Kentucky football has the number one 2014 recruiting class right now, and the national media is starting to take notice. Check out this video from ESPN Recruiting Nation about Kentucky’s unbelievable rise, which is due in part to the staff’s connections in Ohio. Also helpful? Drew Barker. But you already knew that.
The video also features an interview with Mike Edwards, who credits his commitment to Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops. Edwards says the staff told him he can play early and he feels like Kentucky is a “great fit.” The chance to play in the SEC was also a big factor that led him to choose the Cats over Big Ten teams like Ohio State.
Happy Wednesday and welcome to this edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, Perrin Johnson will stop by to cohost with Matt Jones, which means some fun little brother ribbing and a whole lot of stories.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.
– More Twins!
– More Yahtzee!
– Nerlens Noel clears up some rumors
– Much more…
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The last 10 years at Kentucky have really been quite a wild ride. Starting with the 02-03 season, Kentucky has won 4 SEC Championships, 4 SEC Tournament Championships, and 1 National Championships. We have had #1 recruiting classes under 2 coaches (Tubby and Cal, don’t forget) and seen 2 #1 draft picks, with the potential for a 3rd. We’ve also seen some down times, with the last 2 years of Tubby and the 2 years of Gillispie (although BCG’s first year was better than people remember). But above all else, we have seen a lot of great players come through Lexington. But, who are the best 10? I ranked my best 10 players, based on talent alone, and then gave a Bonus 10 below that. Again, this is not ranking players on their UK careers but just on their talent alone.
1. Anthony Davis: National Player of the Year, Final Four MVP, and crushed school record for blocks in a season. Davis ranks 4th in school history in blocks. IN ONE SEASON. You could make a serious argument that Davis had the best individual season in UK history, when you throw in the national title as well. He is likely the most athletic freak to play for UK. And he did it all while becoming a cultural icon with the unibrow.
2. Keith Bogans: 4th in school history in points, but for the sake of this argument, only Bogans senior season is being taken under consideration. Even still, that senior season was one of the 10 best in UK history. Bogans led the first ever (and only) SEC team to go undefeated in regular season and tournament play. Bogans combination of deadly jump shot and mid-range game made him a nightmare to guard. But people forget he was also the defensive stopper on that 2003 team, and maybe argue his sprained ankle prevented him from shutting down Dwayne Wade. Bogans was the unquestioned team leader of the 2nd best UK team since 1980.
3. John Wall: Was a talent that UK hadn’t seen at the point guard spot. Maybe the fastest player end to end in school history. But his importance was bringing UK back from the depths of Billy Gillispie, but doing it in a cool way. Wall brought the Calipari-era into every top recruits home and you could argue he deserves some of the credit for the success the next 2 years. Oh, plus he was a hell of a player. Despite a struggling jumper at times, Wall was so good at getting the to basket it really didn’t matter.
4. Patrick Patterson: This guy could really do it all. He could score, rebound, pass, block shots, run the floor, and he was a strong competitor. His broken foot in the 2008 season ended any hopes of a long tournament run. He stepped onto campus and immediately became the best player on the team. If he had returned, he had a good shot at becoming a 2,000 point scorer. Patterson’s consistency and leadership boost him into this spot.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Can we say potentially the best motor to play the game at UK? I have argued Gilchrist was more important to the 2012 championship than Anthony Davis. I am not sure UK wins that title without either guy, but MKG often made that little hustle play, that putback, that block, that demoralized a team, stopped a run, or put an emphasis on a UK run. Incredible defender, great in transition, and an improved jump shot made him tough to handle in February and March.
6. Brandon Knight: Probably the best pure scorer in the Calipari era. Fantastic jump shot, but also an incredible ability to create his own jump shot, whether off a screen or off the dribble. Plus, had 2 iconic baskets in the same NCAA Tournament. Knight often carried that team single-handedly, and was for sure the guy to get the ball at the end of games. I always liked to consider him a better version of Jodie Meeks. Or certainly a guy who could do more things than Meeks.
7. Demarcus Cousins: People forget that Cousins was a bit of a struggle on the offensive end at the beginning of the 08-09 season. We forget because he became such a force by the end of the year. I would doubt you could find a guy who improved in one season more the Cousins. The best pure center at UK since Sam Bowie (until Davis came along), Cousins provided UK with the punch down low while Wall did it in the open floor. Cousins probably had more offensive game than Davis, but the addition of defense is what pushes Davis ahead. Wish he could have had that Final Four.
8. Chuck Hayes: Did more with the skills he had than anybody. Had no offensive game to speak of when he came to UK, but became quite the scorer in the low post his last 2 years. Was one of the best rebounders to ever play at UK, especially for his size. A great competitor, fan favorite.
9. Nerlens Noel: He would have stretches in games where he had just as much an impact, maybe more, than Anthony Davis did. His 2nd half against Ole Miss was legendary. But a lack of great guards around him often hurt his production. His defensive game was certainly one of the best ever seen in Lexington. Offensive game was a developing creature and likely what keeps him out of the Top 5. Plus, we didn’t find out how good he could become after his knee injury.
10. Jodie Meeks: Meeks probably deserves to be on this list just for his scoring record game against Tennessee. But, he also developed his game that junior season into becoming a complete player. Defense was sometimes an issue for Meeks, but got better each season. Was hampered by injuries his first 2 years. Plus, had to suffer through Billy Gillispie. Nonetheless, the best scorer at UK since……….Mashburn? Issel? I think he belongs in that company when it comes to scoring alone. And for that, it still just makes him the 10th best player at UK in the last 10 years.
The Next 10
11. Terrence Jones
12. Eric Bledsoe
13. Gerald Fitch
14. Doron Lamb
15. Ramel Bradley
16. Rajon Rondo
17. Darius Miller
18. Kelena Azubuike
19. Randolph Morris
20. Archie Goodwin
OK, so there is my list. What would yours be? Again, we are using any player that played at UK from the 02-03 season on.
Fill in the blank.
Arden Key is a highly-touted defensive end in the 2015 recruiting class with an offer sheet full of powerhouse football programs, including Kentucky. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder from Lithonia, Georgia recently decided to wrap up his recruitment early, at least for now, when he pledged his commitment to Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Way to go, USC-Jr. Good for you.
But Key’s commitment, though big news on the football recruiting scene, is drawing national attention for reasons away from the gridiron. Sure, it is a huge steal for Spurrier to pull a recruit out of the state of Georgia, but it’s one of the reasons Key gave for choosing South Carolina that has everyone talking.
After announcing his decision Sunday afternoon, Key told Palmetto Sports that academics drew him to Columbia. And not in a good kind of way for the university.
“The academic part, it’s like you have to try to fail,” he said.
Ummmmm… Come again?
Did this dude just suggest it’s easier to pass classes at South Carolina? And if that’s a major factor in where he goes, why didn’t he commit to North Carolina?
I bet he’d like to have the quote back.
To your News and Views…
Yahtzee! Yahtzee! Holy Yahtzee! What another great day to be a UK football fan! First, Mark Stoops and his staff locked up twin transfers from Pittsburgh, Demitrious and Chris Davis. In case you haven’t heard, the Davis brothers announced they’d be leaving the Pitt program last month to find a system that fits their playmaking abilities. They were promised the spread offense under former Pitt head coach Todd Graham, but when Graham left prior to their freshman seasons last year, new head coach Paul Chryst brought in a slower Big 10-like offense. The boys’ father, Chris Davis Sr., made it clear during their senior year of high school that they wouldn’t go anywhere in the Big 10 because the style of play doesn’t fit their faster and smaller frames, and they would only seek schools that spread it out. Insert Kentucky, the school they visited and committed to on Tuesday.
The Brothers Davis will have to sit out 2013 but they will participate in fall camp and work with the scout team throughout the season. They will have three years of eligibility beginning in 2014 and potential to earn full scholarships. They will be walk-ons this fall.
Coming out of Ohio’s Austintown Fitch High School in 2012, Demitrious and Chris were the 32nd and 33rd ranked athletes in the class, respectively. They had offers from over 20 schools at the time, including West Virginia, UCLA and Oregon.
Demitrious will play in the slot and occasionally in the backfield in Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense; Chris is expected to play cornerback.
If you thought the UK staff was done for the day with the Davises, you thought wrong. #BBN had another game of Yahtzee! to play Tuesday night. Derrick Kelly, an unranked lineman out of Florida became the 18th verbal commitment in Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class. Kelly, like Bryan The Intern on a Saturday night out in Louisville, goes both ways, although he’s listed as an offensive tackle and expected to stay that way in Lexington. A cousin of former UK defensive back Eric Kelly, the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder picked the Cats over offers from South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall and others.
It’s important to note he is high school teammates with three-star cornerback JaJuan Perkins, who also has an offer from UK.
Keeping with the UK football theme, UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown spoke to a group of lunch-eaters at the Louisville Quarterback Club luncheon Tuesday afternoon. Our own Ally Tucker was not in attendance, but she has a recap of Brown’s words with a little help from the Herald-Leader’s John Clay. To summarize, Brown thinks you, the members of Big Blue Nation, are the most active fans on social media and he credits the online interaction and support for building momentum in recruiting. He also noted that the current commitments understand 2013 might be an ugly season and everyone is on board to come here and help turn it around in 2014.
