Football Season Coverage
Benny Snell Jr. made a one-handed catch in Monday’s practice that had him looking more like Odell Beckham Jr.
See for yourself:
Snell will need his hands, both of them, to catch more passes out of the backfield this season, and this is a good sign that he is capable of doing so. He said on Media Day he anticipates seeing a lot more thrown his way after catching only two passes last season as the power-back behind starter Boom Williams.
By Nick Roush on ©August 15th, 2017 @ 1:15pm
Landon Young is in familiar territory.
Last year in just his second game as a Wildcat, he was thrown into the action in Gainesville after Cole Mosier went down with a minor injury. Eddie Gran said it’s invaluable experience, “You can’t put that in words.” However, Young was able to eloquently describe what it was like when he was forced into action as a true freshman.
“It was like I was getting dipped in gas and then thrown into a fire,” Young said after today’s practice. “It was a little rough at first. I had to get my wits about me, but I felt like after I got the experience and got to see every thing I settled down.”
After emerging from the fire relatively unscathed, he feels comfortable at left tackle. He’s seen what kind of looks SEC defenses will throw at him and the type of players he will face on a regular basis. John Schlarman saw all he needed to see to know that Young is ready to fill the void left by Mosier.
“He’s gotten game reps. He’s played in the SEC. We’ve won games with him so I’m confident.” Schlarman added that even though he didn’t play in the first game, by the end of the season Young received more snaps at left tackle than Mosier.
The coaches believe Young is prepared, but if not, there’s a true freshman who is showing them a lot of the same things they same from Young a year ago. Gran said he loves what he’s seeing from Naasir Watkins.
“Athletically, you can see his athleticism. He’s smart, and boy he is battling through. The hits those big o-linemen take everyday,” Gran said. “They’re getting banged around a lot and I love where he’s at right now. He’s got a chance (to play). He really does.”
Along with Watkins, Schlarman has a few players who are battling with Young to earn the starting spot at left tackle. Kyle Meadows can play left or right tackle. George Asafo-Adjei can play play right tackle in Meadows’ absence. Mason Wolfe is getting reps once again at left tackle and Nick Haynes has experience at the position. Currently Schlarman is confident in a seven-man rotation, but wants it to get to ten before the season begins.
Eager to earn his keep, Young is prepared to do whatever it takes to rally around Mosier.
“It does leave a little gap in our line and it has a spot that’s free for the taking right now,” Young said. “I just have to go out here and outwork the rest of the guys and prove that I’m the one that should be there.”
There were some concerns about the health of UK starting quarterback Stephen Johnson after a photo surfaced showing Johnson sidelined at Monday’s practice in a protective boot on his right ankle.
Johnson looks to have missed practice again on Tuesday after he was seen without pads, but Eddie Gran told reporters in his post-practice press conference that Johnson is expected to return to the field Wednesday.
Gran did not comment on the extent of the injury, only saying, “Just a boot,” when asked.
Johnson was not wearing the boot on Tuesday.
The Cats will host the Mocs on Saturday, November 20 during that 2021 season. It is the first non-conference game on UK’s schedule, as far as we know, and will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Chattanooga went 9-4 last season with a 6-2 record in the Southern Conference. It will play at LSU this season, plus trips to South Carolina and Tennessee over the next two years.
The KSR Football Podcast — starring former UK quarterbacks Freddie Maggard and Jared Lorenzen; KSR football writer Nick Roush; and me, a former tight end/defensive end at West Broadway Elementary School — has been going strong for a couple of years now with the best Kentucky football coverage around.
We’re already off to a good start this fall, but we still have one big problem: We don’t have a name.
I put a call out earlier in the summer for suggestions, and though we got lots of good ones, we still haven’t decided on one. Well, now our backs are against the wall and a decision MUST be made as the season is right around the corner.
So, here’s one last call for help before we tape this week’s episode later this afternoon. I will read some of my favorites during today’s taping and we’ll have a name in place soon after that.
You can click on this tweet to read the many suggestions we’ve already received:
The KSR Football Podcast needs a name. Send me your suggestions and you could win some stuff.
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) July 5, 2017
Submit your own on Twitter or in the comments section below.
You can throw us some football questions for today’s episode, too.
The first preseason football scrimmage has not been kind to Mark Stoops’ Cats the previous two years.
Last year they lost starting safety Darius West. This year they lost starting left tackle Cole Mosier. Without West, the UK secondary still posted the fifth-best pass defense in the SEC and ranked No. 35 nationally. He was missed, but they were able to move on and have success. The same can happen for the 2017 Kentucky offensive line.
