Football Season Coverage
A talented wide receiver with a close Kentucky connection has entered the fluctuating transfer market.
Last night La’Michael Pettway announced he is leaving the Arkansas football program. A 6’2″ 220-pound wide receiver, in 2018 Pettway caught four touchdown passes and led the Razorbacks in receiving yards (499) and receptions (30). Pettway plans to graduate, giving him immediate eligibility for the 2019 season.
As Kentucky searches for more options at wide receiver, Michael Smith could turn to one of his former players. The UK wide receivers coach was Pettway’s lead recruiter when he was a four-star prospect out of Nashville High School in Arkansas.
Kentucky is searching for wide receivers and defensive backs to fill out its class in the February National Signing Day. If the Cats cannot convince Devonta Lee to leave Louisiana, Pettway could be UK’s next best option for an impact wide receiver in 2019.
In other college football transfer news, Jalen Hurts will be an Oklahoma Sooner. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is blocking Austin Kendall’s transfer to West Virginia. I think it’s now safe to say if Neal Brown never left Kentucky, Kendall would be a Wildcat. Another quarterback is on the move, Florida State’s James Blackman. The other high-profile quarterback on the move to Florida, Miami’s Tate Martell, could potentially push Jarren Williams out the door. Prepare for part six of that epic saga to unfold in the coming weeks.
Josh Allen has played his last football game before the NFL Draft.
Senior Bowl rosters were released this afternoon. Three Kentucky Wildcat defensive backs — Mike Edwards, Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Darius West — will compete for the South Team. They will not be joined by Josh Allen.
Allen was one of the first players to accept an invitation to the Senior Bowl back in November. Since then his draft stock has soared. A three-time National Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-American, Allen’s three-sack performance in the Citrus Bowl provided more than enough tape for NFL scouts.
Following the Citrus Bowl, Allen made one final statement about the draft: “If I don’t go No. 1, I don’t know who is.” Unfortunately, he will still have to convince some NFL scouts and general managers at the NFL Combine and UK Pro Day. Todd McShay’s current draft board is blasphemy.
There are nine defensive players better than the National Defensive Player of the Year? That makes sense.
Allen’s time to prove the haters wrong will come, but it will not happen at the Senior Bowl. You can watch Kentucky’s three other defensive back prospects play in Mobile next Saturday January 26 at 2:30 on the NFL Network.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 16th, 2019 @ 11:11am
How sensitive are Georgia fans over KSR’s report that Eddie Gran turned down an offer to be the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator? Last night, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity made security confiscate an “Eddie Gran [loves] UK” sign at the Georgia/Kentucky basketball game in Athens.
The Kentucky fan who made that sign called into today’s show to describe the awkward moment. David, who lives in Georgia and whose daughter attends UGA, said the sign cleared security when they arrived at the arena but when they took their seats underneath the basket, a security guard came over and told them McGarity wanted it gone.
“When we came in, they checked our sign, security did. They okayed it coming through. We were very front row underneath the basket where the players come out. A security guy came over, we’d been there about 30 minutes, and said, ‘I’ve gotta confiscate your sign.’ We thought he was joking. We kind of laughed it off. He said, ‘No, I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘Is it offensive?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Do you even know who Eddie Gran is?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said the athletic director told his boss to come get that sign.”
David said he could see McGarity watching the exchange go down and security came back to check their tickets.
“He was standing — we watched him because people around him pointed him out. He was standing watching them take the sign. Then, security came over and wanted to check our tickets to make sure that’s where we belonged.”
Wow. Methinks they doth protest too much.
By Nick Roush on ©January 15th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
We are almost two weeks removed from Kentucky’s dramatic season finale in the Citrus Bowl. Now that we’ve had time to digest the Cats’ first ten-win season in 41 years, let’s reflect on Mark Stoops’ successful sixth season in Lexington.
Led by two of the best to wear blue and white, Benny Snell and Josh Allen, Kentucky won five SEC games to finish second in the Eastern Division. Kentucky beat four teams in the final CFB Playoff Ranking.
A team that falls into each of the ;previous categories is Florida. For most readers, the victory in The Swamp was the first time we ever saw a Kentucky football team defeat Florida. The emotions that followed the win are unforgettable.
