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February 19th, 2018

2018 Spring Practice Position Competition: Wide Receiver

Kentucky receivers are in need of enhanced production and depth. The bad news is that the Cats return just eight starts from the position group in a spring practice that will feature a quarterback competition (all eight belong to junior Tavin Richardson by the way). Four true freshmen receivers saw action a year ago; only Lynn Bowden Jr. showed flashes. The good news is that Dorian Baker and his 1,015 receiving yards return to provide leadership and a deep threat for Eddie Gran’s offense. Let’s dive deeper into the receiver position:

Lost Production from 2017

*Starter 

Name Catches Yards/TDs
*Garrett Johnson 42 539/2
*Kayaune Ross 19 286
Blake Bone 13 234/2
*Charles Walker 15 180
TOTAL 89 1,239/4

— For two consecutive seasons Garrett Johnson led the team in receptions. Johnson also finished his Kentucky career with over 2,000 receiving yards which ranks fourth in program history. His innate knack to move the chains on 3rd down will be sorely missed.

— Fellow starters Kayaune Ross and Charles Walker will also need to be replaced. Ross finished the 2017 strong but his bid for an additional year was declined. Walker worked his way from walk-on to starting WR and punt returner. The fan favorite also provided clutch catches in key moments of critical games.

— In total; 65% of WR catches, 64% of receiving yards, and 80% of the position’s touchdown catches have moved on. 

Returning Production from 2017

*Starter

*Tavin Richardson 21 371/1
Lynn Bowden Jr. 17 210
Isiah Epps 4 55
Josh Ali 5 25
Clevan Thomas Jr. 1 4
TOTAL 48 665/1

Tavin Richardson is the group’s top returning producer and should remain in his role as a consistent starter.

— Sophomore Lynn Bowden Jr. evolved into an essential role within the Cats’ offense and special teams. Bowden Jr.’s role should see a significant increase in 2018. A rise in production is estimated due to his familiarity with the position (Played QB in high school).

— The three freshmen must show strides: Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, and Clevan Thomas Jr. 2017 saw far too many “near misses” within this trio. Route execution and increased yards after catch are two obvious developmental essentials.

Incoming Freshmen Receivers

Name Height Weight
Marvin Alexander 6’2 180
Allen Dailey 6’3 195
Akeem Hayes 5’10 170
Bryce Oliver 6’3 200

— Kentucky has zero early-enrollee receivers. No impact on spring position competition.

How Important is Dorian Baker’s Return?

Starts Catches/Yards Touchdowns
24 88/1015 6

Dorian Baker missed 2017 due to a preseason injury. He was the 27th player in program history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and brings a wealth of experienced to a receiving unit that returns just 8 combined starts, 48 receptions, 665-yards, and 1 touchdown from a year ago. Baker’s health status, leadership, and complete availability are vital to the team’s success.

Who are the Post-Spring Practice Starters?

 Tavin Richardson, Dorian Baker, and Lynn Bowden Jr. should emerge from spring practice as the Cats’ starters; however, Baker’s participation may be limited due to continuing rehabilitation. The smart play could be to limit the 5th year senior’s reps. Richardson and Bowden Jr. need to separate from the pack.

— Tavin Richardson is a prototypical X or outside receiver. He needs to become more consistent within the catching process to increase yards after reception.

— Lynn Bowden Jr. simply demands more repetitions at the receiver position. His transition from ATH/QB to receiver slowly developed a year ago; expect the electric sophomore to fly in 2018.

— Developing the second rotation is important. Here’s where new WR coach Michael Smith will earn his keep. Kentucky dropped from 17 TD receptions in 2016 to just 10 a year ago. This statistical drop can be attributed to Stephen Johnson’s injuries as well as not finding an adept replacement for Jeff Badet. In addition, yards after reception seemed to be significantly lower.

— This is a cycle. UK lacked the WR/QB combination to take the top off opposing defenses which allowed opponents the luxury of lying and waiting on the screen game. In other words, with no to little deep threat, the defense could play closer to the line-of-scrimmage.

— While possessing upper-shelf speed, Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps require detailed progress in executing the complete route tree and catching the football in traffic. Clevan Thomas is more of a possession receiver than speed merchant.

What does all this mean?

An incoming freshman or possibly two may see immediate playing time. However, spring practice offers an opportunity for those on campus to develop and improve under new WR coach Michael Smith. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran must replace the majority of his offense’s receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Last year offered immediate playing time for four true freshmen. Only Lynn Bowden Jr. showed flashes. The other three not so much. Coach Smith’s starters could be Bowden Jr., Baker, and Richardson. The next four-to-six are the players that make or break the position.

Smith has his hands full. Competition will be fierce, as it should be from a position that demands detailed improvement.


KSR Top 10 Tweets of the Day

McDowell


The one and only Big Mick is a meaty masterpiece in its own right. Composed of two quarter-pound patties* of never-fresh, frozen, mostly beef raised close to the processing plant. Only McDowell’s has the frosted beef and processed cheese to give you a major reason for the afternoon trip to the secret bathroom only you and Debra know about on the 9th floor that is under construction.


You can be a part of McDowell’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day.

If you are interested in sponsoring KSR’s Top 10 Tweets, please contact us at Via Email.

#10 Jay in Lyndon


Why don’t they want us?!

#9 LadyWldKat


KSR remote?!

#8 Brian Thompson


Oh man this is ever worse.

#7 Pat Ingram


We need an update!

#6 Lisa


New favorite KSR moment!

#5 Raven Morphew


We like to break records here at KSR.

#4 Sammy Stickler


We’re a big deal.

#3 Perfection


He’s just trying to be hip like the kids!

#2 Peter Gomez


La Familia!

#1 I Still Like My Team


Everyone should watch this!


Former Kentucky LB Avery Williamson baptized in the Jordan River on trip to Israel

Former Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson has established himself as one of the key players on the Tennessee Titan defense, but this offseason, he is focused on a completely new aspect of his life.

Williamson arrived in Israel last Tuesday for a week-long tour of the country, including other NFL players such as Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Vic Beasley, Chris Harris Jr., and Josh Norman.

“We actually just left the site where Jesus was hung on the cross, and where he was buried,” Williamson told Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. “We’ve done so much, and I’ve learned so much. It’s been amazing, and very memorable.”

He got to see where Jesus died on the cross and where he was buried, and he then decided to take it one step further by getting baptized in the same water Jesus did.

Williamson and his sister were baptized in the Jordan River, the third most holy site in the Holy Land, according to the Christian faith.

“Now that was really amazing,” Williamson said. “Growing up in church, to be able to relate to it now since I have been here, and to have images of places I’ve been when I read passages in the Bible. I’ve always wanted to come to Israel and this opportunity came up. I always wanted to see the spiritual sites and know more about the Bible. To find out more about the history of the country and get more of an understanding of what is going on, it is pretty cool. I feel like I have a better understanding of the world now.”

This past weekend, Williamson met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and gave him a Titans jersey his name on the back. He also met with local children, signing autographs and talking about football with them.

“(Rivlin) was happy about getting the jersey,” Williamson said. “He was excited to have it. It was cool to meet him, and to meet public figures overseas. And the kids we signed some autographs for, they were excited to meet us. When they heard ‘NFL’, they get super excited. And a lot of the politicians we met with, they knew about the Titans. They said we had a good year. It was pretty cool to know they are watching us overseas.”

Williamson said the country’s rich history makes it easily the best trip he’s ever been on.

“It is crazy to see all of that, and be a part of it,” he said. “It is a magical country, and to know all these miracles happened in this one place, it is pretty amazing. So many centuries of history.”

To read more from Jim Wyatt about Williamson’s entire trip to Israel, head on over here.


LISTEN: KYTasteBuds presents Matt Jones: The Man Behind the Mic.

Every single week, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Matt Jones hosts one of the most popular sports shows in the nation in Kentucky Sports Radio. You hear him on every KSR pregame and postgame show for both basketball and football throughout the year. And most recently, you see him on TV with Hey Kentucky! every weeknight at 7:30 p.m.

Jones and the KSR brand may bring you information in the “most ridiculous manner possible,” but very rarely do we see the more personal side of our fearless leader.

