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Greg Hart named Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council

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@SEC

Congratulations to junior tight end Greg Hart, who has just been elected Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council. Hart and vice chair Danny Etling (LSU) were selected by a vote of their peers at a meeting of the Council at SEC headquarters in Birmingham. They will attend a portion of the meeting of the SEC’s Athletics Directors in March and the Conference’s Spring Meetings in May and June.

“These talented young men are proven leaders on the field and among their teammates,” said Misty Brown, SEC Director of Student-Athlete Engagement. “They took special interest to engage in conversation about topics that were important to them. They came prepared and ready to provide feedback on issues related to recruiting, practice and career preparation. We were extremely impressed with our football leadership council and look forward to continuing to work with all of our councils to identify ways that we can remain innovative in enhancing the student-athlete experience.”

The councils, which consist of one representative from each institution, serve as a conduit of communication to the conference office on issues related to student-athlete experience and student-athlete wellness.

“It’s an honor to represent Kentucky football on the SEC Football Leadership Council and it’s very humbling to be chosen by my peers to be the chair,” Hart said. I’m excited about this opportunity that we have to come to together and discuss concerns and topics with the people who make the decisions in the SEC. I want to thank Commissioner Sankey and everyone else involved for creating this group. The SEC’s motto of ‘It Just Means More’ is really true. They really do care how we feel and it’s cool to be a part of this.”

Congrats, Greg. Keep making us proud.


@UKFootball

UK’s new football coaches are already at work

@UKFootball

Stoops and Dean Hood (@UKFootball)

Their hires only became official yesterday, but Kentucky’s new assistant football coaches are already at work this morning. Special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Dean Hood and defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc are at the Nutter Field House this morning for the team’s offseason workouts, and by the looks of it, jumped right in:

Derrick LeBlanc (@UKFootball)

Derrick LeBlanc (@UKFootball)

Dean Hood (@UKFootball)

Dean Hood (@UKFootball)

Some more pictures from the workout via @UKFootball:

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

Of course Kash Daniel has a giant American flag tattoo.


Thursday’s Top 10: Woo and Calipari for America

Thursday’s Top 10: Woo and Calipari for America

woo

Today’s a very exciting day for us here at KSR. This morning, Lukasz Obrzut will become an American citizen. The native of Jędrzejów, Poland played at Kentucky from 2003-2007 and since, has become a member of the KSR family, helping out on the radio show and now, “Hey, Kentucky!”. Matt and Ryan will be live from his naturalization ceremony in Louisville for today’s show, so tune in to hear about this monumental moment in Woo’s life. Someone bring the gummy bears or other fruity snacks.

Here’s what else is going on today…

1. Calipari will coach the USA Basketball U19 Team

If you missed in in the post directly below this one, Jeff Goodman broke some big news this morning when he reported that John Calipari will coach the USA Basketball U19 Team this summer in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo, Egypt. Calipari has been interested in getting back in to USA Basketball for a while, and this is the perfect fit. He’ll have access to the top players in the country, many of whom will have yet to choose a college. As if the guy needed any more help with recruiting, right?

2. Arkansas knocked off South Carolina

Who said SEC Basketball is predictable? Arkansas upset South Carolina last night, essentially narrowing the race for the #1-seed in the SEC Tournament from three to two. Kentucky’s chances of getting the 1-seed and playing Friday afternoon instead of Friday night became even greater when the unfortunate news broke that Florida center John Egbunu is out for the season with an ACL injury. Scroll down to my post from last night for a detailed breakdown of the race for the 1-seed.

3. Meanwhile, all eyes turn to Georgia

It’s easy to look ahead to the SEC Tournament, but first, the Cats must travel to Georgia to face the Bulldogs, who took the Cats to overtime in Rupp a few weeks back. Georgia’s had some bad luck this season, but they’re entirely capable of knocking off the Cats, especially in what will surely be a sold out Stegeman Coliseum. White out, red out, t-shirt night, cup night, ball night, you name it, Georgia will pull out all the stops. Dickie V will be there:

4. Trae Young announces his decision

At one time, Trae Young seemed poised to be the next great John Calipari point guard, but Cal could only wait so long to build his recruiting class and accepted a commitment from Quade Green instead. Today, Young is finally ready to announce his college decision, and it’ll be either Kansas or Oklahoma. The hometown Sooners seem to have the momentum heading into this afternoon’s announcement. Best of luck to him wherever he goes. I hope he likes the dorms.

