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JUCO DE Za'Darius Smith unexpectedly commits to Kentucky

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New Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops landed the four-star defensive end in one of JUCO Signing Day's biggest upsets so far.

Mark Stoops landed a big JUCO prospect on Wednesday.
Mark Stoops landed a big JUCO prospect on Wednesday.

In recent days, conventional wisdom held that four-star East Mississippi CC defensive end Za'Darius Smith was down to Mississippi State and Texas A&M, with Texas having an extreme outside shot of landing his services. Instead, Smith opted to sign with Kentucky on Wednesday, giving new head coach Mark Stoops the most significant recruiting coup of his short tenure.

Stoops may have also had some help with a recent strategic hire:

Of course, Stoops also had some connections to Smith himself, having been a part of Florida State's recruitment of the big weakside defensive end prospect, so it's not like the new Wildcat head coach had to start a relationship with Smith once he got to Lexington.

Why the shock with Smith signing with Kentucky, though? Well, he had taken multiple visits to both Mississippi State and Texas A&M this fall. Based on his 247Sports profile, it does not appear that Smith visited Kentucky prior to signing his letter of intent.

A consensus four-star prospect ranked as one of the top 15 JUCO prospects in the country, Smith is a 6-5, 260-pounder with reported 4.7 speed in the 40. He has three years to play two seasons and is the 16th commitment of the 2013 class for the Wildcats, as well as the only four-star prospect.