Like we said when we published our list of football players who will graduated in 2021, KPGFootball is aware that both Rivals and 247Sports.com have come out with top lists for the rising junior football players or prospects. We thought it would be cute to come out with a top 20 for the Class of 2020 but there was a slight problem. We couldn’t pair the list to just 20 players. So we decided to make it 30 (or 31 if you count that there is a tie at No. 20) instead. There is still a critical difference between any list composed by KPGFootball versus Rivals or 247Sports.com. Sites like Rivals and 247Sports.com are ranking kids based purely from off of reputation, frame, and how they looked running around one of their combines in shorts. KPGFootball has seen all these kids play football. I would say for almost the entire list of these 30, Class of 2020 players, we have seen them play football, live, more than once. At KPGFootball, we rank football players, not prospects. The difference? Well the 6-5, 220 pound, second team TE who gets offers based off of his frame won’t make our list. To be listed with us you have to play on Friday nights, and then you have to produce on Friday nights. The kids we are about to list are the best 30 (or 31) football players in the 2020 class. Some of them are elite college prospects, some are just college prospects. I would wager that this entire list, just like the 2021 list, will suit up on Saturdays in a couple of years at either the D1 or D2 level on some school’s dime. Without further adieu, from a publication well better informed and qualified than any other publication in the business, I give you 30 (or 31) football players, together with the schools for whom they play, for the Class of 2020!
No. 1, John Young, 6-6 and 290 pounds, OT, Christian Academy of Louisville;
I have seen John Young listed at 6’5″ and I have seen him listed at 6’6″ but he consistently comes in around 290 pounds and has the frame, height, and length to add good weight as he continues to mature, strengthen, and condition. John is projected to play offensive tackle in college and has offers, right now, from Iowa State and Louisville, with UK rumored to be about to pull the trigger. John has been called by his High School coach, Stefan LeFors, a player whom he thinks has…a chance to be a really special… Coach LeFors would know, he has coached some special players and has some on his present roster. John has a reported 40 yard dash time of 5.3 seconds and a pro agility shuttle registered time of 4.7 seconds. To put that in perspective, for the reader, Ohio State’s Pat Elflein, at the NFL Combine last year, ran a 5.32, 40 yard dash, and was projected as high as a 2nd rounder by NFL.com before going to the Vikings with the 70th overall pick. In other words, I don’t know about Young’s strength numbers, because there weren’t any reported, and I am not sure it matters with his frame as colleges have weight programs too; but I know he has more length, frame, and is faster than what the Vikings took out of Ohio State with the 70th overall selection. Christian Academy of Louisville lost a heart-breaker at Mayfield in last season’s State semi-finals but finished the year 11-2 with approximately 2000 yards rushing, behind John Young’s blocking, with a freshman the primary ball-carrier. That is a little misleading as Brandt Babin did make the Freshman All-State Football team at RB, but you get the point. For a publication which prizes line play, c’mon, you had to expect we would go here for the top pick in the Class of 2020.
No. 2, DeVito Tisdale, 6-2 and 185 pounds, Safety, Bowling Green High School;
They call him Vito. He is the 2nd highest ranked prospect in Kentucky’s Class of 2020 according to 247Sports.com’s composite ratings and is ranked 109th nationally. He is a 4 star, rated recruit in his class according to 247Sports.com and sports offers from APSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville, and Purdue. He projects as a safety, in college, though he made our Sophomore All-State Football team last year at corner which is one of the positions at which he has been deployed by the Purples of Bowling Green High School, in addition to RB, OLB, and safety. I first featured him back on June 9, 2017 in an article entitled Bowling Green’s DeVito Tisdale. In that article, I related that Vito is…widely considered the number 1 player in Kentucky in both football and basketball in his class. Two statistics which most football talent evaluators will tell you directly correlate are vertical jumping ability and running speed. As for verticality, we feel it would be appropriate to insert that Vito dunked a basketball in a state playoff game, while a 7th grader, in traffic.
Vito was a RB in middle school and carried BGMS to a Division I, State Championship, with slightly more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 34 TDs as an 8th grader. What we didn’t realize, at the time, but appears now to have been a bit of foreshadowing, is we should have noticed his over 100 tackles he made on defense that year. Notwithstanding his bodacious accomplishments carrying the football in Middle School, Vito has transitioned nicely in to the Purples’ defensive back 7, playing at BGHS as a safety/OLB hybrid at times and slipping over and playing some corner too. Vito has a wingspan of 6’4″ and a forty time of 4.6 flat, and with his 6-2 inches of height and 185 pounds of substance, colleges are recruiting Tisdale as a safety, or so I am told. The fact that Vito plays so much linebacker should give you an idea about his willingness to come up and get involved in the run game.
Now, Vito’s tackle numbers from 2017 are not going to really describe how great his play was last year, when he was just a sophomore, because the first two levels of Purple defenders are tackling people before they reach Vito. Just as a for instance, one of the top players in last year’s senior class, Justice Dingle, had 109 tackles from his linebacker post with 80 being solo tackles, for the 10-3 Purple squad who lost to South Warren in the 2nd round of the 2017 KHSAA playoffs. On the year, Vito had 28 tackles with 18 being solo tackles, and Vito is a 4 star-rated, back four defender. In addition to tackles, Vito picked off 3 passes, recovered a fumble, caught 13 passes out of the backfield, while running the ball 59 times for 414 yards from scrimmage. There just can’t be a legitimate top 2020 players list which Vito Tisdale, so we didn’t.
No. 3, Reese Smith, 6-0 and 175 pounds, WR/DB, Boyle County High School;
There doesn’t appear to be anything on a football field Reese Smith can’t do. Last season, the 6-0, 175 pound WR/DB in the Class of 2020 caught 50 passes for 1,037 yards and 14 TDs. He scored 104 points for the Rebels over the course of the season. On defense, Smith recorded 40 tackles with 34 stops being solo tackles. Where he is playing, with the front seven he had in front of him, that’s quite a few tackles. Smith also intercepted an eye-popping 9 passes. When it mattered most, with the State Championship on the line against Corbin, Smith caught 5 of Reed Lanter‘s passes for 120 yards receiving with 3 of the receptions being for touchdowns, while intercepting two Corbin passes, one of which he returned 40 yards for a pick-six. Reese Smith, for his efforts was selected the Class 3A Championship Game’s MVP.
Reese is a superior athlete who both runs track and plays for the basketball team at Boyle County in addition to playing football. It has been reported to KPGFootball that Smith plays for the Louisville Magic AAU basketball team which cuts into time he could spend attending different combines and camps. We believe, at KPGFootball, that Reese Smith and Vito Tisdale, at Bowling Green High School, are the best two DBs in Kentucky in the 2020 class. Smith has been described by people around Boyle County as being a great kid from a very solid family who is both grounded and humble. Humility, with as good of an athlete and football player as he is, must require quite some effort. Smith plays like every ball in the air is his; there is no such thing as a 50/50 ball to him. The kid is not just an athlete but a real winner. We have even heard stories that growing up that he had every other kid in the youth league terrified and that it has been expected that Reese Smith would be a football star since he was in either 2nd or 3rd grade. Reese was the best player on a Boyle County Middle School football team that beat practically everyone on its schedule by 40 or so points.
As someone involved in the selection of All-State football players, it is nice to know when you get it right. Whether this selection, last year, was money is something about which there can be, literally, no debate.
