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5 Life Events That Are Perfectly Acceptable To Skip For A Kentucky Game

On this morning’s radio show, Matt and the guys raised an interesting topic: is it acceptable to skip a wedding for a Kentucky game? If you’re reading this website, you probably answered “yes” with no hesitation; however, weddings during football and basketball season are a touchy subject for couples across the Bluegrass. More than once, I’ve had to decline invitations to weddings because of Kentucky games, but as someone who covers them for a living, I’ve got a pretty easy out; for fans, it can be a much more delicate matter. So, in hopes of easing scheduling snafus across the state, I came up with this guide for which events are acceptable to skip in favor of a Kentucky game and which are not.

For sake of argument, let’s assume that the Kentucky game in question is a pretty important one, like Louisville, not a cupcake, and you’ve got a ticket to it. For some of you diehards, it may even mean just watching it.

Friend’s wedding: ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

Unless: You’re in it; you’re a family member 

Now, this will probably make me enemy number one of brides across the Bluegrass, but if you want to make things easy on your guests, schedule your wedding in April (but never the first weekend), May, June, July, or August. Fall weddings are beautiful, but problematic, so if you absolutely must get married amongst the falling leaves, schedule on a cupcake or bye weekend (although you may run into issues with the rehearsal dinner and Big Blue Madness). If you don’t, either have the game available somewhere on a TV at the reception, or just expect some people not to show up, especially during March.

As outlined above, there are a few exceptions to this rule: you can’t skip if you’re in the wedding or the bride or groom is a family member. There’s a little wiggle room if they’re a second/third cousin or niece or nephew you’ve only seen a few times, but your family will probably be pissed and it might not be worth the drama. If you’re an extremely close friend of the bride or groom, you’re probably going to be involved in the wedding, but if you’re not, this could be your revenge. (Kidding. Sort of.)


Graduations: ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

Unless: It’s your graduation; it’s your kid’s graduation

To me, graduations are a colossal waste of time, and it seems like for kids these days, there are about ten of them. Because most take place in the spring, they don’t conflict with football or basketball games very often, but December graduations certainly do, and unless it’s your graduation or your kid’s graduation, you’re probably safe to skip it.


Birthday parties: ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

My only “unless” here would have been if it were your kid’s birthday party, but come on, if you’re reading this article, you’re not dumb enough to schedule that during a UK basketball or football game. In fact, you’re probably making your kid’s year by taking him or her to an actual UK game as their present. Well done.

As far as other birthday parties go, fulfilling your duty as a Kentucky fan to cheer on the Cats trumps your friend’s kid’s sixth birthday at Monkey Joe’s or your work buddy’s birthday happy hour. If you don’t have a ticket and the party in question centers around the game or has a designated area where you can watch it and get loud, by all means, party on. Otherwise, you’re just going to be checking your phone the whole time, which will probably get you in more trouble than skipping the party to go the game in the first place.


Kid’s sporting event: ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

Odds are your kid has five million soccer/softball/baseball/peewee football games during the year. You can miss one to cheer on the Cats.


Family Reunion: ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

So your family rented a chalet in Gatlinburg for the weekend or is gathering at grandma’s house for a Saturday cookout. Hopefully, because they’re related to you, they’re also Kentucky fans and understand the importance of cheering on the Cats in person and will give you a pass. If not, then they probably won’t be cool with you watching the game at the house either, or checking the score on your phone, so just skip it.


Kid’s parent/teacher conference: DEPENDS

This is totally dependent on circumstance. If it’s a parents’ night at the school or a routine parent/teacher conference, I’d say do your best to reschedule. If it’s an actual issue that warrants calling an emergency meeting, then you gotta go be there for your kid, and double the punishment for whatever they did to have them make up for you missing the game.


A funeral: NOT ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

If it’s a family member or close friend, don’t even consider it. And definitely don’t try to use the excuse, “It’s what [insert name of deceased person] would have wanted.” That will get you smacked.


Your child’s birth: NOT ACCEPTABLE TO SKIP

Are you kidding me? Never acceptable to skip that. Also, they have televisions in hospitals.


The Depth Chart Podcast: Coaches Edition

depth-chart-jack-kain-ford

After a few episodes of The Depth Chart Podcast featured as Freddie so lovingly puts it, “has beens,” today he switched gears to get perspective from a pair of coaches.  Rob Manchester of Georgia Military College explains a few nuances to JUCO football before Conner High School coach Dave Trosper shares insight on his program and Drew Barker’s playing days.  Highlights:

—  How JUCO recruiting works and the differences between California JUCOs and the rest of the country.

