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August 20th, 2014

Hump Day Football Practice Notes

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-  When Coach Stoops walked off the field yesterday, I was glad he wasn’t speaking with the media.  His steps seemed to push the ground out of the way and his normal smile was nowhere to be found.  Today he said he was glad he didn’t speak with the media yesterday, but he is happy that the team responded this morning with what DJ Eliot described as the “most enthusiastic” practice of Fall Camp.  The wear and tear of camp will get the best of them at times, but today’s response revealed their fighting mentality.

The Cats are going to get punched this year.  Their success will be determined by how well they punch back.

-  When Eliot uses the word “enthusiasm” it can only mean that the defense did not shut the hell up.  The defense has been EXTREMELY vocal in camp, getting the entire sideline to cheer on most plays during “team” period.  Bud Dupree knows hot to push his unit’s buttons.  When he starts the “Baaaaaaaaad Boyz” chant, they go absolutely nuts.  Mark Stoops loves the energy, but isn’t quite ready to award them the Bad Boyz title, “We’ll see if they play like bad boys.  I’ve been around some Bad Boyz, so we’ll see.”

-  Another day of camp, another day where Blake Bone makes a big catch.  Stoops said today that Bone had another “go up and get it” moment.  Simply put, the young buck can do things that many can’t.

-  JUCO linebacker Ryan Flannigan once again received praises from DJ Eliot and Mark Stoops.  Eliot said that he isn’t quite game ready but, “close to where I need him to be” for games.  Unless the Cats win at Death Valley, entering the season nothing would have surprised me more than seeing Flannigan on the field Week 1.  There are so many hurdles for him to overcome: he didn’t get to have summer workouts, he never had a playbook in JUCO, and the most difficult position to learn on the field will be more difficult to learn when Stoops is running multiple defenses this season.

Despite all of the obstacles, Flannigan has continually been moving forward.  I’m less surprised by the coaches statements after attending practice.  Flanningan and the other young guys (Firios, Walker, Hendrix) stay close to each other at all times, teaching themselves when the coaches cannot.  The extra effort is paying off, giving the Cats much needed depth at the inexperienced linebacker position.

-  Safety Mike Edwards wasn’t expected to be here this fall.  His situation seems complex, but luckily he has been able to get on campus and enroll for fall semester classes.  Edwards will meet with Mark Stoops today, but it would be “unreasonable” to expect him on the field this year.   

 


Karl Towns will not travel to Spain with the DR

karl towns dominican

Karl Towns will not travel to Spain with the Dominican Republic for the FIBA World Cup later this month, the DR announced on Twitter this afternoon. An official statement from the club says, “Karl Towns no podrá acompañar al equipo a España. Se conversó con la UK y no puede hacer el viaje. Más detalles en unos momentos.

Towns will still suit up for Coach Antigua and the boys tonight in New York against Team USA before returning to Lexington. That exhibition game is at 7 pm on NBA TV.


On SEC Network Now: Kentucky vs. Tennessee, 2007

The SEC Network is currently airing the 2007 clash between Kentucky and Tennessee in Commonwealth Stadium. The four-OT classic featured some of your UK favorites like Andre Woodson, Rafael Little, Jacob Tamme, Stevie Johnson, Dicky Lyons and Keenan Burton, plus UT villains Erik Ainge and Arian Foster.

After making a big comeback in the second half, Kentucky lost on a failed two-point conversion try to force a fifth overtime, one of those sports moments I will never forget. The Cats were sooooo close.

Tune in now for the flashback, unless you’re, like, working or something.


Stoops’ Second Year Defensive Improvements

NCAA Football: University of Kentucky-Press Conference

Football success has followed Mark Stoops throughout his entire career. In his two previous coaching stints at Arizona and Florida State (serving as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach for both teams) the squads were better defensively every year after the first season he arrived in their program. The noise UK has made in this offseason has built very high hopes for Stoops to bring some of that previous career success to this year’s program and beyond as our Cats go into this season coming off a painful 2-10 record in their 2013 campaign.

Here’s a breakdown of his resume of improvements to date:

Arizona (2004-2009 – 6 seasons):

-Stoops assisted them in recruiting the 16th best class in the nation in his second season (2005), the previous year their recruiting class was 45th.

-Those defensive players from the 2005 class (his second season’s class) were the trendsetters for his defense going forward, they were coached by him all 4 years and led Arizona to the #24 ranking nationally in team defense in 2008.

-Stoops inherited nearly nothing when he got there in 2004, the team was ranked 109th nationally in total defense.

