Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©July 18th, 2019 @ 9:00am
SEC Media Days saved the best for last. The penultimate act at the kickoff event will be Mark Stoops, who takes center stage in the Grand Ballroom at the Wynfrey Hotel this morning at 11:20 ET. You can stream Stoops’ entire press conference on Watch ESPN or catch the action on the SEC Network.
Stoops will be accompanied by wide receiver Lynn Bowden, offensive guard Logan Stenberg and linebacker Kash Daniel. A year after Benny Snell told the rest of the SEC he was the best running back in the conference, UK brought a triumvirate that has never shied away from making bold statements.
The SEC media will wonder how Kentucky can maintain its success after a ten-win season, while the players and their head coach will ask why they haven’t earned more respect. The rubber will soon meet the road here at Hoover.
When and Where You Can Catch the Cats
I will join the local media contingency that gets the first crack at the Cats. Once that has wrapped up around 10:00 am, the four will be pulled in a hundred different directions. Aside from the coverage on KSR, SiriusXM features live interviews on Channel 84, beginning with Lynn Bowden at 11:10, Stenberg at 11:35, Kash at 11:50 and Stoops at 12:10. If you prefer SEC Radio, they’ll be exchanging places throughout that time too. The SEC Network will also be recording interviews you can find on TV and online.
UK-Florida is almost Sold Out
Two weeks after going on sale, the single-ticket allotment for the highly-anticipated matchup with Florida at Kroger Field is sold out. Purchasing season tickets, 4-Game Flex Packs, scattered single seats, or resale tickets through Kentucky’s official resale marketplace is the only way to guarantee seats. Well done, Big Blue Nation. Well done.
Discounted Tickets for Military and First Responders
Each year at Heroes’ Day, military and first responders receive a complimentary ticket to Kroger Field. This year it will be held September 7 vs. Eastern Michigan. UK is extending their hospitality to military and first responders, offering discounted tickets to every single home game, thanks to a partnership with Govx. Register here to take advantage of the opportunity.
Is Water Wet?
The thought experiment was tested out last night at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) July 18, 2019
Landon Young does Good Works
The Kentucky offensive tackle is one of 137 athletes nominated for the 2019 Allstate Good Works Team. The most coveted community service award in college sports, Kentucky’s most recent recipient was Courtney Love in 2017.
KSR is in Ashland
Get on over to Blazer’s restaurant to see what Matt Jones and the KSR crew have in store for Thursday’s show.
By Nick Roush on ©July 18th, 2019 @ 8:30am
Thursday morning Mark Stoops will take the stage of the Grand Ballroom at SEC Media Days for the seventh time.
The longest-tenured coach in the SEC East has always had to answer questions about taking Kentucky to the next level. This year the media will question if he can keep the Cats can stay near the top of the East after a ten-win season. He’ll face some form of the following ten questions throughout his long day in Hoover.
1. How do you replace all of the production from 2018?
“You all didn’t know about the seven, eight guys last year who got us to ten wins. I’m confident we have seven or eight more guys ready to do the same this year.”
That’s a choppy version of the sentiment Stoops will be pitching throughout the week. He’s confident the players that built the program up to new heights left a solid foundation for others to follow in their footsteps.
2. The entire secondary departed after starting for at least two years? Where do you turn to?
First and foremost, Stoops went to the JUCO ranks, recruiting Quandre Mosely and Brandin Echols to play cornerback at Kentucky. The latter will likely start from day one.
Aside from the additions, Stoops’ secondary rebuild is much different than how he’s operated in the past. At the start of his tenure, defensive backs were forced to play right away. Instead of starting true freshmen, Stoops has the luxury of playing upperclassmen who have some experience on the field. Davonte Robinson, Jordan Griffin, Tyrell Ajian and Yusuf Corker had enough talent to play right away, but had to wait their turn behind future NFL Draft picks. They are the players “nobody knows about” that Stoops believes will make an impact this fall. The dynamic is different, but even though they’re older, they still lack experience.
3. Are you confident Terry Wilson will make a leap as a starter in year two?
Stoops will gladly point to to Stephen Johnson’s second year improvements as an example as to how quarterbacks mature after one year as the starter. Many outsiders believe Kentucky did not throw it last year because they did not trust Terry’s arm talent and decision-making. Those closer to the program will say they simply couldn’t get the ball out of Benny Snell’s hands. The truth lies somewhere in-between.
4. Without Benny Snell, will A.J. Rose need to carry a heavy workload or will the touches go elsewhere?
Last year Benny Snell touched the ball on 35% of UK’s offensive plays from scrimmage. Stoops will not lump all of that responsibility on AJ Rose. Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke will happily split some carries with Rose. The most significant difference in the offense will be the prominence of Terry Wilson. Stoops will never reveal exactly how they will divvy out the touches, but expect to see Wilson carry a much heavier load on the ground and through the air in 2019.
5. Josh Paschal’s comeback story is amazing, but can he still perform at an elite level after undergoing such a traumatic event?
In the spring Stoops did not hesitate to say that Paschal had a lengthy climb uphill to overcome the setbacks from last fall. After all, Paschal did have a chunk of his foot removed.
“He’s still a little bit frustrated because, if you know anything about him, he wants to come back out and be a dominant player he knows he can be. He’s just not there yet,” Stoops said in April. “There’s still just getting used to that foot and where they reconstructed it and did a lot of surgeries on the poor kid. It’s frustrating for him.”
Stoops preached patience in the spring. With four more months to recover, Paschal should be much closer to returning to form. Even so, Stoops will point out the development of talent around Paschal that should mitigate any potential problems.
6. This year you don’t have to answer a question about Florida, but there’s another streak you have against South Carolina; how do you approach the game in Columbia?
I cannot wait to hear the tongue-in-cheek remark Stoops has prepared for the person who brings up Florida. As for South Carolina, no question fired him up more last year than when the Gamecocks were mentioned.
“I don’t need South Carolina to motivate me. I am not worried about what they’re doing,” he said. Hopefully the question sparks familiar fiery emotions.
7. Last season you had the No. 2 scoring defense in the conference. You lost Matt House to the NFL, but your new defensive coordinator, Brad White, has plenty of NFL experience. How will the defense look with White in charge?
Hopefully it’s an open-ended question, because if not, Stoops will say the defense will largely look the same. “The concepts haven’t changed, but he’s installed his own style.”
The differences in the defense will primarily be from a personnel standpoint. They can’t trust Josh Allen to be a one-man wrecking crew, so White will have to take some chances. The greater question that we will never get an answer to, is how long of a leash will Stoops give White?
Stoops went through the leap from position coach to coordinator 15 years ago. That experience should shrink the learning curve for White.
8. Josh Allen was the best defender in college football football last year. Is there another pass rusher prepared to carry the torch?
Rare to single out players before they’ve taken the practice field, Stoops will take a similar approach to the Benny Snell question. He’ll note Boogie Watson’s exceptional development in his redshirt sophomore season (5 sacks, 5 TFLs) before turning his attention to the rest of the defensive line. Kentucky can’t replace Allen’s production with one single player. The entire defensive line must step up to fill the void left by College Football’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year.