Bud Dupree and Avery Williams were honored recently by being named to the 2013 College Football Performance Awards Defensive Awards Watch List. Dupree was named to the 2013 CFPA Defensive Lineman Trophy Watch List, while Williamson earned a spot on the 2013 CFPA Linebacker Trophy Watch List.
Nerlens Noel is receiving some criticism this week for his inner circle and the way they have handled the pre-draft process. How it affects his draft position remains to be seen, but he told KSR it shouldn’t be an issue and he’s surprised to hear the allegations. Noel told Matt he has just been focused on rehabbing down in Birmingham and some people (agents) could be taking it the wrong way when he declines their requests to talk. “One of the reasons I am so far ahead on my rehab is while other people have been wanting me to talk to agents, I have been down here working trying to get on the court,” he said.
Keep doing you, big fella. Make them eat they feet.
Noel is still No. 1 in Chad Ford’s mock draft, although the Alex Len talks continue to pick up from the so-called experts. It’s looking like it’ll be one of those two who hear their name called when David Stern announces Cleveland’s first overall pick next week.
Archie is No. 38 on Ford’s Top 100.
I’ll leave you with this tweet from Thaddeus Snodgrass. Go Cats.
For those who didn't know yes we are THE #1 recruiting class in the nation.. Run with us or run from us!!
— Thaddeus Snodgrass (@ThadSnod1) June 19, 2013
Tonight the football team had their “Position Dinners” with the various coaches of their position. This was the Defensive Line group that coach Jimmy Brumbaugh fed. That is a lot of food folks…a lot of food.
It took a little longer than usual but we have a ‘Yahtzee!’ from the Kentucky coaching staff to confirm Derrick Kelly’s commitment. Mark Stoops just made it official:
YAHTZEE…..let’s keep it rolling. pic.twitter.com/QlBfsRhN83
— Mark Stoops (@UKCoachStoops) June 19, 2013
And we have another one.
Three-star offensive lineman Derrick Kelly from East Gadsden High School in Havana, Florida has committed to the University of Kentucky, per Jeff Drummond. He’s 6-foot-5, 268-pounds and ranked 82nd at his position by 247Sports. Kelly had offers from East Carolina, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, and FIU.
Today I spoke with Nerlens Noel on the telephone to ask him about the national stories that have been swirling these last few days. You may remember that ESPN’s Ryen Russillo went on the Bill Simmons’ Podcast and spoke about those around Noel hurting his NBA Draft stock. According to Russillo, Noel has been surrounded by some people that aren’t looking out for his best interests and are hurting his stock with NBA teams. On my radio show this morning, Russillo joined us and noted that Noel had skipped out on meetings with agents and had seemed to pay no attention to the process of hiring an agent for the NBA Draft. He said this has caused concern for a number of NBA teams that worry that Noel is surrounding himself with people that will do him harm and ultimately has hurt his stock.
When I spoke with Noel today, he seemed genuinely surprised at the criticism. “I am not sure who people are talking about but right now there are only two people around me when I make decisions, my mom and Chris (his business manager).” When I asked him about the reports about blowing off agents he said, “honestly I just haven’t wanted to meet with a lot of agents because I have been worried about my rehab. One of the reasons I am so far ahead on my rehab is while other people have been wanting me to talk to agents, I have been down here working trying to get on the court.” Noel, who is spending his time in Birmingham rehabilitating said, “a lot of those guys have wanted to talk with me and I just haven’t felt like it was necessary. It is more important to get on the court that to talk to a lot of agent type people.” When I asked where Noel thought the source of these stories were coming from he chuckled and said, “probably people mad that I didn’t pick them to work with me.”
The two people Noel is referring to as his “entourage” are both people who have been around him a long time, of course his mother and “Chris” (whose last name I do not know), who has known the family for some time. He was adamant that while he isn’t sure the people being referred to as “bad dudes” by Russillo, unless they are Chris or his mother, they are playing no part in his decision process. While on the phone, all Noel wanted to focus on was basketball, even at one point saying with excitement, “Matt, you would be amazed how far I have come since starting this rehab.” You could hear in his voice the excitement of getting better, and it was a strong reminder how Nerlens is at heart, a kid who just loves playing basketball.
