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Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©April 01st, 2017 @ 12:55pm
Drew Barker has returned from his back injury quicker than anticipated. Expected to play sparingly until this summer, Barker’s back was reevaluated after Spring Break. Feeling better, he was cleared to begin practicing.
I believed Barker’s return to practice meant he would participate in footwork and throwing drills, sprinkled in with some occasional 7v7 and a few snaps during team period. He did much, much more today.
Mark Stoops said Barker took 10 snaps today and led the offense to a touchdown in his only series at quarterback. At one point, Barker tucked the ball and ran it comfortably, Eddie Gran added.
This is not an April Fool’s joke. This is significant progress for the former four-star Kentucky quarterback prospect.
By Nick Roush on ©April 01st, 2017 @ 9:00am
Just like that, we are less than two weeks away from the 2017 Spring Game. Freddie and the crew put the basketball season to bed by giving you an outlook on where each position group stands ahead of the Blue/White game and much more, including:
— Jack’s Elite Eight experience was as bad as it can get.
— Why it has been a quiet spring practice.
— Stephen Johnson is the man, even if he doesn’t consume all 5,000 calories.
— How immaturity cost players years of eligibility.
— What forced us to mute Jack’s microphone.
— The differences in the defense under Matt House.
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 Podbay, or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Like everyone here in Big Blue Nation, Pro Football Focus thinks very highly of former UK center Jon Toth.
The popular NFL website currently has Toth ranked as its No. 2 center in this year’s NFL draft and as the No. 87 overall prospect in the field.
Here, have an excerpt from Toth’s scouting report on PFF:
Bottom line: Toth was not challenged in Kentucky’s scheme, but he executed it well, even with a step back in his grading in 2016. He has the power and frame to be a solid run-blocker, though he may be limited to more of a downhill scheme rather than one that heavily feature outside zone. He has potential to develop into a starter. [Pro Football Focus]
Other draft websites aren’t quite as high on Toth, but most consider him to be a top-five center and a player who will certainly hear his name called no later than the fifth or sixth round.
If it were up to our own Freddie Maggard, the president of the Jon Toth Fan Club of America, Toth would go No. 1 overall with a billion dollar signing bonus.
Kentucky’s leading rusher, Boom Williams, declared for the NFL Draft. The Wildcat’s leading receiver, in terms of yardage, quit the team and has since transferred. Even with the need to replace its two most explosive offensive weapons, Kentucky’s two most pressing questions entering spring practice are its receiving corps and defensive line.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is not a coach that tosses around unnecessary compliments. He, and other coaches, have bragged on the Cat pass catchers throughout 8 spring practices. That group has apparently answered the bell. Thus, one question remains: How and will the UK defensive line improve production and standing?
Production you say? 2016 defensive line starters DT Adrian Middleton, NT Naquez Pringle, and DE Courtney Miggins combined for 102 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 QB sacks, and just 1 QB hurry in 13 games.
In order for proper perspective take a look at these statistics. UK’s starting DT, NT, and DE averaged: 7.84 Tackles, 0.88 Tackle for Loss, 0.11 QB sack, and .07 QB hurry per game. These numbers emphasize desperation for improvement.
Two major components in UK’s 2017 defensive line projections are true sophomore defensive end TJ Carter and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kordell Looney. I caught up with both after Thursday’s practice:
Question: Is there a big difference in former DL Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh and Derrick LeBlanc?
TJ Carter: “Coach LeBlanc and Coach Brumbaugh learned from the same coach, Coach P. Both great coaches. We’re working on more fast-pace, penetration style. I’m 280 right now, want to play at 285. Want to improve play vs. the run, stay on gaps. Improve pass rush, play technique better.”
Kordell Looney: “Coach LeBlanc wants us to move faster, get more in, in same amount of time. So get 10 minutes of work in 8 minutes. He just wants us to play faster. I’m 300-pounds right now. I want to weigh more, want to play at least 305 this fall. I need to work on everything. It just takes work and practice.”
Question: How is it playing for new defensive coordinator Matt House?