5. UK Hoops takes on Arkansas

It’s been a week since Matthew Mitchell’s squad has been in action, but tonight, they’ll take on Jimmy Dykes’ Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena at 8 p.m. The ladies have won seven of their last nine league games after starting the season 1-2.  The game’s not on TV, but you can watch on SECNetwork+ on WatchESPN or listen online at 630 WLAP or UKAthletics.com.

6. ICYMI, both football hires were confirmed yesterday

We’ve known about them for a week, but yesterday, Mark Stoops made the two additions to his staff complete. Dean Hood is Kentucky’s new special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach, while Derrick LeBlanc is the new defensive line coach. Here’s what Stoops had to say about each:

“I could not be more excited to have Coach Hood join our staff,” Stoops said. “He brings extensive experience and knowledge as a head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator. Having watched him at Eastern Kentucky, I developed great respect for him and I know he is held in high regard by the high school coaches in the state.  He is a welcome addition to our program.”

“I’ve known Derrick and watched his progress as a coach,” Stoops said. “I was super-impressed with his interview, with the organization of his teaching and how good he is as an instructor. Fundamentals are important at every position but especially in the defensive line and I believe Derrick will be a great teacher of proper technique and fundamentals.”

He’s also intimidating as hell:

Image via UKAthletics.com

Image via UKAthletics.com

7. PJ Washington plays in the Kentucky Lake Showcase this weekend

Got plans this weekend? Drive on down to Marshall County High School to see future Cat PJ Washington play in the Kentucky Lake Showcase. Washington’s Findlay Prep plays Hopkinsville Friday night at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 6:30 PM (all times central). I’ll be there Saturday to interview PJ for the website, so if you’re also there, be sure to say hello.

8. Anthony Davis’ unibrow is bigger than ever

@PelicansNBA

@PelicansNBA

In anticipation of this weekend’s All-Star festivities, the Pelicans put Anthony Davis’ face on the side of the Benson Tower overlooking the Smoothie King Center and the Superdome. Bow to the brow.

9. Speaking of All-Star Weekend, here’s the schedule

Nine Cats will take part in the festivities:

  • 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

10. College Basketball on TV tonight:

  • 7:00 PM: Texas A&M at Vanderbilt, ESPN2
  • 7:00 PM: #11 Wisconsin at Michigan, ESPN
  • 9:00 PM: #5 Arizona at Washington State, FS1
  • 9:00 PM: Utah at #7 Oregon, ESPN
  • 9:00 PM: San Francisco at #1 Gonzaga
  • 11:00 PM: Loyola Marymount at #22 Saint Mary’s

Woo becomes an American citizen in an hour…


Dean Hood is “Juiced” to be back in Kentucky

Kentucky’s new leader of the outside linebackers and special teams is excited to be back in the Bluegrass.

Dean Hood almost made the move a year sooner.  After he was dismissed as EKU’s head coach following the 2015 season, he was quickly hired by a former colleague at Charlotte.  Mark Stoops tried to convince Hood to join him at UK, but their timing was off .

“The first time (in 2016) was really difficult.  I wanted to come obviously,” Hood told Dick Gabriel tonight on the Big Blue Insider.  After spending spring practice in Charlotte, Hood couldn’t leave his players after just a few months.  “I think the Lord had a plan for us to get out of Kentucky for a while.  It was good for my wife and I to get out a little bit.”

This time around, “The timing was great.”

Hood was humbled to receive the call from Stoops after he turned him away just a year ago.  It didn’t take long for Stoops to close the deal.  “It’s obvious to see why the recruiting is getting better and better and better.  He’s very convincing,” he said with a chuckle.