No. 4, Beau Allen, 6-2 and 200 pounds, QB, Lexington Catholic High School;
Beau Allen, in 13 games in 2017, completed 204 of 329 passes for 2,873 yards, averaging 221 passing yards per game. That is a completion percentage of a smidgen over 62%. Beau threw 33 passing TDs while only being intercepted 9 times for an over 3.3:1 TD to Interception ratio. Though only having played two years, to date, of high school football, Beau has been offered by the University of Kentucky, inter alia, and reports being committed to the Cats and claims the commitment to be 100%. I suppose we will find that out as other suitors will continue to court him and gauge his interest. Beau is considered the top 2020 Pro-Style QB in Kentucky and the No. 1 QB prospect overall in the Bluegrass upon the recent departure of last year’s top-rated signal caller, AJ Mayer of Covington Catholic, who has taken his talents to the FBS, Division I, college football. Beau led his team to the state quarters or regional final, however you best wish to refer to the same, before losing to Boyle County. When you go down our list, Allen has the frame and history of Friday night success to continue being a tremendous prospect and one very likely to continue his playing career, post-High School. In 2018, the squad at Lexington Catholic awaits arriving at the destination to which its Junior QB is able to lead them. Allen led his team in 2017 on a nice playoff run, so Allen has shown himself able to elevate his play at the time of year any Coach would want his signal caller to rise up. Beau Allen’s production and his many intangibles got him this highly rated on our list of top 2020 talent more so than his frame. This is a kid who produces for his team, time and time again, every time he takes the field. To KPGFootball, this former Kentucky Future Star is just another prediction Director Ricco Hughes got very right.
No. 5, Octavius Oxendine, 6-2 and 265 pounds, DT, North Hardin High School;
On June 19, 2017, I featured a player who I characterized as playing…like a Roman Emperor. Oxendine plays in an even front, from the 1-3 technique, and is an immovable, run-stuffing brick wall who is also surprisingly nimble and swift enough to chase down plays to the sideline. He has active, violent hands which he effectively fires to get himself free from linemen bent on stemming his tsunami-like penetration into the offensive backfield. Octavius has developed sideline-to-sideline mobility out of necessity. You would be an idiot to spend the evening running at him. I really cannot write about Oxendine without telling you of how we first got acquainted. Almost three years ago, my son William was a 7th grade standout on the Hopkinsville Middle School Varsity (8th grade) team. HMS had qualified for the KYMSFA (Kentucky Middle School Football Association) State Playoffs as its Regionally, number 1 seeded, team.
We had a bye in the first round but would face John T. Austin in the 2nd round of the playoffs. We were a lot better team than John T. Austin, and I mean by a considerable margin. However, JTA had a nose guard, in its uneven front, named Octavius Oxendine. He pounded and whipped my young center in a fashion which can only be described as humiliating. At half time, the center, himself a 7th grader at the time, was a puddle of tears and mucous streaming down his face. He wasn’t crying, he was sobbing; and I mean chest heaving, sobs! I put my arms around his shoulders and I said, Son (not my consanguine son, but all my players are sons to me), you are really getting your tail kicked. I understand. I am a full grown man and I can’t whip that kid. But, it’s not okay that you have started to just let him through because you would prefer he kill the QB and RBs rather than kill you. I am not okay with that! That young man learned a big lesson that day about sacrificing himself for the good of the team and to protect his teammates.
When I shook Oxendine’s hand at mid-field after the game, and his helmet was off, it still didn’t appear to me I was shaking hands with an 8th grade kid. Incidentally, Oxendine isn’t old for the class in which he is enrolled and is an excellent academic student. KPG Football proudly reports Oxendine has a 3.8 GPA to go along with massive size and Herculean strength. North Hardin doesn’t report tackle numbers to the KHSAA which made finding out how he played this year unreasonably difficult; which, in the end, only hurts the players when being considered for All-Star teams. I can tell you this, Oxendine has played well enough to be offered by U of L and Purdue before completing his sophomore year in high school. There will be many more Power 5, FBS, offers to follow as this kid is the real deal.
No. 6, Ethan Wolford, 6-2 and 285 pounds, Center, Belfry High School;
The Belfry Pirates were on an eleven game win streak before losing, in the state quarters, to Central. That put the Pirates finishing at 11-2 on the year. For the Class 3A, District 6, school, that is probably a disappointing year. Coach Phillip Haywood, at Belfry High School, has won 428 times against 131 losses over 43 seasons and has played for the state title 12 times, winning 6. When I tell you no one around the program was happy in 2017 with going 11-2 and losing in the state quarters, I mean it. Great year for a lot of programs, but, at Belfry, winning 11 is like going 6-5.
Ethan, as a freshman, attended the FBU Camp in Washington DC and was recognized as one of the top lineman, receiving the Top Gun Award. This came with an invite to Rock Hills, SC for the Top Gun Showcase. Wolford has camped at Marshall University and was invited to the David Jones Camp where he won the award for the Top Offensive Lineman two years running. Wolford attended the JJ Watts camp and has been selected a National Underclassman Combine All-American. I have talked to several schools who have inquired about Ethan and I have been both consistent and steadfast in claiming Wolford to be the best center in Kentucky in the class of 2020; and you may be able to drop the phrase-in the class of 2020. He has ideal frame at 6-2 and 285 pounds, he is an All-Region, heavyweight wrestler with an explosive get-off, violent hands, and an angry disposition all working in tangent with his agility, speed, and quick-twitch burst. He hasn’t been selected a Sophomore All-Stater and a National Undergraduate Combine All-American for nothing after-all.
No. 7, Demetri Scott, 6-3 and 245 pounds, DE/TE, Saint Francis DeSales High School;
When we were picking our sophomore All-State Football team in 2017, we reached out to resources to access information about players with whom we may not have been as familiar as others. One of those resources was Coach Tim Richardson. Coach Richardson shared with the committee that he believed Demetri Scott from St. Francis DeSales High School, is the best player he has either coached or seen. Now, that is quite a mouthful for a guy who won two Rocky Top National Championships, went 5 years without losing a game, won Metro Championships, coaching in Louisville, won the prestigious King of the City Championship, and placed 10 players in the Tennessee/Kentucky Future Stars Classic.
Scott is nicknamed Meaty and it would appear appropriate. He is a thick, quick burst, explosive, powerful bolt off the end for a team considered by the MaxPreps computer as an elite team in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, overall, and not just in it’s Classification. The Colts coach Harold Davis, in an interview with Jason Frakes with the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2017, related that Scott has great size and is a very intelligent football player. From one-handed grabs to tackles behind the line, Scott was a wrecking ball of an impact player on his team in 2017. As I wrote in a feature on this site entitled DeSales High School’s “Meaty” Demetri Scott can play the game, published October 23, 2017; defensively, Scott runs to the ball well and uses his extraordinarily large hands and fantastic length to either shed blockers or blow by them completely. Demetri’s high football IQ fully is exhibited by his ability to play technique, up front, soundly, which is why he makes so many plays defensively in the offensive backfield.
Offensively, Demetri has the speed and length to cause real match-up problems with LBs attempting to cover him over the middle or even down the seam. Demetri is quick and a tough cover in the flat with his change of direction and he has both the length and bulk to shield defenders, attempting to cover him, away from the ball. What we are saying is Demetri catches the ball with his hands extended away from his body like one would want from a TE. He’s just a tough cover and a dynamic playmaker for the Colt offense. After all of the accumulated data and film research, we decided to put him at DE on our All-State team but concede, going forward in his playing career, he could end up as easily on offense, in college, as on defense. Either way Scott is one of the most coveted prospects in the state of Kentucky for the Class of 2020 because he’s just that good. Like all football stars, he makes his team better for his having been on it.
