Football Season Coverage
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 17th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
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.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 17th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
After leaving the Ohio State football team this spring, former four-star receiver and major Kentucky target L’Christian “Blue” Smith has announced he will be transferring to Cincinnati.
Smith, a 6-foot-6 prospect from Dayton, OH, was with Ohio State for just one season.
Here was the announcement:
— B? (@bluesm1th) May 16, 2019
As a recruit, Smith was considered a consensus four-star prospect and was rated as high as No. 39 overall in the class of 2018. Out of high school, the elite wideout prospect committed to Ohio State over Kentucky, Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State, among others, though most recruiting analysts felt his decision came down to the Buckeyes and the Wildcats.
After putting his name in the transfer portal back on March 22, it was eventually reported that Smith was deciding between Cincinnati and Kentucky to finish out his college career. While the Wildcats were deemed the runner-up during his original recruitment and many assumed they might be the favorite this time around, the Bearcats (for whatever reason) jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
That’s alright, though. Vince Marrow got us plenty excited for the star transfer we did get during his appearance on KSR this morning.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 17th, 2019 @ 12:15pm
Vince Marrow has made a name for himself as one of the best recruiters in college football, turning down multiple offers from top programs to stay at Kentucky with his longtime friend Mark Stoops. During an impromptu appearance on KSR today, we found out Stoops’ mother Dee deserves an assist for keeping Marrow in Lexington.
“Mainly because my buddy Mark,” Marrow said of why he’s still at Kentucky. “His mother, I’ll never forget, in 2013 when I took this job — it’s kind of hard where we’re from in Youngstown, people say mafia and stuff — but she made a threat to me and said, ‘Vince, take care of my Marky,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ I never forgot about that.”
Evelyn’s threat aside, Marrow said Mitch Barnhart and Eli Capilouto’s investment in the football program has made it easy to stay in Lexington, a community he’s grown to love.
“I gotta be honest, once I came to this state, didn’t know too much about it, spent my first two years, I really got accustomed to the people here. Mitch Barnhart doesn’t get a lot of credit. I’m telling you, man, he’s a big part of it too. He’s very supportive. I really love working for him and Dr. Capilouto. This is no sell. When I started seeing these guys were sold in, it made it easy for me to stay. The last part was, recruiting all these kids, sitting in their living rooms and telling their mothers I was going to stay and come believe in something, I just would have felt bad if I had left.”
But really, shoutout to Dee.
“You gotta know Mrs. Stoops. She’s the lady.”
Vince Marrow compares Xavier Peters to Josh Allen, says there is a “very strong possibility” he is eligible this season
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 17th, 2019 @ 11:48am
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).”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 16th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
The Air Raid is headed to the XFL.
This afternoon, it was announced that Dallas XFL head coach Bob Stoops has hired former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme as offensive coordinator.
— XFL (@xfl2020) May 16, 2019
This is the 15th stop in Mumme’s career, with his most recent coaching gig being the offensive coordinator at Jackson State last season.
Mumme was hired Kentucky back in 1996 to replace Bill Curry as the football team’s head coach. Coming off a 9-24 mark over three seasons under Curry, the new Wildcat head coach led Kentucky to a 20-18 start in his first three years. After being accused of more than three dozen NCAA rules violations centered on making payments to recruits, Mumme resigned as the team’s head coach in 2001 with a final record of 20-26.
Following his time at Kentucky, Mumme made head coaching stops at Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State, and McMurry (Division III). He made a pit stop at SMU as the team’s offensive coordinator before spending the next three years at Belhaven as the program’s head coach.
Now, Mumme will take a stab at the XFL, which is slated to begin in the spring of next year.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 16th, 2019 @ 1:40pm
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.
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.
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 15, 2019
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?
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 16, 2019
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.
Xavier Peters is going to end up in the Bluegrass after all. 247 Sports’ Steve Wiltfong is reporting that the former Florida State linebacker is transferring to Kentucky. The one-time Kentucky commit and four-star recruit entered the transfer portal two days ago.
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 told Wiltfong he finally made the decision to leave Tallahassee to be closer to his one-year-old son at home.
“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said earlier this week. “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.”
Peters just made the news official on Twitter:
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 15, 2019
Back in December, Jack Pilgrim broke down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky Football program. Check it out below:
Big, big get for Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow.
UPDATE: KSR is hearing Peters will appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, but regardless, will have four years to play in Lexington. Based on this picture a little birdie sent us, Kentucky blue looks good on him.
Daron Blaylock, a former University of Kentucky football player, made it through the first cut on Hannah B’s season of The Bachelorette. (I said spoiler alert!)
Blaylock’s screen time in the season premiere was extremely limited — I don’t remember him saying a word after his brief introduction — but he did enough off camera to earn a rose in the first rose ceremony of the season.