—  Drew Barker feels 100%, but he still needs to take a hit.

—  People forget Barker also was Conner’s punter.

—  A story from UK football camp, scuttlebutt around the program and the loss of Alvonte Bell.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Better Late than Never: An Unlikely Foursome That Led a Turnaround

AP Photo/David Stephenson

Florida receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis de-committed from Kentucky. Ohio defensive tackle Tyler Brentley pledged his loyalty to the Wildcats. This all happened within a short period of time. Following summer football recruiting can be a tiring proposition. Commitments, de-commitments, camps here-combines there are all challenging to track and even more confusing to interpret. Terms like “committable offer” also pop into the equation which makes even less sense.

Four improbable Wildcats committed to Mark Stoops late in the process and were described by some as being “reaches”. Reach is a word that’s used to describe prospects that don’t rate high in the eyes of recruiting services and are questionable to contribute quality minutes while in college. In this post you’ll read that these four “reaches” substantially contributed to the success of the 2016 season. How much you ask? Keep reading.

Imagine if these Wildcats hadn’t signed. Oh boy, things may have turned out differently a year ago. It’s important to remember that National Signing Day was held on the first Wednesday in February for the context of this post.

Let’s take a look: 

Josh Allen, Outside Linebacker

Committed on January 31st, 2015; three days prior to National Signing Day (NSD).

Chose UK over Monmouth and Buffalo.

Contribution

2015: Allen played in all 12 games as a true freshman after being forced into action following the Jason Hatcher fiasco. Finished the season with four tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss and .5 QB sack. A redshirt would have been ideal. 

2016: Played in all 13 games, starting nine. Ended the season as Kentucky’s 7th leading tackler with 62 total. Led the team and SEC with four forced fumbles. Finished 12th in the SEC with 7 QB sacks, also good enough for tops on the team. -2017 Outlook

Rated as one of the SEC’s top outside linebackers. Projected starter and is on NFL Draft watch lists. A 2-star prospect at the time of his Kentucky commitment; Josh Allen has evolved into an upper-level producer for Mark Stoops. His best football lies ahead.

Stephen Johnson, Quarterback

Committed on January 16th, 2016; 18 days prior to NSD.

Chose UK over Hawaii and Arkansas State

Contribution

Entered fall camp as the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Drew Barker. Led the Cats to seven wins in its last eleven games of 2016. Holds a 5-4 record as a starter but entered the game early in relief duty in wins over New Mexico State and Austin Peay.

Completed 145 of 265 passes (54.7%) for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also rushed for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns. Johnson was named SEC Player of the Week by Gridiron Now and the Manning Award Start of the Week for his 16-27, 338 yard, 3 TD, and 83 rush-yards performance in the Cats win over Louisville. He was also selected as the Taxslayer Most Valuable Player after completing 19 passes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. Johnson did not throw a 4th quarter interception in 2016.

2017 Outlook

Stephen Johnson was a program lifesaver. Wasn’t always the prettiest quarterback in the league, but the California native simply won games. At times, UK quarterbacks in the Stoops era appeared to become rattled in the face of adversity. Not the unflappable Stephen Johnson. He made mistakes, sure. But the positives greatly outweighed the negatives.

Nobody could have guessed that he would eventually lead the team to a New Year’s bowl after being thrown into the early fire following Barker’s injury. I think most agree that Johnson has much to improve upon. But; his composure, leadership, and tendency to play his best in big games were essential to Kentucky’s 7-6 season.

Coaches insist a quarterback competition will ensue but Johnson is considered to be the team’s starting quarterback and team leader going into fall camp.

TJ Carter, Defensive End

Committed on January 29th, 2016; three days prior to NSD.

Chose UK over Memphis, Samford, and Wyoming

Contribution

2016: Not a lot of folks jumped up and down following the Georgia native’s commitment. One that did was former UK great Jeremy Jarmon. Jarmon took one look at his film and proclaimed that “this kid will be a starter.”

The former 2-star prospect earned playing time as a true freshman. Carter registered 11 total tackles, .5 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup in his rookie year. He earned PFF (Pro Football Focus) top grade for all defensive Wildcats in the Taxslayer Bowl.

