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Football Season Coverage
INTERVIEW: Three-star DT commitment Phil Hoskins on UK’s 2017 class: “We’re going to be scary good.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 10th, 2017 @ 1:00pm
We’re just weeks away from National Signing Day, and Mark Stoops is in the process of raking in his best recruiting class since arriving at Kentucky.
The Wildcats have 22 commitments ready to sign on the dotted line on February 5th, and are hopeful for a few more big-time “Yahtzee’s” as well.
One of those guys ready to sign? Three-star DT Phil Hoskins out of Toledo, Ohio.
Hoskins held offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Mississippi State before eventually choosing the Wildcats. At Highland Community College last year, he made 25 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks.
I sat down with the 6’5, 275-pounder on his time at Highland, his recruitment, and the impact he’s planning on making when he gets to Lexington.
Check out our interview here:
How was your experience at Highland Community College? Do you feel you were able to get your name out there and get the exposure you wanted?
Yeah I got a lot of exposure. It was really nice, I got along with the coaches really well. I was really cool with all of the players and coaches there. I learned a lot.
How did you feel your game grew while you were there?
I definitely learned a lot while I was there, specifically with my technique and different moves. I focused on my footwork, more fundamentals and technique than anything. I feel like the talent was already there for me, I just needed to work on some of the specific parts of my game to take it to the next level.
Talk about your final list, what did that look like, and what was your level of interest in those schools?
Originally I was going to go to Baylor, but the offers kept coming in for me so I kept things open. Then my coaches mentioned UK and wanted me to look into the program. I talked to the coaches, took a visit there, and something just pushed me to Kentucky. In high school I never thought about it, but when I took the time to look into it, I loved it.
When it came to Kentucky, what made that the school you knew you wanted to go to?
Coach Marrow had a really good impression with me, but specifically with my family. They had a great relationship, my family loved how they approached everything. The family atmosphere is great, and that’s where I was sold.
Are you 100% locked in at Kentucky? Definitely going there?
Definitely, I’m going to Kentucky. I’ll be signing in February.
Talk a little bit about your visit there, the recruits you talked with, and some of the players already on the team you connected well with.
My visit to Kentucky was really good. I hung out mostly with Jordan Bonner, he was really cool. I know we’re going to be kicking it when I get to UK. He had the right mindset about everything, and I want to follow in those footsteps. I’m not going just to take it lightly, I want to stay focused and come in there and do my job. My visit got me really excited to get down there and get to work.
What coaches talked to you the most? What were some of the things they said to you in your recruitment?
Stoops and Marrow were the main guys, but I talked with Eliot and Brumbaugh too. They were really excited about me. They know I’ll be a big guy on the defensive line for them. They loved my game, really had a lot of interest in me. They said they know exactly how to use me on the line, so I’m excited.
Kentucky has struggled a little bit on the defensive line, but have been really good everywhere else. You’re part of a pretty impressive list of recruits on the line. What do you think the entire defense will be able to do with talented defensive line commitments coming in and taking over?
We’ll be able to take over, some of the athletes are going to be huge for us. Our recruiting class is something special, and I feel all of us are going to provide something different for the team. The entire defense has a lot of talent on there, so it’s going to be fun to watch. We’re going to be scary good.
What do you feel you bring to the table as a defensive tackle? What separates your game from the rest of the nation’s defensive tackles?
Physicality. I feel that I have that edge that not many others have. I feel that I’m very athletic for a big man, so that works to my advantage well.
Do you feel that you’ll be able to come in immediately and compete for playing time?
Yes most definitely, I plan on coming in and playing immediately. I’m having surgery on my shoulder so I might not play for the first couple games. After that, though, I’m fighting for playing time.
What are some of the things you think you need to work on when you get to UK?
I need to work on my strength. I’m a very coachable person, so I’ll be able to learn fast and do whatever the coaches feel I need to work on. I have a lot of faith in them.
Anything you want to say to the BBN before we go?
Go Big Blue! I’m really excited to get down there and get to work!
With guys like Josh Paschal, Quinton Bohanna, Alex King, Jordan Wright, Chris Whittaker, and Hoskins coming in on the defensive line, depth will certainly not be a problem going forward for Jimmy Brumbaugh’s group.
Come back on KSR in the next few weeks for interviews of Kentucky recruits and commitments leading up to National Signing Day.
By Nick Roush on ©January 09th, 2017 @ 9:45pm
Before we completely move on to next season with National Signing Day coverage, I’ll be looking back at the year that was in a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the best in the building, Kentucky’s offensive line.