-Arizona steadily increased defensively every season after Stoops took over, making strides specifically on the defensive side of the ball in his time there.

Florida State (2010-2012 – 3 seasons):

This chart represents the numbers from his first and second seasons at FSU. Stoops defensive mind brought FSU to be ranked 2nd in total defense, 2nd in rush defense, 4th in points per game, and 2nd in recruiting nationally for the 2011 season.

Florida State Year 1 Year 2
Rush Defense 128.7 ypg 82.7 ypg
Pass Defense 225 ypg 192.3 ypg
Touchdowns Allowed 31 25
Red Zone Scores (36-48) 75% (27-35) 77%
Opponents 3rd Down (93-222) 42% (69-197) 35%
Recruiting 7th 2nd
PPG 19.6 15.1

There’s a few more important facts to be noted about Stoops transition at FSU between his first and second seasons that the chart doesn’t show. At FSU, in his second season opponents completed 41 more passes but averaged less yards per catch, typical of a Mark Stoops contain style defense. The FSU defense also took away an average of 80 yards of total offense from their opponents in his second season compared to his first season. Something I find amusing is that the team actually won 3 more games in 2011 because of Stoops’ defense that season, the offense at FSU was more efficient statistically in his first season.

Kentucky (2013-Present – 2 Seasons):

Bear with me through these first year stats real quick and we’ll get to some greener pastures.

Kentucky Year 1 Year 2
Rush Defense 197.3 ypg ?
Pass Defense 229.8 ypg ?
Touchdowns Allowed 49 ?
Red Zone Scores (42-52) 81% ?
Opponents 3rd Down (71-159) 45% ?
Recruiting 36th 20th
PPG 31.2 ?

Now with that said, I’m sure that anyone this far into the post by now is aware of the recruiting ordeal and improvements being made under Stoops in just his second year as head coach, so let’s keep the talk about last season behind us. It’s been evident in the past that schematically Stoops knows how to get the job done, he just needs the assets to do so.

Looking at the stats from last season, there is literally not a way this team doesn’t improve defensively. Minus the loss of our anchor in the middle, the entire defense is much sounder than it was a season ago. Specifically, the secondary should be much improved. Having good secondary play was the main reason Stoops was able to change the other two programs for the better at his previous coaching jobs. After all, he was a DB at Iowa (1986-88)!

Stoops knows coverage defense as well as anyone and he has proven it. The experience and good play in the secondary will be the biggest difference for us this year defensively if we can actually execute it according to Stoops schematics. Last season we couldn’t save ourselves from ourselves in the secondary.

It’s been about a week and a half since UK media days and the defense has been receiving praise for their play in early season practices. Kentucky won’t be #1 in the nation in defense this fall (shocker, I know), but improvement similar to his time at Arizona (or even better) seems imminently in our future with Stoops Troops on the rise. He hasn’t promised anything to us about how the defense will pan out in his second year, but you can tell by the way Stoops has been talking all pre-season that he sure has high hopes for improvement from the defense this season.

Will the Cats be able to compete on defense with some of the strong, hard-nosed SEC schools they will play against this year? Can they make stops consistently on a day where the offense isn’t getting the job done? Do these Cats have the manpower and depth to get through a grueling season surely including some injuries along the way, or will they roll over like teams from the last two years? Everything seems to be coming together for the 2014 campaign, but can Kentucky make the improvements they need to in Stoops’ second year in order to get the job done?

Mark Stoops certainly thinks so.

“I do. Just from the first day of practice and the first four days, I like where we’re at defensively. We haven’t arrived yet or anything like that, but I see drastic improvement, and a lot of it comes from confidence and communication and understanding what’s going on.”

@kaansoloKSR


UT Martin’s Dylan Favre knows Za’Darius Smith well

When quarterback Dylan Favre and his UT Martin Skyhawks come into Commonwealth Stadium for the season opener, Favre will be keeping a close eye on UK defensive end Za’Darius Smith. He knows all to well what Big Z is capable of, coming off the end; Favre experienced it firsthand hand when he was on the receiving end of a Za’Darius sack around this time two years ago.

Favre was the starting quarterback for Pearl River Community College at the time, and one of his linemen missed a block on East Mississippi’s star DE, our own Za’Darius. There’s plenty more where this came from…

And before you ask, Dylan Favre is Brett’s nephew.


