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Wednesday Practice Wasn’t All Bad News

Wednesday Practice Wasn’t All Bad News

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-  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.  


Stoops says Whitlow’s decision to transfer comes after they asked him to switch positions

(Photo by Jim Brown. USA Today Sports)

(Photo by Jim Brown. USA Today Sports)

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.


Jalen Whitlow to transfer from Kentucky

Whitlow-SC

BREAKING NEWS: Jalen Whitlow has decided to transfer from Kentucky. UK announced the news this morning via press release at spring practice. Whitlow started eight games for the Cats last season. Here are Mark Stoops’ and Jalen’s comments about his transfer:

Stoops:  “We respect Jalen and his decision as we want the best for him. I thank Jalen for his contributions to the team. I want everyone to understand how hard he has worked and the effort he has given since our staff has been here.”

Whitlow: “I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me. I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here. I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck.”

Jalen will finish the spring semester at UK. Patrick Towles, Reese Phillips, Drew Barker, and Maxwell Smith (recovering from shoulder surgery) will now compete for the starting quarterback position.

We’ll have more information as soon as we know it.


JD Harmon's two interceptions against Missouri in 2012 were the most on the team that season.  (Nicholas Benner/ Mizzou Mag)

Notes and Quotes from Monday’s Spring Practice

JD Harmon's two interceptions against Missouri in 2012 were the most on the team that season.  (Nicholas Benner/ Mizzou Mag)

JD Harmon’s two interceptions against Missouri in 2012 were the most on the team that season. After missing 2013 because academics, Harmon is poised for a big return. (Nicholas Benner/ Mizzou Mag)

-  Mark Stoops had an old friend in town watching the scrimmage, but not just any old friend.  Pete Jenkins has coached for 41 years at the best programs in the country, focusing primarily on defensive linemen.  He was on the Eagles’ staff during their NFC Championship runs in the late 2000s after coaching 5 SEC championship teams, and most recently at USC.

Jenkins spends most of his time now watching collegiate practices and talking turkey with the coaches.  As a bystander last year, it is a night and day difference compared to this year.  For Stoops, it’s much more difficult to see the improvement day-to-day, but Jenkins’ confidence reassured him that they are getting better, “Sometimes when you see it every day, you want to make those steps faster, but he knows, and he told me, it’s a much different team, a better looking team. It looks like we’re more physical and all that.”

 

-  After watching the tape on the QBs, Mark Stoops was still a little reluctant to hand the starting job to someone but did have this to add.

“I’ll give you a bone here.  I’m still impressed.  Patrick (Towles) is improving, he’s throwing some balls we all know he has the arm talent to execute.  I feel like Drew (Barker) is doing some good things for a young guy out there.  Again, that’s not dismissing the other two guys, they did some good things as well.”

In the words of Malibu’s Most Wanted, B-Rad G, “It ain’t much, but it’s all I got.”

 

-  Za’Darius Smith used his offseason to build more muscle, but physicality wasn’t his biggest concern.  With the absence of Avery Williamson, Z knew that he needed to become a Senior leader on the defense, despite having only spent a season on campus.  ”I’m being more of a leader and being more experienced,” Za’Darius said, “The best is to come.” 

 

-  Before team meetings new Special Teams’ Coach Craig Naivar jams 80′s glam band rock.  That’s a great photoshop waiting to happen.

 

-  Mark Stoops is a secondary specialist, but last year Ashely Lowery was the only player in the entire unit with a pick.  JD Harmon was the team’s interception leader in 2012, but academic issues kept him on the sideline for 2013.  For Harmon, it was painful watching from afar, “I took it upon myself.  It was kind of my fault.”

Harmon is hard on himself, but it should pay off in the long run.  Harmon’s help is just the tip of the iceberg as the coaches constantly stress the importance of forcing incompletions.  ”It’s something that we’ve been emphasizing,” DJ Eliot said.  ”We track it everyday in practice.  We’ve had some where we had a bunch, and we’ve had some that we haven’t had very many.  A lot of it just comes down to finishing plays.  Sometimes you get them in the right spot then it’s a dropped ball or it’s a tipped ball that we don’t bring down.”   


Watch Highlights from Saturday’s Scrimmage

Nothing but good things were said about the Wildcats after their first scrimmage in Commonwealth Stadium.  I could tell you how great they were, or you can look for yourself.  Check out highlights from yesterday featuring a lot of Demarco Robinson, a lot of dreadlocks, and a lot of #7.

Drew Barker wasn’t the only guy that played a big role.  TV Williams is one of the tiniest guys on the field, but that didn’t stop him from taking a Reese Phillips’ slant 45-yards to the end zone for his first score on Commonwealth Stadium’s turf. 

There’s plenty more of football to come this week.  I’ll have more Spring Practice updates tomorrow morning on the Leach Report starting at 9:00 on 630 WLAP and Talk Radio 1080 before I head back to the Tim Couch Practice Fields to see what’s going on with the defense.


@sqew_jake

Spring Football Fun from Across the Country

Across the country teams are finishing up their 15 practices of the Spring with intrasquad scrimmages.  The best part of the Spring finales is that fans and coaches aren’t as nearly insane, providing the opportunity for a little bit of fun.  In an attempt to gain back some recruiting Mojo that was taken to UK by former Nebraska assistant Vince Marrow, Bo Pelini brought a Wildcat onto the field with him in true Lion King fashion.

@sqew_jake

@sqew_jake

I would never wait in line this long to get Butch Jones’ autograph.  However, I might wait that long in line to watch Butch Jones yell at a DMV employee.

@JaredGlowaski

@JaredGlowaski

If you ever wondered why James Franklin left Vanderbilt for Penn State, it might be because of the 72,000 fans in Happy Valley for a Spring Game versus the 17,000 that attend Vanderbilt regular season games.

I’m going to end with a little something for the ladies.  Matthew McConaughey look alike Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury partook in a team dance-off after practice earlier this week.  Around the 1:44 mark, Kingsbury busts out a “Too Turnt Up” t-shirt to perform the Stanky Leg.

Do you think Mark Stoops has something fancy up his sleeves for this year’s Blue/White Game?


Avery Williamson Gaining NFL Interest

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

 

With the new hit film “Draft Day” opening in theatres this weekend, excitement around the NFL Draft is starting to pick up.  For the lone Wildcat that attended the scouting combine, interest from teams are also starting to rise.  Kentucky’s former inside linebacker, Avery Williamson, impressed a lot of people following his time in Indy a few weeks ago.  Many originally questioned his speed and quickness, but he quickly put those concerns to rest.  Posting a (4.66 sec.) 40 yard dash & a 3rd best (4.07 sec.) 20 yard shuttle time, Williamson proved he was better than a late round draft pick.  His production on the field was already there, having back-to-back 100+ tackle seasons at UK.

Williamson has already planned to meet with the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New England Patriots.  Other teams have also shown interest in him, which include Oakland, Indy, St. Louis, San Fran., and the New York Jets.  As always, when people find out that the Patriots have a strong interest for a player in the later rounds, they get a little upset.  Does New England think they would be getting a steal if they selected Williamson?  It’s possible.  Just ask Denver when they selected their new defensive captain, Danny Trevethan.  I guess Avery Williamson isn’t a secret amongst NFL scouts anymore.

“All those teams said they were impressed with me at the combine, and my agent told me it’s a good sign that some teams — the Titans, Patriots and Jaguars — are already setting up meetings with me,” Williamson said.

Best of luck to Avery as we near “draft day”.


Drew Barker and Josh Forrest impressed at today’s spring scrimmage

(Via Fifth-quarter.fifthquarter.netdna)

Mark Stoops started off his media engagement today after the closed spring football scrimmage by saying it was “Definitely the best we’ve played this spring.” 

Despite the reports that Drew Barker had an impressive day, along with Patrick Towles– Stoops says it is “still a 4-man battle at quarterback.” Neal Brown said Barker did not appear to be a high school senior with the way he played today. While Kentucky has depth  and options at the quarterback position, Stoops admitted that due to injuries the wide receiver position is thin at the moment. According to reports, both T.V. Williams and Demarco Robinson caught touchdown passes today.

As Mark Stoops said on KSR earlier this week, the linebacker position is a concern for Kentucky. Josh Forrest did some good things today for Kentucky at the middle linebacker spot and might look to improve on his playing time from last season. Stoops seems to think that Forrest has the most upside at the position.

At least one spectator in attendance for Kentucky’s closed scrimmage today left feeling very positive. Check out this tweet from former UK quarterback Andre Woodson:


Rumblings that Drew Barker had a big day at Kentucky’s scrimmage

The rumblings coming out of Kentucky’s closed spring scrimmage today are that freshman QB Drew Barker had a big day. According to Ben Roberts, Barker threw a 45-yard touchdown on the run during the scrimmage today. More to come later as the media meets with the coaches…


Missouri parts ways with Dorial Green-Beckham

Kevin Cook | The Missourian

The man who lived in the end zone of Commonwealth Stadium for a Saturday afternoon last fall has been dismissed from the Missouri football program. Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the best wide receivers in all of college football, was let go today following an investigation into allegations that he forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female victim down a set of stairs. He was suspended indefinitely from the team earlier this week, but head coach Gary Pinkel sent him packing today.

Dorial-Beckham was also popped for marijuana possession back in January but that charge was dismissed when someone else took ownership of the weed.

He will report to Louisville on Monday.

(Kidding, kind of.)


James Franklin starts a meme

James Franklin starts a meme

This morning, Penn State coach James Franklin tweeted this pic of his face with half photoshopped as a lion. Get it? Because he coaches the Nittany Lions now? **groan** It was only a matter of time before this odd and slightly disturbing pic went viral…here are some of the funnier responses:

Rich Brooks has something to say about it as well…

brookstomato


Getting to know the “Bag Men” in the SEC

We’ve all heard those stories about recruits and players receiving envelopes of money, anonymous gifts, etc. It’s been happening for decades, and even though the NCAA is keeping a hawk-like watch on universities, it’s still happening. SBNation’s Stephen Godfrey has an excellent in-depth piece today about “the bag men,” an underground network of fans that give players money, gifts, etc., but have no obvious connection to the university. These men aren’t exactly boosters–in fact, they’re very careful to keep their associations with the university casual–but behind-the-scenes, they do what they can to make recruits and players’ lives easier, whether it be giving them money, helping their family get jobs, tractor fixed, etc. etc.

Godfrey writes that a good bag man plays smart, and will never be suspected of wrong doing:

A good bag man will never be famous. He will never be that guy hovering right next to the head coach after a big win. His name will never be known by the majority of students, fans, and alumni of the university he loves. There is no dead bag man memorial on the campus of any football powerhouse. There are no memorial scholarships named after the guy who gave a running back’s mother $3,000 a month for four years.

According to Godfrey, the practice is especially widespread in the Southeast, a football-crazed region in which it’s not absurd that someone would give part of their earnings, time, and effort, to see their team succeed. Besides, if you were able to give a certain amount of money to help the team win, would you? I bet the majority of us would.

Click on over to SBNation and check it out. It’s a good read for a lazy Friday.

[Meet the Bag Man: How to buy college football players, in the words of the man who delivers the money.]


UK reminds football fans of the Blue-White game

Kentucky football tweeted out this photo today to remind fans of the Blue-White spring game coming up. The game will be played Saturday, April 26 at 3:30 p.m. in Commonwealth Stadium. Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com with reserved seating in the lower level and general admission seats in the north upper level. Tickets are free but there is a small service charge per ticket — claim yours today!

16 days away…


Louisville to add another SEC transfer with off-the-field troubles, rinse, repeat

petrino

The University of Louisville football program, where second, third and fourth chances happen, will reportedly add another troubled transfer from the SEC. This time it’s Josh Harvey-Clemons, a five-star defensive back released from Georgia earlier this year.

Harvey-Clemons was let go for violating teams rules, presumed to be multiple failed drug tests. The Dawgs suspended him for the first three games of next season before asking him to pack his bags and hit the road for good in February.

247Sports.com broke the news when Harvey-Clemons’ grandfather told the website, “Louisville made him an offer and he’s planning on attending. He’ll redshirt this year and have two years of eligibility.”

Anyone surprised? Didn’t think so.


Listen to Mark Stoops’ interview with KSR

Listen to Mark Stoops’ interview with KSR

In case you missed this morning’s interview with Kentucky Sports Radio, the hardworking people behind the scenes (Shannon The Dude and Maria) uploaded the first hour of today’s podcast for your football-loving ears. Stoops gave a great interview, as he always does with KSR, giving us an in-depth update on how everything stands through six spring practices, including how the quarterback race is shaping up.

Excellent stuff from Stoops below to kick off the first hour:


Stoops expects as many as five freshmen to be solid contributors

Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Much like last season, fans can expect to see fresh faces getting major playing time for the Cats. Stoops said he expects as many as five newcomers to play quality minutes in 2014. Of course he’ll have to wait until they all get on campus to figure it all out, but he has eyes on four or five of them early with high expectations.

Another important note from today’s interview: he believes the defensive line is his strongest and deepest position. He mentioned defensive tackle Regie Meant as a guy who is really showing potential this spring.

I’ll have the interview up on the site later this afternoon.

Go Cats and thanks to Coach Stoops for stopping by the show.


If the first game were tomorrow, Jalen Whitlow would be your starter

It’s going to be a battle for the 2014 starting quarterback position with 2013 starter Jalen Whitlow trying to keep his spot from returners Max Smith, Reese Phillips, and Patrick Towles, as well as newcomer Drew Barker. All of the guys (minus Smith; he’s out right now) are making their case for the job, but it’s still Whitlow’s to lose as of now.

“If we had to play tomorrow, Jalen would be the guy,” Stoops told KSR.

While they’ve all shown potential through six practices, Stoops still needs to see more. “They all show flashes,” he said. “But no one is as consistent as they need to be.”

“We need someone to step up and make the decision easy,” he added.

Stoops said Whitlow has improved from last year, but Patrick Towles is the most improved from a season ago. As for Drew Barker, Stoops said the biggest compliment you can give the freshman right now is that he is executing well early in the process.

“He looks comfortable out there. He still misses some guys and makes bad decision, but that’s expected. He should be in high school right now.”