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Football Season Coverage

Today on KSR: Go Eastern Little League, UK Football does the Cha Cha Slide

Today on KSR: Go Eastern Little League, UK Football does the Cha Cha Slide

Good morning, friends. I hope you’re enjoying the last few days of summer like these fans in Okaloosa Beach, Florida. Judging by the number of “First day of school” pictures taking over my Facebook feed, you don’t have much time left. So, read today’s agenda, then get right to it.

No football availability today

Tragic, I know, but the football team deserves a break from the media, especially Nick Haynes, who is probably getting tired of answering questions about diabetes. Have no fear; select coaches and players will be back in front of reporters tomorrow to recap practice and preview Saturday’s scrimmage.

The Eastern Little League All-Stars take on Michigan at 5 p.m.

On Tuesday, Lexington’s Eastern Little Leaguers beat Wisconsin to stay alive in the Great Lakes Regional, but to make it to the Little League World Series, they need to win three more games. Today, they’ll take on Michigan at 5 p.m. on ESPN. That’s right, no WatchESPN BS, full-on ESPN. They’re big time now.

UK Football Hype Video of the Day

These are coming out on a daily basis and I am not complaining.

UK Football Locker Room Video of the Day

I’m not exaggerating when I say the team doing the “Cha Cha Slide” in unison may be my favorite thing ever. I can’t stop watching it.

Trick Shot of the Day: Harlem Globetrotters make bucket from helicopter

I’ve seen a lot of trick shots over the years, but this one by the Harlem Globetrotters’ Bull Bullard may take the cake:

The video makes it seem like he got that in only one shot. How many takes do you think it REALLY took? Speaking of impressive basketball…

Will we hear of any more players participating in the UK Alumni Game?

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (or yesterday for those of you who heard Ryan Lemond give away the presale code…cough, BBN, cough), so hopefully we’ll hear more about the current pros who will participate in the main event before then. ICYMI, we have a list of who’s playing in the Legends game, and it sets up some truly awesome matchups:

List of Kentucky players participating in the Alumni Legends Game grows

Terrence Jones may score 50 points.

SEC Basketball Move of the Day: Jontay Porter reclassifying to play at Missouri

Missouri basketball was already destined to be better with new coach Cuonzo Martin and top-ranked recruit Michael Porter, Jr., but the Tigers got another boost in the form of Porter’s little brother Jontay. Jontay announced last night he’s reclassifying and will join Mizzou this fall. Jontay was considered a top 10 player in the 2018 class and had a huge summer on the AAU circuit, so this move is significant.

Bring it on, Tigers.

Tearjerker of the Day: Vince Wilfork’s retirement announcement

I don’t really care about Vince Wilfork, but this video got me a bit choked up. The longtime New England Patriots defensive lineman lost his parents in 2002, and during his retirement news conference yesterday, said the biggest regret of his 13-year NFL career was that they weren’t able to see him finally achieve his dream.

I hate New England, but kudos to them for signing Wilfork to a one-day contract so he could retire as a Patriot. That’s very cool.

Reminder of the Day: Meet Jon Toth at Reese’s Wish Fundraiser

Earlier this week, you heard Freddie Maggard geek out over Jon Toth calling into the Depth Chart Podcast. If you’re also a Toth fanboy or you just want to support a good cause, make plans to attend the 2nd Annual “Reece’s Wish” Yard Sale, which takes place Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Anchorage Presbyterian Church in Louisville. Toth will be on hand to sign autographs from 12 – 2 p.m. For more information, click here.

Summer Tour Stop of the Day: Flemingsburg

Peoples Bank is the place to be this morning, so get on down there to enjoy the show. But check your oil first; we don’t want anyone else’s car breaking down on the way.


Photo: FameFlynet Pictures

Glen Campbell’s connection to Kentucky football and basketball

By now, you’ve heard that country music legend Glen Campbell passed away yesterday at the age of 81, but did you know he was a Kentucky fan?

