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Two Questions for Spring Practice

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Picture by the Cats Pause

March has arrived. In Kentucky that signals the beginning of Madness. In addition to Selection Sunday and the euphoria that surrounds bracketology, the BBN will get a sneak peek at its football team. The Cats will conduct 15 spring practices with its first session on Sunday. Kentucky must answer two glaring questions prior to April 14th if it intends to continue an upward trek.

They are:

Who’s the Center?

OL coach John Schlarman constructed a two-deep mauling crew in 2016 that was led by four-year starting center Jon Toth. There are replacement options, let’s take a look:

Drake Jackson secures the starting role. Jackson, a US Army All American, was a highly accomplished player coming out of Woodford County High School. Can he take the appropriate steps to fill Jon Toth’s shoes? Jackson already possesses Jon Toth-like qualities. While a redshirt freshman eligibility wise, he’ll be entering his junior year academically in the fall. Jackson is intelligent, mature and is considered a hard working team-guy.

The other option is to move Bunchy Stallings from guard to center. Stallings came to UK as a center which is his natural position. On National Signing Day I said that he had Dermontti Dawson-like tendencies. Awfully high praise for a high schooler.

However, it can be argued that the UK offensive line started its renaissance when Stallings became a full-time starter at guard. That move provided a more physical, nasty disposition upfront. A move back to center would vacate a starting job at guard which could cause a chain reaction of depth chart modifications. Who’d take over at his vacated spot? Most likely Freshman All SEC performer Logan Stenberg. Perhaps George Asafo-Adjei would kick over to guard from right tackle. Redshirt freshman Luke Fortner also has to be considered in the mix at center, guard, and tackle.

With no college game tape to evaluate, presumably Drake Jackson is capable to handle the responsibility of being the offensive line’s quarterback. Bunchy Stallings is a proven entity. Both are skilled; thus this inquiry is not of the precarious nature. There may be a slight drop-off from Toth to Jackson/Stallings but a new center won’t necessarily limit offensive growth. I fully expect the OL to continue its course as one of the best units in the conference.

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Pic of Courtney Miggins by 11Alive.com

Will the Defensive Line increase production?  

2016 Defensive End production

Courtney Miggins, Alvonte Bell, Kengera Daniel, and TJ Carter combined for 69 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1 quarterback sack. As a defense, the Wildcats totaled 21 sacks. Hate to be repetitive, but only 1 from its defensive end can be considered a critical matter.

*Please note that in the 3-4 defense, Denzel Ware is listed as an outside linebacker and at times a defensive end. If his numbers were included, the position would have 6.5 out of the team’s 21 QB sacks and increase its TFL sum from 5.5 to 18.


2016 Nose Tackle production

Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam combined for 48 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 quarterback sack. The total is misleading as Pringle accounted for 39 of those tackles, both TFL’s, and the position’s only QB sack.


Mark Stoops has built an escalating secondary and top-tier linebacker corps. However, his defensive line has not produced at a suitable level for a program that is striving to become a consistent contender in the SEC East. This especially applies to its pass rush.

Finding a replacement for Courtney Miggins will be chore number one. Miggins presented a consistent force vs. the run but lacked consistency while pressuring opposing quarterbacks. This task may be a challenge in spring practice due to Alvonte Bell’s absence. He is rehabilitating from an offseason surgery. Bell actually showed flashes of becoming an explosive-play defender. TJ Carter received the Wildcat’s highest grade in the Taxslayer Bowl. Coaches are encouraged about the rising sophomore. But, Carter’s sample size is not large enough to effectively project future production. The upcoming 15 practices are vital for the Georgia native.

Kengera Daniel arrived to campus with a great deal of expectation. He’s yet to live up to that lofty billing. Now a junior, Daniel will be expected to deliver results. His spring development will be a closely monitored storyline.

No matter if it’s Carter, Bell, Daniel, or a newcomer; the defensive end position has to escalate production. Another season with 1 collective QB sack could significantly impede defensive and team progress.

Nose tackle Naquez Pringle’s improvement and development have been documented on Kentucky Sports Radio on many occasions. The senior-to-be advanced into a reliable and beneficial commodity. But, he needs help. In the final 3 games of the 2016 season that relief did not come from fellow NT Matt Elam.

Elam is entering his senior year and has yet to display on-field reliability. However, all is not lost as he has one more season to prove his worth. If he’s not the answer to the Wildcat’s NT depth deficiency in spring practice, then new defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc will have no other choice than to move on to redshirt freshmen Kordell Looney and/or Ja’Quize Cross.

Obviously there are more than two questions leading into spring practice. The center dilemma is more of an awaiting for an anxious development than question mark as solidity surrounding the position is at an extremely high level. Defensive line is another matter. Simply put, Kentucky must manufacture a line-of-scrimmage pass rush and become more stringent vs. the run. Spring practice starts on Sunday.