9. Aside from Lynn Bowden, who can you count on to consistently catch passes?
The first name that will likely come out of his mouth is Josh Ali. Every time this questions has been asked in a summer interview, Ali is mentioned. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Isaiah Epps has transformed his body, Ahmad Wagner can play a niche role and the tight end room is deep. With all that being said, there are still many unknowns. It may not be at SEC Media Days, but before the season begins Stoops and Eddie Gran will challenge the wide receivers’ room to take their game to new heights, or get left behind.
10. The SEC has lifted the ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales. A few schools have already announced they will not be serving alcoholic beverages this fall. Where do you stand?
This question will put Mark Stoops in a pickle. When asked about big picture topics in the past, he prefers to punt, sometimes clumsily. A big fan of his boss, Mitch Barnhart, he’ll defer to the AD and president without taking one side or the other (even though in his heart of hearts, Stoops is willing to do whatever it takes to fill up Kroger Field every Saturday).
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky’s permanent SEC West opponent stumbled in Joe Moorhead’s first season. Projected to be Alabama’s top contender in the division, the Bulldogs finished fourth after posting a .500 record in the SEC and 8-4 overall. Even though their defense ranked near the top in almost every national statistical category, the former Penn State offensive coordinator could not create explosive plays with Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback.
Moorhead’s offense will move forward with a former Nittany Lion at quarterback, Tommy Stevens. After losing a ton of talent, if Stevens doesn’t get Moorhead’s offense rolling, it could be a long year in Starkville.
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said — In hindsight, State’s head coach believed things would have gone differently if he did not set the bar so high as soon as he stepped on campus.
“In a year’s worth of time, you learn things. And you got to be really introspective, I think, as a leader and you got to look in the mirror, not out the window,” he said.
“I am not saying I’m changing what our goals are, but the approach of coming off the plane gun’s blazing, talking about ring sizes and Heisman Trophies — and the expectation level of the team entering the season, prior to me even getting there… I wouldn’t have changed the goals, but I probably would have kept it a little bit more in house.”
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said (Out of Context) — “Part of the reason for the diet and losing some weight, I was tired of all the recruits on the trail asking me if I played right or left tackle.”
Coach Speak 101 — How does Moorhead make improvements in year two? “It’s not about the whats but the hows and the whys.” Whatever that means.
Paging Mr. Marino — Moorhead opened his remarks by calling back to his past as a quarterback. He was a signal-caller at the same high school as Dan Marino and Marc Bulger, Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Moorhead wore Marino’s No. 13, until the jersey was retired by his school just before his senior season. Moorhead used the stage to ask Marino for a follow on Twitter.
“Since Dan, he forced me out of my number in my senior year in high school, and I am one of his biggest fans,” Moorhead said. “I figured that the least Dan could do was hit me with a follow back.”
Moorhead also invited Marino to attend a game in Starkville. “And as Pittsburgh people will know, I’ll have a cold case of Iron City on ice waiting for him.”
Same Face, New Place — Former UofL defensive lineman Allen Love will play for the Bulldogs this fall, but he won’t make as big of an impact as Isaiah Zuber. Last year the wide receiver led Kansas State with 52 receptions for 619 yards. The dynamic playmaker will get a chance to take on his former team in Starkville in week three.
Miss. State’s Scariest Player — Running back Kylin Hill is a brute, coming off a 749-yard sophomore season, but he will not carry as heavy of a load as Errol Thompson. One of the few key contributors returning from State’s dominant defense, last season the middle linebacker was second on the team in tackles with 87. He also had nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. Not only is he an elite run stuffer, he’s great in coverage, limiting targets to a 56.2 passer rating.
Biggest Question Mark — Can Bob Shoop still dominate opponents without the elite pass rushers? Jeffrey Simmons and Montez Sweat were two of the best of the best in the nation last year. The JUCO factory has kept the coffers full on the defensive line, but those two cannot easily be replaced.
Good News for UK — The Bulldogs lost seven starters on defense and have to find a new quarterback. That’s easier said than done.
Bad News for UK — Kentucky has not won in Starkville since 2008 and most of the games since then have not been close. Kentucky has surrendered more than 40 points on each of the last two trips. 2010 and 2013 were the only meetings decided by fewer than ten points.
Fear Factor — 6.8
Kentucky doesn’t play well against the cowbell. It took an incredible performance to upend the Bulldogs last year by three scores. Even though this Miss. State isn’t nearly as talented as last year’s team, the Cats will need another spectacular performance to silence the crowd and escape with a win on the road.
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin “Sosa” Agim took an atypical approach to SEC Media Days. The Razorbacks star brought a Chucky doll with him to each interview. It’s not just a funny gimmick.
Sosa’s doll is for his cousin, John Neal. Last year at only 19-years old, he was murdered in Texas. Yesterday was his birthday. Sosa wrote his cousin’s name on the bottom of Chucky’s foot. The tragic murder remains unsolved.
“When they killed him, they took a little part of me away. Now I’m able to have something that’s with me and able to see everything he was not able to see. A part of doing this is you wanna do it for your family. You wanna make it to the next level for your family, but when your family gets killed, it’s hard to do that.”
The Best Thing Chad Morris Said — Tempering expectations, Morris pointed out other coaches who successfully turned around programs, even though it may have taken too long for some impatient fans.
“When you take a head football coaching job, you know that establishing and enhancing a culture is your top priority, and it takes time, and it takes consistency, and there’s a certain process to follow to develop the results that you’re looking for. You can look at examples for guys that I worked for. Coach Swinney, guys in this league, Dan Mullen and Mark Stoops. It didn’t happen overnight.”
The Best Thing Chad Morris Said (Out of Context) — “Our vision is ‘Every,’ the word ‘Every.’ Every matters.”
Coach Speak 101 — How does one spin a 2-10 first season? Describe it as a learning lesson.
“We learned a lot last year. And most important, we learned that one play has no bearing on the next. And one season has no bearing on the next. Every play and every season has a life and a history of its own.
“And the true measure of someone, a staff, a group of young men that chose to come back, when things go bad, a true measure is what their character is and how they respond. And it was hard. Last season was hard. And there’s no doubt, but we learned a lot as a staff. We learned a lot as players, and we responded.”
Biggest Question Mark — Arkansas is in the middle of a QB competition between a pair of grad transfers. Ben Hicks previously played for Morris at SMU, giving him a slight leg up on Nick Starkel, Texas A&M’s starting quarterback until injuries paved the way for Kellen Mond to take over Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Each player should be better than last year’s quarterbacks, but who will take the lead remains a mystery.
Same Face, New Place — Remember Rakeem Boyd? One of the stars of season three of Last Chance U, the talented running back with rocks for biceps played for Independence CC after one year at Texas A&M. Arkansas’ leading rusher in 2018 still has two seasons of eligibility.
Good News for UK — Simply put, Arkansas is bad. Last year they were 2-10, winless in SEC play. They are still picking up the pieces in year two of Morris’ massive rebuild.
Bad News for UK — The Razorbacks will have a bye week before they travel to Lexington. In an ideal world for Razorback fans, they could upset Ole Miss and enter Kroger Field 4-1. After that, their only winnable game is against WKU. UK could ultimately determine if they’re bowl eligible.
