Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.
August 3rd, 2015

11 UK targets are playing on ESPNU tonight

What are you doing tonight? I know I mentioned it earlier, but don’t bother watching the replay of “Ballers.” It sucked. If you love high school basketball and consider yourself something of a scout, you should watch the adidas Nations games on ESPNU starting at 7 p.m. ET. Eleven players with offers from Kentucky will be playing in the two games.

At 7 p.m. ET, Team Lillard, featuring Gary Trent Jr. (2017), Xavier Tillman (2017), Jason LeDee (2018) will take on Team Africa, featuring Wenyen Gabriel. Gabriel is one of the hottest players on the circuit right now, and in turn, picked up an offer from John Calipari on July 26. He’s been on fire in the adidas Nations event so far.

The 9 p.m. game features two teams named after former Calipari point guards. Team Wall includes Udoka Azubuike, Markelle Fultz, and Dennis Smith, Jr. They’ll face Team Rose, which includes Edrice Adebayo, Jarrett Allen, Rawle Alkins, and Kobi Simmons.

So, watch that and then report back here tomorrow morning with a complete scouting report, okay?

Until then, enjoy Wenyen Gabriel showing out in front of Cal and others in Vegas last weekend:

Karl Towns signs with Nike

Karl Towns is joining a new family today: the Nike family. Nike Basketball just announced that Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the number two pick in the Draft, have signed on to the Nike roster. Nike sent out a press release with this very Karl-like Karl Towns quote about the addition:

“For me, the biggest thing is going to be making the playoffs with Minnesota after an 11-year drought. If I was blessed to be able to take them to the playoffs, that would be a big step in my career,” said Towns.

No word on if Karlito also received a contract, but he is enjoying some time with an old friend:


September, Kentucky’s latest most critical challenge

By year three, media types (me included) have declared numerous “most critical” scenarios for Mark Stoops. On three or four separate occasions we’ve proclaimed a game as “most critical”. I can also throw in four or five “most critical” recruits. In 2015, the latest development is the month of September. I won’t label it the most critical thirty days of the Stoops era, but the month’s four football Saturdays are darn important.

September 5th, Louisiana Lafayette

After stating that the Wildcats would be on week one upset alert, I’m now backing off such warnings. A little bit. I’m confident that the Ragin Cajuns would have waxed the Cats in 2013. Last year, the game would have been closer but I would have given ULL the slight edge. However, after diligently analyzing both teams while paying particularly close attention to returning personnel, I’ve concluded that ULL’s 2015 weaknesses are UK strengths.

During the new Commonwealth Stadium’s unveiling, ULL will sport seven new defensive starters. As customary, veteran Head Coach Mark Hudspeth will replenish his defense with experienced backups and JUCO reinforcements. But after losing both of its most effective pass rushers; two cornerbacks and linebackers, opening the season with a road SEC win is unlikely. Louisiana will also have to replace all-conference quarterback Terrance Broadway. Brooks Haack is the new starter and will be lined up behind a depth deficient offensive line. However, elite running back Elijah McGuire returns. He alone gives Hudspeth a constant touchdown threat. McGuire will be the most versatile running back that Kentucky will face. Coming off four consecutive 9-4 records and four bowl wins are impressive accomplishments regardless of conference.

In addition to the W/L column’s initial pencil mark, the Wildcats will need to excite an enthusiastic yet unconvinced fan base. For Kentucky, its opening performance must catapult the Wildcats into three difficult yet winnable SEC games. How UK plays in week one will provide a peek into how successfully it travels to Columbia.

September 12th, at South Carolina

Coming off a 2014 Lexington loss and an unaccustomed onslaught of doubters, Steve Spurrier will be eyeing revenge. Columbia is an extremely difficult venue, especially for Kentucky. The Gamecocks will be coming off a semi-rivalry game against North Carolina in Charlotte. If Spurrier loses to the Tar Heels, the UK game will then transition into a season saving, must-win affair. Carolina’s quarterback situation is undecided and fluid. That same unknown can also be applied to its defense that’s now led by veteran defensive coordinator Jon Hoke. Spurrier’s chips are all in on Hoke salvaging a defense that gave up several 2014 late leads and was absolutely embarrassed by Texas A&M. The Gamecock defense is talented, but not quite at the elite category we’ve grown accustomed to. Linebacker Skai Moore and defensive end Marquavious Lewis will lead a unit that will get a talent boost from the additions of junior college defensive linemen and Kansas safety transfer, Isiah Johnson. Schematically and personnel wise, South Carolina is a team lacking an identity. Offensively, tackle Brandon Shell and versatile athlete Pharoh Cooper will lead a group that now ironically relies on clock management and the power run game. The Head Ball Coach is far removed from his Florida Fun-n-Gun glory days. Two factors will give the Gamecocks a slight edge. First is the game’s geographical location. Second is the Legend of Steve Spurrier. Last year’s contest proved that the two team’s talent gap has closed. Once obviously favoring South Carolina, talent disparity is now a thing of the past.

