Post Governor’s Cup and pre-Jacksonville talk featured bowl excitement and expectation for the 2017 season. →
By Freddie Maggard on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
Post Governor’s Cup and pre-Jacksonville talk featured bowl excitement and expectation for the 2017 season. If the Georgia Tech game’s depth chart happened to be a crystal ball, it would have flashed a promising future. The Wildcat offense was believed to begin its next season with ten returning starters to go along with nine on defense. 19 returning starters had prognosticators operating within a new-found sense of expectation.
That was nine months and several personnel actions ago. Kentucky is now down to six offensive and eight defensive starters from the team that squared off against Tech on New Year’s Eve. Concerned yet? I’m not. Let’s take a deeper look:
Taxslayer Bowl Starters
Left Tackle-Cole Mosier
Left Guard-Nick Haynes
Right Guard-Bunchy Stallings
Right Tackle-Kyle Meadows
Tight End-CJ Conrad
Tight End-Greg Hart
Running Back-Stanley Williams
Bowl game notes from the team’s official website show that Kentucky was to return ten starters with center Jon Toth being the only player lost to graduation. Since then; LT Cole Mosier was lost for the season to a knee injury, Jeff Badet left the team and eventually transferred to Oklahoma, Dorian Baker is now questionable due to an ankle injury (Update comes on Monday), and Stanley Williams surprisingly entered the NFL Draft. The Cats are now down to six returning offensive starters. Concerned yet? Not me.
-WR Josh Ali-6’0, 180-pounds. Ali was a 3-star prospect by all major services. Caught 43 passes for 805-yards and 4 touchdowns at Chaminade-Madonna HS which is located in Florida.
-WR Isaiah Epps-6’2, 185-pounds. Played a national powerhouse program Jenks HS in Oklahoma where he set a school record with 59 catches for 1,209-yards and 12 touchdowns.
-WR Lynn Bowden-6’1, 190-pounder from Youngstown, Ohio was considered one of the most dynamic playmakers in the nation coming out of high school. 4-star prospect in all major recruiting services.
-WR Clevan Thomas-5’11, 205-pounds from Florida’s Charles W. Flanagain HS. Rated as one of the nation’s top receivers, helped his team win the 8A state championship as a junior.
-RB Bryant Koback-6’0, 193-pounder from Holland, Ohio was set to have a standout senior season before suffering an injury. Koback rushed for 1096-yards and 21 TD’s in a 4-game, shortened senior campaign.
-LT Naasir Watkins-6’6, 300-pound former TE that played at national powerhouse Our Lady of Good Counsel HS, Maryland. Watkins was a 3-star prospect chose UK over Coastal Carolina, Bowling Green, Ohio, and Dartmouth.
A foursome of true freshmen receivers was projected to play prior to the Dorian Baker situation. Now, it’ all but certain that they’ll make the trip and contribute in Hattiesburg. This group includes: Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, Lynn Bowden, and Clevan Thomas. JaVonte Richardson is the 5th receiver in the class and was a 4-star coming out of high school. However, Lamar Thomas has an overabundance of taller, X wide-outs at his disposal. Richardson may redshirt.
Mark Stoops has said that tackle Naasir Watkins is ahead of Landon Young at the same stage in their careers. Watkins has the makings of a special left tackle in the Southeastern Conference. RB Bryant Koback participated in the team’s latest live-scrimmage and could provide depth at the position. Remember, it takes four running backs to survive a season.
All offensive linemen signed and developed by John Schlarman should have a “slash” in their position descriptions. The UK OL coach had cross-trained his big fellas to play multiple positions along the line-of-scrimmage. This should pay dividends on the recruiting trail as multiplicity is a highly sought after trait by the National Football League. This includes a duo of redshirt freshmen in center/guard Drake Jackson and center/guard/tackle Luke Fortner who should be in its two-deep rotation.