Campbell, an Arkansas native, sang the national anthem before the Kentucky/Arkansas basketball game in Rupp Arena back in January 1992, but he started coming to UK Football games back in the 1970s after becoming friends with head coach Fran Curci. According to our good friend Oscar Combs, Campbell met Curci through a business associate and started attending games at Commonwealth Stadium, where he frequently roamed the sidelines and visited the locker room. Here he is sporting a Power K hat in the Commonwealth Stadium press box during the 1977 season, when Derrick Ramsey led Kentucky to a 10-1 record and No. 6 ranking:

@wildcatnews

And hanging out with Fran Curci after a big win:

@wildcatnews

Campbell remained a Kentucky fan over the years, even sporting a Kentucky shirt while traveling at LAX in 2012:

Photo: FameFlynet Pictures

Maybe for Campbell, Kentucky really did mean paradise.

 


Depth Leads to Progress in UK’s Secondary

Depth Leads to Progress in UK’s Secondary

Kentucky’s secondary is one of the best in the SEC, arguably one of the best we’ve ever seen in Lexington.  Defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale has a lot of players working at a variety of spots.  He has a message to ensure they remain constantly focused.

“You’re only as good as the person behind you.  If the guy behind you is not progressing and you’re not helping him progress, than you’re doing yourself an injustice.”

Where Clinkscale needs to see progress is at free safety.  After losing Marcus McWilson to the Oakland Raiders, there are two options to play next to All-SEC strong safety Mike Edwards, Davonte Robinson and Darius West.  After the latter missed the 2016 season with a knee injury, he’s physically prepared to make an impact.

“Darius has done a great job.  He hasn’t really favored that leg or anything at all,” Clinkscale said. “He’s been a better leader.  He’s been on time and he’s doing things right and he’s been a physical player.  That’s what he brings to the defense, the physicality.  He’s accepted that role and he’s continued to build on it.”

He’s physically prepared, but defensive coordinator Matt House wants to see West take steps forward mentally.

“He’s flashed some, and he’s got some areas where he needs to improve,” said House.  “He’s done a good job physically, but he’s gotta have more of an emphasis that, ‘Hey, I gotta improve mentally every practice.”

Following Clinckscale’s motto, Lexington native Davonte Robinson is nipping at his heels.  As a redshirt freshman he learned the cornerback position.  Now at free safety, he’s challenged to learn a position that brings a heavier mental workload.

“I’ve seen a tremendous growth, “said Clinckscale.  “One, he has to know more playing safety.  Two, I think he’s a natural fit in there.  He’s a great athlete.  At times he reminds me of Mike (Edwards) with his speed and versatility.  I think we just got to keep feeding him reps and keep feeding him situations until he’s comfortable.  When he’s comfortable, he’ll play at a high level.”

We saw Chris Westry play at a high level as a true freshman, but he didn’t make the leap many expected as a sophomore.  Physically, he was fine, but there were a few too many missed assignments.  Clinckscale’s taking a different approach this season, thanks to some advice from his wife.

“She’s been around Chris quite a bit.  From listening to Chris, she told me, ‘Chris is the type of man, he knows he’s a good player, but he doesn’t know he can be a great player.  Tell him he’s a great player.'”

The uplifting message from Clinkscale has given Westry more confidence and it’s reflected in his improved play since the spring.  If that does not continue, he can easily be replaced by camp’s most talked about player in the secondary, Jordan Griffin.

Naysayers may see a rotating door.  In Clinkscale’s ideal world, it’s a pattern of elite competition.  They may not all play right away, but throughout the long season all of the above will be called upon to make impact plays for the Kentucky defense.


UK Football Team Cha-Cha Slides in their Free Time at Camp

UK Football Team Cha-Cha Slides in their Free Time at Camp

Locker room talk for the Kentucky football team is a little different than you might expect.  With a little extra free time during their extended preseason camp, the team broke out into the Cha Cha Slide.  Nobody was more excited than Benny Snell.

And you thought the Cha Cha Slide was just for weddings.

Ten wins this time!


2017 Kentucky Football Position Previews: Quarterbacks

2017 Kentucky Football Position Previews: Quarterbacks

Eddie Gran’s quarterbacks are the focus of the second part of KSR’s preseason position previews series.  Don’t miss part one on the Running Backs.

The Personnel 

Stephen Johnson —  Inserted into action against Florida, the junior college transfer took an early beating in the pocket.  He quickly bounced back to lead the Wildcats to five wins in the next six games, with the only loss coming at the hands of Alabama.

