Around the SEC
By Nick Roush on ©July 19th, 2019 @ 11:00am
South Carolina and Kentucky have developed quite a rivalry over the last five years. The once proud program that reeled off three consecutive ten-win seasons and an SEC East title has now lost to Kentucky five straight times. Lynn Bowden said yesterday it’s the game he’s most looking forward to this year. It will surely be brawl between the two at Williams-Brice Stadium in late September.
The Best Thing Will Muschamp Said — Muschamp is all football all the time, except when he’s grilling. Greg Sankey introduced Muschamp by complimenting his grilling skills.
“You’re absolutely right about the Green Egg. There’s nobody better in this league, I can assure you of that,” Muschamp said. “Anything you want, I can do it. Take all comers. Commissioner Sankey made a mistake, and one of the very few he’s made, he talked about Barry Odum being the best griller in Columbia. And I’m assuming he’s talking about Columbia, Missouri, not Columbia, South Carolina.”
The Best Thing Muschamp Said (Out of Context) — “Nick’s doing a fantastic job.” Why thanks, Will.
Coach Speak 101 — “I’m not worried about the schedule. I’m worried about the Gamecocks. That’s all.”
Well, he should be worried about the schedule. It’s the most difficult in the country and it’s not really close. They could be 1-6 entering Halloween weekend, and it doesn’t get any easier, finishing the year at A&M and vs. Clemson.
South Carolina’s Scariest Players — I would never cross the Wonnum Brothers. If D.J. Wonnum stays healthy, the defensive end is the best player on the Gamecocks’ defense. His little brother isn’t too bad either. A high school All-American and top 200 player in the 2019 recruiting class, Dylan Wonnum is expected to start at offensive tackle right away.
Biggest Question Mark — How old is Jake Bentley? It feels like he’s been the South Carolina starting quarterback since long before Kentucky’s five-game winning streak began. Each year his completion percentage has dropped, but he’s thrown for more yards and touchdowns.
Good News for UK — Kentucky has successfully got inside South Carolina’s head. The last time the Cats came to Columbia, they hosted a blackout and infamously refused to shake hands with Team Captains at the coin toss. They were promptly buried. Kentucky will get another shot at the Gamecocks after they’ve taken a beating at Alabama and gone on the road to face Missouri’s explosive offense.
Bad News for UK — The road trip to Williams-Brice Stadium is the finale of Kentucky’s most difficult three-game stretch of the season, following games against Florida and at Mississippi State.
Fear Factor — 6
That’s how many years in a row Kentucky will have a victory over South Carolina after they visit Williams-Brice Stadium in 2019. If the Cats win, it’ll be the longest SEC win streak since UK defeated Vanderbilt six straight times from 1976-81. Trash-talking aside, karma has to eventually catch up with the Cats sooner or later, right?
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky’s permanent SEC West opponent stumbled in Joe Moorhead’s first season. Projected to be Alabama’s top contender in the division, the Bulldogs finished fourth after posting a .500 record in the SEC and 8-4 overall. Even though their defense ranked near the top in almost every national statistical category, the former Penn State offensive coordinator could not create explosive plays with Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback.
Moorhead’s offense will move forward with a former Nittany Lion at quarterback, Tommy Stevens. After losing a ton of talent, if Stevens doesn’t get Moorhead’s offense rolling, it could be a long year in Starkville.
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said — In hindsight, State’s head coach believed things would have gone differently if he did not set the bar so high as soon as he stepped on campus.
“In a year’s worth of time, you learn things. And you got to be really introspective, I think, as a leader and you got to look in the mirror, not out the window,” he said.
“I am not saying I’m changing what our goals are, but the approach of coming off the plane gun’s blazing, talking about ring sizes and Heisman Trophies — and the expectation level of the team entering the season, prior to me even getting there… I wouldn’t have changed the goals, but I probably would have kept it a little bit more in house.”
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said (Out of Context) — “Part of the reason for the diet and losing some weight, I was tired of all the recruits on the trail asking me if I played right or left tackle.”
Coach Speak 101 — How does Moorhead make improvements in year two? “It’s not about the whats but the hows and the whys.” Whatever that means.
Paging Mr. Marino — Moorhead opened his remarks by calling back to his past as a quarterback. He was a signal-caller at the same high school as Dan Marino and Marc Bulger, Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Moorhead wore Marino’s No. 13, until the jersey was retired by his school just before his senior season. Moorhead used the stage to ask Marino for a follow on Twitter.
“Since Dan, he forced me out of my number in my senior year in high school, and I am one of his biggest fans,” Moorhead said. “I figured that the least Dan could do was hit me with a follow back.”
Moorhead also invited Marino to attend a game in Starkville. “And as Pittsburgh people will know, I’ll have a cold case of Iron City on ice waiting for him.”
Same Face, New Place — Former UofL defensive lineman Allen Love will play for the Bulldogs this fall, but he won’t make as big of an impact as Isaiah Zuber. Last year the wide receiver led Kansas State with 52 receptions for 619 yards. The dynamic playmaker will get a chance to take on his former team in Starkville in week three.
Miss. State’s Scariest Player — Running back Kylin Hill is a brute, coming off a 749-yard sophomore season, but he will not carry as heavy of a load as Errol Thompson. One of the few key contributors returning from State’s dominant defense, last season the middle linebacker was second on the team in tackles with 87. He also had nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. Not only is he an elite run stuffer, he’s great in coverage, limiting targets to a 56.2 passer rating.
Biggest Question Mark — Can Bob Shoop still dominate opponents without the elite pass rushers? Jeffrey Simmons and Montez Sweat were two of the best of the best in the nation last year. The JUCO factory has kept the coffers full on the defensive line, but those two cannot easily be replaced.
Good News for UK — The Bulldogs lost seven starters on defense and have to find a new quarterback. That’s easier said than done.
Bad News for UK — Kentucky has not won in Starkville since 2008 and most of the games since then have not been close. Kentucky has surrendered more than 40 points on each of the last two trips. 2010 and 2013 were the only meetings decided by fewer than ten points.
Fear Factor — 6.8
Kentucky doesn’t play well against the cowbell. It took an incredible performance to upend the Bulldogs last year by three scores. Even though this Miss. State isn’t nearly as talented as last year’s team, the Cats will need another spectacular performance to silence the crowd and escape with a win on the road.
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin “Sosa” Agim took an atypical approach to SEC Media Days. The Razorbacks star brought a Chucky doll with him to each interview. It’s not just a funny gimmick.
Sosa’s doll is for his cousin, John Neal. Last year at only 19-years old, he was murdered in Texas. Yesterday was his birthday. Sosa wrote his cousin’s name on the bottom of Chucky’s foot. The tragic murder remains unsolved.
“When they killed him, they took a little part of me away. Now I’m able to have something that’s with me and able to see everything he was not able to see. A part of doing this is you wanna do it for your family. You wanna make it to the next level for your family, but when your family gets killed, it’s hard to do that.”
The Best Thing Chad Morris Said — Tempering expectations, Morris pointed out other coaches who successfully turned around programs, even though it may have taken too long for some impatient fans.
“When you take a head football coaching job, you know that establishing and enhancing a culture is your top priority, and it takes time, and it takes consistency, and there’s a certain process to follow to develop the results that you’re looking for. You can look at examples for guys that I worked for. Coach Swinney, guys in this league, Dan Mullen and Mark Stoops. It didn’t happen overnight.”
The Best Thing Chad Morris Said (Out of Context) — “Our vision is ‘Every,’ the word ‘Every.’ Every matters.”