2016 Production and Accolades
Rotating in nine players, the UK offensive line paved the way for two 1,000 yard rushers, the first time it’s been accomplished in school history and the only team in the power five to do so this season. The only player who never left the game was Jon Toth, who started in a nation-high 48 consecutive games. The national defensive player of the year, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, said the Cats were the most physical team they played in the trenches.
- Jon Toth was First Team All-SEC by the AP, All-SEC Second Team by the coaches, and an All-SEC selection by pretty much every other college football publication. Toth was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week following UK’s win over Vanderbilt.
- Logan Stenberg was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team
- Nick Haynes was ranked as one of the top two guards in the nation by Pro Football Focus (at least) twice.
- Finalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line.
The greatest surprise of the season, Kentucky’s offensive line was the most dominant unit on the team. Most offensive line coaches hope they can rotate in two, maybe three players off the bench on a regular basis. Kentucky platooned at every position except center. Their fresh legs helped Kentucky finish games late in the second half.
Their pass protection is the only reason they don’t get an A+. Kentucky allowed 28 sacks, ranked No. 71 in the country and tenth in the SEC. They struggled with Georgia Tech’s speed in the TaxSlayer Bwol and struggled to find continuity at the beginning of the season.
- C Jon Toth: The line loses their leader. The graduate will play in the Senior Bowl.
- OG Ramsey Meyers: The right guard will opt out of his final year of eligibility.
- C Drake Jackson: The high school All-American will compete for the starting center position after redshirting this season.
- OG Luke Fortner: Another redshirt, Fortner impressed the coaches in bowl practice. His versatility is comparable to Logan Stenberg.
- Tate Leavitt: The JUCO offensive tackle redshirted this season and will likely move down to guard, potentially playing a vital role if Bunchy Stallings moves to center.
- OT Naasir Watkins: A three-star 2017 prospect from Olney, Maryland.
- OT Austin Dotson: Belfry makes great offensive lineman and Dotson is one of the best.
- OG Sebastien Dolcine: One of Freddie Maggard’s favorites in the upcoming recruiting class, Dolcine, Dotson and Watkins are both expected to redshirt next season.
Kentucky’s offensive line should not miss a step in 2017. Nick Haynes, Kyle Meadows and Cole Mosier will be seniors with at least a year of full-time experience. Landon Young and Fortner should take a big step forward in their second year experiencing significant playing time.
The biggest question moving forward is who will replace Toth, the quarterback of the offensive line. We should know halfway through spring practice if Drake Jackson can seamlessly step in or if Stallings, this year’s No. 2 center, needs to permanently move over from right guard.
The trophy room at the snell household is getting fuller. Today the Football Writers Association of America named Benjamin Snell Jr. a Freshman All-American. Snell was also named a Freshman All-American by Pro Football Focus, ESPN and 247 Sports.
Before the season, the freshman records for touchdowns and rushing yards were held by guys named Randall Cobb and Moe Williams. Now they’re all Snell’s. He rewrote the book with 1,091 rushing yards, the sixth-most ever recorded in a single single season in UK history, and 13 touchdowns. No other freshman in America scored more touchdowns and no other freshman in the SEC scored more points (78). The numbers are even more impressive when you consider he didn’t play in the first two games of the season.
Other honors Snell’s received this season: two-time SEC Freshman of the Week, All-SEC Freshman Team by the SEC Coaches and Athlon.
There’s more to come on Snell and the season that was when my “Position Reviews and Previews” series begins tonight, starting with the team’s best unit. Will it be Snell’s running backs or the big uglies that paved the way? Stay tuned.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 09th, 2017 @ 6:15pm
I mentioned this in the wakeup, but ESPN’s got about a million different ways for you to watch tonight’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. Okay, actually just fourteen, but still, that’s a lot. Here’s an overview of your options for watching tonight’s game via the Worldwide Leader:
Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be in the booth, the duo’s third consecutive year calling the CFP National Championship. Samantha Ponder, making her CFP National Championship debut, reports on Clemson and Tom Rinaldi reports on Alabama. Rules expert Dave Cutaia will be available and Dr. Jerry Punch provides medical advisement on a serious injury that is potentially game changing.
ESPN has more than 90 cameras inside Raymond James Stadium, including staples of ESPN’s production: SkyCam, Pylon Cameras (all eight), and a full complement of RF cameras and steadicams.