Johnson completed 54.7 percent of his passes for 2,037 yards, 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.  His best performance cemented his place in UK lore forever, outplaying Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson with a 338 yard, 3 touchdown performance.  Just like Stephen, UK fans loved this sh**.

Drew Barker — Barker earned the keys to the offense prior to the start of the 2016 season.  In the first half of the first game, he was 11-of-19 for 287 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Barker looked untouchable.  Then it all fell apart.  He would not throw another touchdown in his redshirt sophomore season.  Five interceptions and a severe back injury later, he was forced to the sideline for the rest of the season after seeing marginal time in three games.

The former four-star prospect from Northern Kentucky returned to football activities during spring practice.  Ahead of his rehab schedule, now Barker is throwing with the second string, 100 percent clear to perform all football activities and playing like the quarterback coaches saw prior to his career-threatening back injury.

Gunnar Hoak — The redshirt freshman arrived in the spring of 2016 from Dublin Coffman High School.  Impressive in two spring games, the pocket-passer has a bright future ahead in Lexington.

Luke Wright —  A walk-on transfer who came to Lexington with Darin Hinshaw and Eddie Gran from Cincinnati, Wright earned a scholarship this offseason.  He started under center against Austin Peay but played sparingly after throwing a Pick Six.

Danny Clark — The left-handed two-time Ohio state champion has a powerful arm.  At 6’4″ 225-pounds, Clark played physical as a three-star prospect out of Akron.

Walker Wood — The Lexington Lafayette quarterback enrolled early this spring with his freshman competition, Clark.  Wood spent the time learning the offense and rehabbing a late-season knee injury.

The Storylines 

Take care of the ball. —  UK’s -7 turnover margin ranked 107th nationally in 2016.  Most of that is in the quarterbacks’ hands.  Interceptions weren’t the primary problem.  Barker and Johnson simply couldn’t hold onto the ball.  Each had fumbles in the red zone; Johnson’s against Miss. State nearly cost the Cats the game.

Eddie Gran is confident that will not be a problem for Stephen Johnson in 2017.  “Well I don’t think there’s any question he’s going to get it fixed, because he won’t be playing. And he knows that,” Gran said at Media Day. My best advice: no popcorn in the pregame meal.

How long is the leash on Stephen Johnson?   Drew Barker graduated this spring.  He could’ve transferred and been eligible to play immediately, but he stayed at UK.  It leads me to believe there’s an opportunity for Barker to become the starter once again.  Why else would he stay?

Stephen earned the starting position by leading UK to seven wins and a bowl appearance.  He is the leader of the offense.  He also can be inconsistent.  If he’s missing easy throws and turning the ball over, how long will Gran let him play through his mistakes before pulling the trigger on Barker?  For the team’s sake, it’s a scenario fans should not hope to see this fall.

Can Johnson hit Conrad? — Johnson is an excellent deep-ball passer, but no matter how wide open C.J. Conrad was in the middle of the football field last year, he could not hit his tight end on the quick run-pass-option pass.  The two spent the offseason working on their timing and after just one open practice, it sounds like the two have already fixed the problem.

Is Hoak good enough to be QB2?  The redshirt freshman was excellent in the 2017 spring game.  Hook completed 16-of-24 passes for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns (one of which was on a QB scramble).  Confident in the pocket, Hoak was arguably the best player on the field.  Still, he will likely receive reps behind Barker as QB3.  It’s not a knock on Hoak; it’s a testament to how deep UK is at the quarterback position, a statement you can rarely make about UK football.

The Prediction 

In 2016 UK attempted 560 rushes and 312 passes, which equates to an approximate 65-35 run to pass ratio.  That number will be much closer to 50-50 in 2017.

Thrown into the fire after just a months in Lexington, Stephen Johnson’s experience will elevate his performance and open up the Kentucky playbook in 2017.  Defenses will stack the box and force Johnson make quick decisions.  I expect Johnson to perform well under pressure and improve his completion percentage on short and mid-range throws.  Just two weeks into camp and Gran has already praised Johnson’s improvements in the intermediate passing game, giving the UK offense a plethora of options in 2017.

There’s one prediction that will reign true: Kentucky fans will pick a quarterback side, and argue over it.  In the embrace debate society we live in, you’re either a Barker guy or a Johnson guy and you will beat the war-drum until you’ve smashed said drum into a million pieces.

