There has never been a signing-day class like this in football at Kentucky.

Not only did Kentucky have 14 signees who are rated as four-star players or higher by at least one recruiting service, but they had six — defensive end Denzil Ware (113), quarterback Drew Barker (173), wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass (205), running back Stanley Williams (208), defensive back Darius West (248) and defensive back Kendall Randolph (284) — ranked among ESPN’s top 300 players.

“Kentucky did a great job of being very up front with this class going back to last March and April,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “They said, ‘Guys, this will be a rocky road, but we will get better. Hang with us.’ They did not feed them a line of crap and tell them it would be all rainbows and unicorns. They told them they were the building blocks and it resonated because there was such a high level of honesty.”

Eleven of the 28 signees came from Ohio, where coach Mark Stoops was born and where he and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow have life-long connections.

“There’s no question Stoops got the job partially because of his background in Ohio and he had to expand the recruiting base in Ohio, and then supplement that in Georgia, Florida, and then go north and round out the class with a very good-looking group of prospects for the future,” Luginbill said.

The ESPN analyst said adding Barker, an in-state star, was a huge plus.

“It all starts at quarterback,” Luginbill said. “If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have a chance.”

Stoops admitted he was not sure Kentucky could recruit a class ranked higher than Oklahoma, Texas, Southern Cal and some other national powers this quickly.

“If I'm honest, we maybe had a little bit better success than I thought this quick. I knew we'd recruit good players,” Stoops said. “Where it was rated and all that and the publicity, I like it, and it helps our program and all that, but, again, that's not what I'm out for. I'm out to get great players to help build this program day in and day out.”

He said the recruiting success started when Barker picked Kentucky over South Carolina and Tennessee early and then started recruiting other players to join him.

“I think with Drew I felt like that was a big part of it because of the quarterback and the way he was a natural leader and he wanted to recruit other players. We joked about that, and I saw articles and people joking about him being the unofficial recruiting coordinator, but that was all on him. I mean, we don't direct him to do that. We're not allowed to direct him to do that, nor would I do it,” Stoops said.

“I fully expect Drew to come in and compete right now. He better — his butt better be working and throwing right now as we speak. No, I don't think — I'm not afraid to play Drew if he's ready to go. So we'll see. He'll have a fair shake, and I'm counting on him getting out there and competing.

“He just has that ability to be a leader, and he wanted other great players around him. I said that a year ago as well. Players want to be around other great players.”

The same thing happened when defensive tackle Matt Elam of John Hardin picked Kentucky over Alabama — he earlier eliminated Notre Dame.

“Matt Elam made a statement for us, but best thing was we needed him. Regardless of who we were going against, we needed him,” Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Elliot said.

“Matt was very important for a lot of reasons,” Stoops said. “I think just his talent, if you want to look at him on the field. He has great size. It's very rare, to find somebody that's 6-5-plus, whatever Matt's weighing right now. But ... he's so athletic and so agile, and he's very explosive. So he's a difference-maker on the field.

“It's important because he's from our state and he's a great player. I think it's important to know that we can go head to head and win some recruiting battles against the best teams in the country. I think it's important to lay the foundation for future recruits of Kentucky to say, ‘Why not come to Kentucky and build this program?’”

Kentucky’s 28-member class included the state of Kentucky’s top four players — defensive lineman Lloyd Tubman of Seneca and Adrian Middleton of South Warren along with Elam and Barker.