Football Season Coverage
Eddie Gran’s name is being thrown around for one of the top jobs in college football.
Yesterday we learned Jeremy Pruitt has hired away Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to lead the Volunteers’ offense. In search of a new play-caller, Kirby Smart may stay within the SEC East.
“A name to watch at Georgia is Kentucky OC Eddie Gran,” Tweeted SB Nation senior college football writer Steven Godfrey. “Wildcats were conservative this season but Gran’s Cincinnati offenses were very explosive. He’s also a very strong Florida recruiter.”
In spite of the rage he incites amongst some Kentucky fans, Gran’s held in high regards around the college football coaching world. If Gran becomes one of Smart’s top candidates, it would be awfully hard to turn down the chance to coach Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Co. to a potential national title.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 09th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
The second part of Hey Kentucky’s exclusive interview with Benny Snell aired Tuesday night in Lexington. If you were too busy watching the Kentucky basketball team to see it, we have the video from the interview below.
In this one things were a lot more goofier as Matt asked Snell about being stranded on an island with Kash Daniel, his first purchase once he signs a big deal, listening to Luke Bryan, playing LaVar Ball in basketball and much more.
If you missed Part 1, you can get caught up right here. It’s a little more serious.
By Nick Roush on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 9:46pm
As the Kentucky basketball team tried to shake off a loss to Alabama, two Kentucky legends enjoyed the game from courtside seats.
Of course, Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher found the camera more than once. Early in the game, the SEC Network caught Benny Snell when he wasn’t ready. The running back was on the phone with what I assume to be an NFL General Manager, thanking Benny for joining the 2019 NFL Draft.
“Sorry, Kliff. I can’t talk right now. I’m at the game.” pic.twitter.com/EidcvnGq5c
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 9, 2019
Once he got off the phone, it took Benny no time get back into his zone. During one timeout, Drake got him in his feelings.
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) January 9, 2019
The videographers weren’t the only cameras seeking out Benny. The guy sitting next to him wanted a picture too. That guy goes by the name Dan Issel. Two of Kentucky’s greatest scorers together: priceless.
“When Dan Issel is taking your picture, you’re a big deal.” pic.twitter.com/xOw5IizRgR
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 9, 2019
Dan posed for the picture with Benny shortly after he struck a different pose.
Looking ahead to the 2019 Kentucky football season, Mark Stoops has a precarious quarterback situation. Fortunately, Stoops’ staff will not be in the middle of a quarterback competition, however, they will be walking on thin ice to figure out who will replace Terry Wilson if the mobile quarterback is sidelined by a big hit.
Only three days after the season ended at Louisville, the first domino fell. Redshirt freshman Danny Clark announced he would transfer from Kentucky, leaving Darin Hinshaw’s quarterback room with three scholarship players — Wilson, Walker Wood and Gunnar Hoak. The latter’s status still remains unclear.
Many speculated that Hoak would be the first quarterback to announce a transfer. A redshirt sophomore in his third year at UK, Hoak battled toe to toe with the JUCO transfer throughout the preseason. Hoak lost the competition, but played in the season opener. After Wilson was sidelined with an injury against Central Michigan, Hoak sparked the offense with a touchdown pass to David Bouvier in the final minute of the first half. When two second half series by Hoak failed to produce points, Wilson re-entered the game and did not relinquish that role the rest of the season.
Wilson’s first year as Kentucky’s starter wasn’t perfect. After the Vanderbilt game, critics called for Hoak to lead Kentucky’s offense. Even Gunnar’s father aired his grievances on social media ahead of the Missouri game. No. 12 was eventually called into the game for a few series, but only completed 3-of-8 passes for 27 yards before Wilson returned to lead Kentucky on an improbable game-winning drive that cemented his spot as UK’s starter.
Terry Wilson is not going anywhere anytime soon. Like Hoak, Wilson has two years of eligibility remaining. Many assume Hoak will transfer to search for playing time elsewhere. Today we learned Hoak will graduate in May, which means he could transfer and be eligible to play this fall.
— Holly Hoak (@holly_hoak) January 8, 2019
Will Gunnar become Kentucky’s second quarterback transfer of the offseason? Sources tell KSR it’s likely, however, nothing will be official until well after spring practice in May.