TJ Carter: “Coach House is emphasizing strain, run to the ball, always run to the ball. He always talks about strain-strain-strain.”
Kordell Looney: “Coach House has way more energy. Coach House is on your butt, he knows everything. Everything he says is strain-strain-strain.”
Question: What was it like to play DE in SEC as a true freshman and play against Georgia Tech?
TJ Carter: “Going through season, coming in, getting a couple plays during the season helped me get experience. When I got a chance against Georgia Tech it was playing against the hometown team (Carter is from Atlanta-Tech did not offer), felt like a great opportunity.”
Looney is behind DT Adrian Middleton on the current depth chart. TJ Carter is running with the 1st defense. Judging by coach and player comments, I can foresee both having breakout seasons. If UK is to be better along its defensive front; Matt House will need both to play at a high level.
Defensive line play in the Southeastern Conference is vital. Matter of fact, it can be argued that quality defensive play can separate contenders from pretenders. Kentucky’s DL is in dire need of improvement in order for the Wildcats to achieve its lofty goals in 2017.
Kentucky running back Benny Snell aka Benny Tha Bandit is back with a brand new rap song for your Thursday morning listening pleasure.
It is called “Kick It Like FIFA” and it is the story of a young woman who would like to “kick it” (def: chill, hang out) like FIFA, the popular soccer video game franchise from EA Sports.
Red bottom, she his diva, Snell says.
Hear it for yourself below. I have no further comment.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
Mark Stoops has added a new punter to his punting rotation in the form of Matthew Panton, an Australian who is transferring to Kentucky from Columbia University.
Panton announced via Twitter that he will use his graduate transfer year to become a Wildcat and pursue his MBA at UK.
According to the bio on his former school’s website, Panton was a member of Columbia’s heavyweight rowing program and he is an experienced Australian Rules Football player.
In an interview for HerCampus.com, Panton said his favorite football sexual innuendo is, “I pin them deep.” He had a 41.1 yards-per-punt average in 2016 to back that up.
I don’t think there is anything left to know about him, really.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 9:00am
The focus of today’s top 10 is pretty obvious. Tonight, (at least) four future Kentucky Wildcats will take the stage at the McDonald’s All-American Game, which is where we’ll start things off.
1. The McDonald’s All-American Game is at 7 p.m.
Quade Green, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Nick Richards will all suit up for the East Team in tonight’s McDonald’s All-American Game, which airs at 7 p.m. on ESPN. From what I gather, the foursome has spent almost all of their time recruiting Mo Bamba and Kevin Knox to join them. Nick Roush has been churning out awesome coverage of the McDonald’s All-American festivities, so to prepare yourself, check it out:
- Five Leftovers from Day Two at the McDonald’s All-American Games
- How Hamidou Diallo is Preparing His Peers for Kentucky
- Kentucky Commits Use Alternative Recruiting Tactic: Cookies
- McDonald’s All-American Practice Thread
- Three Late Night Notes from Chicago
- Quade Green Wins the Powerade JamFest Skills Challenge
- Quade Green using his TV time to recruit Mohamed Bamba
- Coach Cal has Four Recruiters for Knox and Bamba at the McDonald’s All-American Game
2. KSR will have a live blog for the game
It’s been a few days since we’ve done a live blog, so if you need a fix, or just want to join some fellow Cats fans to talk about the game, check the site around 7 p.m.
3. Get in the mood with these highlights from practice
Impossible to really tell anything from a practice for an all-star game, but those midrange jump shots sure look nice.
4. Calipari finally offered Zion Williamson last night
After watching his mixtapes for months, I’ve been waiting for John Calipari to offer 2018 phenom Zion Williamson, and last night, he finally did. The 6’7″ 230 lbs. forward is considered the best player in the 2018 class by 247 Sports and has become a YouTube sensation for his explosive dunks, to the point even Drake has been spotted wearing his jersey. Here’s why:
Williamson visited Kentucky for the Kansas game earlier this year and said he was floored by the experience.
“Indescribable, the environment,” Williamson said. “That environment, I just can’t even describe it, it’s ridiculous.”