September 19th, Florida

Quoting the great American lyricist Ryan Lemond, “everybody’s poo-poo’ing Florida.” The Gators will arguably bring the SEC’s best defensive secondary into Commonwealth Stadium. UF linebackers are also elite but both are coming off knee surgery. Oddly, the front four are considered the unit’s weakness. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor have lockdown ability. Hargreaves is considered the top CB in the country. Offense is where the mess lies. The Gators have quarterback uncertainty with questionable skill player support. Running back Kelvin Taylor returns as does 2014 Cat Killer WR DeMarcus Robinson. Florida desperately lacks offensive line depth and will rely on true freshmen at key positions. This game all of a sudden appears winnable. UF will have momentum. Its first two games are at home against putrid New Mexico State and a bowl game rematch vs. East Carolina. On a personal note, I’ve never liked Florida, at all. After more than my share of trips to the Swamp, if any SEC team deserves a dose of humility, it’s the Florida Gators. Opportunities like the one UK will have on September 19th don’t come around very often.

September 26th, Missouri

The habitually disrespected Missouri Tigers are well known for developing NFL defensive linemen. Last year, defensive ends Shane Ray and Marcus Golden wreaked havoc in opposing backfields. Both are now professionals. Pre-season sophomore All SEC defensive tackle Harold Brantley was unfortunately injured in an offseason car accident and is lost for the season. The incredibly talented defender will return in 16. In addition to Brantley, and following spring practice, promising sophomore defensive end Marcus Loud was dismissed from the team. The Mizzou defensive line will still be solid, but minus the aforementioned four, it is now less daunting. Offensively, Missouri returns its maverick quarterback, Maty Mauk. Statistically, Mauk won’t wow. However with a 14-4 record as a starter, all he seems to do is win. Dangerous running back, Russell Hansbrough, will join Mauk in the backfield. Missouri won’t scare easily. Even through personnel losses, the back to back SEC East Champions are formidable, but not unbeatable. Upon its Commonwealth Stadium visit, the Tigers will be 3-0.

I wanted to provide a brief overview of UK’s September opponents. Prior to each game, I’ll post a detailed yet understandable scouting report. The KSR crew will make their season predictions on a later date. But as you’ve read, I can confidently see Kentucky starting 3-1 or possibly even 4-0. Other than South Carolina, UK’s first four games will be categorized as a “pick’em” or at worst, slight underdogs vs. Florida and Missouri. Realistically I can also envision 1-3. History tells me that 2-2 is the month’s best case scenario.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, September is the most critical month of the 2015 season. Start hot, Cats are going bowling. Come out of the gate slow, the pressure to win six becomes burdensome. Due to its new offensive coordinator and rookie players filling key roles, Kentucky seasonal prognostications are virtually impossible. This especially applies to the junior college defensive linemen Alvonte Bell and Courtney Miggins situation. As of today, neither have reported to campus. That makes me incredibly uneasy. Ryan Flannigan showed us that late arriving JUCO players struggle in SEC adaptation. That’s why I’ve said that 2015 must be evaluated game by game. I’d rather prolong my Missouri guess but that wouldn’t be fun Kentucky goes 3-1 in September.

Za’Darius Smith will be featured in Esquire’s TV series “The Agent”

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.07.36 AM

Za’Darius Smith is busy turning heads at Baltimore Ravens’ training camp, but a week from tomorrow, he can add “TV star” to his resume.

Big Z will be featured on the Esquire Network’s new show “The Agent,” which premieres August 11th at 10 p.m. ET. The 10-part docuseries gives viewers an inside look at the world of high-profile NFL agents and their clients, including Sunny Shah, Jeff Guerriero, Peter Schaffer, and Ed Wasielewski. Guerriero is Za’Darius’ agent and their relationship will be featured in the series. Here’s a preview:

After “Ballers” turned in an absolute stinker of an episode last night, I’m willing to give “The Agent” a go.

