Football Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 5:53pm
Eddie Gran is staying put.
After being offered the offensive coordinator position at Georgia, Gran posted on Twitter that he’s “all in” at Kentucky. Minutes before his tweet, KSR learned the same.
I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this !
— Eddie Gran (@CoachGran) January 10, 2019
Criticize Gran all you want, but the fact that Georgia was willing to pay him a salary of $1.1 million means he’s doing something right. The fact that he turned them down means Kentucky’s doing something right too.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 4:22pm
FootballScoop.com, arguably the best website on the entire internet for following coaching searches around college football, has confirmed our own report that Eddie Gran has an offer on the table to become the next offensive coordinator under head coach Kirby Smart at Georgia. But in a new update on its story, Football Scoop says Gran was “strongly considering remaining at Kentucky” as of this morning. However, a final decision has not been made either way.
If Gran does remain at Kentucky, it will be a huge win for the program. Yes, Gran has his critics, but continuity is important among the staff and for a young quarterback like Terry Wilson. The last thing we need to see is that offense start back over with yet another new offensive coordinator.
It would also be pretty awesome for a UK assistant to turn down a job at a national contender like Georgia to stay in Lexington. If you had told me a few years ago that any UK assistant would turn down a million dollars at Georgia to stay with Kentucky then I would’ve said that person should be locked away in an insane asylum. Now it could be a reality.
Gran Watch is on high alert.
A source tells KSR that UK Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran was offered the position of Offensive Coordinator at Georgia under Kirby Smart in the last 24 hours. Smart has offered Gran total control of the Offense and a salary of at least $1.1 million.
A decision has not yet been made and Gran is pondering the offer.
More as it comes….
You know Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl stars. Lynn Bowden was electric, Josh Allen stalked Trace McSorley and Benny Snell broke records to earn MVP honors, but they didn’t do it by themselves. A few of the most critical plays were made by guys that go unnoticed. It’s their turn to receive some of the spotlight.
The former Iowa basketball player did not record one reception in his first season at Kentucky. Instead of catching passes, he found other ways to make an impact. Most recall the pass interference he drew at Missouri that gave UK one final untimed down. In the Citrus Bowl, he made two more incredible plays as a member of Kentucky’s punt return unit.
On the fourth snap of the game, James Franklin tried to run a fake punt. Wagner’s nose was right in the middle of the pile, stuffing the run short of the first down marker. A few series later, Lynn Bowden entered the game as UK’s returner. After Bowden made a few cuts through traffic, Wagner secured the score with a pancake block.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 7, 2019
Calvin Taylor Jr.
The biggest man on the Kentucky’s defensive line had a sneaky excellent season that reached a crescendo in the Citrus Bowl. The 6’9″ defensive end recorded a season-high four tackles against Penn State. Three of the tackles were solo and one was for a loss. Kentucky had nine tackles for loss, three more than the Nittany Lions, who entered the game ranked fourth nationally in the category.
The redshirt junior had a breakout season in 2018. Taylor finished the season with 26 tackles, the most by a UK defensive lineman. Taylor had six tackles for loss, ranked fourth on the team, and he recorded a sack, a PBU and a fumble recovery.
Brad White and Derrick LeBlanc
The reason why you probably did not notice Taylor’s breakout season is because of Derrick LeBlanc. UK’s defensive line coach leveled the playing field on his line. Players remained fresh in LeBlanc’s rotation and played discipline football, freeing up the linebackers to stuff the stat sheet.
The outside linebackers made even more plays thanks to the addition of Brad White. The former NFL tactician took Josh Allen’s game to incredible new heights. His experience benefitted this group and attracted future stars on the edge to sign last December.
LeBlanc and White are the two most under-appreciated coaches on Kentucky’s staff. One play in the Citrus Bowl perfectly illustrates their impact on Kentucky’s defense.
As Kentucky clung to a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, the UK defense forced a third and six. Expecting McSorley to drop back to pass, Matt House dialed up a twist with Josh Allen. T.J. Carter attacked the edge and drew two blockers, leaving Allen in a one-on-one pass rush situation with the center. All it took was one slight jab to give Allen a free shot at McSorley.
If I were hosting an instructional clinic on how to run a twist, I would use this play as an example. LeBlanc and White’s fingerprints are all over the outstanding display of fundamentals.
Of Kentucky’s five senior defensive backs, Lonnie probably gets the least amount of credit for the secondary’s success. Without him on January 1, Kentucky might not have won the game. Lonnie’s third quarter interception, the first of his career, set up Benny Snell’s historic game-winning touchdown.