2017 Projection

Projected as the starting defensive end following the news of Alvonte Bell’s dismissal. His January 29th commitment now has major win/loss ramifications and Stoops and company appear ingenious in hindsight. Extremely high ceiling.

Naquez Pringle, Nose Tackle

Committed on January 17th, 2016; seventeen days prior to NSD.

Chose UK over Appalachian State and Central Florida

Contribution

Given the direness of the nose tackle position, an argument could be made that Naquez Pringle was the most essential Class of 2016 signee. Pringle came on to the scene with very little fanfare but quickly earned respect by inserting himself into the lineup and becoming a key component of the Wildcat defensive line. While the BBN awaited Matt Elam’s emergence as a reliable starter, it was Pringle that went on to lead the defensive line in tackles.

2016: Started five games after recording his first start against Vanderbilt. Did not play vs. Southern Miss, registered 5 tackles and a TFL in game two against Florida. Finished last season as the team’s top interior defensive line tackler with 39 total tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QB sack.

2017 Outlook

Projected to start at nose tackle. Transformed his body into a more durable down-lineman. Was in my opinion the most improved player on the team from spring to fall. Diligent worker, Pringle’s best football lies ahead. 

What does all this mean?

Kentucky would not have enjoyed a winning season in 2016 if not for the four late, unheralded pickups listed above. Plain and simple. Think about it; this group includes the team’s highest offensive stat producer, most QB sacks and forced fumbles, top defensive line tackler, and the future at defensive end.

Football recruiting is a strange business. Yes, I said business. The premise of this post is based on the significance of four prospects that were late additions that chose Kentucky over the likes of Appalachian State, Samford, Buffalo, Arkansas State, and Monmouth. Efficient roster management requires all types of players: From 4-stars to 2, early and late commitments, JUCO and high school prospects alike.

Full disclosure; I tried my best to watch last weekend’s recruiting showcase camp at Kroger Field. I lasted all of three minutes. I understand their importance but I can’t imagine having to watch those type events on a regular basis throughout the duration of the summer.

I know; I’m old and suffer from a severe case of old-schoolitis. The game has passed me by. Fill in the blank with any other reaction that will likely be made here. But, call me when the pads start popping for accurate evaluations. The truth of the matter is that we really don’t know which players will decide the fate of a season until they get onto campus. Very few if any predicted that the foursome comprised of Josh Allen, Stephen Johnson, Naquez Pringle, and TJ Carter would quickly become fundamental members of a bowl team that is currently trending upward in the SEC East.


Yahtzee! Kentucky picks up commitment from 3-Star Defensive Tackle

Yahtzee! Kentucky picks up commitment from 3-Star Defensive Tackle

Kentucky Football has just received a commitment from Tyler Bentley a 3-star defensive tackle from Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio. Bentley is 6’2″ member of the Class of 2018. 24-7 Sports ranks him as the number 35 player in the competitive state of Ohio. Bentley also held offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, LSU and Louisville.

Watch him work below:

 


UK Athletics

UK Athletics 2016-17 Recap

UK Athletics

UK Baseball’s elimination yesterday brought an end to the year for UK Athletics. It was definitely a memorable one. Here is a recap of how all of the teams did this season!


Fall 2016

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Football

Record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)

Postseason: Lost to Georgia Tech in Tax Slayer Bowl 33-18

Best Moment: 

Heck this might be the best moment of the UK Athletics season.

Recap: The season could not have started any worse for Mark Stoops and company. The Cats jumped out to an early lead on Southern Miss with Drew Barker having a monster first half. The second half of the game? Well, you know what happened… the season continued with a big loss to Florida and an embarrassing start to the New Mexico State game. Fans immediately began to call for a change in leadership. To say that the Cats proved them wrong is an understatement. The win over Louisville may go down as the biggest win in program history. It changed everyone’s perception of Mark Stoops and those that were not sold on him are now buying back into the program. While the Cats lost the bowl game, the end result does not mean as much as just being there does. Kentucky not only just making a bowl game, but making one of the caliber of the Tax Slayer Bowl is massive for the program. It really does lead us to ask the question, What’s Next?

