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December 1st, 2015

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The Football Staff is Hitting the Road

Mark Stoops hasn’t stopped working since the season ended with an unfortunate Louisville loss.  Their first priority this week: keeping the 2016 class committed.  The staff has split up to see as many people as possible.  Yesterday QB Gunnar Hoak, WR Dakotah Holtzclaw and CB Davonte Robinson received in-home visits.  Tonight, Kash Daniel hosted D.J. Eliot and Coach Stoops, Jimmy Brumbaugh visited Ohio defensive tackle commit Kordell Looney, and Derrick Ansley visited Georgia cornerback commit Jordan Griffin.

Expect to see more happy recruits posting pictures with their future coaches throughout the week.

Mac Jones is a Finalist for The Opening

The 2017 quarterback commit from Florida is on the short-list of candidates for the nation’s most prestigious summer recruiting camp.  Jones would follow in the footsteps of Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, Elite 11/The Opening alums to take their talents to Kentucky, but he’d be the first from another state to do so.  Luckily his passing game is much better than his golf game.

Kentucky Commits Receive All-Ohio Honors

It’s one of the best states for high school football in America, and they’ve received the highest honors.  Remember, Division I in Ohio is the equivalent to 6A in Kentucky.

Division I

  • Benny Snell 1st team Running Back
  • Grant McKinnis 1st team Kicker
  • Tobias Gilliam 1st team Defensive Back and Southwest Ohio Defensive Player of the Year

Division III

  • Michael Warren 1st team Running Back
  • Roland Walder 1st team Linebacker

Coach Cal went to Christian County over the Weekend

After Sacha Killeya-Jones watched the Cats beat Boston in Lexington last week, Calipari returned the favor by watching SKJ’s team play at the Christian County Zip Zone Classic.  Unfortunately, Cal missed SKJ’s best performance.  Against one of the best team’s in the nation, Huntington Prep, the UK signee dropped 28 points on 10-10 free throw shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds.  He hasn’t been the most heralded player Calipari has brought in for 2016 recruiting class, but he’s playing like the kind of players we’re used to seeing around here – elite.

Malik Monk is Even Better Than You Thought

Somebody let Malik Monk into his zone over the weekend.  His poor opponents tried to stop him, but it was an epic failure.  Monk dropped a cool 46 points.  Even when they forced him to pick up his dribble, he threw it off the backboard to himself for a dunk.  Just, wow. WOW.

More words

Kentucky Tops ESPN’s Power Rankings


Last week ESPN debuted their college basketball power rankings and the Cats were on top. Now, following a week of wins against Boston, South Florida, and Illinois State the Cats are still on top of the college basketball food chain heading into Thursday’s game against UCLA. Here’s what the worldwide leader wrote about the Cats:

1. Kentucky:The Wildcats continue to coast along, having not yet played a game that was decided by single digits. The Wildcats were without Tyler Ulis against Illinois State and struggled at the start. But the Cats pulled away for their seventh double-digit win in seven games. A trip to UCLA is next.

Other notables with my commentary:

6. Villanova (6-0)- Last year the Wildcats rode an overrated Big East schedule into a number 1 seed and an exit before the Sweet 16. Nova seems to be off to a similar trajectory to begin this season.

14 Vanderbilt (5-1)- Vanderbilt and Texas A&M (16th) are the only other SEC teams to make ESPN power rankings. South Carolina is also on the rise after beginning the season 7-0. Vandy has Damien Jones who looks a lot like Skal with some added mass. Their matchup could decide the games this spring.

23. Louisville (6-0)- The Cards creep into ESPN’s power rankings after a solid start to the season. Granted, they’ve been taking on one of the weakest schedules in all of college basketball. We’ll know more about them following an elite 8 rematch against Michigan State tomorrow night.

[ Power Rankings: Dec. 1 ]

The NFL Cats in Week 12

—  The Tennessee Titans keep losing, but their Wildcats continue to play well.  Avery Williamson had a sack and led the Titans in tackles with 11.  Not too far behind him with 5 tackles was Wesley Woodyard.

