Football Season Coverage
The Oscars are officially here, where the year’s best movies will be celebrated and honored on the big stage.
With football season over, postseason play starting in basketball, and several other fall sports coming to a close, it’s time to present the season victories for Kentucky athletics.
And the award goes to…
Winner: Kentucky vs. Tennessee (Football)
The Wildcat football team certainly had “prettier” wins (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Missouri), but their victory over the Tennessee Volunteers had everything you look for in the Best Picture.
The perfect antagonist, the poor start from the protagonist, the crushing injury, the resilient comeback story, and the gut-wrenching finale.
With the clock winding down, we saw Stephen Johnson’s epic go-ahead Superman touchdown dive with 33 seconds remaining, followed by the double-reverse touchdown throw to Benny Snell for the two-point conversion.
To put the icing on the cake, we saw one final punch from the villain, with the Jarrett Guarantano hail mary completion coming just two yards short of the end zone.
The Cats knocked out the vile orange creatures from Knoxville, and the world was better for it.
Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Benny Snell (Football)
Johnson was the team’s quarterback, but the bulk of the load went to star running back Benny Snell.
And he embraced it flawlessly, filled with heart and passion for the game.
In the lead role this season, Snell earned AP first-team All-SEC honors, led the SEC in rushing touchdowns (18) and total rushing yards (1318).
For team records, the sophomore back broke nearly all of them, setting the school record for most rushing yards by a sophomore, total rushing touchdowns (31), rushing touchdowns in a season (18), and most points in a season (110.)
Oh, and we get him for another season.
Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Maci Morris (Women’s Basketball)
The women’s basketball season certainly didn’t go as planned, but junior guard Maci Morris took over as the team’s star and ran with it.
In the regular season, Morris averaged 17.2 points per game, good for seventh in the SEC. She shot 47% (69 of 147) from beyond the arc and 83.7% at the free throw line, and also managed 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 steals a game. In her game against South Carolina, she scored 35 points, just the third player in Kentucky history to reach that mark in an SEC game.
She also dealt with a nagging knee injury, but still led the team in scoring 19 teams during the regular season.
Morris came in her freshman year as a local fan-favorite from Bell County, and has slowly become one of the most impressive shooters in the SEC.
The Cats needed a go-to player, and they found one.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Basketball)
To start the year, point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was expected to be a solid role player off the Kentucky bench. There were whispers that he was impressing in preseason practices, but no one truly thought he would be a star contributor this season.
Heading into postseason play, the freshman guard has been the team’s most consistent player, averaging 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds per contest, single-handedly willing his team to victory on several occasions.
Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo were expected to be the dominant one-two punch at the guard position this season, but Gilgeous-Alexander was able to overtake each of them by the start of conference play.
His shooting has been impressive, his length on defense has bothered opposing offenses, and his relentless work ethic has been admirable, to say the least.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Sydney McLaughlin (Track and Field)
McLaughlin turned heads in the Summer Olympics in 2016, and surprised the Big Blue Nation by signing with Kentucky out of high school.
Ever since she got here, she has been an absolute rockstar, breaking national and world records for the Cats. The Track and Field team has been one of the best in the SEC, both men and women, but McLaughlin has taken the girls to a whole new level.
Just last month, McLaughlin won the women’s 400-meter event with a final time of 50.52 seconds, good for first in SEC history, second in NCAA history, and is also considered the junior record.
She dominates in both relays and single events, and will almost certainly be the face of the Olympics in 2020.
And she’s a Wildcat.
Animated Feature Film
Winner: Kentucky Volleyball
If there is one team on campus that got fans fired up this year, it’s Craig Skinner’s bunch.
The best volleyball team in school history made an epic run to the Elite Eight this season, broke attendance records time and time again, and even took down No. 1 Florida back in October.
They finished the year with a school-record 29 victories, including a 14-game winning streak in the middle of the season and a 17-1 record in conference play.
Fans couldn’t help but gravitate toward this dominant squad, and momentum around the program will certainly continue going into next year.
Winner: Nick Mingione (Baseball)
When Nick Mingione arrived in Lexington back in June of 2016, a rebuild was expected for the baseball program. He set a goal to head to Omaha in his debut season, but many fans scoffed at the idea of any major postseason run this early.
Just one year into his head coaching career, Mingione was only two games away from the College World Series, as the Cats made it to the school’s first-ever Super Regional.
Last March, he helped break ground on a state-of-the-art $49 million baseball stadium set to open this fall.
This season, the baseball team is off to an incredible start, kicking off the year with an 11-1 record as a consensus top-10 team in the nation. The high hopes for a College World Series Mingione hoped for last season are well in reach, if not likely at this point.
Thanks to Mingione, Kentucky now has an elite baseball program set to dominate for years to come.
By Nick Roush on ©March 03rd, 2018 @ 9:00pm
Beaten and battered, Stephen Johnson gave all he had left to create the most magical moment of the 2017 season.
The Kentucky quarterback took a shot to the left shoulder in the second half that forced the senior into the locker room. Just a few plays later, Drew Barker coughed the ball up to Tennessee. The Vols responded with a score to take the lead.