I love my squad ? pic.twitter.com/rh0CUqW83D
— 4/7 (@Lonnie30johnson) January 2, 2019
When Lonnie Johnson becomes the highest drafted Kentucky defensive back, remember that you heard it here first.
The upperclassmen in the secondary receive all the attention, yet the one underclassmen receiving significant reps ended his season on a high note. Primarily covering Penn State’s best receiver, KJ Hamler, from the nickel position, Robinson held his own. Covering sideline to sideline, he had five tackles, four of which were unassisted. Next year’s secondary will be built around the Lexington native.
Two other big pieces on next year’s defense did not disappoint: Chris Oats and DeAndre Square. Oats had three tackles and recovered the fumble that ended the game. Only Darius West and Kash Daniel had more tackles than Square, a star for many years to come on Kentucky’s defense.
Like LeBlanc and White, Hood’s contributions to the Kentucky football team often get overlooked. Against Penn State, Kentucky won the field position battle multiple times, thanks to the Australian punter Hood found in the offseason. Max Duffy saved his two best punts for last, one from 67 and one from 65, to cap off his season averaging 44.78 yards per punt, the 14th-highest average in America.
Hood also worked some schematic magic. Given one last opportunity to use Josh Allen, the special teams coach put the future first round pick to work. Hood installed a new field goal block the week before the Citrus Bowl, using Carter and Taylor to open a hole for Allen to penetrate the offensive line. Allen had just enough wiggle room to get a hand on the ball. Instead of entering the locker room at halftime tied, the Cats had a three-point lead, the final margin of victory.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Benny Snell will be at KSBar and Grille tomorrow night (Friday, Jan. 11) to meet his biggest fans before he leaves the Bluegrass for the NFL. The event is set for 6-8 p.m. and it is going to a lot of fun.
So you know ahead of time, a signature from Snell will cost $30 per item signed. You can bring your own items to get signed (no limit on signatures) or purchase Snell Yeah merchandise (t-shirts, towels and wristbands) that night. If you forget to bring something and choose not to purchase something there, an 8×10 photo will be provided with the cost of the signature, although photos are not included if something else is signed.
Now for the really important part: You can go to KSBar and Grille anytime today or tomorrow to pick up a numbered ticket to reserve your spot in line. It’s not something you have to do before tomorrow night, but it will give you priority access in line. If you’re in a hurry to get in and out, I recommend making the trip over to KSBar as soon as you can. If you can’t, don’t worry — you will still get to meet Benny if you’re on time.
We opened the doors at 11 a.m. this morning and there was a line for line passes:
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) January 10, 2019
For those of you unable to make tomorrow’s meet-and-greet, Snell will make four more stops around Kentucky:
For the first time in decades, the Kentucky football team has a multi-sport star.
Last night Kash Daniel announced that he will be taking his talents to the water as a member of Kentucky’s Bass Fishing Team. A club sport at the University of Kentucky, the Wildcats compete in tournaments throughout the region.
The Kentucky linebacker does not tell fish tales. He reels in the big ones.
For some, it’s tough to reel them in outside of the usual fishing hole; not Kash. Whether he’s in the Commonwealth or has some down time at the Citrus Bowl, Kash can find them.
If Kash can perform under pressure in front of television cameras, I’m confident he’ll help the Kentucky Bass Fishing Team win a few tournaments this spring.
The College Football Season finally ended as the Clemson Tigers easily defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday by a score of 44-16. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19.
Final Grade: A-
The Crimson Tide were without question the best team in the SEC this season. That is not up for debate. What is up for debate is defining the success of this Alabama team. On one hand, the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 for basically the entire season, dominated all their opponents expect for Georgia, and were SEC Champions once again.
But on the other hand, Alabama was greatly embarrassed in front of a national audience on Monday as they were dominated in the National Championship Game. That simply does not happen to Nick Saban ever.
The last coach to beat Alabama by 16+ was Nick Saban at LSU.
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 8, 2019
That’s why despite the Crimson Tide’s mostly dominate year, I cannot give Saban’s squad anything higher than an A-. While this one massive failure does not define this team, it is still a failure for a program that expects national titles with its incredible pool of talent.
What’s most concerning is the feeling that most people had in Santa Clara last night. Every time Alabama drops a game the public always asks, “Is Saban’s dynasty finally over?” And every time those people look like fools for asking that. However, last night was very, very different.