While you’re busy arguing over who’s the man, the UK quarterbacks are improving their play to produce the best football we’ve seen from the position in a decade.


Mason Wolfe: Behind the Facemask

Mason Wolfe: Behind the Facemask

Mason Wolfe hails from Henderson, Kentucky. He chose UK over Cal, Louisville, Purdue, and Missouri. A redshirt season abetted in building strength and adaptation to the speed level of college football. He played sparingly as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

The University of Kentucky media guide lists five in-state, scholarship offensive linemen. The Commonwealth’s production of home-grown OL talent has been a recent and fruitful tendency. I had a chance to speak with Wolfe on Tuesday. I actually got in a few football questions sandwiched between inquiries about boating, fishing, golf, and fellow Henderson County former Wildcats Sammie and Shane Ball as well as Brad Armstead.

 Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was asked about which young offensive lineman has impressed during fall camp after practice on Tuesday. Gran quickly replied, “Mason Wolfe. Moved him from tackle inside to guard and he’s getting reps at 4th team center. Wolfe is the one that’s popped out with extra bowl practices.”

John Schlarman has also lauded the sophomore’s development, approach, and versatility. Much like George Asafo-Adjei and Logan Stenberg; Wolfe has played both tackle and guard. He’s expected to compete to be in the Wildcat’s two-deep offensive line rotation.


WATCH: Minnesota awards walk-on scholarship in coolest way possible

WATCH: Minnesota awards walk-on scholarship in coolest way possible

‘Tis the season for heartwarming videos of walk-ons being awarded scholarships, and today’s comes from the University of Minnesota, where back-up kicker Justin Juenemann was given a full-ride in the coolest way possible.

Juenemann spends a lot of time at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital with a patient named Kyle, so Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck brought Kyle in to deliver the news. Instead of just handing him the scholarship papers, Kyle shot a shirt revealing the scholarship at Jueneman, who caught it to his teammates’ delight. Once he finally read the shirt, the chorus of cheers got even louder:

Just awesome.


The Historical Austin MacGinnis

The Historical Austin MacGinnis

Kickers are frequently underappreciated when precise and recurrently critiqued when inexact. Austin MacGinnis was arguably the team’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016. The senior from Wedowee, Alabama booted game winning field goals in two of the Wildcats’ biggest victories against Mississippi State and Louisville respectively.

MacGinnis’ name litters the University of Kentucky’s record books. But, it doesn’t feel as if the senior receives the proper accolades for what can only be described as a monumental stay in Lexington. Let’s take a quick look where he ranks in Wildcat football history:

 

Austin MacGinnis in the Kentucky Record Books

— 2nd in program history with 257 career points. He’s only 48-points shy of becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer.

— 2nd in most career points by a kicker (257-points).

— 1st in points by a kicker in a season with 104 in 2014. He’s also 3rd in this category with 92 points in 2016.

— 2nd with 50 career made field goals; 7 behind Joey Worley’s 57.

— 1st in FGs made in a season (21).

— 2nd in most FG’s made in a single game with 4 vs. Mississippi State (2016) and Louisville (2014).

— 3rd in most career field goals attempted (63). 2nd in FGs attempted in a single season with 27, one shy of Joey Worley’s 28.

— 3rd in career FG percentage (79.3%).

— Tied for 3rd with an 84.2% FG percentage in a season.

— 3rd with 44 PAT’s in a season.

— 1st in longest made field goal with a 54-yarder vs. Tennessee in 2014. He’s also 2nd in this category with a 53-yard boot vs. Ohio in 2014.

— 1st in PAT percentage 100% (41/41).

— 1st in program history with 11 consecutively made FGs.

— Tied Randall Cobb for quickest to 200 career points in just 29 games played.

In addition to Kentucky records, MacGinnis’ 16/19 FGs (84.2%) in 2016 ranked 3rd in the Southeastern Conference. His 14 points vs. Mississippi State a year ago was the most by a kicker in a SEC game since UK’s Doug Pelfrey in 1992. Just take a moment to think about the abovementioned numbers. MacGinnis should own the vast majority of program kicking records if he remains healthy and his consistency continues on the upward trajectory that we’ve witnessed over the course of the past three seasons.