ESPN2: Homers Telecast
The Homers Telecast (ESPN2) returns and features Clemson’s all-time leading passer Tajh Boyd and former Alabama center and three-time national champion Barrett Jones for the second consecutive year. The duo will serve as quasi-‘game analysts’ with a decidedly partisan view as they did last year for the national championship. Joe Tessitore handles the majority of the play-by-play and Adam Amin interviews additional personalities and assists with the game call. All four will work from field level of Raymond James Stadium, which can result in game action happening inches from them and Boyd and Jones celebrating with the teams – such as last year when Alabama’s Kenyan Drake returned a fourth quarter kickoff 95-yards for a touchdown.
ESPN News: Coaches Film Room
The popular Coaches Film Room (ESPNEWS) is back with a new wrinkle: Limited commercial breaks. During some breaks in the action on the other networks, ESPNEWS will stay with the Bristol, Conn., based production as the coaches provide in-depth analysis from a film room equipped with multiple camera angles, clicker technology and telestration – like last year during this Deshaun Watson TD throw.
This year’s coaches include:
- Steve Addazio (Boston College)
- Dino Babers (Syracuse)
- Dave Doeren (NC State)
- Mike MacIntrye (Colorado)
- Matt Rhule (Baylor)
- Kalani Sitake (BYU)
Brian Griese, ESPN college football analyst and national championship winning quarterback with Michigan (1997), joins the coaches to add his insight.
ESPNU: ESPN Voices
ESPN personalities watch the Crimson Tide-Tigers matchup unfold in a living room-type setting. Participants include Michelle Beadle, Jay Bilas, Keyshawn Johnson, Bill Walton and Marcellus Wiley. Additional guests could be added for the Los Angeles-based production. This is the third year of ESPN Voices. Video example from last year as Alabama converted a surprise onside kick.
SEC Network: Finebaum Film Room
Paul Finebaum and SEC Network analysts Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland along with Florida head coach Jim McElwain watch the game and provide instant analysis and reaction. The show, which will be produced at a location near Raymond James Stadium, will also take live calls throughout the game.
ESPN Classic/ESPN3: Sounds of the Game
This offering has pre-game on-field festivities, including band performances, as well as ESPN’s entire game telecast — sans commentators. The presentation’s audio will be amplified with dozens of microphones positioned throughout the stadium in addition to the public address announcer and referee calls to simulate the in-stadium fan experience. Both school’s halftime band performances will also be featured.
ESPN Goal Line: Command Center
A split-screen with simultaneous multiple camera views, which could include the main ESPN camera angle, the SkyCam view and isolated camera feeds of both Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Enhanced statistics and real time drive charts supplement the game action. The Command Center was utilized during this year’s College Football Playoff Semifinals.
ESPN3: Home Town Radio
In cooperation with Learfield Sports, the ESPN telecast will be available with the Alabama and Clemson home radio broadcasts serving as the commentary (separate feeds) along with a customized viewing experience that includes full-time isolated shots of head coaches and star players. Alabama’s radio team is Eli Gold, Phil Savage and Chris Stewart; the Clemson radio team is Don Munson, Rodney Williams and Patrick Sapp.
ESPN3: Data Center
On-screen graphic content ranging from analytics, real time drive charts, win probability updates, curated social media reaction and more. ESPN Radio’s call will be part of the presentation.
ESPN3: Sky Cam
A continuous feed of the camera that maneuvers above the field of play and often provides a behind-the-offense look at game action.
ESPN Radio has Sean McDonough calling play-by-play, Todd Blackledge as the game analyst, Holly Rowe on the Alabama sideline and Ian Fitzsimmons on the Clemson sideline. Rules expert Bill LeMonnier will also be available for the broadcast, which is available throughout the country to more than 400 ESPN Radio stations, ESPNRadio.com, SirusXMRadio, the ESPN app, Apple Music, TuneIn and Slacker Radio.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 09th, 2017 @ 5:45pm
If you missed yesterday’s Steelers/Dolphins game, you missed Bud Dupree’s bone-crushing sack of Matt Moore, which went viral:
Bud Dupree knocked Matt Moore back to Miami. Holy cow pic.twitter.com/avtPvEgEKz
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 8, 2017
Okay, so, yes, that was an illegal hit and Dupree was flagged for roughing the passer, but, thankfully, Moore came back in after missing only one play. John Calipari saw the play in person at Heinz Field, and said it was one of many on a “ridiculous” day for the former UK linebacker.
“Bud Dupree – whew! Let me say this: They had to drag him off of the field like four different times. He was fighting everybody: officials, the other guys, the linemen. He was ridiculous.”
Seeing the Steelers win to advance to the divisional round was a special moment for Cal, who told reporters today that he couldn’t even get a ticket to a game as a kid.
