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Was Vince Marrow a fan of Bobby Petrino and the old football staff at Louisville? “No, not at all.”

Over the course of the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky, the coaching staff’s recruiting philosophy has changed quite a bit. At the beginning, they tried to sign any and all of the the top three and four-star prospects they could get their hands on, no matter where they came from.

As they’ve established themselves on the recruiting trail and wins are coming at a more consistent rate, the staff has been able to be a bit more selective with high-level prospects and their focus has shifted a bit.

Among many other areas of focus, keeping Kentucky’s top high school talents in-state has become one of the staff’s biggest priorities as of late.

After signing five in-state talents in 2019, they’ve already got two of the top 2020 prospects in the state committed to Kentucky in John Young and Beau Allen for 2020. And it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.

In an interview with KSR this morning, Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said that Mark Stoops told him specifically that he needed to recruit the state of Kentucky harder and keep them from going to other local schools.

“When Mark Stoops came to me last year, he was like, “We need your presence more in Kentucky.” We were losing a lot of the top guys, they were going other places.”

According to Marrow, that momentum shift happened back in 2016 when Kentucky defeated Louisville on the road with Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the Cardinals.

Ever since, recruiting in-state talent has come easy for the UK coaching staff.

“I think when we beat Louisville two years ago with Lamar [Jackson] down there, it showed people we were on the right track,” he said. “But still, we had to really get down and recruit harder in Louisville. I think in the past, we were recruiting kids [from there], and they were using negative stuff against us. I’m not going to go into what they were saying, but once I went down there and cleaned that up, it improved.”

Marrow said that in the past, Louisville negatively recruited against Kentucky, which hurt them with some of the local talents. Now, he has found a way to combat that.

“Louisville, being a city school, they were getting a lot of inner-city kids,” he said. “I don’t know what they were telling them, but I tell them now, “Look, we had the first African-American players in this league. We have a very diverse culture.”‘

A big part of that, he says, was Bobby Petrino’s old coaching staff at Louisville and what he was feeding some of the in-state kids on the recruiting trail.

“And that was the old staff, not the new staff,” he said. “I don’t mind some of the guys on the new staff.”

To put it simply, he wasn’t a fan of Petrino and his assistants.

Not in the slightest.

“No, [I wasn’t a fan of the old staff at UofL],” Marrow said. “No. Not at all. Not at all.”

We couldn’t agree more, Vince.


Vince Marrow compares Xavier Peters to Josh Allen, says there is a “very strong possibility” he is eligible this season

Vince Marrow compares Xavier Peters to Josh Allen, says there is a “very strong possibility” he is eligible this season

On Wednesday, the Kentucky football team received a commitment from Florida State transfer and former four-star pass-rushing target Xavier Peters.

Just two days later, Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow came on KSR to discuss the newest Wildcat and what he’ll bring to the table during his time in Lexington.

To get things started, Marrow said that the transfer actually just became official earlier this morning, meaning this is the first time he was able to talk about Peters publicly.

“It actually just went legal about 10 minutes ago,” he said.

Out of high school, Peters was committed to Kentucky from July of 2017 through January of 2018, but then flipped his commitment to Florida State right before National Signing Day.

When asked about what changed from his original recruitment to now, Marrow said the newest Wildcat simply got caught up in the hype and didn’t follow through with where his heart truly was.

“I mean, when you get Deion Sanders to recruit him personally, that just tells you how (big of a prospect he is),” he said. “He received negative feedback from fans after his decommitment. He got caught up in it all, (Florida State) was just where he wanted to go. Reality set in that he wanted to be with his family, he missed his son.”

At the time of his announcement, we all knew it was a massive get and that he’d end up being a star for the Wildcats eventually. When he’d be eligible to play due to NCAA transfer rules, however, was the only question at hand.

According to Marrow, though, fans should expect to see Peters on the field this fall.

“There is a very, very strong possibility that he’ll be eligible this season,” he said. “He’ll be a freshman.”

And he didn’t even attempt to slow down the hype train, either. When asked about his potential impact at Kentucky, Marrow said he sees a lot of Josh Allen in his game.

“Oh, he’s going to get minutes this season,” he said. “He’s probably the closest thing to Josh Allen, at least physically, right now. Xavier has that ability. He has the potential (to be like Allen).”

Woah.


I pray to the old gods and the new that NCAA Football comes back

With the NCAA reconsidering its restrictions on student-athletes using their own name and likeness, fans of the old NCAA Football video game series are beginning to dream dreams of a comeback.