MacGinnis is upright both on and off the field. He participated in a week long service/educational trip to Ethiopia where he interacted with residents of impoverished communities, visited imprisoned men, helped widows, cared for orphans, and helped to renovate houses. The senior graduated in May with a degree in Finance and is currently working on a master’s degree in business administration following three consecutive appearances on the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll. With every made FG and PAT in 2017, the Big Blue Nation will be witnessing history. I think it’s safe to say that Austin MacGinnis will be remembered as an all-time great Wildcat.


New Aussie Punter Matt Panton could bring a New Trick to UK

Matt McLaughlin | Columbia Athletics

Kentucky used to be considered Punter U, but after posting a net punt average of just 34.6 yards in 2016, new special teams coordinator Dean Hood is searching for creative solutions on fourth down.

Hood was happy to report returning sophomore Grant McKinniss and graduate transfer Australian rules-style punter Matt Panton are each averaging about 42 yards per punt in practice.  McKinniss is a traditional pocket-style punter.  Panton’s rugby style presents a much different dynamic.

“We have more flexibility now with some of the variety of things that we can do,” said Hood.  He likened their varied styles to preparing for two quarterbacks.  Depending on how camp goes, Hood could use both punters this season.

“It’s a tough animal,” Hood said.  “You got a punter that’s really good at rugby or doing some other stuff, and a guy that’s pocket, a guy that does this a little bit better than that one.  It’s tough to get a gameplan to do that.  It’s definitely not out of the question.”

Normally rugby punters roll out of the pocket before letting it fly.  The ball only sails about 30 yards before covering more distance with a good roll.  The roll adds distance and keeps the returner off balance.  Hood said Panton can do that, but he possesses more power.

“He can rugby it and go for distance.  He can rugby it and bring to the other side of the field.  He brings more to it than just the rugby and the short stuff.”

Panton, who originally went to Columbia to be on the rowing team, only to join the football team his sophomore year of college, said accuracy is his best asset.  That asset could be used in a trick play Hood used at EKU.

Performed for the first time ever in a college football game, if you punt the ball behind the line of scrimmage, it can be advanced by either team.  That’s exactly what Jordan Berry, now the Pittsburgh Steelers’ punter, did in 2013 against Morehead State.

When given a certain scenario by the defense, rugby punters use an “ALERT” call to go for it on fourth down. It’s usually just a quick pass to the outside, but Berry couldn’t throw it.  Hood gave him hell about his arm, until he told the coach: “Well shit coach, I can punt it out there better than I can throw it,” Hood recalled.

Turns out, Berry was much faster and accurate kicking it to his teammate than throwing it.  That might be the case for Panton who admitted, “sometimes it’s a spiral” whenever he tries to throw the ball.

Panton has yet to gain the confidence from Coach Hood to practice the play, but Hood didn’t rule out that it could happen for the second time in the history of college football at UK.

“We have not worked on that yet, but don’t tell anybody about it,” Hood laughed.

 


SEC Network analyst predicts Kentucky will be a dark horse, win 9 games

Most of the national media seems to be sleeping on Kentucky so far this preseason, but one SEC Network analyst believes the Cats will turn heads in the SEC and have their most successful season in 34 years.

Yesterday, former Florida and NFL wide receiver turned SEC Network analyst Chris Doering picked Kentucky as his dark horse in the SEC East, telling his SEC Now comrades he believes the Cats can win nine games, which hasn’t happened since 1983.

“I’m high on Kentucky,” Doering said. “Kentucky getting to a bowl game last year was quite a feat for them. I think this is a team that can win nine games because of their schedule, because of their depth of talent. Four starters back on the offensive line. Can that defensive line become more consistent, can they become more powerful up front? That was the thing that was the letdown for them last year.”

Jordan Rodgers — THE Jordan Rodgers of The Bachelorette and the hair — agreed.

“Kentucky’s schedule is very favorable. They’re going to have some issues, they’ve got Florida at home, they go to Georgia the second to last game of the season. They’ve got a chance to win nine or so. Talent in Benny Snell Jr. and CJ Conrad — don’t sleep on the tight end! Feed him if you’re Stephen Johnson.”

As Rodgers pointed out, Kentucky’s trip to South Carolina in Week 3 will be a measuring stick. So, let’s not lose that one.


Matt House (somehow) still has his voice through Ten Days of Fall Camp

Matt House (somehow) still has his voice through Ten Days of Fall Camp

Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House sounds like a defensive coordinator.  To the media, he speaks softly.  On the field, that’s not the case.

