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Four-star CB Jay Ward picks LSU over Kentucky

@JWARD_4

Well, this one hurts. Four-star cornerback Jay Ward just committed to LSU over Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Florida State.

Ward actually committed to Kentucky last summer, but reopened his recruitment after going to an LSU home game in the fall. Ward told Rivals’ Chad Simmons he was planning on picking Kentucky yesterday, but had a last minute change of heart.

“I chose LSU,” said Ward. “It was them, Florida State and Kentucky. I told coach today. I was confused, I was torn and I just started thinking more about LSU late last night.”

Ouch. We’ll hear from Mark Stoops at his Signing Day press conference in about 25 minutes.


KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: NSD and Best Super Bowl Commercial Ever?

KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: NSD and Best Super Bowl Commercial Ever?

Time flies when you’re having fun.  Don’t look now, but National Signing Day is only two days away.

The event has lost its luster over the last two years since the creation of the Early Signing Period.  Kentucky has benefitted from the addition, but the timing (in the middle of bowl season just before Christmas) does not attract as much attention.

Last year Kentucky picked up one signee on NSD, Chris Oats.  After only one year, it’s safe to say that addition turned out pretty well.  This year Kentucky will pick up more than one four-star recruit.  The only question is who.

What will Devonta Lee Do?

The biggest name on the board for most fans, the four-star outside wide receiver officially visited LSU over the weekend.  Since then, all of the LSU recruiting analysts confirmed their belief that he will stay in the bayou to be a home state hero.

Kentucky has lost all of the buzz from his official visit, but I’m not giving up hope until Lee signs on the dotted line.  Kentucky’s coaches left an in-home visit last week feeling good about their chances to get the impact receiver.  I’ve learned a lesson in the past: never doubt the Big Dog.  Until Wednesday I’ll lean on another lesson my mother taught me: prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

Lee’s decision will air on ESPN’s Signing Day Special at 2:00 ET.

Two Four-Star Additions

UK’s three other four-star targets are all defensive backs.  I think Kentucky will get two commitments at a position of need on NSD.

The Pitt recruiting people were once optimistic about their chances with MJ Devonshire.  Now UK has all of that optimism, especially after he opted not to visit West Virginia over the weekend.  Another elite corner, Jay Ward, officially visited Florida State over the weekend.

“The trip went great,” Ward told 247. “It was way better than I thought it would be.”

Even though the Seminoles got to make the last impression, I don’t think it’s enough to pull Ward away from recommitting to UK.

Kentucky will be a finalist for Jammie Robinson when he announces his decision Wednesday afternoon.  All of the momentum is trending toward South Carolina, but the folks around UK still believe they have a 50-50 shot.  Last I checked, those are pretty good chances.  The safe bet is that MJ and Ward will be Wildcats this Wednesday.

Kentucky will play Ohio in 2024

Which begs the question, will Stoops still be at UK in five years?  It would be his 12th season in Lexington, making him the longest tenured coach in school history.  To use one of my favorite football cliches, if he has not yet out-kicked his coverage and moved to greener pastures, the program should be in excellent shape.

UK played Ohio in Stoops’ second year, defeating the Bobcats 20-3 in 2014, avenging the embarrassing 2004 loss at Commonwealth Stadium.  At least they looked good in that loss.

JP’s on Today

The Kentucky defensive end’s story has been shared on quite a few platforms.  Now Josh Paschal’s victory over cancer is a cautionary tale told by Today.  The health feature advises people to do what Josh did and regularly check your skin for abnormalities, even on places that never see the sun like the bottom of your foot.  Melanoma is rare, but early detection can save a life.

Remember Julian Edelman?

I’m sure you know the bearded Super Bowl MVP’s name now, but do you remember that time he played at Commonwealth Stadium?  Kent State’s quarterback caught the Cats off guard in the second game of the 2007 season. The dual-threat quarterback helped the Golden Flashes out-gain UK in the first half 298-196.  A 14-14 game at half, Kentucky eventually woke up to win 56-20.  Edelman finished with 135 rushing yards, 129 passing and a touchdown.

#BringIt

The UK Specialists are Bringing ALL of It.

Which brings me to the final chapter of the MNF Notebook…

Power Ranking UK Football Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl did not give us the points and prop bets we wanted to see, but it did give us another excellent Kentucky football commercial.  A tradition that began just a year after Mark Stoops became the Cats’ head coach, the folks at KyWildcatsTV always bring their A-game.  Some are better than others, but which is the best of the best?

