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UK Linebacker De’Niro Laster Will Transfer

@Mucho_Deniro

@Mucho_Deniro

Kentucky linebacker De’Niro Laster is leaving the Kentucky football program.  First reported by Jon Hale and confirmed by UK, Laster is on track to graduate in May and will use his remaining eligibility elsewhere.

A former transfer from Minnesota, in his first year of eligibility the outside linebacker totaled 14 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.  His season was cut short after a knee injury just five games into the season.

Best of luck, Mr. Laster.


Player Development Levels: Offense

Player Development Levels: Offense

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The time it takes for incoming players to develop into contributors greatly varies. Levels of contribution also differs. Factors that drive on-field significance are influenced by opportunity, talent, depth chart mobility, willingness to work, and more. In this post we’ll discuss Kentucky’s offensive players that are in differing development stages for the 2017 season. These Wildcats will be divided amongst five categories that are named: It’s Time, National Honors, Conference Honors, First to Second Year, and Red to Blue Shirts. Please note that not all offensive players fit into these predesignated columns.

Let’s get started:

IT’S TIME

The name of this developmental stage is self-explanatory. The following player entered the program with a high probability to succeed and has been on the team for an adequate amount of time to start playing at a high level. Expectation has exceeded output; it’s time to step up or get stepped over on the depth chart.

Receiver Blake Bone

Bone started his UK career with 20 receptions, 210 yards, and 1 touchdown in his freshman campaign. His numbers dipped as a sophomore: 14 catches, 194 yards, and 2 TD’s.

2016: Caught 5 passes for 82 yards. A significant statistical jump in his senior season is mandatory. The outside or X receiver group will be crowded with JaVante Richardson joining Kayaune Ross, Dorian Baker, Tavin Richardson, and others. Playing time will be fiercely contested for in spring practice and fall camp.

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NATIONAL HONORS

This Wildcat is accomplished to the point of collecting national level awards. He could compete for All American honors if projected improvement continues on current, established pace. 

Running Back Benny Snell
Throughout 2016, fans and media types were racking their brains to name a historical UK running back that Snell compared to as a rookie. The Freshman All American developed into the program’s standard for all RB’s to measure against by the Austin Peay game as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.  

2016: 186 carries, 1091 yards, 13 touchdowns.

CONFERENCE HONORS

These Cats could find themselves on All SEC Teams at the end of next season.  This projection is based off prior production and also considers work ethic, maturity, talent level, and developmental ceiling.

Receiver Dorian Baker

The rising senior’s best season came as a sophomore: 55 catches, 608 yards, 3 TD’s. In three seasons Baker has caught 88 passes for 1,015-yards, and 6 touchdowns.

2016: 14 catchers, 208 yards, 2 TD’s in limited time due to injury. Call it a hunch; Baker finished 2016 strong and could be in store for a special senior season.

Tight End CJ Conrad

Known throughout the SEC as one of the conference’s best blocking TE/H-Backs. Conrad was close to having a breakout receiving season as a sophomore but QB Stephen Johnson missed on several sure completions that would have given him a higher number of catches. That situation must be remedied in the offseason.

2016: 19 receptions, 262 yards, 4 TD’s. The SEC produced several top level TE’s a year ago. The canvass is wide open for Conrad to secure a spot on the all-conference team.

Guard Nick Haynes

2016: PFF 2nd Team All SEC, Haynes was a consistent force within the interior of the UK offensive line. With Jon Toth’s departure to the NFL, the senior from Niceville, Florida will be called upon to lead John Schlarman’s unit that played at an extremely high level in 2016. Haynes is considered the unit’s top technician.

Receiver Garrett Johnson

“Juice” Johnson career numbers: 107 catches, 1,550-yards, and 9 touchdowns. Poised to become UK’s big-play receiver. Word from the Training Center is that he’s diligently working to finish his Wildcat career with a bang.

2016: 39 receptions, 585 yards, 5 TD’s.

Cole Mosier/Landon Young

2016: Due to positional time share, it’s unlikely that one will be named to an all-conference team. However, the combination thereof has the potential to play at an All SEC level. Mosier is the OL’s rock. Landon Young is the group’s future rock star.

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First to Second Year

The most populated category, this collection of prior true-redshirt freshmen and JUCO transfers established early playing time in 2016. Their jump from rookie to veteran status could prominently influence UK’s win/loss column.