Coach Speak 101 — How does one spin a 2-10 first season? Describe it as a learning lesson.
“We learned a lot last year. And most important, we learned that one play has no bearing on the next. And one season has no bearing on the next. Every play and every season has a life and a history of its own.
“And the true measure of someone, a staff, a group of young men that chose to come back, when things go bad, a true measure is what their character is and how they respond. And it was hard. Last season was hard. And there’s no doubt, but we learned a lot as a staff. We learned a lot as players, and we responded.”
Biggest Question Mark — Arkansas is in the middle of a QB competition between a pair of grad transfers. Ben Hicks previously played for Morris at SMU, giving him a slight leg up on Nick Starkel, Texas A&M’s starting quarterback until injuries paved the way for Kellen Mond to take over Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Each player should be better than last year’s quarterbacks, but who will take the lead remains a mystery.
Same Face, New Place — Remember Rakeem Boyd? One of the stars of season three of Last Chance U, the talented running back with rocks for biceps played for Independence CC after one year at Texas A&M. Arkansas’ leading rusher in 2018 still has two seasons of eligibility.
Good News for UK — Simply put, Arkansas is bad. Last year they were 2-10, winless in SEC play. They are still picking up the pieces in year two of Morris’ massive rebuild.
Bad News for UK — The Razorbacks will have a bye week before they travel to Lexington. In an ideal world for Razorback fans, they could upset Ole Miss and enter Kroger Field 4-1. After that, their only winnable game is against WKU. UK could ultimately determine if they’re bowl eligible.
Fear Factor — 2.2
Even though it’s a high stakes game for the Razorbacks, Kentucky should be able to control Arkansas in the trenches. Replacing three starters on the offensive line, UK’s defense should be able to suffocate Morris’ new quarterback from start to finish.
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
Every media member attending SEC Media Days gets one vote to pick the preseason all-conference team and predict the order of finish.
Below you’ll find every selection I submitted for the honors, which will be released Friday morning. If there was a Wildcat available for selection at a position, you better believe I included them in my ballot.
|1||Tua Tagovailoa – QB – Alabama|
|2||Jake Fromm – QB – Georgia|
|1||Ke’Shawn Vaughn – RB – Vanderbilt|
|2||Larry Rountree – RB – Missouri|
|3||D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia|
|4||Kylin Hill – RB – Mississippi State|
|1||Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama|
|2||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|3||Kalija Lipscomb – WR – Vanderbilt|
|4||Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama|
|1||Albert Okwuegbunam – TE – Missouri|
|2||Jared Pinkney – TE – Vanderbilt|
|1||Andrew Thomas – OL – Georgia|
|2||Jedrick Wills Jr. – OL – Alabama|
|3||Logan Stenberg – OL – Kentucky|
|4||Alex Leatherwood – OL – Alabama|
|5||Solomon Kindley – OL – Georgia|
|6||Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms – OL – Missouri|
|7||Damien Lewis – OL – LSU|
|8||Isaiah Wilson – OL – Georgia|
|1||Drake Jackson – OL – Kentucky|
|2||Darryl Williams – OL – Mississippi State|
|1||Raekwon Davis – DE – Alabama|
|2||Nick Coe – DE – Auburn|
|3||McTelvin Agim – DL – Arkansas|
|4||D.J. Wonnum – DE – South Carolina|
|5||Derrick Brown – DL – Auburn|
|6||Quinton Bohanna – DL – Kentucky|
|7||Jabari Zuniga – DL – Florida|
|8||Benito Jones – DL – Ole Miss|
|1||Dylan Moses – LB – Alabama|
|2||Kash Daniel – LB – Kentucky|
|3||David Reese II – LB – Florida|
|4||Darrell Taylor – LB – Tennessee|
|5||Erroll Thompson – LB – Mississippi State|
|6||Jamar “Boogie” Watson – LB – Kentucky|
|1||Grant Delpit – DB – LSU|
|2||C.J. Henderson – DB – Florida|
|3||J.R. Reed – DB – Georgia|
|4||Kristian Fulton – DB – LSU|
|5||Patrick Surtain II – DB – Alabama|
|6||Trey Dean III – DB – Florida|
|7||DeMarkus Acy – DB – Missouri|
|8||Nigel Warrior – DB – Tennessee|
|1||Rodrigo Blankenship – PK/P – Georgia|
|2||Connor Limpert – PK – Arkansas|
|1||Braden Mann – P – Texas A&M|
|2||Max Duffy – P – Kentucky|
|1||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|2||Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama|
|1||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|2||Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida|
Order of Finish
Kentucky can win as many as nine and as few as six games in 2019. Ultimately, a late season win over Missouri will propel them to near the top of the pack in the SEC East, while South Carolina will sputter playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
That prediction will not likely matchup with what is revealed Friday morning. Don’t expect to see Kentucky near the top until they continually post ten-win seasons.
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
A disastrous coaching search gave Tennessee Volunteer fans Jeremy Pruitt. The former Hoover High School coach and Alabama defensive coordinator almost got the Vols to a bowl game, if not for a loss to Vanderbilt in the final game of his first season. Entering his second appearance at SEC Media Days, Pruitt filibustered for 21 minutes while wearing the most disgusting attire in the United State.
This is a cry for help. Get Pruitt out of their ASAP.
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said — “That was really my wife’s idea.”
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said (Out of Context) — “There’s a lot of large men running around.”
Coach Speak 101 — Most coaches try to hide their disdain for the media. Pruitt flat out said he doesn’t like talking to us, but at least thanked us for our service.
“This has not been my favorite time as a head coach. It’s not something that I exactly enjoy doing, but I appreciate the media and what you do for our game.”
Same Face, New Place — Eight years ago, Tee Martin told Matt Jones to “look out” for Bookie Cobbins. Now he’s back at his alma mater as the passing game coordinator for the Volunteers. Quarterback for Phil Fulmer’s 1998 National Championship team, Martin spent the last seven seasons on USC’s coaching staff.
Martin is not the only former UK coach who’s coming to Tennessee from the west coast. Derrick Ansley will serve as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator after spending a year with the Oakland Raiders. Prior to the brief NFL stint, Mark Stoops’ first defensive backs coach left Lexington to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. A new quality control staffer, Mike Colosimo, spent the last three years on UK’s staff as a graduate assistant.
Tennessee’s Scariest Player — Is Jarrett Guarantano scary? That’s debatable. Of all the moderately talented quarterbacks in the SEC East, he could be the best. Last year he threw the fewest interceptions in the SEC, with only three all year long. He has his top four receivers returning, as well as explosive running back Ty Chandler. The Tennessee hype train will perform as well as Guarantano does.
Biggest Question Mark — As soon as Trey Smith stepped onto the field, he was one of the best offensive linemen in America. The former five-star recruit was a Freshman All-American offensive guard in 2017. The following spring, blood clots forced him to the sideline. Smith felt well enough to return for seven games in the fall, until the blood clot problem resurfaced once again.
Smith may not ever play football again. Jeremy Pruitt said they’re working with doctors to see if it’s possible. “Trey wants to play football and they’re in the process of figuring out a plan so he can be able to do that.”
Without Smith in the equation, Gurantano will be protected by a pair of five-star true freshmen offensive tackles. Replicating Smith’s immediate success is far from a guarantee.
Good News for UK — Since Kentucky snapped the lengthy losing streak to Tennessee in 2011, the Cats have split the four games in Lexington. This year’s meeting at Kroger Field follows a UK bye week as well.