Taxslayer Bowl Starters
Outside Linebacker-Josh Allen
Defensive Tackle-Adrian Middleton
Defensive End-Alvonte Bell
Defensive End-Courtney Miggins
Outside Linebacker-Denzil Ware
DE Alvonte Bell was dismissed from the team. I could be proven wrong about the seriousness of the Bell situation. Unlike some talking heads (and I have a huge head) when I’m wrong I admit it. I was seriously concerned after learning that UK had lost an impactful, proven pass rusher from a questionable defensive line. I still think Bell’s absence will sting, but fall camp has brought on an onslaught of positive news surrounding the UK defensive line along with a group of highly promising true freshmen edge rushers.
Mark Stoops’ and Matt House’s faces light up when discussing true freshmen Josh Paschal and Quinten Bohanna. Same can be said of fellow novices Jordan Wright and Phil Hoskins. Add in redshirt freshmen Jamar “Boogie Watson and Kordell Looney, and the surge of new front-seven talent has me not as anxious as I was a couple months ago. I still think that Chris Whittaker, Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald and Alex King will be just as impactful once the situation presents itself.
The Class of 2017 has a chance to be a doozy. It could prove to be the best to ever ink with the Wildcats. Mark Stoops and Matt House said on Saturday that football means a great deal to this group of true freshmen. I like that, no I love that statement. Although not a measurable event and is often times overlooked by recruiting services; passion for the game is as important as vertical jumps and 40-times in the recruiting process. The old saying stands true today, “Can’t measure heart.’
But be advised; we’re talking about freshmen. After throwing a high number of interceptions throughout my playing career, it must be noted that I have a substantial higher number of career tackles than all of the abovementioned rookies. I’d join Mark Stoops in forewarning the Big Blue Nation to not get caught up in overhyping the freshmen. It’s all projection until the Class of 2017 experiences their first game-action.
-NT Quinten Bohanna-6’4, 320-pounds. The nose tackle was a 3-star prospect and racked up 91 total tackles, 24 tackles for loss, and 19 QB sacks as a senior.
-DT Phil Hoskins-6’5, 280-pounds. Hoskins is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Attended junior college at Highlands CC but has three years of eligibility remaining at UK. Has an 84-inch wingspan.
-OLB Jordan Wright-6’5, 250-pounds. Wright was an all-state football and basketball player at Florida’s Dillard HS. Registered 25 QB sacks as a senior. Caught 6 touchdowns as tight end.
-OLB Josh Paschal-6’3, 270-pounds. Teammate of OT Naasir Watkins, Paschal played for legendary coach Bill Milloy. 4-star prospect. 247Sports rated him as the nation’s 11st best SDE.
-MLB Jamin Davis-6’4, 220-pounds. Davis was an early enrollee and took full advantage of the offseason by leading the team in tackles during the spring game. Rated as one of the top 50 LB’s in America coming out of Long County HS. Chose UK over Louisville, Georgia Tech, and NC State.
What does all this mean?
Experience and an extraordinarily high number of returning starters were to be the way-too-easy storylines of the 2017 Kentucky Wildcats. But, a highly skilled and prudently focused collection of newcomers have stolen the show. Will that carry over to the season? Not necessarily as the vast majority of production will come from veterans. But, after writing and reading a multitude of stories that fixated on a small number of veteran’s focus or lack thereof; rookie eagerness has certainly been a welcome and refreshing alteration to fall camp rhetoric.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
The entire solar eclipse is expected to last just 20 minutes, but the lack of productivity in that time is expected to cost businesses a fortune.
According to Forbes, the rare phenomenon will cost American businesses nearly $700 million in productivity.
And because this ultra-rare celestial moment is happening on a work and school day we can count on thousands of people to take the day off, call in sick, or skip their regularly scheduled duties to watch the moon’s shadow block out the sun’s rays for a few minutes. And those minutes, when added up, will likely cost American businesses nearly $700 million in productivity, according to an estimate by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
In total, the company estimates that the U.S. economy will lose $694 million during the approximately 20-minute eclipse process. And that number, Andy Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told Forbes via email, could be conservative.