In the event Hoak does become a grad transfer, Walker Wood would be the only scholarship quarterback behind Wilson with any experience in the offense. Kentucky has recruited to fill the void with Amani Gilmore and Nik Scalzo, although neither will be on campus until June and Scalzo will be rehabilitating a torn ACL. The transfer market may also be explored, but just like in Hoak’s case, you don’t know until you officially know.
Terry Wilson’s style of play requires an offense to always be prepared to operate with a second quarterback. Hoak filled that role admirably in 2018. If Hoak does not want that role in 2019, finding the right person for the job will not be easy.
By Nick Roush on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
Overlooked by the University of Louisville during the Cardinals’ coaching search, Neal Brown is finding creative ways to torment the program.
Four days ago, Scott Satterfield hired Chad Scott to coach Louisville’s running backs. Most recently North Carolina’s tight ends coach, Scott previously coached running backs and receivers with Brown for Mark Stoops at Kentucky. The ink had not dried from Scott’s contract before Brown swiped him from Satterfield’s staff.
Brown will reportedly hire Scott to be West Virginia’s co-offensive coordinator.
The decision to hire Scott most likely stems from their working relationship at UK and Texas Tech, along with Scott’s ability to recruit playmakers from the state of Florida, but I’d like to think Brown did it just to take a shot at UofL.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 2:45pm
This morning, we found out Kentucky was No. 12 in the final AP poll of the college football season. The Cats finished one spot higher in the Amway Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 11, a four-spot jump from their previous spot and highest ranking of the season.
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One day we’ll have proper perspective on this season but right now, it still feels like a dream.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Last night, the Clemson football program put an absolute walloping on Alabama, defeating the Crimson Tide 44-16 to take home their second national title in three years.
If you started watching college football closely over the last decade, you’d only know the Tigers as a perennial powerhouse with double-digit win totals every year since 2011. They’ve won two title games, appeared in three, and came away with victories in the Cotton Bowl (2018), Fiesta Bowl (2016), Orange Bowl (2013), and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (2012) to nearly pull off the New Year’s Six cycle (they lost in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, but have never appeared in the Rose Bowl, FWIW).
Before this elite stretch, however, Clemson wasn’t known as a cream of the crop program capable of winning the national title any given year. From 1950 to 2010, the Tigers have reached the 10-win threshold just six times, and just seven since their football program was established in 1902. The program saw stretches of fewer than ten wins from 1950-1977, and then again from 1991 to 2010 (nine wins in six seasons during that span).
The program won a national championship in 1981 and regularly reached bowl games, but no one would consider the Tigers one of the elite football powerhouses over the years. Even right before their stretch of greatness over the last decade, Clemson was just another decent program capable of winning anywhere from six to eight games a year, with nine-win seasons sprinkled in.
In Rivals’ yearly recruiting team rankings, Clemson didn’t finish within the top-10 at all before 2010 since the system was created in 2002. In fact, they finished within the top-15 just once:
19 (2010), 37 (2009), 12 (2008), 16 (2007), 16 (2006), 17 (2005), 53 (2004), 67 (2003), and 22 (2002).
In 247 Sports’ edition of the team recruiting rankings, the Tigers came away with just one top-10 finish and two top-15 finishes from 2001 (when their system was created) to 2010:
27 (2010), 36 (2009), 9 (2008), 16 (2007), 14 (2006), 15 (2005), 44 (2004), 43 (2003), 19 (2002), and 33 (2001)
So how did they gain so much momentum in such a hurry? One signature bowl victory.
After winning nine games in the regular season in 2011 and then adding another big victory in the ACC Championship game, the Tigers fell 70-33 in the Orange Bowl against West Virginia.
The very next year, Dabo Swinney led Clemson to a 10-2 regular season and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl bid against No. 9 LSU. Unlike the year before, Clemson took care of business on the big stage, taking down the Tigers by a final score of 25-24.
They finished the year ranked No. 11 in the final AP Poll, and then followed it up with a top-15 finish in the 2013 team recruiting class rankings.
Ever since, Clemson has finished in the top-25 in both rating systems every year through 2019, with just one of the signing classes falling outside of either top-15 (Rivals or 247 Sports).
After their second championship victory in three years and becoming the first team in college football history to finish a season 15-0, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said something that caught my attention as he was getting interviewed on the field.