Reminder: Team USA vs. Dominican Republic tonight on NBA TV

Cancel your Wednesday evening plans or set your DVR because there’s a good one on NBA TV tonight when Team USA takes on the Dominican Republic. It is the final exhibition game before the official USA roster is announced.

Karl Towns will suit up for the Dominicans, just days after competing against them with Kentucky in the Bahamas. DeMarcus Cousins says he’s 50/50 to play for USA, but Coach K believes Boogie will get some run. Of course, Anthony Davis will play and will be awesome.

The exhibition airs live from Madison Square Garden at 7 pm on NBA TV.


Ryan Lemond returns! (Wednesday Show Thread)

lemond-wallsits

 

After several days of sleeping in and partying in Las Vegas, Ryan Lemond returns to Kentucky Sports Radio radio this morning for Wednesday’s show. Ryan joins Matt via the Lexington studio to discuss everything he missed in the Bahamas, UK football’s new quarterback, and everything else happening around BBN.

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

Listen to Kentucky Sports Radio

KSR Affiliate List

WBGN (1340am): Bowling Green
WAIN (93.9fm): Columbia
WHIR (1230am): Danville
WCLU (1490am): Glasgow
WGOH (1370am): Grayson
WTUK (105.1fm): Harlan
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
WLME (102.7fm):Owensboro
WPAD (1560am): Paducah
WKYH (600am): Paintsville
WLSI (900am) Pikeville
WPRT (960am): Prestonsburg
WSFC (1240am): Somerset
WTCW (920am): Whitesburg
WHAY (98.3fm): Whitley City
WBTH (1400am): Williamson

On Delay (ALL TIMES LISTED EASTERN)…

WCBL (1290am): Benton, 12-2pm
WVHI (1330am): Evansville, IN, 5-7pm
WMTL (870am): Leitchfield, 11am-1pm
WLBQ (1570am): Morgantown, 3-5pm
WRIL (106.3fm): Middlesboro, Thur 8-10pm


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Take Tim Couch off the BUST list

I love that over the last few years Tim Couch has come back to the UK program and made himself a presence in Lexington once again.  He is a really good color commentator and despite being a former UK quarterback, seems to bring a very reasonable approach to analyzing the game for Kentucky.  But almost 100% of the time, Couch and word “bust” are placed side by side when you talk to fans outside of this fanbase.  Now, I don’t mean to argue that Couch was some kind of top tier NFL quarterback, because his 5-year career was not astounding.  But, I am amazed at how Couch is usually heralded as Exhibit 1B (with Ryan Leaf) as what the word “bust” truly means.  Off the top of my head, here are the QB’s that I consider busts: Leaf, Akili Smith, David Klingler, Andre Ware, Jamarcus Russell.  Just to name a few.

The only way I know how to compare these players is to give you the stats.  And since each guy played different number of seasons, I will give you their per start average for yards passing:

Couch (5 seasons): 59 starts, 188.7 YPG, 59.8% Completion. 75.1 QB Rating

Leaf (4 seasons): 21 starts, 174.5 YPG, 48.4% Completion, 50.0 QB Rating

Ak. Smith (4 seasons): 17 starts, 130.1 YPG, 56.6% Completion, 52.8 QB Rating

Klingler (6 seasons): 24 starts, 166.4 YPG, 54.2% Completion, 65.1 QB Rating

Ware (4 seasons): 6 starts, 185.3 YPG, 51.6% Completion, 63.5 QB Rating

Jamarcus Russell (3 seasons): 25 starts, 131.7 YPG, 52.1% Completion, 65.2 QB Rating

So, I think it is safe to say that Couch has AT LEAST 5 guys who are bigger busts than him.  Here is another stat for you: Who is the only one of these players to lead their team to a playoff berth?  That’s right, Tim Couch.

But that very playoff appearance is also what hurts Couch the most.  Couch broke his leg in the last game of that season, meaning he didn’t start in the playoff game.  Instead, Kelly Holcombe did, played very well, and led to a QB battle the next season.  Couch never was able to recover, thanks to Butch Davis.  Davis opened the job back up because of ONE game that Holcombe played, overlooking the entire season that Couch had just played.  And the Browns have not been back to playoffs again.

Couch ended up tearing his shoulder to shreds as well, basically ending his career.

Tell me if this statement is wrong: TIM COUCH’S CAREER ENDED BECAUSE OF INJURY.  THE OTHER 5 GUYS ABOVE HAD THEIR CAREERS ENDED BECAUSE OF POOR PLAY.  That is why you can’t call Couch a bust.