What happened tonight completely changes the story of this entire college football era. A year from now there may not be a changing of the guard so much as a realization we were witnessing the age of #ClemsonFootball the whole time. #ClemsonAlabama #NationalChampionshipGame
— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) January 8, 2019
Day after with Clemson: "I definitely think it was a changing of the guard tonight," per Austin Bryant. https://t.co/2mnuN9khEY
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) January 8, 2019
Only time will tell if this title game was a changing of the guard in college football as you can never count out Alabama and Nick Saban. But for now, Clemson and Dabo Swinney unquestionably sit atop of the college football world.
Final Grade: A-
The first thing you are probably thinking to yourself is, “How can I give Texas A&M the same grade that I gave Alabama?” Well it has everything to do with expectations and what each team did with those expectations. The Crimson Tide had arguably the most talented team in the sport and failed to win a championship while the Aggies were supposed to be in a rebuilding year and placed second in the SEC West.
Yes, the Aggies lost four games on the season. However, that included three incredibly tough road games against Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State which are three teams that have more talent than Texas A&M had this season. Plus, they managed to give Clemson the best game the Tigers played in all year as the Aggies fell 28-26.
Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to their best possible season given their absurdly tough schedule and the fact that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year in College Station. Add in their crushing 52-13 bowl victory over a talented NC State team, and you have a very successful season.
The momentum Fisher and the Aggies have going into the 2019 season is at an all-time high as most of their starters return and they add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Buy stock now in Texas A&M. The Aggies are on the come-up.
Here's your Top 25 for next CFB season!
11 Texas A&M
21 Miss St
22 Where Jalen Hurts is
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: B+
The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. They did win their first five games on the season and shot up the rankings. They were picked to finish on the lower side of the SEC West, but they managed to beat those expectations as they placed third in their Division. If you had told me before the season started, they would finish 10-3 with a New Year’s Bowl victory, I would have been surprised.
However, a deeper analysis of their season reveals some complex issues. A huge reason why they shot up the rankings is because they throttled a Miami team that everyone overrated before the season started.
They were very lucky to beat Auburn as they did so on a last-second field goal, they looked bad against a lesser Florida team, got utterly embarrassed by Alabama at home, and they only beat UCF by eight points with the Knights not having their best player in program history.
Nevertheless, LSU’s season is still a surprising success. However, they had some rough games, and if it wasn’t for some good luck they would have finished fourth or fifth in the West. As long as Ed Orgeron is still in Baton Rouge, the future is still looking good for the Tigers.
"He lived out his childhood dream. His dream was to be an LSU head football coach."
John Battle says Ed Orgeron isn't only coaching the Tigers, he's doing it at a high level. pic.twitter.com/lztMWEj1r5
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) January 4, 2019
Final Grade C-
The Bulldogs were a very trendy pick in the preseason to finish second in the West. Many picked quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and company to be in a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, Miss. State finished fourth in their division and finished with a mediocre 8-5 record after losing to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
That’s a pretty disappointing season despite some bright spots. The Bulldogs basically wasted Fitzgerald’s last season in Starkville and many of their NFL prospects on defense will probably be leaving for the Draft.
However, I can’t give Miss. State a failing grade considering their strong wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. This was a very talented team this season that was just too wildly inconsistent due to a new head coach in town and inconsistent quarterback play. Losing to Iowa also stalls all momentum going into next year. Watch out for Head Coach Joe Moorhead to possibly end up on the hot seat by 2020.
Final Grade: C
The Tigers are really in the same league as Mississippi State here. Auburn was the favorite to finish second in the West, but they instead finished fifth which is a *really* bad look. Add in the fact they lost five SEC games this season and man does Gus Malzahn have some questions to answer.
In fact, the only reason I gave them a higher grade than the Bulldogs is because of their legendary beatdown Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Winning the last game of the season 63-14 gives this program momentum heading into next season no matter how disappointing the year was.
Like Miss. State, the Tigers wasted their final season with their talented quarterback (Jarret Stidham) and now they will have to find someone to lead the program behind center in 2019.
Heading into next season, Malzahn will have a mountain of pressure on him. After an up-and-down year, boosters will be expecting a better finish, or he might be on his way out of Auburn. It’s one of the most interesting storylines in the SEC heading into next season.