5. 2015: I’m Not With You

The second Super Bowl commercial missed the mark.  There were great intentions, but they missed one key element: the voice over.  The dramatic prose pulls you in, and this one didn’t have any of it.  It also had some weird animation on the highlights.  This one is dead last and it’s not even close.

4. 2017: Let’s Go to Work

The only commercial longer than a minute, this ad essentially served as a showcase for the new football facility.  It’s fine, but it’s mostly a workout montage.  It does feature cameos from a pair of KSR Football Podcasters and one excellent line from Darius West that needs more context: “and come back stronger.”

3. 2014: Why Not?

The elements in the commercial are fantastic and Stoops’ script is absolutely incredible.  At the time, it was hard to believe that this beautiful hype train could ever be derailed.  Unfortunately, most of it was only hype.  Of the seven Early Enrollees featured, four transferred. A back injury prevented Drew Barker’s career from ever taking off.  The only significant contributors were the JUCOs, A.J. Stamps and C.J. “Poop” Johnson.

2. Benny Snell in the Snow

I initially ranked this as the best Super Bowl commercial.  Seeing the Cats in Kroger Field in the snow in 4K is breathtaking.  It also began with a subtle shot from Benny at the Music City Bowl officials who prematurely tossed him out of the game in 2017.  There’s one reason it isn’t No. 1: there isn’t an exclamation point in the finale, only a breath of cold air from Snell.

1. Can I get a Hell Yeah?

Nobody is better at creating controlled chaos than Kash Daniel.  His pregame speeches will either give you chills or force you to run through a wall.  Not only does he bring that energy in the 2019 commercial, he stays on a message that does not even sound scripted.

While going through old commercials, you’ll notice many of the same faces.  They’re all gone.  They must replace legends.  After Kash asked, “What’s next?” I’m confident these Cats can do just that.

208 days till football season.


KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: Does anybody love anything more than Mike Edwards loves Skyline Chili?

KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: Does anybody love anything more than Mike Edwards loves Skyline Chili?

Congrats!  You survived a case of the Mondays, a perilous condition that can only be compared to fight with a polar vortex.

While you stock up on firewood and turn up the furnace, allow me to introduce a new Monday night feature: KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook.  (Creative name, right?) Over the next few months, I’ll be holding down the fort on Monday nights, giving me the opportunity to dish on whatever football topics are on my mind.  With only one more football game remaining in the 2018-19 football season, I’ll do what I can to make sure this weekly bit satisfies your football cravings.

Nine days away from National Signing Day, the first MNF Notebook will feature a few recruiting nuggets and sprinkle in some Senior Bowl stuff.  Enjoy.

No Devonta Lee?

I was surprised to hear Devonta Lee was not in the Rupp Arena stands for Saturday night’s game against Kansas, especially after receiving a Friday afternoon text from Drew Franklin: “Just ran into Devonta Lee.”  It turns out Scoop Franklin ran into the wrong guy.

Lee did not make the long 11-hour drive from Louisiana to Lexington because it’s an 11-hour drive from Louisiana to Lexington and he was too busy dunking on dudes.

His absence does not mean the Cats are out of the hunt, but it would have been nice to get Lee on campus one more time before National Signing Day. Ultimately, much of Lee’s decision will weigh on his official visit to LSU this weekend.

Cornerbacks Trending Toward UK

Lee did not make the trip, but two four-star cornerbacks did.  Kentucky was a little late to the MJ Devonshire party, but they’re in a great spot for the four-star prospect from Aliquippa, Pa.  Mark Stoops is expected to follow up with an in-home visit this week to convince Devonshire to commit to UK over Pitt and Neal Brown’s West Virginia Mountaineers.

If you can read between the lines, Jay Ward’s decision to ditch a visit to Florida State to officially visit UK is fantastic news.  But wait, THERE’S MORE!  Steve Wiltfong logged a Crystal Ball pick for Ward to UK.  The 247 Sports guy rarely misses.  I don’t have a Crystal Ball, but if I did, I would see Ward and Devonshire in Kentucky blue.

BIG Deal

Kentucky football’s Junior Day is an annual reminder that I’m getting old.  Most of the visitors this weekend were from the 2020 class, which means they were born after 9/11.  Yikes.

I digress.  As usual, the guest list was too long for one post (although Jack Pilgrim did a pretty good job compiling the best of the best).  One guest stands out above the rest, Justin Rogers. For those who are reading that name for the first time, allow me to explain his significance.

When Michigan natives DeAndre Square and Marquan McCall were being recruited to Kentucky, Steve Clinkscale and Vince Marrow included Rogers.  When the two Wildcats received their initial offers, so did Rogers, even though he was two years younger.  This year you saw the two Michigan men make plays as true freshman; Square was even named All-SEC Freshman.  Well, Rogers is a class ahead of the two.  That’s not a knock on Square and McCall.  It’s a compliment to Rogers.

A former teammate of McCall’s at Oak Park High School in Detroit, Rogers is one of the 20 best high school football players in America, regardless of class.  Like McCall, he started on the offensive line.  Now when he attends All-American camps, he takes turns busting through blockers as a defensive lineman.

Kentucky has never recruited a player as dominant as Rogers.  When UK initially offered, it was a nice gesture, but I questioned its significance.  “Of course they offered him, everybody will.”  Since the Cats were the first to offer, they have not lost momentum.  Rogers has returned to campus for multiple visits, including this past Saturday.  It’s a long shot that UK lands Rogers and his commitment is a long way away, but if Marrow was able to convince one Michigan offensive lineman to come to UK to play defense, he can do it again.

This weekend Rogers posed for a pic with his former teammate, McCall (right),  The guy with him in the left picture, Enzo Jennings, is pretty great too.  See for yourself.

Skyline Mike

The first MNF Notebook’s namesake is dedicate to the Kentucky Badger.  Mike Edwards’ love for Skyline Chili is well-known, but I don’t think anyone knew just how crazy he is for the concoction.  In a piece for the Bengals’ website, Rock Oliver explained the Cincinnati native’s obsession.

“He loves Skyline,” Oliver confirmed the other day. “Went there every day for like the first month. Even when it was being built he would stop by to check on the construction. I told him, ‘Mike, I like Skyline as much as the next guy, but I don’t make sure the guy is hammering in the nails.’”

Mike may want to keep that under wraps.  Some NFL scouts might see “obsessed with Skyline” as a red flag in the evaluation process.


Visitors for Kentucky Football’s 2019 Junior Day

Before Kentucky football recruiting completely turns the page to the 2020 class, the Cats are entertaining a few talented 2019 prospects on a day typically devoted to underclassmen, UK Junior Day.

Two visitors are big surprises: four-star wide receiver Devonta Lee and four-star cornerback Jay Ward.  The latter initially planned to visit Florida State this weekend, but Chad Simmons reports that Ward canceled that trip to officially visit UK a week earlier.  The Cats could lock up a commitment with Ward this weekend.

They aren’t the only four-star 2019 recruits that could commit to UK before Signing Day.  MJ Devonshire, another four-star defensive back, will officially visit UK this weekend.  A top 30 cornerback from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, UK has made an impressive late move to enter the picture.  Pitt, West Virginia, Ole Miss and Ohio State are also in contention for Devonshire’s services.

Two 2019 offensive linemen are also expected to be on campus.  Cincinnati and Indiana were heavily recruiting Dayton Dunbar’s Jonathan Allen when Vince Marrow entered the picture.  Renato Brown recently committed to Louisville, but Kentucky is not backing down from Brown.

In the 2020 class, Kentucky is hosting some of the most talented players in America.

Brad White is bringing a dynamic duo from Maryland to Lexington.  Curtis Jacobs, a four-star wide receiver, will be at UK along with Blake Corum, a top 20 running back in the 2020 class.  Cesar Reyes is another four-star recruit that will be in the mix this weekend.  The offensive tackle from Tampa is considered the No. 199 player overall in the 2020 class.

Jake Pope is the latest recruit from perennial powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas to sign with UK.  He could soon be joined by three-star slot receiver Xavier Restrepo.  Another Ft. Lauderdale prospect is also expected to make the trip, offensive tackle Gerald Mincey.  From other parts of the south, offensive guard Ta’Chawn Brooks and defensive back Tyrik McDaniel will be representing South Carolina.  There will also be quite a large contingency from Tennessee.  Blake Hundley, Jason Eaton and Derrell Bailey Jr. will earn their keep in the trenches.

This is just a small sample of who will be visit UK this weekend.  It’s the Cats’ first step to reaping the recruiting rewards from a successful ten-win campaign.