“Look, when I grew up, I could not get into Steelers games. I couldn’t get into a Steeler game. I took my dad to a game and we walked out on the field with Marvin (Lewis) and Mike (Tomlin), and my dad as we’re walking off says, ‘We couldn’t get a ticket to these games. We’re at midfield right now.’ So I had an opportunity to go to the game and see my Steelers. And boy did they play good.”
If you’re one of those people worried that ‘Calipari’s watching football and not caring about our boys!’, well, don’t. Cal said he was invited to the Steelers’ game in Kansas City this upcoming Sunday, but declined.
“It’s just too much. This was an easy thing for me.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 09th, 2017 @ 2:20pm
With the bowl over and done with , we’re firmly in basketball mode here at KSR (at least until Signing Day), but this video is worth a minute and twenty-one seconds of your time. The talented crew at KyWildcatsTV put together this compilation of the top highlights from this season, and man, it makes me miss football:
My favorite parts are Brent Musburger saying of Benny Snell, “What a future. Kentucky’s discovered a big back,” and, of course, the Louisville highlights, which will never, ever get old. In fact, I’m still giggling like Jeff Piecoro.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 08th, 2017 @ 11:30pm
It may be late, but we interrupt your night to inform you Kentucky just received a commitment from talented 2018 DB Javaris Rolle out of Homestead, Florida.
— Javaris Rolle (@JavarisRollee) January 9, 2017
Rolle is the cousin of Super Bowl winner and Pro-Bowl NFL safety Antrel Rolle, a former player of Mark Stoops at Miami from 2001-2003.
At 6’1, 180 lbs., Rolle has an impressive frame to build off of going forward in his football career. He has great ball instincts and speed to match his length at corner, something the staff really liked in the early stages of his recruitment.
Rolle is the second commitment for Kentucky’s 2018 recruiting class, joining 3-star QB Jarren Williams.
Welcome aboard, Javaris!
By Austin Horn on ©January 08th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
While it’s certainly a good bit until these players become eligible to don the Blue and White, a pair of Kentucky youngsters—and one from D.C. with an offer from UK—made MaxPreps.com’s end of year Freshman All-American team. These kids may not have been around for the ’90s, but they can ball.
OL Dane Jackson— Berea, Madison Southern @GREAT_DANE_52
Madison Southern’s Dane Jackson, a 5-11 250-pound offensive lineman (likely a center), made the list which only selected the five top O-Line prospects. And in case you had any doubts (probably not based on the likeness of that picture) he’s our very own Drake Jackson’s brother. To get a sense of what the Berea product can do on the field, here’s a highlight of him cooking up some pancakes:
LB Devin Johnson— Paintsville, Johnson Central @devinfootball44
Playing for historical powerhouse (and Chris Stapleton’s alma mater) Johnson Central, Johnson (fitting name, right?) has turned heads as much or more than another particular Paintsville product. As always with freshmen, it’s tough to tell if they’ll continue to develop as projected both with their bodies and skill-wise, but his energy coming off the edge looks promising—especially when you consider that many of the guys he’s going up against have an extra three years of puberty on him.
Watch him work:
OL Anton Harrison—Washington, D.C. @Ayee_Tonn
This guy is not from Kentucky, obviously, but it’s worth noting that he does already have an offer from the Cats. I’m not all on board for giving program attention this early to kids, but I’m sure the love and confidence in him to offer a scholarship has left an indelible impression on the 6-5, 250 man-child.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 06th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
One of the most recent commitments for Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class came from 3-star OL Sebastien Dolcine, a late bloomer that jumped on UK’s radar following a dominant senior campaign at Miramar High School (FL).
Dolcine, a 6’6, 295 lbs. guard out of Hollywood, Florida chose the Wildcats over Wake Forest, USF, UCF, and NC State.
With National Signing Day quickly approaching, Dolcine is ready to sign on the dotted line with Kentucky, and is excited to get on campus.
Check out my interview with him:
JP: What’d your final list look like leading up to your commitment?
SD: My final list was UCF, Wake Forest, USF, and NC State. NC State was close to offering me before I shut down my recruitment.
JP: Who recruited you the hardest to Kentucky?
SD: Coach Eddie Gran recruited me the hardest.
JP: What made Kentucky the best choice for you?
SD: I chose Kentucky for a lot of reasons. The coach-to-player relationship is great there. Kentucky doesn’t have a lot of outside distractions for me, so I could be more focused on my education. I feel like I could have a good chance at the league because of that.
