Football Season Coverage
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 17th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
The Kentucky Wildcat football team will participate in their second official scrimmage of fall camp tomorrow morning, where we’ll (hopefully) hear much better news than last week.
Following their first scrimmage, head coach Mark Stoops ripped both sides of the football for a mediocre performance, saying the whole team was just “average” at this point. For how talented they are as a team and how high Stoops’ expectations are for this season, it just fell flat.
So what headlines can fans expect to find tomorrow?
Is a starting quarterback named?
The question of the hour may have an answer following Kentucky’s second scrimmage tomorrow morning. If not, there should be a whole lot more clarity about the situation.
In the team’s open practice after Fan Day a few weeks back, both quarterbacks looked solid and capable of starting. That in itself was a relief. Terry Wilson had the arm strength and accuracy to complete deep balls, while Gunnar Hoak struggled a bit in that department. Hoak also seemed to get flustered when the pocket collapsed, while Wilson thrived.
In the short and medium game, Hoak was a bit more efficient and had solid chemistry with the slot receivers and tight ends. Hoak threw a tight spiral and the redshirt sophomore was able to fit the ball into tiny holes in the defense.
I was impressed with both, but came away thinking Wilson may have the slight lead in the competition. This week, however, Matt Jones said on the radio show he had been hearing whispers that Hoak was the current favorite to lead the Wildcat offense onto the field week one and it may be announced on Monday.
Stoops may not officially declare the starter tomorrow morning, but he may announce who is taking the majority of first-team reps right now. Or he’ll keep quiet about it. Who knows.
Did the offense take a step forward?
After last weekend’s scrimmage, everyone got criticized by Mark Stoops in his press conference. Quarterbacks, receivers, and the unit’s playmakers in general.
“I thought it was just not good enough today,” Stoops said. “Not a good enough scrimmage. I really was disappointed, to be honest with you. The overall scrimmage, just in general, I felt like it was a bit flat. I expected more out of these guys across the board. I felt like we were just sloppy. We had some pre-snap penalties that hurt some drives offensively. We had some drops. Late in the scrimmage, we put the ball on the ground.
“I don’t feel like anybody has stepped up on the offense to make a spectacular play,” he continued. “Wide receivers, again, I just feel like we’re very average there right now. We have nobody stepping up and making great individual plays for them. But I think the quarterbacks are a part of that as well. I think they’ve been inconsistent.”
Since then, walk-on offensive players David Bouvier and Zach Johnson did enough in practice to earn scholarships. KSR had heard Bouvier was one of the most dominant practice players both last year and to kick off this season, and a scholarship was likely coming. He’ll be a major player for the Cats on special teams and out of the slot this season.
We’ve also seen a bit of swagger from the official UK Football Twitter account, with them showing off different videos of gorgeous throws and catches, among other highlights.
Benny Snell sat out with an injury last week, so his return should help get things moving again.
Is the defensive hype justified?
With a handful of potential draft picks and preseason SEC All-Americans, it’s no secret the Kentucky defense is expected to be special this season.
In Kentucky’s open practice, they looked the part both physically and in terms of on-field success. Mike Edwards was a ball hawk, Derrick Baity and Chris Westry disrupted numerous balls on the outside, and Kash Daniel was a vocal leader in the middle. The defensive line was massive, and their collective first-step was a massive improvement from last season. They looked like a legitimate SEC defense.
And that’s why it was a shock when Stoops said he didn’t like what he saw from the defense last week.
“Defensively, just average. Felt like it was just average across the board. I didn’t really see exceptional play from either side. I just felt like it was good enough to be average today. Really not what we’re looking for,” he said.
Kash Daniel agreed, saying the performance from his unit was unacceptable.
“It was average at best,” Daniel said. “From looking at both sides of the ball, there were some good spurts here and there on the offense and the defensive side of the ball. But overall it was average. If we want to get where we need to be then today is not acceptable.”
So will they live up to their hype tomorrow morning, or should fans ease up on the defensive excitement going into the year?
The first few words out of Stoops’ mouth tomorrow should be very, very telling.
Bad practices happen, but the team can’t afford back-to-back mediocre scrimmages with the season right around the corner.
Kentucky basketball is hogging all of the attention after its absolute dominance in the Bahamas a week ago. The upcoming season is the first thing UK fans think about when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they think about when they go to bed at night. Some even sleep in Tyler Herro pajamas.
But the basketball team has since gone home to their families and Big Blue Madness is two long months away, so it’s time we do our best to put basketball aside for moment. It’s not easy because they looked so awesome, but it must be done.