“No Hollywood producer can write it,” he said. “I’m just telling you, if I can do it, and these Clemson Tigers can do it, anybody can do it if you have the belief in yourself and what you’re doing, and you surround yourself with a bunch of great, young people that are passionate about winning. Tonight, we conquered a mountain that ain’t ever been conquered.”
Anybody, huh? Even, say, the Kentucky football program?
No, Kentucky is not at the status of Clemson football, and if you play the odds, chances are they never will be.
But as the Tigers have proven, placing an invisible ceiling on the future of any program just isn’t realistic. And if we’re being really honest, Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops doesn’t give a damn about odds or history.
Remember when Kentucky placed a College Football Playoff bracket in the weight room with the Wildcats penciled in with one of the four final slots?
“What have you done to get better today?” the poster, hung in the summer of 2017, said.
Following a 7-6 season, national college football fans and rivals laughed at the Kentucky football program for thinking they’d ever sniff the CFP. And if we’re being honest, Wildcat fans chuckled to themselves, too.
16 months later in October of 2018, the initial College Football Playoff rankings came out with the Wildcats listed at No. 9 overall. At 7-1 with an upcoming date with Georgia for the SEC East crown, the Kentucky football program felt “legitimate” for the first time in decades.
The Wildcats lost against Georgia, and then later stumbled on the road against Tennessee to crush their SEC Championship/CFP dreams, but still managed to close out the regular season at 9-3. Following their best regular season finish since 1977, Kentucky earned a bid to the Citrus Bowl, defeating Penn State 27-24 to finish the year 10-3.
When the final AP Poll was released this morning, the Wildcats finished at No. 12, good for the fourth-highest finish in program history. Kentucky finished at No. 6 in 1977, No. 7 in 1950, and No. 11 in 1949.
Coming into this season, it wasn’t a secret the football program needed to start breaking down more barriers if they wanted to be taken seriously under Mark Stoops and his coaching staff. And it didn’t take long before they did just that.
The first barrier was shattered in week two at The Swamp to end the streak against Florida. And then again in a dominating effort at home against Mississippi State. And again to push the South Carolina streak to five consecutive wins. Again by proving they can come from behind on the road to win SEC games like they did against Missouri. And finally by proving they can beat elite competition on the big stage against Penn State.
On a player-specific level, the Kentucky coaching staff has already proven they can rake in four-stars, along with grooming and molding two and three-stars into NFL talent.
Clemson has proven that slow, yet constant development year after the year is the blueprint to building a national powerhouse. It didn’t come at the snap of a finger, and they knew that. Taking shortcuts for recruiting success (Ole Miss) or in coaching decisions (Louisville) would only create long-term problems. It wouldn’t be pretty for a while, but the fruits that come in the end are all the more rewarding.
Mark Stoops is following that same path at Kentucky.
In every year under Stoops, Kentucky has either improved or maintained their win total from the season before. In six seasons in Lexington, Stoops has led the Wildcats to records of 2-10, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, and 10-3.
Over the last five recruiting classes, Kentucky has finished with team rankings (247 Sports) of No. 32 (2019) No. 36 (2018), No. 30 (2017), No. 34 (2016), and No. 38 (2015). And with the regular signing period yet to come in February with several elite talent still on the board, the 2019 class ranking is almost certainly going to improve.
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow has said multiple times in the past that the Wildcats needed one signature victory to push them over the edge to the next level in recruiting, with regularly signing four and five-star talent being the end goal. Sources tell KSR the staff genuinely feels the Penn State victory to finish the season 10-3 not only did that for them, but also made Kentucky a hotspot for future elite graduate transfer targets.
The expectation is that the class of 2020 is expected to be the best in school history.
Yes, the Wildcats will be losing an elite crop of talent, as 10-plus Wildcats are expected to hear their name called during the NFL Draft this spring. To say that won’t hurt, at least temporarily, would just be lying.
But this Kentucky coaching staff hasn’t built this team for short-term success. They’re still two-deep at every position on the offensive line, have elite weapons at skill positions on offense, a deadly front-seven with a combination of fresh, young talent and seasoned veterans, etc.
Above all else, they have continuity from the coaching staff to just fine tune things this offseason and play more to the strengths of the next crop of talent, not work in a brand new system like we saw the first few seasons under Mark Stoops. They have established a plug-and-play system with versatility on both sides of the ball, which leads me to believe this program is absolutely capable of maintaining success.