Fear Factor — 2.2
Even though it’s a high stakes game for the Razorbacks, Kentucky should be able to control Arkansas in the trenches. Replacing three starters on the offensive line, UK’s defense should be able to suffocate Morris’ new quarterback from start to finish.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Tomorrow morning, Kentucky takes the stage at SEC Media Days. Nick Roush has already shared the ten questions he believes Mark Stoops will be asked, but what about the players? Lynn Bowden, Kash Daniel, and Logan Stenberg will represent the program this year, making for what could be the most entertaining SEC Media Days ever.
Here are a few predictions:
1. Kash Daniel will be a star
I know Kash Daniel is entertaining. You know Kash Daniel is entertaining. Tomorrow, college football will find out that Kash Daniel is entertaining. In some ways, I know Kash will be on his best behavior — no chaw, water bottle slamming, or cuss words — but you can’t muzzle the mountains. I expect Kash to inject some much needed life into the room on a morning when most reporters just want to go home. From fishing to trash talk to whatever in between, Kash will spin gold from straw for countless cameras and recorders.
Bonus prediction: he’ll fit in a reference to Barstool Sports.
2. Logan Stenberg won’t be far behind
The senior offensive lineman may not cut WWE promos left and right like Kash, but they don’t call him nasty for nothing. Stenberg has earned a reputation as the team’s enforcer, a title that’s even better when you consider he used to rock a ponytail. Like Kash, Stenberg loves wrestling, victory dips, and speaking his mind, so his corner will be far from boring.
Bonus prediction: he’ll be the best dressed Cat.
3. Lynn Bowden will be the statesman
When he first came to Kentucky, it was hard to imagine Lynn Bowden going to Media Days, but the junior wideout has matured into a leader, as best shown during his appearance on KSR earlier this summer. Bowden still sends out random tweets every now and then, but for the most part, he seems locked in on the season, even vowing to go on a social media hiatus once camp starts. With Benny Snell gone, Bowden is now the face of Kentucky’s offense, and like Benny, he won’t shy away from sharing his feelings. Although his public persona has mellowed, Bowden may have the biggest chip on his shoulder of anyone on the squad.
Bonus prediction: he’ll be sporting a fresh haircut. (Okay, I cheated. He posted a video from the barber shop on Instagram earlier today.)
4. “Lack of respect” will be a big topic
Usually, teams bring players they know won’t get them into trouble to Media Days. Last year, Benny Snell brought the sass by declaring himself the best running back in the league. Coming off a ten-win season, Stoops might as well be knocking down the door with this trio. With Alabama going this morning, the attention on Media Days is waning, but Kentucky has a great chance to own day four. The Cats’ rise last season is a way better story than Vanderbilt or Auburn, the other teams up tomorrow, and Lynn, Kash, and Logan will make it clear it wasn’t a fluke.
Bonus prediction: Kash calling those who picked Kentucky to win six or fewer games “jackasses” will come up more than once.
5. The Florida streak will not
Bonus prediction: Stoops will still find a way to make a joke about it (and rightly so).
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
Every media member attending SEC Media Days gets one vote to pick the preseason all-conference team and predict the order of finish.
Below you’ll find every selection I submitted for the honors, which will be released Friday morning. If there was a Wildcat available for selection at a position, you better believe I included them in my ballot.
|1||Tua Tagovailoa – QB – Alabama|
|2||Jake Fromm – QB – Georgia|
|1||Ke’Shawn Vaughn – RB – Vanderbilt|
|2||Larry Rountree – RB – Missouri|
|3||D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia|
|4||Kylin Hill – RB – Mississippi State|
|1||Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama|
|2||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|3||Kalija Lipscomb – WR – Vanderbilt|
|4||Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama|
|1||Albert Okwuegbunam – TE – Missouri|
|2||Jared Pinkney – TE – Vanderbilt|
|1||Andrew Thomas – OL – Georgia|
|2||Jedrick Wills Jr. – OL – Alabama|
|3||Logan Stenberg – OL – Kentucky|
|4||Alex Leatherwood – OL – Alabama|
|5||Solomon Kindley – OL – Georgia|
|6||Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms – OL – Missouri|
|7||Damien Lewis – OL – LSU|
|8||Isaiah Wilson – OL – Georgia|
|1||Drake Jackson – OL – Kentucky|
|2||Darryl Williams – OL – Mississippi State|
|1||Raekwon Davis – DE – Alabama|
|2||Nick Coe – DE – Auburn|
|3||McTelvin Agim – DL – Arkansas|
|4||D.J. Wonnum – DE – South Carolina|
|5||Derrick Brown – DL – Auburn|
|6||Quinton Bohanna – DL – Kentucky|
|7||Jabari Zuniga – DL – Florida|
|8||Benito Jones – DL – Ole Miss|
|1||Dylan Moses – LB – Alabama|
|2||Kash Daniel – LB – Kentucky|
|3||David Reese II – LB – Florida|
|4||Darrell Taylor – LB – Tennessee|
|5||Erroll Thompson – LB – Mississippi State|
|6||Jamar “Boogie” Watson – LB – Kentucky|
|1||Grant Delpit – DB – LSU|
|2||C.J. Henderson – DB – Florida|
|3||J.R. Reed – DB – Georgia|
|4||Kristian Fulton – DB – LSU|
|5||Patrick Surtain II – DB – Alabama|
|6||Trey Dean III – DB – Florida|
|7||DeMarkus Acy – DB – Missouri|
|8||Nigel Warrior – DB – Tennessee|
|1||Rodrigo Blankenship – PK/P – Georgia|
|2||Connor Limpert – PK – Arkansas|
|1||Braden Mann – P – Texas A&M|
|2||Max Duffy – P – Kentucky|
|1||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|2||Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama|
|1||Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky|
|2||Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida|
Order of Finish
Kentucky can win as many as nine and as few as six games in 2019. Ultimately, a late season win over Missouri will propel them to near the top of the pack in the SEC East, while South Carolina will sputter playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
That prediction will not likely matchup with what is revealed Friday morning. Don’t expect to see Kentucky near the top until they continually post ten-win seasons.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
ESPN’s Football Power Index game-by-game projections are out, and, well, they don’t look great for Kentucky. Here’s the percentage chance Kentucky has to win each of the games on the schedule, according to the FPI:
|DATE||OPPONENT||RESULT/PROJ||OPP FPI (RK)|
|Sat, Aug 31||vs Toledo||82.0%||-3.4 (77)|
|Sat, Sept 7||vs Eastern Michigan||92.4%||-11.5 (110)|
|Sat, Sept 14||vs Florida||26.8%||17.6 (8)|
|Sat, Sept 21||at Mississippi State||22.2%||13.7 (16)|
|Sat, Sept 28||at South Carolina||25.5%||12.3 (18)|
|Sat, Oct 12||vs Arkansas||74.6%||0.5 (60)|
|Sat, Oct 19||at Georgia||9.3%||22.3 (3)|
|Sat, Oct 26||vs Missouri||41.3%||12.1 (19)|
|Sat, Nov 9||vs Tennessee||38.6%||14.0 (15)|
|Sat, Nov 16||at Vanderbilt||49.4%||3.8 (50)|
|Sat, Nov 23||vs UT Martin||98.1%||—|
|Sat, Nov 30||vs Louisville||76.8%||-1.0 (66)|
What are we to make of these numbers? Earlier today, Adam Luckett did a great job explaining why the analytics don’t tend to favor Kentucky:
…but personally, I prefer Lynn Bowden’s response:
Give us 0% for every game ? https://t.co/D8YPXwRtmJ
— Lynn Bo (@LynnBowden_1) July 17, 2019
By Nick Roush on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
A disastrous coaching search gave Tennessee Volunteer fans Jeremy Pruitt. The former Hoover High School coach and Alabama defensive coordinator almost got the Vols to a bowl game, if not for a loss to Vanderbilt in the final game of his first season. Entering his second appearance at SEC Media Days, Pruitt filibustered for 21 minutes while wearing the most disgusting attire in the United State.