No. 8, Michael Mayer, 6-5 and 215 pounds, TE, Covington Catholic High School;
Michael Mayer, who started 13 games as a sophomore in 2017 playing for what, next to Louisville Trinity, was regarded as the 2nd best team in Kentucky, regardless of classification, has everything for which one looks at the tight end position. Length? Michael is 6’5″ tall, so, check. Frame? Michael weighs in presently at 215 pounds and, at a college training table, with college strength and conditioning resources, and, when he is older, gaining mass and density both of which come along with manhood, he could easily add 40 plus pounds, the right way, and blossom into a fine college TE, so, check. Hands? On the season, Mayer caught 14 passes for 232 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 16.57 yards per reception working the middle of the field for the undefeated Colonels who won the Class 5A State Football Championship in 2017 so, check. Blocks? Mayer also is an active and punishing participant in the ground game as the OL’s sixth member, as evidenced by the 3,191 rushing yards Covington Catholic gained in 2017 to go along with the 3,137 yards it gained through the air via Michael’s brother, AJ, so, check. How good is Mayer? Well good enough to be holding offers right now from two Power 5, FBS schools in UK and Minnesota desiring his services. Mayer doesn’t profess a leader, and his brother is now playing for Miami of Ohio, but Mayer has been to UK and has a cousin who played baseball there (Luke Maile played four years of baseball at UK and now plays for the Blue Jays, according to CatsIllustrated.com). At the TE position, Mayer has everything for which one searches. That is why we selected him to our All-State team last season and have him in our preseason top 20.
No. 9, Wilson Kelly, 6-1 and 300 pounds, DT, Boyle County High School;
Boyle won the 2017 State Football Championship in the 3A classification in 2017 and has many components back in 2018 for another spin. Boyle is coached by a guy, in Chuck Smith, who can arguably lay claim to being the best High School football coach in Kentucky. Players like Wilson Kelly are just one reason. Now, at Boyle County, it is all about the name on the front of the jersey and not the other side. At Boyle, you play your assignment, whether you make the play individually or not doesn’t matter, so long as you accomplish your assignment and do your duty to help Boyle win. Inside technique along an even front is a hard place to register tackles because a lot of the time your responsibility is to force a double team to allow the LB to run to the play unblocked. I know, it sounds as if I am trying to warm you up as to why a player with limited numbers made the team. Well, that isn’t, at all, the case with Wilson Kelly. You see, Wilson Kelly, from his inside technique, along the Boyle defensive front, registered 78 tackles, 47 of which were solos in 2017. That is an astounding number of plays for a player in the scheme Boyle runs and playing were Kelly is positioned.
Kelley, though a 300 pounder, still runs a 5.35 40 yard dash and pro-shuttles at 4.8. Kelley has a vertical of 26 and 1/2 inches which shows he has quite a bit of hip explosion and is a fantastic athlete for his size. Wilson has before reported a bench press of 305 pounds but that was long enough ago that KPGFootball is willing to bet the house that is considerably higher now. We know Wilson has also before repped the high school bench press rep weight (185) 28 repetitions, which exhibits strength and motor and, according to the one-rep, bench press calculator, would be an approximate maximum lift of just under 360 pounds (357.7). Kelly, who started out as a strong-side DE, grew into the two-way player he is on the eve of the 2018 season along Boyle County’s interior offensive and defensive fronts. On he next level, KPGFootball could see Wilson at either inside technique, along a defensive front or even an offensive guard. Either way, the kid is certainly one of the Class of 2020’s brightest stars.
No. 10, Jake Sloan, 6-3 and 190 pounds, WR, Pulaski County High School;
Pulaski County had a tough year in 2017. The Class 5A, District 7 team finished this year 4-7, bowing out to Harlan County in the KHSAA’s first round of the playoffs. There are those who will contend Pulaski won enough in 2016, 12-3 overall, losing, in the State Championship game, to BGHS 70-22 to last a while. In any event, the boys from Somerset, Kentucky had the Sun set on it’s return to the Championship in the very first round. Who didn’t have a tough year, in the least, was former Team Kentucky FBU player, Jake Sloan, who stepped right in at Pulaski County, taking over for the departed Jake Johnson. Isn’t it weird the leading receiver seems to always be Christened Jake? Oh well, I digress.
The 2017 Jake (Sloan not Johnson), in 11 games, caught 73 passes for 936 yards receiving and 6 TD receptions. Matt Hendricks caught the next highest amount of passes on the team at 51, which means, Sloan and Hendricks were 124 of the 233 passes QB Wiley Cain completed. That correlates to slightly over 53% of Cain’s throws were completed to two receivers and almost 1/3 of Cain’s competed throws were to Sloan. This, now junior receiver has good down field speed and excellent length and is stout enough to put defenders on their backs. Sloan uses his fantastic hands and long arms to high point footballs all while shielding DBs away from the football. Sloan runs disciplined routes and comes off the line of scrimmage hard, whether he is the intended target or not and is active in the down field running game. Where a lot of people would have gone with Male’s Izayah Cummings in this slot, and the 6-4 and 200 pound WR with an offer from Cincinnati probably is a better prospect, the purpose of this list is to reward football players. Sloan grabbed 73 receptions for 936 receiving yards in 2017 while Cummings was snaring 11 balls. Cummings is taller, probably faster, probably even a better athlete, but if he’s a better ball player than Sloan, he’s not showing it on Friday night.
No. 11, Reed Lanter, 6-1 and 165 pounds, QB, Boyle County High School;
In 15 games at the helm of the Boyle County offense in 2017, Reed Lanter completed 181 of his 263 passes for 2,597 yards passing and 28 TDs against only 4 interceptions. Broken down, that is a completions percentage of .6882 and a TD:Int ratio of 7:1. Those are just astounding numbers. Now Boyle County finished the year in 2017 14-1 and a State Football Championship with its only blemish a three point loss to Danville, who won the State Football Championship in its classification too. Lanter had three receivers to whom to throw who all caught better than 30 passes (Reese Smith & Nick Walker, 43 receptions each/Reiley Colwick-31 grabs). Boyle County rushed for 4,001 yards, outside of its passing numbers, so Reed wasn’t necessarily required to be the Guy in 2017 as much as some other players at that position. Nevertheless, his numbers were outstanding and outstandingly efficient. Reed Lanter was a Team Kentucky FBU member and made our sophomore All-State Football team last year and is clearly one of the 20 best football players in the Commonwealth for the Class of 2020. He has superstar levels of production.
No. 12, Aiden Moore, 6-2 and 225 pounds, LB, Louisville Central High School;
Aiden Moore has the frame and size one craves in a LB at the college level. Now Louisville Central, or just Central for those in the know, is a Class 3A, District 3 team that everyone thought was going to beat Corbin in the State Semis (everyone except the Corbin faithful and me) in 2017. Coach Dantzler, in 2017, completed his inaugural season at Central after coming to Central with a reputation for being an offensively minded football coach. Good thing the Yellow Jackets were outstanding on defense in 2017 because Coach Dantzler didn’t get the offense on track as quickly as he would have liked. Last year, Central’s pounded Fern Creek, 29-0, in late August and that game seemed to be viewed as the turning point, at least offensively, for Dantzler’s Yellow Jackets. Fern Creek was pretty good on Defense in 2017 and putting up 29 on them wasn’t easy. Fast forward to the State Semis, last year, and Central’s season ended 21-20 at the hands of a Corbin team who eventually lost to Boyle County at Kroger Field. Central finished 11-3 in 2017, with its only three losses coming to Class 6A, Ballard; Class 6A, State Finalist, St. Xavier; and Class 3A, runner-up, Corbin, so many around the program feel there is unfinished business to which to attend in 2018. One reason the Yellow Jackets were so good in 2017 was, no doubt, attributable to the nearly 50 solo tackles and two fumble recoveries the Jackets got out of LB, Aiden Moore (Class of 2018’s Luke Bowman’s 106 solo tackles probably helped some too). Aiden has incredible length and frame for his position and could easily add some bulk and wind up a DE either at Central or some lucky college which gains Moore’s signature. Moore covers into the boundary well, can cover in pass defense while still coming up and greeting running backs in a foul humor. We aren’t the only publication which considers Moore among the very best linebackers playing Kentucky football in 2018 and we believe him to be among the top 20 Kentucky football players in the Class of 2020.
No. 13, Connor Wright, 5-11 and 200 pounds, LB/FB, Pikeville High School;
Here’s a guy who is a pure, old-fashioned, hard-nosed, football player. Connor Wright is a throw back to a by-gone era of football players. One of the top prospects we evaluated positionally in the Mountains, Connor, last year for Pikeville, gained 1,501 yards rushing from scrimmage in 120 rushing attempts for a healthy 8.34 yards per carry with 19 rushing TDs and 22 converted two-point attempts. Connor showed he had reliable hands from out of the backfield too as he caught 18 balls for 268 receiving yards and 14.88 yards per catch. The one-man wrecking ball was equally lethal as a lead blocker, bullying his way to 25 pancake blocks from the fullback position. Defensively, Connor had 141 tackles at LB, 81 of which were solos, with 23 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries, 11 pass break-ups, and 4 interceptions. At the All-State Mountain Combine, after collecting Connor’s data stemming from his performance at the event, it became readily apparent why he was so productive on the football field in 2017 and why it will likely continue into 2018.
Connor is 5-11 and weighs 200 pounds but has the frame to up that weight to around 220 to play in college. He has sufficient length at the next level to play either MLB or FB depending on the college system being employed by the school recruiting Connor. Wright ran a 4.59, 40 yard dash up in the Mountains at the All-State Combine and recorded a 4.1 pro-agility shuttle (5-10-5) for one of the quickest times at the event. His L-cone time as 6.8 seconds, which again, exhibited one of the quickest and most fluid change of direction skill sets at the combine. Connor elected to lift at the College/NFL Combine rep weight of 225 pounds and tallied 6 repetitions, for an approximate one-rep bench press maximum lift, according to the bench-press calculator, of 270 pounds.
As for on which side of the ball Connor plays at the next level, that is a somewhat unsettled question. It doesn’t appear at all in question whether there will be a next level. Connor has D-1 frame to play LB in college and D-1 fullback frame as well with elite mobility and well above average power numbers. Connor is a guy, as he continues to fill out, and, as he participates in a college’s Strength & Conditioning program, whom we could see playing at the next level between 220-230 which is the heft craved at either position. Clearly, Connor Wright is among the elite prospects in his Class in all of Kentucky and someone who will, undoubtedly, be high up on many voters’ All-State Football team ballots, including this one’s at year’s end.
No. 15, Jordan Vaughn, 6-5 and 245 pounds, OT, Madisonville-Noth Hopkins High School;
Jordan Vaughn is a kid of whom you may not have heard though he is someone of whom you should have heard. I mean, he was only the Defensive MVP, as an inside technique, in the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic playing for Team Kentucky in 2016. Jordan Vaughn, maybe because of his experience as a defensive player has developed into a nasty finisher as an o-lineman. Although listed at 245, players who have played with and against him swear he is much thicker than that. One player who faced him Vaughn, last season, from Class 4A, District 1, swears Vaughn’s weight is closer to 270. That is either a tribute to his playing ability or a misprint on his listed weight on the Maroon roster. Regardless, Vaughn, No. 55 in the picture to the left of this paragraph, has excellent length, height, and possesses the core strength to play with good leverage, and still be a really mobile and agile athlete.
Vaughn plays tackle for Madisonville-North Hopkins and has started every game, upfront, for the Class 4A, District 1 Maroons both his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Maroons rushed for 3,417 yards last year, largely right off his rear, with Sophomore All-Stater Jariah Hightower piling up 1,528 yards rushing and 15 TDs and Aaron Miller adding another 958 yards and 12 rushing TDs. I am sure Hightower and Miller have already told Vaughn this, but in case they haven’t, hey Jordan, Jariah and Aaron would like to say thanks! Vaughn plays for a Head Coach, in Jay Burgett, himself having prepped at Mayfield High School, who does a good job bringing out the Dog in players and having them play with toughness. Vaughn has a lot of Dog!
No. 16, Javier Jay Bland, 6-1 and 175 pounds, QB, Hopkinsville High School;
Unlike a lot of other Sophomores thrust into the starting lineup in 2017, Bland missed his entire freshman year due to injury suffered during 7 on 7. This means Bland, coming into 2017, hadn’t played a down of contact, competitive football since the 8th Grade Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic which was played that year in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was not expected Bland would play much, if any, quarterback coming into this season either. After all, Class of 2018’s Jalen Johnson, who was approaching career marks at QB in both passing yards and passing TDs, and a two-time, defending, District POY, was going to play his senior year, right? Wrong! Jalen Johnson, elected to forego football to concentrate on basketball. This left the Tigers to lean on an unproven, and completely inexperienced QB.
No sweat, the Tigers still had a pre-season favorite for District POY in RB JaTorian Dillard, right? Wrong, again! Dillard would tear his ACL in a scrimmage game and be out, with injury, the entire 2017 season, but is set to return in 2018 (Thank the Good Lord). All Bland did in 2017, after coming off his own injury and being thrust into the lineup without a credible ground game on which to lean, not to mention an offensive line without a single start, up front, coming into the year, was throw for 2,148 yards with 22 passing TDs versus 10 interceptions for a 2.2:1 TD to interception ratio.
The Tigers, reeling as the season started, came out the gate 1-6 and Bland struggling before Bland rebounded in the second half of the season and led Hoptown to victory after victory, upset after upset, until Bland and the Band found themselves in the State Quarters after five consecutive wins. Hoptown took a lead into the half at Franklin-Simpson before succumbing 35-20 in a game which was much closer than the final margin. Now Bland has had an incredible offseason and really worked on his speed (4.55 second forty yard dash at UTMartin’s camp) and explosion (33 inch vertical and 9-7 standing broad jump). The Jay Bland we see in 2018, together with the variety of new weapons at his offense’s disposal this coming year, should expose to all of Kentucky why he merits inclusion on this list of top 20, Class of 2020 prospects at number 13.
No. 17, Grayson Cook, 6-4 and 210 pounds, OLB, Belfry High School;
We knew Grayson Cook could play the game going into the Mountain All-State Football Combine at Pikeville High School back in June. After all, he was a returning All-State Football player who, going in, was one of the headliners we bragged about attending. We knew Grayson could move a little bit. He had camped all summer long at a variety of different schools making a lasting impression for his size, frame, length, speed, and quickness at every last one of them. For what I am not so sure we were adequately prepared was exactly how fast, agile, and quick the 6-4 and 210 pound OLB from Pond Creek really was. There were several athletes who really put on shows at Pikeville High School. I mean, hey; it’s not The Mountain All-State Football combine for nothing! It reminds me of an anecdote about a Mexican golfer in the seventies by the name of Lee Trevino. Trevino was hitting shag balls at a tournament and a female patron was oohing and ahhing after every swing. He turned around to her and said, Madame, I am the defending United States Open Champion, were you expecting grounders? The point is that many of the combine attendees were returning All-State Football players from a season ago and none of us should have expected grounders.
Well, Grayson Cook wasn’t hitting any grounders either. Cook ran both his 40s in the low 4.5s with his first being 4.52 seconds and his second being 4.51 seconds. His fastest pro agility shuttle (5-10-5) was 4.30 seconds and his fastest L-cone drill was the fastest at the entire Combine at 6.5 seconds. Grayson, who was coming off a recent shoulder surgery and wasn’t slated to lift at all, surprised us all when he elected to jump on the bench and knock out 6 repetitions at the high school rep weight of 185 pounds.
This past season on Pond Creek, Grayson registered 51 tackles for the 11-2 Belfry Buccaneers, caught a pass covering 45 yards, and converted 19 PATs as a kicker, and blocked a punt. Belfry plays a lot of 3-4 defense and walks up the outside LBs quite a lot to give the defense a 5-2 look with the OLB posing as a stand-up rush end against the pass with the ability needed to cover, from the line, TEs or Slots slipping into routes. Any defense aligned in a 3-4 as a base defense relies heavily on versitility in the linebacker corp. While the inside LBs are allowed to run to the football in the 3-4, the OLBs, where Grayson plays, have to make plays as edge defenders out of the stand-up, two-point stances. Grayson showed during the year and at the Combine‘s one on ones and seven on seven portions that he had the ability to rush off the edge, close the formation, or hold the point versus the strong-side run, while exhibiting the ability to make plays as a cutback defender, and also display the athleticism to drop in coverage. Grayson exhibited the speed and agility to drop into coverage and take away the 10-15 yard out with his speed and length, while still possessing the closing speed to get to the swing and screen pass, or the sweep or stretch in the outside ground game. Grayson was awarded Top Honors by the Combine for his position and was one of the best pure athletes we saw on the Mountain at the Combine. I mean, he was a returning All-State Football player after all. Where you expecting grounders?
No. 18, Eric Grubbs, 5-11 and 218 pounds, DE/TE, Hopkinsville High School;
All right, we will admit this one has come out of left field. This is a kid who didn’t play for any of the Team Kentuckys. Hell, he really wasn’t a starter for me in 8th grade and someone who didn’t take football very seriously. He was on the 2017 Tiger roster but not much of a factor. Something came alive for the kid this offseason. It is like a light came on and he figured out the game and just what it was he was supposed to be doing. First of all, he put in the time in the weight room in the offseason. The player, who played around 190 pounds last year, gained a solid 18 pounds of muscle. Grubbs’ deadlift increased to 500 pounds, he got his back squat up over 475 and his front squat to a near team leading 425. Couple that with a 260 pound bench press and a 260 pound power clean and the Eric Grubbs who will align at defensive end for the Tigers’ defense in 2018 is not the one opponents will remember. We first saw the beginnings of his metamorphosis in Spring Practice when Defensive Coordinator at HHS, Dustin Lopez, told us Eric Grubbs was a defensive guy who really popped during those series of inter-squad scrimmages. Grubbs’ transformation continued on into the Western Kentucky Coach’s combine where he was undefeated in one on ones and, according to everyone who witnessed the combine, completely unblock-able. Now, on the eve of the 2018 season, and just a week ago against Tennessee powerhouse Lake County High School, Eric Grubbs was all over the field making plays in the backfield and within a few yards of the line of scrimmage all night. Early indications are that Grubbs has arrived on the scene as a legitimate football prospect in the Class of 2020 in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Better hurry up and get on the Grubbs’ train, college coaches, before it leaves the station. Choo-Choo!
No. 19, Devin Johnson, 6-1 and 210 pounds, OLB/RB, Johnson Central High School;
If we are being honest at KPGFootball, and we strive diligently to be honest in our evaluations, our admiration for Devin Johnson has more to do with the Paintsville, Kentucky native’s being a football player than what kind of prospect he is. By the way, he is obviously, with the interest he is drawing, one Hell of a prospect in football, but we focus on people who can play the game. There are those of you out there consumed with star ratings, frame, measurables, and the like; and all of that is well and good. However, at some point in an athlete’s career…he can either lace them up, strap it on, and get down on a football field or not. At some point, he has to go from being an athlete to being a football player. I went to high school with one of western-Kentucky’s, all-time athletes, in Lamont Leaper Ware. Ware had the athleticism, speed, quickness, and bounce to have won the MVP of any Rivals camp, or similar combine, any time he wanted. I mean for running speed, vertical leaping ability, frame, broad jump, forty speed, and spacial quickness he was off the charts. He played both college, Division I, basketball and professionally, for many years, in Europe. Never played a single down of football after middle school. Probably would have been great at it, was great in basketball, but just wasn’t a football player. Johnson Central’s Devin Johnson is a football player…and a champion wrestler too.
Devin, who we selected last season to our AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Football team, is now measuring (according to numerous recruiting publications) 6-1 and weighs in at 210 pounds. This is ideal size at the position he plays on defense, which is OLB. Now, Devin Johnson is an accomplished running back, having gained 756 yards last season in 104 carries with 12 rushing TDs. Most recruiters agree that Devin’s future is on the defensive side of the ball at the college level. On Defense for Johnson Central, Devin tallied 90 tackles and recovered a fumble for a Johnson Central team who has played in the State Title game, in Class 4A, for three years running; winning it all during Devin’s freshman year of 2016. Devin has a registered 40 yard dashtime of 4.78, a pro-agility shuttle of 4.27, and squats 465 pounds which certainly explains his having sufficient pound per square inch strike force with the ground to generate such speed and quickness. Devin has plenty of punch, separation, and shedding strength as he has a maximum bench press recorded at 310 pounds and reps the high school bench press repetition weight (185 pounds) 20 times. Devin Johnson is also a kid whose body of academic work, thus far in his scholastic career, would indicate that both his being cleared by the NCAA to enroll as a freshman student-athlete and the school’s concern about his impact on its APR (Academic Progress Rate) are both matters about which the University will not have to fret. Devin carries a 3.5 grade point at Johnson Central High School.
Morehead has already offered the Class of 2020 linebacker (Good job Moorehead for jumping on this one early) and Devin is also drawing interest from both UK and Marshall. There will be lots of schools wondering how to get to Paintsville, Kentucky before this one is over. Devin Johnson was an easy choice to include in either this or any other list of the top football players in Kentucky’s Class of 2020. Devin Johnson is a football player. We take pride in knowing one when we see one.
No. 20, JeVon Leavell, 5-9 and 165 pounds,DB/RB/Slot, Hopkinsville High School;
Talk about pedigree, JeVon Leavell is the nephew of Keith Tandy, who is one of the top corners in the NFL and plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, in judging corners, it is a poor reflection on the defense, as a whole, if the corners are leading the team in tackles. What does it say about your first two levels of defense if the third level defender is making all the tackles? I can assure you its not a good reflection on the first two levels. JeVon started all of 2017 for a HHS team which made one heck of a playoff run all the way to the state quarters, after starting off 1-6, before losing to the eventual Class 4A State Champion, Franklin-Simpson, in a game played at Franklin, Kentucky. However, it should be noted that the young Tigers jumped out on Franklin-Simpson and had them down, at one point, 20-0, and had the lead in the ball game as late as the 3rd quarter and were within one score deep into the 4th.
