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Watch Mark Stoops’ Post Spring Game Press Conference

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UK Athletics

The Blue Team Wins Kentucky’s 2017 Spring Game 31-14

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Kentucky’s first team, the Blue Team, defeated the White Team reserves 31-14 in front of 37,172 fans at Commonwealth Stadium.

Receiving most the carries, Sihiem King accounted for 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns to put the Blue Team over the top.  Benny Snell only played a few drives, but he still found the end zone once and accounted for 42 yards.  The third running back, A.J. Rose, had a solid start but left the game early after taking a big hit at the end of a 27-yard gain.

Kayaune Ross had 58 yards receiving, Chuck Walker had 49 yards, Jamar “Boogie” Watson had four sacks and freshman Jamin Davis led all defenders with 8 tackles.  The complete box score:

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WATCH: UK Takes the Field Behind Ryan Cremeens

@HillaryWKYT

@HillaryWKYT

After kicking cancer’s butt, Ryan Cremeens celebrated with the Kentucky football team.  Rocking a “No More Chemo” cape over his No. 18 jersey, the nine-year old cancer survivor led the team onto the field, carrying the American flag alongside Denzil Ware and C.J. Conrad.  See the best moment from the Spring Game:


Five Thoughts on the First Half of the Spring Game

A Stephen Johnson interception to Kei Backham on third and long put the White Team on the 20-yard line with just over a minute to play.  Gunnar Hoak found early enrollee Clevan Thomas in the back of the end zone to tie the game at halftime.  Here’s a few notes to keep you occupied while we wait for play to resume.

—  Benny Snell is still awesome, maybe even better.  He’s likely done for the night, but his first two drives were a complete success.  He accounted for 42 yards and a touchdown on 6 touches in the first half.  Three of those touches were receptions.  He only caught two passes a year ago.  Just when you thought he couldn’t get better, Snell adds receiving to his arsenal.

—  Kayaune Ross had the highlight of the half.  Unfortunately, SEC policy prevents me from sharing the video, but HOLY MOLY.  Derrick Baity couldn’t have played better defense on the fade, yet Ross still found way to make the catch and get not just one, but two feet inbounds.

— Danny Trevathan is in the building.  The Super Bowl Champion linebacker and Chicago Bear is back in town to support his team.  Jojo Kemp still hasn’t left.  Shadowing the broadcasting crew is a part of his internship that will help him complete his degree.

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

—  Believe the Boogie hype.  Jamar “Boogie” Watson got a sack in his first series.  He didn’t stop until the horn sounded.  Boogie accounted for 3 first half sacks, and he should’ve had another but the ref didn’t call the play dead.

—  Jamin Davis will not redshirt.  He’s too good not to play.  The star of the White Team, Davis leads all defenders after one half of football with 7 tackles.  It felt like No. 44 was in on every run play.  Keep an eye on him in the second half and you’ll remain entertained.


Blue-White Spring Game Live Blog

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Let’s talk football!

Live Blog Blue-White Game Live Blog
 


Views from the Spring Game

We’re 30 minutes from kickoff on the SEC Network.  Here’s what’s happening before 37,000 fans pack Commonwealth Stadium, starting with Stephen Johnson and Kayaune Ross.

Drew Barker’s t-shirt is the real MVP.

Drew Barker is one of eight players not dressed for tonight’s game.  C.J. Conrad, Garrett “Juice” Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Alvonte Bell and Tymere Dubose are a few other notable absences.

Gunnar Hoak warmed up with Jared Lorenzen’s new favorite player, Danny Clark.

Let’s Go.

@UKFootball

@UKFootball


Spring Game Lessons

Spring Game Lessons

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Spring football games represent the beginning of the longest offseason in athletics. With very little to look forward to in the sports world until September, DVR’s will be overworked with folks watching American classic films like Coneheads and Red Dawn along with television series such as Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, and Alf. Anyway, back on subject; can we learn anything about this football team on Friday that we don’t already know?

The standard answer would be no. But, the media was limited to just one open practice. We’ve—I’ve not seen enough of the 2017 Cats to provide an accurate assessment.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for on Friday:

One-On-One Matchups

Receivers vs. defensive backs. Defenses will be forced to deploy basic packages to simplify preparation for all roster players. Most likely, that means that the secondary will play zone. In a zone defense DB’s are assigned an area, not an individual receiver. But, there will be one-on-one engagements for the football.