Tight End Greg Hart

Coaches throughout the Southeastern Conference rave about Kentucky’s blocking TE’s. Hart is a physical football player on the field and a resilient leader off.

2016: 6 catches, 32 yards. Hart is Eddie Gran’s designated blocking TE or H-Back dependent upon formation.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson

This story has been well documented on numerous occasions. The JUCO transfer took over for Drew Barker on a full-time basis in week three against New Mexico State. While fumble prone and at times inaccurate in short to intermediate routes, the California native went on to lead the Wildcats to a New Year’s Bowl. Johnson was named the MVP of the Governor’s Cup after standing toe-to-toe with the eventual Heisman Trophy winning QB Lamar Jackson: 16/27, 338 yards, 3 TD’s passing; 8 rushes, 83 yards rushing.

2016: 145/265, 2037 yards, 13 TD’s, 6 INT’s passing. He also rushed for 327 yards and 3 scores.

Receiver Tavin Richardson

There were moments in 2016 that Richardson established himself as the Wildcat’s go-to receiver for the future. Consistency should be more present in his second season.

2016: 9 catches, 160 yards.

Receiver Kayaune Ross

Battled injuries; Ross is a physical specimen that presents Lamar Thomas with an answer in the Red Zone.

2016: 2 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD.

Guard Logan Stenberg

2016: 1st Team Freshman All SEC. Stenberg is a rising star.

Tackle Mason Wolfe

2016: Provided depth and played on special teams. Another developmental project that will show strides.

Red to Blue Shirts

The following players redshirted and are expected to compete for playing time in 2017.

Offensive Lineman Luke Fortner has been described as “Jon Toth” like. If that proves to be true, Fortner will be a plug-and-play lineman that can play multiple positions.

Quarterback Gunnar Hoak went 5/5 in last year’s spring game and will push Stephen Johnson for the starting quarterback job. At a minimum, Hoak will be a consistent backup for Darin Hinshaw.

Receiver Za’Aire Hughes seems to be the forgotten name within the inside or slot receiver position previews. Hughes has an opportunity to impress in spring practice prior to the arrival of Lynn Bowden and Josh Ali. Expect to see the Paducah native active on special teams.

Center Drake Jackson will be expected to compete for the starting center position vacated by Jon Toth. Jackson was ranked as one of the nation’s top centers coming out of Woodford County HS.

Tackle Tate Leavitt was expected to compete for immediate playing time a year ago. After adjusting to SEC football last spring and fall camp, it was decided that a redshirt year would best benefit the Hutchinson CC product.

Tight End Justin Rigg was the talk of fall camp. An injury forced a redshirt but did not stop Vince Marrow from gushing over his prized TE from Ohio.

Running Back AJ Rose simulated Lamar Jackson and Justin Thomas on the scout team which should bode well for Eddie Gran’s Wildcat package going forward. AJ Rose is a name that the BBN should get used to hearing going into spring practice. We had Rose evaluated extremely high on National Signing Day.

Player development is the absolute backbone of a program like Kentucky. 5-star prospects aren’t overpopulating its locker room. Mark Stoops and staff rely on early evaluation and good ole fashion hard work to better his team on an annual basis. Spring practice starts soon.


Cole Cubelic Believes Matt Elam still has the Ability to Play in the NFL

Cole Cubelic Believes Matt Elam still has the Ability to Play in the NFL

matt-elam-ksr

Matt Elam transformed from a powerful five-star recruit to a fizzling reserve.

Elam was used sparingly as a freshman before he was forced into a starting role as a sophomore, following Melvin Lewis’ season-ending injury.  With 23 tackles in 2015, Elam appeared to be turning a corner, set up for a breakout junior season.  Instead, he was absent from the stat-sheet for ten games and recorded just nine tackles, two less than his freshman total.

Even though Elam’s trajectory tends to favor the pessimist, Cole Cubelic believes Elam can still turn around his career.

“It’s pretty obvious that we’re all waiting on Matt Elam to sort of morph into what he can be.  His ability is not mythical.  It’s there,” the former Auburn center and SEC Network analyst told Freddie Maggard on The Depth Chart Podcast.

