On Saturday afternoon, I sat down and wrote an entire post about how no matter →
Football Season Coverage
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:
1: Most Confident
5: Least Confident
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.
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.
Inside Linebacker: 2
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.
Defensive Line: 4
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.
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.
— UK Stoops Troops (@UKStoopsTroops) February 12, 2017
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.
— UK Stoops Troops (@UKStoopsTroops) February 12, 2017
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.
— Coach Lamar Thomas (@LamarCoachT) November 26, 2016
By Kaan Solagan on ©February 12th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
Bill Connelly’s S&P+ Analytics System had Missouri pinned as the most improved offense nationally in 2016, with a jump from No. 127 to No. 42 according to the rankings system. They increased their scoring by 17 points in just one season of change under Barry Odom. Kentucky joined in on the fun as well, running wild behind Benny and Boom in the last half of the season.
The Tigers weren’t the only SEC team to improve exponentially on offense. Kentucky was the fourth-most improved offense in the country, going from 104th in S&P+ in 2015 to 53rd in 2016.
The Wildcats re-tooled their offense after struggles early in the season. They became more of a run-centric team with running backs Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell Jr.
That changed helped Kentucky average 34.7 points per game over its final 7 games, including a 41-38 upset of Louisville in the regular-season finale. Overall, the Wildcats increased their scoring output from 24.7 points per game in 2015 to 30.0 points per game in 2016. They averaged 6.26 yards per play last season after getting 5.47 yards per play in 2015.
Kentucky’s similar rise in offensive rankings was no surprise with the improved performances of the offensive line and the backfield play. The losses of Badet, Boom and Toth will hurt, but the majority of the offense will be returning next season. Even after a huge increase in offensive stats this past season, more improvement is to be expected with a veteran Stephen Johnson running the show for next year.
Before you see a Kentucky recruit do some unbelievable things with a basketball, see what future Kentucky footballer Tyrell Ajian did streaking down the paint last night.
— _tyrellajian (@_tyrellajian) February 11, 2017
Ajian’s take was impressive, but it’s about to get much crazier. Zion Williamson will make your jaw drop, even when he misses. This is what the No. 2 player in the class of 2018 did last night.
How confident are you in the Kentucky offense going into spring practice? Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has constructed a style that fits the strengths of his personnel and personality.
Let’s look ahead and assign a confidence grade for each position group. Scale is: 1-being extremely confident and 5-shows little hope for production.
Offensive Line: 1.5
John Schlarman returns four starters and eight rotational linemen that were listed by the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic as the conference’s top group. Why the 1.5 instead of an endorsement ranking of 1? Simple, Kentucky has to replace its generational center, Jon Toth.
Just how that will happen is yet to be determined. Redshirt freshman Drake Jackson could possibly inherit Toth’s spot which would allow Bunchie Stallings to stay at guard; a position in which he excelled in 2016. Or, Stallings kicks over to center which would open a starting guard position that would most likely be filled by All SEC Freshman Team member Logan Stenberg.
Left tackle is in capable hands with Cole Mosier and Landon Young. Right tackle returns Kyle Meadows and George Asafo-Adjei. Guard Nick Haynes is the leader; redshirt freshman Luke Fortner is expected to play a utility role in 17.
Regardless, the big fellas have a world of momentum entering spring practice to go along with a dose of humble pie that was served up by the Georgia Tech front seven in the Taxslayer Bowl.
Stephen Johnson is Kentucky’s starting quarterback. Period. This position gets interesting at the number two spot. Redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak has impressed coaches and teammates alike. He’ll likely push Johnson during spring practice and at least solidify the backup job.
An unwritten football rule is that players do not lose starting jobs due to injury. Enter Drew Barker. A successful back surgery provides a glimmer of hope, but exactly when he’ll be available for full-contact football is still in question.
