Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Blake Bone saved the best for last.
The 6’5″ Kentucky wide receiver’s career was marred by inconsistency, but the South Carolina native was able to put it all together in his senior season. Bone caught 13 passes for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. The best catch of his career came when Kentucky fans least expected it.
On the road against the eventual SEC Champs, Kentucky got out to a fast start thanks to a Josh Allen interception. Unfortunately, the UK offense was forced to settle for a field goal. A Georgia touchdown on the following drive put Kentucky in danger, but the Cats had one more response, thanks to Bone’s unbelievable 45-yard over-the-shoulder reception.
“How did he catch that?” Gary Danielson asked. I still have no answer.
– CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 18, 2017
That drive ended with a field goal. Georgia was able to run away with the game after the Cats left too many points on the board.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 23rd, 2018 @ 8:30pm
The coolest name in all of college football is signed on to play at Kentucky next season, as three-star running back Kavoisey Smoke joined the Big Blue Nation.
Tonight, the newest Kentucky running back joined Matt on Hey Kentucky! to talk about all things football, including his recruitment, the Wildcat backfield, and his relationship with Benny Snell.
Most importantly, Matt asked him how he got his incredible name.
Take a look:
For more the entire episode, check it out below:
By Freddie Maggard on ©February 23rd, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Vince Marrow could have up to four NFL caliber tight ends in his meeting room come fall camp. That’s a bold statement. I guess in today’s world that could be considered a hot take.
Regardless, even while rehabilitating an injury, CJ Conrad would have been drafted this year if he had decided to forego his last year of eligibility. He’s back and joined by Justin Rigg to go along with a pair of highly talented freshmen: Keaton Upshaw and Brenden Bates.
Let’s take a look:
Greg Hart | 6’5, 245 | Graduated Senior
-Transfer from Nebraska
-Played in 25 games with 2017. Caught 9 passes for 57-yards, and 1 touchdown.
-Solid blocker as a fullback/H-back.
-Traveled to Ethiopa on a service/educational trip. Graduated with a marketing degree and is currently working on a second degree in communications.
-Excellent teammate and leader. Hart will prosper in whatever post-UK endeavors he encounters. Respect.
CJ Conrad | 6’5, 250 | Senior
-All-SEC performer, 2-time Mackey Award Watch List. Should again be on several preseason honors lists.
-Opponents bracketed Conrad in 2017 after catching 2 TD passes in the team’s first two games. Excellent blocker, considered by some analysts as the most complete TE in the Southeastern Conference.
-Suffered a season-ending injury vs. Georgia. Had surgery on November 21st.
-Averaged 17.9 yards per catch in 2017.
-Has 9 career TD receptions.
-Career: 50 catches, 697-yards, 9 TD’s.
-Career day vs. New Mexico State: 5 receptions, 133-yards, and 1 TD.
-Led all SEC freshman TE’s with 15 catches in 2015. Named 3rd Team Freshman All American. All SEC Freshman Team.
Justin Rigg | 6’6, 250 | Junior
-2 catches for 34-yards vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl. Averaged 17-yards per catch.
-2017: 3 catches, 40-yards.
-Excels in on line-of-scrimmage or blocking from fullback position.
Brenden Bates | 6’5, 245 | Freshman
-Bigger yet similar version of CJ Conrad coming out of high school.
-Class of 2018 Top 20 TE in the nation.
-Caught 22 passes for 303-yards, and 5 touchdowns as a senior at Archbishop Moeller.
-Has the skill and physical demeanor to compete for immediate playing time. Accomplished blocker and H-back/slot receiver.
Keaton Upshaw | 6’6, 250 | Freshman
-Rated as nation’s 25th best TE in the Class of 2018.
-Bigger version of Brenden Bates.
-1st Team All-Northwest Ohio, 2nd Team All-State.
-Caught 48 passes for 758-yards, and 4 touchdowns as a senior.
-Excellent basketball player.
-Has preferred measurables for an SEC tight end. Should compete for immediate playing time. Like most freshmen, playbook familiarity as well as strength and conditioning gains will be necessary. There are high ceilings, then there’s Keaton Upshaw’s potential. His career possibilities are somewhat unlimited.
What does all this mean?
In typical Marrow fashion; all four tight ends are from the state of Ohio. Pound for pound, this collection could be the second most talented position group on Mark Stoops’ team falling behind the four combined linebacker spots. However, Kentucky will need to develop an over-top receiver and an additional home run hitting running back in order to loosen coverage. This should free up the tight ends in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
The Cat’s offense features its tight ends in the position’s traditional role, as a H-Back, slot receiver, and fullback. UK TE’s combined for 22 catches for 351-yards. However, the group tied the WR’s with 5 touchdown receptions. Telling on both accounts. Understandably, the lack of Conrad touches frustrated the Big Blue Nation. Stephen Johnson and CJ Conrad experienced difficulties connecting over the past two seasons. Also, TE is a position that can be successfully schemed against, especially within the RPO scheme. That happened quite often in 2017. Limiting CJ Conrad was a high objective for opposing defensive coordinators and limited the future pro to 16 catches on the season.