“I was just sitting there, waiting to get my numbing shot for my shoulder,” Johnson told KSR after the season. “They told me we had a fumble during our last drive. So I just said, ‘Put it in anywhere. Let me run out there.’ As soon as the shot was lifted out of my shoulder, I grabbed my helmet and ran straight out of the locker room.”
A dramatic reenactment:
The crowd erupted in applause as they saw No. 15 leave the locker room. Kroger Field knew it was Johnson’s time to lead Kentucky to a dramatic rivalry victory.
Trailing by five, Kentucky had 3:10 to get a touchdown. Johnson marched the Cats down the field and finished the drive with a diving touchdown into the end zone on his injured left shoulder. He followed it up with a spectacular two-point conversion play to give Kentucky a three-point lead and just the second victory over Tennessee in 33 years.
It’s been fun looking back at 2017. Now it’s time to close the book on the season that was and look ahead to 2018 when Spring Practice begins Monday morning. Until then, Freddie has everything you need to be prepared.
Mark Stoops will field a secondary that could potentially feature four to five senior starters. Behind those starters lie the most talented collection of rotational players on the roster.
Remember our offensive line post from last week when we said that some analysts evaluate teams based on the number of returning OL starters? Well, other experts apply the same formula to the secondary. 2018 is the year for the Wildcat defensive backs to play at the high-level that the BBN has expected for the past couple of seasons. Potentially the most substantial offseason personnel news did not involve a player. Instead, Associate Head Coach Dean Hood is changing responsibilities from outside linebackers to the secondary. Hood is a long-time, proven football teacher and has an extended track record of player development. For example, think back for a moment and consider which defensive position group showed the most growth during the 2017 season? I’d argue the answer is the outside linebackers which produced two all-conference players and a true freshman that demonstrated tremendous potential.
All-SEC safety/nickel Mike Edwards is UK’s most decorated defensive back. Edwards has averaged 98.5 tackles over the past two seasons. The two-time All-SEC senior spurned the NFL Draft in order to return to Lexington for a senior campaign. Fellow safety Darius West returned in 2017 following a two-season battle with injuries to finish the season as the team’s third leading tackler with 86. Cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Chris Westry have been starters for the better part of three seasons. Lonnie Johnson Jr. showed flashes in 2017 and earned starts at cornerback. With an overabundance of experience at all four spots and plenty of quality depth, spring practice could see experiments with position changes within the secondary.
5 Nickel/Safety Kendall Randolph 6’0, 183 Graduated
- Career statistics: 70 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, 2 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble, 3 quarterback hurries.
Mike Edwards has played safety and nickel throughout his stellar career. Cornerback could be added to that list with spring practice positional experiments. UK plays a great deal of nickel coverages which features five defensive backs. 2018 will see a great deal of depth across the board which means that playing time will be coveted by several Wildcats. The task of unseating a senior starter will be a challenge. The following five defensive backs have played a great deal of college football. Experience is an invaluable trainer.
29 Cornerback Derrick Baity 6’3, 186 Senior
- Four pass breakups vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl
- Intercepted two passes in 2017. One vs. Vanderbilt, the other vs. South Carolina
- Named as Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week in a winning effort vs. South Carolina
- Seventh on the team with 47 tackles
- Career: Played in 38 games, started 29. 110 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble, 16 pass breakups
6 Cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. 6’3, 215 Senior
- Started last 5 games of 2017 season
- Career-high 7 tackles vs. Louisville
- Six tackles and a blocked field goal in a victory over Missouri
- Blocked extra point vs. Eastern Kentucky
21 Cornerback Chris Westry 6’4, 195 Senior
- Posted 4 tackles vs. EKU, South Carolina, and Eastern Michigan
- Career statistics: Played in 38 games, started 33. 113 tackles, 3 interceptions, 13 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 quarterback hurry
25 Safety Darius West 6’0, 210 Senior
- Ranked third on team with 86 tackles in 2017
- Game-high seven tackles vs. Georgia
- 11 tackles vs. EKU. Caused a fumble in week 1 at Southern Miss, also had 7 tackles including 1 for loss.
7 Safety Mike Edwards 6’0, 200 Senior
- Phil Steele 1st Team All-SEC
- Led the team with 97. Ranked 9th leading tackler in the SEC
- Team-high 4 interceptions as well as 7 pass breakups
- Fourth player in school history to lead Kentucky in both tackles and interceptions
- Six double digit tackle games
- Career: 235 tackles, 8 interceptions, 1.5 quarterback sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1 quarterback hurry, and 17 pass breakups
- Averaged 98.5 tackles over the past two seasons. That average projected to 2018 would place Edwards in the prestigious 300-Tackle Club
This list includes former 4-star athletes and players that could play multiple positions within the secondary. This group also consists of many defenders that play a key role on special teams.