True freshman Danny Clark is on campus and in full spirits that he will immediately contend for the starting quarterback job. That confidence is a trait that the coaches love about the rookie. Clark’s early enrollment will boost his “Welcome to the SEC” moment. It will be interesting to see the youngster face college defenders. Walker Wood is not expected to participate as he rehabilitates an injured knee.
Running Back: 2.5
Benny Snell will have a target on his back next fall. Opposing defenses will be in full understanding of the talents of the rising sophomore. Snell will have relief in the Wildcat as Lynn Bowden will potentially add a new element to the offense. Snell is special and is now the standard for all incoming Kentucky running backs to be measured against.
AJ Rose has the potential and intangibles to be the real deal. We evaluated him at an extremely high level coming out of high school and he’s made the most of his redshirt season by gaining weight, strength, confidence, and experience. Rose also gained his teammates respect by simulating opposing, mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Justin Thomas.
The Rose/Snell combo is certainly a feature that many will be anxious to see in the spring game. Sihiem King also returns after he showed his worth by going for over 75-yards against Tennessee in Knoxville.
The 2.5 rating is based on Bryant Koback’s unknown health status and AJ Rose’s inexperience. Lessons learned tell us that UK will need to enter fall camp with four healthy and capable running backs to hold up to the perils of the Southeastern Conference.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: 2.5
2.5 grade is solely based on untested contributors such as Lynn Bowden, Clevan Thomas, JaVonte Richardson, and possibly Josh Ali or Isiah Epps. The rookies could provide a spark for the departed Ryan Timmons and Jeff Badet. Again, inexperience is the only knock on this group.
Senior Dorian Baker finished 2016 strong. His leadership and production will be vital. Garrett Johnson is expected to be the deep threat. Tavin Richardson showed glimpses of being a featured WR in his first season of game action. Jabari Greenwood, Blake Bone, and Kayaune Ross will compete for the X, or outside receiver position that has to increase production in the Red Zone.
Collectively, Lamar Thomas has the most talented group of pass catchers in recent memory. With a talented haul of rookies coming to campus in June, spring practice will be important to establish a rotation going into fall camp. In other words, it’s time to produce or be passed over.
Tight Ends CJ Conrad, Greg Hart, and Justin Rigg have Vince Marrow very excited to get to work. As an individual position, TE would be graded a 1 on this scale as UK will have three legitimate passing targets and two proven, high-level blockers in Conrad and Hart. With a permanent move to TE, 6’7 Dakota Holtzclaw could be another option.
We know who Stephen Johnson is and what he’s made of after the JUCO quarterback valiantly filled in for an injured Drew Barker in week three. The offensive line is a proven entity but will forced to prove its merits without Jon Toth. Receiver and RB were assigned grades based on the unspecified production from redshirt and true freshman.
Overall, on paper Kentucky’s offensive confidence level is at a much higher mark than this time a year ago. But, football isn’t played on paper. Spring practice is a time for individual competition which will lead to separation on the depth chart. Those that enjoy and welcome competition will move forward. Those that don’t, won’t.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 10th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
This afternoon, former Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett announced he would not be attending the NFL Draft this year, despite being the projected No. 1 overall selection by the Cleveland Browns.
A few hours later, Garrett posted a video directed toward Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys begging the franchise to trade up in the Draft to select him.
First he doesn’t want to even be in attendance to hold up a Cleveland Browns jersey, and now he’s begging other teams to trade up to take him so he never has to put one on…
Is anyone actually surprised?
In his three-year career at A&M, Garrett racked up 141 total tackles, 31 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and one interception, making it easy to see why he’ll likely be the first name taken off the board on April 27. By whom? That’s the question of the hour.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 10th, 2017 @ 8:30pm
Morehead State head coach Preston Spradlin joined Matt tonight on Hey Kentucky! to discuss the Eagles’ rise to the tope of the standings in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Watch the interview here:
Jeremy Jarmon also joined Matt to discuss UK’s new football hires, Kentucky’s upcoming matchup against Alabama, and Calipari threatening to bench players if they don’t play defense.
