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The Legacy of Stephen Johnson

The Legacy of Stephen Johnson

“What does my son need to work on to become a college quarterback?”

I get asked this many times a year. My answer normally varies depending on recent inspiration or viewing of a specific signal caller. But three traits remain constant: Selflessness, Toughness, and Courage.

Self·less

ˈselfləs/

adjective

concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish.

On Tuesday, Stephen Johnson announced his retirement from football on Kentucky Sports Radio. He also said that he is awaiting surgery on both shoulders and a knee. Let’s think about that for a minute. So, Johnson played through the 2017 season requiring three major surgeries and still led his team to a 7-5 regular season record which included an inspired victory at South Carolina and a home win over Tennessee. Yeah, I know UT was bad; who cares. They’ve been bad before and still beaten the Cats so that argument has lost its merit in my book.

Back to selflessness. One of the many times that Stephen Johnson injured one or both of his shoulders in 2017 was during the Tennessee game. Below is an excerpt from his KSR interview in which he described a state of mind that was solely focused on the Big Blue Nation and his teammates, not himself.

“I was just sitting there, waiting to get my numbing shot for my shoulder and they told me we had a fumble during our last drive.  So I just said, ‘Put it in anywhere.  Let me run out there.’  As soon as the shot was lifted out of my shoulder, I grabbed my helmet and ran straight out of the locker room.”

Ran straight out of the locker room after getting a numbing shot. May not sound much to some, but to me this simple statement speaks volumes. In that game he completed six passes for 46 yards while rushing for 84 which includes a TD run with :33 remaining on the clock. Selfless.

Dalton Green is my nephew. Like his Aunt Jenny and Uncle Freddie, Stephen Johnson is his favorite Wildcat. Dalton unexpectedly and inexplicably became ill during the 2017 football season. I asked Mark Stoops to sign a football for him following the Eastern Michigan game. The coach obliged, then we began discussing why.

A few days later, Stoops and our family’s favorite Wildcat Stephen Johnson surprised us with a visit to the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital ICU. Dalton was sluggish, but perked up and appeared to process the goings on and even wanted to play catch with SJ during the visit. Of course, Stephen obliged. Dalton lacked the strength to hold the football. Johnson did the catching and throwing. Dalton smiled. A smile was nothing short of a miracle at that point.

As Jen Smith documented, the duo’s visit lifted spirits. Prior to leaving the room I observed Stephen leaning down and whispering words of encouragement to Dalton. I saw empathy and Christian love in Johnson’s eyes as he was talking to and praying for a very sick child. Months later, I’m happy to report that Dalton is much, much better. He’s still recovering and often speaks of Stephen’s visit. His little eyes gleam every time he asks a random stranger, “So, do you know who visited me in the hospital?” Oh yeah, his room is decorated with Stephen Johnson pictures. Selfless.

Tough

təf/

adjective 

(of a substance or object) strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.

A quarterback’s success can be measured by achievement throughout unsettling situations. He led the Cats into Columbia, South Carolina and beat a surging Gamecock team 23-13 by completing 16 of 25 passes for 169 yards to go along with 74 yards on the ground. The story goes that Carolina refused to shake hands before the game. A game captain, Johnson used that disrespect as encouragement to lead his team to a comfortable win while playing in highly uncomfortable, road conditions.

cou·ra·geous

kəˈrājəs/

adjective

not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

Johnson’s courage should have never been questioned prior to enrolling at the University of Kentucky. He suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome until at the age of 13. Through his family’s prayer and faith, he’s been free from the disorder ever since.

I took this picture of Stephen Johnson at SEC Media Days. For a young man to overcome Tourette’s Syndrome to stare down a horde of media and flashing lights while maintaining this stern and focused appearance…at the moment this picture was taken, I didn’t give a darn about anything he did on the field. I was in tears thinking about a kid who suffered from an incapacitating disorder but was now standing tall on a national stage. Courageous.

Fast forward to today. Stephen revealed that he is to undergo surgeries on both shoulders and a knee. A throwing shoulder that he couldn’t feel after being hit late and out of bounds by a Northwestern defender. Yet another in-game trip to the locker room ensued. In typical SJ fashion, the senior led his team back from a scoreboard deficit and nearly won the Music City Bowl while battered and torn. Toughness.