Additionally, states and cities in the path of totality could see an even greater financial setback.
According to a report by Challenger, because the state of Kentucky, and more specifically, Hopkinsville, is in the path of totality, we could be seeing almost $200 million in lost productivity alone.
These few minutes of darkness are going to cost a pretty penny.
And Kentuckians are going to love every second of it.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
It looks like Justin Thomas, Kenny Perry, and J.B. Holmes aren’t the only Kentuckians making names for themselves on the links.
This afternoon, former UK golfer Mark Blakefield won the National Capital Open on the PGA’s Mackenzie Tour in Canada.
The PGA Tour Canada is considered one of the last stops before making it onto the official PGA Tour scene.
Here he is celebrating his victory with his fiancée:
— Mackenzie Tour (@PGATOURCanada) August 20, 2017
Congratulations to the former Wildcat, and Go Big Blue!
By Brett Bibbins on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
After a miserable start to the second half of the season, including a 2-14 stretch just after the All-Star break, the Cincinnati Reds have now had three straight winning weeks. This past week, the Redlegs went a combined 4-3 against the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves.
Reds take 2 of 3 from the Braves through the weekend
Cincinnati went 2-2 against the Cubs in Wrigley through the first half of the week, but finished out the week winning the series in Atlanta. The two wins came at the power of the long ball. In the first win, the Reds went into the top of the 6th down 1-0, but Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez, and rookie Jesse Winker combined for three bombs in four batters to give Cincinnati a 4-1 lead which proved to be the difference in the 5-3 final score. In game 2, the Reds were up 7-4 in the top of the final frame, and a Scooter Gennett grand slam stretched the lead to 11-4. Those insurance runs were needed too, as the struggling bullpen let the Braves bring it to 11-8 before closing the door.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 20, 2017
Runs, runs, and more runs
Despite winning 4 of 7 this week, the Reds needed a ton of offense to win those four games. The pitching staff for Cincinnati surrendered at least 7 runs five times in seven games. It is more of the same from the arms for Cincinnati, who give up the most runs per game in the MLB at 5.25, with the next closest being the Detroit Tigers at 4.99 and the Baltimore Orioles at 4.84 runs per game. The bullpen was so overworked this week, that Scooter Gennett had to take the mound in the 8th inning of a 15-5 loss to the Cubs. Gennett gave up a two-run home run and a walk in his one inning of work, but he was able to have a little fun at his own expense about only throwing in the high 60s on the mound.
Scooter Gennett stepped up when asked, he's just curious if the radar gun was broken? pic.twitter.com/ZU2AGx4dZV
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) August 15, 2017
Kris Bryant says Joey Votto is “the best player ever”
Any baseball fan knows the basics about Joey Votto and how talented he is at the plate, but few know just how incredible he has been over the span of his career. One player who has always taken notice is Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. In an interview with CSN Chicago, Bryant had this to say about Joey.
He’s the best player ever. He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain.
Bryant continued later in the article:
He’s not just doing it this year – he’s doing it his whole career. He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.
Check out the rest of the piece here.
Joey Votto’s streak comes up just short
Speaking of how unbelievable Joey Votto has been, this week saw the end of his 20 game streak of reaching base at least two times per game. Votto came up one game shy of tying Ted Williams record of 21 straight games in 1948. Votto had a chance to tie the record in the last inning, but flew out to end the game.
Joey Votto has reached base multiple times in 20 straight games; only Ted Williams has a longer streak in the modern era (since 1900). pic.twitter.com/327ePUH2Ly
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 16, 2017
The Week Ahead
Cincinnati has tomorrow off, but on Tuesday they start a nine game homestand. In the first series, the Reds play host to the Cubs for three games, followed by three games against the Pirates. Saturday will be Homer Bailey bobblehead night for the first 20,000 fans, while a week from today will be Scott Schebler Fathead night for any child 14 years of age or younger.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 7:15pm
According to the SEC Network, Jordan Jones is one of the top four linebackers in the SEC and is listed on the official “Ultimate SEC Depth Chart.”