Three football players got baptized yesterday

Yesterday was a big day for three big Kentucky football players. Sophomore tackle Kyle Meadows, freshman guard “Big George” Asafo-Adjei, and senior defensive end Farrington Huguenin were baptized by Aaron Hogue, and Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow were in attendance.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Nico Firios, former Cat Max Godby, and high-performance coach Erik Korem were also there, and shared these pictures:

Congrats to all three.

Three big football recruits are wrapping up visits today

You’re looking at 4-star ATH Joshua Paschal, 4-star RB Mohamed Ibrahim, and 3-star OLB/WR Ayinde Eley. All three 2017 recruits play for Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, and all three are wrapping up visits to Kentucky today.

Yesterday, the three players arrived and spent the evening taking about a million pictures in the UK locker room, trying on the various uniform combinations. It looks like they enjoyed themselves:

Nice sock game, Josh.

In 247 Sports’ 2017 Composite rankings, Ibrahim’s considered the 18th best running back, Paschal the 27th best athlete, and Eley the 71st best wide receiver. Hopefully redshirt freshman linebacker Kobie Walker, a fellow Good Counsel alum, showed them a good time.

Keep an eye on Paschal today in particular. He’s the brother of former Cat TraVaughn Paschal, so this isn’t his first trip to Lexington. By all accounts, it may not be his last, either.

KSR is at Chaney’s Dairy Barn in Bowling Green (Monday Show Thread)

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio, which is coming to you live from Chaney’s Dairy Barn in Bowling Green. People have been lined up outside since 7 a.m. CT for today’s show, which promises to be a great one. Tune in to hear Matt and Ryan recap Fancy Farm, Aussie big man Isaac Humphries, a potentially big day in football recruiting, and much more.

If you’re in the area, come on out for the chance to win tickets from and to see Ryan and Shannon face off in a milking contest after the show. If you’re there, please take pictures and videos to share with the rest of us.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.

Listen to Kentucky Sports Radio

Here’s an updated list of tour stops:

August 3: Bowling Green – Chaney’s Dairy Barn
August 4: McKee – Old Courthouse Community Room
August 5: Glasgow – Papa John’s
August 6: Jamestown – Lawless-Smith True Value and Appliance Center (Russell Springs)
August 7: Monticello – Conley Bottom Resort

August 10: Frankfort – Governor’s Mansion
August 11: Maysville – Laurel Oaks Golf Course
August 12: Danville – Sun Tropic Outdoors
August 13: Lexington – All Sports at Fayette Mall
August 14: Louisville

gotc-ksr is giving away UK basketball and football tickets at every tour stop this summer. That’s 33 chances to win, and all you have to do is come out to listen to your favorite radio show. That’s so easy even Ryan Lemond could do it!

BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: 2016 Football Roster As It Stands Now


I know many of you are going to look at this post and immediately say “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT SEASON BTI!!!”.  Quite honestly, I look ahead to next season because that is what we do with basketball and that is what elite programs in both sports should do.  You are always planning for your present but also with an eye on the future.  So excuse me for doing what we do with basketball year-round.

Here is where the 2016 UK football scholarship roster currently stands with those players committed.  For the 2015 incoming freshman, I assumed all will be redshirted unless they are on the 2-deep depth chart released at the beginning of the month.

Those in RED would be projected as returning starters in 2016
Those in BLUE are Class of 2016 commits

Seniors: Patrick Towles (RS)
Juniors: Reese Phillips (RS)
Sophomores: Drew Barker (RS)
Freshmen: Gunnar Hoak

Seniors: JoJo Kemp
Juniors: Boom Williams, Mikel Horton
Freshmen: Sihiem King (RS), Asim Rose, Benny Snell

Seniors: Ryan Timmons
Juniors: Garrett Johnson, Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, T.V. Williams, Alex Montgomery (RS), Jeff Badet (RS), Kayaune Ross
Sophomores: Thaddeus Snodgrass (RS)
Freshmen: Tavin Richardson (RS), Therrell Gosier (RS), Jabari Greenwood (RS), Dakota Holtzclaw, Za’Aire Hughes

Junior: Greg Hart (RS)
Sophomores: C.J. Conrad, Darryl Long (RS)
Freshmen: Justin Rigg

