Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©April 09th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
Eddie Gran’s offense did not have its best scrimmage Saturday at Kroger Field. In spite of their slow start, the offense finished with a few explosive plays. It accurately reflects the offense’s up and down spring.
“They gotta know that when you come out, you gotta be ready to go and gotta have an attitude. We didn’t have it and they (the defense) did, so it was good,” UK’s offensive coordinator said. “You gotta learn from it.”
The problem is, they’re only learning from it some of the time, especially the wide receivers. The pass-catchers came back with a good practice, but there’s a “but.”
“We had a chance to finish with an unbelievable play at the end of practice right here and we get a drop instead of being a touchdown on third down and eight. We gotta continue to be more consistent there,” Gran said.
“Consistent” is Gran’s favorite word this spring. Just how often does he use it around his wide receivers?
“Every day, every couple seconds of every play,” said rising junior wide receiver Josh Ali. “That’s his thing. We gotta be consistent. Everything has to be on beat, on tempo with the right timing.”
Ali has emerged as Terry Wilson’s most reliable target outside of Lynn Bowden, but even Ali has his moments of weakness.
“They gotta frickin’ battle and compete,” said Gran. “We gotta start executing. There is no learning curve anymore. Game, set, match. That was a long time ago. We’re not young players anymore. You gotta make a play.”
When the offense sputtered at the start of the scrimmage, the group turned to Terry Wilson. He explained how he’s become more comfortable being “the guy” for the offense when things aren’t going their way. Friday’s goal is simple: move the ball down the field.
This line from Ahmad Wagner speaks volumes: “He just looks like a completely different player. I’m proud of the guy.”
When Eddie Gran was asked what he wants to see in the spring game, he immediately responded, “No. 1, nobody get hurt. Spring games, they’re a necessary evil.”
Keeping a clean bill of health is a priority. That’s why you will not likely see Keaton Upshaw suited up. The highly touted redshirt freshman tight end tweaked his hamstring in the second spring scrimmage. Rather than risk delaying his recovery, they won’t trot him onto the field Friday evening.
The good news is Kavosiey Smoke will be able to go this Friday. The freshman running back has the potential to be one of the game’s most exciting playmakers.
Chris Rodriguez Brings the Boom
Smoke is a nice slasher, A.J. Rose is a home run hitter and Chris Rodriguez lowers his shoulder. He brought out the truck-stick for one play on Saturday that impressed everyone in attendance.
“He ran over a couple of guys. He near-legged, near-shouldered one guy and took him off his legs. It was a violent hit and he got the best of it.” Gran said that’s not all he can do. “The scrimmage before he had a 58-yard run and got up to 20 miles per hour on the GPS, which is pretty good for a 225-pound back.”
After health scare, former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad is “trying to get (his) name back out there” with NFL teams
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 08th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
On March 1, former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad saw his future in football flash right before his eyes. While getting prepared for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the 6-foot-5 tight end was told that he would not be allowed to participate in the event after tests revealed an issue with his heart.
Not only was his football career temporarily placed on hold, he was worried for his life.
“That was very tough, tough for my family,” Conrad said today. “I’m just glad to get through that. It was a tough part of my life, but it taught me a lot, made me think of things outside of football and what’s really important.”
For Conrad, the news absolutely blindsided him, as he has had a clean bill of health – specifically with non-injury issues – his entire life. He had to double-check with the medical professionals at the NFL Combine to make sure they had the right person.
“It was a complete surprise to me, absolutely blindsided me at the Combine,” he said. “The things they were telling me, I was like, “Are you sure you have the right person?” It might sound messed up to say that, but it really didn’t make sense to me. I was just like, “Let’s get this doctor’s appointment done, I want to see the best.” I was tired of everyone else’s opinion, I needed to get the best.”
After meeting with some of the best cardiologists in the country at Mass General Hospital in Boston, it was determined Conrad was ready to compete once again. Just three weeks after hearing the devastating news, the former Wildcat was cleared to participate at UK’s Pro Day on March 22.
He didn’t participate in any serious testing or drills, but going out and catching passes in front of NFL teams was more than enough to make him satisfied.
“For me to go out there on March 22 and do some routes in front of scouts, I only got cleared like 48 hours before that happened,” he said. “I just wanted to show that I’m fine. I felt fine, never felt bad.”
From there, Conrad rescheduled a Pro Day of his own to finally go through testing and make a name for himself with scouts watching specifically for him.