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) August 20, 2017
Jones led the SEC in solo tackles per game last season with 5.7, and finished third in the conference in total tackles with 109. The junior out of Youngstown, OH was also listed as a third team All-American by Athlon Sports.
Watch Jordan Rodgers dissect the top linebackers in the SEC, and explain why he believes Jones deserves to be on the list:
“My favorite guy in the SEC, Jordan Jones. He is the pulse of the Kentucky defense… He’s going to be the reason Kentucky is successful this year.”
We definitely agree, Jordan.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 6:00pm
While the vast majority of former Kentucky players are preparing for the upcoming NBA season with their respective teams, Nerlens Noel remains unsigned.
It has nothing to do with his talent, rather, the former Wildcat is wanting to cash in on a max contract. The Dallas Mavericks, however, have shown little indication that a massive payday is coming for the three-year veteran.
In a last-ditch effort of receiving a $29 million/year salary, Noel has hired agent Dan Fegan to seal the deal.
Fegan, known as one of the top agents in the NBA, also represents the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Chandler Parsons, Jusuf Nurkic, and several others.
According to NBC 5 in Dallas, other teams have stayed far away from Noel’s hefty price tag, but the former UK big man isn’t backing down from his contract demands.
No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.
Is Noel worth a max contract in the NBA? Probably not, but I applaud the guy for not selling himself short.
Go get that money, Nerlens.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 5:00pm
Yesterday morning, news broke that senior receiver Dorian Baker suffered a “substantial” ankle injury during the team’s second scrimmage of the year.
According to our own Matt Jones, the injury is likely to keep Baker out the entire season.
While it’s easy to bring up how devastating the injury is for the Wildcats, we don’t have time to dwell on it. Instead, we need to talk about who’s going to step up in his absence.
Next man up: Kayaune Ross.
Listed at 6’6, 230 lbs., many expected Ross to come in last year and make an immediate impact as a red-zone threat due to his ridiculous size.
To start the year, he was just that.
Due to unfamiliarity with the playbook, however, Ross saw his reps decrease through the first six games of the year. Back spasms then sidelined the junior college transfer for the remainder of the season.
The junior wide-out from Ohio started the preseason No.2 on the depth chart behind Baker, but with the ankle injury, the outside receiver spot is now firmly in Ross’ possession.
In an interview with Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader, UK wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas said Ross has transformed into a “grown man.”
“He’s one of those guys every day who is looking for his moment,” Thomas said. “He is on top of it. He’s just a different kid right now. He’s a grown man. He’s literally a grown man. He’s using that grown-man-ness to impose it on the group. He’s stepping up and being a leader.”
That leadership has translated to success on the field, and expectations are through the roof for the lengthy receiver out of Ohio.
According to sources within the team, Ross has been one of the most impressive receivers on the roster and took over the majority of first-team reps, even before Baker got injured.
If you watch this training video recorded following UK’s bowl game, it’s easy to see why Ross has taken such a major step up.
UK quarterback Stephen Johnson told reporters a few weeks back that the praise Ross is receiving from the coaching staff and fellow teammates is certainly warranted.
“He’s doing incredible. He’s doing absolutely amazing things right now,” said Johnson. “Just to see him on the field, get close to the 10-yard line, those fade balls are just layups for him.”
We saw some of those fade routes in his highlight tape coming into Kentucky:
Since then, however, he’s completely transformed his game. His route-running is crisp, his hands have improved, he’s grasped the playbook, he’s a year older, he’s healthy, etc.
Whatever it has taken to take his game to the next level, Kayaune Ross has gone out and done it.