Last night, the Clemson football program proved schools like Kentucky have the opportunity to break down barriers they didn’t even realize they were capable of.
Swinney said it himself walking off the field last night.
“I hope you get a little hope from us and a little inspiration,” he said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”
Why not Kentucky?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 10:30am
The Clemson Tigers took home the 2019 National Championship trophy last night in a 44-16 dismantling of the Alabama Crimson Tide, officially bringing the college football season to a close.
But that doesn’t mean the national media is going to slow down anytime soon when talking about next season.
Immediately after the title game, ESPN released the 2019 edition of their annual Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings, and like we saw prior to last season, the Kentucky Wildcats were nowhere to be found.
Seven teams represented the SEC in the top 25, including five listed in the top ten, but a 10-3 finish and a Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State wasn’t enough to convince the Worldwide Leader in Sports to put the Cats in the rankings.
Take a look at the entire list:
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Texas A&M
- Washington State
- Central Florida
- Penn State
- Iowa State
Syracuse in the top 15 (10-3, losing their star quarterback)? Utah (9-5)? Iowa State (8-5, losing their star running back)? Nebraska (4-and-freaking-8)? Get outta here.
Kentucky did get a mention in the article, but it had nothing to do with the team’s ranking or a prediction. They actually brought up the Wildcats when discussing the misses they had in their 2018 edition of the Way-Too-Early rankings.
Among the teams we had ranked too high: Wisconsin, Miami, Michigan State, Auburn, Virginia Tech and USC.
Among the teams we had ranked too low or didn’t have ranked at all: Florida, Washington State, Kentucky, Utah, Texas A&M and Syracuse.
Kentucky was in the “didn’t have ranked at all” category, just like they’ll apparently be when next offseason rolls around.
Looks like the Wildcats will just have to prove everyone wrong yet again. They seem to be good at that.
Following the completion of the college football season with Clemson’s National Championship victory, the college football writers of America have selected a season-ending Top 25. Despite Kentucky’s 10-win season, they Cats could not crack the Top Ten.
1. Clemson (61)
3. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
10. Washington State
16. Texas A&M
17. Penn State
18. Fresno State
19. Army West Point
20. West Virginia
22. Utah State
23. Boise State
Others receiving votes: Appalachian St. 96, Stanford 52, Mississippi St. 45, Utah 43, UAB 32, Iowa St. 26, Auburn 15, Oregon 11, Missouri 10, Troy 6, Georgia Southern 6, Oklahoma St. 3, Wisconsin 2, NC State 2.
It’s Kentucky’s first appearance in the postseason AP Poll since 1985, when Jerry Clairborne’s Cats finished 19th following a Hall of Fame Bowl victory. No. 12 is the highest postseason ranking since the 1977 Wildcats finished sixth. The 2018-19 Wildcats are only the fourth team to appear in the postseason AP Poll since Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines.
Even though Mark Stoops’ team missed out on the Top Ten, Kentucky is the only SEC team to have beaten a Power Five opponent in 2019. Take that, Associated Press.
This morning’s Kentucky Sports Radio radio show was a special one as Benny Snell joined the show for the entire second hour. Snell was in studio with Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond to look back on his record-breaking three years in the Kentucky backfield and to thank the fans for their support throughout his career.
He also named his favorite games and moments at UK, explained how he became a star, discussed his relationship with Coach Stoops, predicted the future for the program, participated in a wedding proposal and much, much more.
You can listen to his farewell message to Big Blue Nation here:
The entire one-hour interview can be heard here:
Reminder: He’ll be signing autographs and meeting fans at KSBar and Grille this Friday evening.
By Nick Roush on ©January 07th, 2019 @ 9:45pm
This Citrus Bowl hangover is not leaving the Big Blue Nation anytime soon. We’ll spend the next few months celebrating just the third ten-win season in school history. Unfortunately, most of the roster’s major pieces have played in their final game.
Vince Marrow expects than ten departing Wildcats to be drafted by the NFL this April. Aside from special teams, there are significant holes that need to be filled. Before we receive clarity this spring, here’s who I expect to be on the two-deep when Kentucky kicks off the 2019 football season August 31 against Toledo.