At Kentucky, Blaylock played both safety and linebacker in 23 games for the Wildcats from 2012-15. He and his identical twin brother, Zack Blaylock, were recruited to UK by Joker Phillips and played their freshman seasons under Phillips before Mark Stoops took over in 2013. He finished his career with 46 total tackles and now works as an IT consultant in Buckhead, Georgia, according to his bio on the show.
One other Kentuckian vying for Hannah B’s love on The Bachelorette wasn’t as lucky. Brian Bowles, a high school math teacher in Louisville, was sent home without a rose at the end of Monday night’s premiere.
And yes, I watch The Bachelorette.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
“Two guys hop on the back of a camel” sounds like the premise of a bad joke. “Two enormous Kentucky offensive linemen hop on the back of the camel” is a jaw-dropping, hilarious sight to see.
Over the last week, three Kentucky football players have participated in the program’s annual service trip to Ethiopia. During some down time offensive tackle Landon Young, defensive tackle Calvin Taylor Jr. and outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson had a little fun by taking guided camel rides around town.
This was not a kid hopping on top of a pony for a ride. Calvin Taylor is listed at 6’9″ 310 pounds. Male dromedary camels on average are 6’2″ at the shoulders and weigh about 1,000 pounds. One would assume that would be tough on the camel, but it had no trouble popping into cruise control with Taylor on his back.
The camel looked like he struggled a bit more when the 6’7″ 324-pound offensive tackle hopped on his back.
Do not worry; Young still got to fly down the street atop a salivating dromedary.
Boogie also got to take a turn on the back of the camel, but the logistics did not provide as much slapstick humor.
So who did it better, the UK offensive linemen or John Calipari?
C.J. Conrad’s path to the NFL was not an easy road to traverse.
The Big Blue Nation is quite familiar with Conrad’s story. Once a mid-round selection, a health scare discovered at the NFL Combine nearly derailed his football career. It knocked him out of the draft before he found a home with the New York Giants. Thanks to a profile by North Jersey, a USA Today affiliate, New York fans know Conrad’s story and UK fans know how he ended up in New York.
Conrad first met Giants tight end coach Lunda Wells at the East-West Shrine Game. Once an injury in practice sent him home early, Wells was anxious to formally interview Conrad at the Combine. The day before their planned meeting, Conrad received bad news.
“We were always supposed to meet officially, then I got sent home, and Coach Wells joked that I was avoiding him,” Conrad recalled. “He called me right after I left the Combine, and said a prayer for me, and told me he’d be thinking of me, and they thought a lot of me as a player, and it meant the world to me going through those three weeks. Then, after I got cleared, and he texted me again a couple of days before the draft and said, ‘I’m thinking of you, happy for you, good luck this weekend.’”
The former UK tight end was on the Giants’ board, but he did not get selected in the NFL Draft. As soon as the free agency period began, Wells gave Conrad a call.
“I like Conrad. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn,” Wells said. “He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well. I really like that kid from what we saw over the three-day rookie minicamp.”
Conrad made a good first impression, but cracking the 53-man roster will not be easy. The Giants currently have four tight ends: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson and second-year pro Garrett Dickerson.
Conrad has survived unlikely odds before. This pales in comparison to the challenge he faced just a few months ago.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 10:05am
Chris Westry did not hear his name called in the NFL Draft, but he may have found the perfect landing spot.
The former UK cornerback signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. Westry had other options, but Dallas was calling.
“The first day on my visit, I was like, this has gotta be home,” he told the media after rookie mini-camp practice.
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ amazing facilities were not the selling point for Westry. That would be defensive backs coach Kris Richard. A member of Pete Carrol’s Seattle Seahawks staff for eight years, Richard prefers to work with big, long cornerbacks like Westry. His frame and athleticism caught the eye of one team scout on day one.
Chris Westry is an impressive looking kid when it comes to his height. It’s not often that you see a cornerback that’s over 6-4. The challenge for these coaches will be to work with Westry on his ability to open and turn. His legs are so long that he’s not going to look quick doing it. There were a couple of snaps where he was paired with Mike Jackson, who was able to get turned around much quicker than Westry out of his pedal. Jackson is 3 inches shorter, but like Westry he has long legs too.
There are quite a few cuts in-between rookie mini-camp and the season-opener. Westry has gotten off to a good start, but still has a long way to go to make the 53-man active roster.
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 10:35pm
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.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
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:
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?
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.
Video: Bucs rookie safety Mike Edwards talks about how playing in the SEC put him up against talented players to prepare for NFL. pic.twitter.com/u0bOCQDChf
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 10, 2019
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.
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) May 11, 2019