So, again, my question is this:  Why is Tim Couch considered a BUST, when he was actually an average quarterback.  He took an EXPANSION team to the playoffs in 5 seasons.  David Carr had the same amount of time and never got the Texans close.  Couch still holds the Browns record for completion percentage.  Carr still holds the Texans record for being sacked.

Since Couch played in an era where television had not been invented, I instead give you his highlight video as a video game.  Be careful, this not safe for work.


KSR’s Top 10 Tweets of the Day

(Darrell Bird | Catpause)

(Darrell Bird | Catpause)

It’s time again for KSR’s Top Tweets of the Day. We will focus most of our attention on Kentucky sports-centric tweets but, as usual, there are no limits to our madness. You can participate by using hashtags such as #BBN #KSR #KSRTop10 or just by simply tweeting @KYsportsradio.

#10 Jon Rothstein

But…..pizza…..

 

 

 

 

#9 Neil Howey

That would leave only one photo…..I’ll let you guess who that guy is.

 

 

 

 

#8 Larry Wells 7⃣0⃣

Aren’t you supposed to hang a fathead of a cheerleaader up on your wall?

 

 

 

 

#7 Scott McConnell

I hope you walked out in protest without paying.

 

 

 

 

#6 Drew Franklin ☝️

What? Could it be? The great Drew Franklin retiring from #TeamNoSleep? Never.

 

 

 

 

 

#5 Tyler Pope

This ruins the entire plan. I am disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Kevin Veeley and Seth Heller

You are such a good friend, Seth. I don’t know what Kevin would do without you.

 

 

 

 

 

#3 Brad Calipari

Someone is going to have a talking to when he gets home.

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Matt Cantrell

Can we all agree that bed selfies should be strictly reserved for Snapchat?

 

 

 

 

 

#1 Bryan the Intern

This isn’t a very good fat joke.

@Sealey_KSR


The Happiest Kid In The Bahamas Wants Tuesday Night Football Notes

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Do you remember when you got your first Kentucky Wildcats t-shirt? If you do, were you as excited as this little guy? I don’t know the boy in the photo but I’m a big fan after seeing his reaction when someone handed him a UK t-shirt in the Bahamas. He gets to break KSR’s “No-Kids” rule on the site tonight because his excitement can’t be topped.

Let’s give him some football updates tonight since he’s seen plenty of good basketball…

 

Your new starting quarterback speaks.

One day after being named the starting quarterback at the University of Kentucky, Patrick Towles was available to the media for questions following Tuesday’s practice. Towles, speaking about his new job, told reporters, “I’m super excited. It’s a great opportunity. It’s something that I’ve wanted for my entire life. To have this kind of opportunity is awesome. I’m super excited.”

“I felt like I gave everything I had,” he added. “I gave 110 percent of what I got. I found peace in that and whatever the outcome was is what it was going to be.”

Towles said Stoops first sat him down and told him he still has work to do before he’ll be a starter, but quickly said “just kidding” and handed him the reins to Kentucky’s offense. “The color dropped out my face,” said Towles.

Towles admits he would not be in this position if not for all of the work he put in over the summer.

Monday and Tuesday’s practices were “pretty solid” offensively.

Neal Brown said things were good through most of Tuesday’s practice until some dropped balls and slacking off in the two-minute drill to wrap up the day. He is excited to have his starter and he’s looking forward to Towles getting the majority of the reps with the first team from here on out. The main focus this week has been the passing game and that will be the focal point of Wednesday’s practice as well.

Mike Edwards will enroll at UK this fall.

It turns out Mike Edwards, a class of 2014 signee, won’t need shoulder surgery after all. The four-star defensive back from Ohio tweeted he will no longer undergo surgery on his torn shoulder labrum and he will be in Lexington for school on Wednesday. Edwards originally planned to have the surgery and enroll in January, as of last month, but that’s no longer the case.

Edwards will likely redshirt, considering he missed an entire summer and two weeks of fall camp, unless he makes a surprising impact right away in the secondary. Still, great to have him on campus and working with the team. Loads of potential.

Eli Brown and Jordan Jones plan to redshirt in 2015.

Brown and Jones, two linebackers on the current commit list, already have plans to redshirt in 2015. Both players suffered injuries last year, their junior seasons, and plan to take advantage of an extra year in the UK weight room when they arrive on campus next spring. That’s a position in need, so let’s hope UK is in a position to let them take their time in the system.

A four-star running back from Youngstown picked Pitt over UK.