Cats at the Combine

Cats at the Combine

Boom Williams and Jon Toth participated in the NFL Combine. Toth’s high-level Senior Bowl performance somewhat relieved pressure to overachieve in Indianapolis. While initially predicting that he wouldn’t have to perform all drills at UK’s Pro Day, an average workout at the Combine now forces the former Cat to improve upon Friday’s numbers. Boom Williams raised attention with 18 repetitions of 225-pounds on the bench press and recorded the 4th fastest 40-time.

How did they do?  

 Jon Toth

The knock on Toth was that he is not an elite athlete. This was on display with his 5.51 40-time and 25.5-inch vertical jump. He also recorded 21 bench press repetitions of 225-pounds. Field drills and interviews were where Toth impressed.

48 consecutive starts, a plethora of game film vs. elite defenders, the highest offensive grade for his team at the Senior Bowl, and possessing all coveted intangibles were considered to be his strengths going into Indianapolis.

Summary: Draft stock was neither raised or lowered by Combine performance. But, he’ll need to show improvements on Pro Day.

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Pic by 247Sports


 Boom Williams

Williams started off with a bang with 18 bench press reps but coaches and scouts alike were mostly anticipating his 40-yard sprint performance. His first time was a 4.51, second was much better as he ran a 4.44.

Summary 

Projections were for a 4.3 or faster. A 4.4 was a good enough for 4th best of all RBs, but will it be enough to distinguish him from his peers? Most likely yes; to what extent remains unknown. Entering the NFL Combine, Boom Williams was not listed as a top 20 RB. As an early-entry with no all-star game tape on hand, focus and reputation now shifts to UK’s Pro Day next Wednesday. Boom had a good day and should elevate on Draft boards.

 

**UPDATE: NFL.com now lists Boom’s official time as 4.51, which is tied for 10th fastest. He is no longer listed as a Top Performer.


Boom Williams ran the 4th fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine today (UPDATE: Not so fast…)

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Boom Williams came in to today at the NFL Combine needing to impress scouts with his speed. On his first run, that did not happen. Boom, who ran a 4.28 40 in high school, ran a 4.51 40 on his first attempt, but shaved some time off (and saved face) with his second attempt, a 4.44:

The time was good enough to earn him “Top Performer” honors from NFL.com. Only North Carolina’s TJ Logan (4.37), Utah’s Joe Williams (4.4), and North Carolina A&T’s Tarik Cohen (4.42) have run faster so far today among the running backs.

SEC Network’s Marcus Spears was impressed:

Well done, Boom.

**UPDATE: NFL.com now lists Boom’s official time as 4.51, which is tied for 10th fastest. He is no longer listed as a Top Performer.


Friday’s Top 10: Texas A&M, UK Hoops in the SEC Tourney, Boom & Toth in the NFL Combine

Friday’s Top 10: Texas A&M, UK Hoops in the SEC Tourney, Boom & Toth in the NFL Combine

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Hello, everyone. If you’re like me, you’re on your feet cheering the fact that today is Friday, which means the weekend is upon us. Shoutout to these brave folks for getting on their feet in the lower level, even if it means pissing off the people behind them. You go, passionate lower level fans. We need more of you.

Lots to do today, so let’s run through the agenda, shall we?

1. Time to turn our sights to Texas A&M

Kentucky beat Texas A&M by 42 points back in January at Rupp Arena, but the Aggies will surely be a more formidable foe at home, right? If I’m looking for one thing tomorrow, it’s a fast start after a string of games in which the Cats have stumbled out of the gate. Fast starts have apparently been a focus in practice this week, so let’s see if the Cats can put in “40 minutes of desperation” in their final tune-up before postseason play.

2. Here’s what A&M’s been up to recently

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So, losing to the good SEC teams and beating the bad ones. Pretty much a middle of the road team.

3. Get ready for Doug Shows!

According to ye ole Oscar Combs, Brian Shey, Vladimir Voyard-Tadal and Doug Shows will officiate tomorrow’s game. What does it say about SEC officiating these days that I don’t even consider Shows the worst ref anymore? Kentucky is 71-24 in games called by Shows, the most recent being Kentucky’s 83-58 win over Tennessee a few weeks back. Get ready for his big hair and overdramatic hand gestures.

4. Games at Texas A&M mean the return of the bizarre yell leaders

I didn’t fully appreciate how odd Texas A&M’s yell leaders were until I saw them in person last year at Reed Arena. I’m all for tradition, but man, that would be a tough one to defend if I was an Aggie.

5. What will the line be?

Kentucky by…14? That’s my guess. We’ll find out later today.

6. UK Hoops will take on Alabama at 2:30 p.m.

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12-seed Alabama upset Tennessee yesterday to advance to play the Cats in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Tournament in Greenville. You can watch UK Hoops in action at 2:30 PM ET on the SEC Network. Haley Simpson will have a full recap for us this afternoon.

7. It’s go time for Boom Williams & Jon Toth at the NFL Combine

Boom Williams and Jon Toth have been in Indianapolis all week for the NFL Combine, and after going through measurements, psychological testing, and medical exams, the two will finally get to show their stuff on the field today. Last night, they did the bench press, with Boom doing 18 reps at 225 lbs., over the average for running backs, and Toth doing 21 reps of 225 lbs., just under the average for offensive lineman. Both need a big day to maximize their draft potential, so tune in on NFL Network. Or, wait for Freddie’s hard-hitting analysis. He’s been up since 4:30 a.m. and has had five cups of tea, so he’s ready to roll.

8. UK broke ground on the new baseball stadium

Yesterday was a very cool moment for the UK baseball team, which broke ground on the construction of their new $49 million stadium. UK’s baseball facilities have been far behind their SEC counterparts, so this is a very important upgrade and a nice addition to the burgeoning “athletics village” near the football training facility. It should open in time for the 2019 season.

9. Non-basketball clip of the day: P.K. Subban’s return to Montreal

Last year, Canada native P.K. Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators after seven years with the Montreal Canadiens. Last night, he returned to Montreal for the first time since the trade and when his former team played a video tribute to him and fans gave him a standing ovation, he couldn’t keep his emotions in check:

This reminds me: I really, really need to get to a Preds game soon.

10. KSR is at the Louisville Home, Garden & Remodeling Show

Yes, I did a double take when I saw that too. Regardless, if you want to start your weekend a little early, head on down to the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville to enjoy the show.


Late Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

Late Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

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Wake up early for the NFL Combine

Boom and Toth will be running through the drills in Indianapolis bright and early tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. on the NFL Network.  Freddie will be in his zone, prepared to provide the best analysis you will find on Kentucky’s two prospects.

The two started tonight with the bench press.  Boom Williams got off to a great start by pushing up 225 pounds 18 times, just over the 17.5 average for running backs.   Toth’s 21-rep performance was formidable but not quite as impressive, two less than the average for offensive linemen.

UK as the No. 3 Team in the East is not Ridiculous

Bleacher Report’s SEC beat writer Barrett Sallee released rankings for each division ahead of Spring Practice.

1) Georgia
2) Florida
3) Kentucky
4) Tennessee
5) South Carolina
6) Missouri
7) Vanderbilt

Third in the SEC might surprise most Kentucky fans, but not when you think about their competition.  The Cats retained most of their talent, and the stars are aligning in this year’s schedule.  According to Phil Steele, Kentucky’s SEC opponents were just 27-37 in the SEC last year and they’re the only in the league who doesn’t have to play the heavyweights: LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M.

Watch Part 2 of Ky Wildcats TV’s Senior Night Recap

If you thought the first one was good, wait till you see this.

Paying Parking Tickets isn’t that Bad

I am not a big fan of the people at UK parking.  In fact, I could say some things about them that would make Britt McHenry blush, but not today.  From now until Friday March 10, you can pay off one parking citation by donating nonperishable food items to the Big Blue Pantry.  Last year they received more than a ton of food.  If you’re going to ever pay off those parking tickets, now is the time.  Learn more here.

Throwback Thursday: One Shining Moment

It’s been five years since Kentucky won the 2012 National Championship.  FIVE.  Where has the time gone?  Just ask Rick Pitino, after all, he’s the face you see when you hear “through all the years…”

“The Kentucky Coronation is Complete!”


Thursday’s Top 10: Louisville loses, Skal starts, and Boom & Toth get measured

Thursday’s Top 10: Louisville loses, Skal starts, and Boom & Toth get measured

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Shoutout to KSR and UK fan Ryan, who was in New Orleans last night to see the Pelicans get their first win since bringing DeMarcus Cousins on board. Coincidentally, Boogie had to sit out last night’s game because he’s had 18 technical fouls this season, but I’m sure Ryan enjoyed watching Anthony Davis get 33 point and 14 rebounds in the 109-86 win over Detroit.

I bet Ryan would like hearing what’s going on in the world of UK sports today, don’t you?

1. UK will preview the Texas A&M game

Usually, UK does media opportunities the day before the game, but I guess because the Texas A&M game is at noon on Saturday, and, you know, in Texas, they’re getting a head start this afternoon. An assistant coach and select players will meet with reporters to discuss the final game of the regular season. Check the site around 2:30 p.m. for a live stream, or shortly thereafter for a full recap.

2. Tennessee kissed its tournament hopes goodbye

Monday, Joe Lunardi had Tennessee as the fifth team out of the NCAA Tournament, but the Vols destroyed any hopes of making the big dance with a ten point loss to LSU last night. It was the Tigers’ first win in 15 games. Yikes. Meanwhile, Georgia won by one at home vs. Auburn, Florida beat Arkansas, and Alabama beat Ole Miss. Lunardi will probably release another version of Bracketology today, and if I had to guess, Vanderbilt will replace Tennessee on the bubble. Seriously, the ‘Dores are playing well.

3. Will we get a new episode of Calipari’s podcast?

Thursdays generally mean a new episode of John Calipari’s podcast, but nothing has popped up in my iTunes feed yet this morning. Last week, Cal had John Wall on to talk about his time at Kentucky and I think it was his best episode yet. Hearing Wall tell stories about the 2009-10 team was awesome, and if you haven’t listened yet, I suggest you do so soon.

4. Drew’s Quade Green profile will drop tonight

A few weeks back, Drew traveled to Philadelphia to watch Quade Green play for our ‘Next Man Up’ series, and tonight, we’ll finally get to hear about that experience. Check the site at 7:30 p.m. to hear all about UK’s future point guard.

5. Louisville lost

I watched a little bit of the first half of Louisville/Wake last night, so imagine my delight this morning when I woke up to see the Cards actually lost to the 17-12 Demon Deacons. Louisville’s vaunted defense allowed 88 points from Wake, who got their first ranked win of the season, which was excuse enough for fans to storm the court:

Shoutout to this fan for a truly fantastic sign:

Louisville’s loss just further proves my point that no team is immune to struggle this season, especially heading into March. Scroll down to my post from last night to read reasons why Kentucky fans should feel optimistic heading into the postseason.

6. We’ll find out who UK Hoops will face in the SEC Tournament tomorrow

Matthew Mitchell’s squad is en route to Greenville, South Carolina, where tomorrow, they’ll take on the winner of Tennessee/Alabama. If you’d like to do a little scouting, that game’s on the SEC Network at 2:30 p.m. Here’s the bracket after Round 1:

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Our own Haley Simpson will be in Greenville to cover UK Hoops this weekend, so stay tuned for updates.

7. Skal started for the Kings last night

Shoutout to Skal Labissiere, who got his first career start in the Kings’ loss to the Nets last night:

Skal finished wtih 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and one block in 15 minutes while Willie had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals off the bench. Clearly, with DeMarcus in Nola, they’re enjoying the extra playing time.

We’ll have more on the NBA Cats in today’s BBNBA roundup in just a bit.

8. The NFL Combine has begun

Jon Toth and Boom Williams are in Indy for the NFL Combine, which got underway earlier this week. Yesterday, Toth and Boom went through measurements, with Toth coming in at 6’5″ 307 lbs. and Boom coming in at 5’7″ 190 lbs. Oddly, Toth’s arms were half an inch longer than they were at the Senior Bowl about a month ago, further proving Freddie’s theory that Toth is actually a superhero sent down from a different planet. Or, you know, someone messed up the measurements at the Senior Bowl. Either one.

The real action starts tomorrow morning, when Toth and Boom will go through drills. You can watch live starting at 9 a.m. Friday morning on the NFL Network. Or, you can check the site throughout the day to see Freddie’s updates, because you knowhe won’t miss a second.

9. The early forecast for the SEC Tournament looks good

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It’s still a week out, but be sure to back some short sleeves for your trip to Nashville. Friday looks absolutely perfect. Speaking of Nashville, it’s never too early to start planning…

10. Here’s JD Shelburne’s schedule for the SEC Tournament

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There’s a 95% chance that Ryan Lemond will be at each performance.

Radio in an hour.


The Depth Chart Podcast with Paul Karem

The Depth Chart Podcast with Paul Karem

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Before diving deep into spring football, The Depth Chart Podcast looks back.  Paul Karem, the man who led the charge to install the statue celebrating SEC integration at Kentucky, joined the program to discuss what it took to get the statue in the ground, what it was like to play with UK’s pioneers and much more, including:

—  Bear Bryant wanted to integrate SEC football at UK in the early 50’s.

—  Why this wouldn’t have happened if not for a 30 for 30.

—  The documentary on Hogg, Hackett, Northington and Page Black in Blue will premiere at the Singletary Center on September 21 and on KET September 30, 2017.  For more information visit BlackinBlue.org.

—  Outside of the interview with Karem, Freddie transforms into Dick Trickell, GM of the Cumberland Miners, to receive a pitch on Boom and Toth ahead of the NFL combine.

— Andrew uses “onomatopoetic” and “Boom or Bust.”

— The All-Season Ticket Team and a little SEC Media Days.

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 Podbayor via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


2017 All-Season Ticket Team

2017 All-Season Ticket Team

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The University of Kentucky announced football season ticket and parking pass information last week. Seven home games are on the slate which means that a select number of elite football players will be visiting Commonwealth Stadium this fall. In this post we’ll discuss the best player from each visitor or as we like call it, the “All Season Ticket Team.”

 

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September 9th, Eastern Kentucky University

There are individual stars for the Colonels. But, for the purposes of this post, let’s think back to just how fortunate Kentucky was to beat its Dean Hood led neighbors 34-27 in overtime. Eastern out-toughed, played, coached, and executed UK in all three phases of the game. While personal grudges and tempers may have subsided since the Richmond bar and dormitory incident, there will be no love lost between the Cats and Colonels. The stars for this game are the grudges, player and coach familiarity, and retribution.


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Pic by CBS Sports

September 23rd, Florida

Offensive Guard Martez Ivey

With Florida searching for its quarterback, running back, and replacing a large portion of its defense; we’re going with an offensive lineman here. Ivey has started 20 games in two seasons as a Gator. He twice earned SEC OL of the Week honors for his play against Georgia and South Carolina a year ago. The All-SEC guard was the nation’s top offensive lineman coming out of Apopka HS.


September 30th, Eastern Michigan

Linebacker Kyle Rachwal and strong safety Jason Beck combined for 213 total tackles in 2016. 213 stops is an extraordinarily high number. Comparatively, UK’s Jordan Jones and Mike Edwards are the SEC’s top two returning tacklers and managed 209 last season.

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Pic by Kansas City Star

October 7th, Missouri

QB Drew Lock

Lock led the Tigers’ offense by completing 237 passes for 3319 yards, 23 TDs, 10 INTs, and 283 yards passing per game. The SEC’s top returning passer will try to snap Mizzou’s two-game losing skid to the Wildcats.


October 28th, Tennessee

RB John Kelly

Kelly was the 3rd RB in the rotation a year ago. Jalen Hurd’s surprise departure from the team and Alvin Kamara’s injury forced the rising junior into the starting role. He didn’t disappoint: 98 rushes, 630 yards, 5 TDs, 8.17 yards per carry. Tennessee will travel to CWS minus several household names that have since moved on from the program. 2016 was supposed to be the year for Tennessee’s return to national prominence. That didn’t happen. Several new faces will be holding down key positions for Butch Jones in 2017.


November 4th, Ole Miss

QB Shae Patterson was the nation’s top QB prospect coming out of high school. The 5-star signed with Ole Miss and sat behind Chad Kelly until week 9. The true freshman started the Rebel’s final three games and put up respective numbers: 72/132, 880 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs, and completed 54.5% of his passes. Patterson is considered the future of the Ole Miss football program.


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Pic by Fox Sports

November 25th, Louisville

Quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy and was named to several All-American teams as a sophomore. Jackson rolled up eye-popping numbers all while playing behind a subpar offensive line: Rushing-260 attempts, 1,571 yards, 21 TDs. Passing-230/409, 3543 yards, 30 touchdowns.

 

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner and several other future NFL players will venture into Commonwealth Stadium in 2017. For a refreshing change, Kentucky will have its own share of standouts and future professionals as well. Could be a fun fall in Lexington.


Freddie’s First Impressions of Hood and LeBlanc

LeBlanc via @UKFootball

LeBlanc via @UKFootball

Derrick LeBlanc is  young, energetic coach that is obviously excited to be at Kentucky and in the Southeastern Conference. LeBlanc singled out junior DT Adrian Middleton who is now listed at 275 pounds (was 300 during the 2016 season). Middleton is apparently working hard to develop, which excites his new coach. I’m guessing here, but I’d say by mentioning Middleton, LeBlanc is rewarding hard work and sending a message to other defensive linemen to step it up to Middleton’s effort-level.

LeBlanc mentioned the words “aggressive” and “technique” on several occasions. Known as a teacher and coming from the Pete Jenkins lineage, Stoops’ new DL coach will emphasize player development with intent to turn up the Wildcat front seven’s intensity level and production. The Cats totaled just 21 QB sacks in 2016; DL accounted for 7. That number must increase. Communication also seemed important as he discussed talking with recently signed and current players on a regular basis.

The timing of this hire spoke volumes. The fact that LeBlanc was hired nearly immediately after mandated time allotment tells me that Mark Stoops had his new hire in mind prior to Jimmy Brumbaugh’s departure. Having a replacement list per position coach is common with college head coaches. Overall, I echoed media consensus and was impressed with Derrick LeBlanc’s opening media session in Lexington.

Dean Hood was emotional. In fact he cried early in the press conference when discussing Joey Kraemer, a former EKU player that was tragically killed in an automobile accident prior to the UK game. Hood spoke about how Mark Stoops and UK handled that situation with respect. Hood is excited to be back “home” in Kentucky. While actually from northeast Ohio, his wife is from Madison County, KY and he spent many years at EKU.

Dean Hood brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Wildcat coaching staff. While primarily an OLB coach and Special Teams Coordinator, Hood provides Mark Stoops with a sounding board from the head coaching perspective. I have zero doubt that Josh Allen and Denzel Ware will continue to develop as both are mentioned in the Top 10 of their respective positions.

Hood is a homerun hire. His sideline experience as a head coach and defensive coordinator, credibillity, and proven teaching experience will pay immediate dividends that will be obvious towards the end of spring practice. He also stressed aggressiveness and technique. With both Hood and LeBlanc vocalizing aggressiveness and technique, I’d say those two aspects will be stressed in spring practice.

More to come on tomorrow’s Depth Chart Podcast.


Mark Your Calendar for SEC Media Days

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Freddie Maggard’s favorite time of the year isn’t as far away as you might think.  The SEC announced plans for the 2017 edition of Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.

The event will begin Monday July 10 and run through Thursday July 13.  Mark Stoops will take the podium Wednesday following Nick Saban, as of course is tradition.  The full schedule:

Monday

  • Arkansas, Bret Bielema
  • LSU, Coach O
  • Tennesse, Butch Jones

Tuesday

  • Florida, Jim McElwain
  • Georgia, Kirby Smart
  • Miss. State, Dan Mullen
  • Vanderbilt, Derek Mason

Wednesday

  • Alabama, Nick Saban
  • Kentucky, Mark Stoops
  • Missouri, Barry Odom
  • Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin

Thursday

  • Auburn, Guz Malzahn
  • Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze
  • South Carolina, Will Muschamp

Thank you, SEC.  Putting Bret Bielema and Coach O back-to-back will make for the greatest two hours of press conferencing in the history of press conferences.


Notes from Derrick LeBlanc and Dean Hood’s Introductory Press Conference

Notes from Derrick LeBlanc and Dean Hood’s Introductory Press Conference

Stoops and Hood, via @UKFootball.

Stoops and Hood, via @UKFootball.

Their Connections to Stoops

Hood’s no stranger to the Stoops name.  The northern Ohio native started a personal relationship with Stoops at an unfortunate time.  They first talked on the phone following the Richmond bar fight between UK and EKU players.  The relationship got even more personal when one of Hood’s players tragically passed away just before their game against UK.

Hood paused, too choked up to talk at first.  “He was great with how he handled all that.  Had his picture up on the scoreboard at the game.”

LeBlanc had a previous relationship with Stoops, thanks to his mentor Pete Jenkins.  “Just the Stoops name itself, when you talk about defensive football, the Stoops name comes up.”

Coaching Philosophy and Experience

“I wouldn’t say I’m quite the players coach, and I’m not quite the grumpy coach either,” LeBlanc laughed.  “I’m a coach that enjoys coaching.”  The young coach preached intensity and commitment to consistently performing at a high level throughout his time at the podium.

Hood shares a 3/4 defensive background that’s similar to Coach House.  He went into greater detail about each different special teams unit.  To save you from death by boredom, to simply sum it up, Hood wants to be aggressive because it’s the easiest and best time to play aggressively.

Most importantly, Hood discussed ways to improve the punt team, Kentucky’s worst special teams unit in 2016.  It starts with good blocking up front. “Just relax and know that first and foremost…it starts with protection.”  The word around the facility is that McKinniss was been booming punts in practice, music to Hood’s ears.

“All of that means zero if you don’t have the players to execute…it’s all about talent.  This coaching thing is highly overrated.”

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Where They Will Recruit

LeBlanc will set up shop in Georgia, particularly in the northern part of the state.  Hood will recruit Tennessee, emphasizing the triangle between Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga.  Schlarman will split up the state of Kentucky; Hood  will have the eastern half of the state while Schlarman will maintain contacts in the west.  Hood will recruit in the Charlotte area as well.

Early Impressions from Film

LeBlanc has spent a lot of time in the film room and he believes he’s learned what was wrong with last year’s defensive line.  “We found some answers to our problems that we’re going to get corrected this spring.”  

The most impressive player so far has been Adrian Middleton, a guy LeBlanc believes will be a leader.  “Hopefully he can rub off on the young guys in the room,” LeBlanc said.

Hood has focused less on specific players, although Ware and Allen’s talent at outside linebacker is unbelievable.  Instead, Hood has focused more on the techniques and terminology used by Stoops and House and how they fit into the defense as a whole.

What the Additions Mean

Mark Stoops has added two personalities that will play important roles in the locker room.  Hood has coaching experience at a variety of levels, including the role of head coach.  His personal approach can reach players on a different level.  LeBlanc is a young, fiery, motivated coach who’s on the biggest stage of his young career.  With a young group to coach, he believes he came to Kentucky at the perfect time.

Most importantly, the defensive staff has obtained unprecedented knowledge in the coaching room, giving Kentucky a tactical advantage we’re not accustomed to seeing in the bluegrass.

“There’s so much coaching knowledge in our room right now,” LeBlanc said.  “Of course with Matt House being the new defensive coordinator.  Coach Stoops has years and years of experience.  Then Coach Hood who has been coaching defense and has year of experience as a head coach, I’m just enjoying it.  I’m the young guy.  I’m soaking it all in and I think it’s a great environment for our coaching staff right now.”


Late Night Football Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

Late Night Football Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

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Spring Practice Starts Next Week

It feels like the season just ended, but the team is already back on the field.  I guess that’s what happens when you play postseason football.

Mark Stoops will kick things off with a press conference next Monday, followed by practice Tuesday and Thursday.  The team will receive Spring Break off (March 11-19) before returning to a regular Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday morning routine.  The practices are closed to the public, but they will likely open their doors to the public at least once or twice before the Friday night Blue/White Game on April 14.

For 90 more pages of football, check out the UK Spring Football Media Guide.

New Numbers

Following a departures and the addition of early enrollees to the roster, UK announced a few new number changes for the 2017 season:

  • Mike Edwards: No. 7 (formerly 27)
  • Tavin Richardson (Ladies and Gentlemen): No. 11 (formerly 80)
  • Danny Clark: No. 13
  • Clevan Thomas Jr.: No. 18
  • Lonnie Johnson Jr.: No. 6
  • Cedrick Dort Jr.: No. 27
  • Walker Wood: No. 17
  • Bryant Koback: No. 24
  • Jamin Davis: No. 44

Edwards’ switch will be the most difficult to get used to.  Richardson ditched 80 for his high school number.  Danny Clark will roll with the unlucky No. 13, probably my favorite number for a quarterback, especially a lefty (no offense Jared).  Clevan Thomas has the biggest cojones, opting to wear the most prestigious number in the history of Kentucky football, No. 18.

Dylan Greenberg Returns

Offensive lineman Dylan Greenberg was a walk-on until he was awarded a scholarship for his final season.  That final season went so well, he’s going to do it again.  Greenberg already participated in Senior Day ceremonies, but after being accepted into UK’s MBA program, Greenberg decided to use his last year of eligibility to be a part of Kentucky’s 2017 squad.

This Will Fire You Up

UK’s video department knows how to get your heart racing.  Even though it’s just a workout compilation, it will make you excited for Spring Football.

Hear from the New Coaches Tomorrow Morning

We haven’t heard much from Kentucky’s two new coaches, Dean Hood and Derrick LeBlanc.  The UK football Twitter account has Tweeted a few pictures and Hood has done a few interviews, but that’s it.  That will all change tomorrow morning.  Keep it locked on KSR for coverage starting around 10:00 a.m.


Jon Toth and Boom Williams Pre-Combine Evaluations

Jon Toth and Boom Williams Pre-Combine Evaluations

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Jon Toth and Boom Williams will be measured, weighed, timed, interviewed, and appraised at the upcoming NFL Combine. While invitations to the annual event are coveted, Indianapolis participation does not guarantee draft selection.

Below are NFL.com’s pre-combine evaluations for both former Wildcats. These assessments are brutally honest and should become mandatory reading for all college football freshmen.

 

JON TOTH 

STRENGTHS

Four-year starter in competitive SEC. Good size and bulk. Understands his physical limitations and plays to his strengths. Fits into blocks with good body control and at a leveraged strike position. Unlocks hips at contact on down blocks to pin defender and present a running lane. Generates power from his lower half. Held his own against formidable Alabama defensive front. Utilizes efficient, compact punch. Has good hand strength to snatch and engage. Operates with plus hand placement, and willing to re-set hands to improve positioning when necessary. Able to control shoulder and steer opponent away from the hole. Good arm length for a center. Looks for work in pass protection and has enough anchor to thwart a bull rush.

WEAKNESSES

Marginal athlete. Plays with heavy feet and below-average lateral quickness. Could struggle with sudden redirects inside to catch blitzers and twisters. Struggles to mirror athletic, interior rushers in pass pro. Labors to recover once beaten. Snap-to-step quickness is very average. Effectiveness wanes beyond line of scrimmage. Has some hip stiffness which causes him to rely on leaning over bending. A little slow in his climb to second level.

BOTTOM LINE

Toth is a tough, four-year starter. Will appeal to teams looking for centers who can operate in a power-based rushing scheme. While he’s better in a phone booth than on the move, he understands his limitations and does a good job of staying within himself. He’s not the best athlete at the position but his size, arm length, strength and consistency should outweigh that on the next level. Toth has the traits and ability to be an eventual starter in the NFL.

 

Toth is rated a 5.4 by the NFL Network. For comparison purposes, the highest rated center is Ohio State’s Pat Elflein with a 5.8. Utah’s J.J. Dielman’s 5.2 being the lowest. There are eight centers attending this year’s Combine. Toth projects to be mid-pack. In addition, NFL scouts are also projecting the former Wildcat to guard or right tackle. Skill set diversity will enhance Toth’s status on Draft Day.

2016 Draft Day Results: 6 centers were selected. Highest was Alabama’s Ryan Kelly who was taken with the 18th pick in the 1st round to Indianapolis. The last center drafted was Iowa’s Austin Blythe, selected with the 27th pick in the 7th round also by the Colts.


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Pic by 247Sports

BOOM WILLIAMS

STRENGTHS

Sports tremendous burst to the edge. Has the acceleration ability to run with extended patience on outside zone plays. Heels barely touch the ground during his runs and he has lateral agility to make wide cuts to avoid tacklers. Able to rip through a crease when he sees it. Combination of speed and elusiveness makes him a nemesis in space. Has some value on slip screens. May offer some kick return value.

WEAKNESSES

Undersized for anything other than a change-of-pace role. Not a very tough runner when tasked with work between the tackles. Runs come crashing to a halt when he senses contact on interior. Unable to break tackles or generate much yardage after contact. Way too hesitant when on downhill runs. Tends to dance and look for large point of entry rather than trusting his blockers. Vision is very average. Drops and fumbles are an issue.

BOTTOM LINE

Scat back with outstanding burst who can create for himself in space, but is not about that life when asked to run between the tackles. Williams doesn’t have the blocking or the hands to be a full-time third-down back and he lacks the decisiveness and vision necessary to handle snaps as a backup. While he does have plus athletic ability, Williams may be too limited in what he can offer a team from a roster flexibility standpoint.

 

There are 33 running backs attending this year’s Combine. LSU’s Leonard Fournette’s 7.2 is the highest rating. Michigan’s De’Veon Smith’s 4.9 the lowest with three RB’s yet to be assigned a grade. Boom Williams was rated a 5.0. His 40-yard time will be vital, as will his pass catching and other on-field drills that showcase positional diversity. Boom’s Combine performance is a critical first step in his process to play professional football.

UPDATE: Williams recently clocked a 4.3-40 at a mock Combine. Trainers expect him to potentially break the 4.2 mark in Indy. This would greatly help his chances to be drafted as he needs to separate from the pack prior to Pro Day.

2016 NFL Draft Day Results: 23 RBs were drafted. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was the first taken with the 4th pick in 1st round. Clemson’s Zac Brooks was the last RB selected by the Seahawks with the 26th pick in the 7th round.

 

Wildcat fans won’t have to wait long to watch both Toth and Williams perform. RBs and OL are scheduled to work out on the Combine’s first televised day, Friday, March 3. The NFL Network’s live coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. Kentucky Sports Radio will also provide coverage and updates.


Bleacher Report: Kentucky Football’s Record in 2017

Bleacher Report: Kentucky Football’s Record in 2017

@UKCoachStoops

@UKCoachStoops

This week, Bleacher Report made predictions for the records for each of the Power 5 conference teams. How did they predict the Cats would do?

Kentucky: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)

Dark-horse contender might be too strong, but Kentucky could make a noticeable impact on the SEC East race. The Wildcats will take on Ole Miss and Mississippi State in crossover action, while Florida, Georgia and Tennessee will get LSU, Auburn and Alabama, respectively. A mid-September meeting with South Carolina will be a critical outing for both lurking programs.

Kentucky Football Schedule 2017

Looking at the schedule, I am guessing that Bleacher Report is predicting losses to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisville and then a bad loss to one of the rest of the teams. What do you think? Is this a fair prediction for the upcoming season? Let me know in the comments below:

Also: Check out the entirety of the predictions. There are definitely some interesting takes.

 


Happy Birthday to Benny Snell!

Via @iambennysnelljr

Via @iambennysnelljr

A very Happy Birthday to UK running back Benny Snell. Snell had one of the most impressive Freshman seasons in Kentucky history and will look to improve upon that this season. Want to relive his big moments from last season? Watch this highlight video below and cue the goosebumps.

This is also an awesome graphic released by UK football for his birthday:

So go wish Benny Snell a very Happy Birthday on Twitter! Here is a link to his profile: @Benny_Snell