Via @KentuckyVB

Volleyball

Record: 23-8 (15-2 SEC)

Postseason: Lost to Washington 3-0 in 2nd Round of NCAA Tournament

Best Moment: Sweeping Louisville 3-0 at the KFC Yum Center

Recap: UK Volleyball had another impressive season. Craig Skinner’s team finished with 23 wins marking the 9th time in the past 10 years that his team has won at least 20 games. Volleyball players Leah Edmond, Ashley Dusek and Olivia Dailey earned All-America distinction, with Edmond becoming the 11th player in school history to be named to 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-American. Dusek was also named the SEC Libero of the Year. Next season will bring high expectations for the Cats as they bring in their highest ranked recruiting class in school history.

UK Athletics

Men’s Soccer

Record: 11-5-3 (5-3-0 C-USA)

Postseason: Lost to Creighton 3-2 in 2nd Round of NCAA Tournament

Best Moment: Selection Show (Team earned first ever national seed)

Recap: For the first time in team history, the Kentucky soccer team were given a national seed. With this, Kentucky hosted Creighton in the NCAA Tournament. This was the third straight NCAA Tournament bid for the Cats and the fourth in five years. Napo Matsoso was drafted with the 31st pick of the MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution. This selection made Matsoso the highest drafted player in program history. He ended his career with the third most assists in school history, and tied for the ninth most goals. Charlie Reyman also signed with Bethlehem Steel FC of the United Soccer League, which has teams in Louisville and Cincinnati.

UK Athletics

Women’s Soccer

Record: 5-9-4 (1-7-3 SEC)

Postseason: No Postseason

Best Moment: 2-1 Win over #9 Arkansas

Recap: The season was an obvious disappointment for Kentucky fans. Following their loss to Georgia to close the season, head coach Jon Lipsitz was relieved of his duties as head coach. Following a nationwide search, Mitch Barnhart decided to go in house and hired assistant coach Ian Carry to become the next head coach.

UK Athletics

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country

Postseason: Men: 5th in NCAA SE Regional

Women: 3rd in NCAA SE Regional

Best Moment: Katy Kunc finishing 33rd in NCAA Championship

Recap: Cross Country is a sport that doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves. Both teams had an impressive season. The men’s team finished in 3rd in the SEC which was their best finish since 1992. The women finished 3rd in the region and narrowly missed qualifying as a team for the NCAA Championship. Katy Kunc was still able to represent the team by running a 6K in 20:20.

kentuckywgolf | IG

Men’s and Women’s Golf

Postseason: Men: 7th in NCAA Baton Rouge Region

Women: 16th in NCAA Regional

Best Moment: UK Women winning the Battle of the Bluegrass Tournament

Recap: The UK Men were highlighted by having 3 players finish in the top 20 at the NCAA Regional. Tyler McDaniel led the way for the Cats shooting a +3 over 3 days. The UK Women were led by Isabelle Johansson who finished tied for 22nd place in the region by shooting +9 over 3 days.

 

Be sure to click the more button to read the remainder of the recap and to vote on the best team and moment of the year!

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Three Players pick up UK Offer

This weekend, UK Football is hosting one of its’ football camps. For a recap of yesterday’s events, check out this article from Nick Roush.

The event has also left three players with UK Offers. Here is what you need to know about each of them:

Christopher Henle

Henle is a 3-star tight end from Arlington, Texas. In his junior season, he finished with 579 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He currently holds offers from Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Houston, Illinois and now Kentucky. Watch Henle work below:

Antonio Gibson 

Gibson is a JUCO Wide Receiver from McDonough, Georgia. He currently attends East Central Community College. In his freshman season there, he hauled in 29 passes for 563 yards and 9 touchdowns. Gibson currently holds offers from schools like Colorado, Mississippi State and West Virginia. Watch him work below:


A.J. Kirk Jr.

From the Class of 2021, Kirk landed his first D1 offer, with the Cats offer. He has yet to play a down of high school varsity football as he will be entering his freshman year in Columbus, Ohio this coming season. He is the younger brother of former NFL Safety Mike Doss. Watch some highlights of him from this weekend from Scout.com below:


Follow me on Twitter @GormleyKSR


Kentucky LB Ranked Among the Best in SEC

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

ESPN’s Alex Scarborough ranked the top 5 defensive front seven players in the SEC, and guess who got the nod at number 3?

3. Jordan Jones, Kentucky, LB: You might have missed it, but Jones quietly emerged as one of the best linebackers in the SEC as a sophomore, racking up 109 tackles, including 15.5 for a loss.

We sure didn’t miss it.

