Goodwin’s signature puts exclamation point on UK’s recruiting class

Published 1:00 am Friday, December 17, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops had his press conference nearly completed when he received the news he had been waiting for since Wednesday when Kiyaunta Goodwin added his name to the school’s list of early signing period signees.

Goodwin, a heralded five-star offensive lineman from Charlestown, Indiana, chose the Wildcats over Michigan State in a recruiting battle that went down to the wire.

He played his prep career at Ballard High School in Louisville and Charleston High School in Indiana. Goodwin was considered the No. 1 recruit in the state of Indiana by many analysts. In addition to Michigan State, he was recruited by Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

“Here’s a young man that could truly play anywhere in the United States, any college in the country would take his signature today, and so for us to land him, again, it says a lot about him and staying committed to us,” Stoops said. “I felt good about it the whole time. That doesn’t mean you count it in the bag, but you continue to work and answer questions and do the best you can. Again, it’s a credit to Coach (Vince) Marrow and the countless hours that he has put in recruiting this young man and our whole staff. But that’s who we are.”

Despite the team’s recent success, Stoops said the recruiting process hasn’t gotten any easier, but instead more competitive.

“It’s always a battle and a fight,” he said. “To the best of my recollection and information I have in front of me, since I’ve been here, we’ve never been ranked in the SEC, even though we may have been nationally ranked in the top 25. I’ve never by the experts been ranked ahead of ninth, but yet we continue to seem like we out-perform that, so it would be nice to continue to raise the talent level and see what we can do with it.”

Overall, Stoops and his staff added 22 players to the roster, including four players from Kentucky. The biggest in-state prize was Frederick Douglass wide receiver Dane Key, who is considered the top prospect in the state.

Key won the prestigious Paul Hornung Award, given to the Kentucky Player of the Year. Key’s father, Donte’ Key, played at Kentucky from 1992-95 and his brother, Devon Key, played at Western Kentucky and currently plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kentucky also signed instate standout lineman Grant Bingham from Johnson Central in Paintsville, Boyle County kicker Jackson Smith and Pleasure Ridge Park defensive back Elijah Reed.

“You add that to the 16 we already have, that’s 20 players in state — that’s probably the highest number we’ve had since I’ve been here I would think, unless maybe when I walked in the door,” he said. “(We also signed) No. 1 player in Delaware in Tomiwa (Durojaiye), and the No. 2 player in the state of Tennessee, three of the top players in the state of Tennessee in Barion Brown, Keaten and Destin Wade.”

The recruiting class pieced together by Stoops and his staff ranked as high as No. 12 on a national level and fourth in the Southeastern Conference.

Stoops and his staff also landed Tennessee Mr. Football Destin Wade and his brother Keaten Wade. Destin Wade chose the Wildcats over Tennessee, Penn State, Arizona State, Ole Miss, Virginia, Louisville, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Keaten Wade is a standout on defense and chose Kentucky over Arizona State, Baylor, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU and Louisville.

Deone Walker, a defensive tackle from Detroit also inked with Kentucky, turning down offers from Georgia and Michigan. Kobi Albert, who doubles as a safety and wide receiver, decommitted from Auburn and chose the Wildcats. Alex Afari also proved to be a big pickup.

The Kentucky coach also added Virginia Tech wide receiver Tayvion Robinson and Auburn offensive guard Tashawn Manning from the transfer portal.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytodaycom and via twitter at keithtaylor21.