CJ Conrad runs a 4.77 40-yard dash at UK Pro Day pic.twitter.com/oP7dd9EjhC
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 8, 2019
While scouts were certainly worried after hearing the initial news back at the Combine in March, the former Kentucky tight end wanted to prove he’s still the same player he was to close out his senior season in Lexington.
“Part of the draft process is building your brand, this is the one time in your football career that you’re not on a team, you’re representing yourself,” he said. “Over the last two and a half weeks or so I’ve just been trying to get the word out here that I’m healthy and I’m fine. When you have a heart condition – well not a heart condition, but it was a heart condition for two and a half weeks – teams may get freaked out by that. So my job (since then) has been to do some damage control and get my information out there from the best cardiologist in the country, send it to all 32 NFL teams.”
Conrad revealed that visits are going well and he has plenty more to come before the NFL Draft begins on April 25, but he again stressed that his job right now is to make sure teams just remember who the real CJ Conrad is.
“I’ve got (a visit) with the Browns on Friday, a couple teams I met with prior to Pro Day yesterday,” he said. “It’s been going well, but like I said, while most guys are trying to raise their stock, I’m just trying to get my name back out there.”
CJ Conrad: 21 reps on the bench press pic.twitter.com/d3lEfI6r3o
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 8, 2019
So what are those conversations like with NFL teams? The former Wildcat said that he’s hearing different things on where he projects at the next level. Some teams want him to unleash his “Baby Gronk” as a primary pass-catcher, while others believe he can dominate the game as a block-first end.
He went through both sets of drills at both Pro Day opportunities, and he feels he can thrive at either position.
“It’s kind of weird, all 32 teams do their own evaluations,” he said. “Some teams have me as a guy that’ll go out and catch a bunch of balls, and a couple teams have me as a true Y tight end, a blocking tight end. But listen, I’ll do whatever a team asks me to do, that’s what I always say. I feel like it’s a compliment (they feel that way) because it shows I can do both.”
Mike Edwards feels his NFL Draft stock jumped “a round or two” after impressive UK Pro Day performance
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 08th, 2019 @ 10:40pm
A little over a year ago, former Kentucky safety Mike Edwards had a fairly significant NFL Draft decision to make. After three solid seasons of eligibility as a Wildcat, Edwards was considered a consensus mid-round draft pick. Scouts liked him, with one team even telling the 5-foot-10 standout they were willing to take a shot on him late in the third round, but no one was going to reach on him in the first or second round like he had hoped.
He was certainly going to get drafted, but with room to move up and Kentucky football seemingly right on the cusp of something special, the intrigue to return for one final season was there. He was also just one semester away from a degree, something his mom had been wanting from him his whole life.
Right in the midst of the NFL Draft process over a year later, Edwards feels he couldn’t have been happier with his decision to return to school.
“I felt that I would definitely get drafted, but not as high as I wanted to be,” he said at his Pro Day this morning. “So I wanted to come back and build something great with this team, and I’m glad I did. We had a great season, one of the best Kentucky has ever had. Another one of the main reasons I came back was to graduate, obviously. And I feel like I did all three of those things: graduate, have a great season, and improve my draft stock.”
Mike Edwards with a 37-inch vertical at UK Pro Day. Very, very impressive. pic.twitter.com/V4GPYwp7kN
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 8, 2019
Scouts from the Browns, Jaguars, Lions, Raiders, Seahawks, Broncos, Chargers, Jets, Bengals, Titans, Redskins, and 49ers, among others, were in attendance to see both Edwards and former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad work out and participate in testing.
And according to the self-described “Honey Badger,” if you take away the minor hamstring tweak he suffered during the drill portion of the day, it was a performance he was proud of.
“I think I did good, could’ve done better,” he said. “I tweaked my hamstring a little bit running the last 40-yard dash, but nothing major. I wanted to do the shuttle, I feel that that’s one of my best drills, but I feel like I showed enough. People question my speed, I showed them my speed. Showed them I could jump a little bit. But definitely my position drills, one of my biggest (strong suits), I feel like I did well at that. Just tried to impress some teams out there.”
Going into the event, Edwards told KSR that a sub-4.5 40-yard dash time was his realistic target. After making that happen countless times over the past few weeks while training, anything starting with the numbers 4.4 would have made him happy.
The school released an unofficial time of 4.5 seconds in both runs for Edwards, while a few NFL scouts in attendance hit the stopwatch at a smooth 4.44 seconds.