Because it’s football season.
Tomorrow, Mark Stoops’ football team will hold its second Saturday scrimmage of fall camp and it’s very important things go well. Stoops was very disappointed in the first scrimmage, so his Cats need to come out energetic and enthusiastic in Round 2 tomorrow.
And maybe even more important than that: the team needs to find its quarterback. Right now it is a fight between Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson, and if one of the two can shine in tomorrow’s scrimmage, they’ll be in position to earn the job (maybe by next week). With little time between now and the first game of the year, the battle will be won in the days ahead.
I know we all want to keep talking about Sophomore Nick Richards and Tyler Herro and the Duke game that’s being billed as the best season opener of all time and all the other exciting things about basketball, but we have some exciting football right in front of our faces. The football season is upon us and it too has the potential to be special.
With the season opener just a few weeks away, pundits across the nation are doling out their college football predictions. This morning, The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel published his SEC preview, in which he predicts Kentucky will tie with South Carolina for third in the SEC East with a 4-4 conference record, 7-5 overall.
Mark Stoops has elevated Kentucky to where it can reasonably expect to reach .500 in conference play — but that might be its ceiling. RB Benny Snell is a great player to build around as the Wildcats break in a new quarterback, but the defense likely will be average at best.
Mandel doesn’t specify which four SEC games he believes Kentucky will win, but here’s the schedule so you can guess at home:
- September 1: Central Michigan
- September 8: at Florida
- September 15: Murray State
- September 22: Mississippi State
- September 29: South Carolina
- October 6: at Texas A&M
- October 20: Vanderbilt
- October 27: at Missouri
- November 3: Georgia
- November 10: at Tennessee
- November 17: Middle Tennessee State
- November 24: at Louisville
Vanderbilt, South Carolina, at Tennessee, and at Missouri is my guess. Mandel’s colleague Bruce Feldman was slightly more pessimistic in his preview, predicting the Cats to go 3-5 in the SEC, 6-6 overall. I guess nobody thinks we’re beating Louisville.
Here’s my question: do you agree with Mandel that .500 in the SEC is Kentucky’s ceiling?
By Nick Roush on ©August 16th, 2018 @ 5:00pm
The Kentucky football team had no trouble fighting opponents last year (just ask Louisville). This fall they plan on taking it to a new level by bringing a pair of boxing gloves to the sidelines.
Jordan Griffin revealed the chained boxing gloves on Twitter during spring practice. It immediately drew comparisons to Miami’s turnover chain, but this prop shares a much different meaning.
“It originally started with Coach House,” Boogie Watson explained at UK Media Day. “It’s called ‘punching out of the gray room,’ so if in practice you had a bad play or was messing up, then later on you start making plays and start dominating practice, that’s punching out of the gray room.”
House’s phrase originated in boxing. When a boxer takes a big hit to the head, everything turns gray before a knockout. If they can still attack and swing out of the adversity, the boxer has successfully punched out of the gray room. Kentucky’s defensive coordinator wants his team to attack, no matter how bad the circumstance.
“If you do something bad one play, the next play you forget about it and make an outstanding play, that’s punching out the gray room,” Josh Allen said today. “We take that to heart and it’s an honor to wear those gloves because that means we’re really working hard, trying to be perfect.”
The gloves only came out once during spring practice. Will they be on the sidelines throughout the season?
“We have to find the gloves first. It’s in somebody’s locker,” Allen said with a chuckle. “But we’re going to get ’em back and we’ll bring them out this year.”
By Nick Roush on ©August 16th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
Few have been inside the Kentucky football locker room. The exclusive area is usually prohibited to all outsiders, but today you get to see the best and worst parts, thanks to the UK Specialists.
After an extended hiatus, the Special Teamers fired back up the Twitter account that is filled with hysterical hi-jinx. In this video Kentucky’s latest Australian sensation, punter Max Duffy, moderates a tour through UK’s locker room.
Like all of the position groups, the specialists get their own section of the locker room. They have dubbed this section the “Yacht Club.” After one look, you’ll feel like a VIP.
— Kentucky Specialists (@UK_Specialists) August 16, 2018
I can’t decide what’s cooler, the Yacht Club or Duffy’s Australian accent.
Following Kentucky’s first scrimmage, Mark Stoops said the Cats were, “just good enough to be average.” Unsatisfied with the sloppy performance, the stakes are even higher this Saturday at Kroger Field.
“The second scrimmage in training camp is a huge evaluation of where you’re at within the competition of your team,” defensive coordinator Matt House said.