This is a cry for help. Get Pruitt out of their ASAP.
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said — “That was really my wife’s idea.”
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said (Out of Context) — “There’s a lot of large men running around.”
Coach Speak 101 — Most coaches try to hide their disdain for the media. Pruitt flat out said he doesn’t like talking to us, but at least thanked us for our service.
“This has not been my favorite time as a head coach. It’s not something that I exactly enjoy doing, but I appreciate the media and what you do for our game.”
Same Face, New Place — Eight years ago, Tee Martin told Matt Jones to “look out” for Bookie Cobbins. Now he’s back at his alma mater as the passing game coordinator for the Volunteers. Quarterback for Phil Fulmer’s 1998 National Championship team, Martin spent the last seven seasons on USC’s coaching staff.
Martin is not the only former UK coach who’s coming to Tennessee from the west coast. Derrick Ansley will serve as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator after spending a year with the Oakland Raiders. Prior to the brief NFL stint, Mark Stoops’ first defensive backs coach left Lexington to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. A new quality control staffer, Mike Colosimo, spent the last three years on UK’s staff as a graduate assistant.
Tennessee’s Scariest Player — Is Jarrett Guarantano scary? That’s debatable. Of all the moderately talented quarterbacks in the SEC East, he could be the best. Last year he threw the fewest interceptions in the SEC, with only three all year long. He has his top four receivers returning, as well as explosive running back Ty Chandler. The Tennessee hype train will perform as well as Guarantano does.
Biggest Question Mark — As soon as Trey Smith stepped onto the field, he was one of the best offensive linemen in America. The former five-star recruit was a Freshman All-American offensive guard in 2017. The following spring, blood clots forced him to the sideline. Smith felt well enough to return for seven games in the fall, until the blood clot problem resurfaced once again.
Smith may not ever play football again. Jeremy Pruitt said they’re working with doctors to see if it’s possible. “Trey wants to play football and they’re in the process of figuring out a plan so he can be able to do that.”
Without Smith in the equation, Gurantano will be protected by a pair of five-star true freshmen offensive tackles. Replicating Smith’s immediate success is far from a guarantee.
Good News for UK — Since Kentucky snapped the lengthy losing streak to Tennessee in 2011, the Cats have split the four games in Lexington. This year’s meeting at Kroger Field follows a UK bye week as well.
Bad News for UK — The Vols return 16 starters from a team that upset Kentucky in 2018 at Neyland. It’s still hard to explain exactly how UK lost that game.
Fear Factor — 5.575
A lot of things can happen throughout the season to change the trajectory for each team. Kentucky had no business losing in Knoxville last year, but the tank was on E after the emotional loss to Georgia. With all that being said, the Vols’ lofty recruiting class rankings make them a favorite amongst talking heads, even though they should not be able to beat Kentucky in the trenches.
By Adam Luckett on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Slowly but surely, analytics have creeped into the game of football and in the last few seasons they have begun to become common place. ESPN recently hired SB Nation’s Bill Connelly who founded the S&P+ advanced analytic system at Football Outsiders in 2008. The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) has been around for awhile and of course there are the Sagarin ratings. ESPN has created the Football Power Index (FPI) which slowly became a system used to analyze the sport. Most recently Pro Football Focus has gotten into the act by grading players and using other types of advanced stats.
The numbers are great and it gives us more data to help breakdown a complicated game, but at the end of the day football is a small sample size sport. Due to the limited possessions and only 12 games in a regular season, it’s possible to vasty overachieve or underachieve in a calendar year. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty common. One thing that makes it great is that at the end of the day you are going to be judged on those 12 results yearly no matter what the circumstances.
Despite a 10-3 season, long winning streaks over both Mizzou and South Carolina, an experienced starting quarterback, and multiple veteran players on both sides of the line, the numbers do not love Kentucky heading into 2019. Here we’ll try to explain how the computer spits out these projections and why they see the Wildcats the way they do.
How It Works
Entering this season, S&P+ projects Kentucky to finish 37th in FBS while FPI has the Wildcats at 40th. However, FPI is calling for 6.4 wins while S&P+ is calling for 6.1. Therefore, you can expect that UK will be underdogs in most of their perceived toss up games and it will be overachieving if Mark Stoops collects at least seven wins for the fourth season in a row.
For this exercise we’re going to focus on the S&P+ rankings since they are more readily available and that ESPN felt it necessary to hire Bill Connelly, in part, to get these rankings on their platform. So let’s start by defining what exactly this ranking system is (Bill goes much more deeper in this piece written back in 2017). This ranking is a tempo and opponent-adjusted measure used to evaluate all things that football teams do to win games. To get the rankings it is broken into five main factors.
S&P+ measures efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers to determine where to rank teams. Of all of these measures, efficiency (which is called success rate) is the highest measurable since efficiency is the least random of the five. For a quick definition, success rate is essentially staying on schedule. You hit it by gaining 50 percent of the yards to go on first down, 75 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third or fourth down. Pretty simple.
This is all hopefully makes a ton of sense to this point. When dealing with preseason projections there is not enough data to fill the blanks. Therefore, other means must be used since college football rosters change significantly every season (think how they cloned dinosaurs in Jurassic Park). In each year’s projections, S&P+ will use returning production, recent recruiting classes, and recent history to give a prediction. This is important to remember when considering where a specific team is going to land.
Why Kentucky is where they are
The Wildcats enter the season with a respectable ranking in the top-40, but that is only good for 11th in the SEC and sixth in the East. Kentucky’s recruiting and returning production is solid, but its recent history in the eyes of the computer has not been.
Take out the 2018 season and Kentucky has an average finish of just 68.4 in S&P+ during the Mark Stoops era. Only Vanderbilt is worse during that time frame. If you take out the five-year weighted performance average, UK should find itself somewhere in the high 30s and I believe that would make a lot more sense to just about everyone.
The fact of the matter is that UK has been exceptional in one-possession games while S&P+ believes that games that come down to the wire can be a bit random. Since Eddie Gran’s arrival in 2016, Kentucky is 24-15 overall and 11-5 in one-possession games. Nearly half of UK’s victories during this stretch have been decided late in the fourth quarter while two-thirds of the losses have not been. Therefore, the computers believe that Kentucky, for the most part, is not as good as their record.
