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September 14th, 2014

Dakari Johnson’s Tuesday News and Views

Getty Images

Getty Images

Happy 19th birthday to one of our favorites, Dakari Johnson. Dakari was part of last season’s historic freshman class, and after some huge postseason performances, decided to turn down the NBA and come back to school for his sophomore year. Of the players that returned to school, you could argue that Dakari has the most to gain. During the offseason, he shed 20 pounds and improved his conditioning immensely. Dakari’s always had great touch around the basket, but in the Bahamas, he was able to run the floor better, get more rebounds, and be a more consistent threat on both sides of the court.

In the second half of last season, Dakari became the heart and soul of the team, infusing his teammates with some much needed energy at crucial times and working his way into the starting lineup. “Dakari in the USA” became a familiar refrain, and his dunks, smiles, clapping, and yelling were highlights each week. And, who can forget it was Dakari that gave us the line of the season when talking about Aaron Harrison’s…guts. “He’s got big nuts, to be honest,” Dakari said of Aaron. “He can’t even walk right now.”

How did Dakari celebrate the big day? By stepping:

Practice makes perfect, big fella. News and views?

It’s FINALLY game week

I don’t know about you guys, but it feels like forever since the Florida game. With the bye week behind us, it’s finally time to focus on Vandy, and for this Nashville-based blogger, their terrible fans. I wrote about this earlier, but with Vandy rebuilding and Kentucky finally climbing, the two programs are at a crossroads. Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC game in two years and has lost three in a row to Vandy, but Vegas feels so confident about the Cats’ chances of beating the ‘Dores that they’re currently a 17-point favorite, bet up from 10.5 over the weekend. Stoops spoke to reporters on Monday and said that after a “very good week” of practice, his team is excited to get back on the field, but will face a big challenge against an improving Vandy team. “We’re looking to play better. Vandy is playing better and better each week. We’ll have our hands full,” Stoops said. “I thought [Vandy] played with great energy this past week. You could see the excitement. They played hard. They’re getting better and better, playing more confident.”

The Cats are almost 100% healthy

The bye week was just the medicine the Cats needed to get close to 100%. Stoops said that starting left guard Zach West “is getting better” after a nerve issue in his neck, and the staff planned to “put him through some things” at practice Monday. Darius West (leg) and Jeff Badet (eye) are still questionable, but Stoops said he feels “both of them will have a chance to play.” Alexander Montgomery is “getting close” to being back after his knee injury, but Stoops stressed that he needs to add some strength to his quad muscle before they’re ready to let him play. The bye week was also good to Javess Blue and Braylon Heard, who came back from injuries against Florida, but the off time helped them get back to full strength.

The Patton Robinette mystery continues

While UK is enjoying rare stability at the QB position (knock on wood), Vanderbilt’s situation is a complete mess. Vandy has started three quarterbacks in four games: freshman Wade Freebeck, sophomore Patton Robinette, and senior Stephen Rivers. On Monday morning, Derek Mason said he’s cautiously optimistic Robinette will be back for the game after suffering an injury early against South Carolina. The injury, thought to be a concussion, is just the latest mystery surrounding Robinette, who was pulled from Vandy’s season opening loss to Temple and sat out the Ole Miss game. After denying that Robinette’s health had anything to do with the decision to pull him, Mason changed his story last week, finally telling the media about Robinette’s injury in the most cryptic way possible. “There’s things there that you guys don’t know,” Mason said. “If you guys knew the story, well then you guys would understand what I understand about Patton. Sometimes you have to protect players from themselves. … I’m just going to leave it at that.” Huh? 

On Monday, Stoops said that Vandy’s offense won’t change regardless of who starts at quarterback and actually seemed much more concerned about facing Wade Freebeck than Robinette, calling the true freshman “a very good football player.” “It will be interesting to see who goes for them.  I think you could see some real talent in the freshman,” Stoops said of Freeback. “A guy that we knew from St. Thomas High School, a very good football player, a great program. He’s going to be a special player.”

October 4 will be one hell of a day in Lexington

On Monday, we found out that UK/South Carolina will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network, which made everyone in the Bluegrass do a fist pump at their desk. Not only is it the opening weekend of Keeneland (hello, Daily Double!), “SEC Nation” will be live from Lexington all day to capture the sights and sounds. If the Cats take care of business against Vandy this weekend, they’ll be 3-1 and rolling on a wave of momentum heading into the nightcap against a South Carolina team that has look vulnerable this season. That, my friends, is the recipe for a perfect fall day. Plan accordingly.

The Courier-Journal apologizes to Cal, Cal accepts

On Friday, the Courier-Journal published an illustration of a baby with Calipari’s head on it to accompany Tim Sullivan’s column about Coach K, Calipari, and Jim Boeheim, and ever since, they’ve been doing damage control. On Monday, the paper’s Executive Editor Neil Budde issued a formal apology to Calipari, calling the illustration a “failure in our procedures,” and Cal accepted the apology via Twitter, calling it something “most papers wouldn’t have done.” Leave it Cal to be gracious and throw a barb at the Herald-Leader at the same time.

Swaggy Cal is Swaggy, teases “watershed moment”

Cal wasn’t done just yet. After accepting the Courier-Journal’s apology, Cal posted something of his own, his latest manifesto on CoachCal.com. Cal wrote about how he thinks this season could be the next “the next watershed moment” at Kentucky, the first one being in 2010 when five players were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. In 2010, the level of talent was monumental; this season, the amount of talent is epic. While the haters (whom Cal called out as “writers with agendas to another program or coach”) will say there’s too much talent to play at once, Cal writes that he’s found a way to make sure everyone “eats.”

If you wonder why everyone is panicked outside of the Big Blue Nation, why everyone is curious as to how we are going to make this work, why writers with agendas to another program or coach are pitting player against player, platoon vs. platoon, it’s because they are afraid of what could happen. They know that if this turns out the way they think it could, it becomes a watershed moment for college basketball. There will be no going back. No player will ever worry about who else is in the program or who may stay. They will know we have their best interests at heart.

Writing all of that got him so excited he spun around in his chair.

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Which made all of us with chairs that spin spin around in our chairs.

Hump ditty ditty. See you in the morning.


SEC Network Ranks SEC East Quarterbacks

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Good to finally have positive feedback on a UK QB


Tennessee fan broke his mother’s wrist and bit off his girlfriend’s nose

Some disturbing news out of Knoxville today where Grant Taylor, the handsome lad pictured above, was arrested on two counts of aggravated domestic assault. Taylor allegedly bit off the tip of his girlfriend’s nose and broke a bone in his mother’s wrist in the bedroom of his apartment. His bond is set at $100,000 if you’d like to get him out for some beers and narcotics — apparently that’s his thing, according to witnesses.

I have no idea if Taylor is a Tennessee Vols fan but he is a Tennessee Vols fan.


John Calipari records his other point guard dunking

I think Coach Cal recently learned how to capture video on his phone and now he’s obsessed. Earlier this evening he filmed Andrew Harrison throwing down a simple dunk in the Joe Craft Center, asking viewers if the rim is too low. The video is a follow-up to Saturday’s clip of Tyler Ulis dunking on a lowered goal in Calipari’s backyard.

Maybe tomorrow he will show us Sam Malone jumping over a Kia for a two-handed slam.


On Friday, wear blue and pack Madison Southern’s game for Damien Harris

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Damien Harris and Madison Southern play South Laurel Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Berea, and KSR is going to pack the stands with UK blue to show our support for the talented running back. As you surely know by now, Harris is considered the top running back in the country, and has Kentucky in his final five, along with Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, and Texas A&M. Harris claims he doesn’t have a favorite, but he’s planning on taking an official visit to UK this weekend, and what better way to tug at his home state heart strings than a huge showing of UK fans at his game Friday night?

The guys will also be doing the radio show from Madison Southern on Friday morning, but it won’t be open to the public. But, come on out Friday afternoon and evening to party with the KSR crew and make a good impression on a very important recruit.

Friday night. Madison Southern High School. Wear blue.


Trey Lyles practiced with the team today

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Good news: we’re hearing that Trey Lyles was on the court practicing with the team today and will be ready to roll when the season starts.

We may not ever know what Lyles’ mysterious leg injury was, but thankfully, it’s not serious enough to keep him from starting his freshman season on time.

Phew.


Cats in the NFL: Week 3

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

Cobb had a quiet game in the Packers 19-7 loss to division rivals, the Detroit Lions

Cobb has three receptions for 29 yards. His longest reception came in the second quarter on a 13-yard pass from Aaron Rogers.

Stevie Johnson, San Francisco 49ers

Despite the 49ers 23-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Stevie Johnson had his biggest game as a 49er since being traded.

Johnson had nine receptions for 103 yards. His longest reception was a 32-yarder in the third quarter.

Winston Guy, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguar’s struggle continues as they lose 44-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles out of UCF, got the start in the second half after being down 30-0.

Winston combined for three tackles; two solo and assisted on one.

Tim Masthay, Green Bay Packers

Masthay five punts totaled for 215 yards in the Packers loss to the Lions. His longest punt came in at 48-yards. Two of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Corey Peters, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 56-14 in the Thursday night game this week.

Peters was outstanding in his second game back from injury. He recorded four tackles for loss and one sack. Peters played 34 out of the 60 snaps in the game.

Peters told ESPN:

“I’m really enjoying the game much, much more than I have in the past. I think I was kind of taking it for granted. And when I got injured, I said that I would never do that again. I’m just enjoying it all, man.”

Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos 

The rematch of last year’s Super Bowl was anything but a blowout this time around. The Seattle Seahawks prevailed once again defeating the Broncos 26-20 in OT.

Tamme played a huge role in the Broncos 17 point comeback in the fourth quarter. The Broncos tied the game at 20 with 18 seconds left when Peyton Manning thew 36-yard touchdown to Tamme.

Tamme had two receptions for a total 22 yards and one touchdown.

Tamme’s TD

Avery Williamson, Tennessee Titans

Avery Williamson recorded his first NFL stats in the Titans 33-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Williamson combined for four tackles; two solo and two assists.

According to ESPN.com:

“I feel like I played pretty good,” Williamson said. “I had a few mistakes, but overall I feel like I was downhill and I made plays, that’s the main thing. I’m excited to watch the film and improve on it and get ready for next week.”

Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans 

In the Titans crushing loss to the Bengals, Woodyard collected nine tackles for the game; five solo and assisted on four.

While watching the Cincinnati and Titans game, I was filled with much pride seeing Avery and Wesley make plays out there. Way to represent Kentucky and the #BBN Avery and Wesley. And, we are proud of Avery for recording his first NFL tackle.

 

@kbernhardKSR


Cellar dwellers at a crossroads: Charting UK and Vandy over the past 5 years

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Like two pariahs sharing shelter in a storm, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have been quiet companions in the SEC East cellar for the better part of the conference’s modern history, sustaining on the occasional upset and the relief of basketball season right around the corner. However, in the past four years, Vandy pulled a Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises” and climbed out of the well, leaving Kentucky all alone at the bottom. Watching Vandy storm to three straight bowls brought out some mixed feelings in the BBN: some of us were happy for our former fellow cellar dweller, some of us resentful of their success, and all of us just a little bit jealous. Now, with Vanderbilt once again rebuilding after James Franklin’s exit for Happy Valley and Mark Stoops making noise in his second season, Kentucky and Vanderbilt seem to be at a crossroads again, but this time, the Cats are the ones climbing.

