LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Quarterback Patrick Towles is the headliner for Kentucky's signees as the Wildcats filled all 25 spots in the incoming recruiting class within a few hours during national signing day.
Towles, Kentucky's 2011 Mr. Football, completed 171 of 279 passes as a senior for 3,820 yards, 42 touchdowns and one interception. He led Highlands High School to three straight state championships.
Head coach Joker Phillips secured Towles' verbal commitment last April and stayed in touch throughout the quarterback's senior season as offers from other schools flooded in.
Towles had been solid in his commitment to Kentucky throughout, but Phillips said he got a bit of a scare when Towles called him late Tuesday night.
"I woke up out of a sleep, and all he wanted to know was, 'Coach, does the SEC letter (of intent) need to have a time on it?' He's the type of kid that we were looking for," Phillips said. "He committed early, and the profile -- the kind of kid that we believe in — he stayed strong to what he believed in."
For the second year in a row wide receivers coach Tee Martin, considered the team's top recruiter, worked his connections to snare a few last-minute signings. Running back Justin Taylor had previously committed to Alabama before he was told there would not be a scholarship for him until January, and linebacker Khalid Henderson gave a verbal commitment to Tennessee before withdrawing it last month.
The 5-foot-10 Taylor missed most of his senior season at North Atlanta High with a knee injury. Phillips said Taylor was on Kentucky's campus for a high-school academic team trip, and he visited the football offices when Phillips caught wind of his unrelated visit.
Martin said the recruitment of both Taylor and Henderson heated up significantly over the 48-hour period leading into Wednesday, and the Kentucky coaching staff didn't know definitively what either player's plans were until their letters of intent came through the fax machine Wednesday morning.
"You just can't stop recruiting them. When a guy gets offered by those schools, you can't stop recruiting them," Martin said. "There's so much time between summertime and a time like this. Some guys are offered as sophomores and juniors — we've offered a few juniors already — but a lot of time has to elapse. With the world of coaching changes and things happening, people having great years and bad years, a lot can happen in a time like this. You just have to stay on it."
Henderson will be among one of several incoming freshmen Phillips said will compete for jobs in 2012 because of production that graduated after 2011. The Wildcats will have to replace all three starting linebackers including Danny Trevathan, who left after leading the Southeastern Conference in tackles as a junior and a senior.
The Wildcats also filled other significant voids on defense, specifically in the secondary: Nine of the 25 signees are listed as defensive backs after Kentucky's two starting cornerbacks and one of its starting safeties all graduated after the 2011 season.
Kentucky's recruiting class was ranked no higher than 12th out of the 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference among the major ranking services.