What does all this mean?

I never held back on my support and affinity for Stephen Johnson. There were times that many questioned what seemed to be blind support of the quarterback, I never wavered. You see, there’s so much more to leading a football team than a completion percentage.

Did he complete 100% of his passes and lead the Cats to back to back 12 win seasons? No. Did he miss on some passes in 2017 that he connected on in 2016? Yes. But after Tuesday’s KSR interview you now you know why. Kentucky’s starting quarterback was suffering from significant injuries yet he never flinched, never backed down. But after revealing the extent of his injuries, the BBN has as explanation as well as an indication of the man that overcame staggering odds to lead his team to consecutive bowl games and .500 seasons within the conference.

Winner is a subjective term. Johnson completed his career as the Wildcat signal caller with a 14-8 regular season record. He is the only Kentucky quarterback since 1966 with four career games of at least 224 yards passing and 44 rushing yards. SJ was the first quarterback since 1993 to win four of his first six career true road games. I could go on with statistical data that would paint the picture of an accomplished quarterback, but I won’t. Not necessary. Not now.

Throughout the hour-long interview, Ryan Lemond and Drew Franklin accepted phone calls during which multiple callers became emotional when speaking to the former Wildcat. I think that’s all you need to know about the legacy of Stephen Johnson. The afterthought signee from Rancho Cucamonga, California captured the hearts of the Big Blue Nation. He’s Selfless, Tough, Courageous, a Winner, and my all-time favorite Kentucky Wildcat. It’s been an absolute honor to cover his career in Lexington. I’m going to miss seeing #15 on the field.


Kayaune Ross’ Kentucky Career is Finished

A University of Kentucky spokesperson has confirmed what we already thought — wide receiver Kayaune Ross has played his final game for the University of Kentucky.

A junior college transfer who played the past two seasons at UK, the school initially thought Ross had three years of eligibility.  According to our friend Derek Terry, Ross previously enrolled at two different junior colleges, starting his eligibility clock one year sooner than expected.  Mark Stoops had the chance to petition for another year of eligibility, a petition that appears to have failed.  Ross participated in Senior Day festivities prior to the Louisville game.

Limited by an ankle injury in his first year at UK, this season the outside receiver stepped into the starting rotation in place of the injured Dorian Baker.  In 2017 Ross caught 19 passes for 286 yards; 67 of the yards came on three receptions in the Music City Bowl.


@tresmoove1

Kentucky Football is Recruiting a Kentucky Baseball Signee

@tresmoove1

A Kentucky baseball signee could also become a Kentucky football signee.

Shortstop Trevon Flowers committed to Nick Mingione’s Kentucky baseball team in July.  After taking a three-year break from football, Flowers decided to finish high school career by spending a year at free safety for Tucker High School in suburban Atlanta.

Now Division I program’s are pursuing him to play football, including Kentucky.  Defensive coordinator Matt House will have an in-home visit with Flowers tomorrow.

“I talked to (Kentucky) a little bit but I haven’t talked to them as much because it was my first year playing football again,” Flowers told Derek Terry of The Cats’ Pause. “I guess they didn’t really see it, but (House) said he watched my film. He said he was very impressed.”

Flowers has signed with the UK baseball team in November, but Mingione offered a courtesy and released him to allow other school’s to extend scholarship offers.  He now holds offers from Tennessee, Appalachian State and Illinois to play both sports.  After an exciting senior season of football, Flowers told The Cats’ Pause he wants to play both sports at the next level.

Kentucky is in a tricky spot.  There are only three or four openings left on the football team.  If Flowers does not get a football offer, he could only play baseball at UK with a partial scholarship, which probably is not enough to lure him back to Lexington.

If Flowers can pull it off, he would not be the first Wildcat to play football and baseball.  Keith Madison tried to convince Freddie Maggard to double dip.  Coach Madison successfully convinced Pookie Jones to play both, which worked out for a few seasons.