— Dorian Baker’s spring production has gathered universal praise from the coaching staff. I’m anxious to see more from the senior.

— Early enrollee Clevan Thomas’ ability to navigate the middle of the field was noticeable last Saturday.

— Who will replace the departed Jeff Badet?

— Devante Robinson and Jordan Griffin’s names have been frequently mentioned. How have the young DB’s progressed?

Instead of gauging success based off the play’s result; take a gander at the outside linebacker’s reaction and redirection to an RPO or how running backs read line-of-scrimmage pathways. Inside linebackers taking on a lead blocker will be another fun collision that will be prominent on Friday.

— Jamar “Boogie” Watson replaced Denzil Ware during last Saturday’s scrimmage and the defense didn’t miss a beat. Keep your eyes on #31.

— Kash Daniel is now a seasoned sophomore and forcing the issue for MLB clock. Also Eli Brown as well as OLB’s Jaylin Bannerman and Jordan Bonner will receive a high number of reps. Linebacker development will be critical for Matt House’s defense.

The center position will be under the proverbial microscope. Dial in on Bunchy Stallings, Drake Jackson, and possibly Nick Haynes. Notice pre-snap coordination with fellow offensive linemen. Post-snap appraisal will focus on the center’s first step and if there is wasted motion from stance to initial contact with a defender. Once engaged, was there movement or a stalemate? Fun stuff.

Another must-watch will surround youthful defensive linemen TJ Carter and Kordell Looney. Carter is more advanced in pass rush moves but Looney’s bull-rush is also formidable. See how both pursue the football, or “Strain” to make a tackle as defensive coordinator Matt House likes to scream. We’ve heard coaches and players discuss an emphasis on line-of-scrimmage penetration and aggression. Will we see a difference in defensive line strategy?

— NT’s Naquez Pringle, Matt Elam, and Jacob Hyde are fighting for inside position. Pringle developed nicely in the Cat’s final seven games.

— Matt Elam is entering his last rodeo. Now a senior, can the E’town native make a move?

— Defensive tackle Adrian Middleton’s body change is obvious which has helped his pass rush prowess.

— Kengera Daniel is finally settled in on a single position, defensive end. Gifted with every tool necessary to pressure the quarterback, can Daniel consistently force action across the line-of-scrimmage?

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Quarterback Anticipation

Hate to spoil the show, but spring games are fixed to make the quarterbacks look good. There will likely be very little blitzing. Fronts and coverages will be basic. Not certain, but red jerseys may also be worn. Thus, QB’s will all the advantages to shine.

I’m working with a few young talent evaluators. I always tell them to watch the quarterback’s facemask when we watch film. The facemask is an indication of eye placement. By doing so, you can estimate the QB’s thought pattern by understanding where his eyes are looking. Younger passers have a tendency to stare down receivers. Veterans often “look off” defenders prior to throwing the football.

Receivers should be open due to scheme. But, quarterbacks must anticipate their intended location on the field and “throw em open”. Example, during last Saturday’s scrimmage I saw redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak progress from his first read to his third as he checked down for a completion. This tells me that Hoak has a high understanding of the play’s intent. Next level stuff.

— Don’t necessarily judge quarterbacks by completion percentage. They will be working with an abundance of receivers; timing may be off. Consider decision making a more valuable gauge.

Defensive Havoc

UK improved in two critical defensive categories in 2016; QB sacks and tackles for loss (TFL).

— 2016: Cats finished 11th in the SEC with 21 QB sacks and 10th in the league with 69 TFL.

— 2015: SEC-14th with 17 QB sacks. SEC-13th with 53 TFL.

Even through improvement, Kentucky ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in both categories. Beyond the line-of-scrimmage defensive interaction has to become more frequent.

— I’m interested to see the number of non-linebacker QB pressures. Organic, or specific positional QB disruptions from defensive tackles, nose tackles, and defensive ends are what should be important on Friday night.

— Also keep in mind that most likely blitzing will not be allowed.

Kentucky’s opponents scored 113 points off 28 turnovers a year ago. Comparatively, the UK scored 63 points off 23 forced turnovers. That’s a negative 50-points and -7 turnover margin. This is a must, non-negotiable improvement scenario.