[ESPN]

@JayWinkKSR


What We Learned at the First Kentucky Football Camp of the Summer

What We Learned at the First Kentucky Football Camp of the Summer

The summer season for Kentucky football began with more than a hundred campers the Kentucky football facility.  Split between the stadium and practice fields, coaches spent more than three hours working with some of their top recruits.

Here’s what we learned, along with a disclaimer: there are no rosters at these events.  Figuring out who is who can be difficult, but I think I got all I needed.  Check it.

—  Jarren Williams went to the Elite 11 Camp.  If you didn’t know who he was, all you had to do was see the quarterback’s Elite 11 swag.  From his shoes to his backpack, he brought everything from L.A. to Lexington.  Williams did not throw today, instead he spent his time talking with Darin Hinshaw and future teammates.

—  Williams’ wide receiver dominated.  A pair of Central Gwinnett wide receivers made the trip to Kentucky, Jallah Zeze and Khmari Thompson.  One player in yellow shorts — I’m almost certain it was Thompson — took on all takers in one-on-one drills and never lost.  He caught everything that went his way all over the football field.  Only once did he get bested with a bump at the line of scrimmage, and that was by arguably the most talented player at the camp.

—  Top 20 Cornerback from Michigan Visits.  I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out who the wide-bodied cornerback in adidas cleats was.  My Google search led me to Kalon Gervin, the No. 2 player in the state of Michigan, a Top 200 player overall and Top 20 cornerback in the nation.

Gervin is a teammate of DeAndre Square at Cass Tech in Detroit.  Square, a safety/outside linebacker, spent the day with Matt House, who often used Square as a teaching example during drills.  Gervin received that individual attention from Steve Clinkscale, the UK defensive backs coach and Gervin’s primary recruiter.  On one occasion, Clinkscale wouldn’t let Gervin get a water break with the rest of the players until he walked him through some man coverage tricks of the trade.

—  “Stay Up.”  Those two words were uttered more than any other by Steve Clinkscale during one-on-one period.  Everybody wants to be at their best in front of the coaches.  After getting beat, a few DBs tackled the WRs instead of letting them run the play out into the end zone.

“You ain’t going to get a scholarship by tackling somebody!” Clinkscale had to yell after his initial instructions were not followed.  One of the few who got a scholarship offer was a 2021 recruit, A.J Kirk Jr. from Columbus. Kirk is the younger brother of former NFL and Ohio State DB Mike Doss.

—  “Big Dogs.”  That was of course what Vince Marrow required the tight ends to say when they broke out of the huddle.  Tight end commit Brenden Bates was in Lex, but Keaton Upshaw received most of Marrow’s attention.

“You ever been in a fight?” Marrow asked after seeing Upshaw fire out of his stance for the first time.  After Upshaw replied negatively, Marrow implored, “Bring your whole body.  STRIKE!  PUNCH!”

Upshaw ferociously followed Marrow’s instructions.  It was impressive.  Normally 6’7″ 17-year old tight ends are gangly pass-catchers.  That’s not the case with Upshaw.  The Lima, Ohio native is jacked.  UK needs a second tight end in the 2018 class and Upshaw would be the perfect fit.

(L to R) Keaton Upshaw (@UpshawKeaton) with Jarren Williams and Brenden Bates.

—  Talented underclassmen running backs.  This is where figuring out names became too difficult.  There were some good looking guys working out with Eddie Gran, but differentiating the short, explosive underclassmen from one another was too much to handle.  Still, they were much more talented than I anticipated.

—  Nepotism.  Strength coach Corey Edmund’s son was one of the underclassmen at the camp.  A wide receiver, every current player on the field was watching him during one-on-ones.  He did not disappoint.  After one catch down the sideline, Coach Ed turned to the players and said, “Stay off his back,” causing the crowd to erupt in laughter.

—  One Player with Buzz.  There was a good crowd of current players at Kroger Field watching today’s activities.  Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity, Tobias Gilliam, Kayaune Ross (his younger brother camped), Clevan Thomas, Tymere Dubose, Jamin Davis, Cedrick Dort and A.J. Rose stayed the longest.  One player who wasn’t there was the most talked about newcomer: Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald.

Freddie was right, again.  The steal of the 2017 class, people around the program marvel at the freshman’s size and work ethic.  He is in the weight room every single day, so much so that they’re probably going to have to tell him to slow down soon.  Losing Alvonte Bell doesn’t hurt so bad after hearing about the progress of our boy Abule.