5. South Carolina fans really want him
It’ll be a while before Williamson makes his decision, but South Carolina fans have made it clear to the Spartanburg native that they want him, chanting “We want Zion” at a pep rally celebrating the team’s Final Four berth in Columbia a few days ago:
— Brad Fralick (@BradFralickWYFF) March 27, 2017
Plenty to focus on before we worry about that, such as…
6. Two new names on the radar
On Tuesday, John Caliapri reached out to two 2017 shooting guards: Mark Smith and Jemarl Baker. With the backcourt cupboard bare after this season, Calipari’s clearly going after depth, particularly guys that can shoot, and both guards can do just that. Smith was recently named Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois and was originally set to play baseball at Missouri, but an elbow injury forced him to focus on basketball instead. The Cats are obviously coming in late to his recruitment and will have to beat out schools like Illinois, Butler, Indiana, Ohio State, Texas, California, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri, which, given the fact that it’s Kentucky, probably won’t be too tough.
Meanwhile, four-star guard Jemarl Baker recently decommitted from Cal after Cuonzo Martin took the job at Missouri, and the Cats are on his list, along with Maryland, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, Duke, Marquette, Virginia, and ASU. He’s known as a great shooter, and the Cats will definitely be in need of those next season.
With the early signing period starting on April 12, it’s gonna be a fast and furious recruitment with both of these players, so stay tuned.
7. Don’t forget Derek Willis in the Reese’s College All-Star Game on Friday
Willis is headed to Phoenix this weekend after all, to play in the Reese’s College All-Star Game. The game will be a great chance for Willis to impress some scouts and further his NBA stock, and he’ll play alongside the likes of JJ Frazier, Moses Kingsley, and Bryce Alford. The game airs on CBS Sports Network at 6:30 PM ET on Friday night. We’ll be watching.
8. Those of you leaving nasty stuff on John Higgins’ roofing company’s Facebook page need to stop
I get that a lot of you blame Higgins’ questionable calls for Kentucky’s loss, and yeah, leaving fake bad reviews may seem funny, but when you think about it, it’s really not. It’s actually embarrassing and a horrible representation of our fanbase. The story has gone national, so please do everyone a favor and stop.
9. “Trading Spaces” is coming back!
I got way too excited yesterday when I heard that TLC is reviving “Trading Spaces,” the home improvement makeover show that ran from 2000-2008. The show was must-see TV for me during high school and college, and I’ll never forget the homeowners’ reactions when Hildi glued hay on the walls or when Doug redid a brick fireplace, which left one homeowner so upset that she could be heard sobbing off camera:
10. KSR starts in an hour
Are you ready?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 28th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
The first few days after the season ends are always an adjustment. Not only is there the sadness that Kentucky’s run is over, there’s a gaping void left by the one thing you’ve spent the past five, almost six, months focusing on. What do we do now that basketball’s over? I’ve spent the entire day asking myself that and have ten suggestions, starting with the obvious and most important.
1. The Spring Game
Friday, April 14, 7:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium, SEC Network
Hey, remember spring football? Freddie and Nick have done a great job holding down the fort for us while we’ve been wrapped up in roundball, and what better way to recalibrate than check in on Mark Stoops’ squad? The spring game is two weeks from Friday, giving you plenty of time to catch up. From what I gather, Stephen Johnson’s been doing really well and has been asked to eat 5,000 calories a day, which sounds like a dream life to me. Stay tuned on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for practice and scrimmage updates, and in between for our analysis as we slowly shift our focus to the gridiron. With enthusiasm for the program at maybe an all-time high, it’ll be an easy transition.
2. Basketball recruiting
McDonald’s All-American Game: Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN; Jordan Brand Classic: Friday, April 14
If you haven’t seen Nick’s coverage on the site the past two days, the McDonald’s All-American Game is tomorrow night and features (at least) four future Cats: Quade Green, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Nick Richards. If those four have their way, they’ll seen be joined by Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox soon, who have yet to decide on a school (both are targeting mid-late April decisions). Jumping right into the next team just as we are saying goodbye to the current one is always a tough transition, but watching the future Cats relentlessly go after Bamba and Knox has been entertaining. This tweet alone gave me a bit of a thrill:
Quade Greene just tried to break the east team huddle on "BBN"…four UK signees on that team…
— Garrett Moore (@SportsNightGM) March 27, 2017
The spring signing period starts April 12, so expect a LOT of coverage on Bamba, Knox, and UK’s latest target, shooting guard Mark Smith (read more about him here), in the coming weeks.
