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Football Season Coverage
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown and his awesome UK polo shirt also came on the show this morning, and Brown said he’s really pleased with the team’s progress, and that fans will see a “better product” on the field Saturday during the Spring Game. “We’re going to have a better product,” Brown said, teasing that it’s also going to be a “huge” recruiting day. “Some big names are coming in.”
Of course, everyone wants to know about the quarterbacks. Here’s Brown’s breakdown of each QB this spring:
Patrick Towles: “Towles is much improved. Fundamentally, before, he really had a hitch in his delivery, he was slow getting the ball out of his hands, he made big negative plays that would get you beat. He has taken those away. He’s not making those big negative plays. His ball is getting out of his hand faster. He’s got big time arm talent. He’s got as big an arm talent as you’re going to see. He’s a big kid, he can run too. People underestimate his athleticism. He’s a good natural runner.”
Drew Barker: “With Drew, I’ve always gotta remind myself, he’s 13 practices in. He should in high school. He does some things good. He does not carry himself like a high school senior. He came in and attacked, he’s really handled himself well, he’s studied well, he’s put himself in a position to win the job. He’s making too many mistakes right now, but young people do.”
Reese Phillips: “Reese is just steady. You go around, you don’t really notice him, he’s not the biggest guy, but he gets the ball out of his hand fast, he’s the most accurate of the three, and he probably does more things right. Top end talent? Maybe not, but he does a lot of things that your lay fan probably doesn’t notice.”
Brown didn’t say whether or not they’ll name a starter at the end of the spring, but stressed that the staff is ready for someone to step up and claim the job sooner rather than later: “We need somebody to win the job. We’ve trimmed it from four to three. We’d like to trim it some more, and then get into the fall and see. But we’re not going to drag this out. We’re going to name a guy, give him plenty of rope, and let’s go play.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:00 pm
KSR was live at Spring Practice this morning, and Mark Stoops stopped by in the second hour to talk about his team’s progress. Stoops’ brother, Bob, was one of the surprise visitors this morning, and our Stoops joked that he’s “putting him to work,” complete with a UK pullover. Earlier, he told reporters that his older brother, the head coach at Oklahoma, put on the pullover because he was cold, not because he lost a bet. Mmhmm. Sure.
Overall, Stoops said he’s pleased with his team this spring, and said they’re “much more efficient on both sides of the ball,” mainly because of the improvement at the quarterback position. Stoops praised Patrick Towles in particular for his progress, calling him a “perfect example” of how a redshirt season can help certain players. “I really appreciate what Patrick did,” Stoops said. “He worked hard, and it’s showing.”
When Stoops was on the show a few weeks ago, he notoriously said that if the Cats played a game that day, Jalen Whitlow would be the starting quarterback. A few days later, Whitlow announced he was transferring. What happened? Stoops says he regrets giving Matt a hypothetical answer, but at that very moment, he would have gone with Jalen because he was the most experienced. ”That was a hypothetical,” Stoops said, taking blame for trying to giving the show a soundbite. ”No more good sound bites from me! It was stupid for me to say as a hypothetical. I shouldn’t have said it.” Stoops added he’s sad to see Jalen go, but they had to go in a different direction at QB because of Neal Brown’s system, and Whitlow wasn’t interested in playing wide receiver.
Stoops says he’s pumped for the Spring Game, which is coming up Saturday at 3:30 p.m. While capacity will be limited to 42,500 because of construction to the stadium, Stoops thinks they can still replicate some of the excitement from last year’s record-breaking Spring Game, the benefits of which they’re still reaping. Stoops said he was stunned by all of the feedback they got from the Spring Game from recruits, some of which the marketing staff is using in their latest campaigns:
Do your part, BBN.
Mark Stoops had a double-whammy of bad news for reporters Wednesday morning. Stoops says wide receiver AJ Legree has quit the team and will transfer. The junior caught 19 passes for 210 yards in his two seasons at Kentucky, as well as ten tackles on special teams. When asked about it, Stoops said “We want the guys who want to be here.”
In addition, Stoops announced wide receiver Jeff Badet has a broken fibula and will be out a few months. He’ll be back by the time fall camp starts, but for now, it makes an already thin position even thinner.
Stoops just wrapped up his interview on the show, Neal Brown’s coming up, and Nick Roush will have a full recap from practice later on.
There were two surprise visitors at this morning’s spring practice: Bob Stoops and John Calipari. The Oklahoma coach stopped by to see how his brother was doing, and Cal, in true Cal fashion, showed up in a suit before heading off on the recruiting trail.
Matt, Ryan, and Drew will be doing the radio show live from spring practice in about twenty minutes, so stay tuned to hear more behind-the-scenes scoop.
In the meantime, give that picture your best caption.
Neal Brown’s offense entered Spring practice “grossly thin” at wide receiver and it hasn’t gotten any better.
The Cats began the Spring season without Javess Blue and Alex Montgomery, and over the course of the month minor injuries have made things even more difficult. Today Jeff Badet tweaked an ankle, Thaddeus Snodgrass tweaked a muscle, Joey Herrick was banged up and Ryan Timmons sat out to give the soreness in his shoulder a break.
Brown joked that if he was still playing he’d even make the 2-deep, “(WR) Coach Mainord had to run some routes today. That’s DEFINITELY not good.”
Coach Mainord remains optimistic and does not believe it is a disastrous epidemic, “We’ve had guys fully healthy throughout the whole thing. Even if a guy is taking off today, that doesn’t mean they won’t be fully healthy on Wednesday. It’s not a matter of who’s out there all Spring, it’s a matter of day-to-day.”
Doors have been opened for guys that have been near the bottom of the depth chart. Walk-on Cameron Fogle has improved leaps and bounds, along with the big 6’5 wideout Rashad Cunningham.
The coaches were prepared to take some minor casualties this Spring, but the lack of receivers is making it difficult for the quarterbacks. The timing could not be much worse, but Brown is making adjustments to make sure the quarterbacks get enough quality reps.
“It makes it a lot more difficult, that’s why we were out here doing some extra work with me and Tyler catching the ball because the quarterbacks aren’t getting enough work right now. So we’ve built in pre-practice and post-practice stuff to make sure they’re getting enough reps in the stuff we’re going to run.”
In order to mitigate the depth problem at wideout, Brown began the Spring by incorporating the running backs more into the passing game. So far it has been nothing short of successful.
“They’re actually catching the ball better than our receivers. I’m not sure it’s a good thing, but they are doing a nice job,” Brown said. ”We do a deal where every person should have a 90% catch percentage or higher, and all of the running backs do. They’ve had very few drops. We’re doing some things this Spring to get them more involved in the pass game because all of those guys that are playing can do that.”
Without a plethora of wide receivers the Air Raid might have to take a back seat during the Blue/White game, but Brown still wants to put on a show, ”Tell em we’re going to throw it. We need people here. It’s a big recruiting day Saturday, fans need to show up.”
Mark Stoops is not a happy camper this morning. Stoops met with the media after practice and said that several players, mainly wide receivers, are “banged up,” including Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons, Thaddeus Snodgrass, and Joey Herrick.
Stoops says he’s frustrated with the mounting injuries, but otherwise, practice was good. In fact, he said the injuries may force the staff to rethink the format of the Spring Game because of the lack of depth at wide receiver.
Nick Roush will be by in a little bit with more.
It’s time again for the best Football event in the spring. UK football has generated a lot of excitement lately and it’s time for us to finally see what they have been up to. Things might be a little different than last year though since there is a ton of constructions happening at Commonwealth Stadium. .
Have no fear! UK Athletics is promising to make your experience a lot less painful.UK Athletics has created a website to answer all questions regarding tickets, traffic, seating and a lot more.
They also remind fans that there are lots of other events going on during what they have dubbed “Big Blue Weekend 2014” with this:
Check out the information here.
Think you’re the only one excited for the Spring Game this year? Actually you probably don’t think that. I mean, the chances of only one person being excited about something, no matter what it is, seem pretty small. So we accept that you’re not the only one excited for the Blue & White game, but the point is that it’s important to know who else is excited for it: football players. And not just our football players, but high school football players. The ones who are thinking about coming to Lexington and helping us climb the SEC ladder. Those guys.
And if you enjoy having Top 25 classes under Mark Stoops, like we all do, it’s important that you know the impact a rabid fanbase can have. Especially in April. According to some of Stoops’ biggest recruits, the Blue-White game was their first chance at seeing how crazy UK fans can be, contrary to popular belief. For some, like Army All-American Drew Barker, it even swayed their recruitment in our favor.
For others, like Mikel Horton, it was a glimpse into a raucous Commonwealth Stadium that was enough to inspire both humility and passion.
So don’t take these sorts of exhibitions for granted. We know how important Big Blue Madness is for basketball recruits, so we can go out of our way to make sure these football players have the same sort of experience. It clearly matters. Plus the weather next week looks absolutely, ridiculously terrific. Like, 71 and sunny. As in, “No need to pack pants, people.” It should be a great time.
The Spring Game is next Saturday, and for those of you not able to make it in person, you can watch it on TV or listen on the radio. Here’s all the information from UK:
Former Wildcat lettermen Jeff Piecoro and Dusty Bonner will be on the TV call, which will air live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on CWKYT in Lexington, Ky., WMYO-TV in Louisville, Ky., and WSAZ-DT (My Z) in Huntington, W.Va.
Fox Sports South will have two delayed telecasts of the game. A same-day delay in the state of Kentucky only will air on FSN South at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, while the entire FSN South footprint will see the game at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 27.
The UK/IMG Sports Radio Network will air the game on radio with the Voice of the Wildcats, Tom Leach, joined by former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, and sideline reporter Dick Gabriel. The game will be live on 630-AM WLAP in Lexington and 840-AM WHAS in Louisville. Station information across the Bluegrass has not yet been determined. The radio broadcast will start at 3 p.m. ET.
Of course, you can’t beat being there in person. Tickets are free, and you can get them at Ticketmaster.com. UK students can pick up their free tickets at the Joe Craft Center ticket office. Tickets still available on game day may be picked up free of charge at the stadium, based on availability.
There are currently over 600 quarterbacks in FBS football. The young men joined the ranks of NCAA Division 1 football hoping to become the heroes of the school and dreaming of one day starting in the NFL. However, that dream just might be a little harder than the movies show.
With Whitlows departure, the spot for starting quarterback is left wide open. Thousands of quarterbacks have participated in NCAA football over the last ten years. Yet less than a handful have been successful in what Drew Barker is trying to accomplish.
Out of hundreds of BCS quarterbacks, there have only been 15 to start as true freshmen for a BCS Conference school since 2003 and the results have been nothing short of mixed. Of those 15 true freshmen, the completion percentages vary from as low as 39.5% to as high as 60.2%, both of which have room for improvement.
True freshmen usually have attributes that are in question from arm strength, to awareness, to vision and whatever else you can question. However, shouldn’t we just worry about how efficient they are? Of those 15 true freshmen that started for a BCS conference school, only two of them had a passer efficiency below 100. Is 100.0 passing efficiency good? Not necessarily. But for comparison sake it shows a good baseline of what has happened in the past.
The BCS might be dead, but the stigma of those power conferences will live on along with the rare feat of a true freshmen starting for a major FBS program. Does it always work out? In some ways yes and in some ways no, but it is rare that a player who doesn’t possess the skills necessary to start as a true freshmen will ever be thrown into that situation. However, as BBN has found out, it is not quite unheard of. Regardless of the rarities, more often than not when a young man is entrusted with the keys to an offense as a true freshman, he usually writes his name into his school’s football history.
Over the years, we have seen such history writing and perhaps it is UK’s turn to grab the pen and write it’s own chapter.
Take former Georgia Bulldog Matt Stafford for example. Stafford trotted out onto field against UAB for his first start as a true freshman and proceeded to lead the Bulldogs to a 34-0 victory followed by helping Georgia to an impressive win against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We all know the story from that point on, it worked out pretty well for both him and Georgia
Like Barker, Stafford graduated early from high school and enrolled at his college destination in January. It should be noted that Stafford played only sparingly until his first start which occurred in the fourth week of his freshman year. This formula could end up being Barker’s, the only question is when might his first start take place?
Barker has all eyes on him at the moment, but has not shown the pressure on the field so far. Barker looks at the stats not as a distraction, but rather more like a challenge to join the ranks of successful true freshmen quarterbacks of the past.
According to Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader, 25,000 tickets have been distributed to next Saturday’s Spring Game, which will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium. Because the renovations to the stadium are underway (as you can see above), capacity has been limited to 42,500, but it looks like that won’t be a problem based on current estimates.
I talked to Bud Dupree, TV Williams, and Josh Clemons on the phone this morning for some features next week, and both Bud and Josh told me there is a totally different vibe around this team right now, and it’s all about winning. That and checking out the quarterback battle are two huge reasons you need to go out and support Stoops and company next Saturday. Also, tailgating.
Get your Spring Game tickets here.
Coach Stoops wasn’t too pleased with his offense today, but was it because the offense played bad, or the defense played well? I’ll take the latter.
The defense came ready to play in early down situations. By getting hands on passes early, they put the offense in a lot of tough situations, “We get behind the chains early and we’re not very efficient.”
Last year the Cats were last in the SEC in interceptions, a rare occurrence for a Stoops and Eliot coached team. They’ve placed an extra emphasis on getting hands on the ball this Spring and it has paid off. Today the unit came down with multiple picks, including one by linebacker Josh Forrest. Forrest has received praise from the coaching staff for his athletic ability, even though it hasn’t been easy learning the 4-3 and 3-4. Forrest caught one of the three interceptions last year, and takes pride in his hands.
With CB Nate Willis out 3-4 months for hernia surgery, the Cats need guys like Forrest to step up. Stoops believes the return of JD Harmon at cornerback has given them much needed versatility and depth. AJ Stamps might be the most versatile playmaker in the group. He’s received praise all Spring from the staff, but his skills with the ball are another new revelation. A guy that played both sides of the ball in JUCO, Stamps doesn’t hesitate to make the big play, and he can do something with it once he comes down with an interception.
Willis’ injury is the only major setback, but the amount of guys ‘banged up’ has forced them to adjust their practice plans, and possibly their plans for the Blue/White game. Today Stoops wanted another full scrimmage, but it was too risky with dwindling numbers on the depth chart. He’d like to have some fun next week and decide teams with a draft, but they might have too many guys on the sideline.
Even though the Cats are struggling with depth (what’s new), Stoops expects to get a lot out of his team in the final week of Spring practice. Stoops wants to see some continuity from his offense, and that could mean deciding a starting quarterback, “if we can figure it out in the last week we will. If not we’ll continue to work through it. We have time until our first game.” Other than quarterback, he wants to determine a solid pecking order at running back, wide receiver and defensive line.
Eight days til the Spring game. Don’t Geek BBN.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©11:04 am
Some bad news from this morning’s spring practice: according to Mark Stoops, cornerback Nate Willis needs sports hernia surgery, and will be out three or four months. Ouch.
Nick Roush will be by later with a full recap from practice. Get well soon, Nate.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©6:30 pm
Our pals at KyWildcatsTV have done an excellent job bringing us the sights and sounds of spring practice so far, and today, they released the video with defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh on the mic. Enjoy.
- It’s hard to call losing your most experienced quarterback a positive, but today the coaching staff took their first step in deciding who will be the starting Quarterback. Whitlow’s decision to leave caught many off guard, especially after Mark Stoops said on KSR last week that Whitlow would be the starter if the Cats were starting the season today.
Even though it’s straight from the horse’s mouth, I never got the feeling from the coaches that it was Whitlow’s race to lose, rather he was their option if they wanted a running quarterback. Neal Brown was adamant that it was not a slight against Jalen’s progress, the other three were just playing exceptionally well. Saturday’s scrimmage wasn’t the only deciding factor, but the three pocket passers proved themselves on the bigger stage.
Whitlow has always been option 1A at quarterback, dating back to high school and throughout his time at UK. I respect Whitlow’s decision; he wants to be THE guy and that did not work at UK. Best of luck young fella.
- There was also some bad news in the recruiting front when 3-star safety Marcus Walker reopened his recruitment. To counter the negative, 4-star Ohio tight end C.J. Conrad paid a visit to campus today. Conrad has been a top priority for the Cats, with Kentucky as one of the first schools to heavily pursue the big tight end. The Cats are competing against Arkansas, Ohio State and other Ohio MAC schools for the tight end’s services.
- The NCAA has started to listen to complaints, announcing yesterday that athletes will now be able to receive unlimited meals with their scholarship. It’s a step that Stoops thought was necessary, especially considering how big of a role nutrition plays in High Performance training. ”I don’t have all of the answers, but I support whatever we can do to make their life a little more comfortable.”
Shabazz Napier’s remarks about going hungry did not come to a surprise to coach Stoops.
“I definitely think there’s times when those guys struggle,” Stoops said. ”There are defeintely times when kids go through some tough situations. I don’t think a lot of people realize through all of the time we’ve been in this, you could see players that feel such an obligation to send their (food) money home so there little baby brother or sister isn’t starving too.”
- For some news straight from the field, I spoke with Thaddeus Snodgrass about his transition from high school to the SEC. Coming from a triple option school, the change to a no-huddle offense hasn’t been the easiest for Snodgrass, “I think it’s even bigger (a transition) because I didn’t think it was going to be this fast and this physical. Every practice is like playing a game in a high school, so it’s making me more physical.” Even though there’s been a big jump, Snodgrass has greatly benefited from seeing many high quality reps with the first and second groups.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©11:25 am
During his press conference this morning, Mark Stoops said he was “disappointed” by quarterback Jalen Whitlow’s decision to transfer from UK, but said that it came after the staff asked him yesterday if he’d be open to changing positions. Stoops said he broke down the quarterback situation with Jalen, and then asked him if he would switch to wide receiver. Jalen told him last night that he had decided it was in his best interest to transfer elsewhere to play quarterback, because, according to Stoops, that’s where his heart is.
Just last week, Stoops told us on KSR that if the season ended that day, Whitlow would be the starter. Reading between the lines, it seems they told Jalen yesterday that they’re moving in a different direction, perhaps to Drew Barker, who had an impressive scrimmage on Saturday. Patrick Towles has also shown a lot of improvement this spring, with Reese Phillips presumably in third, followed by Maxwell Smith, who is sitting out the spring to recover from shoulder surgery.
Best of luck to Jalen. Nick Roush will be by in a little bit with a full recap.