What it all means
Advanced stats are a great tool for all of us football fans to use because they allow us to become smarter when trying to understand a very complicated game. In college football, there are nearly 130 teams each with over 80 scholarship players on each roster. It’s impossible to watch every game and even the eye test can tell us multiple horrific lies throughout a full season. The numbers help quantify the sport and set a level of expectations of what to expect for your favorite team.
When it comes to Kentucky football, the Wildcats have pretty much exceeded expectations the last three years. UK has won 13 SEC games, 24 total victories, and finally were able to breakthrough with a historic season in 2018. When keeping the program’s history in mind, you’ll take that result everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.
The game is played on the field, but computer systems such as S&P+ should not just be totally glossed over. They can give us very informative reference points that let us know the current state of each football team in FBS. The game is advancing in many ways and this is just one more example. We love college football because it can be so unpredictable at times, but it is the same sport where parity really goes to die. The same 10 or so teams win the championships, but that doesn’t keep others from occasionally reaching above their weight class to deliver a major blow.
Kentucky is on that path, but they need to start turning small wins into double-digit victories and making top-30 finishes like the one in 2018 the norm and not the exception.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 8:45pm
Everybody: Tennessee Orange is ugly.
Jeremy Pruitt: Hold my beer.
You can make an unending amount of jokes about Jeremy Pruitt’s suit. After all, pictures do say a thousand words. The suit directly reflects Pruitt’s thoughts of the event. He spent almost 20 minutes rambling in an opening monologue to prevent reporters from asking questions. It’s a different approach, but it reflects the opinion of most coaches who begrudgingly attend. Instead of using the opportunity to have a little fun and promote their team, they try to spend as much time saying as little as possible.
The event does not have the fireworks Steve Spurrier once brought to the table, but there were still enough entertaining moments from the second day of festivities at Hoover.
Like most Dads, the first thing I do after entering a new hotel room is turn the AC to the lowest temperature setting on the thermostat. The folks at The Wynfrey Hotel have eliminated the need to blast the AC.
The main media room is so cold, I had to run to the Old Navy and purchase a $10 hoodie. Even after adding the fleece to my wardrobe, I’ve still walked outside a few times to thaw my frigid hands. If you see somebody behind the SEC Network set with a hood up, slouched in front of a laptop, you’re looking at yours truly.
Didn’t see you there, Mr. Fromm
Every time I’m near the University of Georgia, I find a way to have an odd interaction with a Fromm.
After Kentucky’s loss to Georgia last year in Lexington, I was hospitable to the visiting fans while enjoying some postgame cocktails out on the town. In the midst of complimenting the team to one group of Georgia fans, I finished by talking at length about the skills of Justin Fields. Once the conversation concluded, someone informed me I was bragging about the backup QB to the starting QB’s parents. Foot in mouth.
Fast forward nine months and I’m in a crowded bathroom at SEC Media Days, trying to get an automatic faucet to work. Neither of the black-bottomed sinks turned on right away. The guy next to me asked, “What’s the deal?” While we struggled to figure out why neither worked, I touched the black bottom. It was not black tile, it was dark, backed up water. “Gross,” exclaimed the bow-tied man next to me.
Once I shook off the water that was blacker than tar and found an operating faucet, I realized the man I shared a clogged sink with was Jake Fromm. Only in Hoover.
Radio Row Grows
Radio Row is now larger than a row. The hallway between the Galleria Mall and hotel lobby was too short to fit every radio station covering SEC Media Days. A few tables were forced to setup inside the mall.
Rich Rod is in the SEC?!
In the middle of the offseason coaching shuffle, I missed the part where Rich Rodriguez accepted a job to be the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss. Reminder: Rich Rod lost his job at Arizona following a sex scandal that happened only six months after Hugh Frieze lost his job at Ole Miss following a sex scandal. The irony is beautiful.
FUN WITH CAPTIONS!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Kentucky doesn’t take the stage at SEC Media Days until Thursday, but the Cats are already a hot topic in Hoover. Earlier today, SEC Network analysts Greg McElroy, Jordan Rodgers, and Gene Chizik spent some time discussing how Kentucky will follow up on its ten-win season, and contrary to some media members, they believe the foundation Mark Stoops has built is strong enough to keep the Cats from backsliding to the SEC cellar.
“What’s amazing is there’s this misconception that, ‘Well, they built up that this whole bevy of recruits over the last handful of years to put out this team,'” McElroy said. “No, they built this thing up to be a program. It was not about just one year. They’re not going anywhere. Now, are they going to get to ten wins? We’ll find out.”
McElroy argued that even though Kentucky lost big name players like Benny Snell and Josh Allen, their replacements are almost as good, if not better.
“At running back, more specifically, I really like their personnel. I think AJ Rose is a more interesting version of what Benny Snell was. I think just because they don’t have household names doesn’t mean there aren’t elite players just waiting for an opportunity, and they’ve done such a good job with the development, I think there can be some guys that could become household names just a few months from now.”
Rodgers’ number one concern with Kentucky this season? Terry Wilson’s development.
“He is uber talented — uber talented. I mean, he’s got a rocket for an arm, he’s athletic, he’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Rodgers said. “He was efficient, but he wasn’t a game changer at that position, nor did he need to be with Benny Snell behind him; I think he’s going to have to be this year.”
After watching the Cats in spring practice, Chizik, who coached at Auburn from 2009-12, said he feels the team now passes the “eye test,” in large part because of how well Stoops and his staff develop players.
“There’s nobody in this league that has done a better job of developing young guys with a true plan, an individual plan to develop every guy, than Mark Stoops. He’s been phenomenal. No, it’s not going to be Alabama and Georgia where, we lost seven and we have five stars behind them that are going to step in, add water, and instant player. That’s not how it works. These guys are continuing to be developed.”
Chizik said the only team he thinks Kentucky can’t beat this season is Georgia, but people predicting them to win only four, five, or six games are mistaken; McElroy agreed.
“I think that anyone suggesting it’s just going to be a free fall, they’re not watching,” McElroy said. “They’re going to be good, man.”
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Kirby Smart has been everything Dawg Nation ever wanted him to be. The former Georgia safety left Nick Saban’s side as Alabama’s longtime defensive coordinator to become the head coach at his alma mater in 2016. Since October of his first season, Smart has not lost to a divisional opponent. Alabama is Smart’s final obstacle. Will this year be the year? Jake Fromm and Co. made their case at SEC Media Days.
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said — SEC Media Days legend Bob Holt began a question by saying, “Nick Saban’s former assistants are 0-16 against him.” Before the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette reporter could finish his question, Smart interjected. “I’m well aware.”
It wasn’t the only time he was asked about Alabama.
“Well, the next step for us, and I don’t mean this to be trite, but it’s Vanderbilt (Georgia’s season-opener). You have to get to that point because we don’t have Alabama on our schedule.”
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said (Out of Context) — “It’s easier to initiate contact.”
Coach Speak 101 — I thought Mark Stoops was at the podium when I heard Kirby Smart say, “He works day in and day out, really does a good job in the classroom. He was banged up last year.”
Croakies, ever heard of ’em? Georgia’s quarterback really looks the part of a Georgia quarterback.
— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) July 16, 2019
Transfer Portal Problems — There are many old-man, get off my lawn takes flying around about the transfer portal. Kirby Smart provided one from the some vein that actually makes sense. He believes it has streamlined the process, one that will serve as a learning moment for some players.
