Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©June 13th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
College football players can now get in-game experience without losing a year of eligibility. Today the NCAA approved a rule that will allow coaches to play redshirted players in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
The rule will give young players more experience and will provide coaches some freedom when they are in a pinch because of injuries, something the Kentucky football is quite familiar with. Mark Stoops has been a proponent of the rule since the end of the 2016 season.
“I think that rule change would make a lot of sense,” Stoops said during the 2016 SEC spring teleconference. “We were in that situation last year when we had a quarterback hurt early in the year, Drew Barker. We played most of the year with our backup quarterback being a redshirt guy. We decided to keep that redshirt on Gunnar Hoak in Game 11. Played our third-team quarterback, who did some good things. But it was a situation that could’ve benefited us a year ago. It can protect the player in a redshirt year, it can help gain experience for the following year.”
Leading into the game Stoops mentioned, Stephen Johnson suffered a knee injury against Tennessee. The Cats needed one more win to become bowl eligible. Facing Austin Peay, UK did not want to risk further injury by playing Johnson or burn Hoak’s redshirt. Luke Wright was forced into action and it ended with a Pick Six that put UK behind 14-0. Johnson was forced to re-enter the game to seal a Kentucky bowl berth.
The Cats could have used this rule last year on the offensive line. When Cole Mosier tore his ACL in the preseason, Landon Young was UK’s only left tackle on the depth chart that was not a freshman. Coaches believed Naasir Watkins was good enough to play, but did not want him to lose a year of football. Instead of playing Watkins, Kyle Meadows moved from right to left tackle to give Young periodic breaks.
The new rule will be nothing but a positive for the Kentucky football team. However, the other NCAA rule change from today could hurt the Cats if SEC football transforms into glorified free agency.
By Nick Roush on ©June 13th, 2018 @ 11:16am
We now know more details from Marcus Walker’s May 24 drug trafficking arrest.
In records obtained by Joe Mussatto of SEC Country, the former Kentucky safety had more than $95,000 cash in his townhouse. Along with the cash, police found more than five pounds of marijuana and 52.86 grams of suspected cocaine powder. When police arrived at the scene, they saw clear bags in plain view, “approximately the size of a soccer ball full of marijuana.”
Walker was dismissed from the football team five days after his arrest. Mark Stoops has yet to comment on the matter.
Walker’s next court date is scheduled for June 20.
By Nick Roush on ©June 12th, 2018 @ 11:30pm
Entering Mark Stoops’ sixth season at the University of Kentucky, the expectations have been raised. After consecutive seven-win seasons, to take the next step UK’s defense must improve in 2018.
That sentiment is unanimously shared throughout the Big Blue Nation. Mark Stoops echoed that this afternoon when asked about program expectations in an appearance on “3 Man Front,” a program co-hosted by Cole Cubelic on 95.5 Jox-FM in Birmingham.
“We have some very good football players with some experience coming back defensively,” Stoops said. “We need to make a big jump there because we have the personnel to do that and I feel like we have some experience. Now we’re getting some decent depth, so I feel like defensively we need to make a big jump as far as being more consistent. I think we’ve shown some flashes and done some really good things at times, but across the board I’d like to see the consistency there.”
In 2017 Kentucky finished 12th in the SEC in total defense (426.9 yards per game) and 13th in passing defense (251.6 yards per game). There are a few reasons why Stoops believes Kentucky’s numbers will be better in 2018, starting up front on the defensive line.
“I feel like we’re in a better position than we have been in some years. Quinton Bohanna at nose is a guy who was just a true freshman a year ago and did some really good things. He’s a big, strong guy in the middle there that I like. I feel like with Josh Paschal — we moved him from an outside linebacker to an inside position playing with his hand in the dirt every snap — he’s a very athletic guy and looks really good inside.
“Another guy, Adrian Middleton, has played a lot football for us, but battling with him is Phil Hoskins. He’s a junior college transfer that was a three-for-three (years of eligibility) a year ago who was coming off a couple shoulders (injuries). He did a couple things good a year ago, but now you’re starting to see him with an offseason getting stronger, more athletic. I like the presence he brings us inside as well, along with T.J. Carter getting another year and another offseason under his belt. So I feel like we have some options inside.”
Not far behind the deeper defensive line is a playmaker that could be a first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Allen. Stoops said Allen has used the offseason to build muscle, something I can confirm after spotting Allen at Saturday night’s football camp. All the way up to 260 pounds, Allen is doing all of the right things before a big year.
