong! Last year for South Oldham, Hodge completed a 4th down pass to win the Conference Championship on the game’s final drive. That pales in comparison to what he did in the Tennessee-Kentucky game this summer. Cole came in to QB Kentucky with the good guys trailing Tennessee 20-7 with a little over 7 minutes remaining in the game. Until Cole Hodge entered the game, on the biggest stage in Kentucky middle school football on which a young man can possibly play, it looked as if the rout was on for Tennessee. Cole led Kentucky back to tie the game, at 28 all, at the end of regulation and then won it in overtime, with a little help from Colin Fratus, 31-28, for one of the most exciting football games I have ever watched. For his efforts, this rising seventh grader, on a team comprised of rising 8th graders, was the game’s Offensive MVP. Listen to us here at KPGFootball, and listen very closely. Cole Hodge is Kentucky’s very top football player in his Class across the Commonwealth. Period! End of Dictation!

No. 2, Joshuah Keith, QB, 5-6 and 125 pounds, Hopkinsville;

Keith with Redskins WR, Andre Roberts

Last year, when I watched the then sixth grade, Joshuah Keith, at the reigns of the Christian County Middle School, varsity squad, playing my team from Hopkinsville Middle School, I thought of the line from the movie Rudy. The 11 year old QB (at that time), starting on a football team with a majority of 14 year old players on both teams was the 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, feel-good, underdog story whom nearly lead his team down the field to tie, and possibly beat HMS At the time, HMS had won14 of its past 16 football games and was the defending Region I Champion and State Semi-finalist. That night in Hopkinsville, HMS barely escaped with its life, 12-6, by intercepting a Keith pass after the sixth grader had led his team down into the HMS red zone to potentially send us home talking about what ifs. His play on the last drive, especially from someone who looked so small in stature on the field, was a stunning exhibition of poise, ability, and talent from a kid who has been exceedingly well coached, and a kid I will want no part of trying to beat when he is actually an enrolled Middle School student. As our Defensive Coordinator, Carl Banks, would say after we had barely won, that Keith kid is the real deal.

That night in Hopkinsville, we rushed that kid, we blitzed that kid, we sent our over six foot tall ends at the kid instructing them to get their hands high up in the air, maybe he will misfire. Joshuah, who attended the Andre Roberts Pro-Camp last year, and who is the son of Todd County Central’s, HS, head coach, Darrel Keith, does everything well. He makes his drops well, sets his feet well, stands tall (as he can) to deliver the ball well, and gets the ball out quickly and from the appropriate slot. He killed in the 7th grade games, a year ago, as he QB’d both squads.

Legendary Coach Woody Hayes once said…The five big mistakes in football are the fumble, the interception, the penalty, the badly called play, the blocked punt-and most of these originate with the quarterback. Find a mistake-proof quarterback and you have this game won. From my vantage point, after having watched Keith mature and take top honors this summer at Coach Dustin Lopez’s junior football clinic at HHS, Joshuah, who may have made just one mistake all night in the game against HMS last season, is a QB, going forward, for whom mistakes (as he matures physically) will become less and less frequent. This is a 7th grade QB I have personally seen throw a HS football nearly 50 yards in the air. Just like in the movie Rudy, if Joshuah Keith’s performances last year at CCMS, and all summer long at every combine and event he attended, didn’t enforce for Joshuah the famous dialogue from the movie Rudy that…In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen, then I just don’t know what to tell him. Before I forget, if you are wondering just how good Joshuah is, well Murray State University thought he was pretty good. He was awarded their Top Gun Award at its football camp for all players aged 7th through 12th grade. What a football player!

No. 3, Carter Conley, Athlete, 5-8 and 125 pounds, Paintsville;

We have put athlete here because we are unsure how this young football star will be deployed at Johnson County Middle School this upcoming year. We may be unsure exactly where he will be deployed this Fall, whether it will be QB, RB, or somewhere else; but, we are sure he will be on the field somewhere. Other than that…well, we don’t know. Now Carter Conley played on Team Kentucky’s FBU Elite team this past year and we got to see him perform at the All-State Mountain Combine held at Pikeville High School in June. His athleticism was eye-popping.

The biggest complaint I use to have trying to coach middle school football, about 6th graders trying to play middle school ball, or even 7th graders wanting to play up a year on the middle school varsity, is that athletes that young just can’t run, lack balance and agility, and have no change of direction speed. I mean a really good 7th grade running back is running a 40 yard dash in the mid-5s, if he is a star. Then KPGFootball got to see Carter Conley. Conley clipped off a 40 yard dash, on his first attempt, in 4.89 seconds. Well, that had to have been clock error. What sixth grade athlete, who hasn’t even attended a 7th grade class yet, run like that? So, we timed him again; and he ran a 4.61 on his second attempt. On his short shuttle, which we commonly reference as the pro agility shuttle, Conley ran a 4.8 second 5-10-5. The L-Cone drill, a drill where we rarely see a 7th grader beat 9 seconds owing to a general lack of spacial quickness, agility, and change of direction speed caused by the player’s youth and physical limits, Conley completed the drill in 7.7 seconds. In a game where it is commonly noted that speed kills, than KPGFootball has to highly prize a 2024 prospect, like Conley, whose speed, agility, and quickness makes Conley a football assassin.