Spring meet runs Friday, April 7 through Friday, April 28
For a lot of you, this probably ranks #1. The spring meet starts next weekend, which means your office will be pretty empty on Friday afternoons for the next month. Nothing says spring like Keeneland, and nothing says Keeneland in the spring like girls in sundresses and wedges even if it’s still 55 degrees out. As someone who lives three hours away, I can’t wait for you all to rub it in on Instagram and Facebook.
Saturday, May 6
See above and multiply it by 1,000. Also, if you’ve missed it the past two weeks, we now have a horse racing writer, Chad Lashbrook, contributing to the site to prepare you for this year’s Run for the Roses. Each Wednesday leading up to the Derby, he’ll break down the top eight contenders. Click here to check out his most recent column.
5. UK Baseball
After losing the first four games, UK Baseball has gone 18-3, 5-1 in the SEC, UK’s best conference start since 2012. In his first season, Nick Mingione has his team rolling. The Cats are now ranked in all five baseball polls (who knew there were five polls?). I’m not a big baseball person, but the excitement around the program is palpable, and you can get in on it by checking out our KSR Baseball Podcast with Trey Huntsman and former UK Baseball Coach Keith Madison. Also, get out to the Cliff to watch UK take on Vandy this weekend.
6. The Masters
Is there anything more comforting than The Masters theme music? The Masters has been my go-to “get over basketball” event for years, and even though I’ve struggled to reconnect with the sport now that Tiger’s out (and may never be back), I try to get back into it every year. Nothing is better than watching Sunday at Augusta from the couch with the windows open, and the inevitable nap that follows.
7. Patio weather
Drinking and eating outside beats drinking and eating inside any day. It’s scientifically impossible to turn down an invitation to happy hour on a Friday afternoon when it’s 75 degrees and sunny out. Similarly, it’s scientifically impossible not to grill on a Sunday afternoon when it’s 75 degrees and sunny out. I’ll be doing a whole lotta both this weekend.
8. NBA Finals
April 15 – June 18
The playoffs begin in a few weeks, and right now, a handful of former Cats are on teams in contention:
- Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz
- Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies
- DeAndre Liggins, Cleveland Cavaliers
- James Young, Boston Celtics
- John Wall, Washington Wizards
- Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors
- Terrence Jones, Milwaukee Bucks
With eight games left, the Nuggets (Jamal Murray) and Bulls (Rajon Rondo) still have a shot as well.
9. NBA decisions/autograph tours
Early Entry Deadline: April 23; Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline: June 12
Who will stay and who will go to the Draft? De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, and Isaiah Briscoe seem to be the safe bets on going, while the rest of the team seems likely to stay. Wenyen Gabriel may test the waters, but I would imagine the only feedback he’ll get will be to return to Kentucky and get stronger. Those who do test the waters have until June 12 to make the final decision on staying/going, but will probably make their decisions shortly after the NBA Draft Combine May 9-14.
Those that decide to stay in the draft will start their autograph tours around the state and appearances on KSR, along with Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and Mychal Mulder. Once those dates/locations are available, we’ll pass them along to you.
10. Calipari’s 30 for 30
Thursday, April 13, ESPN
Sure, Cal’s 30 for 30, “One and Not Done,” may have had more oomph behind it had Kentucky made it to the Final Four, but I’m still looking forward to it. Also, it’s no coincidence that the documentary premieres the day after the spring signing period begins. I’m hoping to get my hands on an advanced copy to review next week, but in the meantime, this trailer will do:
One and Not Done. Going to be 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zzgEmmxuPI
— Dan Bayens (@danbayens) February 3, 2017
True freshman receiver Clevan Thomas Jr. did not ask to wear 18. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran surprised the early enrollee with the distinction of the number that has evolved into a status of consequence, distinction, and expectation for the Kentucky football program. The rookie from Miami understands its historical inference and is humbly willing to be judged in context to its storied past.