“I expect him to be if not the top, one of the top outside backers in the country. He’s a difference-maker. He’s a guy that does a lot of things well,” Stoops said. “Josh really is the whole package and we’re really excited about his senior year.”
Mark Stoops talked about more than his defense during the 11-minute interview that you can find here. Highlights:
Who’s the Starting Quarterback? Naturally, Stoops responded with a chuckle and a “we’ll see.”
“We’ll see where it goes. Gunnar and Terry both have some very good qualities, look calm back there and make good decisions. They’re getting better with every opportunity so I don’t feel the need to rush that decision.”
Will Ahmad Wagner Play? The former Iowa basketball player and current 6’7″ UK wide receiver has all the athleticism in the world to become a playmaker on UK’s offense, but Stoops preached patience as he explained how Wagner got to UK.
“We knew Ahmad out of high school recruiting him to play football, and he was a dual-sport guy and decided to go play basketball. When he reached out to us and felt like he wanted to give football a shot, it was worth the scholarship to us because we knew how athletic he was coming out of high school.
“Visiting with him when he came here to see us face-to-face, I just liked what he had to say and the direction he wanted to go. He’s a very, very athletic big man. We’re excited about him and the options we have. We know he’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some work for a while, but we feel like he has big upside.”
Is Rose Ready? After a big spring and a promising summer, Stoops is anxious to see what A.J. Rose brings to the table this fall.
“A.J. was a guy that we felt like has an awful lot of talent. He’s been working hard, but he needed to be more productive. He did that in the spring. He really stepped up and had a great spring. He’s working hard right now this summer, so we’re excited about getting back into camp and seeing what he can do.”
During the 11-minute interview, Stoops also talked about Dorian Baker, Benny Snell and shared some old stories about Frank Gore. Check it out.
By Nick Roush on ©June 12th, 2018 @ 9:30pm
Noah Day does not have an athletic bone in his body. In fact, the Hey Kentucky! producer knows almost nothing about sports at all. That’s why Matt Jones sent Noah to Austin MacGinnis’ Kicking Camp.
UK’s all-time leading scorer is teaching area kids how to perfect the art of kicking. That job is simple compared to the task of teaching Noah how to kick a football. Try not to laugh too hard.
That’s how you win an Emmy. Check out the rest of the show below and click here for more Hey Kentucky.
By Nick Roush on ©June 11th, 2018 @ 4:55pm
A junior college edge rusher from the state of Georgia has committed to Kentucky. Marquez Bembry, a former Tennessee signee, announced he will join the Kentucky football team.
— Marquez Bembry (@Dont_worrycoach) June 11, 2018
A three-star prospect from Atlanta in the class of 2017, Bembry was committed to play at Tennessee for more than a year before signing with the Vols. After failing to academically qualify, Bembry enrolled at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss. Bembry is expected to be a member of Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class.
Check out highlights from his high school playing days.
Since his high school days, Bembry has transformed into a grown ass man. He’ll play Josh Allen’s role as an outside linebacker for the Cats.
The KSR crew actually watched Bembry’s team play last year. East Mississippi C.C. (of Last Chance U fame) hosted Jones County during KSR’s road trip to Southern Miss last fall. Jones County’s logo shares a striking resemblance to another area logo.
By Eli Mitchell on ©June 10th, 2018 @ 6:30pm
A big reason that Avery Williamson decided to join the New York Jets revolved around money as they offered the most of any team to the former Kentucky linebacker.
That wasn’t the only reason Williamson got out of Nashville though, the 5th year pro was disappointed in a lack of playing time as he participated in just 60% of the team’s defensive snaps last season.
“I don’t know, man,” Williamson told the New York Daily News. “It was a weird situation. . . . Honestly, I don’t know. But they didn’t want me to play certain downs. . . . I was definitely offended by that all last year. Like I said, it wasn’t my decision. Now I’m here and I’m definitely going to get the opportunity. So, I’m glad to be a part of this. It gives me extra fuel to continue to improve my game and become better than I was last year.”
Williamson started each of the team’s 16 games but was taken off the field in most passing situations. He plans on using the slight as motivation for his tenure with the Jets where he will be asked to play on every down.
“It’s motivation,” Williamson said. “There’s always going to be somebody’s that’s going to put news out there about you and say that you can’t do this or that. So, I prove them wrong. That’s the point: I know I’m a three-down backer. I know I got the skill set to do anything on the field. Shoot, I feel like I fit in perfectly with this defense.”
Williamson will start the season as the Jets starting Mike linebacker in what should be an interesting season for Gang Green with the addition of Sam Darnold.
By Eli Mitchell on ©June 10th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
Bud Dupree spoke with Jeremey Fowler of ESPN as part of phase 2 of the off-season team activities, the former Kentucky star feels he can take his game to a whole new level this year.
Dupree spent much of the off-season agonizing over missed opportunities after watching film from last season, “I just left double-digit sacks on the field,” said Dupree, a fourth-year pass-rusher who finished with six in 2017. “I still can get double-digit sacks even though I’m in coverage a lot. I just have to capitalize on my opportunities. I’ve just got to close the deal.”
The former first round draft pick knows he has a lot on the line this season as he can potentially earn a massive contract with a breakout year. The Steelers are counting on Dupree to increase his production after they exercised his 5th-year option in May.
“They see the ceiling that I have,” Dupree said. “I feel myself getting better and better each day. I know I’m going to be the best I can be, one of the most talked-about at my position.”
That’s exactly what the Steelers want from Dupree as they have not had a double digit sack outside pass rusher since James Harrison and Lamar Woodley did so back in 2010.
If the Steelers defense can make a jump next year the team will certainly be in a good position to compete for a Super Bowl considering the fire-power they have offensively.
By Maggie Davis on ©June 10th, 2018 @ 2:40pm
Here’s some reassurance for members of the BBN who were confused and concerned about Lynn Bowden’s latest mysterious tweets: the rising sophomore has now posted that he’s “here for a while.”
I’ll be here for a while love y’all ??
— Lynn Bowden Jr. (@H_Huncho) June 10, 2018
While we still don’t have any clarification on the meaning of his original tweet (seen below) that sent the internet into a frenzy, it now seems it was nothing to be concerned about.
I’m sorry #BBN ?
— Lynn Bowden Jr. (@H_Huncho) June 9, 2018
Last season, Bowden caught 17 passes for 210 yards and returned a total of 37 punts with an average of 23.5 yards per kick return. His speed and versatility made him a serious competitor throughout his freshman season, and he’s expected to be a big part of this year’s team. Losing Bowden (for whatever reason) would be a serious blow to Kentucky’s offense, which is why the ambiguous apology tweet rubbed many members of the BBN the wrong way.
Yes, this is a lot of in-depth analysis over less than a dozen words, but this is the age we live in with social media. Plus, Bowden is no stranger to internet controversy – remember his string of tweets after the Cats’ opening game last season? Back then, he seemed to be upset with his lack of playing time in his debut game. Now, we don’t know what the issue could have been. But the BBN can breathe a sigh of relief knowing the wide receiver isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Lynn Bowden has given yet another update, this time saying he was “never going anywhere” and that he had just been going through some personal things.
Because I just need time to my self and the ones that can’t understand that I’m sorry but I needed to find my self again I’m a human too Go #BBN ???
— Lynn Bowden Jr. (@H_Huncho) June 10, 2018
Though it’s great to see he’s here for the long haul, let’s hope he can overcome whatever adversities he’s facing right now.
We are only 84 days away from the start of the Kentucky football season.
Between now and September 1, there will be previews of players, position groups and plenty of preseason rankings. In mid-July the talking heads will assemble in
Hoover Atlanta for SEC Football Media Days. The prognosticators will condemn the Cats, pump up Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks and proclaim Kirby Smart as the heir apparent to Nick Saban.
Kentucky’s opponents will receive plenty of praise. As people predict records, they probably won’t take into account match-ups, timing, etc. Allow me to handle that responsibility by ranking UK’s opponents, from least to most difficult.
12. Murray State
Kentucky hasn’t easily handled FCS opponents under Mark Stoops, but Murray State is still an FCS opponent. The early noon kickoff means Kentucky will start slow, but ultimately leave Kroger Field with a decisive victory in the third week of the season.
11. Middle Tennessee State
There are a couple reasons why this game is potentially scary. The Blue Raiders have a fifth-year senior quarterback who is the coach’s son. Brent Stockstill has a big arm and he’s big enough to take some licks and keep running. Their offense is led by Tony Franklin, Hal Mumme’s former UK assistant, who let’s the ball fly early and often.
MTSU has a lot of potential to score a ton of points, but last year their offense actually struggled. The Blue Raiders’ scoring offense was ranked 87th, scoring just 26.5 points per game. The game also falls on Senior Day. The most-impressive senior class of the Stoops era will refuse to lose their final game at Kroger Field.
10. Central Michigan
The Chippewas ain’t no joke. They won eight games last year and have been to four straight bowl games. Kentucky should be able to take care of business in the season-opener, but Southern Miss taught us in 2016 that you can’t take the season-opening mid-major opponent for granted.
Kyle Shurmur was actually second in the SEC in passing yards per game (235.3) in 2017. That’s really the only good thing Vandy has going for them. Despite their many losses on defense, Vandy’s biggest problem is that Alabama destroyed their soul. A year isn’t long enough to recover from that L.
8. South Carolina
I will never understand the media’s fascination with Will Muschamp. The bowl victory over a bad Michigan team should not validate their confidence in the Cocks, but it will. I’ll commend South Carolina for still winning eight regular season games without Pharoh Cooper. Jake Bentley is the SEC’s darling, and could have his best year yet, but I’ll believe South Carolina can beat Kentucky when I see it.
7. at UofL
It’s easy to be skeptical about this year’s Louisville team. They lost their best player ever, who is being replaced by a guy whose first start will be against Alabama’s vicious defense. If Jawon Pass’ will is not destroyed by the Crimson Tide, the Cards will probably have another high-scoring offense. But their defense…
Louisville’s defense could only do anything right when Jaire Alexander was in the lineup. Now he’s gone, and so is Petrino’s fall guy, Peter Sirmon. His replacement, Brian VanGorder, has a long track record of being very average and that’s exactly what Louisville will be this year. When the two teams meet in the final week of the season, it would not shock me if Louisville was playing for bowl eligibility (but in reality both teams will probably be 6-5 entering Thanksgiving weekend).
6. at Tennessee
The only reason this game is ranked so high is because Kentucky has not won at Neyland Stadium since 1984. Jarrett Guarantano is the Vols’ only redeeming quality. Jeremy Pruitt should bring the trash can back to the sideline to remind his players what they are.
5. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen’s departure should make the annual game against Mississippi State more winnable, but that change will not happen immediately, thanks to Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is Kentucky’s most frightening opponent this season. He’s “Tim Tebow Light.” One can only hope the massive dual-threat quarterback takes a step back while learning Joe Moorhead’s offense.
4. at Missouri
Mizzou is by no means a scary place to play. The last time Kentucky traveled to Columbia, there were about as many animals in the petting zoo as there were fans in the stands. However, a lot has changed since the Cats beat the brakes off the Tigers in 2016.
Drew Lock will probably throw for 4,000 yards in 2018. It took the Tigers’ offense some time to click in 2017. They figured it out in the halftime locker room at Kroger Field. After the Cats escaped with a victory, Mizzou lost to Georgia, then rattled off six straight wins by scoring an average of FIFTY ONE POINTS.
The No. 14 scoring offense in America in 2017, they’ll be in the top five in 2018. Kentucky’s defense should be its best since Mark Stoops got to UK, but you can’t expect them to stop the Missouri offense, just slow it down a little. If UK can play ball control with Benny Snell, the Cats can escape with a victory, but they’ll need at least 35 points to do so.
3. at Texas A&M
The most mysterious team on the schedule, who knows what Jimbo Fisher will throw on the field when the season starts in September. Unfortunately, this game is six weeks into the season. Whatever kinks Jimbo has to work through (like finding a quarterback) should be fixed by the time UK travels to Kyle Field, the second-most difficult venue on the schedule.
2. at Florida
The Swamp. That place will be rocking for the 7:30 kickoff on September 8. Dan Mullen’s second game as the Gators’ head coach, the former Florida offensive coordinator has a knack for making the most out of his quarterbacks. Felipe Franks has the most experience, but incoming All-American Emory Jones is the one that should make you worry. Recruited to play in Mullen’s system, the dual-threat quarterback is the ideal candidate to come off the bench and have a breakthrough performance, a la Lamar Jackson in 2015.
There is some hope. Three of the last four against the Gators have been decided by a combined 12 points. Maybe vengeance from last year’s loss is enough to motivate them to surprise Mullen’s team. Or maybe Mullen will continue to have the Cats’ number. It took a 51-yarder as time expired to handle Mullen his only loss to UK in nine years as Miss. State’s head coach.
Is there a scenario where Kentucky beats the defending SEC Champs? If Kentucky could beat a No. 1 team that eventually won the National Championship in 2007, it is possible (but highly, HIGHLY unlikely).
By Nick Roush on ©June 09th, 2018 @ 12:00pm
In their first week back on campus, the Kentucky football team has spent much of their time in the weight room. After watching for only 35 seconds, I am exhausted. I can’t imagine doing this for a couple hours four days a week.
If you’re still freaking out about Lynn Bowden’s Tweet, you’ll see him running in the video below.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 9, 2018
Wednesday is the team’s “off” day. That’s a relative term. Even though the team isn’t lifting and conditioning, they’re still together. This weekend Freddie Maggard invited Jim Cavale to speak to the team about branding and how to best develop one using social media. After the presentation, they enjoyed crawfish and a little wife ball.
Hear from RB @benny_snell and TE @cjconrad1 how meeting with @jimcavale from @INFLCR changed the way they look at social media and with building their own brand. #4for40 #HuddleUp pic.twitter.com/s37efIIio9
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 7, 2018
There haven’t been too many other developments on the football field, but there is in the recruiting world.
Local Legacy Recruit Picks Up Big Offer
This week Walker Parks earned an impressive scholarship offer. Following an outstanding performance at Clemson’s football camp, Dabo Swinney extended an offer to the 6’5″ 250-pound offensive tackle from Lexington Christian Academy.
A three-star recruit in the 2020 class, Parks has been recruited by John Schlarman for quite some time. He received his offer from UK at this spring’s Junior Day. A legacy recruit, his father David was an offensive lineman on the Kentucky team that went to the 1993 Peach Bowl. Parks is a priority for the Cats, but keeping the college football powerhouses away will not be easy.
Cats Make Top 10 for Isaiah Gibson
Three-star defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson has narrowed his selection of suitors to Kentucky, Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan State and Indiana. Why is this a big deal?
Gibson is teammates with UK commit Moses Douglass. It looked like the Cats were in the driver’s seat for the explosive interior defensive lineman, but Purdue and Wisconsin have become a problem. Gibson is expected to officially visit Kentucky in two weeks, the perfect time to seal the deal.
Bud Dupree wants more Sack Lunches
Injuries have made Dupree’s career as a Pittsburgh Steeler inconsistent, however, he showed enough in 2017 to earn a fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Still, Dupree told ESPN he’s not satisfied with last season’s performance.
“I just left double-digit sacks on the field,” said Dupree, a third-year pass-rusher who finished with a career-high six in 2017. “I still can get double-digit sacks even though I’m in coverage a lot. I just have to capitalize on my opportunities. I’ve just got to close the deal.”
If he can reach double-digits in the sack column, he’l be the first Steeler to do so since 2010. It would happen at the perfect time, as Dupree enters free agency for the first time following the 2018 season.
This has nothing to do with Kentucky football and everything to do with awesomeness.
Finally found a clear telecast of Randy Moss' freshman year (1996) at Marshall. This was one of many unbelievable plays in just this game. He was ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/m8e7HCSb1y
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) June 8, 2018
Kentucky has won seven regular season games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006-07. To find another streak of seven-plus regular season wins, you’d have to go all the way back to 1976-77. Despite Kentucky’s regular season success under Mark Stoops, there is still an underlying feeling of discontent, but why?
Many will say, ‘Stoops can’t win the big ones,’ while completely overlooking a rivalry victory on the road over a Heisman Trophy winner as 27-point underdogs. If you’re still mad about last year’s Florida game, I get it, but does that mean you’re still mad about the losses to Florida in 2014, Tennessee in 2009, Miss. State in 2007 and Florida in 2002? At this point, every UK football fan should know how to endure and move on from a bad loss.
Maybe the disgruntled portion of the fan base agrees with one KSR commenter’s “unpopular” opinion: Kentucky has been good, but they can’t win a bowl game. It begs the question, does winning bowl games matter?
We all can agree that playing postseason football is important. Bowls provide a month of practice for developing underclassmen, they put the program on a national stage and they reward fans and players for an exceptional regular season. Outside of that, winning an exhibition game should not matter.
Obviously, Kentucky fans want their team to win every time they play. If the Cats return to the Outback or Peach Bowls, a win could catapult the program to new heights, but does anyone care that Kentucky’s trophy case does not boast a BBVA Compass Bowl trophy?
The biggest differences between the beloved Rich Brooks and Mark Stoops are bowl victories. It matters to fans that Kentucky beat programs like Clemson and Florida State, even though the Bowdens were on their last leg for each team and Florida State suspended half their players prior to the game. Stoops’ team faced a triple option offense and a nine-win Northwestern team without his All-SEC running back.
I was bummed Kentucky could not keep the momentum rolling from the Louisville victory into the TaxSlayer Bowl. I wanted Stephen Johnson to win his last game as a Kentucky Wildcat. Still, I don’t care that Kentucky lost back-to-back bowl games. It’s an exhibition game. It doesn’t matter. But does it matter to you?