“It’s just, he’s gotta harness it.  He’s gotta get his weight under control and find some consistency.  Then he could play in the NFL for a really long time because you don’t just get guys who are 6’5″-6’6″ and over 330 pounds that can move that way.”

For some, push has to come to shove for the player to decide it’s time to change.  With just a year left, Cubelic believes urgency can transform Elam into the player we thought he would be.

“If he can get in shape.  He was 340 at one time last year, and that’s manageable for him.  If he balloons back up to over 355-365, that’s when it gets problematic because you get two good plays and you’re done.  I think he’s a guy that if he can find a way to get into shape, and a lot of times that light goes on right before the senior season or late in the career.  Guys realize all of a sudden, ‘Man, I’ve only got one more year to do this.’ That’s when it comes on a lot of times.  I saw it happen firsthand.  So if he can come around, I think the gut on the interior of that d-line could be solid.”

Hear everything Cubelic and Freddie had to say on The Depth Chart Podcast.


The Depth Chart Podcast Featuring Cole Cubelic

depth-chart-jack-kain-ford

The Depth Chart Podcast returns with Freddie’s favorite college football analyst, the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic.  The former Auburn center specializes on the offensive line, but he doesn’t just discuss the performance of Kentucky’s offensive line.  Cubelic looks ahead to 2017, breaks down the UK defense and opens up about his interview with Tom Herman shortly before the coach left Houston for Texas.  There’s much more with Cubelic, plus….

—  Freddie trashes Mizzou after hearing chants from their fans at last night’s basketball game.

—  Praise, not hyperbole, for Benny Snell.

—  New sound effects!

—  Our confidence in each position heading into spring practice.

—  Two new words Nick learned from young people.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, streaming on Podbayor via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


After Arrest, Former Wildcat Gerad Parker Loses Coaching Job

Parker as a GA in the 07-08 season.

Parker as a GA in the 07-08 season.

Gerad Parker had multiple coaching opportunities after his stint as Purdue’s interim head coach expired, but a Tuesday night arrest has sidelined for the former Lawrence County and UK wide receiver.

Parker was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated in West Lafayette.  Parker was driving the wrong way down a one-way street when he was stopped by police.

Following his departure from Purdue, Parker was set to link up with former colleague Joker Phillips at Cincinnati as the school’s running back coach.  The Bearcats hired him a month ago, but he resigned on Friday to coach wide receivers at East Carolina.  Before the hire was made official, Parker was arrested.  Now East Carolina will not let Parker become a member of the coaching staff.

Parker's mugshot from Fox 59.

Parker’s mugshot from Fox 59.

Parker apologized on Twitter — “I’m sorry to all my fiends and family.  Thanks to all that have reached out and shown support.” — but that Tweet has since been deleted.


Ole Miss charged with Lack of Institutional Control and that’s not a good look

After receiving its amended Notice of Allegations in its football case, the Ole Miss program is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban for the upcoming 2017 season.

Multiple reports on the interwebs say the Rebels have been hit with the Lack of Institutional Control, which isn’t a good look.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken says NCAA is going in for the kill:

Ole Miss travels to Lexington this fall and your boy Hugh Freeze is in trouble.


New deals for Gran and House, plus the new assistant salaries

New deals for Gran and House, plus the new assistant salaries

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We now know what it will cost to pay Mark Stoops’ two new assistant coaches, Dean Hood and Derrick LeBlanc, as well as the extensions for Eddie Gran and newly-promoted Matt House.

According to Jon Hale over at The Courier-Journal, who first reported the deals, Gran has signed a brand new extension that will keep him in Lexington through the 2019 season. The new contract will pay him $825,000 for the 2017 season with raises of $25,000 each year in 2018 and 2019. Gran’s first contract paid him $650,000 for 2016 and was set to expire after one more year.

Kentucky’s new defensive coordinator, Matt House, received a significant pay raise in his new role, going from $275,000 a year as special teams coordinator to $650,000 a year to run the defense.

As for the new guys on the team, Dean Hood signed a two-year deal at $350,000 per year and Derrick LeBlanc will make $300,000 a year for two years.

Coach Salary
Eddie Gran, Off. Coordinator $825,000 (2017); $850,000 (2018); $875,000 (2019)
Matt House, Def. Coordinator $650,000 yr. through 2019
Dean Hood, OLB/ST Coach $350,000 yr. through 2018
Derrick LeBlanc, D-Line Coach $300,000 yr. through 2018

Also worth noting: the Gran and House deals come with a $150,000 per-year buyout, while the buyout for Hood and LeBlanc is set at $100,000 per.