27 Cedrick Dort Jr. 5’11, 170 Sophomore
- Played as a true freshman in 2017
- Two tackles vs. Northwestern in bowl game
17 Tobias Gilliam 5’11, 195 Sophomore
- Two tackles vs. Northwestern
- Steady role player that can make a jump with a strong spring practice
3 Jordan Griffin 6’0, 186 Junior
- 2017 statistics: 22 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and 1 interception
- Can play multiple secondary positions
- Career-high 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup in a win over Missouri
- Highly-skilled defender
13 Zy’Aire Hughes 6’1, 193 Sophomore
- Registered 1 tackle in 2017
9 Davonte Robinson 6’2, 187 Sophomore
- Played in all 13 games of 2017
- Career-high 5 tackles in a road win over Vanderbilt in Nashville
- One of the fastest players on the team
16 Marcus Walker Junior 6’1, 212
- Season-high 2 tackles in win over Vanderbilt
- Active on special teams
23 Tyrell Ajian 6’0, 190 Redshirt Freshman
- Played defensive back, receiver, and quarterback in high school. 4-star prospect
- Projects to multiple positions within the secondary as well as special teams
- Joins Yusuf Corker to make a highly skilled duo of redshirt freshman that can make an impact in spring practice
29 Yusuf Corker 6’0, 190 Redshirt Freshman
- Nation’s 26th ranked cornerback, top rated CB in the state of Georgia. 4-star prospect with a high ceiling
- Will factor in rotation and special teams
Stanley Garner and Dom Williams are early enrollees and will factor in spring practice.
Cornerback Jamari Brown 6’2, 180 Freshman
- Had offers from every Power 5 Conferences
- Top 100 cornerback in America. Missed time with injuries during senior season.
- Did not enroll early. Will not factor in spring practice.
Cornerback Stanley Garner 6’2, 180 Freshman
- Early enrollee, will participate in spring practice. Confident athlete.
- Two-way standout at Dillard High School, Florida. 4-star prospect, teammate of Jordan Wright. Entertained dozens of offers.
- Rangy, tall cornerback. Extremely talented.
Defensive Back Domonique Williams 5’10, 180 Junior
- Twice recruited by Dean Hood. Originally signed with EKU out of Fulton High School, Tennessee.
- Highland Community College, Kansas product. Recorded 79 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 15 pass breakups.
- Can play nickel, cornerback, or safety.
What does all this mean?
Kentucky’s defensive backs construct the most talented secondary in recent memory on paper. Multiple 4-star prospects litter its depth chart which is led by experienced, senior players. The table is set for a bounce-back season from 2017 when the Cats finished 13th in the league by allowing 251.6 passing yards per game. Pass defense involves more than just the defenders tasked in covering receivers. A disruptive pass rush hurries the quarterback which lessens the time for pass catchers to get open. Dean Hood will improve the secondary. How much is the only question I have going into spring practice.
By Nick Roush on ©March 02nd, 2018 @ 2:00pm
As Kentucky prepares to start Spring Practice this Monday, Vince Marrow likes how the 2018 football team is coming together.
The Wildcats lead recruiter, NFL liaison and tight ends coach joined Kentucky Roll Call this morning and provided an update on his star tight end. C.J. Conrad missed the final two games of the season with a broken foot. Marrow said Conrad’s rehabilitation is coming along nicely.
“His rehab is coming along very well. You kind of got to slow him down because he’s going to try to get out there and do things,” Marrow said.
Conrad is ahead of schedule, but Marrow doesn’t need to see him on the field this spring.
“C.J. is battle tested. I don’t need C.J. out there. C.J. has started since he was a freshman. If he comes and plays in the spring, that’ll be a bonus, but I don’t see him going in the spring. He’s probably going to be ready, 110 percent in June or May. The time-table on him is very good. C.J.’s got a lot of games under his belt and has made a lot of plays here. Usually the spring is for guys who need the experience.”
Marrow’s tight end room has picked up a pair of talented recruits, Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw, who he expects will be ready to play right away when they arrive on campus this fall. The good news is that Kentucky doesn’t need a ton of new guys to play immediately.
When asked how good he thinks the 2018 team will be this fall, Marrow gave an honest response.
“I see all these other schools in our league. I think you guys know I say it like it is. I’ve seen all these other schools get pub, schools that we beat. People are saying they’re gonna be here in the SEC, they’re going to do this in the SEC. We got all these guys that came back. We only lost really three guys, and some of the guys that may replace them may be just as good….We have been building and we know this team can be a real, real, really good team. It’s gonna come down to what our quarterback does.”
He added, “I really do like where we’re going to be, and it’s going to be interesting to see.”
Marrow hit on a variety of topics in the 15-minute interview. He talked about the recruitment of Terry Wilson, branching out into new recruiting territory and if the type of scandal affecting college basketball could come to college football.
Most importantly, he brought jokes. There’s speculation Stephen Johnson may join the athletic department in some capacity this fall. Marrow could not confirm that news, but said, “If any one of my daughters brought him home, I would be very glad.”
He also took the opportunity to bust my chops.
“I know I recruit in Ohio, but I hear you’ve been up in Ohio recruiting too.” Which is true, because my fiancee is from the Buckeye state. “I might have to take you with me the next time I go recruiting. You’re that good now.”
Hear the entire interview with Marrow from this morning’s show, beginning at the 46-minute mark.