Watch the entire episode after the jump:
By Nick Roush on ©February 09th, 2017 @ 9:45pm
Last night on Kentucky Sports Radio dot com, I said Stoops is in “no rush” to hire two new assistants, and for fans to expect news to happen “just before the start of spring practice.” Less than 24 hours later, I’m writing about Stoops’ two new assistant coaches.
The addition of Dean Hood and Derrick LeBlanc have not been made official by UK, but multiple reports indicate LeBlanc will replace Jimmy Brumbaugh as the defensive line coach while Hood will serve as the special teams and outside linebackers coach.
LeBlanc was a member of the LSU coaching staff for four years, facing Kentucky twice in Death Valley. In 2000 they defeated the Cats 34-0. In his second stint with the Tigers, they took down Kentucky 35-7 on their way to the BCS title in 2011. LeBlanc avoided the 2007 upset at Commonwealth Stadium by one year.
Hood traveled to Kentucky twice during his time as EKU’s head coach. The Colonels lost to the Cats 37-12 in 2009, but in 2015 they should have won. Luckily, Dorian Baker saved Stoops from embarrassment
It’s much more entertaining from Kentucky’s perspective.
The two coaches have a combined 47 years of coaching experience.
Entering his 30th year as a coach, Dean Hood started coaching in the secondary. Prior to his nine-year stint as the EKU’s head coach (two OVC titles and three playoff appearances), he spent five years on the staff in the mid-90s, helping the Colonels reach three playoffs. Between his time in Richmond, Hood spent one year at Ohio University and seven seasons as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator.
LeBlanc began his coaching career as a GA for Nick Saban at LSU in 2000. LeBlanc bounced around the lower ranks as a defensive line coach before returning to LSU as an assistant strength coach from 2008-11. In his final year the Tigers lost to Alabama in the BCS Title rematch. LeBlanc went to Wyoming for a year, then returned to the south for two years at Southern Miss. After coordinating a JUCO defense for a year, he returned to the D-Line at North Texas where he joined former UK wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord. The Mean Green finished the season with a 37-31 loss to Army in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
LeBlanc Played on Both Sides of the Ball
A native of Baton Rouge, LeBlanc was a four-year letterman for Northwestern State in Louisiana from 1992-96, not to be confused with the Northeast Louisiana Indians who beat Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium 21-14 in 1994. LeBlanc was used on both the offensive and defensive lines.
He believes knowing how to play offensive line helps him teach defensive line. “I can teach a young guy how to beat that guard, how to beat that center, to beat that double-team, because I know what’s coming from the other side of the line of scrimmage.”
LeBlanc’s Attitude will Put a Smile on Your Face
You’ll understand after watching this short video.
LeBlanc has an established reputation as a player’s coach. He should fit in well with Stoops’ young staff.
It’s Hood’s Second Courtship with Kentucky
After Hood was fired by EKU at the conclusion of the 2015 season, Mark Stoops tried to convince Hood to make the short drive up I-75 to join his staff. Hood turned down the chance to replace Andy Buh as the special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. After spending a year as the associate head coach at Charlotte, Hood has reportedly decided to take the same job he considered a year ago.
Stoops has done this before. He tried to convince Eddie Gran to replace Neal Brown. After the Shannon Dawson experiment failed, Gran couldn’t turn down Stoops again. If Hood produces results similar to Gran’s, the Cats are in good shape.
Family Day just got More Crowded
Every Tuesday night at the practice facility is family night. The wives and children of the coaches are all over the facility as practice concludes, capping off the evening with a communal meal. LeBlanc has three and Hood has four children to add to the Tuesday night chaos.
Hood Held Camps with Urban Meyer
A former coach in Ohio, this camp with Urban was held in Harpersfield Township, Ohio during his EKU tenure.
There’s Much More to Know
Until UK it becomes official and LeBlanc and Hood make it to campus, they remain somewhat of a mystery. I can only Google so much. At this point, the wait should not last much longer.