No. 4, Jonah Adkins, 5-7 and 150 pounds, DE/TE, Belfry;

Jonah Adkins came to our Mountain All-State Football combine and shattered any bias about seventh grade football players being physically incapable of playing 8th grade football from which any middle school football fan may have before labored. That aside, I know the middle school football coaches at what may be the premier middle school program in the KYMSFA (Belfry Middle) has to be virtually slobbering all over themselves at what is coming their way. Just imagine into what he is likely to develop over the next two seasons. First of all, Jonah Adkins, at 5-7 and 150 pounds now, with the frame to explode even before the season is completed. With the frame he had at our Mountain Combine, he still ran both his 40 yard dashes under 6 seconds, 5.9 seconds and 5.8 seconds respectively. Both times are elite for someone primarily deployed defensively, as a DE, and secondarily as a TE on offense. Couple that with his running a pro-agility shuttle (5-10-5) of 4.81 seconds, and this is a kid likely to scream around end, this coming season before a 7th or 8th grade tackle is able to get out of his stance. Then take into account Adkins was timed in the L-cone drill at 8.4 seconds, and I don’t believe I have ever seen an entering 7th grade, football player who is deployed with his hand in the dirt, beat 9 seconds in that drill prior to our combine. What makes Adkins an elite 2024 prospect is he moves with a speed, quickness, and coordination of a much older athlete.

Jonah Adkins was awarded top honors for his performance in the middle school division of our Mountain All-State Football Combine. KPGFootball is proud to say we were able to be the first online publication to create an online record of the athletic feats of Jonah Adkins from Belfry, Kentucky. When you think about the middle school talent which has come from Belfry, players like 2020’s Ethan Wolford and Grayson Cook, 2021’s Seth Mounts and Isaac Dixon, and 2022’s Jacoby Thornsbury; no wonder the coaches at Belfry Middle have won 4 KYMSFA State Football Championships. Adkins would be a tremendous player in the class of 2023. For a 2024 kid, especially where he primarily positions; he is an off-the-charts guy.

No. 5, Andrew Nason, 5-5 and 120 pounds, QB/DB, Hopkinsville;

I realize this is our third QB in the top 5 and there is a very legitimate reason for that. Young players who are really good athletes are most commonly deployed as QBs. It stands to reason that Junior Pro coaches want their best athletes handling the ball every play. Most of these Junior Pro QBs end up in other positions in middle school where coaches need athletes at more than just QB and RB. I wouldn’t expect Andrew Nason to be moved out of QB, at least not anytime soon. Andrew is one of the most active young QBs on the combine circuit in Kentucky and also one of the most polished throwers at the 7th grade level. He is presently the starting 7th grade QB at HMS, with the season on the very brink of dawning, and the raves about his headiness, pocket poise, set up and delivery, together with his arm strength are veritably spewing from out of the mouths of practice observers like an erupting volcano. For his grade level, KPGFootball would term Andrew Nason’s arm strength as being elite.

Nason tried out for the Team Kentucky Future Stars, though only a sixth grader, and while he didn’t make the team, it is very rare for skills to make the 7th grade team as 6th graders. We can’t all be Cole Hodge. Now, I saw Nason’s tryout personally and, from my vantage point, I thought Nason acquitted himself well and gave it one heck of an effort. Great things are expected of this young player going forward at HMS. Like I above wrote, Nason will start at QB on the 7th grade team at HMS and will see time in 8th grade games. At a lot of middle schools, Nason would be the varsity starter at QB. At HMS, Nason is behind Jacob Beale, who is Kentucky’s 20th best overall prospect in the Class of 2023 and its top rated QB. Nason is a special player who will continue to audition for Team Kentuckys and will make the teams going forward. Nason is good enough that, in classes not so packed with quality QBs, he would likely be Kentucky’s top-rated 2024 QB. Oh, I almost forgot, Nason may also be the Class of 2024’s most polished and skilled defensive back in addition to his QB play.

Well, here you go folks, five outstanding 2024 prospects in Kentucky who, if they aren’t the very best, are at least among them. If you think your player or son should have been on this list, then you need to subscribe to the site and insure we know about your player’s ability and exploits going forward. That’s all for now, but we will continue to develop this list as information becomes more available for prospects enrolled in the graduating class of 2024.

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of you ballers out there to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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About Fletcher Long 1423 Articles
Two-time winner of Kentucky Press Association awards for excellence in writing and reporting news stories while Managing Editor of the Jackson (KY) Times-Voice

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