Juniors: Kyle Meadows (RS), Tate Leavitt
Sophomores: Nick Richardson (RS)
Freshmen: Mason Wolfe (RS), Logan Stenberg (RS), Levon Livingston (RS), Calvin Taylor (RS), Landon Young

OFFENSIVE GUARD (4, Cole Mosier-walk-on)
Juniors: Ramsey Myers (RS), Nick Haynes (RS)
Sophomores: Jarrett LaRubbio (RS), George Asafo-Adjei

Seniors: Jon Toth (RS), Zach Myers (RS)
Sophomores: Bunchy Stallings (RS)
Freshman: Luke Fortner, Drake Jackson


Seniors: Courtney Miggins (RS)
Juniors: Reggie Meant (RS), Matt Elam, Jacob Hyde (RS)
Sophomores: Adrian Middleton (RS), Tymere Dubose (RS)
Freshmen: Javon Provitt (RS), Ja’Quize Cross, Kordell Looney, Kobe Smith

Seniors: Jason Hatcher, Alvonte Bell
Sophomores: Denzil Ware (RS)
Freshmen: Kenegra Daniel (RS), Jaylen Bannerman

Junior: Courtney Love
Sophomores: Nico Firios (RS), Dorian Hendrix (RS), Kobie Walker (RS)
Freshmen: Eli Brown (RS), Jordan Jones (RS), Josh Allen (RS), Kash Daniel, Roland Waller

Seniors: Blake McClain, JD Harmon (RS), Jaleel Hytchye
Juniors: Kendall Randolph
Sophomores: Jared Tucker (RS)
Freshmen: Chris Westry (RS), Kei Beckham (RS), Derrick Baity (RS), Will Jackson (RS), Marcus Walker (RS), Tobias Gilliam, Jordan Griffin, Davonte Robinson

Seniors: Marcus McWilson, Zack Blaylock (RS)
Sophomores: Mike Edwards (RS), Darius West (RS)

Austin MacGinnis (RS Junior)
Grant McKinnis (Freshman)


Mitch McConnell’s Monday Morning Wakeup


I know it’s not sports and the mere mention of politics drives some folks insane in here, but I couldn’t let the experience of this past weekend go by without one mention by me on here. The time as MC of Fancy Farm this weekend was one of the cooler things I have done. It is a scene unlike any other, with people in the crowd amped up about politics and ready to scream their lungs out for their candidates. As a speaker, I must tell you that it was the hardest crowd I have ever been in front of. People are yelling at you and if you say something they don’t like (which is impossible not to do when you are making jokes about the candidates), they yell. However it was very cool and quite an honor to be a part of. The picture above is that of Mitch McConnell as I began telling a few of my jokes about him…he didn’t seem to happy with me and I would think it is likely an audit is coming my way in the relatively near future. I know to some all mention of politics are treason, but for those of us that are a part of this site, we write also about our lives. And Saturday was a very cool day for me…plus Drew is going to mock everything in a post in the next day or two and I have a feeling it will be brilliant.

With that, some thoughts for the morning:

— The big news of the weekend is Isaac Humphries and the possibility of him joining the UK Basketball team this fall. I wrote more about this earlier (just scroll down), but the main thing to remember is this. An addition of Humphries is important for this year but also for the future. Calipari really likes this kid and the UK staff believes he can develop into a player. He will give them minutes this year, but his most important role will be potentially the next season. He still must get eligible however and until that happens, his announcement for the team will not be official.

— The 2016 class as a whole is starting to take more shape for Kentucky. I am starting to hear a lot of buzz about De’Aaron Fox as potentially the next recruit with major Kentucky interest. A couple of national recruiting guys switched their pick to UK this weekend (which matters), but I think much more important is the way the UK staff is moving in on him. He, like some of the other top guys in this class, has risen through the summer and has seen his interest from UK rise accordingly. He can get to the basket and reminds me a bit of Brandon Knight, not so much in look but in style of play. He would be a great get in a class full of very good point guards.

Football Camp starts this week…and the guys are very excited. There is an excitement about the team by the kids in the program that is really fun to watch. They are all chomping at the bits to get on the field and the momentum of the last few weeks around UK football is enthralling. There are a number of questions on defense but I truly believe the offense is scheduled to absolutely take off this year in every way possible. For me it all comes down to Patrick Towles and everything I hear suggests that he is ready to take control and make a big step up this year. If he does, the Cats will score a lot of points.