Full disclosure, I wore the number 18 at the University of Kentucky. However, I did not start the trend of numerical association with on-the-field achievement. That modern-day distinction belongs to Jacob Tamme.
I was no superstar. Nor was I as pretty as Randall Cobb. I am as Kentucky-country as catfish and cornbread but was never mentioned with the same reverence as home-state hero Jacob Tamme. Truth be known; unlike its latest owner Boom Williams, I never rushed for a touchdown in Commonwealth Stadium.
How I came to wear the now-famous number did not develop from some dramatic circumstance. Decades before dual numbers and recruiting decisions were being based off numerical promises, long-time UK equipment manager Tom Kalinowski randomly handed out numbers/jerseys to incoming freshmen in an assembly line type of operation at the start of training camp.
I didn’t care what number I wore. I moved to the back of the line so my vainer teammates could fight for their aesthetic preference. After the jerseys were divvied out in a piranha feeding frenzy type situation, there was just one QB acceptable number that remained on the table. That number just so happened to be 18. Today at the University of Kentucky, 18 is coveted and worn as a badge of honor.
I recently sat down with the UK’s newest number 18 and discussed spring practice, jersey expectation, and history. I found Clevan Thomas Jr. to be a humble yet confident young man who is eagerly taking advantage of an opportunity to earn early playing time. But, like with most true freshman, the learning curve is steep. That has not dissuaded the determined Thomas.
Question: How did you get the number 18, did you ask for it?
Clevan Thomas Jr: “No, I didn’t ask for it. Honestly, I didn’t expect to get 18, I thought I’d get my number which is 8. Coach Gran surprised me and was like, “You got 18.” That’s an honor because of Randall Cobb, Boom, and Jacob Tamme. 18 is really a special number here. I’m going to try to reach that gold standard held here with that number.”
Question: Going back, who are some of the 18’s in UK history that inspired you to be honored to wear the number?
Thomas Jr: “Jacob Tamme and Randall Cobb because they both made it in the NFL. That’s my dream right there. Since they made it, I got to work to make it too. Boom is a great RB who recently had the number 18 too.”
Question: Lots of expectation from wearing 18. Do you feel additional pressure?
Thomas Jr: “Feels good, instead of going out with a regular number that people have to make, the number 18 is already made, proven, and respected. My teammates look at me like, hey that’s a big number and I got to work hard because all the greats had that number. I have to work hard because everybody will have their eyes on that number. I can never really be them (Tamme-Cobb-Boom). I have to be myself. But when I put that number on I have to represent them well, with class and honor. Coach Gran put a lot of faith in me.”
Question: Tell me about your first college scrimmage.
Thomas Jr: “It was real-real fast. I just feel like I can get better. I can always get better. I made some mistakes, coach just told me not to get mad at myself. When I look in the mirror, I hold myself to a higher standard.”
Question: You played at the nation’s highest level of high school football in Florida’s 8A division. How different was Saturday’s scrimmage from football you’ve played in the past?
Thomas Jr: “There is no comparison. Scrimmage was way-way faster. I played in state championships, I feel like that Saturday’s scrimmage was really hard hitting, lots faster. I’m going to get better.”
Question: What is like to have a senior QB like Stephen Johnson, what have you learned from him?
Thomas Jr: “He’s so calm, poised in the pocket. I talk to him about my route running. Without him, I’d be a few steps back in the playbook. I’m honored to play beside him.”
The 18 File
Andy Molls, Safety/Returner, 1979-1982
Program’s 4th all-time leading punt return leader: 524 yards, 1 TD, 12.186 yards per. 87 yard return for TD vs. Vanderbilt in 1981. Led team in INT’s.
Otis Grigsby, Defensive End, 1998-2002
Recorded 18 career sacks, played for Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Minnesota Vikings.