JeVon, in 2017, had 20 tackles on the year, 16 of which were solo with 2 interceptions. Those statistics don’t tell the tale, however, as he led the Tiger defense in pass deflections and passes successfully defended and most opposing coaches would concede that, by the end of the year, he was the side of the field they elected to avoid. He locked it down on his side in 2017 and the Tigers, as a team, only allowed 1,329 yards in 13 games played, in spite of playing several teams with accomplished passing QBs. Leavell is one of the best pure athletes in Kentucky and, in 8th grade, had the fastest 40 time at the Kentucky Future Stars’ tryout. Leavell’s running speed has continued into HS as he competes on the Tiger Track team and has run a 7.44 second, 60 meter, FAT; which is flying.
Leavell, on offense in 2017, showed tremendous burst and speed into the 2nd level as a RB and was a player the coaching staff would have liked to have seen there more but couldn’t afford it. The staff shared with KPGFootball Leavell was too important on defense which limited his offensive play because they couldn’t risk him getting tired or injured on offense and it affecting his play or responsibility patrolling the Tigers’ back four. Leavell has very good top end speed, fluid hips, and lightning quick back pedal, with fluid transitions. Leavell flips his hips smoothly and gets on top of vertical routes and uses his vertical leaping ability and inside position to shut down the down-field passing game, while having the quick twitch ability to stop on a dime and break on the routes which attempt to angle underneath him. Going forward, Leavell is a player the Tigers are going to have to play on both sides of the ball. For now at least, Mr. Leavell has his side of the field locked down and we know Mr. Tandy is mighty proud of his nephew, and with good reason.
No. 20, (tied with Leavell) Dane Jackson, 6-1 and 265 pounds, Center, Madison South High;
Who knows for sure how tall Dane Jackson really is and I, for one, don’t really care. 247Sports has him listed at 5-11, 255 pounds and that is probably an old number. When he made the AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Football team at center, we had him at 6-1, 265 pounds. At any height and any weight he is destroying whomever is across from him and isn’t that the real test? Brian Jackson, Dane and Drake’s father, also played college football as a FB for Purdue, and is one of the nicest men I have ever met. The niceness doesn’t extend to the gridiron where the Jackson men have proven thick, strong, and able to get after it. Dane has proven himself an able Jackson man in regard to possessing those traits.
Madison Southern is a Class 5A, District 6, high school who had the misfortune, last season, of drawing a Covington Catholic team in the State Championship game which no-one outside of Louisville Trinity was going to much challenge. The Eagles run game, behind Dane, and his o-line cohorts, gained 3,407 yards rushing from scrimmage and boasted two 1,000 plus yard ground gainers in the same backfield. Carter Smith gained 1,442 yards from scrimmage and quarterback, Landen Stacy, threw in his 1,023 rushing yards just for good measure.
Dane, like his brother Drake before him, has the versatility to play numerous positions along the offensive front and has been most deployed at both center and guard. We believe he will settle at the next level along the interior offensive front, most likely as a center (like his brother). Dane fires off with low pad level and plays with exceptional balance and runs his feet through the whistle. I like to say offensive line play is about technique over physique. My exact phrase is technique trumps physique when physique has no technique. Dane is mobile, strong, aggressive, and smart, with good arm length, permitting him to gain separation. Though not as tall as other players, Dane is a technician and may well be the best pure offensive lineman in the 5A classification in 2018.
No. 21, Ethan Bednarczyk, 5-9 and 175 pounds, WR, South Oldham High School;
KPGFootball has a long history covering the Crestwood, Kentucky prospect who has two offers presently with more forthcoming. On August 13, 2017, before the season even started for some, I wrote an article entitled, Crestwood Kentucky’s Ethan Bednarczyk…Spelling his name isn’t easy but it’s worth the effort! Yeah, I agree, the title is really clever, but, then again, I am more cleaver than the average bear. I first noticed Ethan back in the middle school playoffs when he was in 8th grade leading the 2015 South Oldham Dragons to one of the finest seasons any team from the Louisville Metropolitan area has ever had at that level. Ethan was a standout on that team. I then saw Bednarczyk on the Kentucky FBU team which played in the Final Four in FBU’s National football championship and enjoyed Ethan’s efforts playing both 7th and 8th grade Team Kentucky Future Stars football. Now, I am a Ricco Hughes fan. When Ricco says a kid can play, I can’t think of a time one of his Future Stars didn’t blossom into the Star he predicted. Maybe that is why Ricco makes his living as a Professional Sports Agent representing Kentuckians playing in the NFL.
Ethan hasn’t disappointed. Bednarczyk doesn’t just play Class 5A football but he plays for a team which is loaded. South Oldham followed up Ethan’s freshman year, one in which the South Oldham Dragons made it all the way to the State Semis before losing a shoot-out to Pulaski 62-54 and capping off a 12-2 season, with a trip to the Regional Finals and a match-up with Covington Catholic. While they lost to Covington Catholic, the Dragons still managed a 10-2 work slate. I noted in my article on August 13, that Bednarczyk had attended the Best of the Midwest combine, pre-season, and posted a pro-shuttle (5-10-5) of 4.3 and a 9’6″ broad jump (measuring hip explosion). Ethan lead the Dragons, in 2017, in Receptions, Receiving Yards, TDs, and Yards per Catch, where he averaged 25 yards per. Ethan, at 175 pounds, may be the most explosive athlete in his class. Ethan has been clocked in the 4.6s in the forty yard dash, bench presses 300 pounds, Back Squats 425, Power Cleans 250, while broad jumping 9’6.” Bednarczyk to KPGFootball is a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type.
No. 22 Denarius Barnes, 5-11 and 230 pounds, DE/FB/TE, Hopkinsville High School;
This kid came completely out of nowhere to make our 2017 sophomore All-State Football team. He didn’t play Future Stars, he didn’t play FBU, he didn’t play East-West. He was kind of 2017’s Eric Grubbs. Barnes is a player who looks bigger in street clothes than in pads. He is thick and chiseled and it is mostly natural. In really his first year in a strength program, Barnes has his bench press at 310 pounds, his deadlift at 550 pounds, and his power clean is 260 pounds. He has also run a fully automated 4.9 second 40 yard dash and at his size, that is in the ball park of where a defensive end needs to be to play at the next level.
In 2020, we may look back and say Denarius Barnes was the best football player in this entire Kentucky class. His potential is just limitless. The best way to describe Red Barnes is he’s just a football player. Hoptown gave him the ball 6 times in 2017 on offense from his fullback position and he gained 56 yards. That’s a little over 9 yards, per carry, from fullback. Let me tell you this, he wasn’t running sweeps. They gave Barnes a look at Linebacker in a JV game in 2017, considering playing him there for the Varsity, and he filled up the ER at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, literally, not figuratively.
Last year, the Tigers played him inside along the even front and at NG when in an odd front but in 2018 the plan appears to be playing him at defensive end. While playing inside for the Tigers in 2017, at a position, and in a scheme, where the assignment is more important than the inside technique’s compiling individual stats, Red still had nearly 40 tackles with 20 solo, and he was being double teamed all year. Red is agile, fast, explosive, and, most importantly, mean. He hit opponents so hard in 2017 he became, unfortunately, a target for officials. There were times last year Red was flagged for running in the direction of the ball carrier. Everyone knew, before he got there, what was going to happen when he arrived…and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
In the upcoming season, KPGFootball doesn’t expect Barnes to leave the field much as we predict he will play on both sides of the ball, and he will be hitting kids so hard it will make you wince. Maybe the hardest hitting player in the entire 2020 Kentucky class, I wouldn’t want him hitting me in 2018, that’s for sure. Football is still a contact game, and that is why Red is one of Kentucky’s premier Class of 2020 players. He makes contact baby!