It will not be easy, but it’s not possible to foresee a future with Trevon Flowers as UK’s shortstop and free safety.

[The Cats Pause]


LISTEN: Five Highlights from Stephen Johnson’s KSR Interview

1. Stephen Still Loves this Sh*t

Johnson entered Kentucky folklore for out-dueling Heisman Trophy Winner Lamar Jackson.  His legendary performance began before he even took a snap.  Today Johnson confirmed exactly what we thought he said — “I love this sh*t” — and explained why.

“After they scored, that place erupted.  It was just so loud, I could barely hear what are coaches were telling us the play was, even though I knew what it was.  Going out there, having the atmosphere like that and seeing the defense that they were in, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s on. They’re about to shut up reeeeally, really fast.'”

And shut up they did.

Johnson confirmed that he did see Lamar do the Heisman pose and he did see Lamar fumble.

2. Johnson Loved the Two-Point Conversion Call

After running in the final touchdown at the Music City Bowl with about 30 seconds left to play, Stephen Johnson was happy the Cats decided to go for two.  It wasn’t just because he had two bad shoulders and a bum knee.

“I loved the call.  Just having the momentum, going and scoring the last touchdown of the game, knowing it would be in our hands.  We kinda worked that play out the whole week.  It was good defense on the release of our receiver to where we couldn’t get the natural pick.  It was just me kinda trying to throw the ball up at that point and it didn’t fall our way.”

After the ball fell to the ground, many fans wished Johnson had the opportunity to roll out and run into the end zone.  Even though it worked for the touchdown, Johnson does not regret the coaches’ decision-making.

“I really liked the way how it all unfolded at the end right there,” Johnson said.  “We had great playcalling.  I don’t play for Kentucky anymore so I can really say what I want to.  It’s the truth.  We had great playcalling, that two-point play just didn’t fall our way.”

3. Chester was Right

After the Southern Miss game, Chester called into KSR to share a grievance: he believed Johnson’s helmet didn’t fit properly onto his head.  After a lengthy investigation, Mrs. Tyler Thompson could find no hard evidence of Chester’s claim, only a GIF.

It turns out that Chester was correct.  When UK heard Chester’s call, the equipment managers called Johnson into their office to assess the situation.  His large hairdo was in fact too much for his helmet.  To fix the problem, the managers removed some of the padding at the top so the helmet could fit tighter around his head.

Lesson learned — never doubt Chester.

4. Football wasn’t Stephen’s Best Sport

It was actually baseball.  A shortstop and a pitcher in Little League, Johnson said it was best sport, but it was too boring for his taste.  As a kid he dabbled in just about every sport except rugby and water polo.  That’s not an exaggeration. “I was the only black kid in Southern California playing ice hockey.”

5. What Happened in the Locker Room vs. Tennessee

Arguably the best moment of the 2017 season happened on the sideline.  With the Border rivalry game hanging in the balance, Johnson was forced to the locker room with a shoulder injury.

“I was just sitting there, waiting to get my numbing shot for my shoulder and they told me we had a fumble during our last drive.  So I just said, ‘Put it in anywhere.  Let me run out there.’  As soon as the shot was lifted out of my shoulder, I grabbed my helmet and ran straight out of the locker room.”

Johnson did not expect to hear the crowd erupt in applause.  “It was insane…That gave me a boost.” Not long after his dramatic return, he ripped out the hearts of the Vols with this amazing, game-winning score.

In the hour-long interview, Stephen shared a ton of funny, insightful stories, like which lineman talks the most trash.  Johnson also apologized to Freddie Maggard for kicking him out of the Media Guide by surpassing him in the all-time passing ranks.  It’s an interview you can’t miss.


Stephen Johnson announces retirement from football

Stephen Johnson announces retirement from football

Breaking news: Stephen Johnson just announced his retirement from football on Kentucky Sports Radio. 

Johnson said he’s stepping away from the game because his body just can’t handle it anymore. After being injured in the Music City Bowl, Johnson said he’s about to have surgeries on both shoulders and his left knee.

“I am completely done with football,” Johnson said. “That is the big news. I really don’t have the fire or desire or drive to keep on playing it. To have these surgeries on top of it, it would shut my body down.”

Johnson said he’s still upset how his career ended, specifically the late hit that wasn’t called vs. Northwestern, which forced him to leave the game.

“I was pissed,” Stephen said of the no-call. “I was definitely ticked off, just because I knew I didn’t have a throw so I tried to draw a foul…It ended up being at my cost.”

Amazingly, Stephen was able to come back in and finish the game despite not being able to move his right arm, a testament to his toughness and heart. What’s next for him? Johnson says he wants to stay in Lexington and work with UK Athletics.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds,” he said.

So are we. Thanks to Stephen for sharing his big news on KSR and giving us some incredible memories.


2018 four-star LB Chris Oats favoring Kentucky going into home stretch of recruitment

@ChristopherOats

National Signing Day is set for February 7, and the Kentucky football staff is looking for the perfect pieces to finalize their 2018 recruiting class.

One of those prized prospects? 2018 four-star outside linebacker Christopher Oats out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Winton Woods product holds offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ole Miss, among others, but the Buckeyes were long seen as the favorite in his recruitment.

According to KSR sources, however, the Kentucky Wildcats have made up tremendous ground with Oats, and now lead for the talented pass rusher going into Signing Day.

Sources say UK safety and Winton Woods product Mike Edwards has been actively recruiting Oats to Kentucky, and Oats is extremely interested in playing with Edwards for a year. Vince Marrow has pitched the Cincinnati product on joining the long list of talent from Ohio and being part of the elite crop of linebacker talent already committed/signed on/playing at UK.

Kentucky four-star commitment Xavier Peters, one of said linebacker talents, was visited by Marrow this afternoon.

Despite several elite schools pushing for visits, the Cats are reportedly in a good spot to land a signature from Peters in February.

With Oats likely committing in the coming weeks, and the coaching staff making sure Peters remains on board, what’s next for the Wildcats?

Three-star WR prospect Dominick Watt is a popular name, and one Kentucky fans should continue to stay familiar with. Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Michigan State have all offered Watt, but Kentucky remains at or near the top of his list, and have a solid shot at earning his signature next month.

Mark Stoops said they will sign another running back to make up for Bryant Koback’s decision to transfer. Will he look at JUCO options, or find a talent at the high school level? That remains to be seen.

With about five spots remaining, the Cats will be going with best available to finish the class strong, and could end up right on the edge of the top-25 in the final recruiting rankings.


NCAA set to meet regarding immediate transfer eligibility

The NCAA is set to discuss a rule change that would effectively start free agency in college sports.

According to Jon Rothstein, the NCAA will meet soon to decide on a potential rule change regarding immediate athlete transfer eligibility, where players with either a 2.7 or 2.8 GPA would be allowed a one-time transfer without sitting out a year.

The rule would also impact graduate transfers, as a school taking on a graduate athlete must provide the scholarship for the entirety of the graduate program.

Rothstein reports that if the rule is passed, it would go into effect on August 1, 2018, just in time for next year’s college basketball and football seasons.

John Calipari has signed just one graduate transfer (Julius Mays) in his time at Kentucky, but this would likely force him to hit the transfer market hard. Mark Stoops would be looking for immediate-impact guys, similar to JUCO transfers we see year after year in college football. This rule change would cause the college sports world to flip upside down, for better or for worse. Major transfers would be happening left and right.

What do you guys think? Good or bad idea?


Lexington Catholic Quarterback Beau Allen recieves offer from Neal Brown, Troy

Lexington Catholic Quarterback Beau Allen recieves offer from Neal Brown, Troy

@BeauAllen11

Beau Allen, a 6’2 180 pound sophomore out of Lexington Catholic, added to an already impressive offer sheet yesterday by receiving an offer from Neal Brown to play at Troy University.

Allen has an obvious connection to Troy as former Lexington Catholic head coach Mark Perry just took a job as the director of football operations on Brown’s staff.

The Lexington native earned an offer from Kentucky before the start of his sophomore season after an outstanding performance at Kentucky’s annual high school 7-on-7 tournament. Allen has established a great relationship with the Kentucky staff, particularly quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw.

Allen impressed in his first full season as the starter at Lex Cath, throwing for 2,873 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions at a completion percentage of 62% in 13 games.

It’s been quite the year for Allen as he spent the summer traveling the country to various campuses including USC, UCLA, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and Auburn. He currently holds offers from Bowling Green State, Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky.

Take a look at Allen sophomore year highlights below:

Go Cats.


(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Way-Too-Early 2018 SEC Football Rankings

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship behind the surprising play of Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Heading into next year, the defending National Champions will once again be the class of the SEC. Here is a way too early ranking of the 14 teams in the conference for next season that is sure to be wrong.

1. Alabama

Did you really expect anyone else? If you did, well I have some bad news for you. The Crimson Tide will be even better next season whether you like it or not.

The Crimson Tide will get back 7 returning starters on offense which includes Damien Harris and the quarterback duo of Tagovailoa/Jalen Hurts.

Even with their defense losing some very talented players, it will just be the next man up. As evidenced in that National Title game, Alabama is absolutely loaded with 5-star talent. They may only return 4 starters on that side of the ball, but they will be more than fine.

Let the hype start now for Tagovailoa. This kid is one of the most talented QB’s I’ve seen in quite some time. He is going to have a huge year throwing the football, and he will most likely be in the Heisman running. Watch the video below for an in-depth clip of Tua’s talent.

2. Georgia

Despite Monday’s devastating loss in the title game, Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs on the right track. Their offense returns seven starters including Jake Fromm, and Georgia’s much improved defense could possibly return five starters if Roquan Smith doesn’t turn pro (which he will).

With the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to ESPN, Smart will have plenty of talent to replace the likes of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Lorenzo Carter.

Names to watch will be D’Andre Swift and Justin Fields. Both could explode onto the scene in a big way as underclassmen.

3. Auburn

The Tigers figure to be the last of the truly elite teams from the SEC next season. However, Auburn will have some big questions to answer. They will have to replace 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line, and both of their star running backs left for the draft.

Despite these problems, the Tigers will return Jarrett Stidham at quarterback who will be a very high pick in the 2019 draft. It will be interesting to see if Auburn will start the season ranked in the top 10.

4. Mississippi State

This is the first big surprise of this list, but I think the Bulldogs have earned it. After winning nine games last season, Mississippi State will return eight starters on both sides of the ball which is very impressive.

Talent-wise there is a big gap between the first three teams on this list and every other team, but the Bulldogs have the best chance to challenge Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn due to their returning experience,

How well Nick Fitzgerald will play after his terrible injury in the Egg Bowl will play a big role in the success of Mississippi State next season.

5. South Carolina

From here on out, anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Between teams 5-10 there isn’t a huge amount of separation between these teams, but they are obviously better than teams 11-14.

I’m going with South Carolina here at 5 with the Gamecocks returning Jake Bentley at quarterback. Their big win over Michigan to end the season will provide a nice boost for a team returning most of its starters next season.

6. LSU

LSU gets the nod here because of their talent on defense. However, their offense will struggle with its most important players departing. I still think Ed Orgeron’s team is simply another year away.

7. Kentucky

The Wildcats could very easily finish as the fourth best team in the conference next season due to multiple talented defensive players skipping this year’s NFL Draft. With Benny Snell back in what will most likely be his last season at UK, the Wildcats also figure to have one of the best players in the entire league.

This ranking may be a bit low, but until UK can finally have a meaningful breakthrough in the SEC and field a consistent passing attack, I just can’t rank them higher right now.

8. Missouri

Drew Lock single handily got the Tigers to a bowl game last year and he will be back next season. That alone earns Missouri this spot. Can’t help but to feel this may be a little low for the Tigers, but I just don’t believe in their defense yet.

9. Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher’s first season in College Station will be an interesting one, but expectations aren’t too high for the Aggies next year. Just wait until he gets a few recruiting classes in and Texas A&M will soon find itself near the top of this list.

10. Florida

It’s Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville, however next season figures to be a rebuilding year. Look for the Gators and Aggies to finish with similar records.

11. Vanderbilt

The Commodores better hope that the return of Kyle Shurmur will help get them back to a bowl game. Besides him, Vanderbilt is still largely devoid of top-tier talent. The Commodores will once again be a fringe bowl team next season.

12. Ole Miss

Ehhhh well Shea Patterson left for Michigan, and I think that’s a huge move in college football. Michigan will be very good because of it. Ole Miss on the other hand will probably struggle with his transfer.

13. Tennessee

Sheessshhh good luck with this dumpster fire Jeremy Pruitt. His coaching talent will truly be put to the test in this rebuilding effort.

14. Arkansas

How bad will Arkansas be next season? They are ranked behind Tennessee. That should tell you all you need to know.


Kentucky Football Alumnus is Researching a Solution for CTE

Research is revealing traumatic consequences from football head injuries.  The brutality of the sport has never been in question, but now we know the degree of the severe, long-term health risks that are primarily associated with CTE.

The sport is trying to solve the problem by changing the rules, but what if science could also find a solution?  That’s what former Kentucky linebacker Jim Kovach is trying to do.

Before he was Dr. Kovach, he was a tackling machine.  Between 1974-78 he had 521 career tackles, the most ever recorded by a Kentucky football player.  His illustrious career earned him a place in the UK Hall of Fame.

Kovach began medical school during his final year of football at Kentucky.  He was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints where he played for seven years while also becoming a doctor.

Now Kovach is spearheading research into a preventative head trauma treatment that involves “captons.”  The science behind captons is complicated, so I’ll let The Monday Morning QB give it a shot:

The theory behind captons is that they could be taken as a prophylactic before injury. When a concussion causes a spike in reaction oxygen species (ROS), the captons will react with those free radicals and neutralize the oxidative stress. Additionally, the transformed captons will then act as neuroprotectants to de-excite the neurons at the site of injury, and only there. “[Pathology after concussion] is like a ripple effect,” says Sara Isbell, Mercaptor’s CEO and co-founder, “we prevent those ripples from expanding.”

It’s still a ways away from being a viable preventative treatment for NFL athletes.  They expect initial human trials to begin next year, with clinical trials for patients with CTE five years later.  Kovach is willing to be one of the first to receive the experimental treatment.

“I’ll raise my hand and say ‘Yes, me too,’” Kovach says. “It’s naïve to think that there’s no chance that I could get [CTE]. It’s tragic to believe that you will, but you can’t believe that you won’t, either.”

Learn more about Kovach’s life, research and the complicated neurological science behind head injuries in this piece from The MMQB


Keith Jackson, The Voice of College Football, Passes Away

Whoa Nellie!  Broadcasting icon Keith Jackson has passed away at 89.

A 40-year veteran broadcaster for ABC Sports, Jackson was the first play-by-play man on Monday Night Football, he called NBA games with Bill Russell and multiple Olympics, most notably Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals in Munich.  Despite his many other accomplishments, Jackson will always be remembered for his contributions to college football.

The sound of Jackson’s voice meant it was time to watch the best college football game of the week.  It wasn’t New Year’s Day until you heard Jackson open a broadcast with, “The Grandaddy of Them All,” from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.  It’s only fitting that his final call was Texas’ Rose Bowl National Championship victory over USC in 2006, and the final Rose Bowl the Roopville, Georgia-native got to watch was a captivating come-from-behind victory for the Bulldogs over Oklahoma.

Like many traditional broadcasters, Jackson had a signature line, “Whoa Nellie!”  He explained the origin of the phrase to Dan Patrick last year.

Rest in Peace to a Legend.  College Football will not be the same without Jackson.

Click below for more of Jackson’s best calls.

(more…)


UK Secondary Coach Steve Clinkscale will Return in 2018

@CoachClink

Lamar Thomas and Steve Clinkscale were hired by Mark Stoops in 2016.  At the conclusion of the two-year contracts, only Clinkscale’s has been renewed.

According to Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal, Stoops will retain defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale for the 2018 season.  The details of Clinkscale’s extension are not yet known, but the news has been confirmed by a UK spokesperson.

Known as “Coach Clink” by his players, his secondary was arguably the most critiqued unit on the team in 2017.  With a highly-touted wealth of experienced depth, UK’s pass defense fell from 5th in the SEC in 2016 (206 yards per game), to 13th in 2017 (251.6 ypg).

However, Clinkscale has done something no Kentucky football coach has ever done before him: recruit Michigan.  The top-ranked player in the state of Michigan, Marquan McCall, is the top-ranked player in UK’s 2018 recruiting class and will fill the Cats’ greatest position of need, nose guard.  Clinkscale also signed early enrollee safety DeAndre Square from Detroit powerhouse Cass Tech.

Even though the secondary did not live up to the hype in 2017, Clink has plenty of redeeming qualities as an assistant and a year of success from 2016 his unit could rediscover in 2018.


Further Confirmation that Jordan Jones will Return for Senior Season

A report has confirmed what we already kinda knew about Jordan Jones’ future.

Earlier today Josh Allen said he was looking forward to another year with his fellow seniors, and named Denzil Ware and Jordan Jones.  If that did not confirm it for you, Ware issued an official release on his Twitter account.  Now Joe Mussatto from SEC Country reports that Jones will in fact be back for one more year.  That means Kentucky’s defense will not lose any underclassmen to the NFL Draft.

The Kentucky middle linebacker has been a lightning rod for controversy.  From a Spring Game suspension to late hits against Louisville, many fans are finished with Jones, but not Mark Stoops.

“It would be easy for me to dismiss him and move on,” Stoops said after the Louisville game. “But that’s not the business we’re in.  That’s the easy way to go.  The hard thing is for me to continue to develop and grind and have him be accountable and make him the person and the player that he can be.  That’s what you struggle with as a coach. Sometimes in this day and age, we want to just move on and dismiss people too easy. I can’t do that. I’ve gotta just keep on working.”

Jones’ junior year may have been marred with controversy, but if he can return to sophomore year form, a year he finished third in the SEC in tackles (109) and sixth in tackles for loss (15.5), the Kentucky defense will have all of the tools to be Stoops’ best yet.

[SEC Country]


Mitch Barnhart Pens Letter to PAC-12 about Music City Bowl Officiating

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart publicly defended the Kentucky football team’s actions at the Music City Bowl.  We’ve now learned that he also voiced his grievances in an official letter to the Pac-12 conference.

Addressed to the Pac-12’s vice president of officiating, David Coleman, Barnhart used strong language to defend his football team.  Here are just a few of the excerpts regarding Benny Snell’s ejection that were obtained via open records request by the Herald-Leader:

“We feel great disappointment that what was supposed to be a quality bowl experience for our young people and our university was marred by these incidents.”

“The intent of the no-contact rule — protection of officials — was not adhered to in this case,” Barnhart said in his opening paragraphs. “Video of the incident does not support the call made on the field or the statement made by the officiating crew postgame.”

Barnhart also addressed the missed late hit that forced Stephen Johnson to temporarily exit the game with an injury.  UK’s Orthopedic doctor was quoted, “calling it a safety issue for both the player and those treating him.”

Kentucky’s athletic director should be applauded for going to bat for his players.  Barnhart has done everything in his power to make right all the Music City Bowl wrongs.

Read more of Mitch Barnhart’s Letter to the Pac-12 from the Herald-Leader.


Lamar Thomas is Out as Kentucky’s Wide Receivers Coach

Kentucky is looking for a new wide receivers coach.  Mark Stoops has parted ways with Lamar Thomas.

The former Miami Dolphin and Hurricane wide out spent the last two seasons coaching wide receivers in Lexington.  He came to Kentucky after spending two years on Bobby Petrino’s staff at Louisville.

Thomas became a BBN favorite for trolling Louisville fans on Twitter.  Now Stoops needs to fill two assistant coaching positions, one on offense and one on defense, prior to the 2018 season.

For those speculating as to why Thomas was let go:

UPDATE

In a statement, Mark Stoops had this to say after Thomas’ contract was not renewed: “I appreciate the contributions Lamar made to our program during the last two years,” Stoops said.  “We wish him the best in the future.”