Hood, a native of Northeast Ohio, knew Stoops from afar, but the two did not form a personal relationship until they were forced to deal with a difficult situation.  After a bar and dorm fight between their players, Stoops immediately addressed the situation with Hood.  Hood respected Stoops for the way he handled the altercation.  That respect grew after one of Hood’s players, Joey Kraemer, tragically passed away just before the game against UK.

“It just touched my heart,” Hood said.

Moving forward, Hood believes Kentucky is in the perfect position to reach unfamiliar territory in the SEC. Amazed by the new facilities and the exceptional recruiting in his home state, Hood believes they have the pieces to shock SEC football fans.  Hood has experienced it before.  The season before he became Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator, the Demon Deacons were 2-9.  Five years later they won the ACC to earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

“If you do things strategically, if you do things right, if you can be blessed in a few certain areas and get a few great players, it can happen.  And it can happen here at Kentucky.”


Benny Snell Enters the Rap Game with Like I Do

Via @CameronRadio

Via @CameronRadio

Benny Snell’s first season at Kentucky was an unprecedented success.  He set the standard for Kentucky freshman running breaks, breaking every school record with 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Things are looking up for Snell, but, “If football don’t work, you know I’ve got to take the lyric route.”

Those are lines from Snell’s Soundcloud debut.  Under the alias “Benny the Bandit,”  his first track is Like I Do.  Even if you don’t enjoy the 1:47 track, you’ll enjoy hearing Benny throw his L’s Down.

My favorite line:

“Now these girls, they all going for the fame…

…that’s a shame. I got my heart broken in the sixth grade.”

 


Football Glossary: The Left Tackle

football-glossary

Left tackle is a franchise position on the football field. Tasked with protecting the blind side of most team’s prized possession, its quarterback, the the left tackle is the offensive line’s most scrutinized player. In addition to being a designated pass protector, the left tackle must also be proficient in all other offensive line tasks such as run and zone blocking, scraping, and occasionally pulling.

We discussed responsibility differences of the left and right tackle in a prior Glossary post. In this piece we’ll take a look at a prototypical NFL left tackle, overview preferred and coveted traits on the recruiting trail, and overview Kentucky’s trio of blind side protectors.

 

Preferred and Coveted LT Traits on the Recruiting Trail

-Quick feet with mental capability to understand leverage and physical competence to enforce positioning.

-High Football IQ. That term is loosely used, but in this case it pertains to basic understanding of pass routes and comprehending the quarterback and offensive coordinator’s intent.

-Long arms to counter outside or edge speed rush.

-Height, 6’5 or taller is the norm. Weight varies, 290 seems to be the low-end bench mark.

-Upper and lower body strength to sustain the bull rush.

-Confidence. Left tackles are frequently left on an island to combat the opponent’s top pass rusher who is in many cases the best athlete on the field.

-Competitive natured. The good ones compete out of necessity. The great ones love to compete regardless of activity. Most effective left tackles were multiple sport and position athletes in high school. Basketball is the optimal additional activity along with wrestling and track & field.

Prototypical NFL Left Tackle: 

Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

6’6, 312-pounds

NFL Combine results: 4.92-40 yard dash, 28 repetitions of 225 on the bench press.

High School: Offensive tackle, defensive end, tight end, fullback, punter, and kicker at Brookfield Central HS where he was named as a Prep All American. Thomas also set school records for the shotput and discuss and earned four letters in track and field.

 

Now let’s take a look at Kentucky’s left tackles:

Senior Cole Mosier: 6’6, 335-pounds

High School: Multi-year starter on Walton Verona’s offensive and defensive line. He twice lettered on the basketball team as well as track & field plus tennis. 

As a Wildcat: Reliable, Mosier has played in 33 career games with 12 starts at both left and right tackle and guard.

Picture of a US Air Force A-10 Warthog

Cole Mosier is the A-10 Warthog of the Kentucky offensive line. The A-10 is a versatile, long-serving combat aircraft that was due to be replaced by sleeker flying machines on several occasions. It’s loud, packs a serious punch, doesn’t fly supersonic, and still relies on maps for navigation. In other words, it’s not flashy but remains reliable, powerful, durable and has proven its worth for many decades. When called upon, the Warthog always responds accordingly. 