Freddie Maggard, Blogger, 1987-1991
Has gone on to write 258 Kentucky Sports Radio posts, recorded 48 podcasts, and participated in 5 live remotes.
Jacob Tamme, Tight End, 2003-2007
All-time top pass-catching TE with 133 catches for 1,417 yards. 4th round selection by the Indianapolis Colts. Later played for the Denver Broncos, and currently is with the Atlanta Falcons. All three teams advanced to the Super Bowl.
Randall Cobb, Quarterback/Wide Receiver/Returner, 2008-2010
One of the all-time fan-favorites, Cobb scored 32 total touchdowns. Arguably the best football player to ever play at the University of Kentucky. Played quarterback, running back, receiver, and kick/punt returner. Drafted in the 2nd round by the Green Bay Packers where he continues to excel.
Boom Williams, Running Back, 2014-2016
Rushed for 2,511 career yards (7th in UK history) and 18 touchdowns. Owns top two single-season averages per rush attempt: 7.10 in 2015, 6.84 in 2016.
The origin of 18’s status was recently a topic of discussion on the Kentucky Sports Radio show. Ryan Lemond indicated, in a round-about-way, that I had started the tradition. Our founder and boss Matt Jones simply snickered in disagreement.
When I asked Clevan Thomas Jr. about which former 18’s he admired, the freshman WR understandably failed to mention my name. I showed him an old picture. His response, “(Laughter…laughter, and some more laughter) no way.”
My place in UK history has been cemented. I am the Fredo Corleone of Kentucky Wildcat 18s.
After spending one season as a redshirt, tight end/wide receiver Dakota Holtzclaw is transferring form Kentucky, a UK spokesman confirmed earlier today. An early enrollee from a year ago, the 6’7″ player’s most remarkable moment happened at last year’s spring game when he was on the wrong end of a collision with Derrick Baity.
Without Holtzclaw, Kentucky is expected to be under the 85-man scholarship limit this fall.
Former UK wide receiver Jeff Badet has landed at his new school, and he is keeping it in the Stoops family.
Badet announced today via Twitter that he will be an Oklahoma Sooner for his final season of college football:
— Jeff Badet (@uk_jb4) March 28, 2017
Kentucky’s leading receiver in 2016 will be eligible to play immediately without sitting a year. He caught seven touchdown passes in his three seasons in Lexington and will graduate this May.
Good luck to him.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 28th, 2017 @ 11:09am
Stephen Johnson is currently on my ideal diet of eat, eat, eat and then eat again.
At today’s practice, Johnson told reporters the staff wants him to eat 5,000 calories per day in order to add more weight to his frame. The new diet consists of four complete meals and four snacks each day.
With this new news, I will now walk to the fridge and reheat some of last night’s Domino’s pizza.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 5:30pm
A few weeks ago, The Washington Post ran a story that always gets run this time of year: the amount of money spent on college athletics is staggering, and disproportionate to the amount of money spent on academics. It’s an old narrative that gets trotted out every March to make everyone feel guilty about enjoying sports, but this particular piece took fire at UK specifically. The author, Will Hobson, pointed out that coaching salaries at UK (even for sports other than football and basketball) are rising at a much higher rate than faculty salaries; therefore, the school cares more about sports than academics.
Today, UK provost Tim Tracy, Dean of the College of Arts & Science Mark Kornbluh, and Chair of the Department of Chemistry Mark Meier fired back in an op-ed for the Herald-Leader, defending UK Athletics, which they argue is not only self-sufficient, but helps out academics, most notably in the form of the new $110 million Jacobs Science Building, $65 million of which was funded by the athletic department.
But salaries for coaches have not deterred our progress. In fact, the ability of athletics to fund vital infrastructure on our campus — and pay its own bills entirely — has, in many ways, made us more competitive for academic and research talent, not less.
In fact, the UK Athletics investment in the Jacobs Science Building alone is greater than all the coaches’ salaries combined for multiple years.
There’s a lot more logic where that came from over at the Herald-Leader, so go check it out.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 2:15pm
We now interrupt your misery to bring you a bit of a distraction. You’re looking at Josh Ali, a three-star wide receiver/athlete that is signed on to play football at Kentucky next season. Ali is so fast — “HOW FAST IS HE” — that his cleats broke apart while he was running at a camp down in Florida yesterday. Unfortunately, video of said run doesn’t appear to exist, but Ali did pose with the torn up cleats afterwards:
— FOOTBALLVILLE (@FOOTBALLVILLETV) March 26, 2017
— Josh Ali (@_JoshAli6) March 26, 2017
Good news: Adidas is sending him a new pair. Also, Kentucky is a Nike school, so he won’t have to worry about crappy shoes for much longer. Check out Ali’s speed for yourself in his senior highlight film:
The Kentucky Wildcats conducted its first spring scrimmage on Saturday. Both Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran praised QB Stephen Johnson’s efficiency, composure and decision making during the two-hour practice session.
With the vast majority of UK related media in Memphis, hacks that actually attended the post-practice press conference surrounded the Wildcat QB once the coaches completed their brief remarks. Not me. I turned my attention to junior OLB/DE Denzil Ware.
Ware is rated as one of the SEC’s top OLB/DE hybrid defenders for the 2017 season. He partners with fellow OLB Josh Allen to form a formidable edge combination. Ware finished 2016 with 70 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5.5 QB sacks. The following comments are from Saturday’s conversation:
Question: What do you feel more comfortable with; a hand in the dirt defensive end, a standup outside linebacker, or a combination of both?
Denzil Ware: “Just a combination of both. When it’s 3rd and long and I got a chance to go, I like to put my hand in the dirt and get as comfortable as I can be so I can get out of my stance as fast as I can. Overall I like to stand up because it gives me a better chance to see everything, see the whole formation, and see receivers in coverage. But I really love my hand in the dirt.”
Question: With you and Josh Allen now being juniors, do defensive players look at you two as leaders-examples, and do they look at you differently than they did a year ago?
Ware: “Yes sir, I tend to notice that some of the younger guys look up to us. My job here is to play ball and be the best teammate I can be. I see myself as a leader. Lot of guys ask me questions at times. I take them guys under my wing and treat them guys as if they were my blood, my family.”
Question: How often do you and Josh Allen compete?
Ware: “We compete every day. We competed today to see who got the most sacks, most tackles. Everything is a competition inside our meeting room. We got a lot of things to compete for, at the end of the day we’re trying to do better than we did last year.”
Question: How are the big guys (Defensive Line) doing upfront?
Ware: “They doing good. I got a lot of faith in my interior guys and they got a lot of faith in me and Josh. We got two great coaches that came in here and they know what they’re doing (DL Coach Derrick LeBlanc and OLB Coach Dean Hood). We got a wonderful staff, I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”
Ware on young defensive players:
“TJ Carter and Kordell Looney are standing out. The guy that’s surprising me the most is Kengera Daniel. He goes hard every day, don’t complain. Just makes plays and stands out to me the most. The new freshman Jamin Davis surprised me, he has a pick in every practice. Bannerman and Watson improve every day.”
Question: Fans that visited Commonwealth Stadium saw the giant poster featuring former Wildcat greats Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. You and Josh Allen combined for more QB sacks and tackles for loss than Dupree and Smith during their final season in Lexington. Is it your turn now?
Ware: “Yes sir, it’s our turn. Me and Josh had a talk this summer and again on spring break. When we leave here we don’t want to be compared to Bud and Z, we want to be Denzil and Josh. It’s always a compliment when Josh and I are compared to Za’Darius and Bud. But at the end of the day, I’m Denzil Ware and he’s Josh Allen.
We love competing and we just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. But passing them and letting the SEC know that UK got two guys on the edge that are willing to do the same thing as Bud and Z, that’s pretty good cause now they respect us more on Saturdays and when we’re in a bowl game next year. It’s our turn to shine.”
*2014-Dupree and Smith combined for 19.5 TFL and 12 QB sacks.
**2016-Ware and Allen combined for 20.5 TFL and 12.5 QB sacks.
Kentucky returns to the practice field on Monday.