JP: You visited UK on December 9th and committed just a few days after. What was that visit like?
SD: My visit went great. I got to see a couple of the commitments and had a really good time with them. I interacted well with Quinton Bohanna and Isaiah Epps. I hung out with some of the players and really had a good time with them.
JP: What were some of the things the coaching staff said to you while you were being recruited? How do they want to use you on the offensive line?
SD: They projected me as an NFL prospect. I have two years of football experience and have progressed really well because of my work ethic and my play-style mentality. Coach Schlarman and Coach Gran are going to put me at offensive tackle because they see I’m very athletic on the outside, can recover quickly, and have good bend with my flexibility.
JP: What separates you as a player compared to other recruits in the country?
SD: My willingness to learn and my determination to dominate against the best players in the country separates me. The thing I like about our recruiting class, though, is how we are all like-minded. That’s what’s special about this class.
JP: What do you feel you need to work on the most when you get to Kentucky?
SD: When I get to Kentucky I need to improve my punch on the line. I’m planning on having the best punch getting off the line of scrimmage.
JP: Anything you want to say to the Big Blue Nation about you coming?
SD: Get ready to dominate with me!
John Schlarman’s offensive line was already showing unbelievable development this past year, and looks to only get better over time. With talented prospects like Drake Jackson and Tate Leavitt coming off redshirts and recruits like Naasir Watkins, Austin Dotson, and Dolcine coming in, they’re going to impress for the long haul.
Follow along on KSR throughout the next few weeks with more recruiting interviews leading up to National Signing Day!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 06th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
On Saturday afternoon, Boom Williams announced he would be entering the NFL Draft following Kentucky’s 33-18 loss in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
We all knew there was a chance, a good one at that, but it was certainly a punch in the gut for fans knowing they wouldn’t be able to yell “BOOOOOOM” on Saturday’s or witness the antics of Boom Sr. at every CatWalk. He was one of the most highly touted signees in Kentucky recruiting history and certainly lived up to the hype in his three-year career.
Every college career must come to a close eventually, for some sooner rather than later. When Kentucky began recruiting at an elite level, that was part of the unwritten contract: three-and-done’s would slowly become more and more abundant each year.
The choice has been made, and it’s time to look at Boom as an NFL back…
Did Boom Williams make the right call?
Initial thoughts around the fanbase haven’t been too positive, with most believing he should’ve come back. “He’ll get eaten alive by NFL defenses,” “He’s too small,” and “He’s injury prone” have been the three most common phrases. I get it, I really do. And some of it may be true. However…
Boom needed to go, as it’s the best decision for him and his future.
Talent-wise, Williams is an elite back, there’s no denying it. When Kentucky’s offensive line struggled in his first two years, he still managed to show off his skill and put up impressive numbers, creating his own highlight reel when others were unable to carry the weight. When his offensive line flourished this year? Boom turned into one of the most dynamic backs in the SEC, rushing for 1135 yards and seven touchdowns on the year, to go with 48 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Boom has shown what he is as a college running back, and another year won’t change that. He has averaged over seven yards per carry in back-to-back years, finished fifth in the SEC in rushing yards this season, and proved to be one of the most efficient backs in all of college football. When you break down the film, Boom has matured as a runner, waiting for the holes to develop and running north/south rather than east/west. When the hole develops, it’s off to the races, and there’s not many that can stop him.
“Anytime you see the back of this guy’s jersey, you’re not going to catch him.”
When he gets to the pros, he may not bust out as many 70-plus yarders, but you better believe his speed matches up to NFL talent.
I look at the Tyler Ulis situation from last year as an example. Yes, Tyler Ulis was the best point guard in college basketball and one of the greatest in UK history, but what would he have gotten from another year in college? He did everything he had to do, put the team on his back, and showed everything he could to NBA scouts at the college level. He wasn’t going to grow several inches and pack on fifty pounds of muscle with another year in college. Fans hated saying goodbye because he was such an icon at Kentucky, but there was nothing left for him to prove at the college level. Boom has done the same thing at Kentucky. Was he going to grow three/four inches and develop a power run game, where he is magically able to truck elite SEC defenders next season? No, because that’s not his game. That’s not what NFL teams will use him for. He is what he is. Boom is a speed back, and he’s proven to be an elite one, at that.
When you factor in the risk/reward aspect, it just doesn’t add up. Could he have asked Eddie Gran to get more passes out of the backfield as a senior? Maybe, but he’s caught 38 balls out of the backfield for 300 yards (7.7 YPC) and two TDs in his career. Been there, done that. Could he have asked to return punts and kicks next year to prove his versatility? I guess, but he was a primary kick returner as a freshman, and had an average return of nearly 30 yards. Scouts can just look at that film. How much difference would that make to NFL scouts compared to the actual risk of returning for another season?
When it boils down to it, injury concerns and limited shelf life had to have been the main deciding factors. Boom dealt with some injuries in his first two seasons, but managed to stay relatively healthy throughout his junior year, not missing a game all season. Why risk coming back and getting hurt, lowering his draft stock or potentially cutting his career short? NFL running backs have a finite lifespan, even those considered “elite” backs have to stop earlier than most of their teammates after taking a beating throughout their career. If the money is on the table right now and draft stock is high, you’ve got to take it while you’ve got the chance.
In fact, Boom’s “injury history” really isn’t even that much of a “history” at all. He has missed just four games in three years at Kentucky, the same as Leonard Fournette and two less than Christian McCaffrey, arguably the two top draft-eligible backs in college. I’m not comparing Boom to Fournette or McCaffrey, but he’s not a fragile guy needing to be covered in bubble wrap like many make him out to be. He’s a tough kid that has been dinged up a few times, like most players in college football.
UK Football’s Pro Day will be a great opportunity for Boom to show scouts why he’s deserving of a selection, and one higher than most expect. Right now, he’s expected to be selected late, but if he’s able to run a ridiculous 40-yard dash (remember his infamous 4.2 second speed coming into college?) and show ability as a pass-catcher in some of the skill position drills, you can guarantee he’ll be moving up the draft boards. Last year, there were scouts representing nearly every NFL team in attendance watching guys like Josh Forrest, AJ Stamps, and CJ Johnson. With Toth, Boom, and others, it’s going to be a full house yet again.
With the NFL Draft this year, the running back class is extremely top-heavy, and the rest are all interchangeable. You’ve got Fournette, McCaffrey, Foreman, Cook, etc., and then the rest can be flipped around based on specific team needs. This works in Boom’s favor. If he’s able to prove he has a niche and separate himself among the pack, he’ll be taken before some of the other stereotypical eligible backs.
Darren Sproles, Dion Lewis, Shane Vereen, James White, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Jaquizz Rodgers all found niches as small, “different” backs in the NFL, and made impressive careers out of it. Boom Williams can prove to do the same.
Celebrate his career, appreciate what he did for the program, and tip your hat. He’s done his job, and now it’s time for him to prove people wrong at the next level.
Kentucky’s TaxSlayer Bowl appearance gave fans plenty to gripe about, but we cannot let people forget who played well on the biggest stage of the 2016 season.
Stephen Johnson received MVP honors for Kentucky following the game. With 175 passing yards and 49 rushing yards, Kentucky’s quarterback accounted for 69% of UK’s total offensive yards. He also threw an impressive touchdown pass to Dorian Baker and dove into the end zone for another score. Despite Johnson’s numbers, the analysts at Pro Football Focus did not give him UK’s highest grade.
After multiple eyes reviewed the game multiple times, each player is assessed a grade by PFF. Their top performer is a name some may have never heard of until now: T.J. Carter.
PFF’s Top TaxSlayer Bowl Performers
- DT T.J. Carter, 80.0
- RG Jervontius “Bunchy” Stallings, 78.5
- LT Landon Young, 77.9
- CB Derrick Baity, 75.4
- OLB Denzil Ware, 74.5
- WR Dorian Baker, 69.0
- WR Garrett Johnson, 68.0
- OLB Josh Allen, 67.4
- CB J.D. Harmon, 66.4
- HB Stanley Williams, 61.5
- QB Stephen Johnson, 61.5
Carter is a true freshman who was forced to fill in for the injured senior captain, Courtney Miggins. Carter only had two tackles, but maintained gap integrity and came up with a crucial pass break up on third down in Tech’s first drive.
Even though Baity kind of blew it by playing too aggressively on UK’s final third down, he was the best performer in the secondary and provided exceptional run support. Denzil Ware and Josh Allen’s high grades prove the defense was sound and disciplined against Tech’s triple option attack on the outside. The absence of any interior defenders shows just how badly Tech’s offense gutted the defense up the middle.
Some do not like the metrics and advanced analysis, but it’s undeniably exciting to see Carter earn this accolade in his first significant appearance as a Wildcat. The future is bright for the true freshman defensive tackle and the young Kentucky defensive line.
Kirby Smart learned a lot during his Alabama tenure with Nick Saban. His robotic bottom-line approach is evident, but he forgot the importance of the placekicker.
Remember Rodrigo Blankenship? The odd name rings a bell. Let this picture help.
Now you remember the kid with glasses that took down Kentucky on the road with a game-winning field goal as time expired. That kick ensured bowl eligibility for Georgia in Smart’s first year as the head coach of his alma mater.
The redshirt freshman was an All-SEC Freshman and an SEC Special Teams Player of the Week as a walk-on. Despite his success, he will remain a walk-on.
Even though six scholarships have opened up following early declarations for the NFL Draft, Smart simply can’t waste a valuable scholarship on a kicker. I mean, all Blankenship did was lead the team in points scored. No big deal.
Fed up with Smart’s crafty BS, Blankenship’s parents took the case to the public. In this lengthy e-mail to Dawg Nation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s UGA website, Smart is put on blast.
You can read the letter in its entirety here, but due to length I’ll simply provide a few excerpts.
In two months, Coach Smart went from “We have a damn good field goal kicker over there” to “I’m not sure if we trust Rodrigo to be the player we want in that position.” That was the excuse/rationale/explanation he employed in our meeting on Jan. 2 after delivering a well-planned and well-conceived litany of deficiencies regarding our son’s practice, injury and emotional “issues.” This would be AFTER he trusted our son enough to kick field goals and extra points for the last 10 games of the season…
…Somebody’s going to get the scholarships left behind by Wilson, Briscoe, Choates, McGee, McGraw, McKenzie (they weren’t simply vacated into thin air, were they?), and it is very distressing to us that our son, who has ALREADY made fairly significant, valid and measurable contributions to this program commands a lower priority than those who have yet to provide a single play or single point for that same program. Isn’t Rodrigo a somewhat viable candidate for future contributions? Has he not established a somewhat impressive track record on which to base future projections?
That means the newbies will be cashing those weekly $200 maintenance checks (not to mention the free housing, tuition, books, etc.) while our son uses his debit card for weekend meals and incidentals; back home in Marietta there’s a dad who has to keep his son’s checking account balance on the plus side…
…Coach Smart said he came to Georgia as a walk-on and had to earn a scholarship, so he knows what our son is feeling. Our son has been a walk-on for two years and still doesn’t have a scholarship, and has made All-SEC and still does not have a scholarship. Does Coach Smart know how that feels? Did Coach Smart make All-SEC as a walk-on his freshman season?
Complaining parents are a coach’s worse nightmare. Instead of having a thorn in his side, Smart’s decision to be the anti-Richt has turned into a PR nightmare.
Parents will always have their kids’ self-interest before the team’s. Their subjectivity does not matter in this case. After being told, “you’re up next if you keep doing well,” you should get that scholarship for exceeding expectations. That’s how it works. That’s how it worked for my little brother. It motivated him to perform better and it worked, just liked it worked for Blankenship.
Instead, Blankenship’s family will continue to carry a financial burden for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, this letter probably only made things worse. If Smart changes course, it will set dangerous precedent. A guy who watched kickers consistently blow it for Bama finally found a good one at Georgia, and it only took one season to get the kicker on his bad side.
Instead of being a decent human being, Saban’s robotic offspring is the biggest jerk in college football.
After a week of bowling in Jacksonville, The Depth Chart Podcast returns to discuss everything that happened in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. From the packed pep rally, to Top Golf and the triple option, we’ve got you covered. A few highlights:
— The one player that led to Kentucky’s demise.
— How fourth down changed the game.
— Freddie’s football reunion with former players.
— How basketball helped Josh Allen against the triple option.
— We look ahead to who returns for 2017 and the upcoming recruiting class. There are many to be excited about, but Freddie dishes out a Randall Cobb comparison to one name you probably forgot.
— The Depth Chart Podcast will be LIVE at Jack Kain Ford February 3 at noon to recap National Signing Day and draw a winner for the 60-inch TV. Make sure you’re following @KainFordInc.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, streaming on Podbay, or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 04th, 2017 @ 1:00pm
Bowl attendance across the country was down in 2016 and the turnout for the TaxSlayer Bowl was no different. In fact, TaxSlayer attendance was at its lowest since 1958, and its two least-attended games since that one some six decades ago, last week and the one in 2000, both included Georgia Tech. (Do better, GT fans.)
To that, TaxSlayer Bowl president Rick Catlett said, “Thank God for Kentucky fans,” for doing their part in filling the seats and flooding the city of Jacksonville with tourism money.