Mosier is a utility player turned left tackle. He’s been asked to play every position along the line-of-scrimmage except for center and has performed those duties at a high level. His strengths are, well his strength, powerful punch, and a nasty demeanor that perfectly mesh with Eddie Gran’s in-your-face offensive philosophy. With physical traits are perfectly fitted for a right tackle; Mosier productively transitioned to the left side.

An incredible story of perseverance and player development, this former walk-on has the opportunity to find his way into an NFL training camp next spring.

offensive-line-2

Sophomore Landon Young: 6’7, 310-pounds

High school: Young, a Lexington Lafayette grad, was a six-year letter winner in wrestling and four-year letter winner in track and field in the shot and discus. Won the 2016 KHSAA state wrestling title, finished his senior year with a 19-0 record on the mat.  Ranked as the state’s top wrestler at 285 after finishing fourth in the state as a junior. Three-time Class 3-A track and field champion in the discus. Won the 2015 state shot up title and finished second in 2016. A 5-star prospect on the football field, he was named to various All American teams and played in the US Army All American Bowl.

As a Wildcat: Played in 13 games; started 3 as a true freshman. Named to Athlon’s All SEC Freshman Team.   

With an unlimited ceiling and team-first attitude, Landon Young will occupy the LT position for the Wildcats for the next 2-3 years. Having Cole Mosier as a mentor and rotational partner at the same position has only boosted the rising sophomore’s development.

True Freshman Naasir Watkins: 6’6, 305-pounds

High school: A former tight end, Watkins checks all the blocks that John Schlarman pursued while identifying his future left tackle. Long arms, 6’6 and growing, and was a pass catcher prior to a permanent move to tackle suitably fits the bill. The Kentucky coaching staff is extremely excited about Watkins’ prospective. He will be a noteworthy case study of prospect identification and player development.

 

What does all this mean?

College football teams are constructed with all types of players with various backgrounds, physical traits, and stories. Mosier, Young, and Watkins are a perfect example of positional diversity. Mosier was a 0-star walk-on turned starter from northern Kentucky. Young was a 5-star All American that stayed home and has lived up to that billing by earning Freshman All SEC honors in his rookie season. Watkins is a 3-star former TE from the Washington DC area that is still growing into his body. Three personalities, one position, same goal. Kentucky is in good shape at left tackle for quite some time to come. 


Image via UKAthletics.com

The Derrick LeBlanc hire is officially official

Image via UKAthletics.com

Image via UKAthletics.com

Shortly after introducing Dean Hood as its special teams and outside linebackers coach, the University of Kentucky football program announced the hire of Derrick LeBlanc as the team’s new defensive line coach.

“I’ve known Derrick and watched his progress as a coach,” Mark Stoops said in release announcing the news. “I was super-impressed with his interview, with the organization of his teaching and how good he is as an instructor. Fundamentals are important at every position but especially in the defensive line and I believe Derrick will be a great teacher of proper technique and fundamentals.”

LeBlanc said of his new gig, “It’s a great pleasure to be here at Kentucky with Coach Stoops and his staff. I’m excited about the opportunity to teach the young guys at UK and coach in the Southeastern Conference. Coach Stoops is a great defensive mind and he’s a great teacher of the game. On the outside looking in, there’s always been the potential to win at Kentucky and Coach Stoops has found a way to get it going in that direction and I’m looking forward to working with him and these players.”

LeBlanc, formerly of Southern Miss and North Texas, replaces Jimmy Brumbaugh.


Hood to lead UK Special Teams and Outside Linebackers

The University of Kentucky made it official on Wednesday by announcing Dean Hood as the its new outside linebacker coach and special teams coordinator. Mark Stoops had previously sought after Hood for a different position to no avail, this time Stoops got his man.