No. 23, Keaton Martin, 5-7 and 190 pounds, RB, South Oldham High School;
Keaton Martin is 5-7 and weighs 190 pounds and can best be described as a handsome, preppy, studiously appearing young man whom you might sooner believe plays trombone in the marching band than is a high school, All-State running back. It has probably always been this way for Martin who played for Team Kentucky FBU elite and Team Kentucky Future Stars back in middle school. Because of his stature and the way he appears in street clothes KPGfootball would wager Kmart commonly gets discounted and overlooked by most observers who later profess shock when they learn of Martin‘s on field ability and production. The true Kentucky high school football enthusiast, though, wasn’t surprised when Keaton burst onto the scene as a freshman, and started in 2016 for the state semifinalist South Oldham Dragons (12-2) in its backfield. However, I don’t believe even the most ardent Martin fan could have predicted he would gain 1,558 yards his freshman year on 182 carries with 19 rushing TDs and 114 points scored. For his efforts his freshman year, Oldham Sports selected him its Breakout Male Athlete.
Surely, with defenses targeting the returning 1,500 yard plus ground gainer, his sophomore year would be a dramatic drop-off. I mean, that freshman year must have been a fluke. Well, I suppose it depends on what one considers a drop off because KPGFootball doesn’t consider 1,258 rushing yards on 153 attemptswith 17 rushing TDs and 4 passes caught for another 74 yards and 4 TDs receiving to be anything other than a mild diversification. Martin got 29 fewer carries, but still averaged roughly the same amount of yards per attempt (8.56 yards per in 2016; 8.22 in 2017) while contributing 21 TDs running and receiving in 2017 whereas he only contributed 19 TDs, all rushing, in 2016. Looks to me like, in his sophomore year he added a little catch out of the backfield to his repertoire. For his efforts over his sophomore season, KPGFootball selected him to our All-State Sophomore Football Team at running back.
So here’s the rub…no matter how he looks in street clothes, no matter his nickname being the same as a discount department store, there is nothing discount or Blue Light Special about the young man’s performance. In two years in a high school backfield, entering his junior season in 2018, Kmart has rushed for 2,816 yards in 335 carries for an 8.41 yards per rushing attempt, two-year average, and 36 rushing TDs with 40 total TDs scored either by land or in the air. With Keaton Martin in the backfield, the Dragons have gone 22-4 over that amount of time and with some of the best young talent in Kentucky, this year or the next for the Dragons figures to be very special in any color of light.
No. 24, Jariah Hightower, 6-0 and 205 pounds, FB, Madisonville North-Hopkins High School;
There may not be a finer group of 2020 players in the Commonwealth of Kentucky than what is currently on the roster at Madisonville North-Hopkins. You will see several of them getting college rides as we approach their graduating. Chief among the Maroons’ talent in the Class of 2020 is a guy who was the Defensive MVP in the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars game in 2016 at LB. That’s exactly how Hightower runs a football too, like he is still playing LB. From his fullback position, which, by the way, he is a runner more so than a blocker, Hightower gained 1,528 yards rushing from scrimmage this past season in 12 games over 233 carries. That is a per carry average of nearly 6.56 yards. From the up-back, you have got to be kidding me. Hightower had 15 rushing TDs to boot. Coach Jay Burgett and the Maroons finished the year 7-5 concluding the regular season the 2 seed from Class 4A, District 1. This was in spite of having a passing game which only accounted for 700 yards all season or, on average, a little over 58 yards passing per contest. What is even more impressive about Hightower’s performance in 2017 is that everyone in the ball park knew it was probably being given to him. No one on the Maroon’s schedule could stop Hightower even with the foreknowledge he was getting the ball and running right at them. In 2017, KPGFootball didn’t see a back run harder, be more productive, or be more effective running between the tackles than Hightower was.
No. 25, Blake Moody, 6-3 and 230 pounds, DL, Madisonville North-Hopkins High School;
During the selection process for our sophomore All-State football team in 2017 a member of the selection committee who was well-respected and well-traveled defensive coordinator coaching in the same Classification and District as the one in which Moody played in 2017 almost insisted we include Moody on our All-State team. Naturally, we valued his opinion especially about the prowess of defensive players. However, we didn’t just take this guy’s word for it about this or any other player he advocated but, when we looked at Moody’s body of work, we all saw exactly what he had been describing. In 2017, Moody registered 67 tackles for the Maroons defense with 45 of those being solo tackles in the twelve games North-Hopkins played. Moody made lots of plays behind the line of scrimmage and registered 8 sacks and many more QB pressures as he was a constant, uninvited entrant into the opponent’s offensive backfield. Moody has excellent length and height and the frame to either add weight and slide inside or play End. I will tell you this, Moody is also worthy of inclusion on this list of top Kentucky players in the Class of 2020 for his play along the offensive front in addition to what he does on defense. Moody was that good on both sides of the football along the lines of scrimmage in 2017. The Maroons have a special 2020 class of players who will do tremendous things, we believe, provided they keep grinding and stay together. Moody is just another example of that level of talent. The most knowledgeable defensive mind on 2017’s selection committee was of the opinion Moody had to be on our All-State football team and may be the best Defensive linemen on that squad. That was good enough for the rest of us. Moody is a player who may not be the best d-lineman in Kentucky’s 2020 class, but he is among them.
No. 26, Darrian Bell, 6-2 and 210 pounds, LB, Danville High School;
Last year, Bell made the local paper’s (Advocate Messenger) Honorable Mention All Area Team? Really? Honorable Mention? How many linebackers in the area tallied 144 tackles, 92 solos, 2 interceptions, and recovered 3 fumbles? If that kid isn’t an all area linebacker, then that is one area running backs and slot receivers should definitely avoid. Bell is everything you want in a linebacker at the high school level. He is smart (KHSAA Academic All-State, 3.94 GPA, 21 ACT). He is strong (winner of the Iron Ad Award, and member of the 800 pound club (bench, squat, and power clean). He is athletic (plays basketball and football). He’s even a bit eclectic (on Danville High School‘s Bass Fishing Team). Bell has put in some work this offseason in increasing his flexibility and gaining in both vertical explosion and speed. This next season, in 2018, we should see a much more explosive, quick, and faster version of what we saw in 2017.
I have picked Danville, preseason number 4, in Class 2A and the defending State Champions in the classification have taken exception to that prediction. Hey, criticism comes with the territory (right Advocate Messenger All-Area selector?). The Admirals lost Dmauriae VanCleave from off last year’s Championship squad and only ten other seniors my critiques have argued. KPGFootball would counter that, while only losing 11 players, the 11 departees were 85% of its passing production, 81% of its TD receptions, 56% of its seasonal point production, and 71% of its ground gains. When you look at it that way, KPGFootball believes those losses to be both impactful and significant.
Defensively, where Bell is deployed, Danville has to replace VanCleave’s 6 interceptions and DonLeavy Harris’ 117 tackles, but do return both Darrian Bell and Kishown Bartleson. Bartleson tallied 76 tackles while a junior. Overall, the Admirals should challenge for top honors in the 2A classification again this year and, just maybe, Bell can crack that All-Area team. As an AP voter, I can tell you an All-State vote he is likely to get; provided his play is, in any way, similar to last year’s effort.