—  Randall Cobb got the catches, but couldn’t get the points the Packers needed to win one for Brett Favre on a rainy Thanksgiving Night in Green Bay.  It was a hell of a game for everyone who managed to fight through turkey-induced comas.  Aaron Rodgers gave the Pack a chance on the final drive, but he couldn’t find a way to get it to Cobb in the end zone on the last four plays from scrimmage.  Cobb finished with 6 catches for 74 yards.  

—  Jacob Tamme‘s Falcons lost, but he had an exceptional outing, hauling in five catches for 69 yards.

—  Za’Darius Smith had one tackle last night in Monday Night Football for the Ravens.  His former P.I.C., Bud Dupree, had added a pass deflection to his one tackle for the Steelers.

—  Danny Trevathan only had four tackles in snowy Denver, but stats are irrelevant when you play the Patriots, only the margin of victory.  EAT IT TOM BRADY!

—  Stevie Johnson helped San Diego to only their third win of the season by snagging 7 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.  He was great on the field, but he was even better off the field today.

Isaiah Briscoe Knows John Wooden…Kind of

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Thursday’s game at UCLA will feature the two programs with the most National Championships, combining for 19.  The face of Kentucky’s – Adolph Rupp.  For UCLA – the Wizard of Westwood, the Legendary John Wooden.

Wooden coached at UCLA from 1948-1975, winning 10 Championships in 12 years with legends like Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor, stuff you probably already know, but it’s worth repeating for the younger generation.

Isaiah Briscoe is in that younger generation.  Only 12 when Wooden passed away, he knows the name for other reasons.  “I know they have a Wooden Award, right?  Is that him?”  Briscoe was honest with reporters after last night’s game, “OK, well I don’t know nothing else about him.  Just a different generation.”

Briscoe won’t have to know Wooden’s Pyramid of Success to beat UCLA on Friday, but he should probably study up on him a bit if he wants to win that award.

The Keys aren’t Totally in Drew Barker’s Hands

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Mark Stoops’ final radio show of the season was tonight, but he was only featured for a short segment.  On the road for a big recruiting week, Stoops called in with a few nuggets of information.

He confirmed that Drew Barker is the starting quarterback as the program moves forward without Patrick Towles, but he did leave the opportunity open for Reese Phillips to make a move in the Spring.  Phillips will be a redshirt Junior next Fall, acting only as the holder for the placekicker after recovering from an Achille’s injury during Spring Practice.  If you’ll recall, Reese nearly won the competition over Towles two years ago.

Another semi-encouraging nugget…Stoops praised the linebacker transfers, Minnesota’s De’Niro Laster and Nebraska’s Courtney Love.  Love displayed leadership on the scout team and Laster was extremely agsressive.  Stoops used the word “unblockable” to describe them, but I don’t know how much that means against UK’s offensive line.  Both will be eligible to play next Fall.

Stoops and Eliot visit Kash Daniel



After visiting Gunnar Hoak, Dakota Holtzclaw, and Davonte Robinson, Mark Stoops is back on the recruiting trail today, taking DJ Eliot to see Kash Daniel in Paintsville. Daniel posted this nice picture of the three in front of the Christmas tree this afternoon. Nice house shoes, Kash.

Both Eliot and Shannon Dawson have gone with Stoops to see recruits this week. Does that mean their jobs are safe? Excellent question. Mark Stoops’ final radio show of the season just started on WLAP with guest host Freddie Maggard. I doubt he’ll comment on staffing changes, but it should be an interesting show to say the least. Tune in to or watch the video stream on

2017 PG Trae Young puts Kentucky in his final 11

Trae Young is considered the 4th best point guard in the 2017 class, and this afternoon, he “cut” his list of schools to eleven on Twitter:

John Calipari offered Young back in August and the 6’1″ Oklahoma native visited UK for Big Blue Madness. Last weekend, he turned heads at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Duncanville, Texas, averaging 38.5 points and 6.5 assists. He told’s Evan Daniels on Saturday that Oklahoma, Kentucky and Kansas are among the schools recruiting him the hardest.