Bad News for UK — The Vols return 16 starters from a team that upset Kentucky in 2018 at Neyland. It’s still hard to explain exactly how UK lost that game.
Fear Factor — 5.575
A lot of things can happen throughout the season to change the trajectory for each team. Kentucky had no business losing in Knoxville last year, but the tank was on E after the emotional loss to Georgia. With all that being said, the Vols’ lofty recruiting class rankings make them a favorite amongst talking heads, even though they should not be able to beat Kentucky in the trenches.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 8:45pm
Everybody: Tennessee Orange is ugly.
Jeremy Pruitt: Hold my beer.
You can make an unending amount of jokes about Jeremy Pruitt’s suit. After all, pictures do say a thousand words. The suit directly reflects Pruitt’s thoughts of the event. He spent almost 20 minutes rambling in an opening monologue to prevent reporters from asking questions. It’s a different approach, but it reflects the opinion of most coaches who begrudgingly attend. Instead of using the opportunity to have a little fun and promote their team, they try to spend as much time saying as little as possible.
The event does not have the fireworks Steve Spurrier once brought to the table, but there were still enough entertaining moments from the second day of festivities at Hoover.
Like most Dads, the first thing I do after entering a new hotel room is turn the AC to the lowest temperature setting on the thermostat. The folks at The Wynfrey Hotel have eliminated the need to blast the AC.
The main media room is so cold, I had to run to the Old Navy and purchase a $10 hoodie. Even after adding the fleece to my wardrobe, I’ve still walked outside a few times to thaw my frigid hands. If you see somebody behind the SEC Network set with a hood up, slouched in front of a laptop, you’re looking at yours truly.
Didn’t see you there, Mr. Fromm
Every time I’m near the University of Georgia, I find a way to have an odd interaction with a Fromm.
After Kentucky’s loss to Georgia last year in Lexington, I was hospitable to the visiting fans while enjoying some postgame cocktails out on the town. In the midst of complimenting the team to one group of Georgia fans, I finished by talking at length about the skills of Justin Fields. Once the conversation concluded, someone informed me I was bragging about the backup QB to the starting QB’s parents. Foot in mouth.
Fast forward nine months and I’m in a crowded bathroom at SEC Media Days, trying to get an automatic faucet to work. Neither of the black-bottomed sinks turned on right away. The guy next to me asked, “What’s the deal?” While we struggled to figure out why neither worked, I touched the black bottom. It was not black tile, it was dark, backed up water. “Gross,” exclaimed the bow-tied man next to me.
Once I shook off the water that was blacker than tar and found an operating faucet, I realized the man I shared a clogged sink with was Jake Fromm. Only in Hoover.
Radio Row Grows
Radio Row is now larger than a row. The hallway between the Galleria Mall and hotel lobby was too short to fit every radio station covering SEC Media Days. A few tables were forced to setup inside the mall.
Rich Rod is in the SEC?!
In the middle of the offseason coaching shuffle, I missed the part where Rich Rodriguez accepted a job to be the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss. Reminder: Rich Rod lost his job at Arizona following a sex scandal that happened only six months after Hugh Frieze lost his job at Ole Miss following a sex scandal. The irony is beautiful.
FUN WITH CAPTIONS!
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Kirby Smart has been everything Dawg Nation ever wanted him to be. The former Georgia safety left Nick Saban’s side as Alabama’s longtime defensive coordinator to become the head coach at his alma mater in 2016. Since October of his first season, Smart has not lost to a divisional opponent. Alabama is Smart’s final obstacle. Will this year be the year? Jake Fromm and Co. made their case at SEC Media Days.
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said — SEC Media Days legend Bob Holt began a question by saying, “Nick Saban’s former assistants are 0-16 against him.” Before the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette reporter could finish his question, Smart interjected. “I’m well aware.”
It wasn’t the only time he was asked about Alabama.
“Well, the next step for us, and I don’t mean this to be trite, but it’s Vanderbilt (Georgia’s season-opener). You have to get to that point because we don’t have Alabama on our schedule.”
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said (Out of Context) — “It’s easier to initiate contact.”
Coach Speak 101 — I thought Mark Stoops was at the podium when I heard Kirby Smart say, “He works day in and day out, really does a good job in the classroom. He was banged up last year.”
Croakies, ever heard of ’em? Georgia’s quarterback really looks the part of a Georgia quarterback.
— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) July 16, 2019
Transfer Portal Problems — There are many old-man, get off my lawn takes flying around about the transfer portal. Kirby Smart provided one from the some vein that actually makes sense. He believes it has streamlined the process, one that will serve as a learning moment for some players.
“If the transfer portal has done one thing, it’s made it easier for players to understand what they have to do to be able to go look and see other places, but they also have to be careful about the grass being greener on the other side,” Smart said.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how many people in this room report how many guys are in the transfer portal with no home to go to when the season kicks off because I venture to say there’s going to be young men that have nowhere to go with lost scholarship opportunities that now don’t have a scholarship in other places.”
Georgia’s Scariest Player — Fromm and D’Andre Swift will make headlines because of the efforts of Andrew Thomas. The First Team All-American left tackle leads a Georgia offensive line that loses only one starter from 2018. It’s tough to beat a team when they can completely control the line of scrimmage.
Good News for UK — Georgia only has one returning wide receiver that caught more than three passes last season. UK’s inexperienced secondary won’t be so exposed after all.
Bad News for UK — It’s hard to find a win Between the Hedges. Kentucky has won just one game in Athens since 1977 and it took four Georgia turnovers and incredible performances from Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb to squeak by with a 34-27 win.
Fear Factor — 9.999999
Kentucky has narrowed the gap, but as you saw last year, there’s still a long way to go to catch up with the Dawgs.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Ding dong, The Streak is dead. Kentucky finally removed the proverbial monkey from its back by defeating Florida in The Swamp.
The loss to Kentucky was one of only three the Gators’ suffered in their first year under Dan Mullen. The return of the prodigal offensive coordinator was praised throughout the Sunshine State, but few expected him to be that successful right away. Entering his second season the expectations are even higher, all thanks to their rivals along the northern border.
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said — Florida and Georgia are currently in a war of words over the future of the artist formerly known as The World’s Largest Cocktail Party. The contract for the neutral-site game in Jacksonville expires in 2021. Mullen skated completely around making any sort of affirmative statement.
“I think you can make arguments on both sides of why it should stay in Jacksonville, why it should leave Jacksonville, and be a home and home. Then it’s interesting, I think it will be an interesting discussion the next couple years of when the contract runs up of what the future is going to be for that game.”
Kirby Smart was the first to lobby for a change to a home-and-home for recruiting purposes. Even though he was not too adamant during his SEC Media Days address, you can tell where his intentions lie.
“I don’t get caught up in the emotion of this decision or that decision,” Smart said. “I look at it from a perspective of 10,000 feet where I say: What is best for our program? And it’s that simple. And we’ll make that decision as I group and go with it.”
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said (Out of Context) — “If there’s someone better than Brian Johnson, let me know, I’ll hire them to be our quarterback coach.”
Coach Speak 101 — On three different occasions during his opening statement, Mullen mentioned the “Gator Standard.” What exactly is the Gator Standard? Allow me piece together his explanations:
“It’s about competing for championships every single year…The University of Florida goes beyond football, goes to all sports. Every sport on campus is expected to compete for and win championships, both SEC and national championships…it’s about being the absolute best that you can be at whatever it is you are doing.”
Same Face, New Place — Florida has lost 11 players to the transfer portal. The one player they added came from the University of Louisville. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard followed his former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Florida a year after he was named UofL’s team captain. The Cardinals’ best pass rusher in 2017 (15.5 TFLs and 7 sacks) suffered a season-ending injury in last year’s opener. He’s tasked to replace Jachai Polite, the Florida defensive end who finished third in the SEC in sacks in 2018.
Florida’s Scariest Player — Greenard’s pass-rushing counterpart is a future first round draft pick. Jabari Zuniga opted to return for one more year of school after recording 45 tackles, 11 for a loss and 6.5 sacks last season. For those who prefer run-stopping linebackers over pass rushers, David Reese is your guy. If an injury did not sideline Reese vs. Kentucky, I doubt UK runs for more than 300 yards in The Swamp.
Stick to Baseball: Florida’s quarterback could take his talents to the diamond. After four years away from baseball, the Boston Red Sox drafted Feleipe Franks in the 31st round of this year’s MLB Draft.
“Well, as a Red Sox fan, they do need a lot of help in the bullpen,” said Mullen. “I think he can throw. He’s got a lot of heat. He said he threw at 95 in the workout for him. I’ve seen, though, he’s still working on his accuracy. I don’t know if I’d want to get in the batter’s box if he’s throwing 95. But I think it’s great. I think it’s a great honor for him to have that opportunity.”
Franks would not be the first Florida quarterback he’s coached to turn to baseball after football didn’t work.
“I don’t know if anybody’s heard of him, he’s kind of a Minor League ballplayer right now, played for the AAA Mets in Tim Tebow, and he’s managing to try to pick up baseball. So maybe when football is done, maybe he has a future in baseball. That’d be really exciting for him. I’d be really happy for him.”
Good News for UK — In the third game of the year, Kroger Field will be rocking under the lights. Along with home field advantage, The Streak is no longer hanging over the Wildcats’ heads. They know they can beat Florida. They did it last on the road.
Bad News for UK — Before they make the trip to Lexington, Florida will have already undergone one test away from home. The Gators open the season in week zero, the week before Labor Day, with a neutral-site game in Orlando against Miami. The experience should pay dividends regardless, but if they somehow slip up and lose, the Gators will have a greater sense of urgency a few weeks later.
Fear Factor — 6.4
Florida’s offense has plenty of weapons in the backfield and Franks showed significant improvements throughout the season, but he only has one returning starter on the offensive line to protect him. On defense the Gators have eight returning starters. If UK can stop the run, this has the potential to be a nasty 13-10 kind of game, one that transforms this series into a rivalry that will annually determine who can contend with Georgia atop the SEC East.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 11:15am
Each year Steve Shaw announces rule changes and new points of emphasis for officials at SEC Media Days. This year the conference’s coordinator of officials did not bring forth earth shattering news.
The targeting rule remains the same. Defenders cannot launch into a defenseless opponent, lead with the head, neck or shoulder or lower the head to create contact with the crown of the helmet. There’s plenty nuance to the reviewable penalty, but that’s the nuts and bolts.
This year things change once they go to replay. Previously officials had three potential outcomes following a targeting review:
1. The call is confirmed and the player is ejected.
2. The call on the field stands.
3. The call is overturned, waiving the 15-yard penalty and ejection.
To remove any ambiguity, “the call stands” is no longer an option for officials. All elements of targeting must be confirmed by replay to eject a player from the game. If any element cannot be proved, the call will be overturned. By removing any ambiguous potential targeting, there should be fewer erroneous ejections.
There are two other rule changes you need to remember. Blind-side blocks are now illegal. If a player wants to earhole somebody, they’re going to get a 15-yard penalty. Also, once teams reach a fifth overtime, the game becomes a two-point conversion contest.
By Nick Roush on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Folks, he’s done it again.
Dan, The Man with the Plan, Mullen has returned to SEC Media Days with the coolest sneakers this side of the Mississippi. Gator-skinned Jordans? Wow! I can’t believe it.
Not only does he wear cool sneakers, he’s great on the golf course. He opened SEC Media Days by sharing a story from the links. Last month he knocked in his first ever hole-in-one. Mullen now only needs five more to catch up with the Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier.
The slick shoes and smooth swing are good enough to give Dan the Man a 10-33 record vs. Top 25 teams, one less than the 11 Florida football players who entered the transfer portal this offseason. Keep up the great work, Coolhand Dan!
By Nick Roush on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Of the ten Kentucky football wins in the 2018-19 season, the most improbable happened in Columbia, Missouri. A quick recap of what had to happen for UK to overcome a two-touchdown second half deficit:
- UK’s defense surrendered zero second half first downs.
- Lynn Bowden subbed himself into the game to score a punt return touchdown.
- Terry Wilson had to drive UK 80 yards into the end zone with 1:24 to play.
- A fade to Ahmad Wagner as the clock expired drew a pass interference penalty.
- Wilson connected with C.J. Conrad on an untimed down for the win.
Naturally, that loss left a bad taste in the mouths of Tiger fans. After winning the first three meetings, Missouri has now lost four straight to Kentucky. A team that returned a ton of talent from 2018 and added a few pretty pieces to the collection will be the SEC East’s preseason darling, even though they are currently appealing a one-year bowl ban by the NCAA.
Barry Odom kicked off SEC Media Days in its return to Hoover, Alabama. Enjoy the first installment of a series on UK’s 2019 opponents.
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said — Odom believes this is the best team he’s coached at Missouri.
There are a lot of questions around @MizzouFootball regarding NCAA Sanctions / the program's appeal
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) July 15, 2019
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said (Out of Context) — “They took an opportunity when we were dealt some information from the NCAA.”
Coach Speak 101 — Few use more coaching cliches than Odom. “We over Me” is the corniest of the bunch.
Same Face, New Place — After leading a team into the CFB Playoffs, the next step for a quarterback is typically to the NFL. For Kelly Bryant, it was to Columbia. Formerly Deshaun Watson’s backup at Clemson, the heir apparent did not disappoint, taking the Tigers to the Playoff after an ACC Championship in 2017. Bryant lost the job four games later to future No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence. He could have picked any school in the country to play one more year of football, but ultimately chose to trade in his purple stripes for black and gold.
“For me, it was like OK, I have one year, and I want to put myself in a position to be able to have a chance to get to the next level,” Bryant said. “I looked at Missouri, Coach (Derek) Dooley’s been at the Cowboys; he has pretty much the same offensive staff, the terminology that they’ve had. So, now having to learn a whole new offense at the pace they do in the NFL, I’m up for that challenge, see where I can be at the end of the day.”
Bryant was the only talented transfer the Tigers picked up from the portal. Wide receiver Jonathan Nance transferred from Arkansas after leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2017.
Missouri’s Scariest Player — Many expected Damarea Crockett to transform into Missouri’s featured back after an exceptional rookie season. Instead, Larry Rountree took over. One of the SEC’s only two 1,000-yard rushers returning to action in 2019, Rountree is a the kind of back that will make opposing fans say, “How can they not tackle that guy?”
How Do I Say That? After earning All-SEC honors in each of his first two seasons, I still can’t correctly pronounce Albert Okwuegbunam’s name. I’ll simply leave it at “Albert O” and let the SEC’s top tight end do all the talking.
Good News for UK — Over the last two years, Missouri’s loss to Kentucky has been the turning point in the Tigers’ season, finishing a combined 10-3 to reach consecutive bowl games. Things don’t seem to click until after they learn their lessons against UK.
