Part one in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats. Barring →
By Duncan Cavanah on ©8:00 pm
Part one in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats.
Barring something unforeseen, neither of the gentlemen pictured above will start at quarterback.
We’ve almost made it, Cat fans. We’ve successfully navigated through the doldrums of the Kentucky sports calendar, and now stand at the precipice of football season. Fall camp is less than a week away, and year two of the Mark Stoops Kentucky rejuvenation project hits Commonwealth Stadium in just one month. Here to greet this glorious time of year is the annual Kentucky Sports Radio position by position preview, an eight part series breaking down each position group on the Wildcat roster. We know you are anxious to hear about the punters, but we’re saving that preview to the end to allow the tension to build. Instead, we’ll start with quarterbacks.
Patrick Towles 6-5, 238 So. Ft. Thomas, KY (Highlands)
Towles made a strong impression in the Spring after appearing to be the odd man out in 2013, when he was beaten out by both Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Towles redshirted in 2013, and rededicated himself to the fundamentals, in part through the employment of private quarterback coaches in the off-season. This work appears to have paid off. Towles was named the starting quarterback for the Spring Game, and appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for the position going into Fall camp. Of the likely candidates for the job, Towles is the only player with collegiate playing experience, though that initial foray into college football was largely forgettable, having completed 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman in 2012. Towles has always possessed the physical tools, as indicated by his stellar high school career. Towles went 38-1 as a starter for the powerful Highland Bluebirds, including three consecutive state titles. He compiled 7400 passing yards and 73 passing touchdowns as well as 1700 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns in a high school career that culminated with the Mr. Football Award in 2011.
Reese Phillips 6-2, 218 Fr.-RS Signal Mountain, TN
Despite being far and away the least heralded of the contenders for the Kentucky quarterback position, Phillips nearly worked his way onto the field as a true freshman in 2013. Having graduated high school a semester early, Phillips immediately impressed coaches with his cool demeanor and accuracy in the Spring of 2013. As injuries mounted at the position last Fall, coaches seriously considered throwing Phillips into the fire, but decided it was in the best interest of Phillips and the program to preserve his redshirt season. Phillips was twice named all state in the volunteer state, before escaping over the wall designed to keep out all of the haters and snitches. Phillips will go into Fall camp competing with Towles and Barker for the starting job.
Drew Barker 6-3, 216 Fr.-HS Burlington, KY (Conner)
Barker gave himself a legitimate shot at the starting quarterback position by enrolling in January so that he could participate in the conditioning program and compete in Spring Practice. Undoubtedly one of Mark Stoops’ biggest achievements to date as the Wildcat coach was the signing of Barker, an Elite 11 quarterback and four star prospect. As a three year starter at Conner, Barker threw for over 6000 yards and 62 touchdowns, and rushed for over 3900 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Maxwell Smith 6-4, 238 Jr. Granada Hills, CA
Smith’s status is up in the air following off-season shoulder surgery. However, he is throwing at this point, and has been told by coaches he will have the opportunity to compete if healthy. “If healthy” is a significant qualification for Smith, who has actually been quite capable in those rare moments that he has been able to avoid injury. Smith has played in 21 games in his Kentucky career, starting 11. In that game action, he has thrown for over 3000 yards and 21 touchdowns compared to just 9 interceptions. Unfortunately, his best football took place early in his Kentucky career, as witnessed by his 2011 Freshman All SEC designation, before a multitude of injuries hampered his effectiveness.
Unfortunately, I do not think that Maxwell Smith is a viable option at this point. If fully healthy, I truly believe that Smith has ideal tools to be an excellent option in the Air Raid Offense. Having said that, by the end of last season, it appeared his arm was held to his torso by bailing twine. And though he admirably fought through it without complaint, and without much help from his supporting cast I might add, it seems too much to ask for him to overtake three talented, and healthy, quarterbacks in the Fall.