Here are his highlights from the event:

Despite torn ACL, Maxwell Smith wants to play in San Diego State’s bowl game

Yesterday, we told you guys how former UK quarterback Maxwell Smith injured his knee in San Diego State’s game against Nevada on Saturday. Smith tore his ACL and was thought to be lost for the season, but according to the Aztecs’ head coach Rocky Long, Smith wants to postpone his surgery and play in whichever bowl the team goes to.

“He says he’s going to try to play in the bowl game,” Long said. “He’s going to try to rehab and put it in a brace and see if he can play with the brace and then he’s going to get operated on after the bowl game. That’s his plan right now. That’s what he wants to do.”

The Aztecs will start backup Christian Chapman in this weekend’s Mountain West Championship game against Air Force and will find out Sunday which bowl they’re going to, giving Maxwell time to rehab his knee. Long said it’s possible for quarterbacks to play with torn ACLs, and team doctors don’t have a problem with Maxwell going for it.

“The one position you could probably do it is quarterback,” Long said. “If you hand the ball off and straight drop back and all you do is throw it, you might (be able to play). … I can’t believe he wants to try, to be honest with you, but if he wants to try, good for him.”

If we didn’t know it before, we know it now: Maxwell is one tough kid.

[San Diego Union-Tribune]

Kentucky a 5-1 favorite to win the National Championship

The 2011 Final Four in Houston

Before the season began, Kentucky was a 7-1 favorite to win the National Championship; a little over a month later, Kentucky’s odds have improved to 5-1 to win the title.

Here are the latest odds from Bovada:

  • Kentucky: 5-1
  • Michigan State: 9-1
  • Duke: 10-1
  • North Carolina: 10-1
  • Kansas: 12-1
  • Virginia: 12-1
  • Maryland: 14-1
  • Villanova: 14-1
  • Purdue: 18-1
  • Iowa State: 25-1
  • Miami (FL): 25-1
  • Oklahoma: 25-1
  • UConn: 25-1
  • Arizona: 33-1
  • Gonzaga: 33-1
  • Indiana: 33-1
  • LSU: 33-1
  • Louisville: 33-1
  • Vanderbilt: 33-1
  • California: 40-1
  • Cincinnati: 50-1
  • Syracuse: 50-1
  • Wichita State: 50-1
  • Baylor: 66-1
  • Michigan: 66-1
  • Xavier: 66-1

Thoughts? The fact that Louisville, Indiana, LSU, and Vanderbilt all have the same odds right now amuses me, almost as much as the fact that I’d put money on Vandy to make it the farthest of the four.


Go See Creed. Just Do It.

rocky creed

rocky creed

Creed is really good.  That was my first thought when I walked out of the theater Friday night after watching the latest entry into the Rocky franchise.  Going in I expected something along the lines of the previous Rocky film, Rocky Balboa.  Balboa was an okay movie, but the whole concept of an aging Rocky going toe to toe against one of the best boxers in the world and nearly winning the fight was a little bit much.  I enjoyed that movie but it lacked the grit and realism which made the first Rocky films so good.  Creed does not have the same shortcoming.  Rather than focus solely on the story of Rocky Balboa, the focus shifts to Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed.  Below is a review of the movie from someone who is an avid fan of the Rocky series and of good movies in general.  Before reading, I invite you to watch this review from someone who also knows a thing or two about Creed.

Written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Creed introduces viewers to the Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan).  Coogler crafts an excellent backstory for Johnson, showing Adonis’ struggles growing up without his father and how he had the heart of a fighter from an early age.  The opening act of the movie is well-paced, taking the audience through the progression of getting to know Adonis and introducing the factors which lead him to Philadelphia to seek out the help of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

Once in Philadelphia, Adonis tracks down Rocky in the hopes that the boxing legend would help him with his training.  Rocky turns down Adonis, saying that he is out of boxing and spends all of his time working at his restaurant, Adrian’s.  Coogler again shows a knack for pace by incorporating relevant information from Rocky Balboa so viewers are able to pick up easily on what Rocky has been up to since that movie.  For viewers who have not seen Rocky Balboa, this information is specific enough so they know what’s going on.  Those who have seen the previous movie are gifted with some easter egg-like information which adds depth to the character development of the film.    Within the first 45 minutes of the movie the audience is caught up on the backstories of Adonis and Rocky, and the two are seamlessly brought together in an organic way.

As you probably guessed, Rocky is eventually convinced to help Adonis train.  With the support of Rocky, and new neighbor/love interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Adonis is able to elevate his boxing skill and profile so that he is offered a shot against the Heavyweight champion of the world, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew).  The story unfolds much like the story of the original Rocky, with Adonis having to fight his way through the lower ranks of the Philadelphia boxing world.  There are a lot of throwbacks during the training portion of the movie, but again, none seem forced.  Adonis’ path feels familiar but seems new.

The reason for this is due largely to the superb acting of Jordan and Stallone.  These two form an authentic bond complete with respect, love, animosity, and despair.  Jordan perfectly depicts Adonis as a talented fighter who lacks the maturity needed to make the next step.  Stallone does a great job as the guiding figure Adonis needs both in his boxing life and in his personal life.  Adonis and Rocky need each other for the fights they both face, and the two actors bring high quality depth for both.

creed 2


Everything about Creed is good.  The 133 minute run time may seem to some a bit long, but it’s so well-paced that at no point does the movie seem to drag.  No scene is wasted, and the supporting roles are as well acted as the starring ones.  Coogler does a good job getting back to the gritty realism which helped the original Rocky, showcasing an authentic Philadelphia and not hiding from seeming obvious plot holes.  One example of this is when Adonis is offered the chance to fight Conlan.  During the meeting Rocky blatantly asks if this is being offered because it’s a “sure thing” for Conlan and also a good payday due to the Creed name.  Conlan’s manager dances around the question but eventually confirms Rocky’s suspicions.  This explains why a fighter with one legit win under his belt (plus 15 unofficial victories from the Tijuana fighting circuit) would get a shot at the world champ.

There are a lot of things to like about Creed.  For one, it’s the best use of the word Adonis since we found out Charlie Sheen has Adonis DNA (still not sure what that means).  What makes this the best movie in the series since Rocky, though, is that it captures the underdog nature which permeated the original movie.  By the final fight you are rooting hard for Adonis as well as Rocky.  The movie is exciting, continually building on the action as it comes to a crescendo which culminates in what feels in some ways like watching you’re watching an actual fight with the rest of the audience.  Coogler creates this atmosphere with great storytelling and he doesn’t pander to the audience.  There are enough little twists throughout the movie so that it’s not formulaic or easy to predict.  Overall this is just a really well done movie, not just as an entry to the Rocky series, but in general.  Don’t be surprised if you see Creed crack the Best Picture nominee list.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.



Mitch Barnhart: “To say that there is frustration would be the understatement”

After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, there’s no denying the frustration in the fan base when it comes to football. Since Saturday’s epic collapse, football talk has dominated the Big Blue Nation, with many loyal fans calling the loss to Louisville the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Today, Mitch Barnhart did interviews with both The Courier Journal and the Herald-Leader to discuss the state of the program. Barnhart admits to frustration about how the season ended, but also reaffirms his support for Mark Stoops. You should definitely click over and read Barnhart’s comments in full, but to whet your appetite, here are just a few quotes:

— “­I think in some degrees it was – the record is the same, but I think it looks a little bit different. Frustration nevertheless. We’re frustrated about being 5-7 and not being in postseason play like we want to be,” Barnhart said. “So, to say that there is frustration would be the understatement. Certainly understand that from our fans perspective. They’re frustrated. I don’t think that totally reflects where we are in terms of the status of the program.”

— Barnhart said he won’t tell Stoops what to do regarding staffing changes, but did say he’ll meet with him after the staff returns from recruiting to offer help and perspective.