It has been 2,137 days since EA Sports last released a new edition of the game, back in July of 2013. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was the cover athlete back then and your University of Kentucky Wildcats were the 48th-best team on the game with an 84 overall rating.

NCAA Football 14 is still played today with updated rosters that are available for download, but it is way past time for an update. Even Kirk Herbstreit is pushing for NCAA Football 20; he tweeted, “So [Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith] if all goes well is there a chance we get our NCAA Football video game back?!? Just asking for a few 100k friends that have missed the game desperately for 5 years—including former and current players. Haha!! Be a hero!”

In a new story on ESPN.com, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said a new NCAA Football  is not inconceivable, “but we’d have to look at it in light of modern circumstances and in light of what this task force recommends.”

A spokesperson from EA Sports had no comment, but it seems like the game may have life again with this new NCAA working group revisiting the issue that killed it.


Xavier Peters shows power of positive recruiting

Xavier Peters shows power of positive recruiting

It’s been a huge couple of weeks for Kentucky football recruiting, and Xavier Peters’ decision to transfer to UK continues the exciting momentum.

For the most part, Kentucky fans are well aware of Peters’ whirlwind of a recruitment, both while he was in high school and again last December. He spent several months during his senior year of high school as a Kentucky commit, before ultimately flipping to Florida State. At the time, he was listed as a four-star recruit, the No. 12 outside linebacker in the nation and the sixth-best player in the state of Ohio.

After a year in Tallahassee, Peters was back in the news. He entered his name into the transfer portal in December, and speculation began to spread he was heading to Lexington. It didn’t take long for Peters to withdraw his name from the portal and decide to stay at Florida State, where he participated in spring football.

But in the end, Peters felt he was meant to be at the University of Kentucky. He cites his proximity to his family, specifically his young son, as the main reason for making the switch back to the Wildcats. However, there’s also a message there that also speaks to the way Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, and the rest of UK’s staff chooses to recruit players, both while they’re in high school and as transfers.

For Peters to decide to re-commit to Kentucky, he must still have a strong, positive relationship with the coaching staff. Otherwise, there are plenty of schools within a similar radius to his hometown of West Chester, Ohio. Kentucky became his original destination of choice during the summer of 2017, but his decision to re-commit shows no bridges were burned throughout a recruiting process that left some with whiplash and hurt feelings.

Fans may have criticized Peters for “flip flopping” while he was a high schooler, but it’s clear the coaches did not participate. If they were upset about Peters’ decision to de-commit (which, logically, they probably were), they kept it to themselves: no one aired grievances publicly, and it’s likely they were cordial toward Peters, too. Otherwise, why would he come back?

In the end, Xavier Peters is making a responsible decision that’s the best option for himself and his family. But his future also surely played a role, and Kentucky’s upward trajectory certainly didn’t hurt their chances at finally landing the star player. The Cats finished 10-3 last season and 17-9 over the past two seasons; they’ve had more than a hand full of players find homes in the NFL this year, and the culture is changing before our eyes – and his.

Sure, it took Peters a little bit longer than most recruits to wind up in Lexington. But Kentucky’s recruiting pitch worked in the long run, and a beast of a linebacker will be wearing blue and white in the future because of it.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Getty Images

4 Things Sawyer Smith can do for Kentucky’s Offense

Getty Images

This offseason Mark Stoops tried something new — he searched for a player in the transfer portal. His first excursion was a success.

With the help of two former Troy staff members, Jon Sumrall and Mark Perry, quarterback Sawyer Smith became Kentucky’s first grad transfer of the Stoops era. Smith is the right fit for Kentucky’s offense over the next two seasons.

1. Terry Wilson Runs Free

When Gunnar Hoak announced three weeks ago his intentions to transfer to Ohio State, the UK coaches knew they needed another quarterback. Not to take anything away from Walker Wood, Nik Scalzo and Amani Gilmore, but without Hoak, UK’s offense was one bad Terry Wilson hit away from being completely flipped upside down. To prevent that from happening, Eddie Gran would surely tighten up the playbook to keep Wilson as safe as possible.

With the addition of Smith, Gran does not need to restrict Wilson’s legs. UK’s most explosive playmaker on the ground in his first season, Wilson gained 6.75 yards per carry on 8.2 attempts per game. Now that Wilson has someone behind him with experience, the offense can naturally progress by giving Wilson up to 12 or 13 carries a game.

When Terry Wilson runs the ball, he’s one big play away from a score or one hit away from being sidelined. Sawyer Smith ensures the risk isn’t too great to gamble for the reward.

2. Serenade the Offense

If he isn’t throwing darts, Smith is know for his excellent singing on the sideline (even if he doesn’t know the words).

3. Throw the Deep Ball

The weakest link of UK’s offense over the past two years has been the vertical passing game. The long ball just so happens to be Sawyer Smith’s greatest strength.

Whether he’s in the pocket or on the move, Smith can muscle the ball down the field. In the opening drive of the Dollar General Bowl, he threw a pearl 48 yards in the air that hit his receiver in stride for a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty.

Arm strength aside, Smith’s most important asset is that his game isn’t too different from Terry Wilson’s. If Wilson goes down with an injury, Gran doesn’t have to bring out an entirely new playbook. Smith uses his legs well enough to escape pass rushers or execute a read option. At Nebraska he turned one simple read into an explosive 57-yard run.

4. Experience, Experience, Experience

What sets Smith apart from any UK quarterback not-named Terry Wilson — or any quarterback entering the 2018 season — is the invaluable experience he received as a redshirt sophomore.

Smith played sparingly, primarily as a rushing option, in each of the first five games of the season before Troy starter Kaleb Barker suffered a torn ACL. Thrust into action, Smith was not perfect, but he showed up when the Trojans needed him most.

His best game of the year was at the Dollar General Bowl. Seeking a tenth win, Smith rose to the occasion, completing 70.5% of his 44 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

That kind of experience you can’t teach. You can try to simulate a third and seven from the 46-yard line with a four-point lead in a bowl game, but the blitz does not feel as real in practice. In that situation Smith looked off the single safety and remained calm in the pocket before dropping an absolute dime for a touchdown.

Sawyer Smith’s addition gives UK’s quarterback room a pair of 10-win signal callers. If Terry Wilson cannot complete his duties, Smith is perfectly prepared to keep the offense on course.


Florida State defensive end Xavier Peters will transfer

@xavierpeters22

After countless rumors, a handful of back-and-forths, and endless speculation over the last several months, we’ve finally found our answer when it comes to former four-star prospect and current Florida State defensive end Xavier Peters.

The former Kentucky commitment is no longer a Seminole and will be transferring from the school.

In an interview with Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports, Peters said that he has put his name in the transfer portal – and keeping it there – so he can move closer to home to be with his one-year old son.

“I just want to be home to support him,” Peters said. “If I was thinking just about me I’d stay at Florida State.”

Peters, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of West Chester, Ohio, played in two games as a Seminole last fall, registering one tackle and one pass breakup.

After putting his name in the portal back in December, Peters says his current family situation is forcing him to finally make this official.

“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home. This is a family move. I told Coach Taggart this had nothing to do with his program or Florida State. This is all because of family issues.”

Back on December 26, KSR’s Matt Jones broke the news that Peters was entering his name in the transfer portal initially, and that Kentucky was one of his top choices.

“KSR has learned that former 4 star Linebacker/Defensive End and ESPN Top 150 recruit Xavier Peters has put his name into the College Football transfer portal,” Jones said. “You may remember that Peters is from Ohio and picked Florida State over Kentucky last year. KSR has learned he is now seeking a transfer and Kentucky, along with two Big Ten schools, are his top choices.

“I suspect Kentucky has a VERY good chance of getting Peters, and for those of you who listen to KSR, he was my #2 transfer possibility I have been talking about for the past 2 weeks.”

At the time, I wrote a post breaking down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky football program, which you can find below:

Breaking down a potential Xavier Peters transfer for Kentucky

Now, Peters says, per Wiltfong, that he will be focusing on schools in the SEC and Big Ten when it comes to his transfer decision moving forward.

Is it finally time for Peters to head home to Lexington?

(247 Sports)


Mike Edwards to Play Nickel in Tampa Bay

After being drafted as the 36th pick in the third round of the NFL Draft, former Kentucky defensive back Mike Edwards is getting ready to step into his role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Saturday, Edwards hit the practice field and talked to reporters about adjusting to life as a pro athlete, and how playing in the SEC prepared him for the wear and tear of the pro game.

Edwards never missed a start during his time for Kentucky, as he managed to play in 51 straight games. New head coach of the Buccaneers Bruce Arians also talked to the press about how Edwards will fit with the team this season. He suggested that Edwards will play the “nickel” position and be on the field in situations where they will need five or six defensive backs on the field.

Last season Tampa Bay finished 31st in the league in points allowed and 26th in passing yards allowed per game. Edwards will get a chance to contribute and make a name for himself very quickly.