You can hear T.J. and I every morning from 8:00-10:00 on 96.1 FM and 1450 AM in Louisville. Don’t live in Louisville? Click here to find the many other ways to listen and check out all of our podcasts on SoundCloud.
By KSR on ©March 01st, 2018 @ 5:00pm
The beginning of March means it’s almost NCAA Tournament time, and that it’s almost time for Spring Football. Recording from the Jack Kain Ford showroom, Freddie Maggard and The Depth Chart Podcast have everything you need to know about the Kentucky football team before spring ball begins. Highlights:
— If UK played a game today, who would be the starting QB?
— How you can help UK Children’s Hospital with Cowboy Up for a Cure.
— Freddie is down to 212 pounds?
— Scoop Pilgrim provides some insight on position changes in the secondary.
— Is Benny Snell the biggest Kentucky football star since Tim Couch?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Depth Chart Podcast on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Nick Roush on ©March 01st, 2018 @ 4:30pm
The longest run of Benny Snell’s sophomore season had an uncharacteristic conclusion.
Facing a third and short, Eddie Gran turned to old reliable to pick up the first down. It wasn’t enough for Snell. Benny exploded into the second level of the defense, raced 50 yards down the sideline and proved he isn’t just a power back by hurdling over a Missouri defender at the 15-yard line. The 71-yard touchdown was a beautiful display of finesse.
This play proved that absolutely nothing can excite Andre Ware.
When the dust settled, Snell has 117 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in a 40-34 win that looked much more impressive in hindsight.
Snell capped off his sophomore season by breaking the school’s rushing touchdown record. Next year he’ll gun for the school’s all-time rushing record. Trailing Sonny Collins by 1,411 yards, he only needs to average 109 a game to become undeniably the best Kentucky running back ever.
By Nick Roush on ©February 28th, 2018 @ 3:00pm
After Eric Scott spent five years protecting Kentucky quarterbacks, he returned to campus to protect University of Kentucky students.
Andre Woodson’s center for two years, Scott played helped Rich Brooks win a pair of bowl games between 2003-07. Scott spent two seasons with the Tennessee Titans, until an injury ended his career.
Following his career-ending injury, Scott returned to UK to complete his master’s. While searching for a job to finance his degree, he stumbled into an old friend on the UK police force. Searching for a calling that was not behind a desk, he found a future that resembled his football past.
“You have to stay fit. Teamwork is involved. There are a lot of characteristics in athletics that are similar to policing,” he said. “It was an immediate attraction. I will say it does take a lot of patience. In football, every play lasts about three-and-a-half seconds. So if you are frustrated, you have three-and-a-half seconds to take out that frustration. In law enforcement, you have to remain patient and professional and understand no matter the situation, you have to remain cool. That’s one of the differences from sports.”
Scott stay involved with the football team. From 2009-16 he served as a security guard and traveled with the team full-time. He used football to relate to the players and show them a different side of the badge.
“I was a resource for players, kind of an advisor, and gave them guidance,” he said. “With my background, the players trusted me. Those guys, it’s hard for some of them to trust the police with their backgrounds. It was one of the coolest details I’ve had at the university.
More than a decade after his football career ended, Scott is still doing what he can to make the University of Kentucky a better place.
You can read more from UK Now here.
By Hey Kentucky! on ©February 27th, 2018 @ 8:30pm
Last night, you only got a taste of Matt’s interview with Mark Stoops on “Hey Kentucky.” Tonight, we bring you part two. Settle in to learn about what Stoops is like off the field, from his favorite ways to unwind to how close he is with his players and staff:
If you missed it, here’s part one:
To watch tonight’s full episode, visit HeyKentucky.com.
B.L.U.F. (Bottom Line Up Front) The Kentucky defensive line must become more disruptive and productive. 101, 10.5, and 6. These numbers represent the Cats’ returning defensive linemen’s combined productivity from 2017: 101 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 6 quarterback sacks. Defensive tackle Adrian Middleton was the group’s leading tackler with 25. He was followed by reserve defensive end Calvin Taylor Jr.’s 22 stops. The 6’9, 300-pound Taylor Jr. also experienced a solid bowl performance vs. Northwestern by registering 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 quarterback sack. Nose tackle Quinton Bohanna fortified the interior of the line-of-scrimmage but was limited by injury late in the season. It’s safe to say that minus Bohanna, the 2017 Kentucky nose tackle play was less than desirable for coordinator Matt House.
Kentucky finished 2017 ranked 8th in the SEC after allowing 175.31 rush-yards per game. This number is somewhat deceiving given that several opponents from last year were more pass heavy than reliant upon the run-game. It also finished 8th in the conference with 30 quarterback sacks. The organic three within the 3-4 defense (DE, NT, DT) produced 6 of those 30 sacks. This number can be concerning but not overwhelmingly so given the team’s strength and emphasis are at linebacker. The Cats’ defensive line quarterback sack leader was TJ Carter with 3. UK also ranked 12th in the league with 63 total tackles for loss. 10.5 of the 63 came from returning defensive linemen. Now this is one is concerning. Tackles for loss is a “Havoc” category that is non-negotiable in terms of upgrading. One of the defensive linemen’s main roles is to occupy blockers in order for the linebackers to run free to make tackles or chase the quarterback. Bohanna excelled in this function.