Mark Stoops Explains to Cole Cubelic Why They Rotate on the Offensive Line

Earlier this week Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops spent 15 minutes on The Cube Show talking with Cole Cubelic.  If you don’t know by now, the former Auburn lineman and SEC Network analyst is basically America’s best at evaluating work in the trenches.  The interview began with a question about Benny Snell, but quickly transitioned into the trenches.

“We definitely feel really good about our run game and our running back position, and certainly with Benny coming back, but it really starts with our offensive line,” Stoops said.

“We have quite a few offensive linemen that rotated in a year ago.  We only lost one player in Jon Toth, who was a heck of a football player for us.  We played about nine guys on the offensive line last year and we feel like we’ll be seven, eight, nine deep again by the time the first game rolls around.”

Kentucky’s rotating offensive line is uncommon in football.  There might be one or two positions that rotate to make it a seven-man offensive line, but nine?  Nobody does that.  Stoops’ explanation makes so much sense, it makes me wonder why more people don’t do the same.

“Not only does it develop your team for the future, it was just better for our guys,” he said. “We were playing some young guys, but had a nice mix… We have a rotation of older guys with experience, talented young guys, and it bodes well for the future of the program.

“It’s a benefit two-fold. It gets us better as the season goes on. It keeps up healthy. It helps guys stay fresh. It also builds for the future of your program.

 

They don’t just talk about the offensive line.  Stoops shares what he likes about his young skill players, how the talented linebackers have improved and much more.

Listen to the entire interview here starting around the 18-minute mark.


Mark Stoops hopped on Finebaum to talk about his brother Bob’s retirement

Mark Stoops didn’t expect to be back with Paul Finebaum so quickly after he was just on during the SEC meetings down in Destin last week. But, when your brother spontaneously retires from one of the most prestigious programs in football and leaves everyone wondering why, people are going to want to know your thoughts on the matter.

That was the case with Mark Stoops, who said he was very happy his older brother, Bob Stoops, was able to go out on his own terms at Oklahoma. Mark insists there’s no bigger plot here than Bob was simply ready to move on to the next phase of his life. “There is no hidden agenda here whatsoever,” Stoops said. “He just felt it was time.”

Listen to the entire interview with the Kentucky head ball coach here:


From the Governor’s Cup to Now

From the Governor’s Cup to Now

November 26th, 2016 resonates within the Big Blue Nation as the moment that Kentucky Football began to turn the proverbial corner under Mark Stoops. The Wildcats entered the game as a 26-point, road underdog. It proceeded to beat the Louisville Cardinals and its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson 41-38.

Excitement surrounding the program pinnacled. Several, including me and mine, raced to Kroger Field to welcome the triumphant Cats back to Lexington. Conversations began to surface about pending bowl games and what could be in 2017.

Mark Stoops was projected to return ten offensive starters from the Governor’s Cup lineup. In that expected unit was running back Boom Williams and his 1170 rush yards as well as receiver Jeff Badet’s 21 yards per catch. The defense was expected to return eight starters. 18 of 22 starters coming back from a 7-5 team. Expectations ascended. Then; unexpected, key personnel departures ensued.

Boom Williams declared for the NFL Draft immediately after the Taxslayer Bowl. Weeks later Jeff Badet announced his intentions to transfer. We learned on Tuesday that defensive end Alvonte Bell was dismissed for violation of team rules.

As of today, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will begin fall camp with eight starters from the Louisville game instead of ten. Defensive coordinator Matt House will have seven starters from last November’s contest instead of eight. 18 of 22 is now 15 of 22. Still good, but not as eye popping in a division that contains several teams with a high number of returning contributors.

Couple surprise personnel losses with the word that “two to three” incoming freshman did not report for June summer workouts and the lineup in Hattiesburg, Mississippi will be a little different than expected back on November 26th, 2016. Is this topic a cause for concern?
Let’s take a look at departed starters:

OFFENSIVE STARTERS vs. LOUISVILLE

Tight End- CJ Conrad
Left Tackle- Cole Mosier
Left Guard- Nick Haynes
Center- JonToth
Right Guard- Bunchy Stallings
Right Tackle- Kyle Meadows
Receiver- Jeff Badet
Receiver- Dorian Baker
Receiver- Garrett Johnson
Running Back- Boom Williams
Quarterback- Stephen Johnson

— Jon Toth: The All SEC performer and team captain started 48 consecutive games. That level of consistency and leadership will be missed. Starting guard Bunchy Stallings was moved to center. Stallings originally signed as a center prospect then was moved to guard. He’s familiar and comfortable at the position. Redshirt freshman Drake Jackson will also be a part of John Schlarman’s 2-deep rotation.