— Offensive ball security has been a point of emphasis.

— Forcing turnovers has been a constant defensive message throughout spring practice.

— Something has to give.

Speed

I’m not talking about the fancy GPS system that measures player’s miles per hour and heart rate. Friday will tell us if team speed has increased or not and can be judged strictly by the eye test. I’m continually impressed by the strength and conditioning staff when visiting the training center. My first impression of the team was that it was bigger, stronger, and faster.

— RB Benny Snell appeared more explosive and faster in the scrimmage I saw last Saturday. Don’t know the scientific numbers, but he seemed noticeably quicker.

— Same can be said about senior WR Dorian Baker.

Weather forecast has changed, looks to be clear come game time. Come on out. Should be a fun show.


Young UK fan who beat cancer will lead the Cats out tonight

Young UK fan who beat cancer will lead the Cats out tonight

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Ryan Cremeens of Richmond, Ky. will lead his favorite college football team onto the gridiron tonight, fresh off his victory against cancer.

The 9-year-old friend of the program was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles, last summer. On March 30 of this year, Ryan beat the disease with his last chemo treatment in Lexington. Denzil Ware and C.J. Conrad were there to celebrate with him.

Tonight Ryan will run through the tunnel in Commonwealth Stadium with Ware, Conrad and the rest of the Wildcats behind him.

Mark Stoops said of his team’s young friend, “It’s kids like Ryan who inspire us. If we could give some inspiration to him, that’s great, but he inspires many of us to do better and be the best we can.”

Read more about Ryan and his fight in ESPN’s big story.

https://twitter.com/ECremeens1366/status/848322546604933123


May I recommend the KSR Football Podcast for your tailgate playlist?

We got the band back together earlier this week to preview tonight’s spring game in lovely Commonwealth Stadium. I highly recommend you add it to your playlist tonight while you’re tossing around the ol’ cornhole bag and eating whatever parking lot fare you cooked up because there’s lots of good stuff in there.

For example: Freddie Maggard dropped lots of spring football knowledge on us, which was very good; then there’s the part where Jared Lorenzen confessed his love for Dorian Baker, which was surprising; I changed the subject a lot, which happens often our podcast; and Nick Roush’s microphone didn’t work, which is very typical of Nick Roush.

So give it a listen if you got time before tonight’s game. You can find it on the KSR App, or on  iTunes or Google Play or 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.


Five Players To Watch In Tonight’s Blue-White Game

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The annual Blue-White spring game always open the door for the lesser-known Wildcats to introduce themselves to football fans. We already know about Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell and Jordan Jones and Dorian Baker and the like, but there are some young studs on the depth chart who haven’t had their moment just yet. The spring game can be that moment, and I have five potential sleepers who may catch your eye in tonight’s game.

 


#31 | Jamar “Boogie” Watson

Linebacker | Freshman (RS)

If you’re not familiar with Boogie, you better get familiar. After redshirting last season as a top-100 linebacker out of high school, Watson has turned heads this spring. He stepped in for Denzil Ware in last weekend’s scrimmage and “didn’t miss a beat,” as Freddie Maggard said it, which is very good to hear. Ware is one of the best players on the team, so if Watson is already playing up to his level, the young man has a bright future on the Kentucky defense.


#12 | Gunnar Hoak

Quarterback | Freshman (RS)

Gunnar Hoak is a name you probably already know because he is a quarterback and quarterbacks get all the love. You also probably remember his performance in last year’s spring game when he connected on four of five passes with one touchdown after only being on campus a couple months. With that said, you may not know that he has been great this spring and worked his way into a reliable backup to Stephen Johnson while Drew Barker has been out. Expect another big spring game from him tonight.


#10 | A.J. Rose

Running Back | Freshman (RS)

A.J. Rose was in a competition with Benny Snell last fall to see who would play right away and who would redshirt. It was a tight race that Snell won in the end, as you well know. But now it’s Rose’s time to carry the rock for the Wildcats and he may be No. 2 in the backfield rotation behind Snell. With Boom and JoJo long gone, the offense needs a second ball-career it can trust and Rose can be that guy. Watch him tonight because you’ll be watching him a lot this season.


