Part one in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats. Barring →
Football Season Coverage
There’s something rotten in the city of Gainesville. After stealing away George Brown Jr from the Cats on Friday, two would-be Gators decided to pass on Florida and re-open their recruiting. That marks the fourth decommit in ten days for Florida and if things don’t go well this season things could get much worse. In regards to the players leaving George Brown spoke with Chad Wilson of the radio show Gridiron Studs and had this to say:
“Some people are just waiting to see what the offense looks like this year the first few games, I think we’ll be getting some big-time commitments pretty soon. That’s pretty much it with the new offensive coordinator, they just want to see how the offense works. If it goes well, we’ll have some pretty big commits coming in pretty soon.”
If it doesn’t go well? Things could be falling apart pretty quick in Florida and perhaps George Brown could be back on the market. Vince Marrow certainly doesn’t think it’s a done deal as he tweeted this after Brown’s commitment to the Gators last week:
Big Blue Nation… Relax. It’s only the first round. This is a Title Fight. #BBN
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) July 25, 2014
All those decommits have dropped Florida down to 41st in 247sports’ composite rankings which is a few spots behind Wake Forest. Meanwhile the Cats are holding strong at 21st. If Florida has another bad season this year then Kentucky targets could be back on the board.
Next signing day where to you thing George Brown will end up?
Part one in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats.
Barring something unforeseen, neither of the gentlemen pictured above will start at quarterback.
We’ve almost made it, Cat fans. We’ve successfully navigated through the doldrums of the Kentucky sports calendar, and now stand at the precipice of football season. Fall camp is less than a week away, and year two of the Mark Stoops Kentucky rejuvenation project hits Commonwealth Stadium in just one month. Here to greet this glorious time of year is the annual Kentucky Sports Radio position by position preview, an eight part series breaking down each position group on the Wildcat roster. We know you are anxious to hear about the punters, but we’re saving that preview to the end to allow the tension to build. Instead, we’ll start with quarterbacks.
Patrick Towles 6-5, 238 So. Ft. Thomas, KY (Highlands)
Towles made a strong impression in the Spring after appearing to be the odd man out in 2013, when he was beaten out by both Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Towles redshirted in 2013, and rededicated himself to the fundamentals, in part through the employment of private quarterback coaches in the off-season. This work appears to have paid off. Towles was named the starting quarterback for the Spring Game, and appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for the position going into Fall camp. Of the likely candidates for the job, Towles is the only player with collegiate playing experience, though that initial foray into college football was largely forgettable, having completed 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman in 2012. Towles has always possessed the physical tools, as indicated by his stellar high school career. Towles went 38-1 as a starter for the powerful Highland Bluebirds, including three consecutive state titles. He compiled 7400 passing yards and 73 passing touchdowns as well as 1700 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns in a high school career that culminated with the Mr. Football Award in 2011.
Reese Phillips 6-2, 218 Fr.-RS Signal Mountain, TN
Despite being far and away the least heralded of the contenders for the Kentucky quarterback position, Phillips nearly worked his way onto the field as a true freshman in 2013. Having graduated high school a semester early, Phillips immediately impressed coaches with his cool demeanor and accuracy in the Spring of 2013. As injuries mounted at the position last Fall, coaches seriously considered throwing Phillips into the fire, but decided it was in the best interest of Phillips and the program to preserve his redshirt season. Phillips was twice named all state in the volunteer state, before escaping over the wall designed to keep out all of the haters and snitches. Phillips will go into Fall camp competing with Towles and Barker for the starting job.
Drew Barker 6-3, 216 Fr.-HS Burlington, KY (Conner)
Barker gave himself a legitimate shot at the starting quarterback position by enrolling in January so that he could participate in the conditioning program and compete in Spring Practice. Undoubtedly one of Mark Stoops’ biggest achievements to date as the Wildcat coach was the signing of Barker, an Elite 11 quarterback and four star prospect. As a three year starter at Conner, Barker threw for over 6000 yards and 62 touchdowns, and rushed for over 3900 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Maxwell Smith 6-4, 238 Jr. Granada Hills, CA
Smith’s status is up in the air following off-season shoulder surgery. However, he is throwing at this point, and has been told by coaches he will have the opportunity to compete if healthy. “If healthy” is a significant qualification for Smith, who has actually been quite capable in those rare moments that he has been able to avoid injury. Smith has played in 21 games in his Kentucky career, starting 11. In that game action, he has thrown for over 3000 yards and 21 touchdowns compared to just 9 interceptions. Unfortunately, his best football took place early in his Kentucky career, as witnessed by his 2011 Freshman All SEC designation, before a multitude of injuries hampered his effectiveness.
Unfortunately, I do not think that Maxwell Smith is a viable option at this point. If fully healthy, I truly believe that Smith has ideal tools to be an excellent option in the Air Raid Offense. Having said that, by the end of last season, it appeared his arm was held to his torso by bailing twine. And though he admirably fought through it without complaint, and without much help from his supporting cast I might add, it seems too much to ask for him to overtake three talented, and healthy, quarterbacks in the Fall.
The resulting three man race is difficult to call with any real certainty, as there is a valid argument to be made for each candidate. Each brings something unique to the table. If you combined the three together, you’d get former ‘Cat Jared Lorenzen. (I kid, Jared. Don’t hurt me.) If you combined the three in something other than mass, the resulting player would be something pretty special. Towles possesses all of the measurable qualities. With his 6-5 height and broad shoulders, he looks like an NFL quarterback. He also has the strongest arm of the candidates. Phillips has the accuracy that Neal Brown craves. Brown has stated many times that accuracy is the single most important characteristic for a quarterback to possess in his version of the Air Raid. Barker has that certain air of leadership and star power that Kentucky has not enjoyed at the most important of positions since the days of Tim Couch. Because the technology necessary to combine these players to form one megaback will likely not be available by the August 30 opener, Stoops will have to make the call.
The best case scenario appears to be for Towles to win the job. He is the most experienced, in his third year in the program, and appears to have reached the point in which his preparation and devotion to the craft have equaled his raw ability. Towles has the arm strength to make all of the throws necessary for opponents to have to cover the entire field, as evidenced by the 15 yard outs he zipped routinely in the Spring Game. Towles’ emergence will have the added benefit of allowing Barker to redshirt. Though fans are understandably excited about Barker, and many will be impatient to see him on the field, success at the highest level of Division One football as a true freshman quarterback is a rarity. (Like a Louisville fan with a job.) Allowing Barker a year to get stronger and perfect his understanding of the offense would be a tremendous luxury. It would also grant another year for Stoops, Marrow and company to fill the offense with weapons for his disposal once he is ready to take over the position, whenever that may be. Phillips would appear to be an ideal backup. Brown stated that he was both the most accurate passer and most consistent performer over the Spring, though his ceiling may not quite reach the peak level of either Barker or Towles. These qualities will serve Phillips well as a dependable backup to Towles in 2014.
You’ve briefly seen the work when passing by on Nicholasville Road, now see it from the sky in this video from Bell Engineering. It was recorded a couple of weeks ago so progress is even further along today.
When Alfonso Smith played his final down for the Kentucky football team in 2009, very few people, if any, had any idea he had a realistic future in the NFL. But here we are, four and a half years later, and Alfonso Smith is the newest member of the San Francisco 49ers.
The product of Louisville’s Waggener High School announced his signing with the Super Bowl contender on Instagram last night. He spent his first four seasons in the league with the Arizona Cardinals, where he rushed for two touchdowns.
At Kentucky, Smith’s single season high in rushing was 313 yards. He played a secondary role behind Derrick Locke in the UK field during his junior and senior seasons.
Smith joins fellow Wildcat and San Francisco newcomer Stevie Johnson in the 49ers offense.
The SEC hasn’t always gotten the best reputation over the year for taking chances during non-conference play. This used to be the case 10-15 years ago while other conferences would take on more ambitious scheduling. But as college football has moved on, most of the major conference teams might play another BCS school for 1 of their non-c0nference opponents but the rest is pretty weak. That doesn’t mean that some SEC teams don’t take this pathetic scheduling too far. Look at the 14 SEC teams and who they have scheduled for their 4 non-conference games this year. Those in bold are teams who made a bowl last year and the record for each team last year is listed.
1. TENNESSEE (36-16 combined)
Utah State (9-5)
Arkansas State (8-5)
at Oklahoma (11-2)
2. SOUTH CAROLINA (35-17 combined)
East Carolina (10-3)
South Alabama (6-6)
at Clemson (11-2)
3. GEORGIA (34-17 combined)
Charleston Southern (10-3)
Georgia Tech (7-6)
4. KENTUCKY (32-18 combined)
at Louisville (12-1)
5. MISSOURI (33-18 combined)
South Dakota State (9-5)
at Toledo (7-5)
Central Florida (12-1)
6. ARKANSAS (27-25 combined)
Nicholls State (4-8)
at Texas Tech (8-5)
Northern Illinois (12-2)
7. LSU (26-25 combined)
(in Houston) Wisconsin (9-4)
Sam Houston State (9-5)
New Mexico State (2-10)
8. AUBURN (26-24 combined)
San Jose State (6-6)
at Kansas State (8-5)
Louisiana Tech (4-8)
9. OLE MISS (23-26 combined)
(in Atlanta) Boise State (8-5)
10. FLORIDA (23-27 combined)
Eastern Michigan (2-10)
Eastern Kentucky (6-6)
at Florida State (14-0)
11. TEXAS A&M (26-24 combined)
at SMU (5-7)
12. VANDERBILT (21-28 combined)
Charleston Southern (10-3)
Old Dominion (8-4)
13. ALABAMA (13-35 combined)
(in Atlanta) West Virginia (4-8)
Florida Atlantic (6-6)
Southern Miss (1-11)
Western Carolina (2-10)
14. MISSISSIPPI STATE (16-32 combined)
Southern Miss (1-11)
at South Alabama (6-6)
The only thing that is a little disappointing for the SEC is how few times they will wander away from their home fields. In all, SEC teams will play 56 non-conference games this year and only 9 of those will be away from home, with another 2 on neutral fields. That means 45 of 56 games will be played at home. I understand that is a revenue grab by most teams, but it also leads to a smaller amount of really good matchups and more boring non-conference games.
Hal Mumme Commands His Raid: It just doesn’t get much cooler than this.
Not much time has passed since November 3, 2012 but the Kentucky football program we knew then, isn’t the team we know now. On the day that will live in infamy, Drew Franklin, Matt Jones and I recruited a couple hundred fans (so close to half the stadium) to join Patrick in Section 206 where I led cheers to distract as many people possible from what was happening on the field. Soaked in water and embarrassed, there wasn’t a soul that left the stadium feeling good.
With the flip of a coin from Joker to Stoops, Kentucky football has found its long-lost swagger. A team with a chip on their shoulder has a fan-base hungrier than ever. Before they earn it on the field, the Cats are bringing sexy back, off the field.
1. Three words: Super Bowl Commercial.
2. The Kickoff Playoff; a genius concoction. At a time when we know too much about our basketball team, people that don’t get to interact with them everyday after practice, like myself, don’t get to experience the personalities of our football players. The Kickoff Playoff is opening a door to fan and player interaction in a positive way like never before. It’s not just knowing what Bud Dupree’s favorite song is, it’s watching the players interact with each other and fans on Twitter as they lobby for their own choice. When the final song is selected, it will not only be the players’ choice, but the fans’ choice, uniting Commonwealth Stadium for an electric atmosphere.
3. Blue on the Front, Boom on the Back. Last year’s best all-purpose back will be bring the Big Blue Boom in 2014. It’s a very literal Boom; UK made it official with ‘B. Williams’ on the #18 jersey Randall Cobb made famous.
4. People outside of Kentucky like what they see. To make a little extra dough during the summer, I often find myself working behind the bar of a high end bourbon establishment. Bourbon Trailers often stop in to take a gander at our selection to make sure they’ve tasted and seen as much bourbon as possible on their trip. Last week, a couple from Arkansas came in searching for a bottle of Pappy, but that wasn’t the one that REALLY caught their eye. In the company of beautiful Special Edition Maker’s Mark bottles of Rupp’s Runts, John Calipari, The Unforgettables, and Secretariat, the couple wanted a closer look of the Mark Stoops Maker’s Mark bottle. Stoops’ name is a revered one that is turning into a feared one on the recruiting trail that college football fans cannot ignore.
5. Recruiting losses used to look like this.
Now they look like this:
6. Live Gun Shows from Josh Clemons every Saturday.
7. The final piece of the puzzle: New CWS.
Changing off the field culture is one thing, but changing on-field performance is where the real fun is.
UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown called in to Kentucky Sports Radio radio this morning to discuss the upcoming season. Listen in as we hear from the Danville native during the Danville tour stop, exactly one week before he and the Wildcats began fall camp.
Or listen to today’s entire podcast below. Now in one piece!
Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” can advance to the final round of the Kickoff Playoff with a win over Braylon Heard and Three 6 Mafia’s “Who Run It” today. Bud Dupree’s song is in the semifinals after defeating Steven Borden and “Scatta” in Round 1.
Head over to the BBN First website to place your vote. And remember, any time you begin to feel buck, it should immediately be followed with a knuck. Don’t be that person who gets buck without knucking. It’s not a good look.
Neal Brown was a guest on Kentucky Sports Radio radio in his hometown of Danville this morning to catch us up to speed on the last free Monday before fall camp. Of course, the quarterback situation is the question weighing on fans’ minds, and though he couldn’t hint at a starter, he did say redshirting Drew Barker will be an option IF he isn’t in contention for that starting spot. (That’s a big IF, folks.) Brown did not say whether or not Barker is showing signs of a guy who can compete, but he answered Matt’s hypothetical of will they consider a redshirt IF Barker isn’t QB1. Yes, it’s an option.
Brown also told KSR to expect to see more of what his offenses did at Texas Tech and Troy. After an abysmal first season, Brown believes his team will be much improved on his side of the ball. He said last year’s receiving corps was the worst he’s ever had to work with in football as they began the year without a single player who had caught a touchdown pass at UK. Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons will lead that group, Brown believes.
When UK isn’t firing the pigskin in the Air Raid, the running game has the potential to shine. Brown called his running backs the deepest and strongest position on the team, and the backfield will have a better offensive line to run behind. The line lost one guy from last year, Kevin Mitchell, and the returners are bigger and stronger across the board. He’s also excited to add his redshirt freshmen to the mix.
We’ll have the entire interview on the site a little later today.
What makes the difference between a good coach and a bad coach? Is it motivation? Is it recruiting? Is it the ability to make in-game adjustments? It’s probably a little bit of everything wrapped into one. But, sometimes it’s just luck. And as we have seen over the years, often times the ball bounces your way in close games, and sometimes it doesn’t. Look at how 2 guys did in close games, those decided by 7 points or less, during their time at Kentucky. And keep this thought in your mind: If Joker Phillips just gets 2 or 3 of those losses to bounce his way, would he still be the coach at Kentucky? And if Rich Brooks didn’t catch the breaks to get 15 wins by 7 points or less, including 3 in each of his last 4 years, would he have lasted as long at Kentucky as he did?
I only point this out to highlight how precarious a head coach in college football can have it. Mark Stoops can do everything right, put the right players on the field, and still lose the majority of games inside 7 points, and he is suddenly out of a job. Here’s to hoping Stoops has success like Brooks, at least in his latter years, in close games and not Phillips.
MARK STOOPS (0-2)
Lost to South Carolina by 7, Lost to Mississippi State by 6
JOKER PHILLIPS (3-6)
Lost to Western Kentucky by 1 (OT), Lost to Georgia by 7
Beat Tennessee by 3
Lost to Louisville by 7
Beat Louisville by 7, Beat South Carolina by 3
Lost to Ole Miss by 7, Lost to Auburn by 3, Lost to Mississippi State by 7
RICH BROOKS (15-16)
Beat Louisville by 4, Beat Auburn by 7, Beat Georgia by 7
Lost to South Carolina by 2, Lost to Mississippi State by 7, Lost to Tennessee by 6 (OT)
Beat MTSU by 6, Beat Arkansas by 1, Beat Mississippi State by 1
Lost to Alabama by 3, Lost to South Carolina by 7, Lost to Georgia by 4, Lost to Vanderbilt by 7
Beat Louisville by 6, Beat LSU by 6, Beat Vanderbilt by 7
Lost to Tennessee by 2
Beat Mississippi State by 3, Beat Georgia by 4, Beat La-Monroe by 2
Lost to South Carolina by 7, Lost to Tennessee by 5
Beat Mississippi State by 6, Beat Vandy by 5
Lost to Louisville by 7, Lost to Ole Miss by 6
Beat Vanderbilt by 1
Lost to South Carolina by 5, Lost to Tennessee by 6
Lost to Florida by 3, Lost to South Carolina by 6
The second edition of Coach Stoops’ women’s clinic was moved indoors to Nutter Field House as Commonwealth Stadium is under construction–a fitting analogy for the attitude of this coaching staff and the ladies of the BBN yesterday. There’s a mixed air of optimism and realism for what lies ahead for this program after that 2-10 opening slog through the SEC (you may recall).
Over three hundred women made their way to Kentucky’s campus at 8 am on a Saturday in July, and while there wasn’t the frenzy of last year’s record-setting crowd, these ladies are clearly hungry for some football.
A few observations upon entering Nutter Field House:
1) I. Am. Tired. How do these women have so much energy?
A) They are getting to talk football with virtually no men around–except the real experts. I need to perk up.
2) Am I the only person not wearing blue?
It was clearly not just the impending season (or tailgating) that was on the minds of the women participating–there was a buzz about the room regarding the upcoming recruiting class, evident in Vince Marrow’s introductory ovation.
After a few Cal-isms from Stoops, it was time for a positional breakdown by each member of the staff of course to “impress your husbands and boyfriends.” Despite fact that these ladies know more about football than your average person, not just man, it did produce a number of interesting insights.
Neal Brown gave the crowd something they wanted to start off the day–“the quarterback position is probably gonna be the most improved position on offense this fall.” In response to a quick burst of applause, Brown chuckled, “yea, that’s worth a hand to me.”
Then Brown told us a bit about each quarterback and their progress this summer; it was in alphabetical order to avoid any of the notorious over-analysis we Kentucky fans are capable of. (George Brown DID put the Florida hat in the middle).
– Drew Barker has done a really good job learning the offense and is catching up quickly with the other quarterbacks.
– Reese Phillips has been under the radar a bit, but was the most consistent day in and day out in the spring. He throws a really catchable ball.
– Maxwell Smith may be ready before the season begins after his shoulder surgery, but it’s to be decided.
– Patrick Towles came from one of the better high school programs in the state (some would say the best), and he may be the most improved guy in the entire offense.
Brown assured everyone that he wants to name a quarterback sooner rather than later in order to get them settled in. Oh, and we are gonna be MUCH better on third down, thanks to the improvement on plays like the ones he ran at Texas Tech.
Next up we had running backs coach Chad Scott round up the running back corps: Braylon Heard is very VERY fast, Jojo Kemp talks a lot but he’s also grown a lot, and Josh Clemons has been through a great deal of injuries, but is a terrific leader with a great attitude. I’m truly looking forward to seeing where these running backs can take us in season 2 of the Air Raid.
Vince Marrow was the next presenter, and hot damn does he have a fun personality. Must be why the young’uns relate to him. He’s far too cool for me. He also played football for Nick Saban at Toledo after being a scholarship basketball player.
My favorite presenter just may have been Tommy Mainord, wide receivers coach transplant of Brown’s offense at Texas Tech. He’s a Texas native and fittingly so–he should have been cast on Friday Night Lights. The guy is intense and excited to see what a healthier wide receiver corps with a technically and physically improved Ryan Timmons, Javess Blue, Jeff Badet, and soon-ish to be ready Alex Montgomery can do.
Just finished speaking at our Women's clinic. Big crowd with a lot of energy! #BBN
— Neal Brown (@UKCoachBrown) July 26, 2014
After Coach Naivar (special teams) and DJ Eliot broke down some plays for the ladies, we got to hear some insight from now famous High Performance Coach Erik Korem and Nutritionist and Dietitian Monica Fowler on how they’re taking these guys to the next level.
Monica Fowler puts in a LOT of work, eating breakfast and dinner with the football team during training, being available night and day via text to answer any random question the guys may have. Though some of the players are eating 6 or 7 thousand calories a day to keep weight up, they’re now asking questions like “Can I gain that much in one week and it still be good weight?”
The last presenter was Col. Jason Cummins, the Director of the Impact Leadership Program and Senior Manager of Athletic Operations for Horizon Performance.
In the military, medals are awarded for sacrificing self for the team. But we live in a culture that rewards sacrifice of the team for self. We tell them all the time, ‘Who you’re becoming is more important that what you’re doing.’
The wives of each member of the coaching staff came up and introduced themselves to the clinic.
My favorite tidbits:
– There are soon to be 38 kids between the members of the coaching staff. Sounds like a nightmare.
– Mark Stoops and his wife Chantel hosted a recruiting dinner during the season with 100 people at the house. Chantel said that getting to know the parents, as well as their kids and have them under one roof helps to forge a bond between the families. The best part? Having all those football players isn’t good for plumbing. Three toilets were broken, which likely made a Lexington plumber very … happy?
– A member of the audience thanked them for sharing their sexy husbands with us. I’m uncomfortable.
The players may have been more excited to show off for the women of the clinic than we were to see them. Nate Willis was dancing, Jason hatchet was blowing kisses, and Javess Blue was backflipping, and each player made a point to give a special shout to the “beautiful ladies of the BBN”
Za’Darius introduced each of the players, from full football gear down to full Under Armour gear, and the ladies, especially the older crowd were going WILD, with several catcalls like “What’s underneath this?” to which Erik Korem replied, “Wrong clinic?”
Hide yo kids, hide yo wives.
We closed out the show with the stirring rendition of Happy Birthday for some of the campers (let’s call them campers) led by Rodney Cox. Though he complained of a sore throat, the dude’s got some pipes.
Drills, Drills, Drills
My favorite part of the entire program–running drills with the position coaches and players. Lazily standing to the side, watching these women getting in a stance and huddle up was absolutely brilliant. You were real troopers ladies. Though you need to pick up the pace, as Vince Marrow said to our group, “If you really were my players and you walked over here that slow, you’d be running laps.” Dang coach.
Stadium tours (synthetic turf is coming–this means football field wedding receptions people) a raffle, and autographs closed out a great day in Nutter Field House. And we have over a month until kickoff against UT-Martin. Can’t wait? Get in line.
Click the “more” button for some more pictures and Vines of the ladies participating in drills. You won’t regret it.
The Packers have signed Aaron Rodgers all the way through the 2019 season and there is one thing left he wants. Randall Cobb.
Cobb is going into the final season of his rookie contract, and despite missing most of last season due to a leg injury, Rodgers said he would like the Packers to re-sign him.
“I’d love for Randall to be next. “He’s a guy, again, who’s done it the right way. He’s been a great leader for us. He’s had some injury issues last year that hurt him that was out of his control. But he’s a consistent performer for us and a great guy in the locker room as well.”
With less than $13 million in salary-cap space and three other Packer players going into free agency next off season, it will be interesting to see what happens after this season with Cobb. It does look good though because head coach Mike McCarthy said he wants him back as well.
“Every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “You want to sign them all. Like I said before, if I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago. Yes, Randall’s an excellent football player and you always want to see your guys get paid and you continue to grow with them.”
Cobb will be one of the top five free-agent wide receivers for 2015, according to ESPN’s Mike Sando.
Yeah. That was my face when I saw the pictures of these former players smiling big for the camera. They do say that a smile is contagious. I suggest you put on some of this smooth Happy background music before you look at them.
Kyle Wiltjer and MKG
— Kyle Wiltjer (@kwiltj) July 26, 2014
Four of your favorite, historic Kentucky football wins of the past decade are going to be airing on the SEC Network on August 21.
Yes, that’s a long time from now, but you need to be prepared.
2007 Kentucky 43 – LSU 37
2010 Kentucky 31 – South Carolina 28
2009 Kentucky 34 – Georgia 27
2007 Kentucky 40 – Louisville 34
Gear up for football and soak up these great moments just before the season kicks off (in glorious HD).