By LARRY VAUGHT
Octavious Oxendine didn’t have have but about two months to make an impression on the University of Kentucky football staff after enrolling in school in January.
However, in the time before COVID-19 shut down campus early in UK’s spring practice, the freshman defensive lineman made his presence known.
“His early enrollment was awesome. He really works hard. He was up early working, staying late studying. He’s an unbelievable student,” UK defensive line coach Anwar Stewart said. “I do believe he could play early (as a true freshman).”
The 6-3, 300-pound Oxendine was a four-star recruit out of North Hardin High School and a top 25 defensive tackle nationally in the 2020 recruiting class. He picked UK over Tennessee but also considered Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas, North Carolina and Louisville.
North Hardin coach Brent Thompson — who has had running back La’Vell Wright and safety Jordan Lovett both recently verbally commit to UK — knew some had doubts about Oxendine. The coach didn’t
“I had no doubts he would be pretty successful. He’s the hardest working young man on and off the field I have seen,” Thompson said. “His goal is to improve because he wants to make it to the next level (NFL). He has a great mindset about the game and life. I truly believe in the next three to four years he will help take the program to a new level.
“He went in early with a plan to play next year and I think those coaches in the first two months realized what I did — he wants to start next year. He wants to play and be on the field. He knows he has to work to get that but he will.”
Stewart said he wishes he has “five or six more” like Oxendine on the roster, especially after the way the freshman approached his time away from campus due to COVID-19.
“He kept sending me pictures of him working out. Those are the type of kids you want in the program,” Stewart said. “He loves the work. Don’t be surprised if he is a freaking all-conference, dominant guy.
“We have a really good recruiting class coming in up front and that’s awesome. But Octavious really wants it. He never quits working.”
Thompson remembers when Oxendine was a high school sophomore and found a gym — Darkside Athletics — in Bardstown where he started doing college level workouts.
“I have talked to a couple of the strength and conditioning coaches and he was not far behind a lot of college players when he got to UK,” Thompson said. “He pushed himself in the weight room and ate right to get in the beset shape he could.
“As a coach I hate to bet on my players but I have confidence he will do really, really well (at UK). He’s a young man. He just turned 18 back in March and he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”