A few weeks later, Benny Snell saved his best performance for a rainy fight with Mississippi State, one that ended with a win and $100,000 fine. It was fun to beat South Carolina for a fifth year in a row, but not as fun as it was to beat Missouri on an untimed down. That sparked a matchup with Georgia for an SEC East Title and paved the way for Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl berth (one that was not official until after Kentucky beat Louisville by a measly 46 points).
The Kentucky football season was filled with many great moments. Now it’s your turn to decide which ones meant the most. From Penn State to Murray State, rank all ten of Kentucky’s historic 2018-19 season wins.
If you couldn’t tell where I stand in the preview, see my submission below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 15th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Kentucky star running back Benny Snell just finished up his #SnellYeahTour over the weekend, but two other popular Wildcats are also ready for a statewide meet-and-greet with the Big Blue Nation.
Superstar pass rusher Josh Allen, a potential No. 1 overall pick in this spring’s NFL Draft, announced his signing tour for March.
Signing tour in March stay tuned BBN
— Joshua Allen (@JoshAllen41_) January 14, 2019
Soon after, former Kentucky tight end and fan-favorite CJ Conrad announced he would be joining Allen on the tour.
Coming soon with my guy https://t.co/1mM92V9PUS
— CJ Conrad (@cjconrad1) January 15, 2019
Details of cities, specific locations, and prices are still in the works and have not been released quite yet, but we promise to keep you updated as we hear more about it.
All I know is if it’s anything like the #SnellYeahTour, the BBN is in for a treat.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 15th, 2019 @ 10:45am
Classes officially started last week at the University of Kentucky, and like every other student on campus, I slowly made my way through each class on my schedule for syllabus week.
In one instance later in the week, I was trekking my way into the brand new UK Student Center when an individual walked past me that caught me off guard. There are thousands of students walking through campus each day, and I only had time to take a quick glance, but I could’ve sworn I had seen him before. Did I have a past class with him? Same high school? Played sports together growing up?
I brushed it off and didn’t think anything of it until this morning. Making that same journey into the Student Center, I walked down a flight of stairs into the dining area, and that same individual from the week before was walking my direction. This time, though, I got a closer look at him and still couldn’t figure it out. He was 6-feet tall or so, wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants, longer hair, etc. But the face was so freaking familiar.
Sitting down for a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit, I was making my typical morning rounds on social media. Then I came across the following post on Twitter from University of Kentucky assistant athletic director Tony Neely:
— Tony Neely (@tneel) January 14, 2019
Bookbag on and pencil in hand, the individual I had seen twice absolutely was former Kentucky star linebacker and current New York Jet Avery Williamson.
Williamson, who finished with a career-high 121 tackles (41 solo), three sacks, six tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 2018, is back in Lexington this semester to finish his degree at UK.
After being drafted in the fifth round by the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Williamson played the first season of a three-year, $22 million deal with the Jets he signed last offseason.
At Kentucky, Williamson played from 2010-2013, racking up 296 total tackles, four sacks, ten tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
Congratulations to the former Wildcat great on coming back to earn his degree!
Despite conflicting reports from some of those in the Peach State, there is no denying that Kirby Smart had legitimate interest in Kentucky’s assistant head coach.
Eddie Gran, a 30-year coaching veteran, has spent 18 seasons in the SEC and has gotten to his current position the hard way. Unless you are a quarterbacks coach or a cream of the crop recruiter, it can be very hard to get your big break. Gran, who has primarily been a running backs coach his entire career, had to wait a long time to become an offensive coordinator.
After working for Jimbo Fisher for three years at Florida State following a decade at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville, Gran finally got his break in 2013 when Tuberville accepted the head coaching position at Cincinnati. The following six seasons have seen Gran be a part of six bowl teams, 49 wins, and multiple all-conference performers. Just on paper he has been a very successful offensive coordinator.
Fresh off their best season in 40 years, it’s clear that Mark Stoops has something special brewing at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. The Wildcats are reeling in top 30 recruiting classes and have proven to be solid developers of talent. Keeping the band together when this group has finally found a rhythm is very important. Kentucky has done just that with Gran announcing that he is returning to Lexington to run the offense for a fourth season.
I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this !
— Eddie Gran (@CoachGran) January 10, 2019
A Winning Formula
When Mark Stoops first arrived in Lexington, the sirens were back in the Commonwealth. Kentucky was returning to an Air Raid scheme and looking to return to their Hal Mumme roots. UK was hopeful to put up a bundle of yards and score a boatload of points. After two years of building by Neal Brown, it all fell apart in year three.
Per S&P+, Shannon Dawson led UK to their worst offensive finish of the Stoops era (103rd) with the Wildcats really struggling after a hot start. Dawson’s scheme called for many vertical passes that put the offense routinely behind the chains. This led to many quick turnarounds for UK’s defense. It was clear that it was not a match and some boneheaded red zone fade calls at Vanderbilt likely costed UK bowl eligibility. Heading into year four, a change was made in advance of a must win 2016 for Mark Stoops.
Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw made the move from Cincinnati to take over the offense in Lexington. In the American Athletic Conference, the two ran a very balanced offense that was able to consistently create explosive plays in the passing game. Early in their tenure in Lexington, we saw just that.
In the season opener in 2016, Drew Barker put together one of the most impressive halves a quarterback has ever played at UK. Then in the second half the former blue-chip quarterback aggravated a back injury and the Wildcats were stunned by Southern Miss. A few games later he was knocked out for the season. There is where it all changed.
With a guy by the name of Benny Snell emerging into a star after rushing for four touchdowns in his first real playing experience against New Mexico State, Kentucky’s offense underwent a vast identity change. At this point of the season, Kentucky’s defense was really struggling and they needed a lot of help from the offense. Gran made some adjustments that allowed just that.
Kentucky formed into a ground and pound offense that focused on ball control. The Wildcats produced two 1,000-yard rushers with an offensive line that was very young. It was clear that Mark Stoops had found a winning formula. Run the ball, eat clock, and keep your defense off the field.
Since the emergence of Snell and this new offensive philosophy, Kentucky is 24-11 with three bowl appearances and a top-15 finish. The foundation has been built. Kentucky appears to be a program that is setup to consistently play in bowls and occasionally be in the race for an SEC East title. A big credit for this goes to Gran.
The offensive coordinator, on the fly, totally changed his offense to benefit the team and, in the longer run, the program. That versatility has allowed UK to have one of the best three-year runs in program history.
In the first four years under Mark Stoops, it was clear that the new head coach was trying to figure out just exactly what he was comfortable with. In this time running the show, the Wildcats lost three coordinators and six additional assistant coaches for a variety of season. However, in the last two seasons, UK has only lost one assistant.
Mark Stoops has found something that is working very well and keeping Eddie Gran allows that to continue. Following an historical great year, Kentucky will have some rebuilding to do on both sides of ball but the players will be working with the same faces. To build a great culture you need to have a great staff and to be a great staff they need to work together for multiple seasons. There is now a comfortability level established between players and coaches in the Kentucky football program.
On a national scale, we’ve seen how important staff continuity can be. Clemson has been able to keep most of its staff and all of its coordinators for multiple seasons. Meanwhile, Alabama has been dealing with a revolving door at each assistant position and it appeared to catch up with them in the national championship.
This is something that not many people talk about, but it is essential in building a program.
This season we found Eddie Gran receive a lot of criticism. A lot of it was understandable.
The UK offense dropped total duds in road losses to Texas A&M and Tennessee. The passing game really struggled and there was rage in the fan base for not getting C.J. Conrad more involved. All of these were understandable complaints.
Per S&P+, UK’s offense has dropped in the overall rankings each season with Gran wearing the headset on the sideline. In 2016, UK had the 11th best rushing attack in the FBS and averaged 30 points per game on their way to a 52nd overall finish. Their 6.26 yards per play average was a high of the Stoops era. Since then, the wins have still come despite the offense’s production shrinking.
Without Boom Williams, UK’s rush offense reverted in 2017 and the explosiveness took a step back. UK finished 69th overall and put up 26.6 points per game. Thanks to a very hot start and tremendous finish in the Music City Bowl by Stephen Johnson, this year went down as the best passing offense since Mike Hartline, Randall Cobb, and Chris Matthews were on campus in 2010.
Now on to this past season. Kentucky had their second worst overall efficiency ranking of the Stoops era despite putting up 5.64 yards per play. That yardage total was the second highest since 2013. This was largely due to the fact that the passing game was not very good and that Kentucky finished 93rd in the FBS in plays that covered 30-plus yards. There is definite room for improvement.
At the end of the day, Gran is doing what he’s asked to do. After a rocky first three seasons, in 2016 Mark Stoops found a brand of ball he is comfortable with. He wants his offense to establish the run, eat clock, and carefully pick out situations when to go for the home run play.