It’s reports like these that really make me question why I am blogging about college football and not coaching college football.


2017 UK Football season tickets on sale now

2017 UK Football season tickets on sale now

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I know you’re focused on Kentucky’s upcoming run through March but some of you may like to know that Kentucky football tickets went on sale this morning.

Season ticket packages for the upcoming 2017 season hit internet shelves at 9 am and you can get a head start on the guy next to you by ordering yours today.

Standard seating starts at $310 to see all seven wins, or you can go even cheaper with the Pocket Pass or seats in the North 200-level.

For all the information one could ever need, check out UKFootballTix.com.

The 2017 home late is as follows:

1. Eastern Kentucky, Sept. 9
2. Florida, Sept. 23
3. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 30
4. Missouri, Oct. 7
5. Tennessee, Oct. 28
6. Ole Miss, Nov. 4
7. Louisville, Nov. 25

Go Cats.


Player Development Levels: Defense

Player Development Levels: Defense

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The time it takes for incoming players to develop into contributors greatly varies. Factors that drive impact are influenced by opportunity, talent, depth chart mobility, willingness to work, and more. In this post we’ll discuss Kentucky’s defensive players that are in differing development stages for the 2017 season. Defenders will be divided amongst five categories that are named: It’s Time, National Honors, Conference Honors, First to Second Year, and Red to Blue Shirts.

Let’s get started:

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Pic by Scout.com

It’s Time

The name of this developmental stage is self-explanatory. The following players entered the program with a high probability to succeed and have been on the team for an adequate amount of time to start playing at a high level. Expectation has exceeded output; it’s time to step up their game or get stepped over on the depth chart.

Nose Tackle Matt Elam

Elam’s expectation was unrealistically high. This miscalculation has skewed developmental analysis. However, over the course of three years it’s fair to say that his on-field result has not lived up to the buildup. New DL coach Derrick LeBlanc will challenge him both on and off the field. Naquez Pringle overtook the starting NT position by mid-season and never relinquished. Elam’s absence against Louisville and Georgia Tech perplexed.

Now a rising senior, the clock is quickly winding down. If Matt Elam’s senior season doesn’t prove to be his best, the E’town native may struggle to see significant playing time. I’m personally pulling for the young man to achieve.

2016: 9 total tackles

Defensive Tackle Tymere Dubose

I’ll be the first to admit that National Signing Day projections are mere guesses. We ranked Dubose high due to elite size, quick feet, arm length, potential, and athletic ability. Off-the-field issues plagued the rising junior early in his career. An injury slowed him last summer which bled over to the early stages of the 2016 season. But, he did show improvement and a production uptick in October and November. Just a junior, there’s hope for Dubose to develop into a consistent contributor. If he ever gets “it” right; the Youngstown native has a chance to be excel.

2016: 6 total tackles

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Pic by 247 

National Honors

These Wildcats are accomplished to the point of collecting national level honors. If projected improvement continues on current, established pace; the duo could compete for All American honors. It also must be noted that both possess a fierce work ethic and a high-level passion for the game of football.

Safety Mike Edwards

Mike Edwards is a tackling machine that arguably played the safety position better than any other SEC defensive back in 2016. He was named to several All SEC teams and is the conference’s 2nd leading returning tackler. This upcoming season could be his last in Lexington.

2016: 100 total tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss (TFL), 3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups, 11 passes defended.

Linebacker Jordan Jones

Kentucky has traditionally produced physical, influential linebackers. Jordan Jones’ 2016 production ranks high on UK’s all-time list in substance and impact. He was named to several All SEC teams. Recently Saturday Down South rated Jones as the Southeastern Conference’s #1 ranked LB for 2017.

2016: 109 total tackles, 15.5 TFL, 4 QB sacks, 4 pass breakups, 9 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble. Jones is the SEC’s top leading returning tackler for 2017.  

Conference Honors

These juniors could find themselves on All SEC Teams at the end of next season. This projection is based off prior production and also considers work ethic, maturity, talent level, and developmental ceiling.