#90 | T.J. Carter

Defensive End | Sophomore

The defensive line needs guys to step up and T.J. Carter is one of those guys the staff is looking to for just that. Carter burst onto the scene late last season when he shined in the TaxSlayer Bowl as a true freshman filling in for senior captain Courtney Miggins. Now he’s drawing praise as a standout this spring and as a future starter on the defensive line.


#59 | Kordell Looney

Defensive Tackle | Freshman (RS)

Much like Carter, Kordell Looney is a youngster who might have to play veteran snaps this fall. He redshirted last season when he came to Lexington as the 57th-ranked defensive tackle in the 2016 class and he’s already in a battle with his fellow D-linemen for who Matt House will trust and rely on the most. He and Carter were two players that were mentioned often over the course of spring practices as young star on that side of the ball.



We’re one step closer to an early signing period for football

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The NCAA’s D1 council made a pretty big vote today that could really impact college football recruiting. The council decided to accept a proposal for a new early signing period for college football, which is something Mark Stoops has advocated for in the past. Basketball has one and college football needs one to cut down on the early commits who flip at the last minute before National Signing Day in February.

The proposed early signing period will be voted on again this summer so it’s not a done deal just yet. Today’s vote does, however, get the ball rolling in the right direction for making the move happen.

In my biased and pretty uninformed opinion, it would be a great thing for Kentucky, especially when you consider how successful this staff has been at finding talent early in the process. It would cut down on the powerhouses swooping in and stealing UK’s hidden gems, while allowing Stoops & Co. to spend their time and resources on recruiting other prospects, rather than continuing to recruit the ones already on boards.

Let’s get this done. UK benefits.


UK kicks off Charles Walker’s Heisman campaign with new video

UK kicks off Charles Walker’s Heisman campaign with new video

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Kentucky doesn’t kick off its football season for another 142 days but you can never start the Charles Walker Heisman campaign too early.

Today the university released a video of Walker’s journey from walk-on to scholarship player/star punt returner, all while pursuing a double major in finance and marketing. Walker talks about his daily routine of balancing football and schoolwork — which sounds brutal — and how he reacted when Mark Stoops granted him a surprise scholarship last season.

Check it out:

I assume the Walker billboards will start popping up around town some time this summer.

88 for Heisman.


Tomorrow’s forecast looks much better now

Tomorrow’s forecast looks much better now

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Earlier in the week I told you rain was in the forecast for tomorrow’s festivities at Commonwealth Stadium.

Now I’m happy to report that has since changed and it is very unlikely we get wet while tailgating and watching our favorite football team in Lexington.

The new Friday evening forecast looks like this:

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See you there, BBN.


Spring game tickets hit 32,000, up from last year

Spring game tickets hit 32,000, up from last year

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It looks like tomorrow night’s Blue-White spring game will get a good crowd after all.

After some minor concerns about the change to Friday night, Keeneland season, Good Friday, and rain in the early forecast, ticket numbers have really boomed this week and surpassed last year’s total of 28,441.

Around 32,000 tickets have been claimed for the scrimmage as of this morning with many more last-minute orders expected. I am personally responsible for 20 of those tickets claimed (LESSGOOO) and you should do your part in packing CWS if you haven’t already.

Reminder: Tickets will be available for free at the stadium ticket office before kickoff.

Get in there!


UK introduces new flexible single-game ticket pricing for football

UK introduces new flexible single-game ticket pricing for football

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Big Blue Nation spoke and UK Athletics listened.

Thanks to feedback through the BBN First initiative, UK has a new football single-game ticket pricing model designed to create flexibility.

Here are some details from the release:

Season-ticket holders will be able to order single-game tickets at exclusive rates through a presale online this summer and select their tickets at the time of purchase. Single-game tickets will go on sale to the general public soon after. Complete pricing information for single-game tickets is available here. To be notified via email when those tickets go on sale, non-season ticket holders should call the UK Ticket Office to create an account and be added to the football email list.

For the purposes of single-game pricing, the Commonwealth Stadium seating map has been divided into four zones. Based on opponent and zone, single-game ticket prices will range from $30 to $95. Please reference this map to find seating locations and pricing.

Season ticket packages are available now for $310 apiece plus the K-Fund donation. You can go ahead and lock those down now at UKFootballTix.com.

For more information on the new changes to the ticket-buying process, everything you need to know can be found here.

Go Cats.