Bad News for UK — Missouri could enter Kroger Field undefeated, tagged as “the hottest team in college football and the SEC’s biggest surprise.” Unlike previous years, their schedule is backloaded. The only two road trips before the excursion to Lexington are at Vanderbilt and Wyoming. UK’s home field advantage will be the only thing that can shake the Tigers’ confidence.
Fear Factor — 8.1
Aside from the matchup with Georgia, this is the most talented team on UK’s schedule. Before you stop me to say Florida, Bryant > Franks. This game reminds me of the lead up to last year’s matchup against Miss. State, albeit with differing styles of play. With revenge in mind, and maybe nothing to play for but regular season glory, it will be a 60-minute war at Kroger Field.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 1:19pm
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced the initiative during his opening remarks, prompting @SECOfficiating to send out its first tweet.
Hello, world ?
This account will serve as your source for rules, videos, statistics and activities inside the SEC Video Center.
Go easy on us!
— SEC Officiating (@SECOfficiating) July 15, 2019
Ha! Immediately the Twitter account was bombarded by complaints about bad calls:
Can I ask how this was ruled "no good" pic.twitter.com/xWCnnhUUzJ
— Andrew Cummings (@apcg8tor95) July 15, 2019
EXPLANATION STILL NEEDED pic.twitter.com/56pLnf3KKa
— Tyler Mallams (@tyler_mallams) July 15, 2019
What’s your explanation for this egregious failure in officiating? I’ll hang up and listen, thanks. pic.twitter.com/3v7Qgu3l4W
— Poppa Juan Foggy (@HudsonHawk88) July 15, 2019
There were lots of “Alabama pays the refs” jokes:
I’m an Alabama fan. Has my check to you guys cleared? Looking forward to another productive season!
— Will Elliott (@Will_Elliott22) July 15, 2019
— RepublicanDore (@RepublicanDore) July 15, 2019
Buffalo Wild Wings even got in on the fun:
Keep our arrangement under wraps please
— Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings) July 15, 2019
I’m all for transparency, but this is going to be a hot mess. As the kids say, RIP to your mentions.
SEC Media Days is on the move again.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey just announced that the four-day media spectacle will return to the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta in 2020, and in 2021, will travel to Nashville, taking place at the new Grand Hyatt hotel.
SEC Media Days in Music City? Bring it on.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 11:15am
With SEC Media Days taking place down in Birmingham this week, we will soon learn the media’s preseason poll for the league’s upcoming football season. And while we wait to see where the media ranks Kentucky among its opponents in the SEC East, let’s look back to last year when the media completely butchered its preseason prediction for the Wildcats.
2018 SEC Football Preseason Media Poll
|SEC EAST||SEC WEST|
|Georgia (271)||Alabama (263)|
|South Carolina (8)||Auburn (19)|
|Florida (4)||Mississippi State (2)|
|Tennessee (1)||Ole Miss|
|SEC EAST||SEC WEST|
|Georgia (11-3, 7-1)||Alabama (14-1, 8-0)|
|Kentucky (10-3, 5-3)||Texas A&M (9-4, 5-3)|
|Florida (10-3, 5-3)||LSU (10-3, 5-3)|
|South Carolina (7-6, 4-4)||Mississippi State (8-5, 4-4)|
|Missouri (8-5, 4-4)||Auburn (8-5, 3-5)|
|Vanderbilt (6-7, 3-5)||Ole Miss (5-7, 1-7)|
|Tennessee (5-7, 2-6)||Arkansas (2-10, 0-8)|
Keep this in mind when the media disrespects Mark Stoops’ program again.
Today marks the beginning of SEC Media Days down in Birmingham, Alabama, where the conference’s four-day football media marathon takes centerstage. In today’s events, we will hear from coaches and players from two of the SEC East teams on UK’s schedule — Florida and Missouri — in addition to Coach O and LSU on the podium. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will kick things off this morning with his remarks on the state of the league.
You will have to wait until later in the week to hear from Kentucky. Mark Stoops and the trio of players representing UK — Kash Daniel, Lynn Bowden and Logan Stenberg — aren’t scheduled to appear until Thursday.
KSR will of course have all you need to know from Birmingham here on the site, all week long.
It’s almost time for the Barbasol Championship.
The PGA Tour will take over Lexington this week for the Barbasol Championship, the tournament’s second run in the Bluegrass. I will have a breakdown of the field and all kinds of fun from the tournament in the days ahead. In the meantime, get your tickets here. It is going to be a blast.
Julius Randle stopped by Sunday’s basketball practice.
Randle was in Kentucky over the weekend to celebrate his wife’s birthday, and he made a stop by the Joe Craft Center to check in on his old team:
Randle joked that he gave Calipari “early recruiting dibs” on his young son, Kyden.
John Calipari is excited about “positionless” basketball next season.
It is “truly a positionless team with length, Cal said in a tweet Sunday evening:
This is what I enjoy most – having a great workout with a group of players who wanted this culture, wanted to be challenged, wanted to be made uncomfortable. They all have big dreams and aspirations and wanted to be in an environment with other good players.
This is truly a positionless team with length. We’re only just beginning this journey and I’m liking what I’m seeing. (@UKCoachCalipari)
And we are liking what we’re hearing, Coach.
You should catch up on all of Jack’s work from the Peach Jam.
The Peach Jam concluded Sunday evening with MOKAN Elite, a Nike EYBL program out of Kansas, winning the championship. Led by UK target N’Faly Dante, who had 22 and 18 in the title game, MOKAN beat Jalen Green’s Team WhyNot in overtime, 85-84, to take the trophy. Dante also took the tournament’s MVP award.
Read all of KSR’s coverage from the Peach Jam, including exclusive interviews with several elite prospects on UK’s radar, here under the Basketball Recruiting tab.
No former Wildcats in the NBA Summer League championship.
None of the thirteen summer league teams with a former Kentucky player made today’s championship game, but you can still tune in for one more game from Las Vegas to see how it all wraps up. Memphis and Minnesota will play for the league’s trophy at 9 p.m. on ESPN 2.
The second week of KSR’s Blue Lights Across The Bluegrass Summer Tour begins today.
We are in Barbourville at the Appalachian Children’s Home, a place with a special connection to KSR, for today’s show.
The tour dates ahead are as follows:
7/15 – Barbourville @ Appalachian Children’s Home
7/16 – Middlesboro @ Downtown (presented by JR Hoe and Sons)
7/17 – Pikeville @ Buffalo Wild Wings
7/18 – Ashland @ Blazer’s Restaurant and Bakery
7/19 – Lexington @ Douglass HS for The Tournament
7/22 – Somerset Golf Outing @ Woodson Bend Resort
7/23 – Somerset @ Associates in Eye Care
7/24 – Monticello @ Conley Bottom Resort
7/25 – Campbellsville @ Mr. Gatti’s Pizza
7/26 – Lexington @ Lexington Legends
8/5 – Bowling Green @ Overtime Sports Bar and Grill
8/6 – Hopkinsville @ Hopkinsville Sportsplex
8/7 – Benton @ CFSB Bank
8/8 – Paducah @ Royal Oaks Chevrolet
8/9 – Louisville Golf Outing @ Glen Oaks Country Club
8/12 – Elizabethtown @ Kentucky Jeep and Truck
8/13 – Danville @ The Discount House 2.0
8/14 – Fort Wright @ Dickmann’s
8/15 – Lexington @ Kentucky Branded
8/16 – Louisville @ TBA
Come out and see us!
By John Reecer on ©July 14th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Throughout this entire summer, 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante has been considering reclassification into the 2019 class. He is currently considering Kentucky as a possible destination regardless if he reclassifies or not.
So this leads us to the million dollar question: How bad does Kentucky need N’Faly Dante for the 2019-2020 season? Would it possibly be better if Dante waits until next season to commit to the Wildcats? Kentucky is going to be a top-five team in the preseason poll, so I believe this is a very serious question to answer.
First, just how good is Dante? 247Sports has Dante ranked as the 12th best player in the 2020 class and the third-best center. However, it seems like he is a bit better than that ranking. As our own Jack Pilgrim reported, Dante received the MVP of the Peach Jam Classic today as he scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
MoKan Elite defeats Team WhyNot to win the 2019 Nike EYBL Peach Jam. Kentucky target N’faly Dante finishes with 22 points and 18 rebounds en route to MVP honors. Jalen Green finishes with 27 points. UK had three coaches in attendance.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) July 14, 2019
N’Faly Dante goes and gets it. pic.twitter.com/1zlWfuZQaT
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) July 14, 2019
Dante projects as a powerful big man who can be both a good lob-catcher and a dependable rim-protector. I won’t pretend to say that I’ve researched the 2020 class that much yet, but I can’t imagine there being anyone else like Dante in it. It’s very rare to see such a strong center have such a long wingspan, but Dante has it.
Seeing him dominate the Peach Jam as he did helps to reaffirm that he can play college basketball this fall. However, it isn’t just the fact that he played well, it’s the fact that Dante has a body that can withstand the wear and tear of a full college basketball season. He already has the size if he chooses to reclassify so the move would work for him.
Now that we have established that Dante is both very good and ready to play right now, how bad do the Wildcats need his services? The answer is short and sweet. Kentucky badly needs Dante.
Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with how good Nick Richards, E.J. Montgomery, or Nate Sestina are. What’s really important here is that only one of those three players is an actual center (Richards). Yes, Montgomery is very long, but he fits best as a stretch-four that causes huge mismatch problems. Sestina, on the other hand, is your typical power forward. Neither are both tall and strong enough to be a traditional, dominant center that can protect the rim.
That leaves the Wildcats with just one true center in Richards. Even if Coach John Calipari wants to play a lot of small-ball lineups, that still isn’t enough depth at that position. Adding Dante gives the frontcourt more depth and flexibility. Having two traditional centers that could play at any time with any other four players would be dangerously good.
Of course, this isn’t even taking into account how good Dante actually is. Rolling out a starting lineup that includes Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, and Dante has the potential to be the most dominant defensive lineup in college basketball.
Yes, Kentucky would still be a good team without him. But would it be a “great” team? It’s hard to say that they would be with the frontcourt depth being so light, but it’s possible. Dante could easily not reclassify and commit to the Wildcats as a member of the 2020 class. However, I think the time is now. Dante is ready and his addition would make Kentucky one of the best teams in college basketball.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he did not commit and reclassify, but it would certainly be the start of something special if he did.
For the next few weeks leading to the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week, I preview the most important position on the field for each team: quarterback. Here I rank each team’s projected starter at the position.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
This was a bit of a no-brainer here, but Tagovailoa is, of course, the best quarterback in the league entering the season. He narrowly lost the Heisman Trophy in one of the closest races ever after passing for almost 4,000 yards and over 40 TD’s (despite not playing in the majority of fourth quarters).
Believe it or not, there is still room for improvement. Against the three toughest defenses he faced last season, Tagovailoa had a 4-5 TD/INT ratio, only passed for an average of 207 yards per game, and a 57.5% completion percentage. If Alabama wants to get back to winning national titles then their quarterback must play better when it matters the most.
All in all, Tagovailoa is still one of the favorites to be the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Crimson Tide’s schedule this year is surprisingly (and disappointingly) easy so I expect possibly even better numbers from him. Remember, Tagovailoa was still just a true sophomore last year. I expect the Heisman race between him and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to be very close.
2. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm really proved me wrong last season. I wasn’t all that high on him coming into 2018 as I thought that uber-talented Justin Fields would eventually take over at the position. That obviously is not what happened as Fromm started all season and tallied a 30-6 TD/INT ratio.
Jake Fromm is the perfect “win now” QB prospect. https://t.co/db2BfcBXtb
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 6, 2019
The biggest question facing Fromm as he returns for his senior season is who will he be passing to? Gone are Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Issac Nauta – Georgia’s leading receivers. De’Andre Swift is a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield and Jeremiah Holloman notched over 400 yards receiving and five TD’s last season. But who else will step up?
Despite questions facing the receiving core of the Bulldogs, Fromm is one of the most experienced QB’s in the conference, and it shows. While the passing yardage numbers won’t “wow” anyone, Fromm can make every throw on the field, and he absolutely knows how to win big games.
3. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
In 2018, Mond was possibly the most improved player in the SEC. In just eight starts as a freshman, he passed for only 1,375 yards. In 13 starts as a sophomore, he threw for over 3,000 yards while earning a TD-INT ratio of 24-9. The work that Jimbo Fisher has done to this quarterback is just outstanding.
Mond is also a lethal runner with the football as well. He notched seven rushing touchdowns while also rushing for almost 500 yards on the ground. As Mond enters his junior season, I expect him to take another leap as his entire receiving core returns with the exception of tight end Jace Sternberger.
As far as improvements, the talented quarterback still needs to work on his accuracy. He only completed 57% of his passes in 2018. His accuracy is what’s keeping him from making the jump to “elite college quarterback.” If he takes another step and gets his accuracy up to around 63%, then Mond could find himself selected in the early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Kellen Mond throws a LASER to Kendrick Rogers for the @AggieFootball TD!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 9, 2018
4. Joe Burrow, LSU
Burrow was fascinating to watch in 2018. While he was the definition of a game manager, he made several incredible throws in critical moments to get the Tigers off to a fast start to the season. Similar to Fromm, the passing yardage numbers were not incredible, but Burrow knows how to win games.
Just like with Mond, Burrow’s 57.8% completion percentage needs to be better. He played terribly against the likes of Florida and Alabama in hostile environments so there is certainly room for improvement there as well.
The good news is that LSU’s offense returns its entire receiving core and four starters on the offensive lineman. Burrow is going to be even better in 2019, and the Tigers will be a legitimate title contender. If Burrow can take a significant step forward then I could easily see them winning it all. This is an incredibly tough quarterback that won’t go down easily.
This was Joe Burrow's 29th carry of the game.
Twenty. Nine. Carries. pic.twitter.com/tLhXsBUDFN
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 25, 2018
5. Kelly Bryant, Missouri
Here is the first wildcard of the bunch. Bryant, who famously transferred from Clemson, will be Missouri’s replacement for Drew Lock. In 18 starts for the Tigers over the last few years, Bryant was actually more accurate than Lock (66% completion percentage compared to Lock’s 62.9% last season).
The big difference between the two is that Lock has a much better arm than Bryant. The former Clemson standout is best at completing short-to-medium routes on the run. During his time there, Bryant also ran for almost 1,000 yards.
Bryant will be a good quarterback for the Tigers because that’s what he’s always been. He just got stuck on a team that had a better quarterback (Trevor Lawrence). The Tigers return their leading rusher and four of their top five receivers so Bryant will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.
Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant was in a "real bad place" when he lost his spot to Trevor Lawrence after having already been stuck behind Deshaun Watson.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 12, 2019
6. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Bentley is officially the Perry Ellis of SEC football. He is the player that everyone asks, “How is he still in college???” All jokes aside, Bentley does return for his final season in Columbia. Say what you want about him, but the guy has been consistently above average his entire career and that’s why he is at No. 6 on this list.
His career record as a starter is 19-13, he has thrown for 7,385 yards, and his career TD-INT ratio is 54-30 in three seasons. Yes, he is definitely slightly above average, and that’s exactly what I expect from him in his last season. Without Deebo Samuel to throw to anymore, I think Bentley has reached his respectable ceiling.
7. Feleipe Franks, Florida
This was possibly the hardest quarterback to rank on this list (along with Terry Wilson). The numbers point to a respectable season (2,457 passing yards, 24-6 TD-Int ratio, 58% comp. percentage), but Franks was just flat-out bad against top-tier opponents in 2018.
Don’t forget that Franks was actually benched against Missouri and only got the job back because Kyle Trask broke his foot. Franks was often booed by the home crowd as well. Overall, I can’t rank him any lower than 7th because, despite his struggles, he did take a big step forward in just one season with quarterback whisperer Dan Mullen. Frank should improve in 2019 and become more of a dependable leader in year two under Mullen.
Feleipe Franks just went 79 yards in 20 seconds.
Is that good? pic.twitter.com/C11n17U12A
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 15, 2017
8. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
I think Guarantano is a good quarterback. I said what I said. Despite playing behind terrible pass protection in 2018, he still managed to set a school record for most passes without throwing an interception. That is undeniably impressive no matter how you try and spin that.
He did struggle at times last season as he failed to even pass for 2,000 yards in his 12 starts. However, it was a rebuilding year for the Volunteers, and everyone on the team struggled. 2019 will be a different story for Tennessee. The entire offense returns with the exception of one starter. Guarantano will be much, much better as a big, accurate pocket passer. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the most improved player in the SEC this year.
During the 2018 season, @Vol_Football quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw 166 consecutive passes without an interception – a Tennessee program record.
Guarantano finished the season with a 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio, the best by a UT starting quarterback since Peyton Manning in 1995. pic.twitter.com/iFMjGMTHM0
— Tennessee Stats & Info (@Vol_Stats) July 10, 2019
9. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
If you are angry with Wilson being ranked this low, just know that I’m actually higher on him than the national consensus. Many have him at the very bottom of the conference, which is absurd. Overall, I think Wilson is a great leader, a very good runner, and a winner. However, none of those three things make him a good passer.
Yes, he had a better completion percentage than Guarantano did and their passing yardage is similar, but Wilson’s stats are a bit inflated. Remember that a hefty portion of his passing stats are counted in with all of the shuttle passes Kentucky ran. When it comes down to it, Wilson just wasn’t good at passing the ball down the field and his pocket presence was lacking, to say the least. He was also unplayable against the likes of Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.
Overall, I think Wilson will improve in his second season with Kentucky. He is the best running quarterback in the SEC, but this is his ceiling until he becomes more confident as a passer.
10. Ben Hicks, Arkansas
Like with Missouri and Kelly Bryant, the Razorbacks will also be starting a transfer at quarterback. While former Texas A&M starter Nick Starkel is also competing for the starting job, Hicks is widely seen as the favorite. Hicks actually played for Arkansas head coach Chad Morris at SMU. In that system, Hicks passed for 3,569 yards, a 33-12 TD-INT ratio, and a 58% comp. percentage.
Of course, SMU did not play in the SEC West so Hicks will have his hands full. However, this is an experienced quarterback who has no fear in slinging the ball around the field. Arkansas will be much improved in 2019, and I see a path where Hicks easily outplays this ranking.
For those of you that believe the misconception that Ben Hicks isn’t very mobile, here’s a highlight of him getting away from a salty TCU D line in 2017 to find his open receiver and make a big play. pic.twitter.com/Swz6vQlmja
— Woo Pig Dustino (@DustinoTheGreat) January 14, 2019
11. Bo Nix/Joey Gatewood, Auburn
This is the must-watch quarterback competition in the SEC this season. Both Gatewood and Nix were highly ranked coming out of college, and both are very athletic. While Gatewood did redshirt in 2018, both have no in-game experience at this level. Auburn is projected to field a good team once again.
No matter who starts will be playing underneath a ton of pressure as Auburn has one of the toughest schedules in the country. Gatewood has a much bigger body and a year of experience with this team, but Nix is widely seen as the savior of the program. I expect Gatewood to start game one, but there is a very, very slight chance that Nix takes the college football world by storm in 2019. He has the talent to do so.
Bo Nix showing the wow factor pic.twitter.com/lUvUBV6iSz
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) January 3, 2019
12. Riley Neal, Vanderbilt
Here is the third quarterback transfer on this list. Formerly of Ball State University, Neal is projected to be the starter after the departure of Kyle Shurmur. In 32 starts with his former school, Neal passed for 7,393 yards and a 46-25 TD-INT ratio.
He is incredibly experienced, and at 6’5, 218 pounds his body can stand the wear and tear of the SEC. The Commodore offense projects to be its best in Mason’s tenure this season, so Neal will have weapons to throw too. He will be a step down from Shurmur, but Neal will be fine for Vanderbilt.
13. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Corral was ranked as the third best quarterback in his class out of high school, but he was redshirted last season as the Rebels had a reliable quarterback in Jordan Ta’amu. Corral is widely seen as the future of the program now and the clear-cut starter for 2019. However, I’m just not sure this season will go favorably for him. The receiving core is almost entirely gone, and the offensive line will have to be rebuilt. Only three total starters return on offense.
In summary, this is a rebuilding year for Ole Miss. They don’t expect to be all that great, therefore they will be patient with Corral while he struggles as most young quarterbacks do. I believe that Corral has elite-level talent, but he is a year or two away before it fully translates.
An elite group
An elite competition
80% of NFL QBs started here@corral_matt is a name of the future
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 27, 2017
14. Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State
I have the very, very sneaky suspension that Mississippi State is not going to be very good this season, and its quarterback play will be a huge reason why. Gone is Nick Fitzgerald. Keytaon Thompson returns, but he was just simply terrible in 2018. Enter our final transfer on this list: Tommy Stevens.
Stevens played underneath MSU head coach Joe Moorhead at Penn State, so it seems pretty plausible that he will win this competition. Either way, I just don’t see the passing game being very good. They disappointed big time in 2018, and without Fitzgerald’s leadership, I’m willing to bet they disappoint again.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©July 14th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Texas A&M is the only school in the SEC that has confirmed they will be selling alcohol this upcoming season.
Could Tennessee be next?
Tennessee athletic director Philip Fulmer told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville that the school is having discussions about alcohol sales at Neyland Stadium for this upcoming season.
“We’re in the process,” Fulmer said. “Aramark is our vendor, and they’re the professionals. I can assure you our chancellor and president and everybody concerned is trying to make sure that our I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed from security, from making sure that we can manage the numbers of people and all that goes with it.
“We’re headed down that road, but I can’t sit here and tell you that we’re gonna do it … or exactly what we’re gonna do with it. We’ll know more later.”
If I am a Tennessee fan, I am hoping for sooner than later.
By Nick Roush on ©July 13th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Next week hundreds of media members from throughout the southeast will make the annual pilgrimage to Hoover for SEC Media Days.
SEC Media Days is filled with timeless traditions. You’ll always find Alabama fans in the lobby screaming, “ROLL TIDE!” Copious amounts of Sunkist and Dr. Pepper will be consumed. Just like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the media will pick Kentucky to finish near the bottom of the SEC East.
If you’re looking for proof of media bias, it’s not hard to find. CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee compared preseason predictions to final regular season standings. In 27 years the media has only correctly predicted the champion seven times. Since expansion to 14 teams in 2012, Kentucky has consistently outperformed the media’s predictions.
Over the last seven years, only Mississippi State has done a better job of debunking the preseason media poll. On average, UK finishes one spot higher than predicted for a total of +7 over the last seven years.
The media has either been right or has undervalued the Wildcats every year since expansion. The real jump came over the last two years. They out-preformed their preseason pick by two games in 2017 and three in 2018 — when they won 10 games and the Citrus Bowl.
When you’re picked at the bottom, there’s really only one direction you can go, up. Despite last season’s success, the SEC Media will still likely select UK to finish at best fourth in the East.
You will be shocked to learn which two programs are overhyped more than any other: Tennessee and South Carolina. Visit CBS Sports to see where each team finished compared to their preseason projection.
Kentucky only has four away games on the schedule this season; which has the best road trip potential? As someone who loves football road trips and this great region we call the South, I’m here to help. I ranked the four away games based on five factors on a scale of 1-5 (1 being worst, 5 being best):
- Proximity to Lexington
- Stadium/tailgating scene
- Food/drink scene
- Intangibles (the one thing that makes that place unique to any other)
Here are the candidates:
- Mississippi State (September 21, Starkville, MS)
- South Carolina (September 28, Columbia, SC)
- Georgia (October 19, Athens, GA)
- Vanderbilt (November 16, Nashville, TN)
Let’s break them down one by one, starting with…
Mississippi State (September 21, Starkville, Mississippi)
Proximity to Lexington: 2
Starkville is 492 miles, or 7 hours 49 minutes from Lexington. Trust me when I say there’s middle of nowhere, and then there’s middle of nowhere Mississippi.
Last year, Mississippi State went 8-5 under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead, formerly the offensive coordinator at Penn State. This year, the Bulldogs have to replace quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and eight starters on defense. That being said, this is Kentucky’s first road game of the season, those cowbells are loud, and Benny Snell won’t be around to score four touchdowns.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 3
There’s nothing to do in Starkville other than go to the game, therefore Davis Wade Stadium is always rocking. The 61,000-seat stadium underwent a $75 million expansion/renovation in 2014 and is by far the nicest thing in Starkville. It’ll be CLANGA CLANGA with cowbells, so bring your earplugs.
Food/drink scene: 1
By now, you should know how KSR feels about Starkville. It sucks. I really tried to give it a fair shake back in 2015, but it lived up to low expectations. If you do make the trip, there are some okay bars in the Cotton District and Little Dooey has good BBQ.
You can stay on I-40 and go to Tunica instead? Nashville is in the middle? I got nothing.
Total score for Starkville: 9.5/25
South Carolina (September 28, Columbia, South Carolina)
Proximity to Lexington: 3
Columbia is 431 miles from Lexington, or a 6 hour 39 minute drive via Google Maps. That’s not bad, especially since that route takes you through Asheville, one of the coolest towns in the Southeast. I highly recommend splitting the drive up on the way down or back to spend some time exploring Asheville, specifically it’s enviable beer scene.
This one’s going to be tough. After losing to Kentucky five years in a row, the Gamecocks are beyond ready to beat the Cats, and they’re led by senior quarterback Jake Bentley (although he had a rocky junior season). I think Kentucky’s a better team than South Carolina, but knowing how badly they want this win and how crazy Williams-Brice Stadium will be, I’m calling it a toss up.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 4
I’ve yet to experience it for myself, but I hear Williams-Brice Stadium is one of the best environments in the SEC, which is saying something. Even though South Carolina announced earlier this week they’re not allowing alcohol sales outside of premium areas yet, I guarantee you Gamecock fans will prepare in the parking lot and have that place rocking at kickoff.
Food/drink scene: 4
I’ve only been for basketball games, but Columbia’s a fun town with plenty of good restaurants, bars, and palmettos. Like all South Carolinians, people in Columbia love to eat and drink to excess, so if you go, good times will be had.
Really want to make a long weekend out of it? Stop in Asheville on the way down, and after watching the Cats extend the winning streak to six in Columbia, continue on to Charleston for Sunday and Monday. The Holy City is only two hours away from Columbia and well worth the extra miles. Gospel brunch at Hall’s Chophouse is a must.
Total score for Columbia: 17.5/25
Georgia (October 19, Athens, Georgia)
Proximity to Lexington: 3
There are two routes to Athens from Lexington; I suggest taking the one that goes through the western tip of North Carolina so you can avoid Atlanta traffic. Thank me later.
As much as I love Kentucky Football, there’s no denying that Georgia’s on another level right now. The Bulldogs are the clear favorites for the SEC East and legitimate national title contenders. They return 13 starters from last year’s team, including Jake Fromm, who’s got a heck of an offensive line protecting him. Kentucky’s coaching staff has made it clear that beating Georgia is the next step for the program to take, but I just don’t see it happening in Athens.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 5
I love everything about Athens, Georgia. It is the perfect college town, with wonderful bars and restaurants, and tailgates rolling across the city from dawn ’til dusk. Sanford Stadium is big and beautiful, with a capacity of 92,746. From start to finish, Georgia does game days right, making a game between the hedges a must on any SEC bucket list.
Food/drink scene: 5
If you couldn’t tell, Athens is right up there with Oxford in my pantheon of favorite college towns. If you go, take a walk around town in the morning to see it come alive for game day and grab a Tropicália IPA at Trappeze Pub, one of my routine stops whenever I’m lucky enough to visit.
Atlanta is an hour and a half away (although on game day, double that), but Athens is so cool I wouldn’t bother.
Total score for Athens: 18/25
Vanderbilt (November 16, Nashville, Tennessee)
Proximity to Lexington: 5
Nashville is an easy three-hour drive (215 miles) from Lexington, just enough time to catch up on the radio show and one of KSR’s many fine podcasts.
The ‘Dores lost quarterback Kyle Shurmur but return running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb. Vandy has slowly and steadily improved under Derek Mason, but Kentucky’s won the last three. I don’t see that changing this year.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 1
There is nothing special about Vanderbilt Stadium; in fact, according to a study by The Tennessean, Vanderbilt fans are embarrassed by it. Vandy’s making some minor renovations this year, replacing the scoreboard and improving the restrooms, but that’s putting lipstick on a pig — a crumbling pig, at that. The debate rages on over whether to do major renovations or just build a new stadium (where?), but one thing is for certain: Kentucky fans will fill the empty seats.
Food/drink scene: 5
You don’t come to Nashville to watch the Vandy game, you come to Nashville to watch the Vandy game and party (for more, consult my flowcharts from March). That being said, I consider Nashville a party town, not a college town, so if you’re looking for a true college town experience, I’d go with Athens here.
The Titans are on bye that week, but the Predators play the Blackhawks Saturday night, which could make for a fun double header if the game’s early. Or, you can go to Top Golf, do a brewery tour, or just get drunk on Broadway.
Total score for Nashville: 20/25
The best UK Football road trip to make this fall, per my calculations…
1. Vanderbilt (November 16, Nashville, TN): 20/25
2. Georgia (October 19, Athens, GA): 18/25
3. South Carolina (September 28, Columbia, SC): 17.5/25
4. Mississippi State (September 21, Starkville, MS): 9.5/25
Basically, anywhere other than Starkville!