A year after having one of the best defenses in the country, Kentucky has now completely built their identity. The Wildcats want to win games with a ball control offense, salty defense, and special teams. This is a style that has proven to be a winning formula at each level of football.
Kentucky got to this point by having Eddie Gran make certain tweaks to the offense. As they continue to grow and move on without Benny Snell, they will need Gran to make more tweaks and keep Kentucky within this formula.
Kentucky football has been subject to disrespect from the national media, pretty much all my life. Even after a successful 10-3 season and a Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State, most, if not all, national media has Kentucky sitting out of their preseason “way too early” top-25. But, for once, the Cats got some national recognition this week courtesy of USA Today.
Every year USA Today gives season grades to all 130 FBS teams ranging in the typical school grade scale (A+ through F). This year USA Today gave Kentucky an A for their remarkable season.
Kentucky ranks among three of this season’s playoff runner-ups, Flordia, Texas, and a few others as teams with an A. Only six other teams, including Clemson, finished with a higher grade.
Each team’s grade was determined by how each team performed this season while also considering what each team was predicted to do back in August. One could argue that Kentucky deserved an A+ considering their dreaded history and multiple preseason predictions had the Cats fighting for their lives to get bowl eligible, but at that point, you’re just splitting hairs.
An incredible season rewarded with a small gesture by USA Today.
If you want to see how all 130 teams finished this college football semester, you can check it out here.
By Sam Gormley on ©January 13th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
While day two of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs started, the Kentucky football coaching staff extended an offer to three-star linebacker Devyn Curtis.
— Devyn Curtis (@TheDevynCurtis) January 13, 2019
Curtis is 6’2 and is rated at the 25th best ILB in the nation and the 23rd best player in the state of Tennessee for the Class of 2020.
The Brentwood Academy defensive stud currently holds offers from both Vanderbilt and South Carolina as well as other Group of Five programs.
Curtis was in attendance in November for the Georgia game and mentioned how much he enjoyed the atmosphere of the game.
— Devyn Curtis (@TheDevynCurtis) November 3, 2018
You can watch the linebacker work at the link below:
Could we possibly be calling his name soon enough as a replacement for Kash Daniel? Come on down!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 12th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Former Kentucky star Benny Snell has quite the number of fans around the bluegrass, and last night he proved how appreciative he is of each and every one of them.
At his first appearance on the #SnellYeahTour at KSBar and Grille, Benny Snell was met with a crowd of hundreds of Kentucky fans ready to say hello, take pictures, and receive autographs.
The line was out the door, as fans gathered in the patio and on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. When I tried to come in to take pictures and videos, I was told the building reached max capacity and no more people were allowed in due to Fire Code.
When he arrived, he made sure to make a grand entrance, dancing to “Benny” and the Jets with the big ‘ole grin we have all come to love over the last three years.
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) January 11, 2019
The event was scheduled for 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m., but with well over 400 people with tickets and even more just dining at the restaurant, things obviously went a bit longer than expected.
Snell stayed until 11:00 p.m., signing autographs and taking pictures with fans for five hours straight. If you came to KSBar and Grille and had a ticket, the former Kentucky Wildcat made sure you left with what you came for.
And his signing tour has just begun.
After his appearance at KSBar and Grille, Snell headed to Wings Pizza N Things in Campbellsville this afternoon from 12-2 p.m.
On the way to Campbellsville #snellyeahtour
— Mr SNELL YA LATER?? (@benny_snell) January 12, 2019
Like last night, the line was out the door with fans ready to meet Kentucky’s all-time rushing leader.
— Chad Shively (@ChadShively) January 12, 2019
And he met every fan with a grin on his face.
— Chad Shively (@ChadShively) January 12, 2019
Did you miss Benny at either of his first two stops? You’re in luck.
The former Wildcat will head to Academy Sports + Outdoors in Elizabethtown this afternoon from 5-7 p.m. for his last stop of the day.
And then tomorrow, Snell will head to Academy Sports + Outdoors in Middletown from 1-3 p.m. followed by Barleycorn’s in Cold Spring from 6-8 p.m. to close things out.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 12th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
As fun as it was to clobber Louisville at
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium this past year, not seeing Bobby Petrino there pouting on the sidelines was a bit disappointing. Angry Bobby is the best Bobby, after all.
Luckily for us, his return to college football may come faster than we all anticipated.
According to BamaOnLine, Alabama’s affiliate for 247 Sports, Petrino is a candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Alabama.