It’s never too early to discuss July’s supercilious display of media overindulgence that is also known as the SEC Football Media Days. With a 2016 resurgence, Kentucky has nearly joined its peers and entered the year-round football news cycle. The Wildcats will take on a new role of expectation in Hoover.
Let’s take a look at some predictable Media Day’s storylines:
Alabama will most likely be voted as kings of the conference’s financial backbone. Nick Saban will be in a worse than normal mood following his team’s loss to Clemson in the national title game. Some are wondering if his shine is starting to ware off in Tuscaloosa. Not me; got to beat the Kings to be the King. Alabama will and should be preeminent favorites to repeat.
Vanderbilt was the East’s trendy and hip sleeper discussion a year ago. The Commodores conducted itself with distinction on the podium and deservingly drew rave reviews. Vandy finished 6-7 but did earn a bowl bid after shocking Tennessee at home. LB Zach Cunningham’s decision to forego his senior season may hamper Derek Mason’s defense. However, RB Ralph Webb will provide offensive stability after wisely choosing to return for his senior year.
I can foresee South Carolina being this year’s “feel-good” underdog story. Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks exceeded expectation by qualifying for the postseason behind true freshman quarterback Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel. Muschamp has also recruited at a very high level and returns the majority of his team.
I will be in the minority on this one, but consider me skeptical. While vastly improved from the 3-9 fiasco that was Steve Spurrier’s swan song, I have to see more from Carolina prior to hopping on the Sandstorm bandwagon.
The West could be wild again. LSU lost its receiving corps and Leonard Fournette. Auburn could resurface into national relevance with its revamped defense and former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham. My sleeper from the other side of the league is Kentucky’s permanent cross-divisional opponent, Mississippi State. Dan Mullen may have blundered his way through last summer’s Media Days, but he’s an exceptional play caller with a dynamic QB and a haul of high-level, junior college talent.
Running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb decided against early entry to the professional ranks. So did outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. All three would have been drafted. While the jury is still out on Kirby Smart the head coach, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Georgia will have the most talented team in the East with a phenomenal signing class to even further resupply its roster. Signal caller Jacob Eason should benefit from a year’s experience but the Dawgs must rebuild an offensive line that underachieved a year ago and develop a go-to receiver.
I’m not saying the event won’t be attended by national headline grabbing players, but 2017’s allotment will be less recognizable than the prior year. The SEC will again refurbish the NFL with a truck-load of talent. But, those departures will leave a more than usual and noticeable void in name-recognition in July.
2016 was not a banner year in the Southeastern Conference. It finished 6-8 vs. Power 5 opponents in the regular season and 6-6 in bowl games. Many will argue the reason behind its slightly downward trajectory was the lack of quality quarterbacking. Inquiries will be plentiful, but the question remains; who will fill that role in 17?
Could Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald or Alabama’s Jalen Hurts burst into Heisman contention? Fitzgerald finished 3rd in the league’s rushing category with 1375-yards to go along with 2423 through the air. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts racked up honors after leading his team to an undefeated season and title game appearance by totaling 3734 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Missouri’s Drew Lock tossed around a notebook full of statistics, but Mizzou may continue to struggle. Lock is considered by many to be a “system QB”. Will a star surface from a group of super, rising sophomores that include: UGA’s Jacob Eason, Carolina’s Jake Brantley, or Ole Miss’s Shea Patterson?
A third category is a collection of returning starters that may not be flashy, but were productive while leading their teams to bowl games: Stephen Johnson-Kentucky, Austin Allen-Arkansas, Danny Etling-LSU, and Kyle Shurmer-Vanderbilt.
Media Days will be a curious capsule of quarterback analysis. 10/14 teams return starters.
