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Football Season Coverage

David Stephenson | AP

Stamps and Forrest are Heading to the NFL Combine

David Stephenson | AP

David Stephenson | AP

Kentucky will be represented by two exiting Seniors in the NFL Combine.  Linebacker Josh Forrest and safety A.J. Stamps will run through the traditional drills in Indianapolis February 23-29.  Despite a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Bowl, C.J. Johnson did not receive an invitation.

After a decent Senior Bowl performance, Forrest is projected to be 7th-round pick.  The others will have to work their way into the draft at the combine, or at Kentucky’s Pro Day, which has been scheduled for March 4 according to Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader.

You can watch all of the combine on the NFL Network, and see a full list of participants here.


From the Craft to the Nutter Center: 3 Potential Basketball to Football Player Evaluations

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

 

Throughout history, a faction of fan speculation has fixated on which basketball Cats have the athletic ability and attitude to play football in the Southeastern Conference. At the time this post was emailed to the KSR editorial staff, I could not confirm, but had heard rumors that a member of 2014’s 38-1 team played high school football. I don’t think media has mentioned this before and wanted to rival Scoop Lemond by breaking the news.

Prior to projection, physicality differences in the two sports have to be taken into consideration. There is a distinct variance in a contact sport (basketball) and football’s violent collision nature. Willingness and acceptance of on the field ferocity are not easily tolerated or welcomed. In the early stages of the Unforgettables, the vast majority of that team was infatuated with football. A small minority of football Cats felt as if they could play hoops on a collegiate level. Friendly arguments ensued. While playing Spurrier’s first Florida Gator team, John Pelphrey, Sean Woods, and others were on the sidelines with a safe view of the day’s festivities. After the first offensive series, I came off the field with a bloody nose with a slightly bent facemask. I asked Pel and fellas if they still wanted to trade places? They politely declined and looked at me with a sympathetic stare reminiscent of a Mike Tyson opponent’s Cut Doctor.

That being said, based solely on Tuesday’s Rupp Arena’s assignment, I saw three current Kentucky basketball players that possess the prerequisite attitude and physical traits to play SEC football: Tyler Ulis, Isiah Briscoe, and Dominique Hawkins.

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Tyler Ulis may be smallish in stature but makes up for it with a jaguar’s heart. With weight gain, Ulis would be a nice addition to Mark Stoops’ team as a slot receiver and special team’s returner. Transferrable athletic attributes include explosive bursts, hip flexibility, rapid change of direction, and instinct. Straight line speed estimation is in the 4.4 to 4.5 range. In order for an effective transition, Ulis would have to play at 170-180 pounds.

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Dominique Hawkins has the frame and athletic capacity of a lock-down cornerback. With lateral and vertical movement fluid, Hawkins is explosive from stop to start which converts to breaking on an attempted pass as well as reacting to up field rushing tackle. Dom’s upper body is structured to put on additional strength and weight which leads to positional diversity. At 200 pounds, he could easily play the Safety/Nickel position. Hawkins actually played football in high school as his movement from the Craft Center to Nutter would be the most seamless.

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A 230-pound Isiah Briscoe equates to a prototypical Safety/Linebacker hybrid. Similar to Ulis, Briscoe’s pit bull mentality is perfect for an edge pass rusher with the additional skill to also cover down-field pass catchers. Relentless in effort and with required training, of the three I could foresee Briscoe having the highest ceiling. Reasons for this assumptions derive from his on-court defense and understanding of angles and leverage while driving to the basket. On several occasions, Briscoe dipped his shoulder to distort his body to elude defenders. This move is exactly what is taught to outside linebackers while rushing the quarterback. As repeated often on this site, can never have too many pass rushers.

 

Kentucky Basketball legend Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones was an All American for Adolph Rupp. My homeboy was also a football All-American for Coach Bear Bryant. Can or will there ever be another UK football/basketball player? Most likely no. However, the NFL currently features former basketball players across several rosters. Tight End is the most common position.


Shannon Dawson reportedly taking offensive coordinator job at Southern Miss

Well, the 2016 season opener just got much more interesting. According to Dan Wolken, Shannon Dawson is expected to take the offensive coordinator position at Southern Miss. The same Southern Miss that will open the season against the Cats at Commonwealth Stadium on September 3.

Suddenly, I feel a lot better about that game.