UK operates a “multiple” defense. This means that it can present a 3-4 or a 4-3 front. Outside linebackers Denzil Ware and Joshua Paschal become defensive ends when aligned with their hands in the dirt or in a three-point stance. The outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid position contributed 10 combined sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Ware and Paschal can be dynamic which lessens the microscope on the lack of production from the traditional DL positions. Regardless of schematic construction, late-season yardage totals surrendered against Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia, Louisville, and Northwestern highlighted the Cat’s need to progress along the defensive line-of-scrimmage. Let’s dig deeper:
Nose tackles Matt Elam and Naquez Pringle completed their eligibility in 2017.
- 2017 statistics: 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble.
- Season-high 4 tackles and a tackle for loss in a win over Southern Miss.
- Career numbers: Played in 45 games, started 10. 50 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble.
- 2017 statistics: 16 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry.
- Career numbers: 12 starts. 55 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, 2.5 tackles for loss.
90 Defensive End–TJ Carter 6’4, 265 Junior
- 2017 statistics: 18 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback sacks, 1 pass breakup, 2 quarterback hurries.
- Started all 13 games.
- Had a career-high of 4 tackles including his first quarterback sack in a win over Tennessee.
- Played in 14 games, started 14.
99 Defensive Tackle-Adrian Middleton 6’3, 298 Senior
- 2017 statistics: 25 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback sack, 1 pass breakup.
- Career: 68 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback sack, 1 pass breakup.
- Best season came in 2016: 35 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss.
- Must be noted that new weights listed on the team’s official website shows a significant gain for Middleton.
95 Nose Tackle -Quinton Bohanna 6’4, 340 Sophomore
- Played as a true freshman.
- 2017 statistics: 14 tackles, 1 pass breakup.
- Extremely high ceiling. Has added 20 lbs. of good weight.
Rotational Defensive Linemen
Some rotational players could change positions or play multiple roles along the defensive line. This is similar to the linebacker group. Hate to be repetitive, but Taylor Jr. and Dubose’s performance in Nashville was encouraging. Phil Hoskins played after rehabilitating a shoulder injury and has gained the weight he lost in the process. Kordell Looney got his feet wet and should experience growth in 2017. Kengera Daniel has yet to experience consistent success. The senior has all the tools to be a pass rush specialist.
20 DE Kengera Daniel 6’5, 235 Senior
- 2017 statistics: 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback sack.
- Career statistics: 10 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, 1 tackle for loss.
98 DT/NT Tymere Dubose 6’5, 315 Senior
- Strong game in the Music City Bowl: 2 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss.
- 2017 statistics: 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss.
92 DT/DE Phil Hoskins 6’5, 306 Junior
- 2017 statistics: 2 tackles, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 fumble recovery.
- Added over 10 lbs. in the offseason.
59 DT Kordell Looney 6’3, 297 Sophomore
- 2017 statistics: 10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss.
91 DE Calvin Taylor Jr. 6’9, 300 Junior
- 2017 statistics: 22 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback sack, 1 quarterback hurry.
The entire BBN is eager to watch Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald in action. I’m in that group by the way. The sky is the limit for the redshirt freshman but I would caution to be patient. He’s new to the game and still figuring things out. Chris Whittaker is the “wildcard” at both linebacker and defensive line. His new weight (down 30 lbs.) suggests a potential position change or the Florida native could be used as a designated pass rusher. His progress will be interesting to track.
96 DE/DT Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald 6’6, 281 Redshirt Freshman
- Has added over 20 lbs. during a redshirt season.
- Extremely high ceiling. Coaches bragged on the former basketball player during the fall.
97 DE Chris Whittaker 6’3, 227 Redshirt Freshman
- Reportedly weighed 260 lbs. upon arrival to campus. Now listed at 227.
- Will be interesting to see which position Whittaker plays during spring practice.
Davoan Hawkins 6’4, 275 Freshman
- Key line-of-scrimmage player for Florida state champion Chaminade-Madonna High School.
- Played multiple positions. Extreme high motor.
- Can’t really explain, but I have a hunch that this kid seems to have the “it” factor to be special.
- Not an early enrollee. Will not factor in spring practice.
Jerquavion Mahone 6’3, 300 Freshman
- Late pickup for the early signing period out of Manchester High School, Georgia.
- Former basketball player. Three-year starter along the offensive and defensive line.
- Registered 64 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 7 quarterback sacks as a senior.
- Not an early enrollee. Will not factor in spring practice.
Marquan McCall 6’3, 350 Freshman
- Will push for immediate playing time.
- 4-star prospect. Number one ranked guard in the Midwest. The nation’s 135th rated overall player.
- Regarded as a technician.
- Not an early enrollee. Will not factor in spring practice.
What does all this mean?
Non-negotiable: Kentucky must become more dynamic along the defensive front. The Cats will sport one of the top linebacker groups in the conference; however, this strength will be voided if the defensive line doesn’t create more disruption and apply more pressure in the opponent’s backfield. All eyes will be focused on the QB competition next week. As for me? I’ll be camped by the defensive line. Non-negotiable.