So it turns out Vince Marrow isn’t invincible in his hometown like we originally believed. UK lost the race for Darrin Hall, a four-star running back from Fitch in Youngstown, to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Hall was also considering Michigan State.

Then again, UK has its eyes on a bigger prize at running back, so maybe it’s not a loss at all.

Damien Harris, come on down? Please?

Joker Phillips spotted hanging out in Arkansas.

According to Danny West, a Razorbacks football reporter, Greg Schiano and Joker Phillips were “hanging out with Arkansas’ staff as observers.” I don’t know what that means, if it means anything at all.

Steve Jones has a nice interview with Damien Harris.

Harris told him, “Kentucky obviously is close to home and close to family and friends and all that, and the program is on the rise. It’s kind of one of those things where I’ve been there before. A program that hasn’t necessarily been good in the past, but is getting in the process of turning it around. It’s almost something I’m kind of familiar with being like I was in high school.”

Read more here.

Again, please come on down?

Rich Brooks accepted Randall Cobb’s #IceBucketChallenge.

Alan Cutler’s #IceBucketChallenge with Jared Lorenzen and Shane Boyd is hilarious.

Cutler took it like a champ. Love it.


A Patrick Towles Refresher

Image Via Zimbio

You can’t keep a good man down

The Patrick Towles story is one of redemption. In two seasons in Lexington he had never really gotten close to taking control off the starting job. In fact, with the commitment of Drew Barker last fall many thought he was so far down the depth chart that he’d end up transferring. Instead Towles went to work and was rewarded yesterday by being named the top Cat under center. But just who is the man calling the shots for Mark Stoop’s young roster? Let’s take a look with this refresher course on Patrick Towles.

Lorenzen V Towles

Coming out of high school Towles was dominant in pizza eating and slinging the football.  He was so dominant on the field that most recruiting services had him listed as one of the top QBs in the nation.

Class of 2012 High School Ranking

– Rivals.com: #9 pro-style QB, #1 in Kentucky, starstarstarstar

– Scout.com: #33 QB, starstarstarstar

– 247Sports.com: #10 pro-style QB, #1 in Kentucky starstarstar

– ESPN Recruiting: #32 athlete (yes, really), #1 in Kentucky, starstarstarstar

However, when Towles arrived on campus he was a bit further behind than expected. Joker made the decision to redshirt his would be star until the injury bug bit in game 6.

VS. Mississippi State

Kentucky was being blitzed by Mississippi State back in 2012 as they only muster 5 yards of offense through the first quarter. Whitlow was sent to the bench and Towles got the call for his first start. Patrick appeared to be a gamer in his first appearance on the field. He instantly ignited the Cats’ offense by going 5/5 for 71 yards capped off with a nice 32 yard TD to La’Rod King. The lead was cut to 7 but in true Joker era fashion the Cats ran the ball three times on their next possession.

The Bulldogs scored a field goal and never looked back. Towles would sprain his ankle on the next series and his freshman year looked to be finished.

Throw In the Towles

The idea of a medical redshirt was kicked around in order to save what was already a lost season 8 games into the year. Instead the Joker staff decided to finish the year with a two quarterback approach that would see Pat come in to play one series or throw one pass. It was baffling as Joker seemingly decided to give up on the season and truly throw in the towel.

YEAR 2

Stoops’ first year as coach saw a three way battle for the quarterback job with Max Smith, Jalen Whitlow, and Patrick duking it out. Patrick finished third in the race for the second time in as many years as Mark Stoops decided to redshirt the sophomore QB. Patrick’s chances at making an impact were getting slimmer with each day. He could have easily given up but instead he went out and did something about it.

Towles went to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield and changed his game. His release sped up. His footwork improved. He started to find consistency. Rumors began to come out of spring camp that Towles could be the favorite for the job. The rumors proved to be true as the kid from Highlands was announced as the starter.

The Outlook

As a redshirt Sophomore Towles could be poised for a major breakout playing in the Air Raid. At 6’5, 230, Patrick has the physical tools to go out and make a real name for himself. If he is able to put up major yards within the offense perhaps we will only see him for two years in Lexington instead of his remaining three. Either way with two years between Towles and wunderkind Barker the QB position has some depth we haven’t seen at Kentucky in quite some time.

Last year in the SEC only two teams saw their starting quarterback lead the team onto the field in all 12 games. Injuries seem to plague this position as players like Jadeveon Clowney lurk on opposing defenses. If Towles can find a way to stay on the field for the majority of the season, Kentucky can have some QB consistency for the first time since Mike Hartline.

How much of an impact do you expect Towles to have in his first starting role?


10 Things I Learned In The Bahamas (The Clean Version)

bahamas

Good evening, sports fans. Drew here, back at the KSR Lexington office after defying the odds and surviving 11 days on Paradise Island with only a couple of small wounds and one traumatizing blow to my bank account to show for it.

Tonight, as I sit here wishing I were in bed, I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned in the Bahamas. Matt gave us ten on the radio this morning and I’m passing mine along here on the website for those who are interested. If you would like the NSFW lessons, the stories I really want to share, track me down some time and I’ll be happy to tell you all about the adults-only pool on Saturday and the cab ride home Sunday night. Those two stories, and several others, aren’t for the kiddos.

*****

1.) Karl Towns is the nicest human being in the world and I refuse to listen to anyone who says otherwise.

My biggest takeaway from the entire trip is being around Karl Towns and seeing what an incredible young man he is. He’s truly the nicest person I’ve ever encountered and he’s only 18 years old. At one point late in the week I asked him his favorite moment of the trip and he told me, “I really enjoyed going to the church to wash the children’s feet.” I said, “Karl, you had 19 and 10 in your second game and you’ve spent an entire week in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Don’t give me the ‘media’ answer, tell me what’s been the most fun.” He said, “Seriously, volunteering our time to make an impact on their lives meant so much and I had a blast. I gave one kid my favorite socks off my feet because he was the last one left and they ran out. I couldn’t let him be the only one to not get socks.”

Yeah, take a second to let that tug on your heart string. It is one of the many stories I could share of Karl being the perfect human being all week. He was genuinely excited to meet each and every fan and he is going to make Big Blue Nation very, very, very proud as we get to know him even more. Think of all the generous things guys like Nerlens Noel have done since leaving, and then get ready to see Karl do them on a weekly basis.

2.) If two guys you just met at the bar ask you to go out into the middle of the ocean on their boat the next day, throw a case of beer on ice, meet them at the marina, and hope they, or the sharks, don’t murder you.

Looking back, maybe it wasn’t in my best interest to go out into the middle of the ocean with two strangers on a fishing boat, but it’s one of my favorite memories of the week. My thought process was: One of the guys, Chris, had a massive beard so I knew he could be trusted. Bearded guys go by the same code you regular folk wouldn’t understand. And Ty, the captain of the vessel, was too drunk to explain the boat or how boats work at the time of the invite so I assumed he would be too hungover to tie me up and toss me in the water. So, I went. And it was awesome.

We went wayyyyy out into the water and talked about all of the terrible ways we could die out there without the world ever knowing. That was almost the case when Chris noticed a pretty severe gas leak from one of the spare cans, just as Ty fired up another Bahamian cigarette a few feet away. Now, I’m not quite ready to leave this earth, but I must admit, death by boat explosion off the coast of Paradise Island would be one hell of a way to go out. You can’t script that.

3.) If Karl Towns is the nicest 18-year-old, Tyler Ulis is the meanest. 

I didn’t have many personal interactions with Tyler on the trip, but we all saw what a mean S.O.B. he is on the basketball court. His play may be the biggest story of the Big Blue Bahamas games. He is so advanced for a freshman point guard in August and he plays with the cliche ‘chip on his shoulder’ every time he is in the game. So active on both ends, amazing court vision, and a surprisingly deadly three-point shot.

If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times: Cal is going to have a hard time keeping Ulis off the floor next season.

4.) Slice has no idea what he signed up for.

I heard Slice telling a couple of stories about how crazy some of the Kentucky fans were in the Bahamas and how much BBN loves its basketball. I told him, “Coach, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until the Big Blue Madness campout.”

He claims to know what to expect, but I hope Kentucky Wildcats TV has a camera on him the first time he pulls into the Joe Craft Center when Tent City is up and running. That is when he will really see the passion of UK fans and he will truly see, “You people are crazy.”

In related news, Slice is still awesome.

5.) When the Cain pool at The Cove says ‘Adults Only,’ it means ‘ADULTS ONLY!!!’

That’s all I’m saying. If you ever get a chance to go, don’t you dare let that pool water get in your mouth. There isn’t enough chlorine in the world.

Very nice scenery, though.

