Sometimes a coaching change can make a player re-think a verbal commitment given to a previous coaching staff. But when Mark Stoops took over at Kentucky for Joker Phillips in December, Tallahassee running back Khalid Thomas had no second-thoughts about staying firm to his commitment to the Wildcats.
“He is ecstatic with the new staff,” Godby High School coach Ronnie Cottrell said. “He just has a tremendous belief in Mark Stoops. Mark recruited this school for Florida State and is highly respected here.
The 5-9, 170-pound Thomas — the brother of UK freshman linebacker Pancho Thomas — rushed for 1,471 yards and 16 scores in 2011 and over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns, including on the in the state title game win, as a senior.
“He had a good season for us. We won the Class 5-A state championship game and he was captain of our team,” Cottrell said. “We had a great team, but Khalid was a significant part of that. We are proud of what his brother did at UK last season, too. They will be good together.”
Cottrell said Stoops made sure that Thomas knew plenty about UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown as soon as he joined the UK staff.
“They have done a really good job of getting guys who were committed and educating them on the staff and its philosophy,” Cottrell said. “I think Khalid will be a big part of whatever they do. He is an excellent receiver and runner. He is well versed in the spread offense and coach Brown is one of the top spread and vertical passing game coaches in the nation. I think Khalid will be a perfect fit for that system.”
Cottrell sees the impact Stoops and his staff are making in Florida and don’t think that will stop with this year’s signing class.
“I fully expect them to have a big impact on Florida recruiting. It’s not just Mark Stoops, but the coaches he has brought in,” Cottrell said. “My experience with Mark is that he is a great evaluator of talent. He will come to Florida and bring kids in that help Kentucky’s program. I think he will start signing some kids here that maybe they have not been able to get to Kentucky. He will create some new inroads in Florida for Kentucky.”
That could include return trips to Godby High School immediately because Cottrell says he has at least five players UK has already expressed interest in — cornerback Tony Fields, quarterback J.T. Bradwell, cornerback Deion Singleton, defensive end Jacob Pugh and running back-linebacker Kris Harris.
Singleton has a bevvy of scholarship offers including Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky. Pugh is the same way with offers that include Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Fields also has several offers and has been contacted by numerous SEC schools.
“I think Kentucky will have a strong presence here next year and there’s absolutely no question that I have guys now who are already interested in Kentucky,” Cottrell said.