— Quick question for everyone…if Kentucky football improves and the schedule can improve accordingly, which major opponent besides Louisville would you want to see on the schedule? It is an interesting question and one that could come into play as the schedule gets made for 2017 and beyond.

The day will continue today with a lot of football news as the players start to get ready for the season…Media Day is Friday so get ready for the football fix to continue. The KSR Tour heads to Bowling Green at Chaney’s Dairy Barn. Ryan is going to milk a cow and we are going to talk about Humphries and behind the scenes at Fancy Farm…should be fun.

August 2nd, 2015

Freddie Maggard shares Hall of Fame career memories

John Henson at the Harlan Daily Enterprise put together a nice piece on former UK quarterback, KSR contributor and recent inductee to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Freddie Maggard.

The article includes memories of Maggard’s career at Cumberland High School in Harlan County where he garnered 12 varsity letters in three sports and led the Cumberland football team to two state championship game appearances all while garnering All-State honors as a quarterback and defensive back in 1986.

Not content to just be a football star, Maggard was a four-year starter and All-State selection as a pitcher and center fielder for the Cumberland High School baseball team.  He posted a 28-1 record, a .400 career batting average and led Cumberland to three consecutive regional championships.

Maggard talks about his time at UK and the tough decision of choosing between baseball, where he had been drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1986, and football at Kentucky.

“I earned my starting position, but then I had my first shoulder injury and missed baseball, and then it was over. What drove me to UK is that I grew up in Kentucky, the university offered me a free education to play football and it was my obligation to play at the university. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but that’s what I thought.”

Maggard said his intent with the Hall of Fame was to pay respect to the community and people who had gotten him to that point.

“I felt uncomfortable receiving an individual award for something I thought should have been presented to the community, but it was humbling and a great experience, something I will never forget. It’s an award and honor I will cherish the rest of my life.”

It was an award well-deserved Mr. Maggard.

You can read the full article here.

Isaac Humphries…the Big Man We Have Been Waiting For


It of course had to happen on Friday night. While I was in the far Western part of Kentucky for Fancy Farm, eating with the KSR crew at Patti’s Settlement (which is really, really good), the news that we have hinted at for a number of weeks finally broke. Kentucky is looking to add big man Isaac Humphries to the 2015 class to join the team this year. Many were surprised by the news, but those that listen to KSR were not. I have been hinting for 6 weeks that it was coming because this has been in the works for UK since the last two big men that UK was interested in for the 2015 class (Caleb Swanigan and Check Diallo) made decisions to go elsewhere. The Cats decided that Humphries, a talented big man that was initially supposed to be in the 2016 class, would be a good addition to this year and pay dividends for next, while not scaring off any top recruits. Plus, there was the added benefit of keeping the news relatively silent for a long time, thus not allowing other schools to come after him once they knew he was interested in reclassifying. It was, and is, a win-win.

Since the announcement, I have seen some UK fans online complaining that they don’t think Humphries is good enough or the signing doesn’t make sense, all the while having never watched him play one game ever. That is of course an idiotic and uninformed opinion. If you haven’t at this point learned to give Calipari a little benefit of the doubt, you never will. Here is the thinking behind adding Humphries from UK’s side…the Australian is a big guy that the Cats see as a meaty body for this year, who can develop into a Jorts-like contributor in the second year. They like the talent that he has and his ability to shoot and rebound. While the 2016 class is loaded with perimeter players and long athletes that can fly, true big men aren’t in high abundance. Calipari knows he will lose Skal and Poythress this year and realizes he could lose Marcus Lee depending on how things go. While Kentucky will likely get Sacha Killeya-Jones and likely one more big man, having Humphries allows a top 50 talent who can develop and be very good over time. That is a win-win. Plus, Isaac is tough and on a team this year that may lack a little toughness (outside of Tyler Ulis), that is a very valuable commodity.

It is important to note however that Humphries is not yet eligible to play at Kentucky this year. Since the decision to reclassify was made late, he has had to take a number of classes to get eligible for next year and that process has not been completed. It will not be done for the next 2 weeks or so and that is partially why the news had not been leaked. It came out this weekend after he visited while camps were in town and because he was with Jamal Murray a great deal (they are friends from various international events). Before everyone assumes he is on the team, this process has to finish and he has to actually get eligible.

