Dozens of UK football recruits spread across several classes are expected to be at Commonwealth Stadium for the Kentucky-Louisville game Saturday.
One of the biggest will be 2014 prospect Marcelys Jones, a four-star offensive lineman from Cleveland. Jones is currently committed to Ohio State, but the UK coaches are trying to flip him to Lexington.
Rivals.com ranks Jones as the No. 8 offensive guard in the Class of 2014 and the No. 12 player from Ohio. UK is looking to add one more offensive lineman to its top-10 recruiting class, and Jones has become a prime target.
The 6-foot-4, 350-plus pound prospect committed to Ohio State last winter, but he’s visited several other schools since then.
Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt said the Buckeyes haven’t backed off.
“Ohio State is definitely all in on his recruitment right now,” Helmholdt said. “That could change. But I think if it does change it’ll be because of how many other visits he’s taken. He committed to them last December. It was kind of an out-of-the-blue commitment. He just decided one day that he wanted to do it. I think his coaches and everybody else thought that he was going to take it out a while longer. Since then, he’s flirted with just about every other school that has shown him interest.”
Helmholdt called it Jones’ “Southern tour.” The recruit took visits to Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia Tech during a week-long period in July. He had a few other visits last spring.
He’s scheduled to take an official visit to Alabama later this fall. All of those schools have offered Jones, and many of those coaches think they have a realistic shot at flipping his commitment.
“It’s the way that Marcelys talks to these coaches,” Helmholdt said. “In fact, I heard from a school that I don’t think is really in the mix at all – they said he’s always the most interested when he comes to (their) school. That’s kind of his personality. I think he gives people a positive vibe when he comes and sees them.
“Looking at it from the outside in, my take is that most likely he’ll end up at Ohio State. That’s not to say that he won’t flip to Kentucky or he won’t flip to Alabama, but at this point I think it’s most likely Ohio State.”
Jones is one of the top talents at his position in the country, but there’s still plenty to improve on. Helmholdt said he and other analysts have been overly impressed at times by Jones’ enthusiasm and motor. Other times, the effort isn’t there.
“He has the physical tools to really be as good as he wants to be,” Helmholdt said. “The problem is he doesn’t always bring his ‘A’ game to the table. In the off-season, we were very impressed with his ability to compete. He definitely took his game up a notch. … But during games, sometimes he’ll just be a swinging gate. Sometimes he doesn’t even put his arms up to block somebody. He’s really a ‘very-high ceiling, very-low basement’ type of a guy. High risk, high reward.”
Mark Stoops and company will likely stay on Jones until he signs with a school in February. Helmholdt said the Cats are “certainly” one of those teams that has a realistic chance of drawing him away from Ohio State.
But if the Buckeyes stick with him, they’ll be tough to beat.
“I know that Alabama thinks they’re going to get him. I know that Kentucky is very optimistic about their chances,” Helmholdt said. “But I do expect that if Ohio State stays all in on him up to National Signing Day, he will sign with the Buckeyes.”