The resulting three man race is difficult to call with any real certainty, as there is a valid argument to be made for each candidate. Each brings something unique to the table. If you combined the three together, you’d get former ‘Cat Jared Lorenzen. (I kid, Jared. Don’t hurt me.) If you combined the three in something other than mass, the resulting player would be something pretty special. Towles possesses all of the measurable qualities. With his 6-5 height and broad shoulders, he looks like an NFL quarterback. He also has the strongest arm of the candidates. Phillips has the accuracy that Neal Brown craves. Brown has stated many times that accuracy is the single most important characteristic for a quarterback to possess in his version of the Air Raid. Barker has that certain air of leadership and star power that Kentucky has not enjoyed at the most important of positions since the days of Tim Couch. Because the technology necessary to combine these players to form one megaback will likely not be available by the August 30 opener, Stoops will have to make the call.
The best case scenario appears to be for Towles to win the job. He is the most experienced, in his third year in the program, and appears to have reached the point in which his preparation and devotion to the craft have equaled his raw ability. Towles has the arm strength to make all of the throws necessary for opponents to have to cover the entire field, as evidenced by the 15 yard outs he zipped routinely in the Spring Game. Towles’ emergence will have the added benefit of allowing Barker to redshirt. Though fans are understandably excited about Barker, and many will be impatient to see him on the field, success at the highest level of Division One football as a true freshman quarterback is a rarity. (Like a Louisville fan with a job.) Allowing Barker a year to get stronger and perfect his understanding of the offense would be a tremendous luxury. It would also grant another year for Stoops, Marrow and company to fill the offense with weapons for his disposal once he is ready to take over the position, whenever that may be. Phillips would appear to be an ideal backup. Brown stated that he was both the most accurate passer and most consistent performer over the Spring, though his ceiling may not quite reach the peak level of either Barker or Towles. These qualities will serve Phillips well as a dependable backup to Towles in 2014.
By Drew Franklin on ©6:30 pm
“I know how good he’s going to be,” Durant said of Davis after today’s USA Basketball practice. “I know how good he is now, but I know how good he’s going to be. He’s an MVP-caliber player. So he’s next. He’s next in line – a guy that has grown so much in just a year. I’m excited to see what he does from here. He’s definitely on pace.”
Davis, who is almost a lock to make the team, said Durant’s comments push him to work even harder.
Maybe someone should push him toward a haircut.
By Courtney Sealey on ©5:30 pm
With day one complete of Team USA basketball training, Cousins is feeling good about his chances to stay on the roster.
“I think I’m a lot more prepared this season, and like I said, I came here to work. We’re getting after it every day here. We have to learn the system and prepare fast. Once you get out here and the pace picks up and you have to defend on this end, it’s tough, It will get better as the week goes on.”
According to Steven Wilson, a writer for the Kings, Cousins made an apparent impact on the team by diving for ball, defending the guards, hustling down court and boxing out for rebounds. It isn’t all work for Cousins, however. He also gets to play with his Kentucky friend, Anthony Davis.
After the practice session was over, Cousins stayed behind with Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Gordon Hayward and Stephen Curry to see whose shot was the best. Cousins finished third, but told Wilson he was happy with the outcome by saying “Im not going to take it as a negative thing, I’m just going to take it as I’m the third best shooter in the gym.”
You can read the full interview, and watch video interviews from Davis and Cousins, here.
By Matt Jones on ©4:37 pm
This one is pretty awesome. The 2013-2014 season in review…complete with music, highlights and a Chester call for the ages. Check it out…you will love it from UKCatFan8
By Drew Franklin on ©4:00 pm
Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee tweeted a picture of DJ Q’s setup in Louisville’s locker room for today’s workout. Coach McGee said, “It’s gonna get crazy in the weight room this evening.”
DJ Q is known for getting it crazy, no doubt. You may have seen his last two performances: “Summer Jump-Off” at Las Margaritas in Radcliff, Ky (featuring the Coke Boys); and at Horseshoe Casino (Deck 2) last month.
It’s gonna get sooooo crazy up in there.
Can UofL do anything without a DJ???
By Drew Franklin on ©3:00 pm
Our good friend Evan Daniels over at Scout.com recapped the July recruiting storylines on his website today and Evan’s report confirms what we’ve heard all summer: Jaylen Brown will decide early.
Brown’s AAU coach, Ryan Falker, told Evan, “He’ll definitely decide in the first period.”
