Mark Stoops was a savvy hire for Kentucky in part because he represented an opportunity to grow in a new direction.
The Bluegrass State borders Ohio, which is one of the most talent rich states beyond the Big Three of California, Florida, and Texas. Despite that fact, UK never did much recruiting there. That fact changed with Stoops, whose last name is famous throughout the Buckeye State with its roots in Youngstown.
Stoops has made a point of going north of the border to get recruits, and it has paid off handsomely:
Only 7% of the Wildcats' players came from Ohio in Joker Phillips's final class in 2012. Not surprisingly, Stoops's transitional class didn't have too many more at 13.6%.
It began to take off in 2014, though, when Kentucky signed 37.5% of its players from Ohio. The proportion dipped a year ago with just 26.3% of recruits hailing from north of the border, but it popped back up to a new high of 52% this year.
It is worth noting that none of this year's Ohio signees are 4- or 5-stars. Stoops got one of those from Ohio in 2013, two in 2014, and another one in 2015. I can't say I'm surprised by that fact given that the state of Ohio simply had fewer than normal blue chip recruits this year at just 12 rather than the usual 15 or more. The much bigger football brands (and much bigger recent winners) of Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame naturally took home most of them.
Still, there is something to be said for bringing in 3-stars from a state that produces a lot of talent. A program might end up with overlooked guys, and the players may have picked things up from better coaching and the better players around them.
Kentucky under Stoops has made a point of recruiting Ohio hard, and this year was the biggest year for it yet.