Dean Hood is an old school football coach with stops at various levels of college football throughout his 31 career. From coordinating the defense alongside Rich Rodriquez at Glenville State in the early 90’s to leading the Wake Forest defense during its successful ACC run; Hood is highly respected in coaching circles. As a head coach, his EKU teams piled up a 55-38 record as the Ohio native was named the OVC Coach of the Year in 2008. He was also a two-time finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award.

What does this mean for Kentucky?

OLB Coach

Mark Stoops adds yet another defensive coach with coordinator experience. Hood directed defenses at Glenville State, EKU, and Wake Forest. Matter of fact, all UK defensive coaches have DC time listed on their resumes (DL hire pending). Understanding the demands placed on position coaches, having prior phase leaders can only be considered as a plus.

With a resume that leans heavily on coaching defensive backs, I wouldn’t be concerned with an inexperience at outside linebackers. Again, reference prior coordinator and head coach duties. He’s inheriting two good ones in Denzel Ware and Josh Allen as well as a cupboard full of talented youngsters that includes prized recruits Josh Paschal, Jordan Wright, and Alex King. Technical and tactical proficiency should actually increase as Hood is universally known as a demanding, on-field coach.

Special Teams Coordinator

Hood coordinated special teams at EKU from 1994 through 1998. Hate to be repetitive here, but his time as a head coach will provide the insight on the importance of the 3rd phase.

Big Picture

Hood brought his outmanned EKU team to Commonwealth Stadium and should have travelled south to Richmond with a win. During that contest, Hood’s players showed high-level effort and toughness as his game plan was spot on to pull the near upset.

Mark Stoops now has a long-tenured head coach to lean on for big picture situations. In addition, this new assistant coach hire will not have to prove credibility as many Kentucky players are still on the team that nearly lost to his Colonels.

Stoops also adds yet another northeast Ohio native to his staff which will boost an already powerful recruiting pipeline.

Instant credibility, regional recruiting familiarity, X and O proficiency, proven player development, and experience. Quite a bit to like about the addition of Dean Hood.


UKAthletics.com

The Dean Hood hire is now officially official

UKAthletics.com

Image via UKAthletics.com

The University of Kentucky football program officially has its man for the special teams and outside linebackers coaching gig.

Dean Hood, reported to have accepted the job last week, was formally introduced in a press release from UK Athletics this afternoon.

A former head coach of eight years at Eastern Kentucky, Hood is very familiar to the Bluegrass and he will fit right in with the staff as a native of Ohio.

“I am from northeast Ohio and I take a lot of pride from being from there,” Hood said in the release. “Being from Ohio I have followed the Stoops family for a long time and they are known for being tough, hard-working and family oriented. All of those things are important to me as well. When I was coaching at Wake Forest and we had to play against Florida State, I noticed how well the defense played once Coach Stoops got there. They were very tough to play against. Also, being 17 miles away at EKU, I was always impressed with him and the discipline of his program. I was impressed with how he presented himself in the media and public with an honest and let’s-go-to-work attitude and how they have put together a really good strategic recruiting plan. I’m excited and honored to be a part of his staff.”

Mark Stoops said, “I could not be more excited to have Coach Hood join our staff. He brings extensive experience and knowledge as a head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator. Having watched him at Eastern Kentucky, I developed great respect for him and I know he is held in high regard by the high school coaches in the state. He is a welcome addition to our program.”

Hood spent the 2016 season as the assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Charlotte. Prior to that, he led EKU to two Ohio Valley Conference Championships, three FCS Playoff appearances and an overall record of 55-38 (59.1), while being named the 2008 OVC Coach of the Year and the 2011 American Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, which goes to the best coach in FCS football, in both the 2008 and 2014 seasons.

Welcome aboard.


A Very Happy Birthday to Jared Lorenzen

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

The Happiest of Birthday Wishes goes out to Jared Lorenzen.  Before he was a KSR Podcaster and Pregame Show Host, he was busy breaking UK and SEC passing records.  He is still UK’s all-time leading passer and ranks in the Top Ten in nearly every SEC passing category.  After all that, he won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

If you would’ve told 11-year old Nick Roush that one day I would work with Jared, I would’ve called you a liar, then got sick to my stomach from all the nerves.  People often say, “Don’t meet your heroes, because you’ll be disappointed.”  Working with Jared has been better than I could have ever imagined.  As much trash he talks to me (and sometimes the football team), Jared is one of the best people you will ever meet and KSR is blessed to have him.

Jared, enjoy your day.  Fans, enjoy these highlights:

Click here for more classic J-Lo. 


Benny Snell is One of the Ten Best Returning Players in the SEC

Benny Snell is One of the Ten Best Returning Players in the SEC

benny-snell

When Boom Williams declared for the NFL Draft following the TaxSlayer Bowl, Mark Stoops lost a 1,000-yard rusher.  Losing the school’s ninth-best rusher would cripple most programs, but Kentucky has Benny Snell.  After just one season in Lexington, Pro Football Focus believes Snell is the ninth-best player returning in the SEC.

On 185 carries in 2016, Snell forced 44 missed tackles, and averaged 4.1 yards after contact per carry. After splitting time with Williams last year, Snell should see the bulk of carries in 2017, and is a sneaky candidate to push the 2,000-yard mark if that holds true and he can perform at the level he did in 2016.

The only other running backs PFF ranked higher than Snell are LSU’s Derrius Guice and Georgia’s Nick Chubb.  An organization that evaluates based off objective grades than subjective, anecdotal evidence, praise doesn’t get much better than this.

[Pro Football Focus]


Position Reviews and Previews: Defensive Line

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

After a brief sabbatical for National Signing Day coverage, position reviews and previews returns with the defensive line, a unit who now reportedly has a coach, Derrick LeBlanc.  

2016 Production and Accolades

Lacking experience and depth, the defensive line took a hit before the season started when Regie Meant left the team.  Jimmy Brumbaugh was forced to piece together a defensive line without the luxury of time to aid development.  The result: only two sacks and 13 tackles for loss combined by the three down linemen.

Still, they group persisted, improving throughout the year.  Courtney Miggins provided stability as a team captain.  Naquez Pringle was the most improved player on the team, leading the group with 39 tackles from the nose position.  Adrian Middleton replaced Meant, finishing with 35 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, the most TFLs by a defensive lineman.  His best game came against Missouri, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week with seven tackles and an important third down tackle for loss.

Grade: D+

Reggie Meant’s untimely departure put the defensive line behind the eight ball.  Without much experience at all, they proved to be formidable down the stretch, earning a “+”, but for most of the year they were the defense’s greatest liability.

Departures

  • Jimmy Brumbaugh: The last remaining coach from Mark Stoops’ original defensive staff left to join Andy Buh at Maryland as a Co-Defensive Coordinator.  Brumbaugh’s ability to develop talent, especially JUCO transfers, will be missed.  A replacement will likely not be announced for a few more weeks.
  • Courtney Miggins:  The defensive end was a team captain.  The JUCO transfer had 28 tackles, 4 for loss and 5 knocked down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Newcomers

  • Kordell Looney: The redshirt defensive tackle is expected to receive significant snaps this fall.
  • Jaylin Bannerman: The five-technique defensive end received excessive amounts of praise from Mark Stoops during bowl season for his ability to rush the passer.
  • JaQuize Cross: Cross added significant weight to his frame during the defensive tackle’s redshirt year.
  • Phil Hoskins:  A versatile JUCO transfer, Hoskins will play this fall.  However, shoulder surgery may prevent him from seeing significant action right away.
  • Quinton Bohanna: Bohanna could redshirt, but with outstanding measurables (6’4″ 320) and a need for nose tackles, he could play this fall.
  • Abule Abadi-Fitzgeral and Chris Whittaker:  The “project” defensive ends haven’t played much football.  The reps and lifting as redshirts will be an important first step in their development.

2017 Outlook

Derrick LeBlanc inherits a young group that now has experience.  LeBlanc’s reputation as a tough strength coach should pay dividends, but it’s still difficult to forecast this group’s production.  There is one major concern, but a few areas for optimism.

They must find depth at nose tackle.  Naquez Pringle played WAY too many snaps during the bowl game, allowing Tech to gash UK’s defense with straight dives to the B-Back going for 169 yards.  If Matt Elam can’t get it together for his final year, they must rely on the development of redshirts and true freshman to provide Pringle relief.

There’s much more optimism on the outside.  It took more than half a season, but Alvonte Bell proved in the Louisville and Georgia Tech games he can make plays.  Adrian Middleton improved throughout the year, but T.J. Carter might be the defensive lineman to watch in 2017.  Forced to play almost the entire TaxSlayer Bowl after Miggins was injured, Carter received the highest grade of any Wildcat from Pro Football Focus.

2016 Reviews and Previews: Offensive LineRunning BackSecondaryLinebackersQuarterback, Wide Receivers


Boom Williams and Jon Toth get invites to the NFL Combine

@UKStoopsTroops

A few weeks ago, Boom Williams shared on Twitter that he received an invitation to the NFL Combine, and, in a bit of excellent news, it looks like fellow Wildcat Jon Toth will join him. This morning, the NFL released the invite list for the Combine, and Boom and Toth are Kentucky’s participants. Not surprisingly, the SEC has the most participants of any conference with 66; with two players invited, Kentucky is tied for seventh most in the league alongside Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Missouri and Georgia are sending one player each, while no players from South Carolina got an invitation.

Last week, CBS Sports released an updated ranking of the top prospects, and Toth is considered the fifth best center available, projected to go in the fifth to sixth rounds. Boom is ranked the 35th best running back and according to these projections, won’t be drafted. With a lot of great running backs in this year’s draft, for Boom, the Combine is crucial.

The Combine takes place in Indianapolis February 28-March 6. We’ll be watching.


Confidence Level: Defense

Confidence Level: Defense

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Pic of Defensive Coordinator Matt House

After evaluating the offense, it’s now time to measure confidence in Kentucky’s defensive position groups going into spring practice. Remember, this post only addresses spring practice and does not factor incoming players that are scheduled to arrive in June. First, here’s a reminder of the grading criteria:

Scale

1: Most Confident

5: Least Confident

 

2

Pic by Saturday Blitz 

Edge (Outside and Jack Linebackers)1

Kentucky returns both of its starting outside linebackers. Josh Allen finished 1st in the SEC with 4 forced fumbles, 11th in the conference with 7 QB sacks, 62 total tackles, 3 QB hurries, and 8.5 tackles for loss (TFL). Denzel Ware ranked 13th in the SEC with 12 TFL, 5.5 QB sacks, 5 QB hurries, and 70 total tackles. Both Ware and Allen are surfacing on 2019 NFL Draft projections and are expected to be disruptive forces for new defensive coordinator Matt House.

Depth at this position can vary depending upon positional assignment. For example, Kengera Daniel is listed as a DE but has played OLB. Jordan Bonner, Jaylin Bannerman, Kobie Walker, and De’Niro Laster (1 QB sack) all have at least one year in the program and should provide quality strength. If one wants to compare Kentucky’s talent before and after Mark Stoops; this position would prove to be an interesting case study especially if incoming freshmen are included.

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Pic of Derrick Baity by 247Sports

Secondary1.5

All-Conference Safety Mike Edwards is the SEC’s 2nd leading, returning tackler after totaling 100 stops a year ago to go along with 3 interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 8 pass breakups. Safety talent is deep and capable but it did take an attrition hit with the departures of Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain. Darius West (if healthy), Tobias Gilliam, Marcus Walker, and possibly Lonnie Johnson will slug it out to join Edwards.

Starting cornerback Derrick Baity picked off 3 passes a year ago while breaking up 7 to go along with 42 tackles, 2 TFL, and 10 defended passes. The rising junior will be contending for all conference honors in 2017. Chris Westry returns as the Wilcat’s boundary corner. While not intercepting a high number of passes (1), Westry was consistent vs. the run as he registered 43 total tackles and 3 pass breakups. Both Baity and Westry will be true-juniors. Cornerback depth must be considered a team positive with Jordan Griffin, Kei Beckham, and Davante Robinson competing for playing time.

Nickel position will most likely be manned by Kendall Randolph. Several other options are listed above that could provide depth and situational pass coverage or rush.

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Pic by SEC Country

Inside Linebacker2

Jordan Jones played at an extremely high level in 2016. The junior-to-be finished 3rd in the SEC with 109 total tackles, 6th in the league with 15 TFL, 9 QB hurries, 4 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 4 QB sacks. Jones is the SEC’s top returning tackler. Fellow inside LB Courtney Love finished 16th in the conference and 3rd on the team with 76 total tackles, 1 QB sack, 1 TFL, 1 pass breakup, 2 QB hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Kash Daniel provided depth behind Love and should be ready to compete for a starting position.

Inside linebacker depth is not a major concern, but will draw the attention of coaches and fans alike during spring practice. Nico Firios, Eli Brown are veterans that will push for additional playing time along with redshirt freshmen Roland Walder and Jamar Watson.

4

Pic of Adrian Middleton by Scout.com

Defensive Line4

From his January arrival to mid-2016 season, nose tackle Naquez Pringle was one of the most improved players that we’ve evaluated in quite some time. Pringle rolled up 39 total tackles, 2 TFL, and registered 1 QB sack last season. However, Matt Elam’s lack of playing time down the season’s stretch was puzzling and left an obvious hole in the Wildcat defensive front. That role was situationally filled by Jacob Hyde (The Lawnmower) as the pride of Clay County played as you’d expect; with maximum effort and heart. With the fresh memory of Georgia Tech’s B-Back rushing for 169-yards straight up the gut of the Wildcat defense in mind; nose tackle will be a highly scrutinized position in the offseason.

Much like Pringle, Adrian Middleton improved weekly and developed into a steady, SEC defensive tackle. Middleton finished 2016 with 35 total tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Tymere Dubose showed flashes of becoming a full-time starter as well. Redshirt freshmen Ja’Quize Cross and Kordell Looney will have an ample opportunity to impress and advance up the depth chart. Exactly which position both will play will be decided in spring practice. 

Kentucky’s defensive line lost only one player, DE Courtney Miggins. Miggins provided consistency at the position and was often spelled by Alvonte Bell. Bell will miss spring workouts from injury. Rising sophomore TJ Carter was Jeremy Jarmon’s top dog from 2016’s National Signing Day festivities. Carter made the most of an opportunity in Jacksonville by grading higher than any UK defender in the Taxslayer Bowl. His ceiling is extremely high; he will be counted on to fight for the starting job along with Kengera Daniel and Calvin Taylor. DE is another position that will be under the microscope and must show progress. 

What does all this mean?

With its top producers now juniors, youth can no longer be used as mitigating factor. Linebacker Jordan Jones and Safety Mike Edwards are elite. Edge pass rushers Josh Allen and Denzel Ware are close to joining Jones and Edwards in status and league recognition.  Experience and talent are present at cornerback.  

How Kentucky’s defensive line plays in 2017 will significantly influence its win/loss total. Could be as simple as that.


Two UK Football birthdays today

Two UK Football birthdays today

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Attention Big Blue Nation, time to send some happy birthday love to two big names in the Kentucky Football world tonight. Former Kentucky Wildcat and current Pittsburgh Steeler Bud Dupree turns 24 years old today, while current UK Wide Receiver Coach Lamar Thomas turns 47.

Let’s help Bud celebrate by watching one of his best highlights in his time at UK.

And as for Lamar Thomas, UK Stoops Troops didn’t forget to show him love on Twitter.

Lamar Thomas has been nothing but the perfect personality for Stoops to bring on to this football staff. Thomas keeps the receivers solid on the field, while keeping his Twitter game solid off the field. Here’s my favorite of Thomas’ tweets. Blurry picture and all, you can’t beat having the Governor’s Cup back in Lexington.

Join me everyone in wishing @Bud_Dupree and @LamarCoachT a very happy birthday! Show how strong the BBN love can be!

@BrettBibbinsKSR