From The Florida Times-Union:
Kentucky’s fan base, spurred by their first bowl trip in six years and first Florida bowl game in 18 years, sold out its allotment of 8,000 tickets in three days and were estimated to have purchased 12,000.
The TaxSlayer Bowl sold around $9,000 worth of walk-up sales on game day, Catlett said. Although a final report on the number of room nights and other economic indicators won’t be available until later in the week, he said there were around 20,000 out of town guests, which is not an insignificant number.
“Playing on the weekend meant we started getting fans in on Thursday and that helped our economic impact,” he said.
But it was still the lowest attendance since 1958 and the two lowest-attended TaxSlayer Bowls, last week and the 2000 Georgia Tech vs. Miami game, have involved the Yellow Jackets.
Catlett said he’s not going to criticize the ACC for slotting Tech to Jacksonville.
“In fairness to Georgia Tech, we have had one sellout where it played [in 1999 vs. Notre Dame] and in this cycle they won’t play in Jacksonville again. We’re happy with the ACC. We had a lower turnout than we had hoped for, but thank God for Kentucky fans, and we’ll go from there.”
Blue got in, as expected, which will hopefully help future bowl invites. These games should be salivating at the thought of Big Blue Nation infiltrating their cities, as Big Blue Nation always does.
Read the entire story on the decline in bowl attendance and the TaxSlayer Bowl here.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 03rd, 2017 @ 6:30pm
The college football season may be officially over for the Kentucky Wildcats, but recruiting season has just begun. We’re just over a month from National Signing Day, and UK is looking to fill out their few spots available with some of the remaining elite talent in the country.
One of those elite prospects? Four-star WR Kevaughn Dingle.
Dingle, a 6’1, 190 lbs. receiver out of Miami Gardens, Florida, holds offers from Notre Dame, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Miami. He decided to re-open his recruitment on December 15th, breaking off his nine-month commitment to the Miami Hurricanes. Not long after, he was very open about his interest in UK, and decided to set an official visit to Kentucky just days before National Signing Day.
I interviewed Dingle on his interest in the Wildcats, his upcoming visit, and when he might make a final decision.
Check it out:
JP: Can you talk about your decision to de-commit from Miami? What sparked that?
KD: There was just a lack of communication with Miami and their coaches. I just felt they were backing off on me, so I decided to open things up and make the best decision for me.
JP: Is Miami off the list, or are you still interested?
KD: Yeah, Miami is off the list.
JP: Do you have a final list of schools heading into the last few weeks of your recruitment?
KD: I don’t really have a final list yet, that’ll come in the middle of January. I kind of know my top three right now, but I want to wait to release it.
JP: You’re visiting UK on the 27th of this month, correct?
KD: Yeah, I’m taking my official visit to Kentucky on January 27th.
JP: What coach initially caught your attention at UK?
KD: I talk to Coach Lamar on an every day/every other day basis. We have a great relationship, he’s very open with me. He always has been, even at Louisville. He’s always shown he really wanted me, has just always kept it real. He’s a great coach, I feel like I could learn a lot under him at UK.
JP: Are there any other coaches you keep in contact with at Kentucky?
KD: I haven’t spoken to the other coaches, but I really want to get to know them. That’s kind of the most important thing for me and what I’m looking forward to on my visit. I want to develop a good relationship with Coach Stoops, learn more about the coaching staff. I’m excited to just mingle with the players on the team, get the vibe of the program in person..
JP: Would you consider Kentucky your top choice right now? What’s your level of interest in the Wildcats?
KD: Kentucky is definitely my top school right now. I think this visit is going to finalize things for me, especially with Signing Day being the week after. My visit to Kentucky is going to tell me where I want to be, give me faith in my decision when I sign my paperwork.
JP: What kind of impact did this season’s success make on your interest with UK?
KD: I wasn’t watching them to start, but I got really interested when I started talking to Coach Lamar. After hearing from him, I watched a lot of games after that, and loved what I was seeing. I watched all of the highlights, really started paying attention to the system. I could really tell that the program has changed, even just throughout this year. Lamar’s words were truthful, I could see it every time I watched them. They changed up the culture of Kentucky football, and I’m excited to see it in person.
JP: Anything you’d want to say to the UK fans before we go?
KD: If I do commit, I just hope y’all know you’ve got a baller coming to Lexington. You’ve got a baller coming from the 305 and I’m ready to make an impact.
There’s still a whole lot of time left, but you’ve got to feel good about Kentucky’s chances with the talented wide-out heading into the home stretch.
Check back on KSR in the next few weeks for interviews with some of the remaining top targets before NSD.