Lamar Thomas will make $275,000 this year

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It’s been over a week since Lamar Thomas left Louisville to accept the wide receivers coaching position at Kentucky, and today, UK released his contract. Thomas will make $275,000 this upcoming season and $300,000 for the 2017-2018 season, quite a bump from his $200,000/year contract at Louisville.

Like the rest of UK’s coaches, Thomas will receive bonuses if Kentucky wins the SEC East, the SEC Championship, or makes it to a bowl. To read the specific breakdowns of those bonuses, check out his contract on UK’s website.

Meanwhile, nothing new to report on the defensive backs coaching job left vacant by Derrick Ansley. Stay tuned…


Tennessee football players accused of assaulting teammate who helped rape victim

You’re looking at former Tennessee wide receiver Drae Bowles, who may be one of my new favorite people on Earth. According to a federal lawsuit filed by six unnamed UT female students — five of which are alleged rape victims — Bowles was confronted and assaulted by his Tennessee teammates in 2014 for helping a woman who accused the players — A.J. Johnson and Mike Williams — of rape.

From The Tennessean:

Bowles took the woman to a hospital on the night of the alleged rape in November 2014 and supported her decision to report the incident to authorities, according to the lawsuit.

While the woman, a student-athlete, was meeting with executive senior associate athletics director Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletics director Mike Ward and her coach, she received a message from her roommate “who was witnessing at that moment several football players jumping” Bowles, the lawsuit says. The woman informed the athletics officials of the incident and was told they would “look into it,” according to the suit. The lawsuit says “athletic coaches were present during that altercation.”

Days later, the woman learned that Bowles was assaulted a second time at the team facility by the same players, the lawsuit says. She reported the second assault to university administrators as well.

Bowles has since transferred to UT-Chattanooga, a decision the lawsuit claims he made after being victimized by his teammates. The plaintiffs argue that the incident with Bowles is just one of many that have contributed to a “hostile sexual environment” at UT, one which chancellor Jimmy Cheek, AD Dave Hart, and Butch Jones have failed to address. The lawsuit also claims that former UT linebacker Curt Maggitt admitted to police that the second assault on Bowles took place, adding more smoke to this fire. Williams and Johnson face separate trials set to begin this summer, for which Bowles has reportedly received a subpoena to testify.

All in all, a terrible look for the Tennessee football program. To read more details, check out The Tennessean.

[The Tennessean]


Will Jackson has been Dismissed from the Football Team

Will Jackson has been Dismissed from the Football Team

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Redshirt freshman cornerback Will Jackson has been dismissed from the Kentucky football team for a violation of team rules, a UK spokesman confirmed to Jon Hale of The Courier-Journal.

A product of the Washington D.C. area, Jackson was a late addition to the 2015 class after experiencing a rash of defections near National Signing Day.  A hulking, strong corner, Freddie Maggard was a big proponent of the raw talent, excited to see his development.  Unfortunately, that will not be at Kentucky.

Jackson’s absence should not be detrimental to the depth chart.  Two members of his recruiting class — Chris Westry and Derrick Baity — finished the year as starters with fellow freshman Kei Beckham redshirting.  Sophomore Jared Tucker is in the mix, J.D. Harmon will be back this fall for his Senior campaign and three of the best ’16 signees are cornerbacks.


UK Athletics

How ESPN Ranked the 2015 Kentucky Football Team

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Even though we want to move forward into 2016 and “Finish,” it’s interesting to see how Kentucky’s 2015 performance looked through the lens of an outsider.  The guys at ESPN’s SEC Blog spent the last few weeks ranking each position group in the SEC.

It’s no surprise that none of them are ranked that high, but some of the rankings might surprise you.

Quarterback – #11

The quarterback position was supposed to be a strength for the Wildcats, but returning starter Patrick Towles struggled with turnovers, throwing an SEC-worst 14 interceptions, and eventually gave way to redshirt freshman Drew Barker. The former ESPN 300 recruit showed flashes, but he too was inconsistent.

Running Back – #7

The Wildcats’ passing game might have been inconsistent, but they were typically effective on the ground. Leading rusher Stanley “Boom” Williams (855 yards) averaged 7.1 yards per carry and Jojo Kemp (555 yards) nearly averaged 6 yards per attempt. Mikel Horton complemented those two shiftier backs, adding a between-the-tackles element to a rushing attack that averaged 162.7 ypg.

 

 

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends – #8

Even with consistency issues on offense, the Wildcats still had two receivers — Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker — who ranked inside the top 20 of the SEC in receiving. Johnson led Kentucky with 694 yards, while Baker had 608. They combined for five touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Jeff Badet caught another 29 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman tight end C.J. Conrad could blossom into a solid player.

Offensive Line – #10

The Wildcats were right around the middle of the pack statistically running the ball in conference play: 151.5 rushing yards per game (eighth in the SEC), 4.4 yards per rush (seventh) and 2.3 yards per rush before contact (seventh). Quarterbacks were pressured 25.7 percent of the time (seventh) in SEC games, and Kentucky was seventh in total sacks allowed in SEC games (18).

Defensive Backs – #12

Despite starting a pair of true freshmen at cornerback (Chris Westry and Derrick Baity), the Wildcats got better against the pass. They surrendered 14 passing touchdowns (14th nationally) and 198.1 ypg (28th) although opponents generally passed the ball effectively against Kentucky.

Front Seven – #13

The loss of Bud Dupree and ZaDarius Smith was greater than most people expected as the Wildcats struggled to generate any pressure on the quarterback, ranking lasts in the SEC in sacks (17).

 

 


Derrick Ansley’s Potential Replacement

Derrick Ansley’s Potential Replacement

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After being turned down by Ed Reed, Mark Stoops is now turning to a former SEC assistant.  According to Justin Rowland, former South Carolina defensive backs and special teams coach, Grady Brown, is in Lexington to interview for Derrick Ansley’s old job.

Brown previously worked at LSU and was a cornerbacks coach for Southern Miss, before taking the South Carolina job in 2012.  After spending two seasons coaching the DBs and special teams, he as demoted to quality control assistant when Spurrier re-organized the defensive staff by adding Jon Hoke as a defensive coordinator.

What could set Brown apart from other candidates?  He has strong recruiting ties to South Florida.  Arguably his best recruit is one you can’t forget from his matches with UK — All-SEC linebacker Skai Moore.

Even though Brown’s name has popped up quickly, don’t expect Stoops to have a quick trigger with this hire.  We’ll keep you updated as more names surface throughout the process.


Courier-Journal: Stoops reached out to Ed Reed about coaching vacancy

Jon Hale of The Courier-Journal is reporting Ed Reed was indeed an option to replace Derrick Ansley, as many fans hoped and speculated.

According to Hale, Stoops placed a call to Reed, who just accepted a job as the Buffalo Bills’ assistant defensive backs coach, but Reed will remain in the NFL.

The former Baltimore Ravens great played under Stoops at the University of Miami when Stoops was the Hurricanes’ defensive backs coach. They won the 2001 national championship together, and that history is why many believed Reed would become a candidate after Ansley’s departure.

The speculation was fueled with this tweet from Drake Jackson yesterday:

It’s too bad Reed decided to stay in Buffalo because, not only is he one of the best safeties of all-time, he and Lamar Thomas would’ve torn up the recruiting trail in the Miami area.

[Courier Journal | SOURCE: Ed Reed turns down chance to join UK]


Derrick Ansley’s Departure, Danny Trevathan’s Super Bowl, and #FINISH

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Been quite the week in the land of Big Blue Football. Co-Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley accepted a position as the defensive back coach at the University of Alabama. Ansley is from Tallassee, Alabama and spent his first seven coaching years in his home state. The first five were at Huntingdon College as his next two were spent in Tuscaloosa. While a graduate assistant and under the tutelage of Nick Saban, Alabama won a National Championship.

Derrick Ansley was the best teacher on Mark Stoops’ staff. Progressing from inherited talent to what today is considered a SEC top-five secondary based on youth and ability; Ansley’s tenure at UK can only be described as impactful and successful. By intention, I’ve praised his worth, recruiting, and coaching prowess. This opinion was formed by his group’s steady performance climb over the course of three seasons, positional evaluation and recruiting, but was solidified while filming a coaching show segment focusing on the Wildcat secondary.  Said it before and will do so again now, Derrick Ansley will eventually become a defensive coordinator and head coach. With all the assistant coach departures during the Stoops’ era, this one stings the most. But, just as expected by players, Next Man Up.

Mark Stoops is defensive back subject matter expert. From playing DB at Iowa to coaching the position at the U, Florida State, Arizona, and Kentucky; Stoops knows and understands what it takes to lead his position of choice. Thus, of all the assistant coaches that have departed, I’m most confident in this Stoops’ replacement decision. Selling the position to potential candidates will not be a difficult. The secondary cupboard is filled with youthful talent. An up and comer, youthful coach will see the talented secondary as an instant resume builder. An experienced coach will recognize the situation as a turn-key meeting room. 

Danny Trevathan is the most distinguished “La Familia” member.

From a Rivals 2-star prospect to 188th NFL draft selection, Danny Trevathan’s performance on America’s biggest athletic stage will forever be remembered in Wildcat lore. For the second consecutive year, a UK alumnus starred in the NFL title game. Danny tied a Super Bowl record with two fumble recoveries and led the Bronco’s with eight tackles. The World Champion and MVP candidate did not play out of character. His 109 regular season tackles led Denver as Trevathan cemented himself as the University of Kentucky’s most distinguished 2016 professional athlete.

#FINISH and the Super Bowl commercial.

In a busy week for Kentucky’s Athletic Department, its #FINISH Super Bowl commercial was well produced and applicable. Interpreted as a thank you and stick with us message to a loyal but tiring fan base, the production was spot on. From the Signing Day marathon to the Nike uniform and logo unveiling, Wildcat staffers have definitely burned the midnight oil. Regardless of your logo/uniform opinion, all three products were of high quality. This shows me that the ALL IN mantra is more than mere words. I find that incredibly refreshing. Now, it’s time to win games.


Good luck to former Cat Danny Trevathan in the Super Bowl

Danny Trevathan got a shoutout from fellow former Wildcat and Bronco’s teammate, Wesley Woodyard, last night in honor of Trevathan and the Denver Bronco’s making it to Super Bowl 50.

Tonight will be the 41st time a former Wildcat has played for a team that reached the Super Bowl and for the second straight year a UK alum has found himself in the most important football game of the season.

Overcoming three different injuries to his left knee area in 2014 – two fractures and a dislocated kneecap- Bronco’s linebacker Trevathan bounced back in 2015 to become the Bronco’s leading tackler after starting 15 games.

Trevathan was also the recent recipient of the Bronco’s 2015 Ed Block Courage Award for his part in leading the Bronco’s to the Super Bowl tonight.

The linebacker and former Wildcat has shed his share of blood, sweat and tears for his Bronco’s team and even some teeth.

During Denver’s Dec. 6 matchup against the Chargers, Trevathan suffered a concussion after making a tackle during the game at San Diego – knocking out two teeth (one of which he ended up swallowing) in the process.

That’s dedication right there and I think it’s safe to say Trevathan has definitely earned his spot under the big lights tonight.

 

 


Former Top-100 player transferring to Kentucky

(Isaiah Hole, 247Sports)

While we may be bidding farewell to one of Kentucky’s football coaches, according to Justin Rowland of Rivals.com the Wildcat’s will be welcoming Michigan transfer, Brian Cole to the program.

According to several reports, Cole was in Lexington this weekend on an official visit to the university, and he couldn’t have picked a better time. The football program also hosted several highly touted and still-uncommitted prospects during the program’s junior day festivities.

The former Wolverines receiver/ defensive back was released from Michigan’s football program last month and has been reportedly eyeing Kentucky, Pitt, Arizona and Arizona State as his next destination.

While the situation and the exact terms surrounding Cole’s release from Michigan is still unclear, the wide receiver will likely have to sit out the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules, regardless. Cole saw time in three separate games this past season as both a wide receiver and on special teams – enough to be considered a true sophomore going into 2016. However, Cole could choose to redshirt which would make him eligible to play in the 2017 season for the Wildcats alongside an impressive class that includes Florida quarterback Mac Jones, Ohio athlete Russ Yeast and Lexington quarterback Walker Wood.

Kentucky has already gained six commitments for the class of 2017, and that group is ranked No. 11 nationally by 247Sports and No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference behind only Alabama.

Cole, a former Under Armour All-America Game selection, hails from Heritage High School in Saginaw, Michigan, and was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 4 athlete and No. 101 overall prospect in the class of 2015.

 


Report: Ansley headed to Alabama

Derrick Ansley is Kentucky’s co-defensive coordinator.

 

Yeah, you read that headline right.

The Rivals site for the Crimson Tide is reporting that Derrick Ansley is leaving UK to become the next secondary coach at Alabama.

The newly minted Kentucky football co-defensive coordinator, which included a $100,000 raise that bumped Ansley’s salary to $375,000 and retained him through June 30, 2019, wasn’t enough to keep the Crimson Tide at bay.

 

 


Super Bowl 50’s Sunday Morning Wakeup

Today we get to celebrate the 50th Super Bowl in NFL History, what a special day for football fans everywhere. The Broncos and Panthers will square off at 6:30 pm on CBS this evening as we sit on our couches, watching any New Year’s diet resolutions we had go tumbling down like Louisville’s tourney hopes. I’ll be taking it all in with some loaded tater skins and a bourbon barrel ale in my hand.

Fresh off being named MVP tonight, Cam Newton and his Panthers are looking to claim their first Super Bowl trophy from Peyton, in what is more than likely his last career game. The Denver defense is quickly gaining praise as one of the best defensive units of all time, and their match-up with Cam and his Dab Army will decide their legacy tonight. No matter how it goes down, this one has all the fixins to be a Super Bowl classic.

Chef Murray with the shot, boy

The Cats rolled the Gators in Rupp, 80-61, on a day where Murray and Ulis took all honors. Murray cashed out with a career-high 35 points, and Ulis added 18 points and 11 assists. It’s glaringly obvious, but man, these are a couple of really special Cats. In addition, the Cats shot 52% from the field, and Willis added 12 points in the scoring column. The Cats are now poised to make a run for the regular season conference title with A&M’s slip-up today, as they sit just a game back under LSU tied for second place in the SEC.

Murray started the game (6-6) from behind the three-point line, and Ulis hit his first seven shots to start the game. Florida head coach Mike White had this to say about the duo, “When you let a guy like Jamal Murray really get going early and he’s got his mojo going and Ulis is playing as well as he played today, they’re capable of beating anyone in college basketball.”

Murray has now 421 points through 23 games, an average of 18.3 a game. With that same average, Murray needs 13 more games to break the freshman scoring record (Brandon Knight, 657), so if the Cats make it past the first weekend of the tournament it’s safe to say Jamal will be our new record holder. Murray is now the only freshman in UK history with multiple 30-point performances, along with being the only player to make a 3 in his first 23 games, another UK school record. Maybe his parents should start coming to every game if he is going to play like that.

Poythress out, X-rays coming

Calipari said he found out five minutes before the game that Alex would be a no-go today against the Gators. Poythress said his knee was bothering him in pre-game, and he was forced to sit out with discomfort in his right knee. Poythress was dressed and ready to go, so the injury must have occurred during warm-ups yesterday.

The good news that we’ve heard so far is that it is not the surgically repaired knee that he sat out with a torn ACL in last year. Calipari said he will get x-rays on the knee today, so if you were looking to add something to your Sunday prayer list, look no further. The Cats can’t afford a loss down low, much less losing our lone senior on the squad.

Bama wants Derrick Ansley

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News is quickly spreading that Bama can’t keep their hands to themselves and quit picking on the little guys. Ansley who previously coached cornerbacks and secondary, was promoted to Co-Defensive Coordinator this offseason by Stoops to ensure we retained his coaching talent in our program.

Saban has now come knocking on the door offering up an invitation for one of Kentucky’s finest to join his staff. Ansley played defensive back at Troy and was at Alabama as a graduate assistant for two years before moving on to Tennessee as a safeties coach in 2012. This would be a huge loss for the football program and our already patchy defense next season, say it ain’t so.

Sacha Killeya-Jones impresses in Somerset

@NextCats

Killeya-Jones finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 assists in his team’s loss tonight in Somerset. He had some strong takes to the rim, and didn’t shy away from any contact while filling up the stat sheet. He looked solid against other talent on the court, and frequently asserted his presence in the lane. Ready for the best part? Sacha stayed after the game and took pictures and signed autographs for every UK fan that wanted one. He already gets it.


Alabama coming for Derrick Ansley; Nick Saban better back off

There’s word spreading around Lexington and Tuscaloosa that Alabama is trying hard to pull Derrick Ansley away from Kentucky. Ansley was promoted to Co-Defensive Coordinator last month for the outstanding job he’s done since joining Mark Stoops’ staff as cornerbacks coach in 2013.

Following Ansley’s promotion, Mark Stoops said, “Derrick has done a great job. Just like you see someone on offense being named passing game coordinator, Derrick handles a lot on that side of the ball. This is to reward him for the work that he has done and to continue to give him more responsibility. He has earned that.”

Now there is legitimate concern he could pack up and join Nick Saban’s staff in T-Town. That would be a huge hit to the UK staff, but who could blame him?

Please stay.