Many expected Ross to become a massive red zone target this year, but I believe that’d be setting the bar far too low.
We saw massive second-year jumps out of former JUCO receivers Javess Blue, Chris Matthews, and Stevie Johnson, and I’m a firm believer that Ross is next in line.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 3:50pm
According to several reports, former Kentucky star running back Boom Williams has been released from the Cincinnati Bengals.
NEWS: #Bengals release DT Brandon Thompson and waive WR Karel Hamilton, RB Stanley Williams
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 20, 2017
With an impressive stable of backs already in Cincinnati, we all knew it was going to be difficult for Williams to make the 53-man roster.
After the former Wildcat managed just one carry for four yards last night in the Bengals’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, his release seemed all but certain.
Hopefully Boom can find a new home and keep his professional career afloat.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
The Little League World Series is an awesome time of year where we find some of the most talented youngsters in the world fighting for a title.
Today, we saw one of these competitors make the most ridiculous catch of the week, and quite possibly, the entire year.
See for yourself:
Maybe the greatest catch ever made in the LLWS just now pic.twitter.com/2zZQQIrbTH
— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) August 20, 2017
To add to the drama, the catch was initially ruled an out, then a home run, and then eventually (and correctly) overturned.
That kid just reached celebrity status, and he hasn’t even hit puberty yet.
By Jay Winkler on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 2:00pm
Former Madison Central and UK lineman Larry Warford signed a fat, 4 year, $34 million contract with the New Orleans Saints earlier this year. After cutting his teeth in Detroit during his first four years in the NFL, Warford cashed in, and according to the Canal St. Chronicles’ John Hendrix, he has the tools to be a valuable player in NOLA for years to come.
What I see is an agile, technically sound guard who is excellent on screens and in space, who doesn’t make many mistakes, and who has become much more consistent over the past year or so. The closest thing to a knock is that he isn’t the type of player who’ll dominate his opponent completely out of the play, but I wouldn’t consider that much of a negative. Given his age and familiarity with the system, he should have the right guard spot locked down for at least the length of his contract and hopefully longer.
It’s fun to bring out-of-state guys through Lexington on their way to the league, but it’s even more special to see a homegrown talent become a valued asset to an NFL team.
The full piece from Hendrix can be found here.
By Jay Winkler on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 1:45pm
Top Ohio recruit Blue Smith is set to make his decision. He tweeted earlier today to announce he’d be choosing between UK, Ohio State, and Cincinnati on August 27th.
— BLUE📿 (@bluesmith_) August 20, 2017
Smith is the 115th overall prospect in the 2018 class according to 247 Sports, as well as the number 1 overall athlete in Ohio. OSU is the favorite as of now, but hopefully Vince Marrow can score another one for the Big Blue.
By Jay Winkler on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 1:30pm
We’re just about 24 hours away from tomorrow’s solar eclipse. If you’re like me, you won’t be descending upon the madness that is Hopkinsville, but for those of you dedicated enough to journey into the path of totality… well, you’re gonna need some hype music.
Just remember kids, if you don’t have protective eyewear, DON’T LOOK AT IT.
By Jay Winkler on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
It’s a funny thing when a big letdown is followed up by a massive victory. Karma, it would seem, is a fan of college basketball recruiting, at least in the case of the BBN and Nerlens Noel.
While The Brow is undoubtedly the most iconic physical feature a Calipari player has had, the Flat-top wasn’t too far behind. And while following in the footsteps of a once-in-a-generation player and a national championship team is no easy task, Nerlens gave it all of the mental strength he had, but in the end, it was his body that crumpled under the weight.
After the success of Anthony Davis at UK, the market value for tall, lanky shot blockers was at an all-time high. So naturally, when a 6’11” phenom with a flat-top fade comes on the scene, college coaches were salivating.