Kentucky currently leads with 40 percent of Brown’s Crystal Ball predictions, slightly ahead of UCLA’s 32 percent. But Brown recently told a UCLA beat reporter “there may be some truth” to the rumors he is leaning toward becoming a Bruin. Of course, he may same the same thing about Kentucky if asked by a UK beat reporter, so read into that however you’d like.
Regardless of his current leader(s), Brown will visit UCLA next week and has plans to check out Kentucky and Kansas before coming to a decision.
For more on Brown and the July recruiting period, check out Evan’s wrap-up here.
By Drew Franklin on ©2:00 pm
The Kentucky Sports Radio crew enjoyed its first trip to Northern Kentucky for Tuesday morning’s show, live from Dickmann’s. As you can see, Dickmann’s has a staff that is second to none. They are very, um, very photogenic. And smokin’ hot.
As for the show, it included great interviews with Jeff Piecoro and Jon Rothstein, plus entertaining play-by-play commentary from Matt and Shannon The Dude as Ryan Lemond tried to run his way through the arm wrestling gauntlet. He even took down two women at once, something we never thought we’d say about Ryan.
Listen to both hours of the show below:
And if you’re in a hurry to hear Rothstein’s interview about Monday’s UK basketball practice, it can be heard here:
Other small and tidbits from the first part of the day:
– Following up what he said to Rothstein during their Q&A session, John Calipari told Mike DeCourcy the sole reason he turned down NBA offers was because of the players coming back. “If I came back after the date and left … tough move,” he said. “If it was your son, how would you feel? ‘That rat, we could have left, why didn’t he tell us?’”
– USA Basketball announced its 12-man U17 roster from the 33-man tryout and nine of the 12 have offers to play at UK. They are Ivan Rabb, Malik Newman, Diamond Stone, Henry Ellenson, and Caleb Swanigan of the 2015 class, plus Jayson Tatum, Tyus Battle, VJ King and Harry Giles of the 2016 class. Malik Monk, one of the hottest names in the July recruiting period, did not make the squad.
– The Denver Broncos put a microphone on former UK star Danny Trevathan during Monday’s practice. Listen to Trevathan get Mic’d Up here. It sure would be nice to have a guy like Trevathan at linebacker in Lexington this upcoming season. Or anyone close to his ability, for that matter.
– Hey, Lexington… Julius Randle will be signing autographs at Wildcat Wearhouse in Fayette Mall tonight from 7 to 8 pm. Stop by and see him before he heads off to Los Angeles to get ready to start his rookie season.
That’ll do it for now. More throughout the day.
By Drew Franklin on ©1:00 pm
We’re going to have to put Jon Rothstein on the payroll if he continues to churn out exclusive content at the rate he has over the past 24 hours. This morning, Rothstein followed up his KSR interview with a Q&A session with John Calipari for CBSSports.com. It is very wordy, so I’ll share with you an excerpt before sending you on your way to take it all in yourself.
Here, check out this little bit about whether or not the returning players impacting his decision to turn down the NBA:
It had to do with me getting them more prepared. So now you have four kids who said they need us and me to prepare them for the rest of their lives. If I came back after that and left, it’s a tough move. That was solely the reason. Now people are saying that I’ll never leave here. You know what, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be in this position every year. I’ll be happy as hell if that happens, because that means my team comes back. And then when you have guys say that I’m going to leave, my thing is, ‘If you were offered X amount of dollars, would you leave?’ And I stayed.
Cal also talks in length about the title game; the rivalry with Louisville; expectations for the Harrison twins; this year’s depth across the board; and the hardest part about coaching at Kentucky. Check it out.
By Drew Franklin on ©12:15 pm
You’ve briefly seen the work when passing by on Nicholasville Road, now see it from the sky in this video from Bell Engineering. It was recorded a couple of weeks ago so progress is even further along today.
By Drew Franklin on ©11:32 am
After sitting in on Kentucky basketball’s Monday practice, CBSSports’ Jon Rothstein was a guest on KSR this morning to elaborate on some of the things he tweeted yesterday about the Cats.
The first order of business was responding to his prediction of Marcus Lee in the starting five, to which he admitted he tends to lean toward returning players over incoming freshmen. “I still think it remains to be seen which bigs can play together for Kentucky,” he said. “The surplus of bigs Kentucky has is unlike any other frontcourt in college basketball this season and probably any other frontcourt college basketball has seen in quite some time.”
Rothstein then went on to rave about Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, UK’s three participating freshmen, plus Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, the projected 11th and 12th guys in the rotation. I transcribed his comments for you below, because I’m a nice guy…
“I gotta tell you, the buzz, I think outside the Kentucky program, isn’t really palpable right now surrounding Karl Towns, but inside Kentucky’s program, the buzz is beyond palpable. And the different thing about Karl Towns versus other big men that have played for Kentucky is he has the ability to extend the defense from the four or the five spot. He’s a skilled big man that’s going to bring the opponent’s four or five away from the basket — like a Frank Kaminsky, like a Walter Pitchford who excelled this past year for Nebraska. So it’s a different type of look for Kentucky and — I tweeted this and I said it because I just made the parallel during practice — he’s a little bit like how Channing Frye was when Channing Frye was at Arizona and how he’s been in the NBA: a nice pick-and-pop threat from the four or the five spot.”
“I was really impressed with Tyler Ulis’ ability to read situations within the defense. He’s different in the sense that he is a table-setter; he is going to be the person that gets people baskets. And one thing I think is really going to stand out for Kentucky fans: Tyler Ulis knows how to read the defense in-between the three-point line and the foul line. He knows where to pick his spots — whether it’s better to use a lob for a big man, whether it’s better to just pull up and take a shot from in-between the foul line and three-point line. His feel and ability to shoot the basketball I think are beyond what people would expect.”
“I don’t think there is anybody, in the gym yesterday or from what I’ve heard throughout the summer, that is shooting the basketball better than Devin Booker. It’s going to be really tough to keep him off the floor. You know, teams are probably going to try and zone Kentucky this season to slow them down because of their size and athletic ability; you won’t be able to zone Kentucky if Devin Booker is on the floor.”
“I gotta tell you this, there are probably 50 to 70 BCS programs that Derek Willis would start for right now.”
“Nik Stauskas was slicing up Kentucky like a side of fries in the regional final last year — he had 18 points in the first half — and John Calipari’s decision to put Dominique Hawkins on Nik Stauskas in the second half changed the game. I don’t think, without Dominique Hawkins, Kentucky goes to the Final Four. And Dominique Hawkins, I can tell you this, is a better offensive player than he was at the end of last season.”
Exciting stuff from Rothstein on the younger Cats. The entire interview will be available a little later on the site when the podcast is uploaded.
By Drew Franklin on ©10:51 am
James Young is in Lexington for John Calipari’s ProCamp this morning and he took a break from beating kids in Knockout to chat with the local media. He kept his answers short and sweet, as he always does, but Jerry Tipton has some interesting stuff from Young about handling lofty expectations at UK.
Young said he would tell this team to drown out the undefeated hype: “Don’t listen to it. We kind of listened to it last year and it kind of got to us,” he said. “We had an up-and-down season. Leave the media stuff alone and stay focused.”
“It was just so big for everybody; it was just everywhere,” he added.
Speaking of, did you see where Hooter’s Casino in Las Vegas has UK at 50/1 to go undefeated?
I’m holding out for better odds.
By Drew Franklin on ©10:31 am
When Alfonso Smith played his final down for the Kentucky football team in 2009, very few people, if any, had any idea he had a realistic future in the NFL. But here we are, four and a half years later, and Alfonso Smith is the newest member of the San Francisco 49ers.
The product of Louisville’s Waggener High School announced his signing with the Super Bowl contender on Instagram last night. He spent his first four seasons in the league with the Arizona Cardinals, where he rushed for two touchdowns.
At Kentucky, Smith’s single season high in rushing was 313 yards. He played a secondary role behind Derrick Locke in the UK field during his junior and senior seasons.
Smith joins fellow Wildcat and San Francisco newcomer Stevie Johnson in the 49ers offense.
By Drew Franklin on ©9:55 am
KSR listeners were lined up early outside of Dickmann’s in Northern Kentucky for this morning’s tour stop, the only stop where we do not have a radio affiliate. (Hopefully that will soon change.)