As I have said many times, Noel is one of the best kids off the court that I have seen at Kentucky. While his game needs work (specifically on the offensive end), his character does not and that is why these national reports have had me worried. Russillo and others have been clear that they have no concern about Noel the person, just those around him. Russillo says the source of the worries is from teams, not the agents shunned by Noel. But either way, Nerlens insists that is not an issue and that his inner circle of three people is all that matters to him and his career going forward. I hope that is the case for Noel, as he deserves a chance to showcase his high character in the league at the best pick possible, with no outside distractions.
Big Blue Nation added two new members late this afternoon when the Davis twins announced they’ll be transferring to Kentucky to play football.
Here are 10 things you should know about them…
1.) They were stars at Austintown Fitch High School just outside of Youngstown, Ohio.
Youngstown, of course, is the home of Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow, an area Kentucky is beginning to own in recruiting. Marrow is currently recruiting a running back, Darrin Hall, from Austintown Fitch in the 2015 class, also.
2.) They had offers from Oregon, West Virginia, UCLA, Baylor, Arkansas, Oregon State, Purdue and Vanderbilt.
The twins picked up a little more than 20 total offers in high school, mostly from the same programs. If a school only showed interest in one of them, that school was immediately removed from consideration.
“We knew from Day 1 we were going to go to school together,” Demitrious Davis told ESPN in 2012.
3.) They were top 40 prospects in Ohio and top 40 athletes in the 2012 class, according to Rivals.com.
Demitrious and Chris were the 32nd and 33rd ranked athletes, respectively. They were No. 39 and No. 40 in the state of Ohio.
4.) ESPN Recruiting called Demitrius “a blur of an athlete in space.”
An excerpt from his ESPN scouting report in 2012:
“This guy is an absolute nightmare to deal with at the high school level as a dual-threat, run first quarterback that will likely move to cornerback or slot receiver at the next level. He is dramatically undersized or he would be a national recruit as both an ATH and dual-threat QB because he throws the ball surprisingly well. He is a short prospect, but can flat out run. He is a blur of an athlete in space. Displays rapid acceleration, supreme top end speed and moves like a jack rabbit laterally. He has a low center of gravity, can jump cut, shows excellent vision with sharp cuts to exploit the cutback lane. He is the ideal zone runner and could be a spread offense utility back. He explodes through tiny creases in-line and once at the second level he is a homerun threat that can take it the distance. Will win most, if not all footraces at this level.”
ESPN ranked him the 25th best athlete in the class and the 10th best recruit in Ohio.
5.) Demitrious will play offense, Chris will play defense.
Demitrious will be used in the slot and at running back in Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense. Chris will help out on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary.
6.) They both bench 350, squat 450, and run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash.
Demitrious is listed at 5’10”, 175 lbs. in the Pitt media guide. Chris is 5’9”, 180 lbs.
7.) They announced their transfer from Pitt on May 12, 2013.
The twins cited a change in the offense as their reason for leaving. Former Pitt head coach Todd Graham ran a spread offense before his successor, Paul Chryst, implemented a pro-style offense. Demitrious and Chris were adamant about playing in a spread offense in college during their recruitment. After announcing the transfer, Chris tweeted that he had to put himself in the best position to succeed.
Pitt prohibited them from transferring to an ACC school or Arizona or Arizona State where former Pitt coaches are on staff.
8.) They will walk on this year.
But the opportunity to earn a scholarship in the future is there.
9.) They will have three years of eligibility at Kentucky beginning in 2014.
And they should be more than ready to go when their time rolls around. They will be able to run with the scout team all season and participate in fall and spring camps.
10.) They’re excited.
Your boy is a Kentucky Wildcat!! #UK
— Chris Lamar Davis Jr (@chris_davis22) June 18, 2013
Its official! Im a Kentucky Wildcat! #UK
— Demitrious Davis (@Ddavis_2) June 18, 2013
Despite what you’ve been hearing the past few days about his growth plates and questionable entourage, Nerlens Noel is still projected to go No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Chad Ford’s mock draft.
Ford writes, “Noel remains on top because he fits the profile of a player the Cavs prefer to draft — the player with the most long-term upside. That’s why they picked Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters at No. 4 the past couple of years and why Noel remains the favorite. Sources say Noel’s strongest competition right now is Len, whom some in the organization favor because he, too, has size and defensive ability, but he’s less raw and should be cleared to play much sooner than Noel.”
Archie Goodwin did not make the first round in Ford’s mock draft. He’s sitting at No. 38 in the Top 100 prospects.
As Ally mentioned in the post just south of this one and originally reported by Rivals.com, Kentucky picked up two new players for the 2014 college football season, and they’re identical twins. Demitrious and Chris Davis will walk on at Kentucky and be eligible to play after this coming season. The Ohio natives signed with Pittsburgh out of high school and sat out last season as redshirt freshmen, then announced intentions to transfer from the program early last month. After a very quiet official visit to Lexington today, they decided the University of Kentucky is where they’d like to continue their college football careers. One is expected to play in the defensive backfield and one will be used as an all-purpose athlete on offense. They will have three years of eligibility at Kentucky.
