By LARRY VAUGHT
Seeing cornerback Lonnie Johnson improve his NFL Draft status with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl did not surprise UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow.
“I have been saying Lonnie for a long time would get drafted high,” Marrow said. “He still has to go run (at the NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis) and do what he’s gonna do, but just from his practices at the Senior Bowl, a guy that’s 6-3, 210 and he’s going to run a 4.4,” Marrow said. “Just from the feedback I have been getting, he’s going to be a first round pick.”
That would give UK two first-round picks when the draft is held April 25-27 in Nashville because it is a given that Josh Allen will not only be a first-round choice but will be a top five pick.
Marrow believes safety Darius West — one of eight Wildcats invited to the Combine — could surprise many.
“He will run a sub 4.38 (40) and has been a three-year starter in the SEC,” Marrow said.
What about running back Benny Snell, UK’s all-time leading rusher?
“When you look at Benny, his film speaks for itself,” Marrow said. “Now will he run what they (NFL scout) think or surprise them and run faster (at the combine) and move up in the draft,” Marrow said.
“We have other guys who will be drafted. The first year we had maybe one guy (Bud Dupree) drafted. Now we should have at least five or six guys drafted. When you do that, then you can go compete with people that have seven or eight (players) drafted.”
Kentucky has eight players — Allen, Johnson, West, Snell, tight end C.J. Conrad, safety Mike Edwards, linebacker Jordan Jones and cornerback Derrick Baity —invited to the combine, it’s highest total ever. Only six schools — Alabama (11), Clemson (11), Ohio State (10), Georgia (9), Mississippi (9) and Washington (9)— had more players invited.
Marrow said NFL scouts told him and other UK coaches all season about how “different” the bodies were for UK seniors they had watched for four or five years.
“I remember one guy told me we would win 10 or 11 games and also said nine or 10 guys would get drafted,” Marrow said. “He actually called me after (UK beat) Penn State (in the Citrus Bowl) and told me we had NFL players now.”
Marrow said he’s going to watch all three days of the draft because he thinks Kentucky will have players drafted each day — something that has never happened before. He said he’s trying to talk Stoops into going to Nashville for the draft.