By Nick Roush on ©February 27th, 2018 @ 1:30pm
The inside linebacker already has one excellent spring game performance under his belt. As an early enrollee, the 6’4″ 220-pounder from Long County, Georgia led all defenders with eight tackles and a tackle for loss in the 2017 Blue/White Game.
Davis traveled with the team last year and had the talent to play right away, but depth gave him a year to grow (12 pounds to be exact). Following the departures of Courtney Love and Eli Brown, Davis will receive a ton of reps this spring as Stoops and House groom him into the preeminent inside linebacker reserve.
What does that role look like for Davis? As a true sophomore, Avery Williamson was slowly integrated into the defense during Danny Trevathan’s final year. The future NFL star had 49 tackles, 1.5 for loss and a pick. We should learn this spring if Davis is capable of that kind of production this fall.
The first players on the roster people forget are the transfers that spent a year on the sideline. E.J. Price might be the best Division I transfer to play a down for Kentucky in a decade. Ranked just behind Landon Young, he was one of the best offensive tackles in America when he signed with USC.
Known for having a mean streak, Young and George Asafo-Adjei will ensure that Price does not have to play right away. However, Price is expected to fill the important role of “third offensive tackle” that was left vacant by Kyle Meadows.
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald and Chris Whittaker
Kentucky needs depth on the defensive line. They’ll get just that from Abule and Whittaker.
The man who started the Chaminade-Madonna pipeline, Whittaker was one of Freddie’s favorite 2017 signees. He used his redshirt year to shed weight. Whittaker lost 33 pounds, which should improve explosiveness at the line of scrimmage. Abule went the opposite direction. The South Florida basketball star packed on 21 pounds. Their development is critical to Kentucky’s success in the trenches.
As a true freshman, the speedy outside wide receiver could never consistently bring in the deep ball. Still, Epps persisted and finally hauled in a pair big receptions against Ole Miss, one that setup a score right before half.
There’s not answer as to why Epps couldn’t get it going in 2017. Blame it on youth, blame it on timing, blame it on the old receivers coach. Regardless of the reason, Epps has a year under his belt and an offseason to prepare with his new quarterback and perfect the deep ball.
No Boogie? No problem. The Brow’s got this.
Last night Anthony Davis out-dueled Devin Booker to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to their sixth consecutive win. Booker scored 40 points, but he could not keep up with Davis, who finished with 53 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in the 125-116 win. Davis is only the second player to ever record a 50-point, 15-rebound, 5-block game.
Davis’ game was great, but The Real MVP is the Pelicans’ social media staff.
In case anyone's interested, here's some highlights of the most overrated player in basketball. pic.twitter.com/njqs0wxKxn
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 27, 2018
Davis has stepped up his game in Boogie’s absence. Through the six-game win streak he is averaging 41.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 3 steals per game. Wow.
Hear from Coach Cal
The Kentucky Wildcats are rolling through a three-game win streak. This afternoon around 2:00 the head coach will talk about his streaking team as the Cats prepare for the final two games of the regular season.
Clear Bags at the SEC Tourney
The SEC announced yesterday they will continue to have a clear bag policy at all championship events. If you aren’t prepared for it, you probably haven’t been to a game in two years. Click here for a clear bag policy refresher.
A Big Night of SEC Basketball
We will have a much clearer SEC Tournament picture after Super Tuesday. All three teams tied for third place with Kentucky are in action tonight. If Arkansas, Florida and Miss. State all fall, the Cats are primed to lock up a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. A complete look at tonight’s packed slate of games:
|7:00||#16 Tennessee at Miss. State||SEC|
|7:00||Florida at Alabama||ESPN|
|7:00||Mizzou at Vanderbilt||ESPN2|
|7:00||Oklahoma State at Iowa State||ESPNU|
|7:00||St. Joe’s at #17 Rhode Island||CBSSN|
|9:00||#14 Auburn at Arkansas||SEC|
|9:00||DePaul at Creighton||FS1|
|9:00||Oklahoma at Baylor||ESPN2|
|9:00||Miami at #9 North Carolina||ESPN|
|9:00||Kansas State at TCU||ESPNU|
Following a trip to Kentucky for Junior Day, Georgia outside linebacker KD McDaniel committed to Kentucky. The three-star linebacker is Mark Stoops’ second commitment in the 2019 recruiting class. For the “wait till Signing Day” crowd, know this: the second player to commit in the 2018 class, defensive end Davaon Hawkins, signed with UK in December and was one of Freddie’s favorite additions in the class.
Spring Practice begins next week (you can now get your Spring Game tickets here). Before kicking off five weeks of football, Mark Stoops sat down with Matt Jones on Hey Kentucky to reflect on his first five years as Kentucky’s head coach.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 26th, 2018 @ 9:00pm
Last week, Matt Jones sat down with Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops on Hey Kentucky! Tonight, we got to see the first part of their conversation featuring everything you need to get hyped for the upcoming season.