To go along with Conrad, Justin Rigg has also received rave reviews by TE coach Vince Marrow. Both are excellent blockers that have the potential to have a break-out season in relation to catches and touchdowns. Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw are two highly skilled athletes. I would not be surprised to see both make an immediate impact.
Remember, the freshmen don’t report until this summer. Therefore, depending on CJ Conrad’s availability, spring practice could get a little tricky with Justin Rigg being the only scholarship TE participating in spring practice. The smart play would be to continue Conrad’s rehabilitation and let the rising senior use the time to add quality weight/strength. He has very little to prove during spring ball.
Vince Marrow has stacked his meeting room with future pro talent. This group needs to ascend in the statistical category in order for Eddie Gran to ease the pressure on Benny Snell and for his offense to reach its full potential.
By Nick Roush on ©February 22nd, 2018 @ 9:30pm
The way the season ended, it’s easy for fans to forget that Kentucky’s defense won the Cats a couple of games at the start of the 2017 season. The biggest of those wins, arguably the most impressive of the season, was Kentucky’s fourth consecutive victory over South Carolina.
The blackout at Williams-Brice Stadium was hyped to be South Carolina’s return to glory, all thanks to Will Muschamp. After an awful start that featured an interception and a one-play Gamecock touchdown drive, Kentucky’s defense absolutely dominated.
The Cats held the Cocks to only 54 rushing yards, they picked off Jake Bentley twice and South Carolina converted just 3-of-12 third downs. Mark Stoops’ defense saved their best work for fourth down.
Trailing 14-6, Muschamp left the halftime locker room with an aggressive gameplan in hopes to recapture lost momentum. After forcing a UK three-and-out, South Carolina went for it on fourth down in no-man’s land near midfield. Derrick Baity stuffed the run for no gain. Kentucky’s offense responded with a made field goal to put South Carolina in the danger zone.
Desperate for a score, South Carolina methodically marched down to the UK two-yard line in 12 plays. Twice Bentley completed passes on third down to keep the drive alive and put the Cats on their heels. The third time was the charm for Kentucky.
On third down Eli Brown attacked the scrambling Bentley, stopping him one yard short of the goal line. Brown was injured on the hit. Down to UK’s third and final option, Boogie Watson was inserted at Will linebacker for the first time in his career. The redshirt freshman scraped to the outside to help Baity make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The biggest play of Boogie’s young career silenced the sold out stadium.
The goal line stand deflated the crowd and defined Kentucky’s hard-nosed victory at South Carolina. The Cats could not consistently contain SEC offenses in 2017, but their performance in Columbia could be a preview of what’s to come from the veteran group in 2018.
By Freddie Maggard on ©February 22nd, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Some highly respected analysts project seasons based upon returning experience along the offensive line. If that’s the case, then Kentucky should be receiving higher marks than it’s earned thus far during the silly season. This post will address the UK big fellas in relation to the team’s pending spring practice.
The Kentucky offensive line experienced one of the program’s most dominant seasons from the position group in 2016. Major factors for its success were depth, a quality center, experience, and collective healthiness. Fast forward to 2017. Starting left tackle Cole Mosier’s season ending injury that occurred during fall camp led to a seesaw effect within John Schlarman’s unit. Guards played tackle, left and right tackles flip flopped, and a revolving door at center resulted in bad snaps and other mistakes. Throughout early struggles, Schlarman stayed true to his coaching philosophy of establishing a standard substitution rotation and cross-training players amongst other positions.
Center Drake Jackson solidified the middle of the offensive line-of-scrimmage midway through the season. The rising sophomore’s play improved on a weekly basis. Jackson is said to have gained quality weight and strength in the offseason. He will be the base in which Kentucky builds for the next three seasons. The “Drake Effect” projects confidence for the three prior position groups we’ve discussed through this point prior to spring practice: Quarterback, Running Back, and Receiver.
The Departed Starter
Kentucky returns four out of five offensive line starters to go along with three players that factored in the rotation. The sole departure is long-time contributor Kyle Meadows. Meadows started 35 consecutive games. He started at both left and right tackle.
Projected Spring Practice Starters
Left Tackle: Landon Young 6’7, 305 Junior
- Started 9 career games at left tackle; 6 in 2017
- Rotated with Kyle Meadows and Cole Mosier at left tackle
- Extremely high ceiling. Needs to get “there” this spring. It’s time.
