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March 4th, 2015

Five Spring Practice Storylines


While the rest of the Big Blue Nation is distracted with basketball, the football team will be putting in work on the practice field, starting Saturday.  Without a Spring game, progress can only be dictated in practice.  Here’s a quick glimpse into what lies ahead.

1.  Are the redshirts ready?

Mark Stoops’ 2014 recruiting class was the best in school history, ranked #23 by 247Sports.  Some guys have already made themselves household names in the #BBN – Boom Williams, Blake Bone and Dorian Baker – but few of them even had the chance to see the field as true freshmen.  59% of the class redshirted – 16 of 27 – and their services will be needed immediately at important positions.  Not only will we get to write stories about how much Josh Krok has grown in the High Performance training system, but we’ll also talk about how difficult it will be for Denzil Ware to fill Bud Dupree’s shoes.

2.  Plugging holes in the defense

This is where many of the redshirts come into play.  The linebacker position last year was almost as soft as cookie dough, despite Josh Forrest’s incredibly high number of tackles (110).  Nico Firios and Dorian Hendrix will be called in for big hits frequently.  It’ll also be interesting to see how the dynamics of the defense work with Andy Buh back to working alongside D.J. Eliot and Mark Stoops.

The biggest question is at cornerback.  The Cats didn’t lose much at the position, but they lost to tall SEC receivers on the reg throughout 2014.  Can Cody Quinn and J.D. Harmon grow into into the position, or will it need to be a new guy like Jared Tucker or will the staff need to move Kendall Randolph wide?  We won’t know for awhile which way the position battle will turn, but improvement is certain with Stoops dedicated to putting in more personal time with the corners.

3.  Tighten Up

With ZERO production returning, it’s another important position relying on young talent.  Hopefully the words heard from afar about Daryl Long, C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart match their performance on the field this Spring.

4.  Is Patrick Towles the Quarterback for Shannon Dawson?

I certainly think so, but don’t be quick to forget how close the competition was last year.   Besides, nothing gets beat writers going quite like a hearty QB competition.

5.  Are the upperclassmen acting like upperclassmen?

Last year’s unsung heroes were the upperclassmen.  When young receivers faltered, Demarco Robinson and Javess Blue were prepared to make the plays needed to have a chance to win.  They don’t necessarily need to be the most difficult (like Javess’ one-handed snag against ULM), sometimes they’re the fundamental play (Demarco’s comeback that turned into a 60-yard TD against #1 Miss. State).

This season, Stoops’ original troops no longer get the benefit of the doubt for being the ‘new guys.’  Ryan Timmons can’t drop wide open passes (especially deep flags against Florida), Jordan Swindle can’t commit a dozen false starts and Jojo Kemp has to consistently and correctly hit open holes.  Having experienced shoulders to lean on can be the difference between five and eight wins.

John Short called in to the Paul Finebaum Show today


I tuned in moments after John Short’s call earlier this afternoon, just in time to hear Finebaum say, “Apparently we had a Kentucky legend call in a few minutes ago.”

Tyler caught that on Vine:

Greg Batt captured John’s call:

#ThatAwkwardMoment when the seat you stole belongs to Bill Belichick

Rookie move here by one UK fan who committed to a seat upgrade too early in the game. Any veteran seat stealer will tell you to take your time and scour the scene before pouncing on a vacant chair. Move down too early and you could get busted by a four-time Super Bowl champion, as this guy learned the hard way last night in Athens.

It also appears the gentleman had no idea he messed with the Patriots head coach. He casually walks right past Belichick and the usher, pretending it was an honest mistake.

At least he made SportsCenter.

Coach Cal and Willie named Naismith finalists

Today is a big day for the two Energy Bus buddies as Willie Cauley-Stein was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award, while John Calipari was named one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Coach of the Year.

Check out the competition in the complete lists of finalists:

Player of the Year

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Cameron Payne, Murray State
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Delon Wright, Utah

Coach of the Year

Tony Bennett, Virginia
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
John Calipari, Kentucky
Scott Drew, Baylor
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Chris Holtmann, Butler
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Archie Miller, Dayton
Steve Prohm, Murray State
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Bill Self, Kansas
Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State
Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Jay Wright, Villanova

UMass sending Calipari to the rafters next season

UMass will retire John Calipari’s jersey next season to honor his run as head coach of the Minutemen. The ceremony will be part of the 20-year anniversary of his 1995-96 Final Four team.

Cal had this to say on the Twitter machine:

Add another Ohio commitment to the 2016 class


Kentucky added yet another football commitment from Ohio today, this time in the form of 6-foot-5, 278 pound offensive lineman Luke Fortner. Fortner, a three-star offensive tackle, tweeted: “Committed to play football at the University of Kentucky! #BBN”

He also had offers from Cincinnati, Maryland and Marshall, among others.

Kentucky’s 2016 class now has 14 commitments, eight from Ohio and three on the offensive line.

Spots are filling up for the 2015 John Calipari Fantasy Camp

harrison fantasy camp coachcal chris reynolds

Sign-ups are open for the fourth annual John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience and spots are filling up FAST. If you have any interest in being a camper this year, don’t wait around to signed up or you may miss out.

Details for the 2015 camp can be found in the flyer below.

As someone who has been a fly on the wall for the first three camps, let me tell you, it’s a pretty amazing weekend.