House is always hoarse.  However, through the first ten days of camp his voice is still clear.  He explained it’s not because he’s yelling less (even tough it might have something to do with it).

House admitted he’s seen his defense improve throughout camp.  He doesn’t need to lose his voice to get his point across.

“We’ve been cleaner and cleaner as we’ve gone along,” said House.  “It was a good back and forth practice, and I’ll tell you what, it’s fun to see guys making plays; making contested plays, whether it’s offense or defense. I thought that’s how the practice went.  It ebbed and flowed, but both sides made competitive plays.”

If the defense continues to make competitive plays, there’s a chance we will still hear House’s voice by the time the season starts on September 2.


CBS Sports ranked every team in college football; where did Kentucky end up?

CBS Sports released their rankings of all 130 teams in college football yesterday. Where did your Kentucky Wildcats end up? Just outside the top 50 at No. 51, behind Minnesota and ahead of Baylor. Here’s where the Cats landed in comparison to the rest of the SEC:

1. Alabama
9. Auburn
12. LSU
15. Georgia
16. Florida
26. Tennessee
32. Arkansas
36. Mississippi State
41. Texas A&M
42. South Carolina
51. Kentucky
56. Ole Miss
62. Vanderbilt
73. Missouri

So, fifth in the SEC East behind Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina, just as the media predicted at SEC Media Days. Comparatively, Kentucky is 35th in ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings, ahead of Ole Miss, Arkansas, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.

Maybe it’s all the KyWildcatTV hype videos talking, but 35th sounds a lot more realistic than 51st. Thoughts?

[CBS Sports]


Today on KSR: EJ Price gets a police escort to practice

Today on KSR: EJ Price gets a police escort to practice

This morning, we pay tribute to one of the best voices in country music. Yesterday, Glen Campbell passed away at the age of 81 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

Campbell was a legendary singer and guitarist, a staple on stage and on television from the mid-60’s to the late 80’s. He was most well known for “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights,” but he was also one of the most accomplished guitarists, and therefore session musicians, in the country. You can hear his fretwork on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and “Help Me Rhonda,” Frank Sinatra’s “Something in the Night” and Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” among hundreds of recordings.

Rest in peace, Glen. With his music in our ears, let’s roll into today’s agenda.

Matt House will talk about defense, defense, defense, yeah

Yesterday, Eddie Gran praised his quarterbacks, and today, Matt House will take his turn in front of reporters to update us on his defense’s progress. We’ll also hear from a couple of players. Check back for a full report around lunchtime.

Lexington Police Save of the Day: EJ Price catches a ride to practice

The transfer from USC was running late to practice yesterday, but Officer Lee of the Lexington Police Department did him a solid and gave him a ride right to the front door of the training facility. Price paid him tribute on Twitter:

UK Football Hype Video of the Day: Dean Hood and the Linebackers

KyWildcatsTV put together this video of Dean Hood coaching his linebackers, which includes some praise for Matt Elam. Check it out:

KSR Podcast of the Day: Freddie meets his favorite

Yesterday, I was able to help a bit of magic happen. Jon Toth is making an appearance at a fundraiser for Reece’s Make-A-Wish Foundation this Saturday at Anchorage Presbyterian Church from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.(for more info, click here), and contacted KSR to promote it. Who better for him to talk to than his #1 fan, Freddie Maggard? Toth surprised Freddie by calling in to the Depth Chart Podcast, and hearing Freddie’s reaction will make your Wednesday. Listen at the link below, or refresh your KSR Podcast feed.

The Depth Chart Podcast with Surprise Guest Jon Toth

Cord-cutting Move of the Day: Disney to pull new releases off Netflix

It’s long been rumored that Disney will start its own streaming service with ESPN, and yesterday, the media giant backed up that talk by ending its distribution agreement with Netflix and buying the majority ownership of BAMTech, a video streaming company founded by Major League Baseball. Disney plans to launch an ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, which could prompt millions of sports fans to finally cut the cable. I know I’m not alone when I say live sports are pretty much the only reason I still pay Comcast entirely too much money, so I’ll be following this development very closely.