In a scene out of the 80’s, the running backs which will be the most identifiable stars of the event. RB’s will have serious podium juice behind a collection of 1000-yard rushers: Nick Chubb-UGA, Benny Snell-Kentucky, Kamryn Pettiway-Auburn, Derrius Guice-LSU, Rawleigh Williams-Arkansas, Ralph Webb-Vanderbilt, Damerea Crockett-Missouri, and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams.
The Southeastern Conference was hit hard by attrition in this grouping. Kentucky LB Jordan Jones is the league’s top returning tackler after the junior-to-be capped off an All SEC season with 109 stops. The conference’s 2nd leading tackler is Jones’ teammate, Safety Mike Edwards.
This is where the SEC is in dire need of fresh appeal. LSU’s Arden Key is its top returning sack artist after registering 12.5 in 2016. Following Key is a slew of defenders with 7.5-7 sacks including UK’s Josh Allen.
As you can see above, the SEC’s collection of running backs is significant in production and pizazz. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the its pass catchers. Missouri and Texas A&M have WR’s with a high number of catches, but unless something outlandish is said on the podium, this category may struggle to move the needle.
Ed Orgeron will be a must see. I could listen to him talk all day.
With so many unknowns going into next season, spring practice could act as a barometer for preseason prognostication. Going to be another exciting year. But, will the league be able to reclaim its indisputable title as college football’s premier conference? Stay tuned.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 09th, 2017 @ 3:25pm
Ready for some more breaking news? According to Kyle Tucker, UK will also hire former EKU head coach Dean Hood as its special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach. Hood spent last season as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach at Charlotte after being fired by EKU in 2015. As the head coach of the Colonels from 2008-15, Hood’s record was 55-38. Under his hand, the Colonels won two OVC Championships and went to the playoffs three times. Prior to taking over at EKU, he was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest from 2001-2007.
Hood will take over as special teams coordinator for Matt House, who was just promoted to defensive coordinator, and outside linebackers coach for DJ Eliot, who left for Colorado a few weeks back.
Welcome back to the Bluegrass, Coach Hood.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 09th, 2017 @ 1:50pm
You’re looking at North Texas defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc, who, according to FootballScoop.com, is expected to join Kentucky “in a similar capacity.” LeBlanc will likely fill the void left by former defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, who left the program to be the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Maryland earlier this week.
LeBlanc has been with North Texas for one season, prior to which he coached at Southern Miss, Wyoming, LSU, and Pearl River Community College.
|2016||North Texas||Defensive Line|
|2015||Pearl River CC||Defensive Coordinator|
|2013-14||Southern Miss||Defensive Line|
|2008-11||LSU||Asst. Strength and Conditioning Coach|
|2006-07||Missouri State||Defensive Line|
|2005||Arkansas Tech||Defensive Line|
|2001-04||Henderson State||Defensive Line|
|2000||LSU||Defensive Graduate Assistant/Defensive Line|
I’m not positive, but I’m guessing he has no relation to “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 09th, 2017 @ 11:45am
Ready for a heartwarming story? Larry Vaught has one for us about Landon Young, UK’s star offensive lineman from Lafayette. Young spent his Super Bowl Sunday hanging out with the residents at Cambridge Place, a skilled nursing facility in Lexington. While the rest of his teammates were watching the game back on campus, Young chatted with residents, including the mother of a former UK and Lafayette great:
One of the more touching moments came when he visited with Lillie Owens, the mother of the late Dallas Owens. Like Young, Dallas Owens was an all-state player (1974) at Lafayette who went to Kentucky. He became a starting safety and during UK’s 10-1 season in 1977 he returned an interception for a score in a win over Penn State.
Dallas Owens passed away in July of 2013. Among the pallbearers at his funeral were former UK teammates Derrick Ramsey, Jerry Blanton and Felix Wilson along with former UK basketball player Derrick Hord.
Lillie Owens had a huge smile as Young sat down to visit with her and mainly listen to her talk about her son’s career.
Kid is awesome, and even converted a Louisville fan while he was there. Check out the full story from Vaught at the link below.