In the interview, we got to hear about Stoops’ thoughts on his Kentucky career starting rough, the bounce back from 2-10, and just how close his team is close to winning ten games. We also get to see more of the personal side of Stoops, where he talks about life outside of football, how he handles criticism, and what he’s doing to try to make the Big Blue Nation proud.
Take a look at part one of the interview below:
For the entire episode of Hey Kentucky, take a look here:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 26th, 2018 @ 8:36pm
The Wildcats have officially picked up their second pledge of the class of 2019, as three-star linebacker K.D. McDaniel has committed to KENTUCKY!
He just announced his decision on Twitter:
I Would Like To Shut Down All My Recruiting And Say That I Am 100% Committed To Kentucky ??#BBNBABY #BlueColor19 #SecondHome ?????? @CoachMHouse @ChadSimmons_ @JEdwar247 @ashely_anders @Jason_Higdon pic.twitter.com/ZKlLL70Ymz
— 47K? (@mcdaniel_kd) February 27, 2018
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound outside linebacker chose the Wildcats over South Carolina, UCF, and USF, among others.
Rivals lists the newest Wildcat as the 63rd-best recruit from the state of Georgia in 2019, and he has the numbers to back that up. Just last season, McDaniel managed 104 tackles, 10 sacks for Tift County High School, a top-level program in the state.
Earlier today, McDaniel tweeted that he is “100%” and Kentucky is “where he wants to be,” adding that he will not be decommitting later on in the recruiting process.
— 47K? (@mcdaniel_kd) February 26, 2018
In an interview with Justin Rowland of Cats Illustrated, McDaniel said his trip to Lexington this past weekend was the deciding factor in his decision.
“The trip went so great,” McDaniel told Cats Illustrated. “I had built up a relationship with all the defensive coaches to where I have a trust with them. They told me how it was down there and then they showed me and told me how it’s going to be when I get there. I know that I can trust them. It seemed like I can trust them. They’re good coaches.
Watch the newest Wildcat work:
Welcome home, KD!
A great deal of pressure is placed on linebackers within the 3-4 scheme. Mark Stoops has four proven starters, capable rotational players, and slew of newcomers that can be mixed and matched in several different positions. Thus, projecting the Kentucky two-deep linebacker rotation is virtually impossible prior to spring practice. We’ll do our best to paint a somewhat accurate picture.
Mike Linebacker Courtney Love
- 2017 Wuerffel Trophy Winner
- 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Member
- Lott IMPACT Trophy Quarterfinalist
- 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award Nominee
- Played in 26 games, started 26 games, named team captain on 25 career occasions. Respect.
- Love’s 92 tackles in 2017 ranked second on the team. Registered 76 tackles a year ago.
- Recorded 10 tackles and a fumble recovery in a win over Missouri.
- Respect, again
Will Linebacker Eli Brown (Transfer)
- 2017 statistics: 38 tackles, 2 tackles for loss.
- Had 6 tackles including a tackle for loss vs. Eastern Michigan.
- Also recorded 6 tackles including a tackle for loss in a critical road win at South Carolina. Brown played his guts out that night.
- Started 5 games for injured Jordan Jones.
Jordan Bonner (Chose not to return for a senior season)
- Accounted for 4 tackles in 2017.
Sam Linebacker Josh Allen 6’5, 252 Senior
- Sports Illustrated Mid-Season All American
- AP Mid-Season All-American
- AP All -SEC
- Phil Steele Third Team All-SEC
- Butkus Award Semifinalist
- 2017 statistics: 65 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7 quarterback sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries, and 2 forced fumbles.
- Career: 19.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 quarterback sacks.
- Chose to not enter the NFL Draft. Returned to Kentucky for his senior season.
- Will push to break Oliver Barnett’s career quarterback sack record of 26.
- Future pro. Predicted to be on several Award Watch Lists as well as potentially being listed on preseason All-American teams.
Mike Linebacker Kash Daniel 6’1, 242 Junior
- Has 26 career tackles, mostly on special teams.
- Registered 2 tackles in 2017 win over South Carolina.
- A high school quarterback, Daniel rushed for 6 yards on a fake punt on a crucial 4th down in a win over Missouri.
- Backed up Courtney Love for two consecutive seasons. Played as a true freshman in 2016.
- Excelled on special teams.
- Preferred mentality and strength for a Mike LB.
Will Linebacker Jordan Jones 6’2, 218 Senior
- Bednarik Award Watch List
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List
- Missed four games due to injury.
- Led the team with 13 tackles in a win over Tennessee. Earned Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
- 2017 statistics: 64 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback sacks, 1 pass breakup, 3 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble.
- 2016 Season:
- One of the top linebackers in the nation. Registered 109 tackles.
- Athlons Sports Preseason First Team All-SEC, Third Team All-American.
- Led the SEC with 5.7 solo tackles per game. First on the team with 9 quarterback hurries. Ranked 6th in the SEC with 15.5 tackles for loss.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Denzil Ware 6’2, 240 Senior
- Phil Steele Third Team All-SEC
- Named SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week in a win over Vanderbilt.
- Recorded 9 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, and 2 tackles for loss in a win over Tennessee.