— BamaOnLine (@BamaOnLine247) January 11, 2019
Former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino listed…. https://t.co/stPmtfLw6J
— Jody Demling (@jdemling) January 12, 2019
Nick Saban is no stranger to taking chances on individuals with questionable backgrounds. Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian each came on as offensive coordinators with significant baggage. Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was also in the running to join the Crimson Tide staff before the SEC blocked the move.
Former Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who was fired following a toxic atmosphere within the Terrapin organization, has even been spending time with the Crimson Tide staff and players to help as a consultant for “professional development.”
Adding Petrino on board wouldn’t be a stretch for the Alabama head coach in the slightest. If Saban thinks he can milk out the former Louisville head coach for all the offensive firepower he has left in the tank, he’s going to give it a shot.
As long as we get Saban outbursts on the sideline like we saw with Kiffin, I’m all for it.
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Spurned by the AP and Coaches’ Poll, at least one outlet is wise enough to put Kentucky in the top ten.
In ESPN’s final power rankings of the 2018-19 college football season, the Wildcats came in at No. 10. Unlike the other pollers, the Wildcats are where they belong, ahead of UCF and Washington State.
“A 10-win season and bowl victory over Penn State to cap a season that featured a takedown of Florida as the signature win in a 7-1 start is cause for celebration in Lexington. Benny Snell Jr., a generational player for the Wildcats, ran for 144 yards in his final game and kept the ball away from the rallying Nittany Lions to secure Kentucky’s first win on New Year’s Day since 1952.”
Seven SEC teams and four Kentucky opponents made ESPN’s final top 25. Kentucky’s place in the power rankings wasn’t the only postseason honor bestowed upon the Wildcats.
The numerous college football All-American teams are based purely on a player’s regular season performance. The ESPN All-Bowl Team is reserved exclusively for players who shined in the postseason. As expected, Josh Allen made an appearance.
“Following Kentucky’s win over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl, Allen proclaimed himself the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He sure looked the part against the Nittany Lions, with three quarterback sacks and a blocked kick. Allen set Kentucky’s single-season record with 17 sacks this year.”
Unfortunately, Benny Snell was spurned. Instead of adding Snell to the All-Bowl Team, UK’s running game was honored by the addition of Bunchy Stallings. I don’t recall another player returning a kick or a punt for a touchdown, but Lynn Bowden was passed over by Fresno State’s Ronnie Rivers.
By Maggie Davis on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 9:30pm
Tonight was a wildly successful night at KSBar and Grille, as Benny Snell brought in a huge crowd for the first stop on his autograph tour across the state. Check out the scene by clicking HERE.
But, if you missed him tonight, don’t worry! There are still four stops remaining on his tour. Check out where he’ll be:
This is your chance for a picture, an autograph and a SNELL YEAH! with one of the best rushers in Kentucky football history – don’t miss out!
By Maggie Davis on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Josh Allen, Lynn Bowden and Bunchy Stallings raked in award after award throughout the season. And now, they each have a new accomplishment to add to growing resumes: All-Bowl Team selections.
Allen was a unanimous All-Bowl Team selection by ESPN, USA Today, Associated Press and Sports Illustrated. He finished his career as a Wildcat in a big way – his three quarterback sacks, a blocked field goal and a quarterback hurry were all massive in the Cats’ Citrus Bowl win.
Bowden was named to the AP and USA Today All-Bowl Teams. His 58-yard punt return touchdown was clearly the highlight of his Citrus Bowl performance, but he also added five receptions for 84 yards, including that 54-yard catch-and-run to set up Benny Snell’s final touchdown.
Stallings was named to ESPN’s All-Bowl Team after leading the Wildcat O-Line by grading at 88 percent. It’s tough being an offensive lineman – there aren’t enough statistics available to prove how valuable the senior Wildcat was for his team this season. But Stallings’ efforts helped create a record-breaking season for Snell. One TV analyst even said “give a huge, huge gold star to Bunchy Stallings, [Snell’s] right guard,” on the replay of the touchdown that put Snell on top of the rushing list. Stallings also recorded two knockdown blocks and 22 blocks at the point of attack during the Citrus Bowl.
Allen, Bowden and Stallings were each huge contributors for Kentucky all season long, and it feels pretty fantastic to see them continuing to earn recognition for their performances in the Citrus Bowl. Congrats to all three Wildcats!