I see the addition of Humphries as a great one for UK…he provides a big body for this year and has a chance to develop into a very good player. Calipari isn’t out for charity cases…this is a Top 50 talent who is VERY big while also being skilled. It is another late grab for Kentucky from Calipari and one that I think will be big both this year, and in the future.

A Moment of Zen: How Matt Jones’ Jon Stewart Turn Brought Fresh Air to the Hot Air of Fancy Farm

While the first Saturday in May presents Kentucky to the world in its most luxuriously resplendent garb, the first Saturday in August casts a truer light on our Commonwealth and what our politics has come to be.

Fancy Farm weekend, named after the tiny, far-western Kentucky hamlet in which St. Jerome’s Catholic Church hosts the “world’s largest one-day barbecue,” represents politics at its very best, or at least the way we’d like to remember it.  While the picnic is the main feature, for the past few decades, a full weekend’s worth of satellite activities have sprouted up all over the Jackson Purchase: meet and greets, watermelon smashes, bean suppers, country ham and egg breakfasts, even skeet-shooting competitions. There’s plenty of hand shaking and baby kissing and bear hugging and back slapping and tall-tale telling. Most importantly, it’s the only weekend of the year that the state’s most remote region receives the full attention of the big-city slickers, power-wielding politicos and hangers-on, as well the budget-depleted Frankfort press corps.

Unfortunately, when the main speaking event begins on Saturday at 2 p.m., we sometimes see politics at its very worst.  Many years, Fancy Farm becomes a hyper-partisan, name-calling screaming match, a microcosm of everything Americans hate about politics.  During key election cycles, even before the headlining speakers clear their throats, the furious chanting, the blindly acid-laced yelling begins in full force, unleashing vocal abuse on partisan enemies. As an eight-time veteran of that stage, I can witness that the noise is so intense that it becomes nearly impossible to hear yourself speak. (Check out this 2003 clip in which this soft-spoken Jewish pischer was transformed into Elmer Gantry.)

This year’s version did not veer far from the script, although it seemed a bit tamer than usual, perhaps because the speechifying was so predictable.  Every Democrat called out GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin for his mendaciousness, usually culling quotes from Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2014 campaign against him. (“East Coast con man” and “pathological liar” headlined the party’s talking points.) Meanwhile, every Republican made sure to mention President Barack Obama’s name at least in every third sentence when describing the policies of the Democrats’ standard bearer, Attorney General Jack Conway, or the rest of his ticket.

But for a ten minute oasis at the top of the program — usually reserved for patriotic platitudes and bland historical remembrances — Fancy Farm was actually fun.  The jokes were actually funny.  And Kentucky’s favorite sports broadcaster — previously termed a motley amalgam of Bill Simmons, Keith Olberman and Howard Stern — morphed into a Bluegrass version of Jon Stewart.

Not all of Fancy Farm host Matt Jones’ jokes succeeded. (His standard bit about Rick Pitino lasting for 15 seconds was a bit too blue for the family-friendly church grounds.)  But his incisive satire, softened by good-natured humor and near-perfect comedic timing, was often both cleverly thought-provoking and LOL funny.  Jones landed jabs against the state’s leading Republicans, teasing McConnell for his discomfort with Bevin, Bevin for his resume fabrication, and Senator Rand Paul for his absence, peculiarly in light of his flailing presidential bid. Democrats too felt his friendly wrath: Conway for his 2009 Fancy Farm outburst, Governor Steve Beshear for his un-Democratic-like record, and Secretary of State Alison Lundgeran Grimes for her continued unwillingness to admit that she voted for Obama.  As usual, Jones’ jokes revolved around a familiar theme: that politics has become a game a verbal dodgeball; as campaigners blow hot air while avoiding the tough questions, the people lose. (Watch the whole thing here.)

Most impressively, Jones owned the Fancy Farm stage — more than any of the powerful and prominent figures that I’ve seen take that mike.  With his imposing frame, booming voice, and celebrity countenance, he was able to quiet the raucous chanters dexterously with clever quips or smiling pleas.  He elicited a rare, moving, bi-partisan moment when he elegantly introduced the GOP’s Lieutenant Governor nominee Jenean Hampton as history’s first woman of color to address the picnic.  And while some may have blanched when he all-too-familiarily referred to a presidential candidate as “Rand” and the second most powerful pol in the country as “Mitch,” I found it a refreshingly populist note amidst a crowd that often takes itself far too seriously.