Here’s what they’re missing and how they will respond to Mosier’s absence.
A Consistent Mauler
The former walk-on grew into the offensive line’s most powerful weapon. The second-largest player on the team at 6’6″ 335-pounds, Mosier was an above-average pass blocker and an excellent run blocker at left tackle. A former walk-on, he fought to earn a scholarship, a prized intangible for an offensive lineman.
We can toot his horn all day. It isn’t a perspective only seen through blue-tinted shades. The SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic, arguably the nation’s top offensive line analyst, ranked Mosier as one of the best overall linemen in the SEC in 2016. It’s difficult to mitigate Mosier’s loss, but there’s one person who can.
Anytime there’s an injury, the motto “next man up” must be invoked. In Kentucky’s case, the next man up is rarely a five-star All-American, but that’s what John Schlarman is working with now that Mosier is unavailable.
Uncertain if Young would play the difficult left tackle position as a true freshman, his services were needed in the second game of the season against Florida. He initially struggled in Gainesville and even caused his quarterback to fumble, but once comfortable, Young fit in just fine. From that point on, he was a part of the regular offensive line rotation at left tackle.
In Young’s true freshman season he recorded 27 knock-down blocks for an offensive line that led the way for two 1,000-yard rushers. That’s great at every level of football.
The experience he received as a true freshman is unquantifiable. Even if he only played a little, there would be reason to worry about the person charged with protecting the quarterback’s blind side. There’s no reason to worry about Young’s ability to step in and play right away. Young was able to get comfortable and find a rhythm against the speed of the SEC as a true freshman. He doesn’t need reps to know what to expect this fall. He’ll be prepared to step in and take on full-time duties as UK’s starting left tackle.
The Next, Next Man Up
Before the injury, Schlarman had a solid two-deep at every position, with some spots good three, even four spots deep. At left tackle there are fewer options. Unlike interior linemen, tackles are not so easily moved around. Tasked with stopping SEC edge rushers, playing left tackle is arguably the toughest challenge on the offensive line.
Young was poised to see significant snaps in a rotating role with Mosier. As Young fills Mosier’s role as the primary option at left tackle, is there another player who can step into Young’s role?
The most likely candidate is Mason Wolfe, but the Henderson native was just moved down to guard and is even seeing reps at center. Stout in the interior, don’t be surprised to see Wolfe move back outside, unless Schlarman likes what he sees from redshirt freshman Luke Fortner.
As much as we love the game of football, it’s a game of give and take. It gave Mosier a scholarship to attend college. Now it’s temporarily taking away the use of his right knee, an injury that will provide painful reminders for the rest of his life. His football career may not be over, but his time playing for Kentucky is. That’s gut-wrenching.
A message Mosier shared on Instagram alongside the picture at the top of the page:
“It was extremely hard for me to hear I tore my ACL in the scrimmage this past Saturday. I think it is even harder to write this… I want to thank all the coaches and staff members especially Coach Schlarman for everything y’all have done for me these past 5 years. I also want to thank all of the BBN for the endless support throughout the years. Lastly want to thank all my brothers on the field for all the memories these years especially us Redshirt Seniors. Y’all are my family and always will be. I will still be with the team this following season as much as I can with rehab as I prepare to train for the NFL pro day in March. This team is going to be special this year and will do big things! I’m excited to see us have one of the best seasons in school history this year! Thank you all for your time. #BBN “
This one hits home even more for me. My younger brother Nathan, another walk-on who fought to earn a scholarship, did not make it through two weeks of WKU preseason camp before tearing his ACL.
Injuries suck. There’s a sense of helplessness that sweeps over the player and their loved ones. Even though you may not think it’s much, any kind words can go a long way. You can reach out to Cole and thank him for his time in Kentucky blue on Twitter at @ColeMosier71 or on Instagram.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 14th, 2017 @ 9:30pm
It’s been five years since he’s been at Kentucky, but after four different coaching stops, Joker Phillips has finally found a home in Cincinnati.
In an interview with Cincinnati.com, Phillips discussed his time in Lexington, recent coaching moves, and the development he’s seeing as the wide receivers coach for the Bearcats.
Phillips said he has no regrets and appreciates the opportunity he had with the program, but mentioned he didn’t have enough time to implement the program in Kentucky.
“It was a great opportunity,” Phillips said. “A lot of things have to be lined up at a place like that, similar to this. You’ve got to have time to implement your program. We just didn’t have that, and I get that. The opportunity was a great opportunity for me, my family and the staff I put together. We’ve moved on from that and tried to help other places out.”
Phillips became the Bearcats’ WR coach back in January, and he believes it’s been nothing but positive in his first seven months on the job.
“It’s been a great experience,” Phillips said. “Coming back and seeing all the improvements that the program has made facility-wise and that the city has made, and also the university.”
Phillips was on the Cincinnati staff back in 1997 and 1998, but the former Kentucky coach says it’s a whole new ball game being there now.
“It’s a different job than it was 20 years ago,” Phillips said. “Being with coach Fickell, I’m not chasing any goals and I’m not chasing bigger money. I’m chasing good people, and I’m with a good person. I’m happy to be here with him.”
For Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, Phillips brings the experience necessary to take the next big steps to building a program.
“You need those guys on your staff that have obviously been in this situation, been in this position, been a head coach,” Fickell said.
You can hear everything Fickell had to say about Phillips being on the Bearcat staff here:
Above all else, it’s great to see Phillips taking a break from the creepy recruiting tactics he created at Florida:
By Nick Roush on ©August 14th, 2017 @ 3:39pm
Cole Mosier will miss the 2017 UK football season after the left tackle suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the Cats’ first preseason scrimmage. The injury will end his senior season and his career; UK announced in a press release he is not eligible for a sixth season.
“We’re extremely disappointed about Cole’s injury,” Coach Mark Stoops said. “He has been with us all five seasons we’ve been at Kentucky. He helped set the example of hard work that is the theme of this program, as he came in as a walk-on and earned a scholarship. We know Cole will continue to support his teammates this season and we wish him the best in his recovery and in the future.”
A former walk-on from Walton, Ky., Mosier earned a scholarship after becoming the No. 1 left tackle as a redshirt freshman. Last season he started in ten of UK’s 13 games, sidelined for three after a minor injury at Florida.
“Tearing my ACL was a big blow and it’s unfortunate because I wanted to finish my career here at UK with my teammates,” Mosier said in a statement. “However, I’m going to have surgery on Thursday and I plan to rehab my knee in order to participate in UK’s Pro Day in March. I want to thank Coach Stoops and Coach Schlarman for everything they’ve done for me. I also want to thank the Big Blue Nation for their support. Coming here as a walk-on and then earning a scholarship was a dream come true. I’m going to continue being around the team to cheer them on and help the team as much as I can.”
In Mosier’s absence Stephen Johnson will rely on sophomore Landon Young to protect his blind side. The former five-star recruit from Lexington played regularly in John Schlarman’s 2016 offensive line rotation and registered 27 knock-down blocks as a true freshman.
There have been a few players “banged up” here and there, but it’s the first major injury of preseason camp. Mosier’s injury marks the second consecutive year an injury in the Cats’ first preseason scrimmage has caused a player to miss the entire season. In 2016 safety Darius West’s season ended early with a similar knee injury.
By Nick Roush on ©August 14th, 2017 @ 3:29pm
Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson was not dressed for today’s football practice at Nutter Field House and was seen wearing a boot on his right foot.
The photo above was posted on the UK Football Instagram account. As running back A.J. Rose sprints down the open field, Vince Marrow’s celebration in the background casts a shadow over UK’s starting quarterback, who is not dressed for practice and is wearing a boot on his right foot.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Johnson mentioned the brace on his knee when asked by the media, but there was no news concerning an injury to his right ankle or foot. The coaches and players did not meet with the media today, but it will be addressed with the offensive players and coaches after tomorrow’s practice.
Also it must be noted that wearing a boot does not mean much. It’s often a proactive measure taken to prevent further injury. For now, don’t geek. It’s probably nothing. We’ll know more tomorrow.
By Nick Roush on ©August 14th, 2017 @ 1:00pm
Garrett “Juice” Johnson — Juice led UK in receptions (39) and receiving touchdowns (5) in 2016. The Cats’ primary option in the slot, he hit a bump in the road in the middle of the season but bounced back with two HUGE touchdowns against Louisville in a five-catch, 164-yard performance. He’s had five career games with more than 100 yards receiving. The trick is squeezing out more than two in 2017.
Dorian Baker — The big touchdown maker on the outside was marred by a preseason-hamstring injury in 2016. This spring was the first time he’s ever been healthy enough to complete spring practice. Built like an NFL wide receiver, it’s his year to prove that he can be that guy.
Tavin Richardson — After playing in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, he’s listed as a starter at outside wide receiver. He caught 9 passes for 164 yards and pulled in a critical two-point conversion against Miss. State.
Chuck Walker — A former walk-on from Louisville St. X, the artist formerly known as Charles earned a scholarship prior to playing in every game last season. One of the Cats’ most consistent contributors, expect to see Walker in New York for the 2017 Heisman Trophy presentation.
Kayaune Ross — The gigantic junior college transfer scored a touchdown in his first game, but did not play a significant role for the rest of the year, with some of it attributed to an ankle injury. He’s taken leaps and bounds ahead this preseason, consistently earning praises from Eddie Gran and Lamar Thomas. If teams want to play press man-to-man, “Godzilla” will make them pay more than T.J.
Blake Bone — In his first game as a Wildcat, Bone scored a 36-yard touchdown. The 6’5″ receiver showed immediate promise but has had an up-and-down career ever since, culminating with a career-low 5 catches for 82 yards in 2016. Challenged in the offseason by the coaches, Lamar Thomas said he’s seen the senior respond.
Clevan Thomas — The only freshman wide receiver to enroll early, Thomas has an impressive spring that culminated in the Blue/White Game with 3 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. He is the only freshman featured in UK’s first two-deep depth chart.
Since preseason camp began, three other freshmen have developed an excellent reputation around the practice fields. In the first two practices of camp, Josh Ali and Isiah Epps caught the eyes of the coaches and quarterbacks. Even though he arrived to camp a week late, Lynn Bowden made plays in the middle of the field in key situations in the Cats’ first scrimmage.
Will people ever forgive Dorian Baker? The Kentucky wide receiver has caught a ton of big touchdowns, but none as big as the go-ahead touchdown last year at Louisville. Instead of marveling at the touchdown, listen to Mike Patrick’s first response:
Aside from the fact that Patrick is terrible at his job, “drop” is the first word many fans associate with Baker. Instead of focusing on the game-winners (like against EKU) and how he “Saved a lot of people’s jobs,” as Lamar Thomas said, fans first think of the alliterative “Dorian Drops.”
The good news: he’s over it. I’m 100 percent confident he’s tuned out that noise, but will anything ever silence that noise? If “40-yard touchdown to beat your rival” doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will. Jared Lorenzen has changed his tune on Baker, and I hope many will follow his lead.
All Eyes on the Vets. The talented group of receivers has become a tired storyline since 2015. “This is the year they get it together,” yet three season later we are still waiting to see consistency from the highly-touted 2014 recruiting class. The problem isn’t their ability to make highlight reel catches; it’s the simple stuff they must do on a weekly basis to prove they are indeed NFL-caliber receivers.
It wasn’t a touchdown, but this might be the greatest highlight from the current crop of UK’s receivers, courtesy of Juice Johnson.
How do you replace Badet? The Cats lost their greatest deep threat and the receiver who led the team in receiving yards in 2016. A concern for many fans, it is not a big of a deal as you think. Juice can play outside receiver too and proved against UofL he has enough speed to take the top end off a defense.
Which freshmen will play? In the first two weeks of camp, four freshmen receivers have proved they’re prepared to play right away: Thomas, Ali, Epps and Bowden. If Ali and Epps stay on the outside, it will be more difficult for them to find reps, but I do not foresee them (especially Ali) to remain outside once the season starts.
Bowden made plays in his first week of camp, but he has a long way to go to learn the offense. There will be plays designed to get the ball in Bowden’s hands, but he will be used situationally until the coaches can trust him to play assignment-sound football. Thomas is probably the most-likely to earn early snaps, but has not received the same amount of praise as the other three in the early parts of camp.
One of them will be prominently featured, but only time will tell when, who and how they will be used.
I want to say that I believe we’ll see the most consistent group of wide receivers in Mark Stoops’ five years at Kentucky, but like the doubtful Thomas, I gotta see it to believe it.
Every one of the receivers has made big plays and shown flashes of greatness. That’s not the the problem. Their problem is their ability to consistently make routine plays. Throwing and catching is a simple basic part of college football. If they can keep the drops away on the “easy” plays, the offense will exponentially improve.
I can’t promise consistency, but I can promise a change in how the passing game looks.
Last year UK ran the ball to set up the pass. When opponents stacked the box to stop the run, Eddie Gran drew up a play-action and Johnson let the ball fly deep. Juice can be Johnson’s deep threat, but the deep ball won’t be his primary weapon. In fact, Juice is at his best in the middle of the field. There he will once again be UK’s leading pass-catcher.
Insert C.J. Conrad, Chuck Walker and multiple freshmen into the equation and you have weapons in the middle of the field that can’t be easily covered by linebackers. The highly reel from Saturday’s scrimmage might be the most chopped up clip we’ve ever seen, but you still see three freshmen making catches in the middle third of the field.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 12, 2017
With a quarterback who’s improved his efficiency on intermediate passes, you’ll see a ton of targets in the middle of the field this fall that will extend drives, lead to more scores and give the defense more time to rest on the sideline.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 14th, 2017 @ 10:15am
Do you want to own the newest Nike UK Shoes that the football team just got their hands on? Nike just released the Week Zero Kentucky Collection, which includes the Nike Free Trainer V7 for men and Nike Zoom Fitness for women. Both feature the new UK logos and checkerboard, and all the blue and white that you can handle.
Here are the Frees (Mens):
And the Zooms (Women’s):
Like them? They can be yours for $110 now at Nike.com (or less if you qualify for Nike’s student discount).
By Freddie Maggard on ©August 13th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
Mark Stoops described UK’s first major scrimmage as being just “ok”. In my opinion, “OK” can be interpreted as exactly where the Cats should be following two weeks of fall camp. Think about it for a minute; an athletic competition stalemate can be labeled as ok if there is no rooting interest. A “draw” means both sides were equally as efficient. The fact that the Wildcat offensive line and running back Benny Snell aren’t steamrolling a questionable defensive line on a consistent basis can only be construed as an improvement or better than expected outcome. As you can read in my post of the inner workings of a fall camp scrimmage, Saturday was the Cat’s first game-like simulation. Coaches were on the sideline. Plays were signaled in from coordinators and assistant coaches. Imaginary and literal cords were cut. This may not seem like a big deal; but it is, especially for younger players. Here are some of the significant happenings that were announced by Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, and Matt House on Saturday:
– “Good thing we still have three weeks” was an early press conference phrase that grabbed my attention. Some head coaches intentionally send motivational messages to their team that indicates performance was substandard regardless of actual circumstances. I do not think Stoops is cut out that cloth. He’s proven to be a coach that says exactly what’s on his mind and has not sugar coated his remarks during his stay in Lexington. The fact that the first live scrimmage was not completely adequate did not come as a surprise. Nerves and the uniqueness of simulating its first actual football game since April are conditions that add to its difficulty level.
–Left tackle Cole Mosier was injured in the scrimmage. The extent of his injury will be announced on Monday. Hopefully for Mosier, test results will be minor. However, quality depth at the tackle position will lead to Landon Young moving into the starting role if Mosier’s injury is serious. To me; this was the most severe news that came out of the Joe Craft Football Training Center. But, camp injuries are a part of the game. Attrition is managed by roster construction and management.
–The offense turned the football over in the red-zone. Stoops was especially not pleased with this result. But, as the head coach, he was thrilled that his defense produced a turnover in the red-zone. It’s the give-and-take nature of scrimmage evaluation by a head coach.
-Stoops has been pleased with OLB’s Josh Allen and Denzil Ware. He feels good about those positions but reinforced that his interior defensive line has to consistently “play stronger”.
-He singled out freshman Lynn Bowden as “showing up” during Saturday’s practice. Also as expected, Bowden is working as a punt and kick returner. The more Bowden has the football in his hands in open space the better the Kentucky Wildcats will be in 2017.
– “We are our own worst enemy” referred to the offense’s 10-12 play drive that resulted in a red-zone turnover. Turnovers cost the Cats a couple wins in 2016. Gran understands that a repeat -7 turnover margin will greatly limit its ability to win football games.
-Freshman RB Bryant Koback is not full-go, but is expected to be so next week. I’ve said it many times; it takes four running backs to navigate a SEC schedule. Koback’s presence on the depth chart would be a bonus.
– “We find out a lot when the lights come on” was a phrase that Gran used to describe the difference in a typical practice and a full-live scrimmage that took place on Saturday. Again, there is a major difference in having coaches in player’s ears from behind the huddle to normal sideline-field communication. It’s like a sense of independence that can lead to unwelcomed pressure which negatively impacts execution.
-Gran reinforced Stoops in praising Lynn Bowden as one of the guys that showed up.
-Kayaune Ross has stepped up and will factor in the receiver rotation. Ross is one of the hardest workers on the team. I’m happy for the young man.
-Garrett Johnson made two contested catches. But the major news about Johnson is that he’s playing outside instead of a slot position. This frees up repetitions for the younger players.
– “Got a goal line stop”. The defensive coordinator was happy with that result but unhappy that the offense drove the length of the field prior to the turnover.
-Cornerback Derrick Baity made good plays. House also singled out true freshman OLB Jordan Wright and the “good things” he did rushing the passer.
-Jamar “Boogie” Watson is receiving practice reps at both inside and outside linebacker. DE Calvin Taylor excelled in the spring game. His coordinator expressed positivity in Taylor’s continued development.