Matt and Ryan are now on the stage with their microphones and ready to kick off Tuesday’s show in front of a rowdy crowd of Cats fans. Stop by if you’re in the area for a shot at UK basketball tickets or a spot in the drawing for the Bahamas.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.
KSR Affiliate List
WBGN (1340am): Bowling Green
WAIN (93.9fm): Columbia
WHIR (1230am): Danville
WCLU (1490am): Glasgow
WGOH (1370am): Grayson
WHOP (95.3fm): Hopkinsville
WJKY (1060am): Jamestown
WLAP (630am): Lexington
WFTG (1400am): London
WKJK (1080am): Louisville
WFMW (730am): Madisonville
WWXL (1450am): Manchester
WFTM (1240am): Maysville
WKYM (101.7fm): Monticello
WMSK (1550am): Morganfield
WKYH (600am): Paintsville
WLSI (900am) Pikeville
WPRT (960am): Prestonsburg
WSFC (1240am): Somerset
WTCW (920am): Whitesburg
WBTH (1400am): Williamson
On Delay (ALL TIMES LISTED EASTERN)…
WVHI (1330am): Evansville, IN, 5-7pm
WMTL (870am): Leitchfield, 11am-1pm
WLBQ (1570am): Morgantown, 3-5pm
WRIL (106.3fm): Middlesboro, Thur 8-10pm
WPAD (1560am): Paducah, 11-1pm
WHAY (98.3fm): Whitley City, 2-4pm
By Bryan the Intern on ©9:00 am
The SEC hasn’t always gotten the best reputation over the year for taking chances during non-conference play. This used to be the case 10-15 years ago while other conferences would take on more ambitious scheduling. But as college football has moved on, most of the major conference teams might play another BCS school for 1 of their non-c0nference opponents but the rest is pretty weak. That doesn’t mean that some SEC teams don’t take this pathetic scheduling too far. Look at the 14 SEC teams and who they have scheduled for their 4 non-conference games this year. Those in bold are teams who made a bowl last year and the record for each team last year is listed.
1. TENNESSEE (36-16 combined)
Utah State (9-5)
Arkansas State (8-5)
at Oklahoma (11-2)
2. SOUTH CAROLINA (35-17 combined)
East Carolina (10-3)
South Alabama (6-6)
at Clemson (11-2)
3. GEORGIA (34-17 combined)
Charleston Southern (10-3)
Georgia Tech (7-6)
4. KENTUCKY (32-18 combined)
at Louisville (12-1)
5. MISSOURI (33-18 combined)
South Dakota State (9-5)
at Toledo (7-5)
Central Florida (12-1)
6. ARKANSAS (27-25 combined)
Nicholls State (4-8)
at Texas Tech (8-5)
Northern Illinois (12-2)
7. LSU (26-25 combined)
(in Houston) Wisconsin (9-4)
Sam Houston State (9-5)
New Mexico State (2-10)
8. AUBURN (26-24 combined)
San Jose State (6-6)
at Kansas State (8-5)
Louisiana Tech (4-8)
9. OLE MISS (23-26 combined)
(in Atlanta) Boise State (8-5)
10. FLORIDA (23-27 combined)
Eastern Michigan (2-10)
Eastern Kentucky (6-6)
at Florida State (14-0)
11. TEXAS A&M (26-24 combined)
at SMU (5-7)
12. VANDERBILT (21-28 combined)
Charleston Southern (10-3)
Old Dominion (8-4)
13. ALABAMA (13-35 combined)
(in Atlanta) West Virginia (4-8)
Florida Atlantic (6-6)
Southern Miss (1-11)
Western Carolina (2-10)
14. MISSISSIPPI STATE (16-32 combined)
Southern Miss (1-11)
at South Alabama (6-6)
The only thing that is a little disappointing for the SEC is how few times they will wander away from their home fields. In all, SEC teams will play 56 non-conference games this year and only 9 of those will be away from home, with another 2 on neutral fields. That means 45 of 56 games will be played at home. I understand that is a revenue grab by most teams, but it also leads to a smaller amount of really good matchups and more boring non-conference games.