Youngstown native and Cardinal Mooney High School graduate Mark Stoops is building an impressive recruiting pipeline from Northeast Ohio to Lexington, Ky.
The second-year University of Kentucky head football coach just added another giant addition to this year’s recruiting class.
Niles offensive lineman Josh Krok, who’s listed at 6-foot-9, 315 pounds, switched his commitment from West Virginia University to Stoops’ Wildcats on Thursday after a “great visit” last weekend.
“It was the people I was with, really,” Krok said. “When I was down there the first day, I felt like I was with my high school coaches. They were just such good people.”
His coach at Niles, Brian Shaner, said a number of different factors played a role in Krok making the switch from WVU to UK. One of the biggest, he noted, was the situations already in place at each school.
“He really enjoyed both coaching staffs, I just think he saw an opportunity at the University of Kentucky where he could earn early playing time,” Shaner said. “You know he looked at the depth chart, took different aspects into consideration, and ultimately followed the playing time.”
Krok said after a conversation he had with Stoops, he felt even better about making the switch less than two weeks before he has to sign his national letter of intent on Feb. 6. Stoops told him he’ll be a guard as a freshman before moving him out to tackle after a year in the weight room.
“We just talked about how many people from the area are playing down there now and it just felt right,” Krok said. “It’s where I’m going to be for how every many years I’m gonna be there, so I wanted to make sure.”
When Krok makes the 350-mile trip from Niles to Lexington in mid-June, he’ll be joined by Youngstown Christian defensive end Tymere Dubose — another giant addition for Stoops at 6-foot-6.
Awaiting them already on campus are Cardinal Mooney graduates Braylon Heard and Marcus McWilson, along with former Austintown Fitch graduates Demitrious Davis and Chris Davis.
“Having local support down there, local players down there, I think definitely helped his decision,” Shaner said. “That local connection, that’s pretty hard to beat.”
Aside from playing time and the comfort of other local players, Krok said there’s three letters that ultimately trump all else: SEC.
“It was always a dream of mine to play in the NFL from when I was a kid,” Krok said. “Then I saw the numbers of how many more players in the [NFL] draft are from [the SEC] than other conferences and I felt like that was the best opportunity.”
And the thought of playing in Death Valley at LSU, or in the swamp at Florida ...
“I honestly can’t even image,” Krok said. “That’s something I’m going to be experiencing pretty soon and that’s really cool.”