“If the transfer portal has done one thing, it’s made it easier for players to understand what they have to do to be able to go look and see other places, but they also have to be careful about the grass being greener on the other side,” Smart said.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how many people in this room report how many guys are in the transfer portal with no home to go to when the season kicks off because I venture to say there’s going to be young men that have nowhere to go with lost scholarship opportunities that now don’t have a scholarship in other places.”
Georgia’s Scariest Player — Fromm and D’Andre Swift will make headlines because of the efforts of Andrew Thomas. The First Team All-American left tackle leads a Georgia offensive line that loses only one starter from 2018. It’s tough to beat a team when they can completely control the line of scrimmage.
Good News for UK — Georgia only has one returning wide receiver that caught more than three passes last season. UK’s inexperienced secondary won’t be so exposed after all.
Bad News for UK — It’s hard to find a win Between the Hedges. Kentucky has won just one game in Athens since 1977 and it took four Georgia turnovers and incredible performances from Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb to squeak by with a 34-27 win.
Fear Factor — 9.999999
Kentucky has narrowed the gap, but as you saw last year, there’s still a long way to go to catch up with the Dawgs.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Ding dong, The Streak is dead. Kentucky finally removed the proverbial monkey from its back by defeating Florida in The Swamp.
The loss to Kentucky was one of only three the Gators’ suffered in their first year under Dan Mullen. The return of the prodigal offensive coordinator was praised throughout the Sunshine State, but few expected him to be that successful right away. Entering his second season the expectations are even higher, all thanks to their rivals along the northern border.
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said — Florida and Georgia are currently in a war of words over the future of the artist formerly known as The World’s Largest Cocktail Party. The contract for the neutral-site game in Jacksonville expires in 2021. Mullen skated completely around making any sort of affirmative statement.
“I think you can make arguments on both sides of why it should stay in Jacksonville, why it should leave Jacksonville, and be a home and home. Then it’s interesting, I think it will be an interesting discussion the next couple years of when the contract runs up of what the future is going to be for that game.”
Kirby Smart was the first to lobby for a change to a home-and-home for recruiting purposes. Even though he was not too adamant during his SEC Media Days address, you can tell where his intentions lie.
“I don’t get caught up in the emotion of this decision or that decision,” Smart said. “I look at it from a perspective of 10,000 feet where I say: What is best for our program? And it’s that simple. And we’ll make that decision as I group and go with it.”
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said (Out of Context) — “If there’s someone better than Brian Johnson, let me know, I’ll hire them to be our quarterback coach.”
Coach Speak 101 — On three different occasions during his opening statement, Mullen mentioned the “Gator Standard.” What exactly is the Gator Standard? Allow me piece together his explanations:
“It’s about competing for championships every single year…The University of Florida goes beyond football, goes to all sports. Every sport on campus is expected to compete for and win championships, both SEC and national championships…it’s about being the absolute best that you can be at whatever it is you are doing.”
Same Face, New Place — Florida has lost 11 players to the transfer portal. The one player they added came from the University of Louisville. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard followed his former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Florida a year after he was named UofL’s team captain. The Cardinals’ best pass rusher in 2017 (15.5 TFLs and 7 sacks) suffered a season-ending injury in last year’s opener. He’s tasked to replace Jachai Polite, the Florida defensive end who finished third in the SEC in sacks in 2018.
Florida’s Scariest Player — Greenard’s pass-rushing counterpart is a future first round draft pick. Jabari Zuniga opted to return for one more year of school after recording 45 tackles, 11 for a loss and 6.5 sacks last season. For those who prefer run-stopping linebackers over pass rushers, David Reese is your guy. If an injury did not sideline Reese vs. Kentucky, I doubt UK runs for more than 300 yards in The Swamp.
Stick to Baseball: Florida’s quarterback could take his talents to the diamond. After four years away from baseball, the Boston Red Sox drafted Feleipe Franks in the 31st round of this year’s MLB Draft.
“Well, as a Red Sox fan, they do need a lot of help in the bullpen,” said Mullen. “I think he can throw. He’s got a lot of heat. He said he threw at 95 in the workout for him. I’ve seen, though, he’s still working on his accuracy. I don’t know if I’d want to get in the batter’s box if he’s throwing 95. But I think it’s great. I think it’s a great honor for him to have that opportunity.”
Franks would not be the first Florida quarterback he’s coached to turn to baseball after football didn’t work.
“I don’t know if anybody’s heard of him, he’s kind of a Minor League ballplayer right now, played for the AAA Mets in Tim Tebow, and he’s managing to try to pick up baseball. So maybe when football is done, maybe he has a future in baseball. That’d be really exciting for him. I’d be really happy for him.”
Good News for UK — In the third game of the year, Kroger Field will be rocking under the lights. Along with home field advantage, The Streak is no longer hanging over the Wildcats’ heads. They know they can beat Florida. They did it last on the road.
Bad News for UK — Before they make the trip to Lexington, Florida will have already undergone one test away from home. The Gators open the season in week zero, the week before Labor Day, with a neutral-site game in Orlando against Miami. The experience should pay dividends regardless, but if they somehow slip up and lose, the Gators will have a greater sense of urgency a few weeks later.
Fear Factor — 6.4
Florida’s offense has plenty of weapons in the backfield and Franks showed significant improvements throughout the season, but he only has one returning starter on the offensive line to protect him. On defense the Gators have eight returning starters. If UK can stop the run, this has the potential to be a nasty 13-10 kind of game, one that transforms this series into a rivalry that will annually determine who can contend with Georgia atop the SEC East.
By Nick Roush on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 11:15am
Each year Steve Shaw announces rule changes and new points of emphasis for officials at SEC Media Days. This year the conference’s coordinator of officials did not bring forth earth shattering news.
The targeting rule remains the same. Defenders cannot launch into a defenseless opponent, lead with the head, neck or shoulder or lower the head to create contact with the crown of the helmet. There’s plenty nuance to the reviewable penalty, but that’s the nuts and bolts.
This year things change once they go to replay. Previously officials had three potential outcomes following a targeting review:
1. The call is confirmed and the player is ejected.
2. The call on the field stands.
3. The call is overturned, waiving the 15-yard penalty and ejection.
To remove any ambiguity, “the call stands” is no longer an option for officials. All elements of targeting must be confirmed by replay to eject a player from the game. If any element cannot be proved, the call will be overturned. By removing any ambiguous potential targeting, there should be fewer erroneous ejections.
There are two other rule changes you need to remember. Blind-side blocks are now illegal. If a player wants to earhole somebody, they’re going to get a 15-yard penalty. Also, once teams reach a fifth overtime, the game becomes a two-point conversion contest.
After playing all of the heavy hitters in the first eight games of the season, the schedule lightens up for Kentucky in November and that could be a good sign. Despite not much past success late in the season, this year UK will be young in quite a few spots and that youth will turn into experience by the end of the season. Kentucky will have a great shot to finish strong in 2019.
After their final bye week of the season, Kentucky will host Tennessee on November 9th for the 115th all-time meeting. Jeremy Pruitt appears to be in the middle of a long rebuild, but it is imperative that he get the Vols to the postseason this year.
