By LARRY VAUGHT
He might be only a “three-star” recruit but Alabama running back Kavosiey Smoke had a college offer list that would suggest college coaches valued him a lot, lot higher.
The 5-10, 225-pound Smoke had offers from South Carolina, Auburn, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Florida, Virginia Tech and others when he signed with UK in February to give UK another physical running back.
Duane Rankin, columnist/videographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, says recruiting services are not an “exact science” but also has another thought on why Smoke was not rated higher.
“You usually build your stars up at camps and then enhance them during the season. He played with a pretty dynamic quarterback in J.D. Martin, who ran for 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. So you can make an argument Smoke was undervalued, but he can play,” said Rankin.
Smoke helped Wetumpka High School advance to the 6A Alabama state championship game for the first time in the school’s 115-year history and ran for 1,508 yards and 27 scores as a senior after running for 719 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.
“He runs physical and downhill,” Rankin said. “Has an initial burst, some breakaway speed and finishes runs.”
Rankin said despite the competition UK faced, it did not surprise him that Smoke picked the Wildcats.
“He wants to play early. Wants to play in the SEC. Kentucky fits both ideals,” Rankin said.
Rankin says UK is getting a team-first player. Smoke told Rankin in a recent interview he wants to also win academic awards.
“I think he learned the importance of team this past season and realizes what can happen when you buy in. It can really motivate an athlete to accomplish more. So Kentucky is getting him at a high point in that regard,” Rankin said.
Is he physically ready to play in 2018 to give UK more depth in the backfield behind Benny Snell?
“I think that remains to be seen, but the big thing is to really dedicate himself this summer to get there. As far what he’s listed, Smoke looks like an SEC player, but being strong enough to handle the college football grind, period, let alone play in the SEC at that position, is tough,” Rankin said.
“He’s going to run into some guys at UK who are going to introduce him to college football. Smoke has to prove himself there first before beginning to talk about whether he’s physically ready for the SEC.”
Kentucky may have also got another three-star gem out of Alabama in receiver Allen Dailey.
The 6-3, 195-pound Dailey caught 80 passes for 1,441 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior to help Pinson High School finish 15-0, including a win over Smoke’s team in the 6A state championship game. His 23 touchdowns tied for second most in Alabama single-season history. Allen, who was also a star basketball player, picked UK over Louisville and several other schools.
“It’s crazy, but it creates a situation where they could be the two players who can take UK to the next level,” Rankin said. “They can relate to each other, vibe off each other and push each other. If they have early success, others from the state of Alabama could follow.”
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You can follow Rankin on Twitter at @DuaneRankin or at www.montgomeryadvertiser.com.
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