No. 27, Gary Hardy, 5-6 and 170 pounds, RB, Logan County High School;
I am going to tell you something about Logan County High School you might not believe. Logan was 1-9 in 2016 winning its last game of the year against Todd County. Before winning the last game of the year, Logan HAD LOST 42 STRAIGHT! Don’t mean to yell but 42 straight? So how did the Cougars reverse 42 straight losses to win 12 in a row between 2016 and 2017 before losing to Hoptown in the KHSAA round 2? It didn’t hurt that Logan County had the good sense to hire Todd Adler as its Head Coach from out of the Middle School ranks. It didn’t hurt that an assistant coach named Dain Gregory, now a defensive coordinator in Illinois, a few years back walked the corn fields of Logan County persuading young boys to play football. It also didn’t hurt having young talent on the roster like Gary Hardy and Zach Yates. Gary in 12 games, during which time the Cougars finished 11-1, carried it 205 times for 1,261 yards and 9 rushing TDs. That’s a per carry average of 6.15 yards. As is true with any team, players like Gary Hardy and Zach Yates, who are All-State caliber players together with QBs like Tyler Ezell and linemen the likes of Caden McKinnis can change a team’s fortunes really quick. This means the Cougars won’t be going on any prolonged losing streaks anytime soon.
No. 28, Landen Bartleson, 6-1 and 185 pounds, RB, Boyle County High School;
There will come a time in 2018 when you will look back at this article and wonder how this guy wasn’t in the top 10. If we were just ranking prospects perhaps he would have been. His production will be off the charts in 2018. His production on the field in 2017 landed him on this list, but at the 28th slot instead of where he will actually be in the year 2020. Landen Bartleson from Boyle County has been offered by University of Louisville to play football for the Cardinals after his playing career at Boyle concludes. Would you like to know why? It is probably not the 1,137 rushing yards he gained in Boyle’s games in 2017 which only took him 159 carries to achieve. It is probably not the fact he gained those yards with a per carry average of approximately 7.15 yards. Truthfully, Bartleson, in raw yards from scrimmage and yards per carry appeared among the least deserving of any of the RBs we have listed on this top-30 list of players.
Appearances can be very deceiving. In 2017, Bartleson scored 20 rushing TDs, which is quite good, but that isn’t likely to be why the Cardinals offered the Boyle County RB (who also caught 3 TD passes to go along with his 20 he carried across the goal line). While we are at it, Bartleson’s numbers would be a lot better if that dang No. 44 wasn’t hogging the carries and ground gains all the time (Class of 2019, Tanner Crawford, for Boyle, has carried it 238 times for 1,928 yards on the ground with 25 rushing TDs). Anyway, we figured, while composing this list, that the number which might be most important for Bartleson, and why Louisville wants him badly enough to offer him last year as a sophomore, was his 100 meter time of 10.95 he ran at the KHSAA State Track Meet. According to the NFL’s redditt.com combine conversion table, 10.95 in the 100 meters equates to Bartleson running a 4.5 second, fully automated, 40 yard dash. Bartleson could well be the fastest RB in this class. Now publications like Rivals take his track time and make him a top 5 prospect, just on that. Football isn’t a track meet. Landon Bartleson will show us in 2018 he’s a football player too. When he does, he will fly up this list.
No. 29, Imonte Owsley, 5-8 and 150 pounds, Athlete, Owensboro Senior High School;
Imonte Owsley, 5’8″ 150, Owensboro Senior High School
In Owensboro, they call him Monte. Everywhere else, they call him a nightmare. Particularly, if one is trying to contain him on a football field. Monty ran the ball, in 2017, for the Red Devils, in the 5A Classification, 58 times gaining 685 yards with 11 rushing TDs. That is averaging nearly 12 yards a carry, scoring a rushing TD every 5.27 times the ball is handed to you. Monte caught 13 passes for 301 yards receiving for over 23 yards per reception with 5 receiving TDs. Owsley intercepted a pass on defense, recovered a fumble, and recorded 19 tackles. Owsley has a registered 40 yard dash of 4.4 seconds though I am unclear as to when that was timed. That may have been a middle school time and I will lay out for you the source of my confusion, just in case you are inclined to disbelieve Monte’s 40 time as being accurate.
When Owsley was a freshman, at the SIU HS Boys Indoor Invitational, he turned in a 7.12 60 meter time participating for Owensboro’s Track Team. According to KYTracXC, the 60 meter to 40 yard conversion is to take the 60m time and multiply by .6096 to identify the time it would take to run 40 yards. Under the accepted formula, Owsley’s forty time, when Owsley was a freshman, was 4.34 seconds. So, in light of that, I would say, if the time is recent, then Owsley’s self-reporting his 40 yard dash time at merely 4.4 seconds was pretty modest of him. If recent, Owsley must have ran the 40 in sand or his 60 meter time was run with a strong wind at his back, I don’t know. I suspect the time is an old time and Owsley hasn’t updated his Hudl profile in a while. I also noticed the reported back squat of 210 is way lighter than I would expect from a player who can motor like the official timer at the SIU HS Boys Indoor Invitational indicates. The matter can be simply settled by proclaiming (I believe quite justly) that Monte Owsley is one of the fastest football players in Kentucky. I have heard that, as a rule, athletes jump and run well. If that is so, than Owsley is the very picture of athletic. The Red Devils had a tough year, in 2017, but with players like the Class of 2021’s top footballer, Austin Gough, and Monte, I would not anticipate their struggling much in 2018.
No. 30, Jordan Watkins, 6-1 and 180 pounds, Athlete, Butler Traditional High School;
Just like with Bartleson, a list of college prospects would have this kid way higher regarded than we have him here. Still, since there are probably 2,000 Class of 2020 football players across the entire Commonwealth, coming in at No. 30 isn’t really anything of which to be ashamed. In football circles, an athlete is someone able to play multiple positions or have a variety of skill sets on either one or both sides of the ball, and have filthy, filthy speed. Jordan Watkins is no different. Watkins runs the 100 meter in 11 seconds flat. According to Reddit NFL, what is accepted by NFL scouts attempting to verify a reported 40 time, an athlete, who registers a time in the 100 meters between 10.95 and 11.21, runs the 40 yard dash between 4.5 and 4.6 seconds. Therefore, an 11 flat 100 meter equates roughly to the 40 yard dash time reported by Watkins of 4.5, fully automated. We believe Watkins reported 4.5 forty is sufficiently corroborated by his 100 meter time to lend it evidentiary weight, at least to us.
On the football side, production wise, as this isn’t always about a track meet, Watkins, playing for one of the premier Class 2A programs in Kentucky in St. Francis DeSales (has transferred to Butler this offseason), according to the statistics on MaxPreps.com, gained 751 yards rushing and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Watkins scored 12 rushing TDs and caught another 3 TD receptions for 15 total TDs scored for the sophomore. Watkins caught 10 passes for 165 yards in receptions for 16.5 yards per catch. Watkins exhibited one of the key criteria for which we looked in the athletes we believed to be the best in their class and that is multiple offensive skill sets of being able to both run and catch the football and an ability to find the end zone via both avenues. While his numbers didn’t compare very favorably with the Class of 2020 RBs we have memorialized here, he is undoubtedly an athlete who is worthy of inclusion on this top-30 list of football players.
There it is folks, the KPGFootball’s 30 top football players for the Class of 2020. This should get the debate rolling around the Commonwealth as high school teams are on the brink of kicking off their seasons all over the Bluegrass. We all be excited to see how it all fleshes out and hope you will continue to read the site and enjoy it with us.
Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of you ballers out there to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.
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