Tennessee decided to make some staff changes following last year and the biggest move was getting Jim Chaney to leave Athens. The longtime offensive coordinator called plays at Tennessee from 2009-2012 and he will be making $1.5 million to help this offense take the next step. After a rough first season, Jarrett Guarantano took some positive steps but he’s not the dual-threat he was labled coming out of high school. The New Jersey native is strictly a pocket passer and the Vols must get the ground game going to help out their young quarterback.
UT was dead last in rushing yards per game in the SEC last season and that’s a problem. The Vols had some major offensive line issues and getting Trey Smith back in the lineup will help a lot after missing last season due to blood clots. Tennessee may be starting two five-star true freshmen at tackle so the woes could conceivably continue. The running back position is still a work in progress while there are some nice weapons at receiver.
Jim Chaney isn’t the only new play-caller in town by the way. Jeremy Pruitt continued the staff shakeup on the other side of the ball and is giving up primary defensive play-calling duties to former UK assistant Derrick Ansley. Ansley, after a two-year run at Alabama, worked for the Oakland Raiders last season before returning to college ball. It appears he has more tools to play with seven starters returning.
Darrell Taylor has the potential to become the best pass rusher in the SEC this season after recording eight sacks in 2019. Inside linebacker Daniel Bituli is tackle machine and nose tackle Emmit Gooden was a pleasant surprise last season. Nigel Warrior is a dependable safety and Baylen Buchanan has star potential at nickel. The Vols also have a few blue-chip recruits that will be thrown into the mix right away.
Derek Mason is entering year five in Nashville and after making two postseason appearance, the ‘Dores will be look to go to consecutive bowl games for only the second time in program history this fall. Mason came to Vandy with an advanced defensive background, but it will be the offense that leads the way in 2019.
Gone is Kyle Shurmur, his 43 starts, and nearly every passing record in program history. That’s a big hole to fill and then Vandy lost four-year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig on top of that. Vanderbilt quarterbacks coach Gerry Gdowski will be calling plays for the first time at the FBS level, but he has some fun tools to play with.
Illinois transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughn emerged into a star last season for Vanderbilt after rushing for 1,244 yards on 7.9 yards per attempt in addition to being a weapon in the passing game. Vaughn scored 14 touchdowns last season and is one of the most explosive backs in college football. He’s one hell of a starting piece.
Out wide, slot receiver Kalija Lipscomb is back for his senior season after leading the SEC targets on his way to recording 87 grabs with a catch rate of 72.5%. At tight end, Jared Pinkney is also a senior who posted a robust 15.5 yards per catch last season. Whether it’s grad transfer Riley Neal or Deuce Wallace at quarterback, Vanderbilt will have a lot of options on offense.
Derek Mason finally gave up defensive play-calling duties last season by bringing NFL assistant Jason Tarver to the West End to run the defense last season. The results weren’t great as the ‘Dores ranked 114th in success rate and 13th in the SEC in yards per play allowed (6.14). Vanderbilt kept explosive plays in check, but was unable to stop offenses from consistently moving the chains.
This year Vanderbilt returns just five starters on defense and must replace four of their top six tacklers. Derek Mason and Jason Tarver have their work cut out for them.
At inside linebacker, sophomore Dimitri Moore recorded 84 tackles last season and has the potential to develop into an All-SEC type player. The defensive line returns plenty of experience with starters Drew Birchmeier, Dayo Odeyingbo, and Cameron Tidd combining to collect 19.5 run stuffs last season. They should be a strength. Vandy will be leaning heavily on junior college transfer Dontye Carriere-Williams to play well at corner while they rebuild the secondary.
UT Martin Skyhawks
Back in 2014, Jason Simpson brought his UT Martin team to Lexington to kickoff the season and there Kentucky thumped the Skyhawks to begin a 5-1 start. This year the Skyhawks will return to town coming off their worst season under Simpson in his 12-year tenure.
The strength of the two units last season for the Skyhawks was definitely on the offensive end and this year UT Martin has some intriguing pieces returning. Quarterback Winn Dresser completed 65.8 percent of his passes last season in the dink-and-dunk offense. Outside, wide receiver Jaylon Moore averaged over 15 yards per reception on 52 grabs.
Last season, the Skyhawks gave up over 34 points per game with the two FBS teams on the schedule each scoring over 50 points. The pass defense was a huge weakness with foes averaging over eight yards per attempt and completing 60.8 percent of their passes.
The Scott Satterfield era is off and running in Louisville to help clean up the mess left by Bobby Petrino. Despite winning 34 games in five seasons, the bottom fell out last year with the Cardinals becoming one of the worst Power Five football teams in 2019. The floor will be low in the first season for Satterfield after spending the majority of his life at Appalachian State.
Jawon Pass was a huge recruiting win for UofL in the class of 2016 and it seemed like the Cards had a perfect succession plan once Lamar Jackson bolted for the NFL. Pass was a four-star prospect with offers from a ton of schools and expectations were high for the guy nicknamed Puma. Much like the rest of the team last year, Pass bombed on the field.
The pocket passer completed just 54 percent of his attempts, had an ugly sack rate of 9.1 percent, threw 12 interceptions to just eight touchdowns while putting up just 6.5 yards per attempt. In a small sample size, he was a productive runner but other than that it was a lot of ugly football. For Louisville to have a chance to be competitive this season they need the former blue-chipper to develop and play better in the new system.
At App State, Satterfield’s offense could be very run heavy and in every FBS year under his watch they produced a 1,000-yard rusher. At UofL, he inherits some backs with potential. Hassan Hall appears to be the favorite to be the top guy this season and the sophomore ran for over 300 yards as a true freshman last season. On the outside, Seth Dawkins, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Tutu Atwell is a nice trio to have at receiver.
On the defensive end, Louisville returns nine starters but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Cardinals allowed 44.1 points per game last season and that ranked 128th nationally. Opponents put up nearly seven yards per snap and seven teams scored at least 50 points including the last five games of the season. There’s only one way to go from here.
Scott Satterfield brought along defensive coordinator Bryan Brown from App State despite just one year of play calling experience. Under Brown, the Cards will be running a 3-4 defense that relies a lot more on speed than size to make plays.
Louisville loses top tackler Dee Smith, but both C.J. Avery and Dorian Etheridge have show some playmaking ability at inside linebacker. In the secondary, former blue-chipper Russ Yeast hopes to play a bigger role at safety while Power Five transfers Rodjay Burns, Marlon Character, and Boosie Whitlow need to play well. Defensive line play is a huge concern and figures to be the biggest weakness on the team.
On paper, there are wins to be gobbled up in November. If the season started today, UK would be a favorite for each of their last four games and the opportunity for a strong finish to the season will be there. Historically, UK has struggled in the month of November going just 6-18 with just one SEC win during the Stoops era. That’s an ugly number but the Wildcats will have a great shot at a winning record this season.
Louisville is in the first year of a long rebuild while Kentucky appears to be a step ahead of both Tennessee and Vanderbilt’s programs at the moment. The Wildcats should get another FCS win and will have a chance to put a statement on a great season or help save a rocky campaign when 2019 ends.
By Nick Roush on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
We now know what numbers 22 members of Kentucky’s 2019 football recruiting class will wear this fall.