Make no mistake: Matt Jones is my friend, and he pays me to write this column. (Although he never edits me or tells me what to write.)  But the very reason that I step out of my comfort zone on a weekly basis to share my pointy-headed thoughts to a rowdy KSR nation was on display yesterday afternoon in Graves County.  By stepping out of his comfort zone to discuss  politics instead of sports, Jones is not just simply opening up the public square to a new generation of Kentuckians who have eschewed our mainstream political media.  More significantly, Jones’ persistent scolding of pols to answer his questions — to quit the spin, to cut the crap — is injecting a desperately needed virtue back into our political dialogue: honesty.  And he’s doing it at a time when many Americans are so ravenous for pols to tell it like it is that they’re either falling for false prophets like Donald Trump, or abandoning politics all together.

Matt Jones calls himself an entertainer, not a journalist, and he’s the first to concede his biases. (He may be the only person ever to admit to voting for Barack Obama from the Fancy Farm stage.)  But as he dips his toes into the political waters, he’s providing a unique platform where Kentuckians can actually have an unfiltered, brutally honest, and often engaging discussion about the issues that really matter.  And that really does represent politics at its very best.

American Pharoah wins Haskell

Danny Johnston, AP

Danny Johnston, AP

The horse that gained fame as the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years has one his eighth race in a row. During his first time out since winning the Triple Crown, American Pharoah easily glided past competitors Keen Ice and Upstart to win the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in New Jersey.

American Pharoah won by three-lengths in one minute and 47.8 seconds, but analysts say it could’ve been more had jockey Victor Espinoza not reigned the eager Pharoah in.

After American Pharoah’s win today, owner Ahmed Zayat addressed the cheering fans of the horse saying, “So grateful for all of you; it’s your horse.”

Trainer Bob Baffert said they haven’t decided if American Pharoah will race again and that they will evaluate the horse after today’s win.

If they do decide to race the champion, it will be lucrative.

The New York Racing Association announced Saturday that it would raise the purse for its Travers Stakes to $1.6 million if American Pharoah joined the race on August 29.

American Pharoah has earned more than $5.5 million so far in his career including today’s purse of $1.05 million.

Way to make Kentucky proud, American Pharoah!


The burn is strong with Matt Jones


In case you missed it, Matt Jones was on fire yesterday at Fancy Farm.

Being the generous guy he is, Matt left no one out in his speech at Fancy Farm. He took no prisoners: including Mitch McConnell, guberanatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Jack Conway, Rand Paul, Richie Farmer, Rick Pitino, Allison Lundergan-Grimes, and even the Governor himself. With his signature hand moves, he delivered burn after burn.

Matt had numerous jokes for his #1 fan McConnell, including my personal favorite around the 9-minute mark:

“I hear that after Mitch speaks he leaves. So when he leaves, you might have 99 problems, but a Mitch ain’t one.” 

Be sure to pause at the 3:22 mark for McConnell’s death ray stare at Matt.

KSR posted it earlier, but here is the video of Matt’s interview with KET before the event. Matt talks about why he doesn’t consider himself a journalist, the need to discourage long-winded callers and not making his mom mad during his speech.

Great job, Matt! I can’t wait for the gubernatorial debate on KSR, hopefully their will be more jokes about Conway’s perfect coif and Bevin’s educational pursuits.


Dawson ready to bring the speed


Fall camp begins for Kentucky football later this week and there is one word on UK Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson’s mind: Speed.

“I can get that fast stuff taught in the fall very easily,” Dawson said. “We’re going to go fast. There’s no doubt about it.”

Dawson told the Lexington Herald-Leader he will be ratcheting up the tempo on the offensive end, by implementing the quick attack he had in place at his previous schools. Dawson’s Mountaineer offense was one of the quickest in the nation and he hopes to bring that speed to Commonwealth Stadium.

Dawson’s offenses have averaged 76.7 plays per game, which is nearly two more plays per game than Neal Brown’s ideal pace of 75 plays per game. Dawson says he is shooting for 85 plays per game.

Which might sound like a stretch, after all, Kentucky’s average last season was 70.8 plays per game, but Dawson has come close before. The offensive coordinator was able to get West Virginia up to 84.4 plays per game last season.

Couple that information with reports of QB’s Patrick Towles and Drew Barker fairly smooth transition from Brown to Dawson, and the Kentucky offense may have a few more tricks up their sleeves this season.

Are you ready for the fast lane?