June is going to be an extremely important month in the world of football recruiting, and not just for the Kentucky Wildcats.
With personal deadtime lifting on June 1, it will be the first time in more than a year that high school athletes can make official college campus visits and speak face-to-face with coaches. Kentucky already has several high profile Class of 2022 destinations that Lexington plans to see next month, including two four-star prospects, Aamil Wagner and Tyreese Fearbry.
If you look a little further into the class of 2023, another highly rated recruit will be making the journey to Kentucky’s campus. AJ Salley, an aspiring high school junior rated a three-star recruit by 247 Sports and the 19th best offensive player in his class, will be making an unofficial visit to Kentucky’s campus on June 22nd. It will be a busy month for him too, with four more unofficial trips to Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Pittsburgh on deck for the month of June.
A lot has changed in the last few weeks, official June schedule
Notre Dame – June 6th?
Cincinnati – June 10?
Ohio State – June 16?
Kentucky – June 22?
Pittsburgh – June 26th? @Vincemarrow @OSUCoachKDub @ Marcus_Freeman1 @BatesBacker @ _maximus347
– aj salley (@salley_aj) May 12, 2021
Salley is from Miamisburg High School and is just a short 20-minute drive from Dayton, OH. He’s one of the best young talent in the state, regardless of position. The 6-foot-5,232-pound offensive device has already received offers from the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee, Oregon Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Toledo, while it has received keen interest from Notre Dame and the state of Ohio.
Salley spoke to KSR on Wednesday to summarize his thoughts on the five schools he has planned visits with for June.
Notre Dame (June 6th): I knew (Defense Coordinator) Marcus Freeman, I spoke to him before he went to Notre Dame from Cincinnati. I had a bit of contact with them – Notre Dame, they are a really good academic school and they just reached out to me early on and I always watched Notre Dame grow up and I always loved their college. I definitely want to get down there.
Cincinnati (June 10): You know what you are doing. Coach (Luke) Fickell is turning the whole program around and they’re definitely on the rise. I love Cincinnati, it’s very close to home, about 45 minutes, and I love the atmosphere. Cant wait to get up there in June, that should be fun.
Ohio State (June 16): Growing up as a kid, Ohio State was a dream school for me. I just got in touch with their offensive coordinator recently and he wanted to take me upstairs for an unofficial visit so I can meet the coaching team and maybe pick up a quote while I’m down there if I’m lucky. When it comes to that, Ohio State has always been a dream school for me.
Kentucky (June 22): My first Power 5 offer. They really made me feel part of the family and they kept in touch with me. When they offered to me, the call was amazing, definitely the longest call I’ve had. I’ve spoken to almost every single member of the coaching staff and it’s really close to home. I love the level of the game in the SEC.
Pittsburgh (June 27): I accepted the offer about two days ago and just want to get down there. I’ve always been a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan and have been down there several times. I saw the campus when I was little. I only have ties there, I have a family there. I am also interested in playing in the ACC.
Salley hopes he can get to the Notre Dame and Ohio State campuses for an offer from them. As he said above, the Buckeyes have always been a dream school of his and are incredibly close to home – a factor he takes seriously when recruiting.
“Both ND and OSU really want to take me down to see how I move and what I am as a football player,” said Salley.
As he’s grown over the last year or so, Salley has gone from a contented college ball in the state of Ohio to a great recruit who can choose which school to attend, whether it’s state or Out.
“When I first got into the recruiting process, I just wanted to stay in the state of Ohio,” Salley told KSR. “That was last year before I had any offers, I wasn’t classified and all that. I want to stay in the area, I definitely want to stay in Kentucky, in Ohio, in the area, in the bordering states, but that could change. But right now it definitely matters and that’s why most of the teams I’ll be visiting are all very close to each other. “
Salley also has stocks in the schools that have offered him before anyone else. Toledo and Cincinnati were the first to offer earlier in the year. Kentucky was the first to follow from a Power 5 conference shortly thereafter. He was pretty shocked when the Wildcats called.
“It was actually a surprise when I spoke on the phone,” said Salley of receiving his British offer. “My trainer called me – I was still in class – called me and said, ‘Hey, I have someone who wants to talk to you,’ and I said, ‘Who’s that?’ and he wouldn’t tell me. And he didn’t tell me until I called them on the phone and asked them and I heard Coach Coen talk about SEC and I was like SEC? Before that I only had Cincinnati and Toledo (offers ) So I was very excited. I was on the phone and he said, “Yeah, this is the University of Kentucky.” They were all very energetic. It was just a really good call. Not much to say, it was just one really good call. “
I am also blessed to say I received an SEC offer from the University of Kentucky. @AllenTrieu @BurgFtball @TheUCReport @rivalsmike @RivalsJohnson @Bryan_Ault @Coach_MikeRob @ JaredL77 @KyleMorgan_XOS @DemetricDWarren pic.twitter.com/Hcujj0vEP5
– aj salley (@salley_aj) March 19, 2021
During that meeting, Salley recalls speaking to almost every member of the Kentucky coaching staff. Since then, his main contacts have been assistant head coach Vince Marrow and new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. As these people have done with great success in the past, they rediscovered an under-the-radar perspective right on the interstate.
“My first offer, Toledo, they said don’t forget me and I said I won’t,” added Salley. “I want to play in a Power 5 school, but I’ll go where I feel most wanted. I will go where I feel the coaching team has built the best relationship with me. When it comes down to it, I’m not going to go anywhere just because they’re good. If I make my decision, there will be no resignation or anything like that. I will be sure where I want to go. “
He’s also done research on Kentucky since receiving the offer on March 19, but the influence of ‘Cats’ has always been there in one way or another.
“I looked up a few things at the University of Kentucky,” Salley told KSR. “I’ve seen their amazing facilities. They have some of the best facilities in the whole country. Zach Myers, he played in Kentucky for a couple of years, he’s a school counselor at my school, and he’s been putting Kentucky in front of me for a while and we talked about it. He was there the whole time and congratulated me after everything, but he always told me about Kentucky and how great a university is. “
Some schools have recruited him as both an offensive and a defensive end, though the cats like him protect the quarterback. Salley said his goal for his junior season is to help him run back 1,000 meters. He actually weighed closer to 260 pounds by the end of his sophomore season, but he shed a lot of weight when he switched to wrestling season and dropped to around 232. He plans to add that weight back up all summer.
Salley could also be on the verge of a breakout season considering he only played six real games in high school: two as a freshman and four as a sophomore, with the final season being due to COVID-19 safety regulations canceled. Even so, it still deserves three-star status.
Kentucky set up the street on Salley, and his visit to Lexington next month could play a big role in where the cats go in the future.