— Makayla Epps is a Finalist for TWO National POY Awards. If you didn’t realize how good of a season Makayla Epps is having, this should be your wakeup call. Epps is a finalist for the Naismith and Dawn Staley Player of the Year Awards. She’s one of 30 finalists for the Naismith POY Award and one of 19 finalists for the Staley Award, given to the nation’s best guard.
Epps is averaging 17.2 points per game, she’s scored more than 20 points in her last four games and she recently moved into fifth-place on the UK scoring list with 1,620 career points. Epps and the Kentucky women’s basketball team return to action tomorrow night in Athens, Georgia at 7:00 p.m.
— Monk and Fox are Wooden Award Finalists. Kentucky is one of three schools with multiple players on the twenty-person list, joined by Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky’s freshmen guards are two of the six freshmen on the late season list for the player of the year award.
— “Forgive me Lord! I counted my chickens before they hatched!” This announcer’s call at the end of regulation in a game between University of Montevallo (remember them?) and Young Harris College makes the call better than the buzzer beater.
Unfortunately, this announcer couldn’t get his chickens to bring home a win, falling in overtime to Montevallo 89-83.
— No news on two new football coaches. Now that the recruiting season has concluded, Mark Stoops is searching for replacements for D.J. Eliot and Jimmy Brumbaugh. The deadline for the special teams position is today and the deadline for defensive line/outside linebackers assistant is Monday, February 13. In no need to rush, I expect Stoops to announce both hires at the same time just before the start of spring practice. If you know a guy, tell him to click here to apply for a coaching position.
— Two Football Guys you need to Follow. We’ve reach the six week stretch from National Signing Day to Spring Practice where absolutely nothing is happening in the world of Kentucky football, yet it’s arguably the most important time of the year. The players are lifting and conditioning almost everyday, doing the hard work nobody sees. However, you can see glimpses of it by following the strength coaches, Coach Ed (Corey Edmund, @UKCoachEd) and Mark Hill (@UKCoachHill). Here’s a small sample:
These pictures become even more fun to follow when the players start chirping at one another on Twitter, like when the outside linebacker (Denzil Ware) passes the cornerback (Lonnie Johnson). This entire thread is worth a read.
— zel (@ejhs18) February 7, 2017
— 31 Football Players on the Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll. This list is reserved for those who play football, cross country, soccer and volleyball and examines their grades from the entire academic year. Making honor roll is hard enough without having to play a sport. They deserve all the credit they get, and then some more.
- Drew Barker-Integrated Strategic Communication
- C.J. Conrad-Communication
- Greg Hart-Marketing
- Nick Haynes-Business Management/Economics
- Jacob Hyde-Social Work
- Jojo Kemp-Community and Leadership Development
- DeNiro Laster-Community and Leadership Development
- Tate Leavitt-Community and Leadership Development
- Courtney Love-Community and Leadership Development
- Austin MacGinnis-Finance/Marketing
- Naquez Pringle-Community and Leadership Development
- Kynan Smith-Health Promotion
- Ryan Timmons-Community and Leadership Development
- Jon Toth-Mechanical Engineering
- Charles Walker-Finance/Marketing
See the rest of the honorees after the jump.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2017 @ 9:00am
Well, in case you’ve been under a rock, the Patriots pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history last night, erasing a 25-point deficit to force overtime and bring home their fifth Super Bowl title. Like the Pats or not, you have to give them and Brady credit; at halftime, it looked like the Falcons were on their way to a rout, but Brady led his team to 31 unanswered points, cementing his legacy as the greatest quarterback in history. It feels weird to write that sentence after everyone said the same thing about Peyton Manning a few years back, but with five Super Bowl rings and four Super Bowl MVP honors, it’s hard to argue against Brady’s case.
Meanwhile, let’s turn our attention to matters at home, which are, well, not ideal. Here’s today’s agenda:
1. First, Calipari will be on the SEC Coaches Teleconference
With three losses in the last four games, Cal has some ‘splaining to do about his young squad, and we’ll see how he responds to reporters on today’s SEC Coaches Teleconference. Cal’s up around 11:35 a.m. ET, so check back around lunch for a recap.
2. Tony Barbee will handle the pre-LSU presser
Cal is handing his pre-LSU media opp to Tony Barbee, who will give his spin on Kentucky’s downward slide around 2:45 p.m. this afternoon. Calipari was blunt Saturday night about his squad’s shortcomings, telling reporters he sensed trouble coming after the Tennessee game.
“Sometimes you gotta hit bottom, and maybe we have hit bottom, maybe we haven’t hit bottom. But I knew after Tennessee we had an issue. I said, ‘You’re going to lose the next two or three if you don’t change. We’re not passing the ball, we’re turning it over, we’re making hard plays, we’re making cute plays. We kind of got away, and we gotta get it back. At the end of the day, we know how they can play because we’ve all seen it. Now we see them at their worst. OK, now it’s a choice: do you want to be at your worst, do you want to be at your best?”
As someone yearning for the fun, fast team we all grew to love in the non-conference, please oh please want to be at your best, Cats.
3. Calipari will be back for his call-in show
Thoughts out to the call screeners, because this one could be interesting. Saturday night opened a Pandora’s Box of complaints from fans who have been waiting in the wings to gripe about Cal and the downfalls of the one-and-done system. Megan Calipari didn’t hold back while addressing those critics on Twitter yesterday:
— Megan Calipari (@MeganteCalipari) February 5, 2017
Tune into WLAP at 6 p.m. for fireworks.
4. Who’s sick now?
If you’re like me, you’ve somehow convinced yourself that maybe the entire team has just been sick with the virus going around the Lodge, which would explain (but not excuse) their funk the past two weeks. De’Aaron Fox was able to play Saturday night, but wasn’t 100%, and Calipari said Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard were also ill. Hopefully, the virus hasn’t claimed any new victims this week.
5. ICYMI, the Georgia game will tip off at 6 p.m. ET
Mark your calendars for the February 18th showdown in Athens for 6 p.m. Considering the Bulldogs forced overtime in Lexington and Kentucky has lost its last two road games, that game seems way scarier than it did a few weeks back.
6. How far will Kentucky fall in the Top 25?
The Cats are currently eighth in the AP Poll and sixth in the Coaches Poll. How far will they fall after an overtime win over Georgia and a 22-point drubbing at Florida? Even though the rest of the Top 10 also struggled, I have a feeling the voters won’t be nearly as merciful to the Cats as they were last week. I predict they’ll wind up somewhere around 15th.
Let’s switch to something positive…
7. Did you see Kentucky Football’s Super Bowl commercial?
Pretty awesome. Unfortunately, there was bad football news last night, too…
8. Jimmy Brumbaugh is leaving for Maryland
247 Sports’ Ryan Bartow broke the news last night that UK’s defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh is leaving Lexington to go to Maryland, where he’ll be the Terrapins’ new co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Brumbaugh helped develop some of Kentucky’s most successful players in recent years, such as Bud Dupree, Za’Darius Smith, CJ Johnson, and Donte Rumph, so the news is discouraging to say the least. He’ll join fellow former UK assistant Andy Buh on the Terrapins’ staff.
Crab cakes and stealing UK football assistants; that’s what Maryland does, apparently.
9. What did we think of this (now-deleted) tweet from De’Aaron Fox?
This, of course, was probably a reference to Malik Monk laughing at the Florida student section singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him in the final seconds of Saturday’s rout, which didn’t come across well on cameras. Fox deleted the tweet, but honestly, I thought it was pretty harmless and funny.
10. Today is also UK Baseball and Softball Media Day
Nick Mingione and Rachel Lawson will preview the upcoming seasons this afternoon at the Commonwealth Stadium media room. We’ll bring you any big moments.
Radio in an hour…