Watch them work…
We’ll have more later…
Two twins from Pittsburgh, Demitrious and Chris Davis will transfer to Kentucky. They both confirmed the information via Twitter. Both are wide receivers and both will come to Kentucky as walk-ons. As we learned earlier today, the wide receiver corps heading into this season is very thin right now. Neal Brown even mentioned that Kentucky might have tryouts (h/t John Clay). The Davis twins will likely help fill that void. The two were also considering Louisville and Indiana when they decided to make the move from Pitt.
Demitrious and Chris are originally from Austintown, Ohio. Demitrious was the nation’s #32 athlete and Chris was #33 in the class of 2012. Not too bad.
Lost in all the Matt Elam excitement last night was a 247 Sports rankings climb from Adrian Middleton, another talented in-state defensive lineman who has already committed to Kentucky. Middleton jumped up to the 36th best defensive tackle in the country and Kentucky’s fourth best commit, according to 247. His new 89 overall rating is one point shy of earning him a fourth star beside his name.
The new rating seems a bit high in comparison to the other recruiting services but, hey, we’ll take it.
Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator Neal Brown took some time today to meet with the Louisville Quarterback Club. Some of the talk was much of the same, with Brown once again letting everyone know that the quarterback race for next year will likely continue a few weeks into the fall practices. John Clay of the Herald Leader was on hand to relay some of Brown’s messages from the speaking engagement.
Here are 5 of the best tidbits from his talk:
1) The Kentucky staff’s message to the recruits is that everyone remembers “the first.”
If you’ve been wondering what the coaching staff has been selling the latest “big gets” on the recruiting trail (besides the opportunity for early playing time and a chance to compete in the SEC), the vision of being a part of the first group to turn Kentucky football into a championship contending program is clearly a top selling point. The staff has been able to build upon that idea, putting the pieces together for a class worth talking about, which has created a palpable buzz in the college football world. While some kids are looking for a chance to be a part of an already established program, where winning and competing for championships is the norm— some kids relish in the opportunity to pave their own path. That seems to be the idea Brown and the staff are focusing on at the moment.
2) Brown thinks the UK fan base is the most active fan base in social media.
We’ve seen the good and the bad of this effect over the years, especially with Kentucky basketball. If someone writes a piece about Kentucky basketball, they know it will be read by the masses. For decades, Kentucky basketball fans swarm polls, support their team, travel across the country, etc. The Kentucky fan base hasn’t had much reason to reach that level of excitement and passion for the football program, but now that Stoops has given them a reason– the fans are all over it. The recruits are feeling the love on Twitter on a daily basis. The coaching staff not only notices, but seems to believe it’s helping with the momentum and recruiting process.
3) The wide receiver picture for next year is… interesting to say the least
With some of the recent departures from the program, the fact that the receiving corp is very, very thin should come as no surprise. Brown says the team might have a tryout just to increase the numbers to see what they can find. Luckily Brown likes the depth and talent at the tight end position, which might help to plug some of the receiver holes. Brown also said that the recruiting process for wide receivers in the future is going well. The staff will be picky about the position, but Kentucky is already “in” on some big-time targets.
4) Ashely Lowery is recovering well
Following a very scary car accident earlier this summer, Lowery is recovering well. The staff is cautiously optimistic about his return for the fall.
5) Current commitments understand the challenges ahead this season
One general concern that has been floating around as of late is that while the 2014 class is so strong right now, it might be hard for the staff to keep all of the commitments in tact following what could be a tough season with a brutal SEC schedule. The results on the field may not be pretty, and certainly may not match the excitement and enthusiasm created by the nation’s current top 2 recruiting class for 2014. Brown says that part of the conversation with the new commitments though is that this season may not be smooth and the challenges will be huge. Brown doesn’t believe the results of this season will have an effect on the incoming recruits. Phew.
And last but not least, Neal Brown was quoted by John Clay as saying that “Coach Calipari has made Kentucky cool. We’ve got to make Kentucky football cool.”
I think this staff is well on the way…
During his time at the Louisville Quarterback Club luncheon today, Neal Brown hinted that UK might have to rely on tryouts to fill up the depth chart at wide receiver. The position is incredibly thin and is by far the biggest concern heading into Season 1 of the Mark Stoops Show.
We’ll have more from the luncheon in just a moment, but for now, #ComePlayWRForUK???
(H/T John Clay)
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