The Tilton Academy star entertained offers from the likes of Kansas and North Carolina, but would go on to visit Syracuse, Georgetown, and Kentucky.
Before Noel would announce his decision, there was another matter of business to attend to.
The 2012 recruiting gauntlet was dominated by Noel and Muhammad, both of whom were considering Kentucky and both of whom were going to commit on the same night. Was a package deal in the cards?
Not on this night. After Shabazz committed to UCLA, fans started to entertain the idea that maybe Cal wouldn’t snag either of the top two players in the nation.
But fortunately, the big man came through with one of the slickest college commitments of all time.
Now that’s how you promote not only yourself, but your future school.
Noel played in 24 games, averaging nearly a double-double per game, with 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He was the anchor of the 2012-2013 team, which only made his eventual injury all the more devastating. Without Nerlens, the team struggled to find a rhythm to ride out the rest of the season.
A premature exit in the NIT ended Cal’s most lackluster year at Kentucky.
“Robert Morris” exists as a painful joke in the Bluegrass.
And a healthy Nerlens Noel is now one of the biggest “what if ” scenarios in UK history.
By Jay Winkler on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 11:00am
A couple nights ago, 2018 5-star forward Naz Reid trimmed his list of contenders to just two. Kentucky was not one of them.
Final 2‼️🔥 pic.twitter.com/GIVaqbyZww
— Naz Reid (@NazReid) August 19, 2017
Of course, Reid didn’t have an offer from UK, so you can’t blame the kid for moving forward with his recruitment. But that lack of an offer could be telling in regards to Cal’s positioning with Zion Williamson.
While this doesn’t take into account any potential holdovers from this year’s team, with Reid off the table, there is an added layer of pressure on Coach Cal to nab arguably the most electrifying prospect since Lebron James. A shift in Zion’s Crystal Ball predictions toward Kansas last week has a lot of fans on edge, but maybe Cal has an ace up his sleeve that we don’t know about.
I hope so. I want this kid real bad.
By Haley Simpson on ©August 20th, 2017 @ 10:00am
With freshmen move-in now over, traffic around Downtown Lexington can start to flow properly again. Now K Week is underway. Freshmen are just getting their first glimpse at what life at UK is really like and I must say, I’m kind of jealous. This week is all about free food and t-shirts. It’s the life. Last night, the freshmen year class was addressed by Stephen Johnson, Coach Cal and Matthew Mitchell. Enjoy it kids, the four years goes by fast kids.
Cats had their second preseason scrimmage
Wrapping up the final weekend of fall camp with a scrimmage, Mark Stoops praised his team’s performance on Saturday.
“I feel like it was better scrimmage than it was a week ago, as it should be,” Stoops said. “I thought we had a really good, solid week of practice this week. We got a lot of work in. Wrapping it up today with a good, long scrimmage. I feel like we did good things on both sides of the ball.”
We’re now less than two weeks until kick off and with fall camp ending this week, preparations for Southern Miss are starting to fall into place.
Dorian Baker suffered a significant ankle injury
Of all the good news to come out of yesterday’s scrimmage, we also learned Dorian Baker was the second senior to suffer an injury during preseason scrimmages. While the severity of Baker’s injury is unknown at the moment, it seems as if the receiver is in good spirits about the setback.
When you got that dog mentality nothing can stop you only slow you down, we good, set back for a MAJOR comeback ya digg!!
— Dorian Baker 🐅 (@DBaker2_) August 19, 2017
Eclipse reminder of the day: One more day
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you probably know that there’s a big solar eclipse going down around 2:30 p.m. tomorrow. If you’re one of the lucky ones who got eclipse glasses, get ready to stare at the sun as it all goes down tomorrow, it should be awesome.
Tomorrow’s summer tour stop: Hopkinsville
Matt and the gang head to Hopkinsville tomorrow, the premier viewing location for the eclipse, to begin the last leg of the KSR Summer Tour. If you’re in the area, check the guys out.