Kentucky is all in on loading up the secondary for the class of 2022.
On Friday morning, the Wildcats picked up their 10th member of the recruiting class, and the program did it in a familiar area. Recruiting ace Vince Marrow visited Metro Cincinnati and pulled off another recruiting win at West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West High. The Firebirds were the previous homes to former Kentucky players George Asafo-Adjei, Mikel Horton, and Kyle Meadows. Now the pipeline has been revisited.
Alex Afari is now the eighth top-500 prospect to join the class and we’re only in May. However, Kentucky is dipping into the secondary once again as Afari is the fourth true defensive back that has joined the haul. The high three-star picked Kentucky over Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa State, Virginia, and Pittsburgh. After a slow start in Ohio, the Wildcats now have two pledges from the Buckeye State.
Now is the time to step into the KSR Film to see what Kentucky is adding in Afari. The high school cornerback brings great positional size to go with a high ceiling as a tackler. The prospect is raw in coverage, but this is a player with athletic traits that many programs would be willing to bet on.
The first thing that stands out when the tape runs is just the physical size of Afari. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, this is a defensive back that towers over opposing wide receivers. With that size comes expectations. Someone that big usually projects to be a boundary cornerback at the next level. These players must be able to help in run support. Overall, Afari does a good job putting his face in the fan and supporting in both the run and quick passing game.
On the run action, Afari does a great job of reading and reacting. The cornerback notices the play from the start and almost looks like he was sent on a stunt. Once in the action, Afari does a great job of slipping a block and making a play on the runner. On tape, Afari doesn’t always bring his lower body with him on tackles. This causes him to be a grab and drag tackler at times. At that size, the cornerback needs to work on his striking as a tackler.
If a prospect is going to play the boundary cornerback position in the SEC, being able to jam X receivers at the line of scrimmage is a must-have trait. Below, Afari flashes both good and bad.
The high three-star uses his length and delivers a very good punch to knock the receiver off his route. However, the young cornerback gets overextended and that leaves him in no man’s land. Unfortunately, the opposing offense had a double move called as they go sluggo — run three or four steps a slant, then turn upfield and run a go-route. The ball is sailed by the quarterback, but this rep shows just how important footwork is for the secondary. The length of Afari is a raw skill that allows him to deliver a strong punch, but the fundamentals of footwork show that this is a player that needs development time at the college level.
Instincts are a very important trait for any defensive back to have. These players must be able to process very quickly and trust their athleticism to get them to the right places. Afari has some rawness to his game, but he also flashes instinctive plays that show off some twitchiness.
On the jailbreak screen, the cornerback notices the play very quickly. As soon as that happens, Afari gets downhill and is to the catch point as soon as the receiver takes one step. Once again, the defensive back needs to work on finishing as a tackler but playing with instincts is something Kentucky’s defensive staff can work with.
Afari has a very high recruiting ranking, and the Cincinnati area native is a borderline four-star recruit. Most of that is likely due to his raw athleticism. This is a player with tremendous positional size, great length, and flashes some occasional play strength. However, the footwork needs to be tuned up and the tackling has a ways to go. But that is fine.
Kentucky is bringing in a ton of defensive backs in this class after grabbing a couple of cornerbacks in the 2020 haul. Afari will have time to develop. The high three-star prospect has athletic traits anyone would be willing to bet on. Improve on some fundamentals, add strength to an already solid frame, and the ceiling could be very high.
There won’t be many better-looking cornerback prospects coming out of high school.