The Kentucky football team’s 2015 signing class has some Kentucky flavor, and Mason Wolfe is proud to help provide it.
The All-State offensive lineman from Henderson County High School was one of two Kentuckians to sign with UK on Feb. 4, along with four-star Warren East linebacker Eli Brown, and Wolfe said he couldn’t pass up a chance to play for the home-state college.
“I think it’s really special,” he said. “It’s one of the main reasons I committed to play there. … It’s just a big deal to me to get to represent our state.”
National signing day can be loaded with twists and turns, but Wolfe sending a national letter of intent to UK was as unsurprising as it gets. He verbally committed in April to the Wildcats —the only team to have offered a scholarship at the time — and remained solid in his pledge throughout.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Wolfe, the state’s top senior offensive lineman, was recruited to UK primarily by former offensive coordinator Neal Brown and current O-line coach John Schlarman, who played for the Cats after attending Kentucky high schools.
Wolfe built a strong relationship with Schlarman, who went to Highlands High, and he sold Wolfe on the pride of playing for the home-state team.
“I can relate to him, and that was one of his big pitches when I was still uncommitted,” Wolfe said. “He said he’s a Kentucky guy, and it was special for him to do it. He said I’d be the first Kentucky offensive lineman that he’s signed since he’s been there. That’s a big deal for him, and that’s a big deal for me.”
Wolfe, a three-star prospect, said Schlarman believes he’s a versatile player who could play any position on the line. He’s rated the No. 58 offensive tackle nationally by Scout.com and the No. 132 guard by ESPN.com.
Wolfe probably will redshirt in 2015 — as most freshman linemen do — to gain a year of weightlifting and practice experience, and Schlarman told him they’ll find a position for him based on needs after that. Wolfe prefers to play tackle, but he said he’ll go wherever the Cats need him.
“I move well, I play good in space, I can run-block, and I’m pretty balanced,” Wolfe said.
Henderson County coach Tony Lewis said Wolfe is a “good knee-bender” who moves well for a player of his height.
“He’s got a Division I body,” the coach said. “He’s got long arms. … He’s got good hips, and you don’t always see that with a big tall guy like him. He’s got the attributes they’re looking for in terms of an offensive lineman.”
Wolfe said he and UK’s other longtime commitments became a “close-knit group.” Warren East linebacker Eli Brown, the Cats’ other in-state signee, has become one of Wolfe’s best friends in the class.
“I think it’s a special thing,” Wolfe said. “Me and him are obviously Kentucky guys, and we relate to each other. We’ll come in already knowing somebody and being close.”
Stoops said on signing day that signing Wolfe and Brown were priorities. The coach said both players figure to be redshirted, especially with the 6-2, 200-pound Brown needing to add weight, “but talent-wise and size and everything, they’re exactly what we’re looking for.”
“I think they are two very good football players, it was very important for us to get those guys,” Stoops said.
Lewis praised UK for placing a priority on recruiting in-state players, then landing them. Since he was hired, Stoops has also signed top Kentuckians Jason Hatcher, Ryan Timmons, Drew Barker, Matt Elam, Lloyd Tubman and Adrian Middleton, and UK already has 2016 commitments from four in-state players, including four-star offensive linemen Drake Jackson and Landon Young.
UK’s uptick in recruiting under Stoops and a three-victory improvement from 2013 to ’14 have Wolfe excited for the future.
He believes a bowl game is in store for the Cats in 2015.
“It’s just exciting to see the progress,” Wolfe said.
Steve Jones can be reached at (502) 582-7176 and followed on Twitter at @SteveJones_CJ.