CBS and NCAA announce new March Madness broadcast teams

CBS and the NCAA announced the announcer pairings for the 2015 NCAA Tournament today, revealing eight brand new teams for the tournament broadcasts.

The most notable of the bunch is the first-time Final Four crew of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill, with Nantz being the only Final Four veteran of the bunch. Hill and Raftery take over for Greg Anthony, who was removed after a recent run-in with a hooker, and Steve Kerr, now with the Golden State Warriors.

The rest of the pairings look like this:


There is someone in the world who believes Kansas is having a better season than Kentucky… Seriously.

This morning I watched a guy eat pencils on YouTube and that’s not the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the internet today, believe or not. No, this article by Chris Chase for USA Today’s For The Win blog takes the cake. It’s called “Kentucky’s perfect season still isn’t as impressive as Kansas'”. I’m completely serious right now. That’s an actual statement that a real life human being wrote on the internet today. I kid you not. Someone, potentially under the influence of something very potent, sat down at a computer and typed that with their fingertips into a computer. Suddenly eating pencils seems normal.

To be fair, Chase’s argument is that Kansas’ 11 straight conference titles are more impressive than Kentucky’s 30 straight regular season wins. Okay. Debatable. But that extends beyond this season. To say Kansas is having the more impressive season is a statement worthy of a yellow slip, possibly a straitjacket.

Chase didn’t help his case when he said, “Texas is a yearly power under Rick Barnes,” either. That’s like saying, “Indiana is a title contender under Tom Crean” or “Bruce Jenner sure is looking manly these days.”

And to cap it all off, the article ends with: “But for now: KU > UK.”

If only there were a basketball game that could prove otherwise….



Reese Phillips’ mother says her son tore his Achilles today

According to Elaine Reese, mother of Reese Phillips, and relayed to the internet by Darrell Bird, the Kentucky quarterback ruptured his Achilles today. The timing couldn’t be worse, if this proves to be true, as the Cats are set to begin spring football practice this weekend. The injury will leave UK with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster until he can return to action.

Elaine Reese posted on Facebook that she is on her way to Lexington to be with her son, per Bird.



UK confirms the news. Phillips will miss spring football.

Wisconsin moves back to the Midwest in the new Bracketology

The dream bracket from two days ago didn’t last long as Wisconsin moves back to the Midwest in today’s update, replacing Gonzaga as Kentucky’s 2 seed.

Ohio State also returned to the region in today’s projections, setting up a potential matchup with Kentucky in the Round of 32. While I don’t believe UK will have any problems with the Buckeyes, I’d prefer to avoid DeAngelo Russell playing in his hometown. If there’s a Dwyane Wade performance in this field, that could be it. (Unlikely against Kentucky though.)

North Carolina, Wichita State and Notre Dame are also good teams in the Midwest. LSU is a dangerous 10 seed for Wisconsin.


What it was like to be a Georgia fan last night


Not sure where this originated but I’ve seen it floating around Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and my text messages today.

Kevin Hart’s facial expressions perfectly sum up what it must’ve been like to be a Georgia fan last night during Kentucky’s second half comeback.

Nailed it.

Coach Cal said Kentucky will play the SEC Tournament for the fans


John Calipari will give his players two or three days off after they clinch a perfect regular season Saturday, and then it’s on to the SEC Tournament in Nashville, where the Wildcats will play for you, Big Blue Nation.

After last night’s win in Athens, Coach Cal pushed aside his own negative thoughts on conference tournaments to say it’s a “different deal” when the SEC is in the Music City.

“Our fans take their rent money, their vacation money, mortgage money, car payments and go to Nashville,” he told reporters. “We’ve got to go up there with a sense of urgency and play for them, more than play. Because whatever happens up there, we’ve learned for six years it has no bearing on a seed, getting in, not getting in — it has no bearing. So we’ll go and do this for the fans.

The SEC tourney begins a week from today.


Catch a replay of the game today at 1:30 on the SEC Network


The SEC Network will re-air last night’s game for fans who didn’t see it or fans who would like to see it again. Tip-off is set for 1:30 pm on the SEC Network after Auburn’s Pro Day.

If you don’t want to wait until 1:30, you can watch the replay on WatchESPN whenever your little heart desires.


Karl Towns walking to class in the rain this morning is ruining college basketball

Karl Towns scored 17 second half points with Kentucky on his back last night in the comeback win at Georgia, furthering the argument that he should be selected over Jahlil Okafor in the NBA draft. It was a huge game for Towns, a freshman playing on the road in front of an electric Bulldog crowd on Super Tuesday.

So how did Karl celebrate his big night, you ask?

By walking to his 9:00 am class this morning. On very little sleep. In the rain.

Jay Bilas had fun with Evan Crane’s tweet that’s being shared around the internet:

Towns shouldn’t be rewarded for attending class, after all, that’s why kids go to college. Of course he goes to class. But sometimes it’s easy for us, the fans, to forget just what these kids go through as Kentucky basketball players. It’s a grind. There is so much on their plate. One minute you’re playing in front of the entire nation on ESPN, few hours later, you’re up walking across campus with an umbrella that covers half of a shoulder to hand in a paper in the pouring rain.

Hell, you wouldn’t find me at a rainy 9:00 am class after 14 hours of sleep, let alone after the night Karl had. I know plenty of you would’ve sat this one out, too. I’m tired just thinking about the lives these guys live.

Anyway, I’m going to take a quick nap now. That game was a late one and I’ve been up since 9:15.