Since 2015, 8 teams have started ranked in preseason Top 10 & finished year unranked. Of the 8, Mark Richt & Gus Malzahn are only coaches to do so twice. Richt (2015 at UGA & 2018 at UM), Malzahn (2015 & 2018 at Auburn)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: D+
The Rebels were on a postseason ban this season, so this was mostly a year to give young players a lot of reps and valuable experience. Despite having a very talented quarterback, one of the best receiving cores in college football, and a running back who totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage Ole Miss still finished with a losing record (5-7).
It’s all because the Rebels’ defense might have been the worst in all of the SEC. Giving up 482 yards of offense per game speaks for itself. One has to wonder where exactly Ole Miss goes from here. Gone are stars Jordan Ta’amu and A.J. Brown. Who will step up offensively, and can the defense improve at all?
One decent starting point is the hiring of Rich Rodriguez has offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator. Both are former national head coaches of the year so who knows what next year will bring. It just needs to be better than this disappointing season.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) January 3, 2019
Final Grade: F
It’s pretty easy to write about a team that went 0-8 in conference play and 2-10 overall. The Razorbacks stunk all over the field this season. Offensively they were pitiful, and their defense couldn’t stop anyone.
This was a disastrous season that deserves the bare minimum of words written about it. Teams that are this bad deserve to be forgotten forever. Hopefully something may go right next season for Arkansas, because there is no place to go but up from here.
Final Grade: B+
The Bulldogs were easily the most frustrating team to grade out of the 14 squads in the SEC. Except for a strange no-show against LSU, Georgia dominated their SEC opponents in the regular season.
Then we all know what happened next. They gave Alabama an amazing game in the SEC Championship, but they fell just short of a victory and a playoff bid. Considering that Clemson proved that the Crimson Tide were not all that great, I am giving exactly zero brownie points to the Bulldogs for giving them a close game. Throw in the fact that they were beaten because of one of the worst play calls ever and this defeat is unforgivable.
Georgia Athletics recent history:
– Lose SEC title game on a fake punt to keep 5 star QB
– 5 Star QB transfers as result
– Lose to UT jr, while their beloved mascot becomes national joke
– Lose half their roster to NFL Draft
– Lose by FOURTY-SIX in SEC opener
— Cody Conrad (@cody__conrad) January 6, 2019
Georgia then performed terribly and got blown out by a decent Texas team. Quite frankly, I do not accept the excuse that “their hearts were not in it.” I could write an entire article about why that excuse is not adequate for ANY team, but the fact that we are at that point speaks for itself.
The season ended so badly for the Bulldogs that their most talented overall player (Justin Fields) up and transferred to Ohio State. Look, I think Jake Fromm is a great college quarterback, but I truly think Fields is the more talented player. The fact that Kirby Smart couldn’t figure out how to make him happy is embarrassing to say the least.
Georgia was oh so very close to receiving an A+ on this season. But bad decisions and no-shows led to an abysmal ending of what should have been a great overall year. Take your B+ and do better next season.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, Georgia slaughtered Kentucky in the regular season which may make you wonder why I gave the Wildcats a better grade. It has everything to do with how each team performed with the talent they had at hand. The Bulldogs ended the season about as bad as they possibly could, while the Wildcats were the absolute best versions of their selves this year.
Seriously, if you had told me that the Wildcats would finish 10-3 after winning the Citrus Bowl over Penn State by only passing for an average of 161.5 passing yards per game, I would have laughed in your face.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened in Lexington. Every single week the Wildcats manage to prove me wrong. Josh Allen developed into a superstar before our very eyes and Benny Snell Jr. went down as the most loved player in recent memory for Kentucky fans.
The scary thing is that the Wildcats were just one incredibly strange defeat to Tennessee and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M to being in the conversation for the playoff. That speaks for itself. This is the best Kentucky team I have seen in my lifetime, and they finally put some respect on the SEC East’s name. This was a season that will not be soon forgotten by Big Blue Nation.
After a historic 10-3 season, Kentucky is No. 11 in the final @AmwayUS Coaches Poll!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: A-
Florida is back folks. I have been trying to tell people since I analyzed the Gators during the preseason all the way back in July. I told everyone that Florida would at the very least double their win total from last season and everyone mocked the idea to no surprise.
Well I think it’s safe to say that the Gators got the last laugh as they blew out Michigan in a New Year’s Six Bowl to finish 10-3 on the season. For a team that only won four contests in 2017, the lowest possible grade they could possibly receive is exactly what I gave them.