Terry Touchdown has the keys to Kentucky’s offense in 2019. Who will be his No. 2 remains a mystery. Gunnar Hoak is the top candidate, but he could become a graduate transfer and play immediately elsewhere following the completion of his spring semester. Walker Wood is the next most experienced player. Amani Gilmore or a transfer could fit into the equation while Nik Scalzo rehabs an ACL injury.
Chris Rodriguez, Kavosiey Smoke OR Travis Tisdale
Rose is equipped to take the keys from Benny Snell, but he will not be asked to carry the same workload. The No. 2 back that spells him could be the true freshman. Tisdale’s speed is rare and his work ethic is rumored to be unrivaled. Securing the No. 2 running back spot will be quite the fight for the underclassmen.
Wide Receiver (Z)
Ahmad Wagner OR
Wide Receiver (Y)
Clevan Thomas OR
Each redshirt has received preseason praise. We’ll see if they can fill a position that has been productive over the last three years under Charles Walker and David Bouvier.
Wide Receiver (X)
Isaiah Epps OR Josh Ali
Richardson has been the most consistent of the three options, leading the team in receiving during the second half of his sophomore season. Searching for deep threats on the outside, if they don’t grow up fast, early enrollee DeMarcus Harris is prepared to push for playing time immediately.
Wide Receiver (F)
If you thought Lynn got a lot of targets in 2018, wait till 2019.
By Nick Roush on ©January 07th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Benny Snell’s legendary Kentucky career has come to a close. He crossed the finish line in the most dramatic way possible, and tonight he joined Hey Kentucky! to talk about his record-breaking moment.
“It’s like I had the force with me,” he said. “It was just a powerful moment. I felt iconic.”
Benny Snell brought his swagger to the LEX-18 studio for an exclusive interview with Hey Kentucky! Enjoy part one and tune in Thursday night for the conclusion of Snell’s discussion with Matt Jones.
Go behind the scenes inside the radio broadcast booth as Tom Leach calls Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl win over Penn State. It’s the final “Booth Cam” of the season and it’s also the best.
#BBN you've been waiting all week for the @CitrusBowl edition of the #BoothCam. Well here it is! Thanks to @KYwildcatsTV & @bigblueinsider1 for putting the finishing touches on this bad boy! @UKAthletics @UKFootball pic.twitter.com/9hEcnZWThk
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) January 6, 2019
By Nick Roush on ©January 07th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
Benny Snell ended each of his three seasons at Kentucky in a bowl game. How his second season ended in the Music City Bowl motivated him to finish his career on a high note in the Citrus Bowl.
The Kentucky running back was starting to get into a rhythm on a cold December evening in Nashville when his night was cut short. An official tried to help Snell up off the turf. When Snell shushed away the official’s hands, he took it personal. A flag was thrown and Benny was ejected after only six carries for 15 yards. More than a year later, he’s still not over it.
“It always sticks with me because one of the records I wanted to break was how many yards I could get in a single season,” Snell told Kentucky Sports Radio. “They kicked me out and it just ruined it.”
Instead of contending with Moe Williams’ record, Snell was sidelined, forced to watch from the locker room as his team finished two yards away from a victory. That memory all but ensured he would play in the Citrus Bowl.
“I wanted to play with everything I had in me, how bad I got shorted from a bowl game, I felt like I had no choice but to play in this bowl game.”
Snell ultimately made the decision to play with his teammates. Once Josh Allen and Benny were convinced to play one more game, the entire group of seniors was prepared to get one more win.
“We sat down, talked about it. It was what was best for each guy, so we basically had a vote all across and it was clear, we all wanted to play. It wasn’t that hard of a decision,” he said. “We came in here fighting, so we’re going to end fighting.”
Snell’s fight ended with a record-setting performance in the Citrus Bowl. Up 20-7, Snell was 12 yards away from the end zone and seven away from becoming Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher.
“This is the one right here,” he thought as fans chanted, ‘Benny! Benny! Benny!’
“As soon as I crossed the pylon, I dropped down. I closed my eyes and looked up. ‘God thank you so much. God, it happened.’ I was just praying all before the game. I just had high hopes of finishing what I wanted to do. I’m worried about injury. I’m worried about trying to get the win. I had a whole bunch of things on my mind, but all praise to the most high.”
Benny Snell was denied history once. He would not let it happen again at the Citrus Bowl.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 3, 2019