“I was a little nervous to do my 40, that’s what everybody wanted me to run,” he said. “But I treated it like an actual game, like I go out there every Saturday. I did that, and I feel like I crushed the 40. (It ended up being) like a 4.4, 4.4-something.”
Edwards told the media afterward that former Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson, who a ran a 4.39 himself at Pro Day back on March 22, made a bet with him about his running time as an added piece of motivation. In an early morning wakeup call, Johnson told Edwards that if he could break his target sub-4.5 speed, he would buy him a meal at Skyline Chili – Edwards’ favorite restaurant – after the event.
If not, Edwards had to pay for a meal by himself.
“(Johnson) called me at like 2 o’clock in the morning, and I was like “Dude, I’m trying to get ready, trying to sleep.” But he got me pumped up, said, “If you run a 4.4, I’ll buy you Skyline. If you don’t run a 4.4, you’ve got to buy your own Skyline. You already know I had to run a 4.4 then, so I ran a 4.4.”
Mike Edwards 40-yard dash at UK Pro Day: 4.44 pic.twitter.com/WfhRJOvAdS
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 8, 2019
With a 40-time he was satisfied with and a plate of Skyline to look forward to, Edwards said that he has a long list of teams with solid interest in calling his name when the NFL Draft rolls around later this month.
“They all come out, it’s about the same for everyone,” he said. “But the Chargers and the Chiefs, all the AFC West teams, they’ve been following me consistently since my sophomore year. And after today, I feel like that’s going to help with notoriety, more exposure.”
When asked about his upcoming visits, Edwards said a pair of NFC teams are bringing him in over the next two weeks.
“I go out to Seattle on Thursday, and then the Giants the following Saturday or something like that,” he said. “But there’s a few of them coming up that I know of so far.”
After an injured hand kept him out of the NFL Combine and UK’s first Pro Day back in March, Edwards believes his performance today was significant for his draft stock.
“Before this day, I feel like I was going in the fourth round, maybe,” he said. “Third or fourth round. But after today, I definitely feel like I improved it a round or two.”
He likely won’t hear his name called when the NFL Draft opens on Thursday night, but there is a significant chance we’ll be seeing the Honey Badger walk across the stage on day two.
By Nick Roush on ©April 08th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
And just like that, the spring game is almost here. They say time flies when you’re having fun and that’s exactly what happened during March Madness. If you weren’t following along, quite a bit happened, but nothing that will dramatically affect the product we see on the field this fall.
Throughout the course of the week, I’ll provide plenty of material to prepare you for the Friday night scrimmage between the Blue and the White. There are new faces to know and big plays to see. If you can’t make moves to Kroger Field, you can watch all the action on the SEC Network beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. But trust me, you’ll want to be there. There are only so many times we can accurately say, “it’s football time in the Bluegrass.”
It’s not looking great. The Weather Channel currently gives Lexington a 90% chance for early rain. The keyword of that forecast is “early.” Hopefully the wind will blow all the bad weather away before the 6:00 p.m. kickoff.
A New KSR Football Podcast
Tomorrow we’re getting the gang together to prepare you for Friday’s game and talk about what went down over the last month at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. Keep your eyes peeled on iTunes tomorrow afternoon.
In an ideal world, Mark Stoops will split the teams up evenly. Instead of simply pitting the offense vs. the defense like a year ago, the man in charge wants to crank up the competition. It all depends on the Cats’ injury status. It was pretty rough last week. We’ll see how many guys are still banged up tomorrow.
An Easy Way to get Tickets
Tickets to the Blue/White Game are free, as of course is tradition, but you still need to reserve a seat. The easiest way to save a spot is through ReplyBuy. Text “KENTUCKY” to 20123 to claims your tickets.
Let this also serve as a friendly reminder that it’s your final week to renew season tickets for the 2019 season. Lock up your spot before Friday, April 12.
Plenty of Recruits
I’m slowly starting to compile a list, and folks, it’s a doozy. For those who could not enroll early, most of the remaining 2019 recruiting class will be in attendance. I’ll share as much as possible once we get closer to Friday. It’s in Kentucky’s best interest to host John Young a week after the four-star offensive tackle from Louisville visited Auburn.
— John Young (@the_johnyoung) March 30, 2019
Josh Allen is the Best
Haters are always going to hate. Some are too stubborn to leave the Nick Bosa hill. Three out of five NFL Network Draft analysts agree — Josh Allen is the best pass rusher in the 2019 draft class. Bucky Brooks and Maurice Jones-Drew are big fans, but I’m a bigger fan of the praise David Carr provided.
“Kentucky’s Josh Allen is the best pass rusher in this class because he gets to the quarterback in critical moments, whether it’s during a play on third down, in the red zone or down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The explosive defender compares to Denver’s Von Miller in the way that he can cause a disruption on any given play, and how he can put a game away with a batted down pass or strip. Allen’s a closer-type player that every NFL team is trying to get.”
Back to Work
Offseason workout programs are underway around the NFL. This week Za’Darius Smith got his first taste of what it’s like to be a Green Bay Packer.
— Za'Darius Smith (@TheRealZSmith) April 8, 2019
A Pleasant Spring Game Surprise
In closing, I’ll do something I never thought I would do — give Will Muschamp a compliment. The South Carolina head coach stopped the action during their spring game to award his placekicker a scholarship. Well done.
Nail the FG ?
Get a scholarship ?
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 6, 2019
By Nick Roush on ©April 08th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Delayed by health problems, a pair of former Wildcats had to wait until today to complete an NFL Pro Day.
This morning Mike Edwards and C.J. Conrad participated in position and combine style drills in front of NFL personnel at Kentucky’s Joe Craft Football Training Facility. Completely healed from a broken thumb, Edwards unofficially ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap.
Cleared to participate in all football activities following a cardiovascular scare, Conrad unofficially ran a a 4.7 40-yard dash, a mark that would have tied him for seventh among all tight ends at the NFL Combine. His 21 bench press reps would have been the sixth-best mark if he did not get sent home from Indianapolis.
He has since been cleared. CJ: "I'm trying to get my name back out there." pic.twitter.com/rVtKaI7340
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) April 8, 2019
As you saw in the video, Jack Pilgrim was representing KSR at Pro Day pt. 2. Before he checks in later with more, take a look at Edwards and Conrad’s final unofficial numbers.
With the NFL Draft fast approaching, Josh Allen is becoming more and more of a household name. The Kentucky star is projected to be a top-three pick, and today, is the subject of an excellent feature by ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Cimini profiles Allen’s rise from two-star recruit to potential superstar, a story we know well but never gets old.
As Cimini writes, Allen’s journey is the feel-good story of the draft, similar to that of Chicago Bears star Khalil Mack back in 2014. The article covers a lot of ground we already know — how Allen moved from Alabama to New Jersey and played football off and on, causing him to be overlooked by recruiting services; the fortuitous way he ended up on Kentucky’s radar; his meteoric rise in Lexington; and how his son impacted his decision last year — but it’s worth a few minutes of your time, if only for this great quote from his sister, Myisha Hines-Allen, a former Louisville basketball star that now plays in the WNBA.
“It all started with my grandparents and their passion for sports,” Myisha writes in an email from Serbia, where she is playing professionally during the WNBA offseason. “My grandfather had a saying: ‘Cut them deep and let them bleed.’ And I feel like everyone in my family went by that when they stepped on the court or the field. When we set our eyes on something, we continue to fight for it until it is ours. And that is exactly what Josh is doing right now and I cannot be more proud of him.”
For more, including Mel Kiper’s thoughts on Allen, head on over to the Worldwide Leader.
By Drew Franklin on ©April 08th, 2019 @ 7:42am
The Kentucky football team lost one of its veteran players at a key position this offseason.
Tavin Richardson, a would-be senior wide receiver, will transfer to Marshall University for his last season of college football. Richardson entered the NCAA’s transfer portal back in January, and on Sunday he announced on Twitter he has a new home:
— GetDoughBoys#?1??1?? (@Rich_Man11) April 7, 2019
Herd Nation, Marshall’s Rivals site, reports Richardson took an official visit to Marshall on Saturday, before pledging his commitment to the Herd as a graduate transfer.
At Kentucky, Richardson started 25 games in three seasons with 49 receptions for 645 yards and a touchdown.
He will be eligible to play right away.
By Sam Gormley on ©April 07th, 2019 @ 10:00am
If you were like me, you couldn’t really bring yourself to watch most of yesterday’s Final Four games. Sure, I kept up with score and watched what I could, but a sense of depression came across me each time I turned on the game. I saw a game that Kentucky should have been in instead have Auburn lose in heartbreaking fashion to Virginia.
What happened, happened. Yesterday saw Virginia and Texas Tech advance to Monday night’s National Championship game. The Cavaliers scored 6 points in the last 7 seconds to defeat the Tigers 63-62. The last three of which came after Kyle Guy was fouled by Auburn in the final second. You be the judge from the picture above, hard to deny that it was a foul. Although there was a clear missed double dribble call.
In the night cap, the Red Raiders held off a furious comeback from Michigan State to continue their “Cinderella” run through the tournament. Yes, I know they’re not even close to a Cinderella, but when almost every high seed makes it to the Sweet 16, a three seed making it as far as they did is impressive.
For Monday’s championship, we will see a defensive game. Not that anyone cares about my pick, but I will side toward Virginia which probably guarantees a Texas Tech win. Now onto the news you need to know to start your Sunday…
Cats make RJ Hampton’s top four
Staying on the hardwood, five-star guard RJ Hampton announced his top four teams of Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Memphis.
RJ Hampton’s dad tells me they’re at 4 schools now w/ Duke, UK, Kansas and Memphis and may cut to 3 soon. Reclassifying to 2019 is still a strong option. They will look at what PGs go to the NBA, including what Tre Jones does at Duke. Story coming later.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 6, 2019
Hampton is currently a member of the class of 2020, but is still considering possibly reclassifying. I have no basis for this statement, but I think if he reclassifies and Hagans/Quickley come back, he would more likely go towards a Duke/Kansas rather than come to an already loaded backcourt.
Our own Jack Pilgrim has been covering Hampton closely and wrote some insider information on what we could be seeing from him over the next few months. To find that, you can click here.
Nate Sestina has first interview as Cat
The newest Cat, Nate Sestina, had his first true interview as a member of the program with Kyle Tucker and Curtis Burch. In the podcast, Sestina tells the pair about what went through his mind when he got the first phone call from John Calipari.
For more on that interview and the link to listen, click here.
John Pelphrey hired at Tennessee Tech
One of the better news from yesterday was the announcement that former Cat John Pelphrey had been named the new head coach at Tennessee Tech University.
Pelphrey makes the move to the Volunteer State after serving as the Associate Head Coach at Alabama for the past three years. This is his third head coaching job as he previously served as the coach at both South Alabama and Arkansas.
This might be his biggest challenge yet as Tennessee Tech finished dead last in an underrated Ohio Valley Conference this season.
Kentucky Football has third major scrimmage
With the Spring game just a few days away, the Kentucky Football team had their final main scrimmage before then yesterday afternoon. Our own Nick Roush was in attendance to recap what happened. The biggest takeaway? The defense yet again looks like it has the potential to be good for a second straight year.
For more from the practice, you can click here to read Nick’s recap.
That is the news you need to know for your Sunday. For those that are big wrestling fans, enjoy the festivities today. I am sure both Matt and Shannon will be filling up their social medias with pictures from the event.
By Nick Roush on ©April 06th, 2019 @ 6:30pm
With less than a week until the Blue/White Game, the Wildcats went to Kroger Field one final time to scrimmage. Above all else, Mark Stoops liked what he saw from the defense.
1. Big Day for Defense
For maybe the first time all spring, the defense lived up to Stoops’ lofty expectations. It all started at the line of scrimmage.
“I was really pleased defensively. I felt like a week ago we just kind of milled around the field, didn’t have the intensity that we’re looking for. This week, different story,” Stoops said.
“The defense came out and played, really dominated up front, physical at the point of attack, created some turnovers and played a really good scrimmage. I’m pleased.”
Phil Hoskins was disruptive, credited with at least two sacks on the day. The defense picked off a few passes and dropped a couple more. The offense did not make a charge until late.
“Offensively we did some good things late in the scrimmage, made some big plays down the stretch. We made a big play to cap the scrimmage off. Just like a typical spring scrimmage, there’s a little give and take.”
Final scrimmage before our annual Blue/White Spring Game on April 12! ?
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 6, 2019
2. Potential Spring Game Format
Stoops is still weighing his options but ideally, the team will be split in half for a true Blue vs. White game Friday night at Kroger Field.
“I’d like to have a regular game, rather than offense and defense,” he said. “Our players enjoy it that way, I think the fans do too. If we have enough numbers I’d like to do it that way.”
Depth may prevent that from happening. Today Kavosiey Smoke and Keaton Upshaw were just two of the players withheld from the scrimmage due to injury. If the Cats get healthy enough, Friday could be a lot of fun.
3. Stoops Expects Jared Casey to Play
The media spoke to the four-star in-state recruit for the first time this morning. He explained why Josh Allen was a big reason why he decided to come to Kentucky.
“It’s big shoes to fill. I’m just trying to do the best I can,” Casey said. “The first thing I haver to do is learn the position. I can’t have as many mental errors. I need to be able to play fast.”
Even though he has not completely grasped the system, Stoops expects Casey to play this fall.
“He needs to continue to learn, improve and get better,” said Stoops. “He’s swimming a little bit right now, like you would expect for a true freshman, a guy who should be in high school. But yeah, we anticipate him playing.”
By Nick Roush on ©April 06th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
This morning the Kentucky football team returned to Kroger Field for its third scrimmage of the spring season.
For the fourth year in a row, Gunnar Hoak took turns leading the offense. Like many times before, was with the twos. Many wonder if Hoak will stick around Lexington a little longer or look elsewhere for playing time as a starting quarterback.
“I’m not sure,” Mark Stoops said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “I’m going to sit down with him next week and we’ll talk about his plans. I don’t know. We’re working our tail off with him like we always do. He’s doing everything we ask him to do like always. After this spring we can always sit down and talk, see what’s best for him and his future.”
Hoak lost the quarterback competition in the preseason to Terry Wilson but was called into action in the season opener following an injury to Wilson. He promptly led Kentucky to a scoring drive right before half. Hoak received a few more opportunities, completing 13-of-26 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but never could quite capitalize in his four appearances.
Even though Hoak has not filled up the stat sheet, he’s an important piece to next year’s team. Keeping running quarterbacks healthy in the SEC is not easy. If Hoak does opt to become a grad transfer after his spring commencement ceremony, he could play right away elsewhere, leaving Kentucky with only Walker Wood and two true freshmen to back up Terry Wilson.
“Of course I want Gunnar here but I’ll be very supportive of him in whatever he decides to do,” said Stoops.
By Nick Roush on ©April 06th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
The buzz around Lonnie Johnson Jr. continues to grow.
After an incredible Senior Bowl performance and a great run at UK Pro Day, NFL scouts and defensive backs coaches are drooling over the Kentucky cornerback. Former NFL cornerback and current NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks has talked to plenty of people around the league, and they’re incredibly high on the former Wildcat.
“Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson Jr. is emerging as the hottest prospect at the position during the pre-draft season,” Brooks wrote. “According to an AFC defensive backs coach, Johnson will be the “best cover corner in the league” in a few years and everyone should jump on the bandwagon right now.”
From afar, most point to Johnson’s SEC counterparts, LSU’s Greedy Williams or Georgia’s Deandre Baker, as the best cornerbacks in the class. They have comparable athleticism and put up incredible numbers in college. Johnson does not have the stats, but he plays with incredible discipline.
“To that point, Johnson’s discipline, attention to detail and toughness stood out during my tape study,” Brooks said. “He didn’t take unnecessary chances in coverage and his eagerness to tackle suggests that he can be counted on in run support. Considering how defensive coaches want to get 11 players to the ball on every play, Johnson’s dependability will add a few points to his total score on the grading scale.”
Of the five NFL Network analysts who compile mock drafts, none of them currently have Johnson in the first round. Even if that does not change, Brooks wants NFL fans to be ready when Johnson become a star.
“When we talk about this class three, four years from now, they’re telling me Lonnie Johnson Jr. will be the name we’re talking about as a premier cornerback in this class.”
— 4/7 (@Lonnie30johnson) April 6, 2019
By Maggie Davis on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
It started with a haircut, but Lynn Bowden’s decision to “work on his image” has bled into the community. Bowden and defensive lineman Davoan (DayDay) Hawkins spent some time with The Lighthouse Ministries, which is a non-profit, faith-based organization dedicated to reaching the low and moderate-income population of ?Lexington and Fayette County.
The football duo volunteered with the Ministries’ “Dining with Dignity” program, which offers a safe, clean, indoor environment for people in need of a hot meal. A Gospel message is also shared at each meal.
The UK Football Twitter account shared these images:
Earlier this week, we heard about “Specialists visiting Special Kids,” and now this. What these guys do on the football field is great, but what they’re doing in the Lexington community is even better.
By Maggie Davis on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky’s annual Blue/White game is officially one week away, which means it’s time to take a closer look at how next year’s football team is shaping up at this point in the season. KSR’s Nick Roush has plenty of football info from every spring practice here, but there’s only so much we can learn from watching limited practices and hearing from the coaches and select players.
Next Friday, on the other hand, will give media members and the BBN a more realistic picture of next year’s season. Here are three of the central questions we should look for answers to during the scrimmage.
How much better is Terry Wilson?
We’ve repeatedly heard about the impressive jump made by Kentucky’s quarterback during the off-season, but just how much better has Wilson gotten as a QB? He’s gotten positive reviews from his coaches so far, with offensive coordinator Eddie Gran saying Wilson still has a “long way to go” but is “definitely making improvements.” The biggest difference?
“He just looks more comfortable back there. He’s not moving around and stepping up when you’ve got stuff coming; he’s sitting there,” Gran said. “He’s able to make some plays a little bit quicker and making decisions quicker.”
A quicker trigger could be a massive improvement for Wilson, who often struggled to get the ball out of his hands last season. With a year of growth, experience and practice, Kentucky should see a more confident and decisive Wilson come first kickoff.
What will the offense really look like?
Even with a big jump from Terry Wilson, the offense will have plenty of adjustments to get used to after losing their key contributor, Benny Snell. Kentucky heavily relied on the run game last year, but that probably won’t be the case this season without Snell. Sure, they’ll have A.J. Rose, Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke – who have all reportedly looked solid so far – but the trio has very little real-game experience.
Last season, Snell picked up 1,449 rushing yards. Rose had 442 yards (13 games), Smoke had 45 (two games) and Rodriguez had 43 (three games). This trio will have to pick it up big time this season – watch out for their performances in the Blue/White game.
Lynn Bowden, obviously, will be expected to play a huge role in Kentucky’s offense. A Bowden-Touchdown Terry combination has proven effective already, but how will they do with the added pressure of being the team’s first option? For Wilson, there’s no more relying on a pass-off to Snell or a connection with CJ Conrad. Bowden’s said he’s ready for it, and he’s got the haircut to prove it.
“I’m just working on my image,” Bowden said. “I really didn’t feel like I was presenting myself good for the fans with my hair, so I’m just trying something new.”
Something else new? Most of Kentucky’s upcoming wide receivers. It’s been a fairly inconsistent position during the Stoops era (and beyond), but is this the year the Wildcats find their passing groove?
Josh Ali is the one to watch in that department. He’s earned plenty of screen time during the spring training highlight videos released by UK but, again, can he perform under pressure? Last season, Ali totaled 10 catches for 115 yards. He was the Wildcats’ No. 5 receiver – other than Bowden (who was No. 1 by more than 400 yards), Ali’s the only other one left from that list.
Also keep your eye on redshirt freshman tight end Keaton Upshaw, who has been earning praise so far this spring.
Who takes over on defense?
This one’s really important, as the Cats lost most of their key defensive guys last season. They were, of course, talented on the field – more than a handful of them will likely find their names on an NFL roster in the coming months – but they were also well-versed on how to lead a team off the field. Without outspoken, experienced leaders like Josh Allen and Mike Edwards, other Wildcats will be left in charge of the locker room.
Kash Daniel is a frontrunner for the position, but guys like Boogie Watson and Quinton Bohanna have also earned pre-season praise. In fact, Stoops said he believes the middle of his defensive line is the best he’s ever had at Kentucky, specifically thanks to Bohanna.
There won’t be a Josh Allen-esque player rushing the passers from the outside, but Kentucky will look to fill that void in other ways. The Wildcats survived games last year thanks to stellar defensive performances – will they be able to recreate that magic this year, even with a new defensive coordinator and a defensive roster that looks vastly different from last year’s? As with all of these questions, don’t put all of your eggs in the Blue/White game’s basket, but do expect to learn a lot more about the current state of Kentucky’s new defense.
We’ll get the answers to these questions (and more!) during the scrimmage seven days from now. The team will suit up at 6 p.m. on April 12, and you can get your tickets here.
By Maggie Davis on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 6:30pm
In the mood to watch some college football? The Wildcats are here to help.
The team finished their 11th practice of the spring season Friday morning, and the folks with the team’s media department were kind enough to put together this highlight tape.
The UK Football Twitter account posted the 55-second video. Check it out:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 4, 2019
Everything looks good on a highlight reel. Kentucky fans will have the chance to check out next season’s team in action one week from today – Friday, April 12 – during UK’s annual Blue/White Game.