The biggest recruiting decision of the 2015 cycle for the UK football program didn’t go the Wildcats’ way.
Five-star running back Damien Harris announced his commitment to national powerhouse Alabama over local choice Kentucky in a ceremony at Madison Southern High School on Friday afternoon.
Harris is the No. 1 high school running back in the country and has long been the top recruiting priority in the class of 2015 for Mark Stoops and his coaching staff. UK hosted Harris for six of its seven home games last fall, and the Berea standout had seemingly grown close to several of the Wildcats’ current players and incoming recruits.
UK offered the opportunity to play right away and close to home, but Alabama is in the national title hunt every season and has sent several running backs to the NFL in recent years.
The Tide also has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, and Harris bonded with many of those commitments last weekend at the Under Armour All-American Game in Florida. UK did not have any commitments at the showcase.
It’s unclear whether Stoops will now try to add another running back to his class of 2015. Three-star Alabama standout Jamarius Henderson and four-star Ohio native Darrin Hall have both been mentioned as possibilities. Hall — a Youngstown native — is currently committed to Pittsburgh, which has changed head coaches since his pledge.
UK is expected to have several running backs return for 2015, including seniors Braylon Heard and Josh Clemons, junior Jojo Kemp and sophomores Boom Williams and Mikel Horton. Williams led the Cats in rushing as a true freshman last season with 486 yards and five touchdowns on 76 carries.
Rivals.com ranks UK’s class at No. 36 nationally. The Cats have 17 high school commitments for next season.
See Kentucky.com later today for more on Harris’ commitment to Alabama.