Yesterday afternoon, the “Kentucky Taste Buds” podcast interviewed him to get exactly that, diving into his personal life to figure out just who “Matt Jones” really is.

In the interview, we hear about Jones’ journey as a radio host, his past/present love interests, where he developed a passion for Kentucky sports, just how Kentucky Sports Radio came to be, and potential future career paths.

Check out the entire interview below:


Kentucky Cheerleading has officially arrived in South Korea

Your 23-time National Champion Kentucky Wildcat cheerleading team has officially landed in South Korea.

Back in November, USA Cheerleading announced the UK cheer squad would be representing the United States in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics. Today, they officially got started with their events.

They got started with a performance in front of the US Military base in Seoul:

This afternoon, they were invited to the Global Cheerleading Supporter Reception:

To end the Winter Olympics, Kentucky Cheer will take on six other in a “friendly competition” at the International Cheerleading Festival.

But the Wildcats won’t be making it just for show, they’ll be there to win.

UK Cheer coach Jomo Thompson said they are advertising the event as a “friendly competition,” but he only heard the latter part of that phrase.

“They call it a friendly competition, but all I heard was the word competition,” he said. “I feel pretty good about our chances. But again, with this competition, it’s one day, one opportunity, so we just have to make sure we’re ready for that opportunity and do the best that we can.”

They won’t be handing out official medals for this event, but you better believe the University of Kentucky will be representing the United States well and will do whatever it takes to bring home the bragging rights at the end of the month.

Let’s get this money.


Noah Talks Sports: Winter Olympics Edition on Hey Kentucky!

Your favorite non-sports fan in Kentucky is BACK with the best sports commentary on television.

Hey Kentucky! producer Noah Day debuted Noah Talks Sports back when the Kentucky basketball season started, featuring only roundball analysis such as the epic Nick Richards “Shark Attack.” This time, however, he broke down some of the top moments of the Winter Olympics currently being held in South Korea.

To his credit, not many people know about the specifics of Winter Olympic sports such as curling, speed skating, and skeleton, but he gave it his best shot anyway.

And the result is priceless.

Check out Noah Talks Sports: Winter Olympic Edition.

Watch the entire episode of Hey Kentucky here:

BBN


YAHTZEE! 2018 three-star QB Kolbe Langhi commits to Kentucky!

When Mark Stoops announced Kentucky football’s 2018 recruiting class two weeks ago, he immediately expressed regret for not bringing on a local talent.

Today, he fixed that situation.

Three-star quarterback and Christian County product Kolbe Langhi has committed to Kentucky as a preferred walk-on.

The 6-foot-6 lefty is Christian County’s all-time leading passer with 9,002 career yards and had 101 total TDs.

Back in 2016, Langhi turned heads of the Alabama coaching staff during a camp in Tuscaloosa, where he had the opportunity to do an extended workout for then-Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. The current FAU head coach then invited Langhi to tour campus following the personal throwing workout, where he expressed interest in the Hopkinsville, KY native.

Over the last year, Langhi visited both Vanderbilt and UofL, but hoped all along for a Kentucky offer.

Jeff Drummond and Justin Rowland of Rivals.com broke the news last week that Langhi was finally offered a preferred walk-on from the Wildcat coaching staff, and he had been discussing the option with his family.

With Kentucky only bringing on 24 scholarship players in the 2018 class, along with the normal attrition we see each Spring, it’s very likely Langhi ends up as a scholarship quarterback this season.

The 6-6, 220-pound QB also plays basketball for Christian County, is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, and also has a 3.75 GPA as a senior.

Not too shabby for the newest Wildcat.

Check out Langhi’s impressive senior year highlights:

Welcome aboard, Kolbe!

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E22: De’Aaron Fox

De’Aaron Fox joins the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports podcast, to discuss his rookie season in the NBA and what he misses most about Kentucky. But first, Aaron is joined by his buddy, Louisville-area radio host Nick Coffey, where they break down the weekend that was in college basketball.

— The latest from the FBI probe into college basketball. Did Thursday’s bombshell Yahoo Sports report tell us something we didn’t already know, and how soon until we get all the details of those involved?
— The unintended consequence from the FBI investigation that no one is talking about.
— Louisville loses again on Saturday and Aaron asks: Why does everyone think they’re such a lock for the NCAA Tournament?
— The guys take a deep dive into Kentucky’s win over Alabama. They also explain how this proves that Kentucky was never in as much trouble as many prognosticators said they were.
Next up, Aaron welcomes Kings’ rookie De’Aaron Fox live from All-Star weekend in Los Angeles:
— The pair discusses De’Aaron’s rookie year in the NBA. What has been the biggest adjustment? And why does he believe it’s actually been easier than he expected?
— What does Fox miss most about UK? How did playing for John Calipari prepare him for the NBA? And what would he say to high school recruits who are thinking about coming to Kentucky?
— Finally, Fox admits that Kentucky should have won the national championship a season ago.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

NOTE: Sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast for a special price if you sign up by March 15th. Email ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com to learn more.


John Wall returning to UK this summer to work on degree

Photo by Quinn Foster | UK Athletics

John Wall is coming back to Kentucky. For the summer at least.

During the NBA All-Star festivities this weekend, Wall revealed that he’s returning to Lexington this summer to work on his college degree, fulfilling a promise he made to his father, who passed away when he was eight.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall said, via the Washington Post. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall was unable to play in last night’s All-Star Game due to his recent knee surgery, but represented the Wizards and his family in style, honoring his father with a necklace featuring a childhood picture of the two:

If you missed it a few weeks ago, Wall penned a letter to his father that will bring tears to your eyes. Even without any of his basketball accomplishments, I know he’s making his dad proud.

John Wall Pens Emotional Letter to his Dad

[Washington Post]


The KSR Baseball Podcast E21: Week One

Week one of the 2018 Kentucky baseball season is in the books.  Trey Huntsman and Coach Keith Madison are here to talk about Kentucky’s 4-0 start to the season and the upcoming home-opener for the final season at The Cliff.  Highlights:

—  Tristan Pompey had an impressive start to the season.

—  How the bullpen help UK’s starting pitching.

—  Who had the best start to the season?

—  What they want to see vs. Xavier, which will now be played on Tuesday.

—  Coach Madison gives Trey a Geography lesson before he embarks for class.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to Kentucky Sports Radio on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Louisville’s getting a Topgolf

Great news, golf lovers! Topgolf is coming to Louisville. The famous Dallas-based golf entertainment chain filed plans on Monday to build a new location adjacent to the Oxmoor Center at 7900 Shelbyville Road.

The 65,000 square foot three-level complex will include an outdoor driving range with 102 climate-controlled hitting bays and numerous bars and patio spaces. No word yet on when it will open. As someone who frequents the Topgolf in Nashville, I can tell you it’s entirely too much fun. Check out my review of it from September to get an idea of what to expect from the new facility in Louisville:

FIRST LOOK: Topgolf is your latest excuse to come to Nashville

[WDRB]


Inside “Inside The Madness: Episode 1”

Facebook Watch debuted its new show, Inside The Madness: Kentucky Basketball, over the weekend and it is must-see entertainment for all Kentucky basketball fans. The 10-part docuseries will roll out a new episode each Saturday, and this past Saturday’s episode, “We Win Or We Learn,” taught us a lot about the current UK team that many fans are struggling to love.

The first episode follows the Wildcats in the days leading up to the Monmouth game in New York City back in December, and concludes with the actual game action. And while everyone is included, Hamidou Diallo and his return home are a major focal point.

[Give it a watch on Facebook Watch here.]

Now let’s revisit some of what we learned in the behind-the-scenes glimpse into our favorite college basketball program:

 

John Calipari has a $6,000 table in his office.

We know that because Quade Green sat on it during a team meeting, which led Calipari to tell him, “What’s wrong with you? You think you’re in Philadelphia?”

 

Hamidou Diallo never thought he’d play for Kentucky.

“Within this last year I’m seeing a bunch of things I never thought was possible,” Diallo said. “I just think of it as a blessing. When I was 10, 11, 12, 13, watching Kentucky play, I never thought I’d be the kid wearing a Kentucky jersey.”

 

Coach Cal walks his dogs around his neighborhood.

You’d think a man with a schedule and a bank account like John Calipari’s would hire a dog-walker. Nope. Coach Cal takes his pups around the block as fans honk their car horns and shout from their car windows on Richmond Road.

 

The guys get haircuts in their hotel room.

Maybe it was because they were in New York for a game in Madison Square Garden, but Hamidou Diallo and Jarred Vanderbilt invited a barber into Diallo’s hotel room to give each of them a haircut. Diallo said he gets one before every game because “it’s part of his brand” and he doesn’t want to “be out there looking all scruffy.”

 

Kevin Knox thinks Kevin Durant is better than LeBron James.

P.J. Washington’s face says how he feels about Knox believing Durant is the best.

 

Quade Green has seven siblings.

The episode caught him FaceTiming with his mom and two of his sisters back home. He said he has six sisters and one brother.

 

The team flies on a chartered plane named “Deb.”

It’s a Boeing 737-800 operated by Miami Air, which also chartered flights for the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

 

Diallo’s family was very excited about the win.

And Diallo’s 23 points in his homecoming, probably.

 

See the full episode here.


Kentucky a five-point underdog vs. Arkansas

Photo: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Kentucky will be the underdog in Fayetteville. Vegas has spoken and Arkansas opened as a five-point favorite in tomorrow night’s 9 p.m. date with the Cats. The Razorbacks are on a four-game winning streak, their most recent win coming over No. 21 Texas A&M on Saturday.

Also as expected, Bud Walton Arena is sold out for the game. Arkansas is 14-1 at home this season and 4-1 in their last five games vs. the Cats in Bud Walton Arena. I can’t find any evidence of a t-shirt night, cup night, red out or white out as Calipari predicted this morning, but I’m sure it will happen.

Odds Rod Winkler will be there?

Blast From The Past: "Rod Winkler vs. The World"


John Calipari: SEC Basketball “has never been stronger”

John Calipari has always championed the SEC, even when the conference didn’t deserve it. With his team sitting at .500 in league play (7-7), Calipari told reporters this morning that he thinks the SEC is the strongest it’s ever been. 

“This league has never been stronger. This is my 42nd year or whatever it is. This is the strongest by far this league has ever been.”

With four games left to go — three against likely NCAA Tournament teams in Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida — Kentucky is in control of its own destiny. Win three or four and the Cats could clinch a crucial double bye in the SEC Tournament; lose two or three and they might be on the bubble. With this team in this league right now, it really could go either way. Calipari said as much this morning.

“My team is getting better and that’s all I can ask. We’re trying to get a rhythm of how we’ve got to play. Kids are trying but there’s no break in the schedule. Eight or nine teams should get in the NCAA Tournament. When we beat each other, it should be good. It should be good for everybody. Because of how everybody’s playing, [there are] no easy wins.”

Another indicator of how good the SEC is this year? According to ESPN, Kentucky ranks second in strength of schedule right now behind, of all teams, Vanderbilt. That’s huge when it comes to their tournament resume, but as Calipari said, it may be another reason this team has struggled to gather momentum.

“We have the fifth — I’m going to guess the fifth, it may be higher, fourth or third — strength of schedule, with all freshmen. So, we throw everything at these kids.”

We’ll see if anything sticks tomorrow.


SEC Bracket: If the SEC Tournament started today

If the SEC Tournament started today, Kentucky would be the No. 7 seed with a first-round bye.

The Cats’ first opponent would be LSU in the quarterfinals, and that game would have the 6 pm (CT) time slot on Thursday.

Tennessee, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, would be waiting on Friday if Kentucky advanced; while Florida would likely be the semifinal opponent should things go that far. Kentucky is 0-3 against those two teams this season.

Click to enlarge

This will of course change as the season progresses, and it could change drastically considering several of the teams are tied in the standings with head-to-head games left to play. But if the tournament were to tip today, the bracket would be as you see above.

For what it’s worth, Kentucky currently has a 9.76 percent chance to win the tournament, according to TeamRanking.com’s projections. The site believes Kentucky will end up with the No. 6 seed after the finishing this season with a 9-9 conference record.