Outside Linebacker Josh Allen

Saturday Down South rated Allen as the SEC’s 5th best LB for 2017. He led the Southeastern Conference with 4 forced fumbles in 2016 and was the Wildcat’s QB sack leader with 7.

2016: 62 total tackles, 7 QB sacks, 8.5 TFL, 3 QB hurries, 4 forced fumbles. 

Cornerback Derrick Baity

Matt House’s field corner; Baity has proven to be UK’s top pass defender.

2016: 42 total tackles, 2 TFL, 3 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry.

Outside Linebacker Denzel Ware

The “Jack” LB has proven to be an effective pass rusher and is improving in pass defense. Jones-Ware-Allen construct ¾ of Kentucky’s LB corps which has the potential to be one of the better groups in the SEC.

2016: 70 total tackles, 12 TFL, 5.5 QB sacks, 5 QB hurries.

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Pic by SEC Country

First to Second Year

The most populated category which is a positive. This collection of prior true-redshirt freshmen and JUCO transfers that established early playing time in 2016. Their jump from rookie to veteran status could prominently influence UK’s win/loss column.

Defensive End Alvonte Bell

Scheduled to miss spring practice due to an offseason surgery. Came on strong in the latter stages of 2016 before being injured in the Taxslayer Bowl. Could win the starting defensive end job in fall camp.

2016: 27 total tackles, .5 QB sack, 1 TFL, 2 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry.

Outside Linebacker Jordan Bonner

Bonner contributed on special teams and showed flashes of being a pass rusher. An offseason to increase strength and weight gain will bolster a deep and talented group of OLB’s.

2016: 10 total tackles, 1 TFL. 

Linebacker Eli Brown

See above; another offseason to add weight and strength should assist Brown into becoming a viable backup to Jordan Jones.

2016: 24 total tackles, .5 TFL, 1 fumble recovery. 

Defensive End TJ Carter

PFF graded the true freshman the highest of all UK defenders in the Taxslayer Bowl. Like Alvonte Bell, will compete for the starting DE job.

2016: 11 total tackles.

Linebacker Kash Daniel

Daniel could push senior Courtney Love for a starting role. An extremely hard worker, Daniel is quickly becoming a team leader.

2016: 19 total tackles, was the Cat’s top dog on special teams. 

Cornerback Jordan Griffin

Young, talented cornerback with an extremely high ceiling. Will push Baity and Westry. Year two will show massive technical strides.

2016: 6 total tackles. Will push for a starting job.

Linebacker De’Niro Laster

Versatile, played both inside and outside linebacker in his first season before injury. Could quietly become significant factor for Matt House.

2016: 14 total tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QB sack. 

Nose Tackle Naquez Pringle

A pleasant surprise for Mark Stoops, Pringle worked his way into the starting nose tackle position midway through 2016. Recently saw the rising senior outside the Training Center, the defensive lineman has transformed his body and is dialed in for a breakout 2017.

2016: 39 total tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QB sack

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Pic of Alvonte Bell by Chat Sports

Red to Blue Shirts

The following three players redshirted and are expected to compete for playing time in 2017.

Defensive Linemen Ja’Quize Cross and Kordell Looney

Defensive line is a unit in desperate need of depth and playmakers. Looney and Cross will get an opportunity to impress in spring practice. The Cats need at least one of these two to predominantly factor in 2017.

Linebackers Roland Walder and Jamar Watson

Not expecting the pair to crack the starting lineup; best case scenario is to play special teams while gaining valuable experience.

Cornerback DaVonte Robinson

The speedster from Lexington will add depth to an already highly talented cornerback position group. Robinson could also contribute on special teams as a kick/punt returner.

Safety Tobias Gilliam

The loss of Blake McClain and Marcus McWilson opens a spot at safety. This position competition will be heated; Gilliam should be in the mix. 


Player development is the absolute backbone of a program like Kentucky. Five-star prospects aren’t overpopulating its locker room. Mark Stoops and staff rely on early evaluation and good ole fashion hard work to better his team on an annual basis. Spring practice starts soon.


Kentucky Football Season Tickets Will Be a Little More Expensive in 2017

Football season ticket holders will pay an extra $30 to see all seven games scheduled at Commonwealth Stadium for the 2017 season.