Stoops did not like the energy on either side of the ball. The defense looked to Josh Allen to set the tone, but he struggled to make a big play the could ignite the defense. He does not plan on replicating that performance.
“We just got to play together,” Allen said. “We gotta execute the calls on both sides. We have to make some big plays. There wasn’t a lot of big plays being made. We took that to heart and we’re going to come out with a different mentality this week.”
House saw flashes of greatness in the Cats’ first scrimmage, but they were too infrequent.
“We did some good things, but we didn’t have the energy we needed to have. We didn’t necessarily have the great plays and consistency,” House said. “This scrimmage will tell a lot more.”
Whoever puts the best tape on the field Saturday will move into a position to play this fall.
Other Practice Notes
Baity > Lonnie — UK’s cornerbacks created a competition before camp to see who can pick off the most passes in the preseason. Almost at the midway point, Lonnie is just behind Baity, trailing 3-2.
A Consequence of the Redshirt Rule — Coaches have provided a variety of different takes on the new redshirt rule that will allow freshmen to play in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility. Most have talked about how it can potentially be used in their favor, but Matt House brought a take no one has said yet
“I think it’s a great rule. It keeps guys locked in. At this point you’re planning on playing them all. You’re not necessarily searching training camp to see who (will redshirt or play); you’re preparing like you’re going to use everybody. I think that’s huge.”
After previewing the entire offense (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line) and defense (defensive line, linebacker, secondary) it’s now time for the final part of the preview series as we enter the third phase of football.
Kentucky heads into 2018 with major questions surrounding it’s special teams unit as second year coordinator Dean Hood has a tall task in front of him. Kentucky will be without its best kicker in program history for the first time since 2013 and Matthew Panton departs after one year as a very reliable punter as a grad transfer. The shoes to fill are quite large as UK’s unproven parts have a lot to prove.
It’s the elephant in the room that is probably just not getting enough attention, but UK must find an answer to losing Austin MacGinnis. The Alabama native became a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and would never look back as he hit multiple game winning field goals as he became the program’s all-time leader in field goals made as well as scoring. He was nearly automatic and his ability to be efficient gave UK a huge strategic weapon when they found themselves with a scoring opportunity.
It’s next man up time in Lexington as Miles Butler and Chance Poore find themselves in a battle during fall camp. Just this week, Mark Stoops made an announcement that Butler will be on scholarship for his senior season. In 2015, he stepped in for MacGinnis to hit four field goals and 11 of 12 extra points. Last year, he handled punting duties in the win over Vanderbilt as he averaged 38.7 yards per attempt.
Poore enters the season as a highly touted prep kicker out of South Carolina who is known to have a big leg. Don’t be surprised if you see split duties from these two this season.
In Matt Panton, UK lost a punter that averaged over 42 yards per attempt and was one of the most efficient punters in the SEC. The grad transfer is gone after just one season but UK has some options there. Grant McKinniss is back after a redshirt season after he averaged 39 yards per punt as a true freshman in 2016. Kentucky went back to the Outback to get another punter as Max Duffy enters Lexington as a 25 year old sophomore. Duffy has a huge leg and has a lot of fans excited.
In the return department, Lynn Bowden gave UK a legit kick return option for the first time in awhile. The rookie averaged 23.5 yards per return and nearly took one to paydirt in the win over Vanderbilt. In a limited sample size, Sihiem King averaged nearly 28 yards per return last season. UK is in very good hands on kickoff returns.
In the punt return department, Charles Walker was not flashy with his returns but, man, was he valuable. Per S&P+, UK ranked eight in punt return efficiency. That is mighty valuable for a team that puts a big emphasis on field position. For this season, there is a big battle for the next man up but it’s been leaked out that former walk-on David Bouvier may be the guy. That would keep the strategy of a smart decision maker who won’t exactly be a home run threat in the return department. I think the coaching staff is just fine with that even though they will not have someone explosive like Bowden back there.
Under Mark Stoops, UK’s special teams unit made a very quick turnaround after having one of the nation’s most inefficient groups in 2014 turn into one of the nation’s best in 2017. UK’s ability to constantly win the field position battle last year was a huge key in them winning seven games while they were outgained by an average of 77.1 yards per game. With that said, a lot of seniors were a huge piece to that puzzle and now Kentucky must find new answers.
With Dean Hood returning as special teams coordinator to go with both Eddie Gran and Matt House who served as previous special teams coordinators at the Power Five level, you have to trust the Cats’ brain trust in this department. It is clear that Mark Stoops has put an emphasis a fielding excellent special teams the last two seasons and 2018 should be no different.