The Post-Toth era offensive line should again be the team’s best offensive grouping. I’m not alone in this thinking. The SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic listed Kentucky’s offensive line as the 3rd best unit going into the 2017 season.

An important factor in the Wildcat OL’s high rating is the fact that UK returns nine players that consistently rotated throughout last season at all positions other than center. Experience and proven success equal expectation.

— Boom Williams: 171 carries, 1170 rushing yards, 6.8 yards per carry, 7 TD’s, 90 rush yards per game.

The Wildcats finished 3rd in the league with 3304 rush yards in 2016. Williams’ loss will be felt, but to what extent remains to be seen. History has taught us that four running backs are required to survive the physical nature of the SEC.

Benny Snell, Sihiem King, and AJ Rose are poised to run in 2017. Snell is a Top-5 SEC RB that also topped 1,000-yards a year ago. But, Gran will need one more. Remember, it takes four. True freshman Bryant Koback’s rehabilitation will be closely monitored. At a minimum, his on-field presence could provide a safety net. Fellow rookie Lynn Bowden has been rumored to get situational carries from the RB position as well. More on Bowden later. Boom’s explosive nature will be difficult to replicate.

Benny Snell is special. Just how special? I’ve interviewed some of UK’s all-time great defensive players and they describe Snell as unique; or possessing a style unlike any other historical UK running back. Should be fine here.

— Jeff Badet’s 2016 numbers: 31 catches, 670 yards, 21.6 yards per reception, 4 TD’s, 51.5 receiving yards per game. Badet was poised to become Kentucky’s number one pass catcher as a senior but transferred to Oklahoma as a grad-transfer. Playing against Big 12 defenses will be refreshing and a path of lesser resistance than those he faced in the SEC. The Big 12 had just 14 players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft good, or bad enough to be ranked 5th amongst all conferences. 5 of those 12 played defense. On the other hand, the SEC had 53 players selected; 35 played defense. He could catch 100 passes in Norman.

Garrett Johnson led the team in catches a year ago. But, Badet was Stephen Johnson’s top deep-ball threat. Defenses were forced to honor his speed which loosened the box for Benny and Boom.

True freshman Lynn Bowden is penciled in to help replace Badet’s explosiveness. Garrett Johnson, Charles Walker, Tavin Richardson, and other true freshman will also attempt to fill the void. Bowden’s campus arrival is crucial. Receiver is a deep position group and theoretically should be able to absorb a portion of this departure.

DEFENSIVE STARTERS vs. LOUISVILLE

Defensive End/Outside Linebacker- Denzil Ware
Defensive Tackle- Adrian Middleton
Defensive End- Courtney Miggins
Nose Guard- Avonte Bell (Position listed in UK media guide)
Free Safety- Marcus McWilson
Nickel- Blake McClain
Will Linebacker- Jordan Jones
Mike Linebacker- Courtney Love
Strong Safety- Mike Edwards
Cornerback- Derrick Baity
Cornerback- Chris Westry

Courtney Miggins’ 2016 numbers: 28 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, .5 QB sack, 5 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble. Miggins was a solid run stopper and provided a steady but not forceful influence in the pass rush. Alvonte Bell was slated to be his replacement; see below.

Alvonte Bell’s 2016 numbers: 27 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, .5 QB sack, 2 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry, 4 starts. Bell was coming on strong at the end of the 2016 season. A knee injury in the Taxslayer Bowl prevented spring practice participation. His unexpected departure will lessen the Wildcat’s ability to chase the quarterback in 2017. TJ Carter, Calvin Taylor, and Kengera Daniel are veterans that will vie for the starting defensive end job. True freshmen Josh Paschal, Jordan Wright, and Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald will also get early fall camp looks.

Marcus McWilson finished 2016 as the team’s 5th leading tackler with 69 total. He also registered 4.5 tackles for loss, and had 1 INT. McWilson is a player that Stoops wishes he could have redshirted as the light really came on in his senior season.

Blake McClain was another dependable defender that played a whole lot of football over the years. 2016 stats: 6th leading tackler with 62 total, .5 tackle for loss and 3 interceptions. The safety/nickel position took a hit with the departure of McWilson, McClain, and JD Harmon.