Today the university announced season tickets will be $310, just $10 less than what fans paid see eight home games in 2015, the first season in the renovated Commonwealth Stadium.  Premium season tickets in suite seats are $350, tickets in the upper deck 200-level will be $240, and the “Pocket Pass” electronic tickets are only $205.  There is no increase for K-Fund donations.

If you were planning on seeing Stoops’ Troops regardless of price, the sooner you renew, the better.  If you pull the trigger before February 28 you will receive two complimentary basketball tickets.  If you renew by March 31 you’ll receive an invitation for a complete tour of the new football facilities.

For more information, click here.


UK Football season ticket prices are going up next season

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Do you have UK Football season tickets? Well, brace yourself, because ticket prices are going up. This morning, UK announced that season tickets for the 2017 season are available for $310, a $30 increase from 2016 prices. When you break that up across the seven home games (including Florida, Tennessee, and Louisville), that’s a little more than $4 extra per game.

While price hikes are never fun to hear about, corresponding K Fund donations will remain unchanged and most seats in the 200-level will be available without a K Fund donation. Prices for parking passes and corresponding K Fund donations will also remain unchanged. Premium season tickets in the Suite Level, Loge Level, Woodford Reserve Mezzanine Club and Field Club are $350 apiece. Public season ticket packages in Sections 201-203 and 209-211 will be priced at $240. Fans can view a seating chart with the various pricing levels here.

Limited quantities of the Kentucky Football Pocket Pass will also return for the 2017 season, which includes a mobile ticket to all seven home games for a discounted price of $205 while supplies last. This unique option gives fans the opportunity to watch games from various viewpoints with a different seat each game. Seat locations will be delivered electronically to fans’ mobile devices through the Kentucky Wildcats Gameday app.

2016 season ticket holders will be able to renew their tickets online through their My UK Account beginning Wednesday. The 2017 football season ticket renewal deadline is April 19. New season tickets will also go on sale beginning Wednesday morning, Feb. 22 at UKFootballTix.com.

For more information on season tickets, click through the jump for UK’s full release.

(more…)


Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Jordan Jones listed as best returning SEC linebacker

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

The writers over at Saturday Down South have been running through all of the positions and listing the top SEC returners for next season. They’ve already listed the top returners at wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and running back. The only Wildcat to make those lists is Benny Snell, who comes in at number 7 of all returning running backs in the SouthEastern Conference.

Tonight, Saturday Down South writer William McFadden listed the top returning linebackers in the SEC and Kentucky’s own Jordan Jones claimed the top spot on the list. On top of that, UK’s Josh Allen came in at number 5 on the list as well. Here’s what SDS had to say about the two returning linebackers for the Wildcats.

On Jordan Jones:

No. 1: Jordan Jones, Kentucky – 2016 stats (109 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 4 sacks)

Jones led all returning SEC defenders in tackles and tackles for loss in 2016 as a sophomore, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to improve next season. With outside linebackers Allen and Ware providing the majority of Kentucky’s pass rush, Jones was asked to handle the interior of the defense. He accomplished that task by garnering over eight tackles per game and knifing into opposing backfields to stop players behind the line of scrimmage.

On Josh Allen:

No. 5: Josh Allen, Kentucky – 2016 stats (62 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 7 sacks)

Another skilled pass rusher, Allen led Kentucky in sacks and showed a lot of speed coming off the edge. Along with Denzil Ware and Jordan Jones, Allen makes up a very underrated linebacker corps that could be among the best in the conference. The rising junior, who was seventh on the team in total tackles, can improve his ability as a run defender, but he’s already a valuable pass rusher with a lot of remaining upside.

In a conference that is known for being able to keep the talent rolling in year after year, for Kentucky to have two guys in the top 5 returners in the most important position on the defensive side of the ball is a huge testament to what Mark Stoops and staff have been doing with this roster. Kentucky fans would’ve dreamed to have a player on any of these lists just a few seasons ago.

If you want to read the entire list of top returners in the SEC, you can view it here.

@BrettBibbinsKSR


Will 2017 be Year of the RB in the SEC?

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Before the 2016 football season began, many thought the SEC was going to be all about it’s star running backs. LSU’s Leonard Fournette was expected to be the Heisman front-runner. Georgia’s Nick Chubb had healed up and was prepared to carry the Bulldogs. Jalen Hurd had star potential written all over him in Tennessee. Fast forward to 2017, and none of those names really headlined, at least not in the way we expected.