[Variety]

Channing Tatum Spotting of the Day: Dance Party at Sunoco in Statesville, NC

Tatum’s tour across America continues, and after stops in Lexington and Harlan, he had a dance party in the Sunoco gas station in Statesville, North Carolina yesterday. The video is too awesome not to share:

Beatrice is a boss.

Summer Tour Stop of the Day: Booneville

Come on out to the Sag Hollow Golf Course to enjoy the show and celebrate Hump Day.


Barker Hasn’t Missed a Beat; Stephen Johnson’s Greatest Improvement

Barker Hasn’t Missed a Beat; Stephen Johnson’s Greatest Improvement

Kentucky’s top two quarterbacks are off to a fantastic start at fall training camp.  Stephen Johnson has taken steps forward while Drew Barker has returned to the player he was before his injury.

After an exceptional performance at Saturday’s open practice, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said he doesn’t notice a difference between the Barker he sees now, and the one that earned the starting spot at camp a year ago prior to his season-ending back injury.

“I don’t.  That’s been really encouraging. He’s doing everything right,” Gran said. “Coach Hinshaw is doing a great job of getting him doing grass drills, some stuff where he’s actually going and twisting and getting on the ground, without him being hit.  It’s been really good so far.”

The person currently holding the title of “QB1” has taken notice as well.

“He looks really good.  I mean, just with his passes, especially today with the seven-on-seven period we had, he looked really well,” Johnson said.  “He just got the ball down the field and scored a touchdown.”

The added competition is not a threat to Johnson.  A person who is not affected by pressure, he sees depth as a positive.

“To have a guy right there with me, for us to be able to really push each other, really helps out…just to have that competition really drives everybody to do better.”

He ain’t lying.  Johnson needed to use the offseason to improve in intermediate passing.  Gran said today the most improved part of Johnson’s game is in his intermediate throws.  It’s opened up the middle of the field and created new opportunities for the offense.

“Space is the name of the game.  If those guys can go in there and work linebackers and work the nickel players, and we can be consistent at that, we’ll be a lot better,” Gran said.

Johnson knows how important it is to be able to find guys like C.J. Conrad and Juice Johnson in important situations, a focus of today’s practice.

“They’re are extremely important,” Johnson said.  “Those are drive extenders.  To be able to hit third-and-six, third-and-eight passes, instead of having to punt the ball.  Those extend drives and give our defense a little bit more more time to recover and gives us an opportunity to score the ball.”

Regardless of your opinion on UK’s top two quarterbacks, there’s one certainty: quarterback play in 2017 will be the best it’s been in Lexington in a long time.


C.J. Conrad: Behind the Facemask

UK Athletics

CJ Conrad is one of the best tight ends in the Southeastern Conference. But, did you know that he was a 50% free throw shooter in high school? How about the origin of the “Baby Gronk” nickname? The best basketball player in his family is????

During fall camp Kentucky Sports Radio will again feature a “Behind the Facemask” series. These informal interviews offer a personal perspective for some of the Big Blue Nation’s favorite Wildcats.

The Conrad File

CJ Conrad is consummate teammate. He remained unselfish and recognizably positive as he embraced his role as a run-blocker in 2016. His line-of-scrimmage efforts were a key component that propelled Kentucky into a record breaking season on the ground. Named to the preseason John Mackey Award Watch List for 2017 which honors the nation’s top TE, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is counting on Conrad’s reception number to increase. However, he’s highly respected throughout the Southeastern Conference as being a top-level blocker to go along with his pass catching abilities.

2016

-Finished 2016 as the team’s fourth leading receiver with 19 catches, 262 yards, and 4 touchdowns.

-Was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week for his performance vs. New Mexico State: 5 receptions, 133-yards, 1 touchdown.

-SEC Academic Honor Roll.

2015

-Led all SEC freshmen in catches in 2015: 15 receptions, 149 yards, 1 touchdown.

-Named 3rd Team Freshman All American by Athlon.

-Voted Freshman All SEC by league coaches.

-SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Career Statistics

Started 20 games, caught 34 passes for 411-yards and 5 touchdowns. CJ Conrad is a fan favorite; as he should be. Instead of sulking or packing his bags for a program that promises a bucket load of meaningless catches, the junior from LaGrange, Ohio put his head down and went to work for the betterment of his team. CJ Conrad is the consummate Wildcat, teammate and leader.