- Named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week in the season opening victory at Southern Miss: 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback sack, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries.
- 2017 Statistics: 47 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 6.5 quarterback sacks, 1 interception, 2 quarterback hurries, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass breakup.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Josh Paschal 6’3, 278 Sophomore
- Athlons Sports Freshman All-SEC.
- Played and did so extremely well as a true freshman in 2017.
- Accounted for 3 tackles and a sack in wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
- Named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for a blocked punt vs. Eastern Michigan.
- 2017 statistics: 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 quarterback sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 blocked punt.
Depth at linebacker is noteworthy and will be tested in 2017 with the unexpected departure of Will LB Eli Brown. This is also the point of this post that becomes somewhat cloudy. The next group of players have yet to solidify within a specific position group. We’ll list the following linebackers into five categories: Push for Starting Positions, Rotational Players, Rookies, Walk-ons, and one Wildcard.
Push for Starting Positions
Jamar “Boogie” Watson 6’3, 234 Sophomore
- 2017 statistics: 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup.
- Registered a quarterback sack vs. Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
- Can play every position within the linebacker group. Played both inside and on the edge in 2017.
- Exact position will be determined in spring practice and based off need in 2018.
Jamin Davis 6’4, 224 Redshirt Freshman
- 2017 statistics: Redshirted
- Filled in for Jordan Jones in spring game and made the most out of the opportunity. Totaled team-high 8 tackles and a tackle for loss.
- Added 12 lbs. during redshirt season.
- True inside linebacker. Will factor in 2018. To what extent will be determined after spring practice.
Jaylin Bannerman 6’5, 238 Sophomore
- Moved back to defense after spending a portion of 2017 as a tight end.
- 2016: Redshirted.
- Projects as an Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
Alex King 6’3, 236 Redshirt Freshman
- Sleeper of the group. Coaches praised his work on the scout team as a redshirt.
- Was one of the Midwest’s most dynamic pass rushers coming out of William Mason High School.
- Projects to one of the edge positions but could be similar to Boogie Watson and play multiple roles. Potential pass-rush specialist.
Jordan Wright 6’5, 236 Redshirt Freshman
- Will contribute in 2018. Elite athlete.
- Was listed at 270 pounds a year ago. Updated roster shows him weighing 236.
- Edge defender. Coaches were extremely happy with Wright’s effort and development during his redshirt season.
Chris Oats 6’5, 220 Freshman
- Four-star prospect. Division II Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Ohio.
- Vince Marrow outdueled Ohio State for his services.
- Was extremely high if not the top player on UK’s big board.
- Played multiple positions in high school. Can play inside and on the edge in college.
- Was not early enrollee. Will not factor in spring practice.
Ashtan Pierre 6’2, 200 Freshman
- Athletic defender. Played multiple positions at Deerfield Beach High School.
- Projects to the edge. Elite athlete.
- Was not an early enrollee. Will not factor in spring practice.
Deandre Square 6’1, 205 Freshman
- Rated as a 4-star player out of national powerhouse Cass Tech High School. Top 20 LB in the Class of 2018.
- Early enrollee, will factor in spring practice. Excited to watch Square’s development.
- Gets a headstart on fellow freshman. Will gauge his ability to immediately contribute during spring practice.
Chris Whittaker 6’3, 227 Freshman
- Listed as a defensive lineman.
- Initial weight was 260 lbs., now 237 on updated roster.
- Could potentially slot at OLB/DE position with those measurables.
- Position will be identified in spring practice. Could be slated as a pass-rush specialist.
Elijah Barnett 6’3, 238 Junior
- Legacy Cat. Son of UK career quarterback sack leader Oliver Barnett.
- From Lexington. Played at Henry Clay High School.
Drew Schlegel 5’11, 218 Sophomore
- Legacy Wildcat. Son of former UK tackle and team captain Mike Schlegel.
- Recorded over 100 tackles as a high school senior.
William Nalty 6’0, 228 Sophomore
- Chose UK over North Carolina.
What does all this mean?
Kash Daniel looks to break into the lineup that is comprised of three All-SEC returning starters and an accomplished former true freshman. Depth and talent are present. Wildcat linebackers should and needs to be the strength of the team in 2018. Kentucky has traditionally been known for developing linebackers. 2018 could be one of the program’s most talented collections with future professionals littering the depth chart.
By Nick Roush on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Blake Bone saved the best for last.
The 6’5″ Kentucky wide receiver’s career was marred by inconsistency, but the South Carolina native was able to put it all together in his senior season. Bone caught 13 passes for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. The best catch of his career came when Kentucky fans least expected it.
On the road against the eventual SEC Champs, Kentucky got out to a fast start thanks to a Josh Allen interception. Unfortunately, the UK offense was forced to settle for a field goal. A Georgia touchdown on the following drive put Kentucky in danger, but the Cats had one more response, thanks to Bone’s unbelievable 45-yard over-the-shoulder reception.
“How did he catch that?” Gary Danielson asked. I still have no answer.
– CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 18, 2017
That drive ended with a field goal. Georgia was able to run away with the game after the Cats left too many points on the board.