- Registered 27 knockdown blocks as a true freshman
- Former 5-star prospect, US Army All American
Left Guard: Logan Stenberg 6’6, 320 Junior
- Started all 13 games as a sophomore
- Only UK offensive lineman to start all 13 games at the same position in 2017
- Recorded 8 knockdown blocks vs. Tennessee
- Locked down starting role. Considered the group’s “enforcer”
- Registered 37 knockdown blocks as a freshman, missed just one blocking assignment, and allowed one QB pressure in 2016
Center: Drake Jackson 6’2, 305 Sophomore
- Started final 7 games. Jackson’s improvements coincided with Benny Snell’s increase in rushing yardage.
- First start was against Mississippi State after an encouraging performance in a win over Missouri
- Former US Army All-American
Right Guard: Bunchy Stallings 6’3, 318 Senior
- Started 18 games at both guard and center
- Was recruited as a center. Appears much more comfortable at guard.
- Seven consecutive starts within an interior offensive line grouping that consists of G Logan Stenberg, C Drake Jackson, and G Bunchy Stallings. This is an important note going into spring practice. Experience and familiarity are two vital coaches within a football program.
- Joins Stenberg to construct a physical duo of guards. Both play with a necessary nasty streak for the position.
Right Tackle: George Asafo-Adjei 6’5, 315 Senior
- Started in 11 career games at both guard and tackle
- Diverse nature of Asafo-Adjei’s game projects to multiple positions
- Finished 2017 by starting the team’s final 6 games at right tackle
- Played in over 30 games
Available Offensive Linemen for Spring Practice
The UK offensive linemen will be doing a great deal of jersey swapping during the spring game if my math is correct. Eleven scholarship lineman will participate in spring practice. No incoming freshmen enrolled early and will not factor in spring practice.
Sebastien Dolcine 6’4, 305 Freshman
- Redshirted in 2017. Projects inside to guard. Athletic mauler. Excited to gauge Dolcine’s development during the spring.
Austin Dotson 6’6, 310 Freshman
- Preferred measurables and demeanor for a right tackle. Redshirted last season. Much like Dolcine, I’m eager to watch the former Belfry Pirate match up against Denzil Ware, Josh Paschal, and Josh Allen.
Luke Fortner 6’6, 305 Sophomore
- Earned playing time as a redshirt freshman
- Joins Mason Wolfe as returning players that were actively involved in the offensive line rotation. Considered to be in starting rotation and will compete to be counted with the first five.
- A force multiplier, Fortner can play tackle, guard or center.
EJ Price 6’6, 311
- Transfer from USC
- Extremely high potential. Will be interested to see him compete during spring practice.
- Possesses talent, build, and ability to push for immediate playing time within the rotation or perhaps even as a starter at one of the tackle positions.
Naasir Watkins 6’5, 300 Freshman
- Redshirt was nearly taken off following the injury of Cole Mosier and others along the offensive front.
- Talented athlete. Watkins played tight end and offensive tackle at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School.
- Coaches have raved about Watkins’ ceiling. Will compete for starting tackle position. Assuredly will be in 2018 rotation.
Mason Wolfe 6’6, 310 Junior
- Provides quality depth. Considered another starter due to the rotation. Solid, will push for a starting role.
- Showed significant strides from 2016 to 2017
What does all this mean?
Starting positions are effectively locked up at guard and center. The interesting competitions could occur at tackle. Landon Young will have to hold off Naasir Watkins. George Asafo-Adjei should get the role but will have quality backups in Wolfe and Dotson. Fortner will factor somewhere. This group’s ability to play multiple positions paid dividends in 2017.
The Class of 2018 is the best offensive line group that Mark Stoops has signed. We’ll incorporate the rookies in a preseason post. Also reporting in June will be Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke. Both are 200-pound plus bruisers that can run behind the pads. The fact that UK returns physical starters at guard-center-guard can only be considered a positive as the aforementioned youngsters will join Benny Snell to make up a group of downhill runners. Break out the Tylenol in fall camp.
Much like the highly successful 2016 OL campaign, experience, depth, and a quality center return in 2018. Will this current group of Cats produce as did Toth and company? Stay tuned as all offensive position groups tie together.
Mark Stoops will be the first head coach to take the podium at the 2018 SEC Media Days.
The longest-tenured coach in the SEC East will speak before two headline-grabbers, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Surely, Stoops will tell a story about his former-boss to loosen up the crowd at the start of the day.
SEC Media Days will start Monday July 16. For the first time the four-day event will be held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. As always, Freddie Maggard and I will be on the scene for KSR.
Click here to see a complete schedule.
Stoops is listed at the top of the first day’s schedule, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll go first. The itinerary with exact times will be released at a later date.