Fournette didn’t really live up to expectations, Chubb struggled while sharing carries with Michel, and Hurd completely disappeared from college football. As one ESPN writer posted this week, “something else happened: A lot of names that weren’t nationally known turned in impressive seasons running the football, and many of them are back for 2017.”

According to ESPN’s Kahn Jr., 2017 will be the real year of the running back in the SEC.

This fall, the running backs with the top five rushing totals in the conference in 2016 all return and eight of the top 10 are back. And several of these young backs are just getting started.

The top 5 returning rushers, in order of rushing yards last season, are as follows:

Derrius Guice, LSU – 1,387 yards

Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas – 1,360 yards

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt – 1,283 yards

Kamryn Pettway, Auburn – 1,224 yards

Nick Chubb, Georgia – 1,130 yards

Can you guess who was 6th in rushing yards returning? That’s right, Benny Snell, Jr!  

Snell rushed for 1,091 yards and tied for 2nd in touchdowns among SEC running backs (13). With Boom and Jojo moving on from UK, it opens up a lot more carries for Benny to showcase his talents. Don’t be surprised if Snell passes the 1,300 yard mark next season. Based off of his freshman performance, of which he didn’t take a snap until week 3, it’s safe to assume he would’ve had almost 1,300 yards in 2016. That’s only with 186 carries last year, which you can expect to go up a lot in the Fall.

Had Boom decided to return to UK, Williams would’ve been 5th in yards returning, just ahead of Georgia’s Nick Chubb.

The stats don’t lie. On paper, 2017 looks like it could be a huge year for running backs in the SEC. Fortunately for Kentucky, we have one of the SEC’s best in the back field. It’ll be football time in the bluegrass before we know it.


Position Reviews and Previews: Special Teams

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

2016 Production and Accolades

Mark Stoops was blessed to have Austin MacGinnis placekick for Kentucky in 2016.  His foot is responsible for two wins, the difference between another five-win season and a bowl game in the state of Florida.

MacGinnis became the first UK kicker with two game-winners since Doug Pelfrey’s boot bailed out Freddie Maggard.  The 51-yard kick that capped off Kentucky’s win over Mississippi State was a turning point for the team, proving they could win, regardless of what adversity they faced.  It came in handy on the road against Louisville.  Leach’s calls still give me chills.

MacGinnis earned SEC Special Team Player of the Week Honors following each game-winner.  MacGinnis made 16-19 field goals (84.2%) and the junior didn’t miss an attempt in the last five games.  He put just under one-third of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

With Matt House at the helm, the coverage units excelled.  An opponent failed to score a return touchdown all season.  The difference in yardage is hidden, but the coverage units did reveal a few stars in the making, most notably Kash Daniel.

In the return game, Kentucky’s six-year special teams touchdown drought ended thanks to future Heisman Trophy Winner Charles Walker.  Drew Franklin’s analysis might be the best thing ever published on Kentucky Sports Radio dot com.

Grade: A, F

It’s hard to ask for more.  Every unit improved.  The only thing still missing is a kick return touchdown.  And then there’s the punting game.  Truly the outlier of the group, it deserves a separate grade.  You need at least 40 yards per punt to be successful and Grant McKinniss averaged just 39.2 per attempt.  Just a freshman, he has time to improve, but he must improve or Dean Hood will have to start looking for alternatives.

Departures/Newcomers

With 11 different players in six different packages, obviously it’s hard to track who is going where.  However, there are three new people that will make an impact on social teams: Dean Hood, Davonte Robinson and Lynn Bowden.

Hood’s experience as a head coach will be invaluable during the important portion of practice dedicated to specialists.  In the return game, the only thing missing is a kickoff return touchdown.  Robinson and Bowden are two guys with enough speed and athleticism to change the (return) game in 2017.

2017 Outlook

Kentucky will be in good hands in 2017.  With Dean Hood at the helm and a senior Austin McGinnis placekicking, special teams will be a strength.  The only question mark is at punter, but it doesn’t have to be that way if Eddie Gran’s offense never gets stopped.

2016 Reviews and Previews: Offensive LineRunning BackSecondaryLinebackersQuarterback, Wide Receivers, Defensive line


Thursday Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

Thursday Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

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All-Star Weekend Begins Tomorrow

Nine former Wildcats will be in New Orleans to participate in a variety of events designed to showcase the best the NBA has to offer.  Here’s where you’ll find them:

  • Rising Stars Challenge (Friday, 9 p.m.): Karl Towns, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles
  • D-League All-Star Game (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.): Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress
  • Skills Challenge (Saturday, 8 p.m.): Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Devin Booker
  • All-Star Game (Sunday, 8 p.m.): Anthony Davis (starter), DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall

All of the events will air on TNT except the D-League All-Star game, which can be seen on NBA TV.

@KentucyMBB created a ton of photoshopped billboards that I wish were real.

@KentucyMBB created a ton of photoshopped billboards that I wish were real.

The Cubes is Cal’s Newest Podcast Guest

Most know him as the Dallas Mavericks’ owner; others as the guy who invests in small businesses on ABC’s Shark Tank.  Now see Mark Cuban in a different light as John Calipari’s podcast guest.  The Cal Cast is available on iTunes and anywhere you can get podcasts.

Watch Lynn Bowden Dunk

It’s almost too much fun to see the crazy things the future football star can do.  Here’s what happens when he messes around with a basketball in an empty gym.

That boy’s good.

Shots Fired at Courtney Love

Blake Bone is quite the comedian.  The wide receiver did some deep diving to clown on Kentucky’s middle linebacker, Courtney Love.

Love’s response was simple: “2011 State Champs 🏆.”  Still, Bone wins this round.  I just wish players would bring back the shoulder pads that are three times too large.  Love looks more like a Ninja Turtle than a linebacker with those nine-inch pads.

P.J. Washington is Excited to be in the Bluegrass

The future Wildcat will play at Marshall County High School Friday night at 7:30 and Saturday evening at 6:30.

As a KSR blogger, it’s my job to encourage you to watch Washington play.  As a fan of good basketball, I implore you to see Washington play in person before he comes to UK.  He is without a doubt my favorite player in this class and will leave Kentucky as one of my favorite players in the Calipari era.

To make this simple: he’s a younger version of Draymond Green.  A 6’8″ smack-talking power forward that rebounds like a traditional post on the defensive end, Washington is much more dynamic on the offensive end.  Playing for the sixth-ranked team in the nation, he leads Findlay Prep in assists and three-pointers made, shooting at a 35 percent clip from behind the arc.  According to Ben Roberts, in one game this season both Findlay Prep point guards had to sit out of the first half for disciplinary reasons, so Washington ran the point.

Please, jump on the P.J. Washington bandwagon before it gets too crowded.

I Want to Hate Oregon’s Jerseys, but I Can’t

@ESPNCBB

@ESPNCBB

The concept of glow-in-the-dark jerseys is the most idiotic thing in human history.  They have no utility.  The only time the players might notice them is during pregame introductions, that’s it.  Still, as a child of the 90’s I’m obligated to appreciate the tackiness.  Not only was any and everything glow-in-the-dark cool, cartoon college sweatshirts were a fad I was sad to see disappear.  Donald Duck on the chest is the best thing Oregon uniforms feature.  See what you think by turning the channel to ESPN.

A Walk-Off in Westwood

The UK softball team suffered a loss to the No. 5 UCLA Bruins in the first leg of last night’s doubleheader, but they returned with a vengeance for the second game.  In the top of the 11th inning, Jenny Schaper took one into deep left centerfield.

The 2-1 win was sealed with a 6-5-3 double play in the bottom of the 11th.  The 22nd-ranked Wildcats have three more games before they return to Lexington: UC-Davis and Oregon tomorrow night, and Saturday against Cal State Northridge.

The season begins for the Kentucky baseball team this weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  The BatCats will take on the Tar Heels Friday at 3:00, Saturday at 2:00 and Sunday at 1:00.  Follow @TreyHuntsmanKSR for updates throughout Nick Mingione’s first weekend as UK’s head coach.

Did Mitch Make It?

Mitch Barnhart hit the road to Fayetteville with UK Hoops.  He isn’t going just to be a cheerleader.  During today’s pregame shoot-around, he got in on the action.  Unfortunately, this photograph doesn’t show his form, nor if the bucket fell through the net.

@KentuckyWBB

@KentuckyWBB

Based on the trajectory and Barnhart’s eagerness, I’m going to say yes, yes it went in.