6.) Da’Sean Butler is almost as nice as Karl Towns.

butler

(AJ, Hubby, Me, Da’Sean Butler, an unforgiving Sean)

Butler was hanging out with UK fans all week, often apologizing for what he did to the 2010 team in the Elite Eight. My friend Sean, who wasn’t ready to forgive, went as far as to kick Butler in the shin (pretty hard too) when I first brought the former Mountaineer over to our table at Dragons. Butler said, “Did you just kick me in the shin?” Sean said, “Yep. And you deserved it.” That somehow led to the two of them being best buddies all week, plus an invitation for us to visit him in France next summer.

As Hubby put it, “I hate to love that guy.”

7.) Marcus Fuggins is KSR’s favorite non-UK college basketball player.

Fuggins, a center for Morehead State, drew the unfortunate honor of sitting in the middle of the KSR gang on the flight to the Bahamas, a flight that consisted of Morehead players and coaches, KSR, and no one else. Keep in mind, we had all been stuck in the airport for several hours before boarding, so it was an obnoxious ride between the very inebriated Tall, Hubby and the Turkey Hunter. (I fell asleep.) A few days later we ran into Marcus at the casino and he stopped and asked for the guy in the jumpsuit. That “guy” was Hubby and that jumpsuit was this:

Tall, Hubby, and Sean Woods

Fuggins and Hubby hugged it out like they’ve been boys for life and we named him our favorite non-UK player. He’s invited to any and all KSR functions from now on.

8.) Nothing in the Bahamas is cheap.

Whatever number you have in your head, multiply it by at least three. That’s what you’ll need to go down there and really do it right. I’m thinking about live-streaming my reaction whenever I look up my balance later this week. Flener bet me I can’t keep a straight face. He predicts laughter or tears. I’m thinking it’ll be both.

9.) Coach Cal’s swagger is at an all-time high.

NOTHING will bring Calipari down from the high he is on after seeing his team play competitively in August. He warned BBN on the radio broadcast, “Don’t let anyone bring us down because they’re going to try to. DON’T DO IT.”

Before the exhaustion set in around Friday evening, Cal was bouncing around the resort, high-fiving fans and having a blast. He likes his team this year, no doubt. We might even get an “I love my team” before the year is over.

10.) Kentucky is really good at basketball.

But you don’t need me to tell you that. You have six games saved on your DVR to confirm what you already knew all summer. It’s going to be a fun year.

Go Cats and shout-out to the Donnelly family for the dinner at Chop Stix.


Kentucky Football Position by Position Preview: Defensive Backs

Part seven in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky football Wildcats.

neloms pic

JD Harmon looks to explain the mysteries of the “interception” to Wildcat secondary.

 

DEPTH CHART:

Corner:

Fred Tiller 6-0, 170 Jr. Homerville, GA

JD Harmon 6-2, 201 So. Paducah, KY (Tilghman)

 

Corner:

Cody Quinn 5-10, 172 Jr. Middletown, OH

Nate Willis 6-0, 168 Sr. Pahokee, FL

Jaleel Hytchye 5-10, 167 So. Cincinnati, OH

 

Safety:

Ashley Lowery 6-1, 220 Sr. Cleveland, GA

Marcus McWilson 6-0, 210 So. Youngstown, OH

Zack Blaylock 6-0, 191 So. Marietta, GA

 

Safety:

AJ Stamps 6-0, 199 Jr.-JC Vicksburg, MS

Glenn Faulkner 6-2, 195 Jr. East St. Louis, IL

 

It is nearly here.  In only a few short days, it will, at long last, be game week for the Big Blue.  By this time next week, Kentucky’s first pregame depth chart will be released.  (A weekly ritual that is a Fall version of Christmas morning for college football nerds like myself.)  A few days after that, the Cats will take the field at Commonwealth Stadium in year two of the Mark Stoops’ program reconstruction project.  Whether the 2014 squad will initiate the new dawn for which Wildcat fans pine will depend in large part on the progress of the position group upon which Stoops built his reputation; the secondary.

 

The optimistic view:

On a roster in which inexperience is a the general rule, the secondary is comprised largely of veteran players.  The depth chart at corner features five players who have started at least one game as a Wildcat.  Senior Ashley Lowery is a two year returning starter at one safety position, and highly-regarded junior college transfer AJ Stamps, who enrolled at Kentucky in January and starred in Spring Drills, will start at the other.  Only one incoming freshman defensive back, Kendall Randolph, is likely to see game action for the Wildcats.  With a full year in Kentucky’s defensive system under their collective belts, this veteran group should show dramatic improvement in year two in Mark Stoops’ defense.

The pessimistic view:

If you want to be a Negative Nellie about the whole thing, you might point out that the returning players, trumpeted above for their experience, were not all that great last year. The Cats finished 11th in the conference in passing defense, last in third down defense, last in passes defended and last in interceptions.  In fact, seven players in the SEC recorded more interceptions than the Cats did as a team in 2013.  Even more of an indictment of the 2013 secondary, of Kentucky’s lofty team interception total of three, only one lonely pick was made by a defensive back.

The neutral (or as close as I can muster) view:

When it comes to the 2013 Kentucky secondary, the pessimistic view is fairly persuasive. The interception total is not necessarily a huge deal in and of itself.  Interception total is a strange, cyclical stat that does not necessarily reflect a secondary’s ability to cover.  More damning of the Cats’ efforts last season is the  inability to get off of the field on third down.  But the sub par effort of the secondary in 2013 does not necessarily predict similar struggles in 2014.  Since he began working as a college coach in 1996, Mark Stoops has always coached defensive backs.  As defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at both Arizona and Florida State, these units, and the defenses as a whole, made dramatic improvement in year two of his tutelage.  Florida State, for example, moved from 108th nationally in total defense in year one to 42nd in year two.  Stoops’ attention to and expertise in this area of the defense should yield similar improvement in Lexington in 2014.

 

Even though most of the projected starters return, Kentucky has nonetheless improved personnel in the secondary.  This begins with safety AJ Stamps.  Of all of the positions that the Cats have struggled to fill over the years, safety is among the most glaring.  The great defenses around the SEC feature rangy athletic safeties who can both support the run and cover.  AJ Stamps may be the first true impact safety Kentucky will field since the days that Melvin Johnson was knocking Chris Doering into an alternate dimension.  Stamps recorded 51 tackles, including a sack, 9 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions as a sophomore for junior college national champion East Mississippi in 2013. Kentucky was able to edge out Urban Meyer and Ohio State for his services.  Stamps’ presence in the secondary should elevate the play of the rest of the group.  Though not listed as a starter, the return of JD Harmon at corner is also a huge addition to the secondary.  Harmon, who missed last season over academic issues, earned a starting job as a true freshman walkon out of Paducah in 2012.  His two picks that season were more than the secondary mustered in total last season.  At 6-2, Harmon gives the corner position a rare combination of size and coverage ability.

 

 


Coach Cal wants you to guess where he is

“Walking on the field, doing a little thinking when I saw Yankees in the stadium. Reminded me of the stadium Yankee Stadium.”


Tuesday Practice Notes: Patty Ice Takes the Mic

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Practice may have ended in up downs, but Patrick Towles still had a smile on his face when he met with a crowd of media members after practice today.  Much like Mark Stoops and Neal Brown, Patrick described winning the role as “relief,” but it came at a cost.

When the QB race was decided last year, he sat down with Brown who told him that he needed to improve in certain areas.  This year the conversation started the same with Brown telling Towles, “Last year at this time I brought you down here and told you that you needed to get better.  Unfortunately I’m going to have ask you the same thing.”

“All of the color went away in my face,” Towles said.  “I was glad that I was sitting down.”

Since the announcement Towles has gotten the monkey off his back.  He described the relief as though he’s a Senior on his High School football team again, calling all the shots while solely focusing on UT-Martin.

Brown always believed that Towles carried himself like a starter on the field, embracing the role as a vocal leader.  Winning the starting QB battle is just one of many battles he plans on winning this year, “He has a realistic expectation; he’s the starter, now he has to go out there and play like one.”

Notes

-  Just because he’s a big quarterback, doesn’t mean Patty Ice can’t use his legs.  Brown said that Towles clocked in at 19.8 MPH yesterday on the GPS system.  I’m not sure how you convert that into 40-yard dash speed, but you can say that he probably has better pick-me-up than my Honda Accord.

-  With the first real hot day of summer camp, players are definitely feeling the wear and tear from camp.  Many players, especially the young receivers, are going through less reps to save their bodies.  Many are still non-contact or dealing with minor injuries: Bud Dupree, Josh Forrest, Javess Blue, Boom Williams, the list goes on and on.  Luckily, Alex Mongomery is the only person Brown has serious concerns for next week.

-  With a starting QB in place, Brown is using the final two weeks to improve on obvious passing situations.  They’re much better in the pass game, but Brown wants them to execute “when the entire stadium knows it’s going to be a pass.”  They’ll begin prepping for UT-Martin towards the end of the week, but Neal Brown finished his gameplan for next week months ago.