To appreciate this critical juncture in the series, let’s examine the relationship between the two programs over the past five years…

Coaching changes

Vanderbilt

2010: Robbie Caldwell
2011-2013: James Franklin
2014 – present: Derek Mason

Kentucky

2010-2012: Joker Phillips
2013 – present: Mark Stoops

In 2010, both programs had new head coaches, albeit under very different circumstances. Robbie Caldwell was named Vandy’s interim head coach after Bobby Johnson suddenly announced his retirement with two months until the season opener, while Joker Phillips took over for Rich Brooks two years after being named his successor. At the time, Kentucky was coming off a 7-6 season while Vandy was trying to recover from another disappointing year. The roles would soon reverse after Caldwell resigned and Vandy gambled on James Franklin, who did the unthinkable and brought immediate success to the Vandy program. Meanwhile, UK struggled under Joker Phillips, and after three seasons, cut ties and hired Mark Stoops. At the end of last year, Franklin left Vandy to Penn State, taking many of his players and recruits with him, and the ‘Dores hired Derek Mason, who has had a shaky start so far this season.

Series History

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My, how quickly things changed once James Franklin entered the scene. UK’s 40-0 loss to Vandy in 2012 with a smattering of fans in the stands was the low point of the Joker Phillips Era, and sealed his fate. Stoops and the Cats were competitive in Nashville last season, but bettors in Vegas feel so confident the Cats will turn the tide this year they’ve made them a 16.5-point favorite.

Overall wins

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It’s amazing how the two programs have mirrored each other in performance over the past five years. If the ESPN Football Power Index projections hold out and UK gets to 6 wins and Vandy 3 (I’ll be a friend and round up), this chart will practically be a mirror image.

Recruiting (Rivals Recruiting Class Rankings by year)

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The cornerstone of any college football program is recruiting. Both Franklin and Stoops are strong recruiters, and put together comparable classes. Franklin’s 2012 & 2013 classes were ranked 29th and 19th in the country, similar to Stoops’ 2013 & 2014 classes, which were ranked 29th and 17th in the country by Rivals. Derek Mason didn’t have much of a chance once Franklin left, and it will be interesting to see what he does with the 2015 class. Currently, they’re ranked 67th in the country. UK is ranked 23rd.

Average Attendance (% of home stadium capacity)

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Both Kentucky and Vanderbilt football fans have been through a lot, so much so that getting back on the football wagon has proved difficult at times. However, after Franklin showed Vandy fans that football success was a legit possibility and not just a fluke, they filled up little Vanderbilt Stadium each Saturday. At Kentucky, Joker Phillips inherited a happy fan base that quickly turned sour, and only started coming back once Mark Stoops reinvigorated the program. Hopefully, UK fans will #PackCommonwealth on Saturday to send that attendance average soaring and get those cautiously optimistic fans back in the stands.

Beat Vandy.


Watch Mark Stoops’ Monday press conference

Mark Stoops sees an improving Vanderbilt team ahead on Saturday. With a positive vibe on the recruiting trail following his team’s good start to the season, being prepared for Vandy’s creative offense and containing its star kick returner are two important aspects to continuing the momentum with a win over the Commodores. Listen to Stoops elaborate on all that, and more.


What is the most distinctive food term in Kentucky according to Twitter?

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A study at the University of Arizona analyzed more than three million tweets about food from October 2013 to May 2014 to determine the most unusual food-related term in each state.

“A common misinterpretation is that these are the most popular terms per state, but they are not—they are the most distinctive terms,” Mihai Surdeanu, one of the study’s authors, told PEOPLE magazine. “For example, ‘cheese’ may be popular in many states, but not distinctive in any.”

So what are we talking about the most in Kentucky, compared to other states?

The answer: TACOS.

I’m so happy I could cry, Kentucky. I also believe I played a huge role in this because I tweet about tacos quite often. Tacos are awesome and I’ve never been more proud to be a Kentuckian than I am right now.

So who wants to go grab dinner? It’s #MexiMonday in Lexington and you’re invited. If not tonight, maybe tomorrow night for #TacoTuesday?


Skal Labissiere recaps his visit to Lexington

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Chris Fisher over at 247Sports.com caught up with Gerald Hamilton, Skal Labissiere’s guardian, on Monday to see how Labissiere enjoyed his visit to Lexington over the weekend. Hamilton told Fisher, “It was nice. It was really impressive and the level of players he played with was impressive as well.”

Of the many things that stood out to the five-star power forward, Rock Oliver and UK’s strength and conditioning presentation was one of the most impactful. Hamilton said meeting with Rock and learning how he operates was one of the highlights of the visit.

Labissiere still has official visits scheduled for Tennessee and Baylor in early October, then an unofficial to Memphis around Halloween. He will make his decision some time shortly after that.

Fisher: Labissiere wraps up UK visit


There are FB Game Fights…and then There is This One

Bloody noses, stupid helmets, security guards trying to maintain order, women flipping out….this had it all

(h/t Deadspin)


How the UK recruits and commits fared: 9/19

Alex Stump

Damien Harris- Bye week.

Zy’Aire Hughes- Completed 9 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, and caught 9 passes for 67 yards in a 52-49 win over Southaven (MS).

Eli Brown- 7 rushes for 23 yards and 7 tackles in a 61-21 loss to Hopkinsville.

Jordan Jones- Helped Cardinal Mooney beat St. Vincent-St. Mary 35-10 on Friday.

CJ Conrad- Had two catches for 78 yards, a one-yard touchdown run, and a punt return for a touchdown in a 54-12 win over Clearview (OH).

Alex Stump- Had 11 receptions for 109 yards in a 21-14 loss to Elder (OH). He picked up an offer from his ‘dream school’ Ohio State over the weekend as well, so it should be interesting to watch and see if he ends up staying a Wildcat.

Keion Wakefield- Bye week.

Quinton Baker- 13 rushes for 77 yards in a 41-13 loss to Ironton (OH).

Jabari Greenwood- Plays against Good Counsel tonight (Olney, MD).

Darius Fullwood- Plays against Jabari Greenwood and Gonzaga tonight (Olney, MD).

Ryan Davis- Plays tonight at 7:30 pm at Gibbs (FL).

Drake Jackson- Bye week.


Tickets for the Blue-White scrimmage go on sale one week from today

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UK basketball fans, your attention please:

Tickets for this year’s Blue-White scrimmage go on sale Monday, September 29 at 9:00 am. Tickets will be available online through Ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Fans can also purchase tickets via the Rupp Arena Box Office at 859-233-3535 between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm or by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet across the state.

The cost of the tickets will be $10 for lower level and $5 for upper level, all reserved seating.

For you students out there, you may claim up to two free Erupption Zone tickets while they last. Go to the Joe Craft Center ticket office with a valid student ID to get yours on Monday.

The Blue-White scrimmage is scheduled for Monday, October 27 in Rupp Arena at 7:00 pm. It will be carried online through the SEC Network and WatchESPN.

Cats.


Coach Cal is excited and that makes BBN excited

vince-calipari

In a brief post on his website this afternoon, John Calipari recalled the “watershed moment” of 2010 when five of his UK players were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. “That stage changed me as a coach and changed the direction of the program,” Cal wrote.

Then he predicted another “watershed moment” ahead in his 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats:

If you wonder why everyone is panicked outside of the Big Blue Nation, why everyone is curious as to how we are going to make this work, why writers with agendas to another program or coach are pitting player against player, platoon vs. platoon, it’s because they are afraid of what could happen. They know that if this turns out the way they think it could, it becomes a watershed moment for college basketball. There will be no going back. No player will ever worry about who else is in the program or who may stay. They will know we have their best interests at heart.

In closing he wrote, “I am so excited to take on this challenge. I truly wake up every morning whistling and skipping for this season to begin.”

And spun around in his chair…

Read it here.

Never before has Cal been this excited to start a season, and that’s exciting for us, Big Blue Nation. He knows the talent he has on his roster and he’s ready to put them out there for everyone to see.