The dust has finally settled on Thursday night’s successful NBA Draft. After months of interviews, →
Football Season Coverage
While you spent your Saturday morning working on your tan, the Kentucky football team went to work.
Naquez Pringle was not messing around. The Kentucky nose guard loaded up the bar with so many plates, I needed a calculator to learn Pringle was squatting just under 600 pounds. What’s even more impressive? He goes ass to grass not just once, but four times.
— UK FB Performance (@UK_FB_Strength) June 24, 2017
If that clip didn’t get you fired up for football, this one surely will.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 24, 2017
70 days till football season.
By Nick Roush on ©June 24th, 2017 @ 11:00am
Former Kentucky offensive guard Todd Perry was one of six inducted into the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame last night in Lexington.
The Elizabethtown native was an All-SEC performer for Bill Curry in 1992. A fourth round selection by the Chicago Bears, Perry spent eight seasons in Chicago and finished his 11-year career in 2003 after three years in Miami. Before the induction ceremony, Perry caught up with his former teammate Freddie Maggard.
Perry wasn’t the only Wildcat honored last night.
Mike Edwards, Nick Haynes, Courtney Love and Stephen Johnson were honored as members of the All-Commonwealth Team. The quarterback could not make it to the event because Johnson is spending time in New Orleans, improving his game at the Manning Passing Academy.
The gang also ran into a sharp-dressed Marty Moore.
The emcee of the event cleaned up pretty well.
Sorry to include this unflattering photo of your bald spot Mr. Lemond, but I had to. It’s in my contract.
No. I could end this post with a one-word sentence but Tyler Thompson prefers that I expand on my opinions and such. ESPN generally devalues Kentucky Football in polls, power rankings, predictions, and most other measurable categories. The Network recently ranked the Wildcat linebacker as the 3rd best in the Southeastern Conference. Think about that for a moment. Lindy’s preseason publication has the group rated as the 6th best in the nation. So, the answer remains; recent linebacker departures are not a cause for concern.
My reaction to specific player exits vary and at times differ from most. For example, contrary to popular opinion, Alvonte Bell’s dismissal will hurt the Cat’s capacity to influence opposing quarterbacks. For the defensive end position as a whole, the Bell situation will be difficult to absorb in relation to personnel and experience. Unproven defenders will be called upon to demonstrate vast improvement and development in order to counter his leaving.
Jeff Badet’s surprise transfer to Oklahoma is somewhat different. Eddie Gran will have to identify a deep-threat receiver to replace Badet’s 21-yards per catch average. For complete analysis purposes, his drops also factored into the overall equation. After reviewing an extensive amount of film, I came to the conclusion that opportunity played a minor factor in Badet’s success. This take is in no way intended to downplay his influence on Kentucky’s 7-win season; however, the quarterback’s throw, formation, timing, defensive alignment, and play call must be taken into consideration when discussing multiple post-route completions.
Hear me out. Garrett Johnson’s performance against Louisville highlights this assumption. It was Johnson who was lined up at the right place at the right time against a vulnerable defense with the right plays called to catch perfectly thrown post-routes from Stephen Johnson. UK’s receiver corps can somewhat compensate for Badet’s exodus, but his absence will sting. This will especially apply in the season’s early games.
Now back to the linebackers. Losing four roster players won’t immediately alter UK’s two-deep depth chart nor devalue the position group. However, special teams may take a hit. To what extent is yet to be seen as linebackers play a major role in the third phase.
Let’s take a look at the departed foursome’s 2016 contribution:
Nico Firios recorded five tackles in 2016 and was credited with a blocked punt vs. Georgia Tech. Frequent injuries slowed development.
D’Niro Laster played in 5 games, registered 14 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB sack, and recovered a fumble. Of the four, Laster will be missed the most.
Roland Walder redshirted, did not participate in game action.
Kobie Walker was a safety converted to linebacker that had a great deal of talent. He played in just three games, started two, totaled 10 tackles and .5 TFL. Injuries and off the field difficulties prevented Walker into developing into a dependable defender.
What does all this mean?
Even after the most recent attrition, Kentucky’s linebacker corps is still talented and deep (See above ESPN and Lindy’s ranking). Resourceful recruiting and detailed development have given Matt House and Dean Hood meeting rooms full of SEC-ready athletes.
Pre-Camp Linebacker Depth Chart
— OLB/DE Junior* Denzil Ware, Redshirt freshman Jamar Watson
— MLB Senior* Courtney Love, Sophomore Kash Daniel
— WLB Junior* Jordan Jones, Sophomore Eli Brown
— SLB Junior* Josh Allen, Junior Jordan Bonner
All American candidate Jordan Jones is the SEC’s top returning tackler. Josh Allen led the conference in forced fumbles and led the team in QB sacks. Allen is listed as all conference in various preseason outlets. Denzil Ware is the group’s designated pass rusher and listed as a Top 5 outside linebacker/defensive end in the Southeastern Conference. Courtney Love is the team’s captain and showed progress in last season’s final weeks. Jones, Allen, and Ware are on NFL Draft lists. Depth is sufficient with seasoned veterans with several talented rookies at the ready (see below).
— Jaylin Bannerman, 6’5 240-pound redshirt freshman is ready to contribute at linebacker and on special teams. Bannerman is regarded as one of the better overall athletes on the team.
— Jamin Davis was one of the stars of the spring game. Could see playing time as a true freshman. As predicted on National Signing Day, Stoops and company found a gem in Davis.
— Alex King was regarded as one of the most disruptive high school pass rusher in the Midwest. Think a more polished Josh Allen at this stage in his career.
— Josh Paschal, Class of 2017 prize signee. Will compete for immediate playing time and could enhance the Wildcat’s pass rush.
— Jamar Watson was the spring game’s Most Valuable Player after registering 4 QB sacks and 4 TFL’s. The redshirt freshman is a star in the making.
— Jordan Wright is a freakish athlete that has the build and skill to play either defensive end or linebacker. His best football lies ahead.
It’s never pleasant to lose football players to transfer or dismissal. As of now, Kentucky’s linebacker situation is stabilized and poised to star. But, it cannot afford more attrition prior to traveling to Hattiesburg.
Freddie’s “Has Been” Series continues on The Jack Kain Ford Depth Chart Podcast with the player who replaced him on the depth chart, legendary quarterback Pookie Jones.
Pookie is best remembered for leading the Cats to the 1993 Peach Bowl, but did you know 1989’s Mr. Football from Calloway County also hit 17 homeruns for Keith Madison’s Bat Cats? Pookie shines a brighter light on the Bill Curry era, connects with former wide receiver Mark Chatman, and…
— How Freddie tried to prevent Pookie from coming to UK.
— Pookie was much more than an “option quarterback;” how the option hurt their offense.
— They explain Tommy Bowden’s revolutionary “triangulation of progression.”
— Pookie makes a prediction on Stephen Johnson’s 2017 season.
— Comparing Benny Snell and Moe Williams.
— What loss hurt more? To Florida in the Chris Doering game or the Peach Bowl?
— The challenges of playing baseball and football for UK.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Pookie’s 357 yard passing game vs. Mississippi State.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2017 @ 10:00am
UK Football just unveiled the 2017 schedule posters, including one dedicated to the program’s in-state players. If you haven’t noticed yet, Kash Daniel is in full-on WWE superstar mode:
Check out all seven posters, which will be available at Krogers statewide starting on July 15.
The offensive line, aka “The Big Blue Wall”:
Josh Allen and Denzil Ware:
Only 72 days until football season.
For quite some time the SEC East has been considered the lesser of the league’s two divisions. Some go as far as labeling it the SEC LEast. Week one matchups offer several opportunities to improve upon or maintain its reputation within the conference and all of college football.
Two neutral site games vs. Power 5 opponents are accompanied by one home matchup against a 1AA foe as well as two road games and two at home vs. Group of 5 opponents.
Let’s take a look:
Florida vs. Michigan, Arlington TX | September 2nd
Michigan is favored by 3. The Gators must find a resemblance of an offense with a new quarterback while replacing 8 defensive starters. Florida’s kicker and punter are excellent; that should make Steve Spurrier proud. Redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks or incoming grad-transfer Malik Zaire will compete for the starting job in fall camp. Zaire makes three grad-transfer quarterbacks to call Gainesville home in a very short period of time. At some point in time continually bringing in mercenaries at the team’s most vital position could cause friction.
Michigan was also hurt by attrition. It lost 17 starters, 10 from the defense. This will be a contest of the unknowns in both personnel and team quality. Both teams are talented and extremely well coached. Annually Florida reloads defensively. New coordinator Randy Shannon may not have an overabundance of experience, but his unit will possess elite talent across the board. The Wolverines should be refreshed and bonded from its Italy vacation but may lack the athletes to keep up with the speedy Gators.
Florida Loss Probability: Low
Kentucky at Southern Miss | September 2nd
Kentucky is favored by 12. Former Wildcat offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson put it to his former team a year ago. In a game that was defined by two distinct halves, Southern Miss won the contest by dominating momentum, tempo, and the scoreboard in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Last year’s game was no fluke. Southern Miss out-played, out-toughed, and out-ran the home team.
USM will be without the services of longtime starting quarterback Nick Mullens. But, it returns RB Ito Smith. You’ll read this many more times this summer; Ito Smith is a bad, bad man that must be taken seriously. Reminder, he rushed for 173 on the Cats in 2016. Don’t be logo fooled, Smith will be one of the better running backs that UK will face all year.
The Wildcats are nearly a two-touchdown favorite for the 4:00pm kickoff in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It’s going to be nasty hot which could benefit the team with the most line-of-scrimmage depth. Kentucky’s offensive line has a dominant advantage in this category. Defensively, not so much which could be a cause for concern; see the Ito Smith and 2016 outcome reference above.
Golden Eagle fans have this game circled on the scheduled as it marks a shot to knock off a SEC team at home. Mark Stoops should have no problem motivating his team after last year’s second half meltdown. September 2nd will be a heated game, and I’m not talking about the 100-degree temperature.
Kentucky Loss Probability: Low-Medium
Georgia vs. Appalachian State, September 2nd
Georgia is a 14-point favorite. The game is between the hedges and the Dawgs have a potent offensive that should be able to score touchdowns in bunches. Only question on that side of the football is offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s ability to effectively utilize the plethora of talent under his control. Chaney’s play calling a year ago baffled fans, media, and players alike. Here’s a foolproof game plan; hand the football off to RB’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Then, use future NFL QB Jacob Eason to throw play action passes to elite TE’s Isaac Nauta and Jeb Blazevich. Game over. UGA is arguably the most talented team in the East and returns 10 defensive starters off a Top 20 unit a year ago.
Appalachian State is favored to win the Sun Belt Conference. It put a scare into Tennessee a year ago as the Volunteers required an overtime period to win 20-13 in Knoxville. Expect the fearless Mountaineers to put up a valiant fight.
Georgia Loss Probability: Low
Missouri State at Missouri | September 2nd
Spread not available. Missouri State (1AA) went 4-7 in 2016. The Tigers may score 80 in this one with South Carolina coming to town the next week.
Missouri Loss Probability: Extremely Low
South Carolina vs. North Carolina State, Charlotte | September 2nd
North Carolina State is favored by 4. South Carolina is the trendy pick to contend for a division title. The Gamecocks will have their collective hands full in Charlotte. NC State returns 11 starters, 8 of which are on defense. The Wolfpack also sports one of the better defensive lines in college football.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley impressed as a true freshman. He’ll be surrounded by 8 returning starters that include talented and fast skill players that have the potential to light up a scoreboard. Unlike the vast majority of media types, I’m yet to be completely sold on USC. But, I will become a complete believer in the Fighting Muschamps if Carolina consistently blocks the Wolfpack defensive line that’s led by Bradley Chubb (22 TFL, 10.5 QB sacks).
South Carolina Loss Probability: High
Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee State | September 2nd
Vanderbilt is favored by 9 against a dangerous MTSU team. Two questions surround this neighborly grudge match: 1. How will the Vanderbilt defense cope without the services of All American LB Zach Cunningham? 2. Will MTSU QB Brent Stockstill be fully recovered from a February shoulder surgery?
MTSU beat Missouri 51-45 in Columbia a year ago. Ironically it now has former Mizzou Tiger Walter Brady leading its pass rush. Vanderbilt has 17 players on its depth chart that saw extensive action in 2016. QB Kyle Shurmer and RB Ralph Webb led the Commodore offense to a strong finish to the 2016 regular season before falling flat in a 41-17 loss to NC State in the Independence Bowl. I’d be more confident in the Blue Raiders if Stockstill was completely healthy.
Vanderbilt Loss Probability: Medium
Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech, Atlanta | September 4th
Tennessee is a 4-point favorite. The Champions of Life trophy wasn’t exactly the prize that Volunteer fans coveted going into 2016. Head coach Butch Jones has many sets of shoes to fill after several of his building block stars moved on. For beginners, he has to find a new starting quarterback to fill a void vacated by Josh Dobbs. Furthermore, the program’s all-time leading sacker Derek Barnett now plays his football on Sundays.
Georgia Tech finished last fall much like as senior led team should. The Yellow Jackets beat its archrival (Georgia) then went on to win the Taxslayer Bowl with a victory over Kentucky. Coach Paul Johnson must also find a replacement for his starting quarterback as Justin Thomas finally graduated. Seems as if he’d led that option attack for a decade. But, don’t fret my cut blocking friends, several key offensive pieces are coming back to Atlanta including Clinton Lynch and Dedrick Mills.
Butch Jones will be joined by six new assistant coaches and a bus load of new non-coaching coaches (aka support staff) to prepare for Johnson’s perplexing rushing attack in the offseason. A Tech win would give it three consecutive victories over SEC East opponents (Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee).
Tennessee Loss Probability: Medium
It’s June. Suspension and Dismissal Season hasn’t gotten into full swing just yet. Fall camp injuries will also play a factor in projections changing from now until September. Mizzou is the only team that will be serving dessert in its opener. The other six programs best be on their toes in order to quiet the SEC Least detractors.
By Nick Roush on ©June 20th, 2017 @ 7:25pm
Kentucky redshirt freshman outside linebacker Roland Walder announced on Twitter he will transfer from the University of Kentucky.
An all-state selection from Trotwood-Madison in Dayton, Ohio, Walder originally chose Kentucky over Nebraska, Purdue, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Pitt and others. A member of the class of 2016, Walder never saw a snap at UK, redshirting in his only year in Lexington.
This spring another outside linebacker in the 2016 class, Jamar “Boogie” Watson, appeared to lock up the No. 2 outside linebacker spot alongside JUCO transfer Jordan Bonner. In the 2017 recruiting class, Mark Stoops signed three studs at Walder’s position: Joshua Paschal, Jordan Wright and Alex King. The Cats should be just fine after this departure.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 20th, 2017 @ 4:02pm
Kentucky’s Jordan Jones has been named Third-Team All-American by Athlon Sports, the publication announced on Tuesday.
A standout linebacker for the Wildcats, Jones led the Southeastern Conference and ranked 16th nationally in solo tackles per game last season with 5.7 per game, as well as ranking third in total tackles per game with 8.4. He totaled a team-high 109 tackles and led Kentucky with 15.5 tackles for loss on the year.
Jones adds today’s honor to his Athlon and Southern Pigskin Preseason First-Team All-SEC selections.
This LSU fan likes him, too:
— TJ LSU DAD (@tj_lsudad) June 18, 2017
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 19th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
Every year, UK has to self-report violations to the NCAA, and last year, one of them involved “Last Chance U” star Brittany Wagner. Wagner, the former athletics academic advisor at East Mississippi Community College, became a star after Netflix’s series came out and was invited to a UK’s season opener vs. Southern Miss last year. (You probably remember that she appeared on the KSR pregame show, along with my podcast and Matt’s podcast.)
According to the Courier-Journal, an SEC Network color commentator requested tickets for Wagner to the game, which UK Football assistant Lamar Thomas left at will-call under his name. Apparently, because Wagner is an employee of a junior college, that’s a violation, which UK immediately reported to the NCAA. In response, UK Football staffers had to go through training about what to do in that situation (put Wagner on a pass list for recruits instead of leaving her tickets at will-call) and were prohibited from visiting EMCC prospects off campus for a month. The NCAA at work, my friends.
All 17 violations UK reported in the 2016-17 year were Level 3 (minor). Women’s basketball accounted for five; football, women’s golf, gymnastics, men’s soccer, and swimming diving two; and men’s basketball and track and field one each. The men’s basketball one is especially trivial. A freshman player posted a picture with a recruit on Snapchat, which violates the NCAA rule for publicizing the visit. Because it’s SnapChat, the image disappeared after 24 hours, but the entire team still had to go through a rules education session.
Read more about UK’s 17 self-reported violations over at The Courier-Journal. And then shake your head.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 18th, 2017 @ 8:35pm
Last Thursday, 2018 JUCO DB Domonique Williams pledged his commitment to Kentucky over offers from Iowa State, UNLV, and Colorado State, among others.
Williams became the twelfth recruit to join UK’s heralded 2018 recruiting class, moving the Wildcats into the top-25 of the recruiting rankings.
In case you didn’t see his commitment, you can watch it below:
Romans 12:12 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/oV7QRUFmuO
— Dom Williams 🤧 (@dom21_) June 16, 2017
KSR sat down with Williams to discuss his commitment to Kentucky, his future role on the defense, his relationship with the Wildcat coaching staff, and how excited he is to play in front of the Big Blue Nation.
When it came to UK, Williams says his fit on the defense and his opportunity to make it to the NFL under Mark Stoops separated the Wildcats from the pack.
“I chose Kentucky because I feel like I fit in there extremely well. I can do big things to help make Kentucky a better team in the future. I know that playing for Coach Stoops and Coach Clinkscale will help me get to the next level,” Williams said.
The 6’0, 190-pound defensive back had an extremely impressive camp last week at UK, causing the Wildcat coaching staff to pull the Tennessee native aside and offer him a scholarship on the spot. He said his versatility in the secondary turned heads.
“I think the coaching staff loves the fact that I can play multiple positions in the secondary. At camp last week I was playing regular CB, but during 1-on-1 drills, I played some nickel as well. I do a great job of guarding slot receivers,” said Williams.
With so much talent at camp last week, Williams said he wanted to make sure he did his part recruiting some high-level prospects to join him as a Kentucky Wildcat.
Two of those recruits? Four-star athlete Quindarious Monday and cornerback Jalen Huff.
“I was with (Quindarious) Monday & Jalen (Huff) for the most part. They both have offers from UK as well. They were both cool and we follow each other on Twitter and everything to stay in contact. We have a really good relationship.”
After recording 49 tackles, ten pass breakups, and three interceptions last season for Highland CC, Williams says he knows exactly what he needs to work on in the near future to thrive at the next level.
“I need to work on attacking and playing the ball better while it’s in the air. Last year I had a lot of deflections, but I couldn’t convert them all to interceptions. If I can turn all of them into interceptions, I know I will be able to make an impact and change the game a lot more.”
When asked about the Kentucky fanbase, Williams says they played a big part in his decision to attend UK next season.
“The BBN is absolutely crazy,” Williams said. “They show major love and I love it. I can’t wait to make plays in front of all of them at Kroger Field next fall”
With college football recruiting being a never-ending cycle, Williams wants the Kentucky fanbase to know he is here to stay.
“I am 100% committed to the University of Kentucky.”
Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, whether you’ve spent your day grilling, napping, watching golf, or just doing regular dad things.
Some of your favorite UK players are surely putting in work, while others are probably celebrating with their dads. A few took to social media to sound off on the holiday:
A post shared by Brad Calipari (@brad.calipari) on
Happy Father's Day to the coolest guy I know pic.twitter.com/PkD2h8al3E
— Stephen Johnson II (@stephen_h_j) June 18, 2017
Happy Father's Day to my best friend since birth! 🐐 pic.twitter.com/uKoZHj5DuI
— Kash Daniel (@KashDaniel15) June 18, 2017
Happy Fathers Day to All the Fathers out there and Father Figures as well. Blessings🙏🏾
— Jarred Vanderbilt (@JVando_) June 18, 2017
Because it’s always fun to envision the future of the football team, let’s take a look at Kentucky’s two newest recruits from the last two days.
DeAndre Square: 2018 Four-Star Outside Linebacker
Square is one of the best players out of Michigan in the 2018 class. Standing at 6’1″ and 205 pound, the defenseman out of Cass Technical High School in Detroit is sure to make an impact in two years for the Cats.
Keontra Smith: 2019 Four-Star Safety
Looks pretty savage to me. This guy will be suiting up for the Cats in three seasons, just in time to fill Mike Edwards shoes. I’m a fan.
By Haley Simpson on ©June 17th, 2017 @ 4:00pm
It’s always great when others take notice when Kentucky has something special. Today, that’s Mike Edwards.
Saturday Down South just released their top 10 “most ferocious hitters in the SEC” and Edwards was second on the list – only behind Darrin Kirkland Jr. of Tennessee.
Here’s what they had to say about Edwards:
“The 6-0, 200-pound backbone of the Kentucky defense is both studious and relentless. The junior-to-be led all SEC defensive backs in tackles last year with 100, and more than a few of them were of the bone-crunching variety. He was a rock in the Wildcats’ resurgent 2016 season, starting all 13 games, and he never failed to make his presence felt.“
While we’re at it, let’s relive his interception at UofL:
That was a good day.
By Haley Simpson on ©June 17th, 2017 @ 11:31am
Mark Stoops and his crew are rolling into the weekend with two back-to-back yahtzee’s.
Listed as a four-star prospect on both Rivals and 24-7 Sports, Keontra Smith tweeted his commitment to the Big Blue this morning, choosing the Cats over: Auburn, Louisville, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon and his home school of Miami.
— Keontra 🔑 (@IronMan794) June 17, 2017
Smith is a 5-11, 205-pound safety at Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, FL – just another recruit for Stoops and Co. out of the Sunshine State.
This is the second commitment in two days for the Cats, as DeAndre Square – a 2018 four-star outside linebacker – committed to Kentucky yesterday.
What a way to start a Saturday.