They could start out slow but with two scholarship kickers and two scholarship punters on the roster this thing should figure itself out. UK has a potential gamebreaker in Lynn Bowden on kick returns while Bouvier could give them the same efficiency as Charles Walker provided on punts. Expectations are high for Bowden as a kick return specialist as UK looks to keep special teams a strength in 2018.
It’s going to really be hard to replace the production lost from last season. UK may need to some big returns to help fill the void of losing the program’s all-time best placekicker. We’re looking at you, Mr. Bowden.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 15th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
Back at SEC Media Days in July, UK running back Benny Snell definitively said he is the best running back in the Southeastern Conference. So when UK Football Media Day came around last week, I spent the entire afternoon asking his teammates if they feel the same way in a piece for Hey Kentucky.
Check it out…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 15th, 2018 @ 4:24pm
Remember that random road game Kentucky was supposed to play next season at Eastern Michigan? Turns out it’s going to be played in Lexington instead.
Sources tell KSR that after a request from Eastern Michigan, Kentucky bought out the game and it will be played at Kroger Field on September 7, 2019. While the price of the game is unknown, we do know the request was made due to budget restructuring in the Eagles’ athletic department.
While you may have had your heart set on a road trip to Ypsilanti, this is very good news, especially since the Eagles nearly upset the Cats at Kroger Field a year ago. That’ll make for at least two straight home games to start the season after the opener vs. Toledo on August 31 and eight home games total. Giggity.
UPDATE: Derek Terry spoke to Eastern Michigan associate AD for media relations Greg Steiner, who said Kentucky will pay the Eagles $800,000 for the 2019 game and additional compensation for the 2020 game in Lexington.
Every year, we comb the Kentucky Football Media Guide for interesting facts about the Wildcats. Last year, we found out that Landon Young was learning the banjo and Jordan Jones loves the TV show “Jersey Shore.” What surprises does this year’s media guide have in store for us?
Did you know…
— Junior offensive tackle Landon Young’s favorite movie is O, Brother, Where Art Thou
— Sophomore wide receiver John Daido speaks fluent Russian
— Freshman offensive lineman and Knoxville, Tennessee native Darian Kinnard is related to Dolly Parton (As a huge Dolly fan, I definitely need to know more about this)
— Sophomore offensive tackle E.J. Price is a big country music fan, thanks to teammate Austin Dotson
— Junior wide receiver Ahmad Wagner is a talented singer and closet country music fan
— Sophomore kicker Matt Ruffolo’s fourth cousin is actor Mark Ruffalo, aka “The Hulk”
— The most famous person in freshman running back Tyler Markray’s cell phone is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
— Freshman defensive lineman Jerquavion Mahone puts syrup on his spaghetti
— Freshman offensive lineman Kenneth Horsey’s guilty pleasure is watching “Scandal”
— Freshman defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins has 14 siblings
— Freshman running back Kavosiey Smoke is part Native American
— Sophomore quarterback Terry Wilson hasn’t had a haircut since the eighth grade
— Senior kicker Miles Butler: “Money Man”
— Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Clark: “Prototype”
— Redshirt freshman linebacker Jamin Davis: “Shadow”
— Senior cornerback Chris Westry: “Scotty Too Hotty”
— Junior running back Benny Snell: “Snell Ya Later”
Dream jobs other than the NFL
— Senior cornerback Chris Westry: Work for Google
— Redshirt freshman safety Tyrell Ajian: Pharmacologist
— Sophomore wide receiver Josh Ali: Real estate agent
— Sophomore nose guard Quinton Bohanna: Take care of his mom and grandmother
— Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Clark: Work on custom muscle cars
— Redshirt freshman safety Yusuf Corker II: Pediatric Surgeon
— Sophomore punter Colin Goodfellow: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
— Sophomore defensive tackle Kordell Looney: Accountant
Word to describe him on the field:
— Sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden: “Calm”
— Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Hoak: “Poised”
— Sophomore center Drake Jackson: “Cerebral”
— Junior offensive guard Logan Stenberg: “Nasty”
— Freshman offensive lineman Naasir Watkins: “Whoa”
Life’s theme song
— Senior kicker Miles Butler: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
— Senior tight end C.J. Conrad: “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled
— Junior linebacker Kash Daniel: “Hells Bells” by AC/DC
— Senior safety Mike Edwards: “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
— Sophomore linebacker William Nalty: “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw