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Football Season Coverage

Jon Toth gets a tryout at the Rams rookie camp

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Finally, a Jon Toth update! One of the biggest mysteries of the NFL Draft was why Toth, a projected fourth round pick, went undrafted. The former Kentucky center — considered by some the fourth best center in the entire draft — mysteriously slipped off the board, and after reports that he was signing with the San Francisco 49ers turned out to be false, there were rumblings that he was injured. For weeks, it’s been radio silence on Toth, but now, according to Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register, he’s got a tryout at the Los Angeles Rams rookie minicamp, which starts today.

The fact that Toth is only getting a tryout and wasn’t picked up as an undrafted free agent like his fellow former Cats is the latest indicator that something’s up. Here’s hoping he shows the Rams he could be a major steal in today’s rookie camp.


UK Athletics posts a 3.0 GPA for the 10th straight semester

UK Athletics posts a 3.0 GPA for the 10th straight semester

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Spring grades are out, and for the tenth straight semester, UK Athletics posted a 3.0 department-wide GPA. Eighteen of UK’s 20 teams reached Mitch Barnhart’s goal of a 3.0 GPA and five had GPAs of better than 3.5. The women’s cross country team led the way with a sterling GPA of 3.652 and was closely followed by women’s golf (3.568) and women’s swimming and diving (3.548). The men’s golf team led all men’s teams with a GPA of 3.538, while the coed rifle team had a GPA of 3.512.

The men’s basketball team posted a 2.615 GPA among scholarship players and 2.728 GPA among scholarship and non-scholarship players. While those marks aren’t exactly stellar, they are an increase over the fall semester GPAs of 2.418/2.547. Meanwhile, the football team had a 2.568 GPA among scholarship players and 2.680 GPA among scholarship and non-scholarship players, a slight improvement over the fall’s 2.531/2.655.

Check out all the spring grades by sport here.


Photos from UK Football’s Service Trip to the Dominican Republic

Photos from UK Football’s Service Trip to the Dominican Republic

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

Each year UK student-athletes travel around the world to give back on service trips.  This year C.J. Conrad, Jordan Bonner and Denzil Ware are representing the Kentucky football team in the Dominican Republic.  They always return with heartwarming stories, and in Landon Foster’s case, a friend for life.

See moments from their trip and how Conrad celebrated his birthday in these photos shared by UK Football social media.

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Kentucky state championship moving to Kroger Field

The KHSAA state football finals are moving to Kroger Field!

Beginning as immediate as this fall, Kroger Field will play host to the KHSAA football finals for the upcoming 2017 season. The finals will then return in 2018, as approved by the board of Control and announced Wednesday.

Mitch Barnhart expressed interest in one day hosting the state’s championship games soon after the Commonwealth Stadium’s renovations were completed last year. It didn’t take long for him to get his wish.

The finals had previously been played in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky’s Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium at Jimmy Feix Field (and you thought Kroger Field was a bad name) since way back in 2009.

Josh Moore over at the Herald-Leader’s outstanding high school coverage broke the story here.


The Depth Chart Podcast’s Former Player Panel

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This week Freddie Maggard is calling an audible.  Andrew and Jack are replaced with a couple of Freddie’s former teammates, cornerback Ron Mack and fullback/returning guest Andy Murray.  You’ll hear Kroger Field reaction from the former players, as well as…

—  Who benefits from various college football rule changes?

—  Reaction to the commitment from Marquan McCall.

—  “It’s still a man’s game, it’s just a smart man’s game.”

—  Without as much tackling in practices, will it hurt players in games?

—  Why UK has “arguably the best group of DBs in the history of the program.”

—  Trying to find an appropriate comparison to Benny Snell.

—  An important announcement about the future of Kentucky Sports Radio football coverage.

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.


The New Early Signing Period and How it Impacts Kentucky

A NSD Throwback

A NSD Throwback

The Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) voted to enact an early National Letter of Intent period for football prospective student-athletes. Selected dates will be December 20th through the 22nd 2017 with the traditional National Signing Day being on February 7th, 2018. So yes, this recruiting cycle. This announcement marks a significant and potential slippery slope change for the landscape of all college football.

Think about it for a minute. December 20th is near the start of bowl season for approximately 80 college football programs. Actually, bowls started on the 16th last season. There will be teams at bowl locations on these dates. That time frame is unfortunately also the stretch of time associated with the firing and at times hiring of coaches. December 22nd is awfully close to the Holiday Season as well. Coming soon, prospects will be able to take official visits much earlier in the process. College football head coaches make millions. But, a continuous work clock can’t be sustained, can it? Yes, especially at programs with a support staff large enough to fill Memorial Coliseum. We’ll touch on that more in a little bit.

The date’s logistics will prevent the same holistic approach that the first Wednesday in February has warranted over the years. That may be a good thing. Maybe not. Networks and blogs such as this one dedicated countless hours to the traditional National Signing Day. Perhaps we’ve seen the last of the hat tosses, shirt changes, and live animals used as props with the new watered down announcement operations. Let’s only hope.

How will this impact Kentucky? Let’s take a look:

In all actuality the new signing period simply moves up the process a month. This proclamation will not be met with joy within the power circles of the Southeastern Conference. Traditional powers reserve the right to hand-pick commitments from the ROY’s (Rest of Y’all) in order to fill gaps in their signing classes. Please don’t feel sorry for Alabama and other “Powers” as they have the unique luxury of affording a overwhelmingly larger recruiting support staff to manage pending alterations. In other words, non-coaching coaches. Huh? An additional signing period was put into place but legislation regulating the number non-coaching personnel has not? Imagine that.

Full disclosure, I’ve yet to solidify my opinion on an early signing period and have to further research. However, I’m yet to be convinced that it will be a world-changer for Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow. A quick glance of UK’s Class of 2017 shows that only three signees committed after December 20th of 2016: Lynn Bowden, Yusuf Corker, and Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald. Corker and Bowden were highly sought after prospects. Abadi-Fitzgerald was a late riser.

True, several attempted to sway some of Kentucky’s signing day haul. An early day to make their commitment truly official could have spared Stoops late December and early February worries. But, the vast majority of the class committed early and stayed that way up until National Signing Day. The Class of 15 was the complete opposite and has arguably turned out to be Stoops’ best class to date.

Various hacks will proclaim the early signing period as a stone cold lock victory for programs like Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. I think the prudent measurement will come with time and observation after at least two classes have cycled through the Collegiate Commissioner Association’s new modus operandi. In no manner do I project the December dates will hurt the Cats. It can only help, right? To what extent? We’ll see.

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

Kentucky Class of 2017 Commitment Dates

Tyrell Ajian-April 21st, 2016
Josh Ali-June 27th, 2016
Quinton Bohanna-February 24th, 2016
Lynn Bowden-January 14th, 2017
Danny Clark-October 26th, 2016
Yusuf Corker-December 26th, 2016
Jamin Davis-March 7th, 2016
Sebastien Dolcine-August 2nd, 2016
Cedrick Dort-August 2nd, 2016
Austin Dotson-March 5th, 2016
Isaiah Epps-December 15th, 2016
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald February 3rd, 2017
Phil Hoskins-May 21st, 2016
Alex King-April 2nd, 2016
Lonnie Johnson-December 13th, 2016
Bryant Koback-January 17th, 2016
Michael Nesbitt-August 25th, 2016
Josh Paschal-December 13th, 2016
JaVonte Richardson-March 27th, 2016
Clevan Thomas-July 18th, 2016
Naasir Watkins-December 7th, 2016
Chris Whittaker-December 4th, 2016
Walker Wood-October 15th, 2015
Jordan Wright-December 21st, 2016


Marcus McWilson signs with the Raiders

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Another former Wildcat has found a new home in the NFL.

Marcus McWilson, the former UK safety and one of Mark Stoops’ first big commitments at Kentucky, inked a deal with the Oakland Raiders today. The Youngstown, Ohio native shined at UK’s Pro Day back in March and that likely played a big role in his upcoming move to the Bay.

Here he is signing the contract with Vince Marrow by his side:

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

McWilson is the fifth former Wildcat to sign with an NFL team since the draft, along with Boom Williams, Ryan Timmons, JoJo Kemp and J.D. Harmon.


Jojo Kemp will not be signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following rookie camp

Buccaneers.com

Bad news out of Tampa Bay for former Wildcat and fan-favorite Jojo Kemp…

According to NFL writer Greg Auman, Kemp will not be signed by the Buccaneers following his tryout with the team this past week.

It was always a long shot for Kemp to make it in the NFL, but many thought there was a chance he could manage as a special teams/3rd down back for a team.

Luckily for Kemp, there are 31 other teams in the league, and there’s a chance another squad can take a shot on him.

Best of luck, Jojo.


Kentucky is Predicted to End the Streak Against Florida

KSR-8374

Let’s switch gears to football for just a moment…

The game that Kentucky has circled this season is Florida. It’s been a long 30 years of frustration. Kentucky has come so close to ending the streak, just to have the win get away in the closing seconds.

During the Stoops era, Kentucky has consistently been more competitive against the Gators, IF you exclude the mess that happened in the Swamp last year. In 2017, the Gators come to Kroger Field, but don’t let the name full you. The Cats will be as hungry as ever. Since that devastating 45-7 loss last season, Kentucky has found its true identity. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has drawn up a smash mouth run game, that’ll be led by Benny Snell, Jr. The defense has seen improvements, with younger players quickly maturing into solid contributors.

The SEC football fansite, Saturday Down South, recently predicted potential upsets for each week of the 2017 season. Kentucky made the list twice, both on the winning side. Most notable was the match-up with Florida in Week 4.

WEEK 4: KENTUCKY OVER FLORIDA

The 30-year wait is over. Commonwealth Stadium will spill over when the Wildcats finally get a victory over Florida. Hey, Tennessee broke its streak last season against the Gators. No, it’s nowhere near the lopsided series as the one with Kentucky, but streaks are made to be broken — and it’s time.

The other predicted upset was Kentucky over Vanderbilt on the road. Not sure how that would be seen as an upset, but we’ll take the win.

If you’d like to read their remaining predictions around the SEC, you can check them out here.


@BleacherReport

Tennessee WR Arrested For Domestic Violence

 

@BleacherReport

@BleacherReport

Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith was arrested early this morning after assaulting male roommate Kennedy Foster. The details made it sound like Smith really wanted a piece of Foster:

According to WATE, Foster said he suffered injuries to his face after a fight involving Smith. Foster also said the Volunteers wideout “broke down the door” to his room after he went inside and locked the door, which led to the scuffle.

“We fought, and he got the better side,” Foster said.

No disciplinary action has been taken by the football team as of yet, but details are still forthcoming. The Cats will square off with the Vols on October 28 at Commonwe… excuse me, Kroger Field.

[Bleacher Report]

@JayWinkKSR


SEC Football Practice Rule Changes

SEC Football Practice Rule Changes

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Pic by USA Today

The Southeastern Conference will adopt football practice recommendations by the NCAA Sports Science Institute which will impact preseason, in-season, post-season, and spring practice. The proposals received unanimous support of the SEC Athletics Directors and the league’s Presidents and Chancellors.

What does this mean?

Not a lot other than UK may start fall camp earlier than expected to meet the new requirements. Kentucky had proactively adjusted its practice routines to meet this pending announcement.

*Please note that “THUD” references a form of tackling in which contact is made but the ball carrier is not taken to the ground.

See rule changes below:

Preseason (Fall Camp) Practice Recommendations

Two-a-day practices are not recommended.  A second session of no helmet/pad activity may include walk-throughs or meetings; conditioning in the second session of activity is not allowed.

The preseason may be extended by one week in the calendar year to accommodate the lost practice time from elimination of two-a-days, and to help ensure that players obtain the necessary skill set for competitive play.

In any given seven days following the five-day acclimation period:

  • Up to three days of practice can be live contact (tackling or thud).
  • There should be a minimum of three non-contact/minimal contact practices in a given week.
  • A non-contact/minimal contact practice should follow a scrimmage.
  • One day should be no football practice.

Difference from the 2014 guidelines:

  1. Recommendation to discontinue two-a-day practices.
  2. Recommendation to allow an extension of the preseason by one week. This requires a legislative change if the pre-season begins one week earlier.
  3. Recommendation to reduce weekly live contact practices from four to three.
  4. Non-contact/minimal contact practice recommendations have been added.
  5. Non-contact/minimal contact practice recommendation the day following a scrimmage has been added.
  6. One day of no football practice recommendation has been added.
  7. Legislation 17.10.2.1. would need to be updated if the pre-season practice time begins one week earlier.

In Season Practice Recommendations

“In season” is defined as the period between six days prior to the first regular-season game and the final regular-season game or conference championship game (for participating institutions).  In any given week:

  • Three days of practice should be non-contact/minimal contact.
  • One day of live contact/tackling should be allowed.
  • One day of live contact/thud should be allowed.

Difference from the 2014 guidelines:

  1. Recommendation to no longer allow two live contact/tackling days per week.
  2. Non-contact/minimal contact recommendations have been added.

Postseason Practice Recommendations

  • If there is a two week or less period of time between the final regular season game or conference championship game (for participating institutions) and the next bowl or postseason game, then in-season practice recommendations should remain in place.
  • If there is greater than two weeks between the final regular season game or conference championship game (for participating institutions) and the next bowl or postseason game, then:
    • Up to three days may be live-contact (two of which should be live contact/thud).
    • There must be three non-contact/minimal contact practices in a given week.
    • The day preceding and following live contact/tackling should be non-contact/minimal contact or no football practice.
    • One day must be no football practice.

Difference from the 2014 guidelines: 

  1. Current guidelines do not differentiate postseason/bowl practice from inseason practice.

Spring Practice Recommendations

Of the 15 allowable sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight practices may involve live contact (tackling or thud); three of these live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages).  Live contact practices should be limited to two in a given week and should not occur on consecutive days.  The day following live scrimmage should be non-contact/minimal contact.

Difference from the 2014 guidelines:

  1. Non-contact/minimal contact practice recommendation the day following live scrimmage.

While I’m not for over-regulating individual coach’s decisions on how to prepare their teams for competition, I understand the need for these rule changes. Protecting and monitoring player health/wellbeing should be paramount in all that are involved in the game.

Kentucky opens at Southern Miss on September 2. By the conference accepting new regulatory practice guidance, UK’s start of fall camp may occur sometime near the last week of August. More to follow…


Some more views from UK’s graduation

Some more views from UK’s graduation

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Day one of UK’s commencement ceremonies is in the books, and several of your favorite Cats walked the stage. Here are Dominique Dashawn Hawkins and Derek Xavier Willis making the walk across stage:

Courtney Love, Ryan Timmons, and Jeff Badet:

A closer look at Badet’s hat, which, of course, references watches and clocks, as well as his decision to transfer to Oklahoma:

JD Harmon posing with Badet, Timmons, Garrett Johnson, and Kendall Randolph:

And finally, our pal, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Corporal Matthew Bradford:

Now there’s an inspiration. Congrats to everyone. Go celebrate!


Come Celebrate Kentucky History at the Legacy Ball

Come Celebrate Kentucky History at the Legacy Ball

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Been a busy week traveling across the Commonwealth. Owensboro was great. Glad to be home, but more excited to attend an historic event on Friday night leading up to Derby Day. Former UK cornerback and Lexington native Ron Mack is honoring African-American jockeys and trainers who significantly influenced the horse racing industry at the Legacy Ball. Below is an excerpt highlighting the event…

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Former University of Kentucky football player Ron Mack keeps up with sports. So imagine his surprise when he learned there were some great athletes from his old neighborhood he’d never heard of.

“Lexington is the Horse Capital of the World! I grew up in the East End of Lexington where the Kentucky Association Race Track used to be. It wasn’t until later in life I learned that, without historic contributions of African-Americans, we wouldn’t have the horse racing industry that we do today,” said Mack.

His newly found passion for sharing that history is why the former athlete is hosting a horse racing gala affair, dubbed the Legacy Ball during Derby week. “The Legacy Ball will pay homage to those African-American jockeys and trainers who had a significant impact on the horse racing industry,” Mack said. “Isaac Murphy and Oliver Lewis, among others, were both from the East End. What place better than Lexington, to recognize these important and historic figures?”

The Legacy Ball founder is planning a one-of-kind celebration for the African-American pioneers of the horse racing industry. It will be held May 5, in the brand-new Woodford Reserve Club; which is in the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field. Few have had a chance to set foot in this venue, since its opening during the 2016 season. Mack says guest will enjoy food, music, dancing, simulated horse race betting “and of course, bourbon.”

It will also feature a premiere, historical exhibit of African-American racing pioneers; created by renowned equine expert and author of “The Prince of Jockeys”, Pellom McDaniel. “He is the leading authority on African-Americans in the horse racing industry. We absolutely wanted to include him on this event,” said Mack.

The event will not just be a walk down memory lane. The proceeds of what promises will be a chic and culturally-enriching affair will benefit local charities and scholarships for African-American students who aspire to pursue equine education. Mack says, “I encourage everyone to visit our website, www.thelegacyball.com to get your tickets today.” This is an event you don’t want to miss!

See you there.


Why Kentucky Football Won’t Lose a Game They Shouldn’t

benny-snell

Entering one of the most anticipated Kentucky football seasons in years, some fans still pause before exclaiming great expectations, and for good reason.  Time and time again, great expectations have been met with great disappointment.

Over the years, Kentucky has lost games they shouldn’t have lost.  In the Mark Stoops era, two close home defeats to Auburn and Florida stole a lot of the program’s momentum.  The worst came in 2007.  The 14th-ranked Cats threw in a clunker on a rainy day against Miss. State, losing 31-14 at home.  Three weeks later they let a Tennessee win at home slip away in four overtimes.

There are a few games on the 2017 schedule that could catch the Cats off guard — at South Carolina, Missouri, at Vanderbilt and Ole Miss — but they have no business beating UK.  In the past, a UK team might have tripped up and laid an egg, turning a 8-4 or 9-3 team into a 7-5 or 6-6 team.

This year that will not be a problem, thanks to Benny Snell.

What this year’s Kentucky team has that no other UK team has had in my lifetime is a power running attack that can possess the ball for huge chunks of time.  In an Air Raid scheme, the probability of a three-and-out is higher than any other.  Without a few first downs, a stopped clock lets the other team build more and more momentum, the centerpiece of an upset.

Snell’s ability to grind a game away demoralizes opponents.  He runs angry, or as Chris Westry said, “Like somebody hit his mom.” He has the speed to bust one for a score, and the discipline to persist until he gets to the end zone.  His daily dedication is infectious and will keep the Kentucky offense at their best year-round.

Benny Snell’s numbers will likely exceed those from his record-breaking freshman campaign, but his impact on the box score won’t be as significant as where it matters most, in the win-loss column.


Luke Wright earns scholarship with football team

Luke Wright earns scholarship with football team

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Luke Wright is no longer a walk-on quarterback at the University of Kentucky.

Because he is now a scholarship quarterback at the University of Kentucky.

Wright announced his new scholarship via a tweet that read, “Walk on no longer [fire emoji] [fire emoji],” which was then retweeted by the UK Football account.

A former Cincinnati Bearcat, Wright made the transfer to Kentucky when Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw joined Mark Stoops’ staff in Lexington. He’ll be a junior this coming season in a very deep quarterback rotation.

Congrats to him.