The Kentucky football media guide is now in the hands of the press. It does not include a depth chart, but it does have a roster. We already knew Jared Casey would rock No. 6. Now we know exactly how the rest of the class will shake out.
6 — Jared Casey
11 — Moses Douglass
13 — Amani Gilmore
16 — Nik Scalzo
21 — Quandre Mosely
25 — M.J. Devonshire
26 — Brandin Echols
30 — Taj Dodson
33 — Travis Tisdale
34 — Jalen Geiger
35 — Shawn’kel Knight-Goff
42 — Marquez Bembry
45 — J.J. Weaver
47 — K.D. McDaniel
48 — Tra Wilkins
75 — Eli Cox
76 — Jake Pope
82 — Tae Tae Crumes
86 — DeMarcus Harris
87 — Nik Ognenovic
96 — Isaiah Gibson
98 — Cavon Butler
Crumes will take Josh Ali’s old number, who is moving to No. 6 after two years in the 80s. You’ll have to wait a little longer for the two transfers, Sawyer Smith and Xavier Peters.
By Nick Roush on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Of the ten Kentucky football wins in the 2018-19 season, the most improbable happened in Columbia, Missouri. A quick recap of what had to happen for UK to overcome a two-touchdown second half deficit:
- UK’s defense surrendered zero second half first downs.
- Lynn Bowden subbed himself into the game to score a punt return touchdown.
- Terry Wilson had to drive UK 80 yards into the end zone with 1:24 to play.
- A fade to Ahmad Wagner as the clock expired drew a pass interference penalty.
- Wilson connected with C.J. Conrad on an untimed down for the win.
Naturally, that loss left a bad taste in the mouths of Tiger fans. After winning the first three meetings, Missouri has now lost four straight to Kentucky. A team that returned a ton of talent from 2018 and added a few pretty pieces to the collection will be the SEC East’s preseason darling, even though they are currently appealing a one-year bowl ban by the NCAA.
Barry Odom kicked off SEC Media Days in its return to Hoover, Alabama. Enjoy the first installment of a series on UK’s 2019 opponents.
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said — Odom believes this is the best team he’s coached at Missouri.
There are a lot of questions around @MizzouFootball regarding NCAA Sanctions / the program's appeal
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) July 15, 2019
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said (Out of Context) — “They took an opportunity when we were dealt some information from the NCAA.”
Coach Speak 101 — Few use more coaching cliches than Odom. “We over Me” is the corniest of the bunch.
Same Face, New Place — After leading a team into the CFB Playoffs, the next step for a quarterback is typically to the NFL. For Kelly Bryant, it was to Columbia. Formerly Deshaun Watson’s backup at Clemson, the heir apparent did not disappoint, taking the Tigers to the Playoff after an ACC Championship in 2017. Bryant lost the job four games later to future No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence. He could have picked any school in the country to play one more year of football, but ultimately chose to trade in his purple stripes for black and gold.
“For me, it was like OK, I have one year, and I want to put myself in a position to be able to have a chance to get to the next level,” Bryant said. “I looked at Missouri, Coach (Derek) Dooley’s been at the Cowboys; he has pretty much the same offensive staff, the terminology that they’ve had. So, now having to learn a whole new offense at the pace they do in the NFL, I’m up for that challenge, see where I can be at the end of the day.”
Bryant was the only talented transfer the Tigers picked up from the portal. Wide receiver Jonathan Nance transferred from Arkansas after leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2017.
Missouri’s Scariest Player — Many expected Damarea Crockett to transform into Missouri’s featured back after an exceptional rookie season. Instead, Larry Rountree took over. One of the SEC’s only two 1,000-yard rushers returning to action in 2019, Rountree is a the kind of back that will make opposing fans say, “How can they not tackle that guy?”
How Do I Say That? After earning All-SEC honors in each of his first two seasons, I still can’t correctly pronounce Albert Okwuegbunam’s name. I’ll simply leave it at “Albert O” and let the SEC’s top tight end do all the talking.
Good News for UK — Over the last two years, Missouri’s loss to Kentucky has been the turning point in the Tigers’ season, finishing a combined 10-3 to reach consecutive bowl games. Things don’t seem to click until after they learn their lessons against UK.
Bad News for UK — Missouri could enter Kroger Field undefeated, tagged as “the hottest team in college football and the SEC’s biggest surprise.” Unlike previous years, their schedule is backloaded. The only two road trips before the excursion to Lexington are at Vanderbilt and Wyoming. UK’s home field advantage will be the only thing that can shake the Tigers’ confidence.
Fear Factor — 8.1
Aside from the matchup with Georgia, this is the most talented team on UK’s schedule. Before you stop me to say Florida, Bryant > Franks. This game reminds me of the lead up to last year’s matchup against Miss. State, albeit with differing styles of play. With revenge in mind, and maybe nothing to play for but regular season glory, it will be a 60-minute war at Kroger Field.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
We’ve known about it for a few months, but today, Kentucky made the addition of former Troy quarterback Sawyer Smith official. A grad transfer, Smith will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, beginning this fall. He will back up Terry Wilson, filling the void left by Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark, who transferred out this spring.
“We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” Mark Stoops said in a release. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”
Smith played in all 13 games for Troy under Neal Brown last season, starting the final seven. He was 5-2 as the starter, completing 144-of-229 passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for 191 yards and a score. He was named MVP of the Dollar General Bowl after leading Troy to a 42-32 victory over Buffalo, completing 31-of-44 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns.
I expect we’ll hear more about Smith from Stoops on Thursday during Kentucky’s session at SEC Media Days; until then, Roush has you covered.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 1:19pm
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced the initiative during his opening remarks, prompting @SECOfficiating to send out its first tweet.
Hello, world ?
This account will serve as your source for rules, videos, statistics and activities inside the SEC Video Center.
Go easy on us!
— SEC Officiating (@SECOfficiating) July 15, 2019
Ha! Immediately the Twitter account was bombarded by complaints about bad calls:
Can I ask how this was ruled "no good" pic.twitter.com/xWCnnhUUzJ
— Andrew Cummings (@apcg8tor95) July 15, 2019
EXPLANATION STILL NEEDED pic.twitter.com/56pLnf3KKa
— Tyler Mallams (@tyler_mallams) July 15, 2019
What’s your explanation for this egregious failure in officiating? I’ll hang up and listen, thanks. pic.twitter.com/3v7Qgu3l4W
— Poppa Juan Foggy (@HudsonHawk88) July 15, 2019
There were lots of “Alabama pays the refs” jokes:
I’m an Alabama fan. Has my check to you guys cleared? Looking forward to another productive season!
— Will Elliott (@Will_Elliott22) July 15, 2019
— RepublicanDore (@RepublicanDore) July 15, 2019
Buffalo Wild Wings even got in on the fun:
Keep our arrangement under wraps please
— Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings) July 15, 2019
I’m all for transparency, but this is going to be a hot mess. As the kids say, RIP to your mentions.
SEC Media Days is on the move again.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey just announced that the four-day media spectacle will return to the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta in 2020, and in 2021, will travel to Nashville, taking place at the new Grand Hyatt hotel.
SEC Media Days in Music City? Bring it on.