Hilltoppers show recruiting improvement with historic class

Matt Stahl

WKU football completed a historic signing day last week as the Hilltoppers got 10 new signees and climbed to their highest-ranked recruiting class in school history.

WKU’s 2018 class ranks No. 81 in the nation by 247 Sports, currently the school’s highest ever as it surpasses 2017’s 82nd-ranked class.

Head coach Mike Sanford was able to improve upon last season’s recruiting class, which included players originally recruited by the Hilltoppers’ previous head coach Jeff Brohm who left for Purdue and took several players with him.


“After this past season we had to get back to the drawing board in terms of just continuing to enhance this roster and make this roster better and better every single year,” Sanford said during his press conference on National Signing Day. “I think we were able to achieve that.”

The 2018 class ranks fifth in Conference USA by 247Sports, which eclipses the 2017 class on a national scale, but falls one spot behind it on the conference scale.

Sanford’s first two recruiting class rankings have improved on those of Brohm, who in his first two years had his classes ranked 88th and 111th by 247. Brohm’s final recruiting class was ranked 101st.

2018’s class is helped by the first four-star recruit in WKU football history, Kevaris Thomas, a 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound quarterback from Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida. Thomas is a dual-threat quarterback who comes to WKU after turning down offers from Colorado State University, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University, among other schools.

“That’s where you want it to start,” Sanford said of getting a four-star quarterback. “You want it to start with your quarterback position. You want your quarterback to be the leader of your football team and certainly you want him to be the leader of your class.”

WKU’s 2018 class draws from nine states, including 10 players from Georgia and six from Florida.

The 2017 class drew from eight states and also drew heavily from the deep south, with 10 players from Georgia and four from Florida.

“We’re going to be back into Florida deep, getting great players,” Sanford said. “We’ve got to be in Florida. Georgia continues to be a huge part of what we do. Two years in a row we’ve added quite a few players from the great state of Georgia.”

Sanford was able to greatly increase the caliber of recruits for 2018 over 2017 with seventeen three-star or higher rated players signing with the Hilltoppers, a huge improvement over 2017, when WKU signed only nine three-star recruits.

Brohm signed nine three-stars in 2014, five in 2015 and eight in 2016, giving him a total of 22. Sanford has signed 25 three-star or better recruits in his first two recruiting classes.

Brohm’s recruiting classes relied more heavily on players from Kentucky than Sanford has so far. Only one signee of this year’s class comes from the Commonwealth, plus one grey shirt. The 2017 class featured just two Kentucky signees.

Brohm’s classes featured six from Kentucky in his 2016 group, nine in 2015 and 10 in 2014.

“From our home state, I feel like we’re ongoing with putting our class together,” Sanford said. “With the acquisition of grey shirts, who we can’t comment on at this time, and we had an unbelievable weekend of preferred walk-ons that came in, we want to get the best players from the state on our team.”

Dalvin Smith from Glasgow, Kentucky, signed as a grey shirt prospect Thursday. Per the rules of a grey shirt commitment, he’ll have five years to complete his four years of eligibility after his initial enrollment, which will be in the second term of his freshman year.

WKU football opens its season in the fall against University of Wisconsin Aug. 31.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 615-681-7372 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97