They lost to Kentucky mostly since Head Coach Dan Mullen was still trying to figure out what he had with this new team, they lost to Georgia because the Bulldogs were just the better team, and, like the Wildcats, they had a bizarre loss which was to Missouri.
Besides these hiccups, everything went right for the bounce-back team of the year. Because of their fantastic hiring of an all-around good head coach in Mullen, the Gators can finally get back to the days of Tebow and Chris Leak.
Mark my words now folks, Georgia and Kentucky will have their hands full with the Florida Gators next season.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator pic.twitter.com/ZuCTcTUhBq
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) January 6, 2019
Final Grade: D+
I could care less that the Gamecocks finished with a winning record (7-6), this was a bad football this season and I stand by that opinion.
Besides a decent victory over Vanderbilt and a lucky win over Missouri, South Carolina defeated the following teams in 2018: Coastal Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and Akron. In other words, the Gamecocks did not beat single team that finished the season ranked in the AP top-25 poll.
To make matters even worse, South Carolina was absolutely embarrassed by an incredibly average Virginia team in their bowl game. Losing 28-0 to an average ACC team is what it is. The Gamecocks will enter the 2019 season with absolutely no momentum. This year was so incredibly forgettable that it may end up hurting this team’s development.
With an absurdly hard schedule next season, look out for rumblings against Head Coach Will Muschamp. Things could get bad in a hurry, and we all know how quickly things can change for head coaches in the SEC.
South Carolina’s 2019 Schedule = BRUTAL
What will their record be? pic.twitter.com/Un7ZEsNMas
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 4, 2019
Final Grade: B-
This is another example of the transitive property not being a true indicator of overall program morale. Yes, South Carolina defeated the Tigers in the regular season, however the way Missouri ended its season was considerably better than how the Gamecocks did.
Even with a very close bowl game loss, the Tigers scored at least 30 points in their last five games which led to a 4-1 record. That stretch included a very impressive win on the road against Florida where Missouri won 38-17.
Despite a strange loss to South Carolina and a very unlucky defeat at the hands of Kentucky, the Tigers did everything right in Drew Lock’s last season. Now with the addition of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant by means of transfer, Missouri seems to be locked and loaded for another good year in 2019. Things did not go exactly right in 2018, but head coach Kevin Odom has solidified a program that can beat anyone on any given Saturday.
— College Football (@holidayhqteam) December 5, 2018
Final Grade: C+
For the third straight season the Commodores finished with seven losses. That fact alone prohibits this team from earning anything higher than a C+ in my book. Vanderbilt defeated every team that they should have beaten, but they also didn’t beat anyone they should not have beaten.
However, winning three out of their last four SEC games on the season is very noteworthy. Head Coach Derek Mason entered the year on the hot seat, and he will be entering 2019 still with his job. That’s a success within itself.
Besides a heart-breaking bowl defeat to Baylor, the Commodores ended their season on a very high note. Now with one of the program’s best all-time quarterbacks leaving in Kyle Shurmur, the pressure will be on Mason and the rest of the program to finally break through and lose less than seven games. While that may end up being a tall task, they had a decent enough season to have hope for 2019. Hope is sometimes all a program needs.
Final Grade: C+
I put the Volunteers right there with Vanderbilt. Tennessee just came off one of its worst seasons ever in 2017 after they failed to win a single SEC game. But with the hiring of Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Volunteers were able to turn things around a bit in 2018. While they still had a losing season (5-7), Pruitt led Tennessee to huge upset victories over Auburn (on the road) and Kentucky.
These victories showcased that there is still talent in Knoxville, and Pruitt may just be the coach to revive this program once he gets a fair amount of time at Tennessee.
With a losing record and no bowl appearance I can’t give the Volunteers anything higher than an average grade. But considering how honestly terrible Tennessee was in 2017, blatantly average is something fans in Knoxville will gladly take. Also, the Volunteers managed to pull offensive coordinator Jim Chaney away from Georgia for the same position. This is a massive upgrade for Tennessee and step in the right direction to say the least.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) January 9, 2019
I’ve had a blast writing this weekly SEC column this college football season. This was another incredibly fun season to analyze and write about. Hopefully, you found some enjoyment in these articles as I know I had a blast writing them.
Overall, I think the SEC showed why it’s still one of the best conferences in college football this season despite a 6-6 bowl record and an embarrassing National Championship defeat. This conference still has the most overall talent and best storylines in the sport, and I think that’s something we can all agree on.
Eddie Gran’s name is being thrown around for one of the top jobs in college football.
Yesterday we learned Jeremy Pruitt has hired away Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to lead the Volunteers’ offense. In search of a new play-caller, Kirby Smart may stay within the SEC East.
“A name to watch at Georgia is Kentucky OC Eddie Gran,” Tweeted SB Nation senior college football writer Steven Godfrey. “Wildcats were conservative this season but Gran’s Cincinnati offenses were very explosive. He’s also a very strong Florida recruiter.”
In spite of the rage he incites amongst some Kentucky fans, Gran’s held in high regards around the college football coaching world. If Gran becomes one of Smart’s top candidates, it would be awfully hard to turn down the chance to coach Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Co. to a potential national title.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 09th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
The second part of Hey Kentucky’s exclusive interview with Benny Snell aired Tuesday night in Lexington. If you were too busy watching the Kentucky basketball team to see it, we have the video from the interview below.
In this one things were a lot more goofier as Matt asked Snell about being stranded on an island with Kash Daniel, his first purchase once he signs a big deal, listening to Luke Bryan, playing LaVar Ball in basketball and much more.
If you missed Part 1, you can get caught up right here. It’s a little more serious.
By Nick Roush on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 9:46pm
As the Kentucky basketball team tried to shake off a loss to Alabama, two Kentucky legends enjoyed the game from courtside seats.
Of course, Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher found the camera more than once. Early in the game, the SEC Network caught Benny Snell when he wasn’t ready. The running back was on the phone with what I assume to be an NFL General Manager, thanking Benny for joining the 2019 NFL Draft.
“Sorry, Kliff. I can’t talk right now. I’m at the game.” pic.twitter.com/EidcvnGq5c
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 9, 2019
Once he got off the phone, it took Benny no time get back into his zone. During one timeout, Drake got him in his feelings.
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) January 9, 2019
The videographers weren’t the only cameras seeking out Benny. The guy sitting next to him wanted a picture too. That guy goes by the name Dan Issel. Two of Kentucky’s greatest scorers together: priceless.
“When Dan Issel is taking your picture, you’re a big deal.” pic.twitter.com/xOw5IizRgR
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 9, 2019
Dan posed for the picture with Benny shortly after he struck a different pose.
Looking ahead to the 2019 Kentucky football season, Mark Stoops has a precarious quarterback situation. Fortunately, Stoops’ staff will not be in the middle of a quarterback competition, however, they will be walking on thin ice to figure out who will replace Terry Wilson if the mobile quarterback is sidelined by a big hit.
Only three days after the season ended at Louisville, the first domino fell. Redshirt freshman Danny Clark announced he would transfer from Kentucky, leaving Darin Hinshaw’s quarterback room with three scholarship players — Wilson, Walker Wood and Gunnar Hoak. The latter’s status still remains unclear.
Many speculated that Hoak would be the first quarterback to announce a transfer. A redshirt sophomore in his third year at UK, Hoak battled toe to toe with the JUCO transfer throughout the preseason. Hoak lost the competition, but played in the season opener. After Wilson was sidelined with an injury against Central Michigan, Hoak sparked the offense with a touchdown pass to David Bouvier in the final minute of the first half. When two second half series by Hoak failed to produce points, Wilson re-entered the game and did not relinquish that role the rest of the season.
Wilson’s first year as Kentucky’s starter wasn’t perfect. After the Vanderbilt game, critics called for Hoak to lead Kentucky’s offense. Even Gunnar’s father aired his grievances on social media ahead of the Missouri game. No. 12 was eventually called into the game for a few series, but only completed 3-of-8 passes for 27 yards before Wilson returned to lead Kentucky on an improbable game-winning drive that cemented his spot as UK’s starter.
Terry Wilson is not going anywhere anytime soon. Like Hoak, Wilson has two years of eligibility remaining. Many assume Hoak will transfer to search for playing time elsewhere. Today we learned Hoak will graduate in May, which means he could transfer and be eligible to play this fall.
— Holly Hoak (@holly_hoak) January 8, 2019
Will Gunnar become Kentucky’s second quarterback transfer of the offseason? Sources tell KSR it’s likely, however, nothing will be official until well after spring practice in May.
In the event Hoak does become a grad transfer, Walker Wood would be the only scholarship quarterback behind Wilson with any experience in the offense. Kentucky has recruited to fill the void with Amani Gilmore and Nik Scalzo, although neither will be on campus until June and Scalzo will be rehabilitating a torn ACL. The transfer market may also be explored, but just like in Hoak’s case, you don’t know until you officially know.
Terry Wilson’s style of play requires an offense to always be prepared to operate with a second quarterback. Hoak filled that role admirably in 2018. If Hoak does not want that role in 2019, finding the right person for the job will not be easy.
By Nick Roush on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
Overlooked by the University of Louisville during the Cardinals’ coaching search, Neal Brown is finding creative ways to torment the program.
Four days ago, Scott Satterfield hired Chad Scott to coach Louisville’s running backs. Most recently North Carolina’s tight ends coach, Scott previously coached running backs and receivers with Brown for Mark Stoops at Kentucky. The ink had not dried from Scott’s contract before Brown swiped him from Satterfield’s staff.
Brown will reportedly hire Scott to be West Virginia’s co-offensive coordinator.
The decision to hire Scott most likely stems from their working relationship at UK and Texas Tech, along with Scott’s ability to recruit playmakers from the state of Florida, but I’d like to think Brown did it just to take a shot at UofL.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 2:45pm
This morning, we found out Kentucky was No. 12 in the final AP poll of the college football season. The Cats finished one spot higher in the Amway Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 11, a four-spot jump from their previous spot and highest ranking of the season.
|RANK||TEAM||RECORD||POINTS||1ST PLACE VOTES||PREV||CHANGE||HI/LOW|
One day we’ll have proper perspective on this season but right now, it still feels like a dream.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 08th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Last night, the Clemson football program put an absolute walloping on Alabama, defeating the Crimson Tide 44-16 to take home their second national title in three years.
If you started watching college football closely over the last decade, you’d only know the Tigers as a perennial powerhouse with double-digit win totals every year since 2011. They’ve won two title games, appeared in three, and came away with victories in the Cotton Bowl (2018), Fiesta Bowl (2016), Orange Bowl (2013), and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (2012) to nearly pull off the New Year’s Six cycle (they lost in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, but have never appeared in the Rose Bowl, FWIW).
Before this elite stretch, however, Clemson wasn’t known as a cream of the crop program capable of winning the national title any given year. From 1950 to 2010, the Tigers have reached the 10-win threshold just six times, and just seven since their football program was established in 1902. The program saw stretches of fewer than ten wins from 1950-1977, and then again from 1991 to 2010 (nine wins in six seasons during that span).
The program won a national championship in 1981 and regularly reached bowl games, but no one would consider the Tigers one of the elite football powerhouses over the years. Even right before their stretch of greatness over the last decade, Clemson was just another decent program capable of winning anywhere from six to eight games a year, with nine-win seasons sprinkled in.
In Rivals’ yearly recruiting team rankings, Clemson didn’t finish within the top-10 at all before 2010 since the system was created in 2002. In fact, they finished within the top-15 just once:
19 (2010), 37 (2009), 12 (2008), 16 (2007), 16 (2006), 17 (2005), 53 (2004), 67 (2003), and 22 (2002).
In 247 Sports’ edition of the team recruiting rankings, the Tigers came away with just one top-10 finish and two top-15 finishes from 2001 (when their system was created) to 2010:
27 (2010), 36 (2009), 9 (2008), 16 (2007), 14 (2006), 15 (2005), 44 (2004), 43 (2003), 19 (2002), and 33 (2001)
So how did they gain so much momentum in such a hurry? One signature bowl victory.
After winning nine games in the regular season in 2011 and then adding another big victory in the ACC Championship game, the Tigers fell 70-33 in the Orange Bowl against West Virginia.
The very next year, Dabo Swinney led Clemson to a 10-2 regular season and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl bid against No. 9 LSU. Unlike the year before, Clemson took care of business on the big stage, taking down the Tigers by a final score of 25-24.
They finished the year ranked No. 11 in the final AP Poll, and then followed it up with a top-15 finish in the 2013 team recruiting class rankings.
Ever since, Clemson has finished in the top-25 in both rating systems every year through 2019, with just one of the signing classes falling outside of either top-15 (Rivals or 247 Sports).
After their second championship victory in three years and becoming the first team in college football history to finish a season 15-0, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said something that caught my attention as he was getting interviewed on the field.
“No Hollywood producer can write it,” he said. “I’m just telling you, if I can do it, and these Clemson Tigers can do it, anybody can do it if you have the belief in yourself and what you’re doing, and you surround yourself with a bunch of great, young people that are passionate about winning. Tonight, we conquered a mountain that ain’t ever been conquered.”
Anybody, huh? Even, say, the Kentucky football program?
No, Kentucky is not at the status of Clemson football, and if you play the odds, chances are they never will be.
But as the Tigers have proven, placing an invisible ceiling on the future of any program just isn’t realistic. And if we’re being really honest, Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops doesn’t give a damn about odds or history.
Remember when Kentucky placed a College Football Playoff bracket in the weight room with the Wildcats penciled in with one of the four final slots?
“What have you done to get better today?” the poster, hung in the summer of 2017, said.
Following a 7-6 season, national college football fans and rivals laughed at the Kentucky football program for thinking they’d ever sniff the CFP. And if we’re being honest, Wildcat fans chuckled to themselves, too.
16 months later in October of 2018, the initial College Football Playoff rankings came out with the Wildcats listed at No. 9 overall. At 7-1 with an upcoming date with Georgia for the SEC East crown, the Kentucky football program felt “legitimate” for the first time in decades.
The Wildcats lost against Georgia, and then later stumbled on the road against Tennessee to crush their SEC Championship/CFP dreams, but still managed to close out the regular season at 9-3. Following their best regular season finish since 1977, Kentucky earned a bid to the Citrus Bowl, defeating Penn State 27-24 to finish the year 10-3.
When the final AP Poll was released this morning, the Wildcats finished at No. 12, good for the fourth-highest finish in program history. Kentucky finished at No. 6 in 1977, No. 7 in 1950, and No. 11 in 1949.
Coming into this season, it wasn’t a secret the football program needed to start breaking down more barriers if they wanted to be taken seriously under Mark Stoops and his coaching staff. And it didn’t take long before they did just that.
The first barrier was shattered in week two at The Swamp to end the streak against Florida. And then again in a dominating effort at home against Mississippi State. And again to push the South Carolina streak to five consecutive wins. Again by proving they can come from behind on the road to win SEC games like they did against Missouri. And finally by proving they can beat elite competition on the big stage against Penn State.
On a player-specific level, the Kentucky coaching staff has already proven they can rake in four-stars, along with grooming and molding two and three-stars into NFL talent.
Clemson has proven that slow, yet constant development year after the year is the blueprint to building a national powerhouse. It didn’t come at the snap of a finger, and they knew that. Taking shortcuts for recruiting success (Ole Miss) or in coaching decisions (Louisville) would only create long-term problems. It wouldn’t be pretty for a while, but the fruits that come in the end are all the more rewarding.
Mark Stoops is following that same path at Kentucky.
In every year under Stoops, Kentucky has either improved or maintained their win total from the season before. In six seasons in Lexington, Stoops has led the Wildcats to records of 2-10, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, and 10-3.
Over the last five recruiting classes, Kentucky has finished with team rankings (247 Sports) of No. 32 (2019) No. 36 (2018), No. 30 (2017), No. 34 (2016), and No. 38 (2015). And with the regular signing period yet to come in February with several elite talent still on the board, the 2019 class ranking is almost certainly going to improve.
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow has said multiple times in the past that the Wildcats needed one signature victory to push them over the edge to the next level in recruiting, with regularly signing four and five-star talent being the end goal. Sources tell KSR the staff genuinely feels the Penn State victory to finish the season 10-3 not only did that for them, but also made Kentucky a hotspot for future elite graduate transfer targets.
The expectation is that the class of 2020 is expected to be the best in school history.
Yes, the Wildcats will be losing an elite crop of talent, as 10-plus Wildcats are expected to hear their name called during the NFL Draft this spring. To say that won’t hurt, at least temporarily, would just be lying.
But this Kentucky coaching staff hasn’t built this team for short-term success. They’re still two-deep at every position on the offensive line, have elite weapons at skill positions on offense, a deadly front-seven with a combination of fresh, young talent and seasoned veterans, etc.
Above all else, they have continuity from the coaching staff to just fine tune things this offseason and play more to the strengths of the next crop of talent, not work in a brand new system like we saw the first few seasons under Mark Stoops. They have established a plug-and-play system with versatility on both sides of the ball, which leads me to believe this program is absolutely capable of maintaining success.
Last night, the Clemson football program proved schools like Kentucky have the opportunity to break down barriers they didn’t even realize they were capable of.
Swinney said it himself walking off the field last night.
“I hope you get a little hope from us and a little inspiration,” he said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”
Why not Kentucky?