“Certainly it’s my role to walk in and ask good questions, to make sure that they’re thinking about things. In terms of Mark’s world, that’s his job. He gets paid to do that, and I’ll respect that. I’ve never been an AD that walks in and says, ‘Do this, this, this and this, or out.’ I just haven’t done that.”

— On whether or not he senses support from the players for Stoops:

“I do. I really do. I think that our players desperately want to win and to experience some of the stuff that’s going on in postseason play. They want that. I think that they realize they were pretty close on a lot of fronts.”

— On coaching criticism:

“So, yeah, you see some of that passion and some of the good — and then all the sudden you see some mistakes and everybody goes, ‘They can’t coach anymore.’ Well, hold on. That group just beat the team that was two-time defending SEC East champions. I go back to my deal of 12 to 18 plays usually can define a season for a football program in one way, shape or form, good or bad.”

For more, head on over to The Courier-Journal.

Stevie Johnson donates $16,000 to send pee-wee football team to championship

We all like feel-good stories, especially when they involve former Kentucky players. Former Cat Stevie Johnson has made a home for himself in SoCal with the San Diego Chargers, but he hasn’t forgotten his Northern California roots. According to CBS Sacramento, Stevie recently donated $16,000 to the Solano County Warriors, an undefeated pee-wee football team from Fairfield, California, to help them go to the National Championships in Kissimmee, Florida. Stevie attended Angelo Rodriguez High in Fairfield.

Stevie posted the following message on Facebook about the donation:

It just felt right. Nothing will stop these boys now! Go get them Fairfield! #peeweefootball #hometown

Posted by Stevie Johnson on Monday, November 30, 2015

The story is even more heartwarming when you hear about the team’s coach, Andre Johnson. Johnson was paralyzed at the age of 23 by gunshot wounds to his back, chest, and stomach. He uses his story to motivate his players and steer them in the right direction in life.

Go Warriors.

Free throws are still a work in progress

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.29.42 AM

The image above was a familiar sight last night. Kentucky went to the line a whopping 46 times against Illinois State, converting on only 29 shots for 63%. That’s obviously not ideal, and, as you might imagine, John Calipari was not pleased, calling UK’s misses “demoralizing.”

“See, it is demoralizing when guys go up and miss four front-end one-and-ones in the first half and we miss 10 free throws,” Cal said. “Four of them front-end one-and-ones. That’s like missing 14 free throws. It is demoralizing. Now you can miss a couple, but you can’t miss them all and expect to be on that court. You just can’t. So, again, self-evaluate, I’m going to get to that line, I’m going to want to be at that line, I’m not going to shoot air balls from the foul line. It’s not going to be who I am.”

Jamal Murray went to the line more than anyone, hitting 9-13 free throws on his way to 16 points. Yesterday, @KentuckyMBB posted this mesmerizing video of Murray practicing free throws at practice:

Knowing Murray, that’s probably a form of meditation.

Marlana VanHoose sang the national anthem on Monday Night Football

If you frequent this site, you know we’re huge fans of Marlana VanHoose. The Denver, Kentucky native was born blind, suffers from cerebral palsy and probably has the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard. She started singing national anthems at local events, becoming a regular at UK Hoops games, and, over the past year, has shot to stardom.

Last night, little Marlana had the honor of singing the anthem at the Browns/Ravens Monday Night Football game:

Speaking of MNF, if you haven’t seen it yet, the Browns gave Kentucky football a run for its money with this heartbreaking end to the game:

I mean, really, how many of us felt like this at times this season?

UCLA is holding a “Gold Out” for Thursday’s game

With Illinois State out of the way, it’s time to focus on UCLA. This the first time the Cats will have ever played in Pauley Pavilion, and the Bruins are pulling out all the stops, hosting a “Gold Out.” Gold t-shirts will be handed out to all fans in attendance.

Are you in the Los Angeles area? Clear your plans for Thursday night because, believe it or not, tickets are still available on Ticketmaster:

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.13.38 AM

If you’re going to the game, be sure to stop by the UK Alumni Association’s official pregame party at O’Hara’s of Westwood: