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Fun Facts from the 2016 UK Football Media Guide

Fun Facts from the 2016 UK Football Media Guide

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It’s that time of year again, time to pore over the new UK Football Media Guide for the most interesting tidbits about your University of Kentucky Wildcats. What oddities await us on this year’s squad? Read on to find out.

Did you know…

  • Drew Barker, sophomore quarterback: Has a pet turtle named Nemo
  • Alex Brownwell, redshirt freshman linebacker: Once won a hot dog eating contest
  • Tanner Fink, senior tight end/fullback: Can fly planes
  • Nick Haynes, junior offensive guard: Has bowled five 300 games
  • JoJo Kemp, senior running back: Puts sugar in his popcorn
  • Tate Leavitt, junior offensive tackle: Loves rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal music
  • Marcus McWilson, senior safety: Can walk on his hands and do a push-up out of a handstand
  • Adrian Middleton, sophomore defensive tackle: Is a big fan of anime
  • Jervontius “Bunchy” Stallings, sophomore center: Chose #65 because his position coach John Schlarman wore it at UK and it challenges him to play above expectations and be great
  • Jon Toth, senior center: Couldn’t live without his moped
  • Charles Walker, junior wide receiver: Is a ping-pong champion
  • Denzil Ware, sophomore defensive end/linebacker: Loves shoes
  • Darius West, sophomore safety: Has a son
  • Chris Westry, sophomore cornerback: Is better at basketball than football
  • Jaylin Bannerman, freshman linebacker: Can sew
  • TJ Carter, freshman defensive end: Used to be involved in the sport of fencing
  • Ja’Quize Cross, freshman defensive line: Has eyes that turn different colors and likes to customize shoes
  • Zy’Aire Hughes, freshman athlete: Was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and the doctors brought him back to life
  • Jamar “Boogie” Watson, freshman linebacker: Is a tap dancer
  • Landon Young, freshman offensive lineman: Is learning to play the banjo

young-vet

Dream jobs other than NFL

  • Jeff Badet, junior wide receiver: Fashion industry
  • Derrick Baity, sophomore cornerback: Marriage counselor
  • David Baumer, sophomore offensive guard: Human Resources manager
  • Logan Blue, sophomore linebacker/Long Snapper: Congressman
  • Eli Brown, redshirt freshman linebacker: FBI agent
  • CJ Conrad, sophomore tight end: Rob Gronkowski’s agent
  • Kash Daniel, freshman linebacker: WWE superstar or US Marshal
  • Nick Haynes, junior offensive guard: Financial Advisor or Ambassador of a firm overseas
  • Stephen Johnson II, junior quarterback: Anything in banking
  • Courtney Love, junior linebacker: Taking over his dad’s industrial cleaning company
  • Kyle Meadows, junior offensive tackle: Environmental psychologist or something in forensics
  • Adrian Middleton, sophomore defensive tackle: Graphic designer
  • Cole Mosier, junior offensive tackle: FBI agent
  • Charles Walker, junior wide receiver: Insurance agent
  • Chris Westry, sophomore cornerback: Work for Google
  • Landon Young, freshman offensive lineman: Veterinarian

barker-sauspepps

Favorite foods

  • Drew Barker, sophomore quarterback: Sausage and Peppers
  • Will Thomas Collins, senior fullback: Tacos
  • Kash Daniel, freshman linebacker: Grilled chicken with brown rice
  • Mike Edwards, sophomore safety: Mom’s fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes
  • Garrett Johnson, junior wide receiver: Chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, and green beans
  • JoJo Kemp, senior running back: “Wild Alfredo,” the chicken and shrimp alfredo that he created
  • Bennie Snell, freshman running back: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banana

stenberg-gump

Favorite movie

  • Jeff Badet, junior wide receiver; Logan Stenberg, redshirt freshman offensive guard: Forrest Gump
  • Greg Hart, junior tight end: Goodfellas
  • Jabari Greenwood, redshirt freshman wide receiver: Blood Diamond
  • Garrett Johnson, junior wide receiver: Hardball
  • Marcus McWilson, senior safety: Top Gun
  • Landon Young, freshman offensive lineman: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

 

Non-sports talent

  • Alvonte Bell, junior defensive end: Playing the saxophone
  • Jacob Hyde, junior noseguard/fullback: Wiggling his ears and cartwheels
  • Stephen Johnson II, junior quarterback: Excelling at math
  • Kobie Walker, sophomore linebacker: Juggling four balls
  • Asim “AJ” Rose, freshman running back: Back flips

westry-scotty

Nicknames

  • Blake Bone, junior wide receiver: Ghost
  • Miles Butler, sophomore kicker: Money Man
  • Will Thomas Collins, senior fullback: Taco Meat
  • CJ Conrad, sophomore tight end: Mini Gronk
  • Mike Edwards, sophomore safety: The Badger
  • Matt Elam, junior noseguard: Big Daddy
  • JD Harmon, senior cornerback: Prince
  • Mikel Horton, junior running back: Peezy
  • Austin MacGinnis, junior kicker: Kicker
  • Ramsey Meyers, junior offensive guard: Dreads
  • Zach Myers, senior center: Butch
  • Marcus Walker, redshirt freshman safety: Pooh
  • Chris Westry, sophomore cornerback: Scotty Too Hotty
  • Colton Piatt, freshman lon snapper: String-money

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be?

  • David Bouvier, sophomore wide receiver: Coach Stoops so he could “walk around like a boss”
  • Matt Elam, junior noseguard; Tobias Gilliam, freshman defensive back: Floyd Mayweather
  • Dakota Holtzclaw, freshman wide receiver: Bill Gates
  • Blake Bone, junior wide receiver; JD Harmon, senior cornerback: Drake

toth-adele

Life’s theme song

  • David Baumer, sophomore offensive guard: “Come and Get It” by AC/DC
  • Alex Brownell, redshirt freshman linebacker: “The Plan” by Wiz Khalifa
  • Miles Butler, sophomore kicker: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
  • Will Thomas Collins, senior fullback: “I Shoulda Been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith
  • CJ Conrad, sophomore tight end: “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled
  • Charles Moushey, junior wide receiver: “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
  • Jon Toth, senior center: “Hello” by Adele

kashdaniel

When he’s not playing football, loves to…

  • Kash Daniel, freshman linebacker: Bass fish
  • Jabari Greenwood, redshirt freshman wide receiver: Draw
  • Alexander Montgomery, junior wide receiver: Play Connect Four
  • Charles Moushey, junior wide receiver: Go cliff jumping

Pregame routine

  • Courtney Miggins, senior defensive tackle: Listening to a specific playlist and must have new socks
  • Denzil Ware, sophomore defensive end/linebacker: Reading the prayer his mother texts him before he leaves the hotel for each game

What’s the minimum win total for a “successful” football season?

Dale Zanine | USA Today

Dale Zanine | USA Today

Every year, the collective fan base sets a pre-determined win total that must be reached for it to be deemed a “successful” season. The first year of the Stoops’ era, many just wanted to see improvement and a heightened reason for optimism in the future, winning roughly three or four games. In 2013-14, an electrifying recruiting class lifted expectations to six wins and a bowl game. Last season, a favorable schedule made hopes of seven or eight wins half-way reasonable. The Cats fell just short of expectations in all three seasons in terms of win totals, but they’ve built up a foundation unlike any era in UK history.

This year, where exactly is this roster’s floor and ceiling?

Let’s be honest, this year’s schedule isn’t doing the team any favors. Going on the road to the likes of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisville is going to be unbelievably difficult, and home stands against Vandy, Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi State aren’t going to be easy either.

That being said, Kentucky was two plays away from going 7-5 last season. The Wildcats lost some talented pieces, but most of the core group of guys are back this season, one year older with one more year of experience and maturity. This is statistically the most talented team in UK history, and with a widely respected coaching staff, they should be finally able to get the most out of their stacked roster.

The Cats have to get the job done against Southern Miss, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Austin Peay. Each of those games are at home, and talent wise, UK outlasts all of those opponents. They can’t blame inexcusable losses on youth and immaturity anymore, that ship has sailed. The bulk of talent now rests with the upperclassmen and redshirt sophomores. Guys like Drew Barker, Boom Williams, Dorian Baker, Chris Westry, and Denzil Ware have to carry some major weight and become the vocal leaders their teammates need them to be.

Aside from the five winnable home games, a win on the road against Missouri is necessary. UK defeated Mizzou at home in the most memorable game last season had to offer, and they have to find a way to continue that streak.

There are your six wins. That’s Stoops’ bowl bid key right there, signed sealed and delivered.

Beyond those six, the two home games against Mississippi State and Georgia are intriguing, and likely the most promising remaining wins on the schedule should UK lose to one of the teams they shouldn’t. UK has always had trouble with Mississippi State, but the media listed MSU just outside the top 40 nationally and last in the SEC West, where UK finished just outside the top 50. The talent gap is closing with the Bulldogs, and if there was ever a time to steal a win away from Dan Mullen, it’s this year.

Georgia on the other hand is loaded with question marks. Without a doubt, the Bulldogs have the more talented roster, but they’re also bringing in a brand new coaching staff, likely starting a freshman at quarterback, and have uncertainty on the defensive line. I wrote a piece several weeks ago about Georgia being my sleeper upset pick, and I stand by that gutsy decision. UK can usually snag a surprise victory every year, and something tells me this is the one.

The media predicts the Wildcats will finish fourth in the SEC East, and in order to make that happen, UK has to win all or most of the games they should, and one or two surprises along the way.

My minimum win total is six. It’s bowl or bust this season. Stoops has to get over the hump eventually, and the time is now if he wants to avoid a spot on the hot seat. Truthfully, I believe the Cats come out with seven wins, finishing 7-5 en route to Stoops’ first bowl game as head coach.

What’s considered a “successful” season this year? What’s your absolute minimum win total goal for the 2016 season?

 

Follow me on Twitter at @JackPilgrimKSR


How Eddie Gran Can Use C.J. Conrad

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

As a true freshman, C.J. Conrad gave Kentucky of fans plenty to cheer for, but in Shannon Dawson’s offense he was never a focal point.  Conrad caught 15 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, but it took him four weeks to catch his first pass.

Getting Conrad the ball will not be a problem under Eddie Gran.

Gran’s offense is known for targeting tight ends, most notably Travis Kelce, who many consider to be the NFL’s best tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.  When Gran took over Cincinnati’s offense, Kelce’s numbers exploded.  How Gran utilized Kelce at Cincinnati is how Conrad could be used this season at Kentucky.

There are a variety of different ways to get Conrad the ball other than simply saying, “throw him the damn ball.”  Featured on this year’s preseason poster, there’s no doubt he’ll be a top target.  Here are the most likely ways he’ll be used.

—  Regular pro package.  The base in a pro-style is the “11” personnel package, employing one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.  With a nationally-televised spring game, this “vanilla” formation was primarily used to show opponents as little as possible from UK’s new offensive playbook

—  Multiple tight ends.  Also known as “12” personnel (one running back, two tight ends), one thing Gran has at Kentucky he did not have at Cincinnati is a pair tight ends with different skill sets.  Where Conrad is excellent in space, Greg Hart is a bone crusher.  With questions at offensive tackle, Hart can remain home to help pass block while Conrad is freed up to run routes.

—  H-back.  Conrad lined up in the backfield as an h-back most often last season.  It can either be offset the quarterback in a shotgun formation, or closer to the offensive tackle, lining up a yard behind and to the outside of the offensive line.  The latter is where Conrad would most likely line up in multiple tight end packages.

The H-back alignment is probably the most dynamic position Conrad can play.  Last year it was primarily for pass protection, but it best fits Conrad in the passing game to create mismatches with outside linebackers.

—  Slot receiver.  Conrad’s first catch against Missouri was streaking down the seam from the slot position, but he rarely lined up outside of the backfield.  Even though Kentucky has multiple playmakers in the slot (Juice, Timmons), don’t be surprised to see C.J. making plays from the slot.

—  Split out in the red zone.  Shannon Dawson’s favorite red zone offense was the corner fade.  It’s not an easy play to pull off, but it can be successful if the wide receiver has enough size and strength to create separation to make the catch, something that rarely happened when used last year.  “Throwing it up high” might be a tactic employed to get Conrad the ball in the red zone.  Multiple tight end sets can also be extremely effective in the red zone.

C.J. Conrad's flip after a late second half score. (@ben_gulley13)

C.J. Conrad’s ball flip after a late second half score in the Spring Game (@ben_gulley13).

—  The tight end screen.  Unlike most quick screen passes to wide receivers, the backside tight screen is slow to develop.  However, when it works, there isn’t a more frustrating play for defenses.  Linebackers get caught up in the wash and rarely see the tight end leaking out, leading to big gains in the open field.

—  Conrad in the Wildcat.  This is the most unlikely because the Cats have multiple weapons at running back, but Kelce did run into the end zone for scores out of the Wildcat formation.


Even if I didn’t cover every possible way that Gran could get Conrad the ball this fall, it’s safe to say that no matter what, he’ll receive more touches.  When Gran took over Cincinnati’s offense in 2013, Kelce’s numbers more than tripled in every statistical category.  Don’t be surprised to see a similar leap from Conrad in 2016.


UK Adds a Wide Receiver for the Fall

Ft. Lauderdale wide receiver Marvin Robinson has joined the Kentucky football team.  A member of the 2015 recruiting class, Robinson committed to play for Wisconsinpending a test score.”  The test didn’t work out the way he wished, forcing Robinson to sit out a year.  Now he’s enrolled at Kentucky.

The 6’4″ 175-pounder will wear #80 for UK, according to his bio page.  During his senior season he picked up offers from Wisconsin, Florida State, Indiana and more, while catching 36 passes for 559 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Larry Vaught deserves credit for making this discovery.  Eddie Gran deserves credit for getting Robinson to Kentucky.  See what he’s capable of in the highlights below.

UPDATE:  Jon Hale reports that Robinson will be a walk-on this season.  Contributing right away initially seemed out of the question considering the depth at that position, but Robinson’s addition should pay long-term dividends.


Mark Stoops sees “a totally different mindset” in his team this summer

@UKStoopTroops

@UKStoopTroops

Mark Stoops came on KSR this morning to talk about the new training facility and give us an update on how his squad’s doing less than two weeks before fall camp. There seems be a new swagger around the program in recent weeks, thanks in large part to the new training facility, which a national analyst told Matt is in the top five to ten training facilities in the country. When Matt shared that comment with Stoops, he agreed.

“I would definitely have to think so. What’s so nice about our facility is, so many people are pinched for space like we have been for all these years. We were far away from the stadium, far away from the indoor [practice field],” Stoops said, mentioning how in the past, he’s had to have busses ready to take the team from the Nutter Training Center to the Nutter Field House if lightning was in the area. “With our new facility directly tied into our indoor, basically 50 feet from our stadium, we have beautiful practice fields I’m looking out at from my office. The building itself, it’s everything I thought it would be. There’s no doubt it’s one of the top facilities in the country.”

Even before the facility opened, Stoops said he noticed a “totally different mindset” in his team during summer workouts.

“There’s no doubt. We do see them training, we see them running, but we are allowed to work with them on some football skills,” Stoops said. “I’ve been amazed at how committed our players have been just because there’s a totally different mindset. You can see it and feel it. When you walk out on that field tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m., every player will be here, they will all be in their position groups and they’ll be grinding on their technique and certain aspects of the offense and defense that we’ll work with them on.”

Part of that mindset? Attention to detail, a luxury UK hasn’t been allowed in previous years.

“Just their commitment level and the way they’ve been just focused on their work, it’s different because it’s so long, it’s so monotonous, it’s so hot throughout the summer, but they’re focused, their attention to detail is there, they’re trying to put the fine strokes on things, and that’s what it takes. We’ve been too broad stroked. We’ve had to change so much and get them in shape, get them bigger, get them stronger, get them mentally and physically to a point where they can handle and endure a tough schedule. Now, they’re putting the fine strokes on things and you can see them doing it at a very early time and that’s what I’m excited about.”

Listen to Stoops’ interview below:


“No bullsh**”: Stoops expects improvement at linebacker

stoops aint scared, come at me bro

To say linebacker is an area of concern heading into this season is an understatement. On today’s show, Mark Stoops addressed the issues at linebacker, particularly outside linebacker, where he admitted UK “really struggled” last season. To help, Stoops moved defensive coordinator DJ Eliot from inside linebackers to the outside linebackers in the spring, which he expects will help immensely.

“Coach Eliot, really, that’s his expertise. There was nobody I could go hire that knows what we want to do better than him,” Stoops said. “The great success we had at Florida State had a lot to do with how we played at in- and outside linebacker. He coached those guys and knows exactly what we want. He moved to inside because he was defensive coordinator and needed to be connected with pass run, the whole deal. We moved him back to outside linebacker, he knows how to train those guys, he knows how to coach them.”

Also helpful? Experience. Losing Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith was a tough blow to the unit a few years back, but Stoops likes what he sees from his returning players, particularly sophomore Josh Allen.

“You’re not going to recruit a better looking outside linebacker in the country,” Stoops said of Allen, who had to play the position as a true freshmen last fall. He also doled out praise to De’Niro Laster, who had to sit out last season after transferring from Minnesota.

“You’ve just got to bring them along. You guys have heard me talk about how hard it is to play that position,” Stoops said, getting a little fired up. “That’s where it’s hard, Matt, when you’re trying to piece the whole thing together when you come from where we came from.”

“You know I don’t like making excuses, there’s no bullsh—BS, it just is what it is. It just takes time to put it all together at every position and play at the level you need to play at to win in this league. You look at who we play and that’s a big part of it. We don’t discuss it because it is what it is. But put us in another league and believe me, wins come a lot easier.”

Listen to Stoops’ entire interview below:


40 Days till Football Season: Highlights from the Last 40 Wins

Randall_Cobb collegeandmagnolia

We are 40 days away until the football season kicks off against Southern Miss at Commonwealth Stadium.  After three years of construction and more than $165 million spent, the UK football program is heading in the right direction.

Before we look ahead to Stoops’ pivotal fourth season, it’s appropriate to look back.  It’s taken more than eight years for the Cats to win 40 times, compared to 64 losses.  40 wins ago UK beat No. 1 LSU, the apex of the greatest football season many Kentucky football fans have ever seen.

Since then, I don’t have to tell you there haven’t been many highlights, but here is the best of the best.

2007: UK Beats FSU in the Music City Bowl

“Kentucky beats Florida State in a bowl game” is an impressive statement, no matter how many Florida State players were suspended before the game.  Even though the second half of the ’07 season didn’t go as well as the first, the 35-28 win provided an exciting exclamation point to cap-off Brooks’ best season at UK.

2008: A Liberty Bowl Win over East Carolina

The Cats couldn’t have won a record third-straight bowl game without Ventrell Jenkins.  The scoop-and-score from the defensive lineman with 3:19 remaining in the game is one of the most impressive plays in program history.  It’s not just because the 300-pounder outran skill players 50-yards for a touchdown, the stiffarm down the sideline removed the mouthpiece from an ECU Pirates’ mouth.  Seriously, you gotta watch the game-changer.

2009: SEC Road Wins

Kentucky won three times on the road in the SEC in 2009.  Yes, that happened.  Sure, one was Vanderbilt, but beating Georgia on the road rarely happens.

The year before Auburn won the National Championship, the Cats beat the 5-1 Tigers at Jordan-Hare  thanks to Randall Cobb and Morgan Newton’s ability to run out of the backfield.

2010: A Fourth Consecutive Governor’s Cup Win

The game was ugly, but the four-year streak over Louisville is the best run the Cats have ever had in the Governor’s Cup series.  2010 was the last time Louisville lost to Kentucky.

2010: Down Goes Spurrier

Randall Cobb’s 24-yard touchdown reception with 1:19 to play gave the Cats their first win against Steve Spurrier after falling to the Ole Ball Coach 17-straight times.

2011: Rocky Topped

Drew Franklin’s Scoop of the Century was what led Kentucky to their first victory over Tennessee in approximately 372 years.  Matt Roark’s quarterback heroics will live in Kentucky football lore forever.

2013: Spring Game

In the middle of the most difficult time to be a Kentucky football fan (back to back two-win seasons), the 2013 Spring Game provided optimism the program desperately needed.  More than 50,000 fans showed Mark Stoops that the Commonwealth cares about their football team.

Remembering what Mark Stoops started with is important.  “Almost” is never good enough, but it doesn’t hurt so bad when you realize where the program was in the Spring of 2013.  More than 50,000 people showed up just to say “we care,” even though they were treated to a game best described as “ugly.”  If those 50,000 are show up this fall, rest assured, they’ll see exponentially better talent on the field.

2014: JoJo Kemp Changes the Game

Arguably the greatest moment of Mark Stoops’ three year career, the WildKemp attack in the Chrome Domes was a moment the BBN needed.  In hindsight, many like to downplay the accomplishment because the Gamecocks weren’t as good as we initially thought.  It doesn’t matter.  Coming back to win a game off a tip-drill score from Bud Dupree…it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Kemp’s postgame interview still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  “I came here to change the program around and that’s what we’re doing.  We’re changing the game.  Why not Kentucky?  Why not us?” Watch it again.

2015: New CWS Opens with a “Boom”

It was so good it seemed scripted.  On the first play from scrimmage at the New Commonwealth Stadium, Boom Williams exploded for a 75-yard touchdown.

2015: Stoops Beats a Ranked Team

While many probably consider winning an SEC game on the road as a greater accomplishment (at South Carolina), people love to forget that Missouri was a Top 25 team when they lost at Commonwealth Stadium last year.  It was the first time Kentucky defeated a Top 25 team since Cobb took down Spurrier.

Calling Kentucky’s last eight years a “roller coaster” is a cliche, but the metaphor is too easily applied to this program.  The BBN was on top of a giant hill after beating number one LSU.  After hitting a few high points, the ride came to stop under Joker Phillips and was nearly derailed.  Since Stoops joined the program, they’ve slowly rebuilt the program.  All that’s missing is a big moment to help the ship take off.

For all the apprehensive Kentucky football fans, you’ve put up with poor play for a long time.  Before you cash out, it’s worth waiting out, if only for a little longer.


@CoachHinshaw shared these photos with, "Having a great first day at the new #UKFTC best facility in the country!!! #BBN"

UK Football Coaches Move Into the New FTC

@CoachHinshaw shared these photos with, "Having a great first day at the new #UKFTC best facility in the country!!! #BBN"

@CoachHinshaw shared these photos with, “Having a great first day at the new #UKFTC best facility in the country!!! #BBN”

Last week the players and coaches were able to see the new $45 million Kentucky Football Training Center for the first time, but they had to wait to move in for good.

Today the coaching staff was put to work in the New FTC for the first time.  The players will have to wait to move in until training camp begins on August 4.  Until then, the coaches are learning how to utilize all of the new technology and transforming their office space into home while the finishing touches are put on the rest of the unfinished spaces.

Coach Schlarman is enjoying his new, (temporarily) pristine view from the second floor balcony.

Lamar Thomas was excited to enter the building this morning.

When players visit his office, this is the message they’ll be greeted with on his desk.

@CoachLamarT

If you want to see more of the facility, you can read my review, or take a tour with Avery Williamson, Courtney Love, Greg Hart and JoJo Kemp.

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Want to tailgate in The 1865 Club? It just got a lot cheaper

In April, UK announced plans for “The 1865 Club,” a group of luxury tailgating suites that can accommodate up to 30 fans each. Each private suite will have approximately 300 feet of indoor entertainment space, with a kitchen, four high-definition televisions, heat and air, a full-size refrigerator, and half-bath. Each suite – located outside the southwest corner of Commonwealth Stadium in the green space adjacent to the President’s Pavilion – will also have an outdoor entertainment space with a television and exterior awning.

At the time, the suites were priced at $6,000 to $8,000 per game, or $50,000 for the whole season, but last week, UK sent out an email telling interested parties that the price has been lowered to $5,000 per game, or $30,000 per season. That includes 30 passes per suite, but does not include game tickets. (For more information, contact Elizabeth Briggs at elizabeth.briggs@uky.edu.)

So…$30,000 for seven home games. Would you do it?


Shane Boyd throws two touchdowns in the Arizona Rattlers’ regular season finale

Shane Boyd throws two touchdowns in the Arizona Rattlers’ regular season finale

If you were channel surfing last night, you may have stumbled upon Shane Boyd’s game with the Arizona Rattlers on ESPN2. The Rattlers beat the Cleveland Gladiators 68-20 to cap off their regular season and Boyd threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the cherry on top. The Rattlers have won the ArenaBowl World Championships five times, and look to be a favorite heading into the playoffs. They have a bye next week, and will start their playoff run vs. the Portland Steel on August 6 on the CBS Sports Network.

Boyd’s bounced around the Arena Football League since going undrafted in 2005 and playing for various NFL teams, including Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Indianapolis. He’s been with the Rattlers since April 2015. So far, this season, he’s put up 424 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s still got some life goals to accomplish, though:

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.18.13 AM

Congrats, Shane.


UK Fans of the Day Want the Monday Morning Wakeup

UK Fans of the Day Want the Monday Morning Wakeup

It’s a new day and a new week in KSR land, so why not start it with an awesome picture? Shoutout to Austin Lee and Rod Polk for representing UK atop a 3,000-foot drop at Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Given the miserable heat and humidity that’s suffocating the South right now, I’d give a lot for one breath of fresh, cold mountain air.

Alas, I’ll have to settle for air conditioning. Let’s go over some leftovers from the weekend and run through today’s agenda…

I hope people don’t judge MKG too much for his training facility comments

Much has been made about the new UK Football Training Facility, and with good reason. The $45 million, 100,000-square foot facility is a much needed, state of the art commitment to the UK football program. Much has also been made about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s comments about the facility on Saturday. When discussing the changes around campus, MKG admitted he was “very, very jealous” of the new football facility and didn’t understand how the basketball team didn’t get one. JD Harmon fired back at MKG on Twitter and many football fans interpreted the former Cat’s comments as a shot at the program, but after watching the clip, I don’t think it was that big of a deal. MKG doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and, according to those there, the comment came off as a joke. Plus, seeing as MKG suffers from a mild speech impediment (which he made great strides with while at UK), I discourage people from reading too much into his tone.

Ultimately, fans should just be glad football has something basketball players are jealous of. Besides, the Joe Craft Center isn’t too shabby. (In fact, it’s pretty amazing.)

Russ Yeast got an offer from Alabama

Many believed the former UK commit was headed to Louisville, but maybe not after snagging an offer from Alabama on Saturday. Things may not have ended well between Yeast and UK, but congrats to to Craig Yeast’s son on the huge offer.

James Hudson will announce his decision soon

Another fellow former UK commit is nearing a decision. Four-star defensive end James Hudson teased his commitment last night, and unlike Yeast, Kentucky is still in the running, along with Louisville, Michigan, and Alabama. Pulling Hudson back in would be a huge deal, so cross your fingers and stay tuned…

This UK Football ball marker is cool

IMG_1248

At the Women’s Clinic, UK fan Michele (who writes for Cameron Mills’ website) showed me this cool UK Football golf ball marker that fellow avid golfer Lamar Thomas gave her. As you can see, it has this year’s schedule on it and the center logo is magnetized and comes off to act as the actual marker. Cool, right? (And no, I have no idea where you get one.)

Demarcus Cousins had 12 points and 7 rebounds in Team USA’s win over China

Team USA destroyed China last night 106-57, and Boogie came off the bench to put up twelve points, seven rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes. It wasn’t much of a game, but Boogie turned in some highlights, including this impressive spin move:

Team USA plays China again on Tuesday (10 p.m.) and Venezuela Friday (9 p.m.) Until then, their training camp will travel from LA to Oakland to Chicago. They’ll wrap their exhibition tour with a game vs. Nigeria in Houston on August 1.

Mark Stoops will be on KSR this morning

The guys are in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, but that’s not stopping Mark Stoops from calling in to talk some football. Tune in to hear what Stoops has to say about his team 40 days away from kickoff.


5 Notes (and 1 dumb joke) from the 2016 UK Football Women’s Clinic

5 Notes (and 1 dumb joke) from the 2016 UK Football Women’s Clinic

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Yesterday, I was lucky enough to join a few hundred of the most diehard UK Football fans you’ll ever meet for a morning of gridiron goodness at Commonwealth Stadium. This was my fourth time covering the UK Football Women’s Clinic, and, like always, I had a blast. Before we move forward to another week of news, here are some things that stuck out to me.

The Practice Facility truly is amazing

Since Thursday, we’ve had about a zillion pictures of UK’s new $45 million practice facility on the site, and with good reason. The facility is truly impressive, and although I haven’t toured many practice facilities in the country, I can’t imagine many being better than it. No expense was spared, from retina scanners to IMAX-quality sound in the team meeting room, to two semi-truck loads of flat screen TVs and custom finishes galore. It’s one of those buildings that, once you walk in, you don’t want to leave, which is kind of the goal, right? The players’ excitement over their new home was palpable, and JoJo Kemp, Blake Bone, Courtney Love, and others stuck around doing drills and goofing off in the weight room long after the tours were over.

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Matte is in

UK will debut its new uniforms this fall, and while they aren’t that different from the old ones, one thing is very clear: matte is in. Players modeled the anthracite (dark grey), white, and blue versions of the unis, and each was paired with a matching matte helmet. Matte helmets have been a pretty big trend in college football unis the past few years, and I must say, although I tend to be more old school when it comes to stuff like this, I was impressed. The anthracite uniform is particularly striking in person.

Lamar Thomas is a rockstar

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Since the moment he left Louisville’s staff to join Mark Stoops in Lexington back in February, we knew Lamar Thomas was no shrinking violet. UK’s new wide receivers coach has won the UK fanbase over by taking on Louisville trolls and entertaining the masses during his guest hosting stint on KSR earlier this summer. At the clinic, Thomas was a rockstar, chatting up fans, taking selfies, and photobombing fans’ pictures. Aside from Stoops, I’d say he had the longest autograph line out of anybody. When I introduced myself to Thomas, he pleaded to come back on KSR, a request we can surely grant, right?

Freddie Maggard also had his share of followers when he crashed the clinic to watch his wife, Jen, kick some butt during field drills. Jen was the star of the passing drills, throwing touchdown after touchdown to ladies in the end zone. I’d say Freddie must have given her some pointers, but after spending some time with her, it’s clear Jen’s a badass in her own right. I hope to have her on my podcast this week.

About that period joke…

By now you’ve heard about Eddie Gran’s unfortunate period joke. Since I was there, I’ll give a little context. Gran was breaking down the schedule of a typical practice, which includes thirteen “periods” of activity. In an attempt to bring some humor to the presentation, Gran said, “(Darin) Hinshaw likes to joke we have 13 periods in practice and women only have one.” After a beat of “did he just make a period joke?!” shock, the crowd stirred with boos and awkward laughter. Gran attempted to backtrack, putting his hands up and protesting, “Hinshaw said that, not me!” and reminding the crowd he has three daughters.

I’m sure Eddie Gran thought the joke was harmless. It was probably a hit in the locker room; however, in a room of two hundred plus women who paid $75 each to be there, it was tone deaf. I’m of the belief that period jokes are never funny, especially when made by a man to a large group of women, but I talked to others who weren’t bothered by it. I’m actually more bothered by the fans who attacked me for reporting it than the joke itself, a topic I’ll get into on my podcast this week. For now, let’s just leave it as a dumb joke. If this is the worst thing that happens to UK Football this season, consider us lucky.

My, what a different five years makes

The UK Football Women’s Clinic has been going on since the Guy Morriss era, but the first one I attended was in 2011 when Joker Phillips was coach. Back then, the clinic was held under the north bowl of the stadium, which got brutally hot in late July. Now, it’s held in the luxurious (air-conditioned!) Woodford Reserve Club, yet another upgrade that speaks volumes to the money UK is pouring into the football program in recent years.

Here’s a “before and after,” featuring former defense coordinator Rick Minter (remember him?!):

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The Football Women’s Clinic is the best fan experience UK offers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Football Women’s Clinic is the best fan experience UK offers, and that includes the Basketball Women’s Clinic, which has essentially become a glorified autograph session. Because the crowd is a little smaller, coaches and players are able to mingle and interact with fans more, making for a truly unique experience. JoJo Kemp, Landon Young, Courtney Love, Jacob Hyde, Blake Bone, and JD Harmon were among the many players that hung out at the clinic, had lunch with fans, and led tours of the new practice facility, and Stoops and his staff should be proud of how they represented the program. One dumb joke aside, it was a truly enjoyable experience that should be on every fan’s bucket list.

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Commonwealth Stadium’s New Suites Generated Over $7.3 Million in 2015

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In 2013, the University of Kentucky announced a $126 million renovation for its Commonwealth Stadium. In 2015, those renovations were completed just in time for football season. For the first time ever, Kentucky fans had the opportunity to sit in premium seating sections, as well as luxury sideline suites.  That opportunity, however, came with a big price tag. 

It all started when UK’s athletic directer, Mitch Barnhart, wanted to give Commonwealth Stadium that “SEC feel”. Traveling all over the conference, one would see CWS was well behind others as far as facilities were concerned. Commonwealth Stadium lacked the big box suites surrounding each sideline. It didn’t have state-of-the-art LED banners circling the field. Audio systems were decent at best. It simply wasn’t up to par as far as the fan experience goes within the SEC. That’s all in the past now!

According to records released this week, UK generated over $7.3 million last season from the new premium seating options. This includes all 67 luxury suites, as well as the new premium seating sections on the mezzanine levels. For the upcoming season, UK officials project to make over $7.36 million, but could exceed that depending on single game sales and ever-changing ticket-holder situations. In comparison, Kentucky’s 67 suites alone generated $3.5 million, while Louisville’s 59 suites only brought in $2.6 million.

If you were hoping to acquire a luxury suite this year, get in line. There’s currently a waiting list, and it doesn’t appear any suites will become available anytime soon. So who currently has a suite in Commonwealth Stadium? This link will bring up a graphic from which you can can click on price boxes to view who owns a suite and where. It’s actually pretty cool to see who sits where for home games.

Prices of the luxury suites are $45,000, $60,000, and $120,000. Joe Craft owns the highest valued suite at $120K, while other notables like Tim Couch own a $60K suite. Each suite includes 16 plush chairbacks, with more included if it’s a double or triple. All suites also include a full kitchen with bar top and multiple HD television screens.

If you’re still looking to add a little bit of luxury to your gameday, UK’s new 1865 Club have tailgating units still available. Each climate-controlled unit has a kitchen, a full-size refrigerator, a bathroom and four televisions with room for 30 fans. These luxury tailgating suites run between $6,000-$8,000 per game, or $50,000 for the season. Catering options are also available.


What’s Alabama saying about the upcoming UK football matchup?


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As many websites do, the Montgomery Advertiser previews the upcoming season for their Alabama Crimson Tide. They break down their opponents week-by-week, noting key players, past results, and end with a prediction.  Pretty much what we do at KSR, but sometimes it’s interesting to see what other fan bases are saying about UK.  As you probably have guessed, they’re not too worried about Kentucky.

The UK analysis begins with a tone like they’re already overlooking the Cats:

Alabama returns to SEC action in Week 5 with a home matchup against Kentucky. However, it will likely be another week until the Crimson Tide faces a conference foe that provides a serious threat.

The Crimson Tide faces Arkansas a week later, followed by Tenneesee, which could play into UK’s favor. The most dangerous thing for a team to do is to look past any SEC opponent. Obviously this article isn’t the team’s mentality, but it’s interesting to note that Alabama’s fan base is already looking forward to matchups against Arkansas and Tenneesee. Kentucky could march into Tuscaloosa a week earlier and play spoiler to the Tide’s season. It’ll take a lot of hard work and perfect execution, but it’s not impossible. 

Alabama has won its past five meetings against Kentucky and holds a 36-2-1 advantage all time. The closest the Wildcats came to beating the Tide recently was in 2008, when Alabama running back Glen Coffee rushed for 218 yards to help the Tide pull out a 17-14 victory. That year, Kentucky was able to limit Alabama on offense, holding Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson to 7-of-17 passing for 106 yards and an interception. If the Wildcats want to hang with the Tide this year, it appears they will have to rely on their offense instead.

Kentucky returns just five defensive starters from last year’s team, and that might not be such a bad thing for the Wildcats. Last season, Kentucky finished 63rd in the nation in defense, allowing an average of 394 yards per game. On the offensive side of the ball, Kentucky appears to be much better. The Wildcats return their top three receivers in Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet. Kentucky also brings back its top two running backs in Stanley Williams and Jojo Kemp.

Next, they bring to light the recent clash between UK and Bama over 4-star QB Mac Jones. It’s hard to forget that dreadful tweet, in which Jones announced he was decommitting from Kentucky. It’s enough to light a fire under you, knowing shortly after Jones would pledge his loyalty to Alabama. What’s done is done, as it just adds to the “tacklin’ fuel”, as Bobby Boucher (Waterboy) says. Darin Hinshaw’s tweet is also mentioned, followed by Lane Kiffin’s. It’s obvious that folks down in Alabama sent a lot of hate and criticism towards UK’s new QB coach.

The biggest thing to take from this recruit-flipping situation is that Kentucky now battles Alabama for high caliber players. That’s huge considering just years ago we were losing recruits to smaller programs.

Here are the three key players who the MA are watching heading into the Week 5 SEC matchup:

Stanley “Boom” Williams, junior, RB: Williams led Kentucky with 855 yards and six touchdowns on the ground last season. The junior should have plenty of room to run this season, too. Kentucky returns four offensive line starters from last year’s team. They should be able to open up plenty of holes for Williams as well as senior running back Jojo Kemp.

Dorian Baker, junior, WR: As a sophomore, Baker was one of Kentucky’s best receivers last season. He led the Wildcats with 55 receptions and totaled 608 yards and three touchdowns through the air. While last year’s starting quarterback, Patrick Towles, transferred to Boston College this offseason, Baker will lead strong group of returning receivers for sophomore Drew Barker to throw to.

Matt Elam, junior, DT: Elam excited his home state when he elected to sign with Kentucky over Alabama in 2014. Since then, the 6-foot-7, 360-pound nose tackle hasn’t yet lived up to his five-star status. After making four starts last season, many project him to have a breakout season this year.

Lastly, they give their prediction for the game.

Alabama will take advantage of a weak Kentucky defense en route to a blowout win. The victory should give the Tide plenty of momentum heading into back-to-back road games against Arkansas and Tennessee. Alabama 45, Kentucky 16.

Kentucky wasn’t given much credit as a team, but they’ll have to go out and earn it just like all other teams. As it stands, a blowout isn’t out of the question, but you hate to see your team on the receiving end.

What are your thoughts heading into this football season? Will the Cats come out strong and surprise a few teams, or will they fall short of expectations within the #BBN? Let us know what you think in the comments section below. I remain optimistic.

 


Kentucky Enters the Arms Race; A Former Player’s Perspective

Kentucky Enters the Arms Race; A Former Player’s Perspective

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Soon after my high school graduation I moved from Cumberland to Lexington to begin summer workouts. By doing so, the first football facility that I called home was the Shively Center. Shively is now three facilities ago. In 1987, the team moved into the EJ Nutter Training Facility. The transition was flawless yet unheralded. Actually during the Nutter Center ribbon cutting ceremony, UK Head Athletic Trainer Al Green had to quickly retrieve a pair of scissors from the training room for the VIP’s to cut the ceremonial decoration. Quick thinking by my future father-in-law, but ceremonial vagueness was indicative of the matter-of-fact transition. Al texted me this picture on Friday. The original scissors with the ribbon still attached. History.

On Friday I was awarded the opportunity to tour the New Training Facility along with a contingent of media types. For brevity purposes throughout this post I’ll refer to the New Training Facility as NTF. Initial observations:

Initial Reaction

The 1951 national championship trophy was proudly displayed in the main lobby. Social media reaction regarding the trophy picture brought on a few snickers. See the trophy is not an original; in fact UK had a replica reproduced for exhibition purposes. When asked about it, a UK representative shamelessly and proudly said that there were still players from that team that come back to Lexington for football games. They deserve to see their championship trophy that they had earned decades ago. Amen. Drop the mic. Snickers, are you kidding me??? Men in their 80’s receiving gratification and recognition from winning a national championship should be celebrated for God’s sake. Unbelievable but believably sad.

At this point in the tour I lost all objectivity. I was no longer a member of the media. In my mind and heart, I was a 1980’s, full mullet sporting, “Glory Days” singing UK Man. You dag gone right, I was proud to be a Wildcat. Sorry, still a little fired up. Back on task.

Weight Room

There were no mirrors in the ginormous weight room. Initially unnoticed, but when asked about the the lack of standard “weight room guy” fixtures, the answer I got was that it was indeed intentional. Players are not there to get a beach body, they are at the facility to work on functional, football strength and conditioning. The stereo system was loud with deep bass. Compared to its predecessor, the NTF weight room is at least double of that of the Nutter Center. The ceiling is high; the walls are decorated in stadium décor and three stories tall. With the practice fields within full view behind an enormous glass wall, a feeling of openness resonates.

History

Within the downstairs lobby to upstairs meeting rooms and beyond, former Wildcats from all generations are honored. Bravo UK. For several years this was not quite the case. In some cases, UK has not sufficiently distinguished individual players or teams from the past. Sadly, some of my fellow alumni have at times felt forgotten or unappreciated. One reason was due to the lack of space for adequate displays at the Nutter Center. On Friday I surprisingly saw pictures of former teammates that were both All-SEC and All-American performers. There were names of UK NFL Draftees that are not commonly discussed in tailgate parties. In addition, in front of the NTF is a sacred location preserved for a statue that will honor four heroic Kentuckians: Greg Page, Nate Northington, Houston Hogg, and Wilbur Hackett Jr.

Examples: I saw the ugly mugshot of Dr. Joel Mazzella on one of many walls of fame. Dr. Mazzella was a former walk-on from West Virginia turned All-SEC guard in the early 1990’s. I hadn’t seen an image of my friend Joel in 27 years. Current Cat Cole Mosier could learn a great deal from Dr. Mazzella’s example. Another walk-on, Newport Catholic great Jeff Brady’s picture jumped out to me as he went on to earn All SEC honors and play over a decade in the NFL.

LB Randy Holleran and Chris Chenault are more than deserving for their numbers to hang in the Commonwealth Stadium, but they are not. Their All-SEC and All-American pictures are now exhibited for current Cats to see. UK’s current group of linebackers could learn a great deal by studying Holleran and Chenault’s intensity and at times, on-field insanity. Same can be said about Paintsville’s two-time All SEC defensive tackle Joey Couch and the hardest hitting Wildcat I’ve seen play, All-American Melvin Johnson.

When I recognized that former player’s careers were being documented from the Bear Bryant to Mark Stoops era, I nearly broke down in tears. These Cats are more than deserving, and this acknowledgment is a long overdue. I won’t name all of the pictures exhibited, but the history within the NTF made me extremely proud of my ordinary football past. On Friday I felt the Esprit décor of past, current, and future Wildcats. Furthermore, for the first time in nearly 30 years I felt that dearly missed “Us vs. Them” team mentality. I was ready to run through walls. The New Training Facility will do more to unite former football players than any other venture in the history of the University of Kentucky.

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Privacy/Functionality

With only one hallway from the locker room/coach’s offices to the practice fields, if you’ve been in the Nutter Center most likely you’ve run smack into a coach or player. Not the case in the NTF. This is not a good thing. This is a great thing. Behind three to four levels of security and a maze of hallways lie the locker room, coach’s offices, barber shop, and player’s lounge. With retinal identification systems in place, players and coaches can now focus on the task in hand without distraction.

This may seem miniscule in the grand scheme of 100,000 square feet and $45 million dollars, but from a player’s perspective, discretion is welcomed and a functional part of ownership in the facility. Players can now train, eat, get a haircut, go to study hall, and practice in a private setting. In essence, this secluded space identifies comfort boundaries. Football players now have their own version of the Coal Lodge, a sanctuary per say.

Attention to Detail

In my former job, out of necessity, I was a part of many major facility and construction committees. By no means am I a construction expert nor do I claim to be. But trust me when I say this, there were no details left uncovered as UK was meticulous from design, planning, to functional operation. Example, the shower heads are over 7 feet tall. Again, may sound picky, but still important. Lockers are ventilated, private, and provide purposeful space to match the size dimensions of a SEC football player. The locker room is immaculate, classily flashy, and spacey. Logo and branding was consistent throughout.

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Conclusion

I’ve never been more proud of the University of Kentucky than I was on Friday. Mitch Barnhart, Mark Stoops, Russ Pear, and so many more put in a great deal of hard work in bringing UK’s new state of the art football headquarters into reality. It’s been over a decade in the coming, but finally UK has a Top Tier, SEC football training facility, recruiting room, and stadium.

So, immediate results will surface right? Yes, and no. Speaking from experience, initially there will be a greater sense of pride within the football program. Kind of like when you buy your first house. But, here we go get ready for it; It’s not personal, it’s personnel. Football is a game of Jimmies and Joes. From recruits that first visit the NTF to actual on-field game production won’t be seen until 2018 at the earliest. Remember, the past decade of degeneration will not be amended with a singular turnkey operation. The NTF will attract, impress, and wow top prospects. It really is second to none in America. However, the cold hard reality of college football is that signatures will ultimately come from game-field wins.