The Cat’s secondary is deep and talented enough to recover from their exit.

What does all this mean?

Let’s be completely honest here. The loss of Boom, Badet, and Bell will sting. Unforeseen exits are a commonplace across college football; attrition happens. The “Next Man Up” mantra will be frequently stressed in fall camp. There is no other course of action.

Leadership is always tested during the summer time. My projection for this team has not changed. Kentucky has a legitimate chance to make a run in the SEC East. However, the Wildcats cannot afford to suffer additional personnel losses.


Kentucky’s new kicker featured in poll on MSN front page

Days after pledging his commitment to the University of Kentucky, the Wildcats’ new kicker for the future, Chance Poore, finds himself on the front page of MSN.com.

Poore is featured in today’s poll as one of four sports figures with ironic/unfortunate names, joining Grant Balfour (ex-MLB pitcher), Chris Blewitt (Pitt kicker) and Bob Walk (ex-MLB pitcher) on the list:

And he currently sits in second place:

Go vote and show him some more love.


Cole Cubelic still likes the UK Offensive Line

Cole Cubelic still likes the UK Offensive Line

The SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic freely speaks his mind; and does so frequently. He ruffled Golden Flake feathers throughout the south a year ago by ranking the Kentucky Wildcat offensive line as the top unit in the Southeastern Conference.


PROJECTED 2017 OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

Left Tackle
Senior Cole Mosier (6’6, 335)
Sophomore Landon Young (6’7, 310)

Left Guard
Sophomore Logan Stenberg (6’6, 325)
Freshman (RS) Luke Fortner (6’6, 310)
Junior Tate Leavitt (6’6, 317)

Center
Junior Bunchy Stallings (6’3, 320)
Freshman (RS) Drake Jackson (6’2, 300)

Right Guard
Senior Nick Haynes 6’3 300
Junior George Asafo-Adjei (6’5, 320)/Junior Tate Leavitt (6’6, 317)

Right Tackle
Senior Kyle Meadows (6’5, 300)
Junior George Asafo-Adjei (6’5, 320)/Sophomore Mason Wolfe (6’6, 305)


Cubelic made his case for the Cats early in the 2016 season and well before UK’s rushing attack became a hot topic for talking head conversations. In other words, he was first to bring attention to Mark Stoops’ high achieving Hog collection. He’s back at it again. This time he lists John Schlarman’s group third.

I concur with Cubelic’s list. Most will wait to see how the Wildcat big fellas execute without All SEC center Jon Toth. But if Cole ranks it 3rd, he must be awfully high on the projected 2-deep rotation. No college football analyst watches more film or studies the game more than the former Auburn center.

Full disclosure, he and I often communicate about all things college football. Cole’s a friend to Kentucky Sports Radio as well and is set to host the KSR radio show while Matt vacations. Give him a Twitter follow if you don’t do so already @colecubelic.


UK has invited the singer Courtney Love to watch the linebacker Courtney Love play football

UK has invited the singer Courtney Love to watch the linebacker Courtney Love play football

Last night, the singer Courtney Love was on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” during which Meyers brought up last week’s story about Love discovering that there was another Courtney Love in this world, the senior linebacker at Kentucky.

“I google myself once in a while,” Love admitted. “And I kept seeing that there was this linebacker Courtney Love. I kept thinking he was British because he kept saying U.K., but it’s the University of Kentucky. He’s about 6’2″, 22 years old, African American, and his name is Courtney Love.”

When singer Courtney Love saw a tweet from UK saying the football player Courtney Love had been named to the Lott Trophy Watch List, she couldn’t help but chime in:

That was all the folks at UK needed to extend an invitation.

“Now the University of Kentucky has invited me to a University of Kentucky football show,” Love told Meyers, laughing. 

Check out the video of her appearance below, thanks to the football player Courtney Love:

This is awesome. Courtney meets Courtney.


Bob Stoops retiring after 18 seasons at Oklahoma

Here’s some breaking news I don’t think any of us expected today: according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, Bob Stoops is retiring. Mark’s older brother has been the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners for 18 seasons.

According to Tramel’s source, the 56-year-old Stoops will inform his team of his decision today and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will take over as head coach. Riley, once a candidate for the UK offensive coordinator position, is only 33 years old.

Does this mean we can have Jeff Badet back?

UPDATE: Here is Bob Stoops’ statement on his decision: