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Freddie Maggard’s Take

Pre-NFL Draft Offseason Football Notes

Pre-NFL Draft Offseason Football Notes


Things will be a little quiet along the football front in the month of May. Players have the option to get away from the game for a while or stay in Lexington and continue to work out. June marks the start of the official summer training program. Let’s take a look at some goings on as the long offseason begins:


NFL Draft

The Draft starts on Thursday with first round coverage beginning at 8:00pm. Rounds 2 and 3 are at 7:00pm on Friday. 4th though the 7th round kicks off at noon on Saturday. ESPN and the NFL Network will cover the event in its entirety. Kentucky’s Jon Toth and Boom Williams participated in the NFL Combine and have the highest likelihood of being drafted.

Center Jon Toth’s projection is all over the place. He could hear his name as early as Friday night or on Saturday in rounds 4-7.

Toth Projections
-247 Sports 3rd round to the Dolphins
-Fox Sports 5th round to Chargers
-PFF 5th round to Dolphins 6th round to Browns
-PFF ranks Toth 132nd out of its top 250.’s Bottom Line Analysis

“Toth is a tough, four-year starter. Will appeal to teams looking for centers who can operate in a power-based rushing scheme. While he’s better in a phone booth than on the move, he understands his limitations and does a good job of staying within himself. He’s not the best athlete at the position but his size, arm length, strength and consistency should outweigh that on the next level. Toth has the traits and ability to be an eventual starter in the NFL”.

Bryan Lynn | USA Today

Bryan Lynn | USA Today

Boom Williams’ draft status also varies. 23 running backs were selected a year ago. Williams is listed as the 21st best RB according to Mel Kiper and the 150th best available player. That equates to a 5th round selection. No other service ranks Boom in the Top 250 nor do they project him to be drafted.

Williams offers a diverse skill set and the old draft adage is applicable, “It only takes one team to fall in love…”. Will Boom hear his name called? I sure hope so but it wasn’t likely early on in the process. But, the situation appears to be trending up. Latter rounds are possible for Williams. He will certainly be a priority undrafted free agent if his name isn’t called.’s Bottom Line Analysis

“Scat back with outstanding burst who can create for himself in space, but is not about that life when asked to run between the tackles. Williams doesn’t have the blocking or hands to be a full-time third-down back and he lacks the decisiveness and vision necessary to handle snaps as a backup. While he does have plus athletic ability, Williams may be too limited in what he can offer a team from a roster flexibility standpoint”.

Depth Chart Podcast

You can listen here.

We discussed QB Jarren Williams’ decommitment. There were flagrant signs of this happening. In my opinion, “committed” prospects that use social media to enthusiastically announce additional offers and continue to make countless visits to other football programs present giant-waving red flags of uncertainty. We wish the young man the very best in future endeavors, but life and searching for a 2018 quarterback must go on. It’s not personal, it’s personnel is relevant in the Williams situation. As we’ve learned from recent history, quarterback recruiting can be a tricky proposition.

The longest offseason in sports begins now. The quieter the better.

The Depth Chart Podcast Prepares for the NFL Draft


Even though Kentucky’s spring football season has ended, football never sleeps on The Depth Chart Podcast, brought to you by Jack Kain Ford.  The gang touches on a few football topics from around the Big Blue Nation before diving into the NFL Draft with friend of the program, Big Mike.  A small sample of what you’ll hear:

—  Freddie’s response to Jarren Williams’ decommitment: “NEXT!”

—  A new term to enter into the football recruiting lexicon: “Underwear Olympics.”

—  Spring game updates on 2017 Kentucky opponents.

—  Picks for surprising UK wins and surprising UK losses this fall.

—  Benny Snell’s CATSPYs snub.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

How the Rookies Fared in the Spring Game

How the Rookies Fared in the Spring Game


Before the absurdity surrounding bowl rings took over the Twittersphere, most media outlets have dissected the spring game from every angle imaginable. I stated that the youngsters, or first-year contributors, were the storyline of the scrimmage on our Depth Chart Podcast. Let’s take a deeper look at Mark Stoops’ newcomers.


Early Enrollees

Linebacker Jamin Davis, WR Clevan Thomas, CB Cedrick Dort Jr., QB Danny Clark

— WR Clevan Thomas proved to be an efficient target over the middle. The rookie caught 3 passes for 28 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had an opportunity for another TD catch but was unable to hold on to the football in the end zone following contact. Thomas could find his way onto the fall depth chart at the slot receiver position this fall.

— LB Jamin Davis was moved into a starting role on the White team due to Jordan Jones’ spring game suspension. He made the most of the opportunity by leading all tacklers with 8 including a tackle for loss. Fellow linebacker Eli Brown showed growth at the same position. Davis is in need of weight and strength gains. But, he displayed an innate nose for the football and could play this fall if called upon. Jamin Davis is the future of Mark Stoops’ defense.

— CB Cedrick Dort Jr. took on a block from pulling guard Logan Stenberg. 6’6 320-pounds vs. 5’11 170. You do the math and guess the outcome. Dort shook off the results from the collision and broke up a pass on the next play. He wasn’t as heralded as other defensive backs in the 17 class. Pay little mind to those recruiting cycle prognostications. Most likely a redshirt season awaits, but his spring performance catapults him in the conversation to play as a true freshman.


— QB Danny Clark’s maiden voyage into college football started off with a bang. That bang was the noise that resonated from the true freshman’s cannon for an arm. Arm strength will never be a liability for Clark as he nearly decapitated Kayaune Ross on a short hitch route. He’ll learn touch and other nuances of the position. 2017 will likely be a redshirt season in which he can study under Stephen Johnson, Gunner Hoak, and Drew Barker. The kid has swagger for sure.

The Redshirts


Defense – DT Ja’Quize Cross, DT Kordell Looney, Nickel/Safety Tobias Gilliam, DE/LB Jaylin Bannerman, DE/LB Jamar “Boogie” Watson, CB Kei Beckham, CB Zy’Aire Hughes, MLB Roland Walder, FS Davonte Robinson 

Offense – QB Gunnar Hoak, C Drake Jackson, G Luke Fortner, TE Justin Rigg, RB AJ Rose, G Tate Leavitt

— We have to start this category with the spring game’s most valuable player, Jamar “Boogie” Watson. A week prior to the spring game the media witnessed his emergence in an open practice as he more than capably filled the starting DE/OLB role vacated by Denzil Ware. Watson was all over the field and was the defense’s leading havoc stat producer. What the BBN saw last Friday was merely more of the same. Watson will be called upon to become a designated pass rusher. The former 2-star from DC’s future is limitless.


— QB Gunnar Hoak put on a show: 16-24, 174 yards, 2 TDs. His spring game a year ago provided a glimpse, last Friday solidified impressions of the offense’s future. Just when that future begins is the question. Hoak could step in and play immediately. He does not possess Clark’s arm strength but relies more on anticipation and timing to complete passes. Gunner Hoak will be a starting quarterback for the University of Kentucky.

— TE Justin Rigg is Vince Marrow’s guy. More athletic than originally projected, the redshirt freshman caught 2 passes for 21 yards. Rigg is a solid third TE for Eddie Gran.

— RB AJ Rose is fast. GPS tracker measured a spring practice run at 21 mph which is faster than any RB from 2016. Rose showed enough to excite even though his spring game was cut short due to a neck injury. I’d imagine a Wildcat package will be installed to fit the high school quarterback’s skill.


— Guard Luke Fortner and center Drake Jackson were critical pieces on the White team’s offensive line. Both will be a part of a two-deep OL in 2017. OL coach John Schlarman indicated that guard Tate Leavitt showed strides in spring practice. He will need to continue that momentum into the offseason to move into a highly competitive rotation.


— Defensive backs Tobias Gilliam, Davonte Robinson, Zy’Aire Hughes, and Kei Beckham will provide depth and push starters in fall camp. Safeties Gilliam and Robinson fill a position of need following the departure of Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain. Beckham intercepted a Stephen Johnson pass in the scrimmage and joins a talented group of cornerbacks. Zy’Aire Hughes was moved from receiver to cornerback. That transition payed dividends in the form of a forced fumble. Hughes is an upper-level athlete and too talented to keep off the field in some capacity.

— Another position of need is defensive tackle. Kordell Looney’s 4 tackle, 1 QB sack, 1 QB hurry, and 2 tackles for loss performance was an indication of what’s to come. The best defensive lineman in the game was Adrian Middleton. Second best was his backup Kordell Looney.

— Linebacker Roland Walder quietly registered 4 tackles. OLB Jaylin Bannerman joins Boogie Watson at DE/OLB.

What does all this mean?

Not a great deal in all actuality because the spring game was well, just a scrimmage. Both true and redshirt freshman currently on the roster have a long way to go. But last Friday provided an obvious sign that young talent is present on Kentucky’s roster; significant contributions will be made from some that are listed above. However, the future is now for the Wildcats. A critical offseason preparing for an urgent season starts now.

The Depth Chart Podcast’s Spring Game Review

The Depth Chart Podcast’s Spring Game Review


Six long weeks of spring practice in the Bluegrass culminated in Friday night’s Blue/White Game, and the Depth Chart Podcast is here to discuss it all.  From the exceptional turnout to the exciting action on the field, Freddie, Nick, Andrew and Jack talk about…

—  How spring game schematics took away the best part of Stephen Johnson’s game.

—  Danny Clark is Jared Lorenzen’s spirit animal.

—  Players and details that stood out.

—  How the setting was ideal for recruiting and hosting a ton of elite talent.

—  The real winners of the Spring Game: Young Talent.

—  What’s next for the team leading into the “offseason.”

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Spring Game Analysis Part II

Spring Game Analysis Part II


Earlier we discussed individual positions. Judging from a body of work consisting of just one open practice and a spring game with a fixed outcome to evaluate, the following are additional observations that may be of interest.

Special Teams

— Uncharacteristically Kicker Austin MacGinnis missed a makeable field goal. No fret, the senior is money in crucial situations. MacGinnis enters 2017 with a streak of 7 consecutive made field goals. His 257 career points rank second in UK history just 48 shy of Lones Sieber’s 305 mark.

— Punting is a totally different matter. Grant McKinniss averaged 39.2 yards per punt in 2016 which was close to the sophomore’s middling outcome on Friday. McKinniss possesses adequate leg strength as seen when he booted a 50 plus yarder. Consistency has been all but absent and must be improved in the offseason.

Strength and Conditioning

— Prior to the game I tweeted that the UK Strength and Conditioning Staff (Corey Edmond and Mark Hill) were in the early running for Most Valuable Player(s). We’ve discussed body changes on the Depth Chart Podcast in length, last night’s advancements were on display for all to see.

— Two examples are true-sophomores: LB Kash Daniel and RB Benny Snell. First, both possess a desire to advance. Success matters to them. Results have been positive and obvious.

— Presence of explosion or quick twitch body movements were more common on Friday than in last year’s spring game. This could be seen in the secondary and at linebacker in particular.

— Much like the example used with Daniel and Snell, individual players must buy-in and self-motivate for the process to work. At times, players that show little strength-conditioning development lack the desire to be advanced. The term “coachable” is applicable here. Self-responsibility and accountability have to be taken into consideration.


Player Selection

Some may call this recruiting; I’d rather refer to the term as player selection. Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are proven talent evaluators as the Cats are often the first to offer prospects before others quickly follow suit. There seems to be a common personality trait within the younger players, especially early enrollees.

— Cedrick Dort, Clevan Thomas, Jamin Davis should have been preparing for their senior prom. Instead, the trio excelled in their first spring game. A portion of their success should be credited to natural ability. But as Mark Stoops talked about after the game, there’s a sense of maturity and purpose that resonates within his freshman and sophomore classes. That does not happen by chance. The “want-to” matters as much as the “how-to”.

— Receiver Isiah Epps, DE Abule Abade-Fitzgerald, OT Sebastien Dolcine, OT Austin Dotson, and DE Chris Whittaker fit this same description. Unheralded by meaningless circumstance and evaluation standards, all have a chance to develop into contributors and eventual starters.

Player Development

On Friday, younger or backup players looked as good as starters in previous years and starters looked better than their predecessors at certain position groups. I’m not sure if the term “Player Development” has a definition but I’m fairly confident that what I saw on Friday fits the description. This team still has a long way to go.

— Obvious player development advancements in Friday’s spring game occurred at all four linebacker positions, in the secondary as well as along the offensive and defensive lines.

— Gunnar Hoak put on a show and is the future of the program. There is depth at quarterback. However, I’ve heard and read several saying that Stephen Johnson was only successful in the Governor’s Cup and did very little else. Numbers paint a different picture. The senior quarterback finished 9th in the SEC’s Total Offense category with 2364 yards, a 13-6 TD-INT ratio, and racked up 197 yards per game. In addition, his 130.95 QB rating surpassed 2015’s total of 112.01.

Jamar “Boogie” Watson dominated spring game action just as he did during an open practice. Watson was a basketball player; football was his second direction. Much like other multi-sport athletes, talent evaluators missed on him as he wasn’t a fixture at camps and combines. Those events don’t measure heart nor do they gauge the importance of sport-crossover traits. We’ve also seen this in Josh Allen and will soon see in a bunch of 2017 signees. Watson’s been on campus for less than a year and has taken full advantage of available resources in order to develop into a potential future starter.

— Consistency in youthful success is also a testament to player development. Kordell Looney is a prime example on the defensive line. DE Calvin Taylor is another. Both are obviously better on the field which resulted from countless hours dedicated in meeting rooms, weight rooms, cafeteria, and practice fields.

— Examples are plentiful along the offensive front as well. Guard Logan Stenberg’s advanced rapidly in his two years on campus. Bunchy Stallings, Nick Haynes, and so forth have all greatly improved since day one.

The most improved player that I evaluated on film was guard/tackle George Asafo-Adjei. Mentally sharp on assignment; the junior’s athletic movements were crisper, more purposeful, and explosive.


New Coaches

— Defensive coordinator Matt House often screams the word “Strain”. I asked him to define the term. In his typical hoarse, post-practice voice, he said it meant to ask more than just good effort. Effort is a mere baseline; strain means to go further. His messaging has been taken to heart as most all defensive players interviewed during spring practice repeated the coach’s catch phrase.

— The defense certainly strained on Friday. At times it wasn’t successful but schematic scales were heavily weighed against them. In the open scrimmage House blitzed then blitzed some more. His aggressive style fits current personnel and produced positive results. Example, OLB’s Josh Allen and Denzil Ware’s name was rarely called on Friday. Both are considered upper tier SEC LB’s and will be active come September 2nd. All SEC LB Jordan Jones didn’t play. His presence automatically transitions the unit’s personality. Forcing the issue will be paramount; read and react has been replaced by attack and disrupt.

— Boogie Watson is now a known name within the BBN. So is Josh Allen, and Denzil Ware. Soon a slew of highly skilled newcomers will join them in Lexington. All of these players are assigned to Coach Dean Hood. OLB is the most difficult position within the UK defense. Dean Hood is a proven teacher and developer. Perfect match.

Derrick LeBlanc’s impact could be seen on Friday as well. Kordell Looney, Calvin Taylor, Adrian Middleton, Kengera Daniel and others seemed to play more freely and with increased aggression. Both traits that LeBlanc frequently discusses. Competition is another aspect that was a common along the defensive front. This especially applies to the nose tackle position. Knowing the importance of the position to the overall success or failure of the defense, Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam were rotated on the first team based upon play-by-play accomplishment. Looney is pushing Middleton. There is a four-man logjam at defensive end. Competition is a coach’s best friend.

As the defensive line goes so could this team. LeBlanc will play a critical role in this team’s outcome.

Has this been a sunshine pumping post? Partly yes and that’s ok. Things are trending up. However, I’ll say it again; this team has a long-long way to go. As history has shown us, there is a fine line between 5-7 and 7-5.

Breaking Down Each Position Following Kentucky’s Spring Game

Expectation management is a measurement that should be taken into consideration when analyzing spring football games. Schemes are basic. Quarterbacks are off-limits for contact. Teams flip-flop players and coaches dial up plays in order to showcase a unit, position group, or an individual player. In other words, the fact the Wildcats finished its spring game with no significant injury should be the only evaluation tool utilized in Friday night’s scrimmage.

The younger players impressed. Let’s dive into analysis:


Offensive Line

Eddie Gran wanted to see his players maintain 100% proficiency in assignment and discipline indicators. Did that happen? Not really, but the second year offensive coordinator must have been pleased with his offensive line. John Schlarman’s contract was extended with a raise. Friday night showed the BBN why. The Wildcats will again play with a two-deep OL. I tried to focus on individual, one-on-one blocking. Both the Blue and White team’s big guys impressed and at times dominated.

— Bunchy Stallings was solid at center. On one occasion, the junior snapped the football then pulled around the line-of-scrimmage to set the edge with a block against a pursuing linebacker. Athletic move. Dermontti Dawson type stuff. Drake Jackson also proved that he’s ready for game action. Replacing Jon Toth will not be an easy task.

— Guard Logan Stenberg’s development continues to excite. He mauled defensive linemen and on occasion, defensive backs. Stenberg will push for all conference honors. George Asafo-Adjei may be the most important lineman of the group as he rotated between guard and right tackle.

— OL depth is noticeable. From Mason Wolfe to Luke Fortner; Schlarman has two units that could start for some SEC programs. This is the only time in the program’s history that I can remember that being the case.

— Guard/Center Nick Haynes’ versatility also was highlighted as he played both.

— Pass blocking was not as clean as Schlarman would have preferred. But, high level run blocking has carried over from 2016.

Running Back

— As expected, we saw very little from Freshman All-American Benny Snell. And, that’s ok. What we did get to see reinforced my gut feeling that the sophomore is leaner, faster, and more explosive than he was a year ago. And, he was pretty darn good in 2016. Snell is the most competitive Kentucky RB that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Holding him back was a tall task for Eddie Gran. But, his OC told us on the post-game set that Benny grew up from the experience. Snell encouraged teammates. Running back is an independent, individual position. Having a proven star being supportive of other RB’s has to be considered as a tremendous and new development.

— Sihiem King rushed 19 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. The elusive runner displayed that he can physically run behind his pads in the red-zone. AJ Rose will play a key role in 2017. He posted a couple nice runs prior to being injured from a vicious hit from Eli Brown.

— Overall, I came away more confident in the RB position than I was prior to the spring game. Benny will Benny, but there is depth. Gran will again have a full stable IF Bryant Koback can return from injury. Three RB’s is not enough against the grueling schedule awaiting the Cats. A fourth must surface.

Receiver/Tight End

— True freshman Clevan Thomas was as good as advertised. The rookie caught a touchdown and efficiently navigated the middle of the field. As an early enrollee, he should have been preparing for prom instead of going one-on-one with future NFL safety Mike Edwards.

— Kayaune Ross may be the hardest working player on the team from what I’ve witnessed throughout spring practice. Ross caught a touchdown pass on a fade route early in the game. I’ve seen him run that route hundreds of times after practice. Great example. He should be a red-zone threat.

— The BBN finally got a glimpse of TE Justin Rigg. Vince Marrow has harped on the redshirt freshman for two years now. CJ Conrad did not participate, but Rigg and Greg Hart effectively filled the void.


— Stephen Johnson played greedy. Gunnar Hoak played within the system. The result? Hoak outplayed the incumbent starter. If you’ve followed along on the Depth Chart Podcast or occasionally read KSR, I’ve been extremely high on Hoak since National Signing Day a year ago. We discussed this in length when a prior Kentucky QB commitment flipped to another SEC school and I screamed for the BBN to not worry or be concerned because of Gunnar. Poised, confident, and extremely smooth in the pocket; Hoak is the future of the Kentucky Football program.

— Johnson forced the action a little too much for his and the coach’s liking. Near misses on deep passes prevented the Governor’s Cup MVP from having a monstrous statistical outing. To his credit, Johnson started postgame remarks talking about how proud and happy he was for Gunnar Hoak.

— There should be no concern over the QB situation. Johnson is a proven entity. Hoak is a SEC-level starting quarterback. Having two ready to go against Southern Miss is a positive.


Defensive Line

-Adrian Middleton appeared quicker and more forceful playing at his new weight of 275-pounds. The least heralded defensive linemen from the Class of 2014 has turned out to be the most impactful.

Kordell Looney is ready to take on SEC competition. Extremely active; the rookie batted down a pass, had a sack, and two tackles for loss. He will prominently factor in 2016.

6’9 305-pound DE Calvin Taylor is developing nicely and displayed additional improvement, strength, and lateral movement. Defensive end was a concern, but with TJ Carter, Kengera Daniel, incoming freshmen, and the return of Alvonte Bell the position should be ok.

-Nose tackle play didn’t match the level of the other two DL positions. Concerned? Not too much due to Naquez Pringle’s play in the latter portion of 2016. Matt Elam, Jacob Hyde, or a newcomer will be needed to step up and into a contributing role.


-Disappointed in Jordan Jones. The SEC’s leading returning tackler did not participate in the scrimmage because of a missed meeting. He’s better than that. His team needs him to be better than that.

-With Jones’ absence came an opportunity for Eli Brown and true freshman-early enrollee Jamin Davis. Davis led the team with 8 tackles and showcased why we were so high on him on NSD. I can now see Davis playing next fall if he can add 10 or so pounds. Kid’s going to be special.

-Kash Daniel was solid. He and Courtney Love may not jump out on the stat sheet or highlight reel, but the pair are consistent pluggers for Matt House’s defense.

Jamar “Boogie” Watson was the defensive MVP. His Friday play was consistent with what we saw in last Saturday’s open scrimmage. We can now project him as a 2017 playmaker. Watson was a basketball standout turned 2-star football prospect coming out of the DC area. Much like Jamin Davis, the kid’s going to be special.


-True freshman CB Cedrick Dort Jr. (5’11 170) will never have to prove his toughness again. The early enrollee took on the block of pulling guard Logan Stenberg (6’6 320) and came off the turf wobbly. The very next play he deflected a downfield pass. Respect.

Davonte Robinson and Jordan Griffin were athletic and will make plays this fall.

-Didn’t see much out of All SEC safety Mike Edwards as the veteran had very little to prove on Friday. Tobias Gilliam, Robinson, and Darius West filled in nicely.

What does all this mean?

There’s no rationalizing what we saw on Friday. There are so many hidden tendencies that skew evaluation and scouting that again, the only number that matters is zero. Zero as in no major spring game injuries.

This team is better. How much better won’t be determined until September 2nd.

Meet Boss, Freddie's newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

The Depth Chart Podcast: “The Paradigm has Shifted.”

Meet Boss, Freddie's newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

Meet Boss, Freddie’s newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

“Kentucky is a no longer a basketball state, it’s a football state.”  It’s a ludicrous statement, but not as ludicrous as Freddie Maggard’s use of the word “paradigm,” especially when you look at the talent on the high school level.  In the 2019 class (juniors-to-be) there are six Top 250 players in the country, already with an offer sheet that includes every traditional college football powerhouse.

Kentucky’s winningest high school football coach, Philip Haywood of Belfry, joined the program to discuss the evolution of talent around the Commonwealth.  He also shared stories about future Wildcat Austin Dotson and much more.  There’s also plenty from Spring Football, including:

— Red jerseys didn’t exist when Freddie played.

— A game of over/under from last year’s stats.

— Dorian Baker’s pre-senior year progression.

— Freddie refuses to accept that Burgoo is delicious.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

The Kentucky Quarterback Situation

The Kentucky Quarterback Situation


Pic by The Desert Sun

The easy out here is to quote “sources” about the Kentucky quarterback situation. But, for argument sakes, let’s go with what we’ve heard from coaches during spring practice press conferences and historical data to make our argument on the Wildcat QB situation.

We have to discuss scenarios before we dive into the three candidates.

  • Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has insisted that all positions are up for grabs and competition exists across the depth chart.
  • Stephen Johnson led his team to a New Year’s bowl game after resiliently filling in for the injured starter. Johnson has experienced the most sustained positional success as per the eye test.
  • From all accounts, Johnson has carried over his late-season achievement into spring practice. Words such as “composed,” “leader,” “efficient,” and other complimentary terms have been used while describing the senior signal caller.
  • Johnson dilemma: Will Darin Hinshaw reward Johnson’s 2016-season saving performance and spring practice efficiency with the starting job? Can he afford not to name Johnson as the offense’s leader while Stephen is actually leading the team?
  • Eddie Gran has been highly complementary of his offense’s execution and potential with Johnson at the helm. Will continuity win out?
  • Drew Barker was the starting quarterback in 2016. Barker blistered Southern Miss in the first half prior to his team’s pending, second half meltdown. His next week’s performance in the Swamp was putrid. But, was that game an indication of Drew Barker’s quarterbacking abilities or did his injured back impede execution? I tend to think that Drew was in serious pain and limited but decided to gut it out.
  • The main dilemma here pertains to an old football method of operation: Starters cannot lose their position due to injury.
  • Dilemma II: With the NCAA’s 20-hour rule, can Eddie Gran afford to present Barker with practice reps IF his back continues to be an issue and on-field presence remains in doubt? Coaches have very little time to prepare two QB’s to be game ready. Three is nearly impossible.
  • Tough, tough situation. Regardless of what Drew Barker has or has not done both on and off the field; the northern Kentucky native’s status on the team cannot be understated. He was a critical part of signing the university’s most heralded recruiting class and remains a popular figure in the locker room. Agree or not; former starters are to be shown reverence and respect.
  • Gunnar Hoak has separated from the pack and is the established and at this point in time, “mythical” number two on the depth chart. Hinshaw recently told the media that he is confident that Hoak could win in the SEC. I agree.
  • Much like Stephen Johnson, Hoak has methodically developed into a legitimate, SEC starting quarterback. While he doesn’t move the public perception needle as much as the other two, it would be unwise to count the redshirt freshman out of the equation. Hoak may be the best passer of the three. 


Stephen Johnson File

  • Enrolled at UK in January of 2016
  • Entered 16 season as backup. Led Cats to 7 wins in 11 games
  • Completed 145 of 265 passes (54.7%) for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. Also had 327 yards rushing and 3 scores
  • Team MVP in Governor’s Cup: 16-27, 338-yards, 3 TD’s in Kentucky’s 41-38 win over Louisville
  • Team MVP of Taxslayer Bowl: 19-34, 175 yards, 1 TD. Also led the Cats with 49 rush yards and 1 touchdown
  • Had zero interceptions in the 4th quarter or in the Red Zone in 2016

The Case for Stephen Johnson the Starter

I can’t imagine a scenario in which Johnson is not the starting quarterback come September 2nd. As a proven entity that is reportedly improving on a daily basis; he brings consistency, leadership, balance, and composure.

Teammates follow leaders. Simple as that. Leaders also must be on-field producers and maintain sustained performance. Stephen Johnson has checked those blocks.

As you can read above; Stephen Johnson threw zero-4th quarter or red-zone interceptions in 2016. I’ve been searching for a statistic that properly explained the difference in Mark Stoops’ first four teams. I think I found it. That stat summarizes the variances in a five and seven-win season.


Pic by

Gunnar Hoak File

  • Enrolled at Kentucky in January of 2016
  • Redshirt
  • Was 4-5 for 57 yards and a touchdown in spring game

The Case for Gunnar Hoak the Starter

I’ve been high on Hoak since National Signing Day. The youngster has a similar sense of calm leadership that Stephen Johnson possesses. With his QB coach proclaiming that he could win games in the Southeastern Conference, it’s clear to me that Gunnar Hoak is the quarterback of the future and is at a minimum a highly capable backup. Hoak’s strengths are his accuracy and decision making ability.


The Drew Barker File


  • Missed final 9 games of 2016 with a back injury
  • First UK QB to have 4 TD passes in a half (vs. USM) since Andre Woodson
  • Career high in Southern Miss loss: 323 yards, 4 TDs


  • Played in 5 games, making the final two starts vs. Charlotte and Louisville
  • Connected on 35 of 70 passes for 364 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs
  • Was 7-9 for 42 yards in relief role vs. Mississippi State

The Case for Drew Barker the Starter

Again, tough situation. Matter of fact, I was in an eerily similar situation many years ago. Based on personal experience, I do not agree with nor do I like it when a starter loses his job due to an injury. I think most old school football folks would agree. But, with a back injury; accurately projecting future on-the-field, full-contact availability is an inaccurate proposition.

Barker did lead the offense to a touchdown on a 10-play drive in the Cat’s latest scrimmage. This can only be taken as an encouraging sign. But, drives can be scripted. QB’s wear red (no-contact) jerseys. Enormous difference in real-life football games. Regardless, a positive.

My first and foremost hope for Barker is for a complete recovery and long-lived health. If sustained football activity becomes a reality, then there is nothing to prevent him from competing for the starting job. However, time is not on his side. There will come a moment when a decision will have to be made whether to give Barker practice reps or not. Most likely this call won’t have to be made until Southern Miss prep work begins.

Kentucky has three capable starting quarterbacks. Who will be the starter and when will that decision be made? Notice I didn’t say, “when will that decision be made public”; two totally different matters. Only time, and not spring game performance, will tell.

Meeting room chemistry is a touchy subject. I do not think that this will be an issue with this team. A rocky QB situation can significantly inhibit and poison team. There’s too much at stake for that to transpire. There are far too many strong-vocal leaders for that to occur. The Kentucky Football program has matured too much for that to happen in 2017.


Josh Allen and the UK Run Defense



Want to take a peek into player development under Mark Stoops? Then look no further than Josh Allen. Allen entered the program as a 205-pound, 2-star defensive end prospect from New Jersey that was forced into true-freshman action due to Jason Hatcher’s inconsistent presence. The 245-pound outside linebacker is now going into his junior season as a two-year starter and one of the top linebackers in the Southeastern Conference.

Allen had a QB sack and was singled out for his play in Saturday’s scrimmage. He met with the media afterwards:

Question: How did you do in today’s scrimmage?

Josh Allen: “I did my part. I did what I can, I got a couple tackles, just played my role.”

Question: How is the run defense this spring?

Allen: “We can step it a little more but I think we’re doing a lot better than last year. We still have pieces we still need to get better, but overall I think we’re doing a lot better. We got to play together. We can’t just have one person make the tackle. Coach Hood, Coach House has been telling us we got to strain to the ball that not one person can make a tackle.”

Question: Tell us about Coach Dean Hood

Allen: “Affecting my life on and off the field. He’s more comfortable now, I feel more comfortable with him. I love Coach Hood a lot. He’s learning just like we’re learning.”

Question: 1st and 2nd down defense has been a focus this spring. How was it today?

Allen: “From last scrimmage, we did a little better. We started slow but we ended up kicking it back up. We need to play more physical, read our keys better.”

Run defense is a major concern for this team. 2016 saw the Cats struggle in this category as it finished 12th in the SEC after allowing 228 yards per game. It also surrendered 25 rushing touchdowns and 2966 yards.

As par for the course, Kentucky will face an abundance of elite runners in 2017. The show will start in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on September 2nd with an absolute war-daddy in Southern Miss RB Ito Smith. Smith torched the Cats for 173 yards in last season’s opener and should provide ample motivation for the defense throughout the offseason. Here’s a quick glance at other opposing players that could present problems on the ground:



Southern Miss: RB Ito Smith-265 carries, 1459 yards, 5.51 yards per carry (ypc), 17 TD’s.

Missouri: RB Damarea Crockett-153 carries, 1062 yards, 6.94 ypc, 10 TD’s.

Mississippi State: QB Nick Fitzgerald-195 carries, 1375 yards, 7.05 ypc, 16 TD’s.

Tennessee: RB John Kelly 98-carries, 630 yards, 6.43 ypc, 5 TD’s.

Vanderbilt: RB Ralph Webb 250-carries, 1283 yards, 5.13 ypc, 13 TD’s.

Georgia: RB Nick Chubb-224 carries, 1130 yards, 5.04 ypc, 8 TD’s. RB Sony Michel-152 carries, 840 yards, 5.53 ypc, 4 TD’s.

Louisville: QB Lamar Jackson-260 carries, 1765 yards, 6.13 ypc, 19 TD’s.

A positive for Matt House is that his defense practices against one of the SEC’s top rushing offenses on a daily basis. Eli Brown indicated on Saturday that if the UK defense doesn’t practice at a highly physical level, then its offensive counterparts would embarrass them on the practice field.

“If you can be a good run defense team against our offense, you know you’re making progress.”  – Mark Stoops

As you can see from the above list, Mark Stoops and Matt House will continue to stress run defense.

The Depth Chart Podcast: Halfway Through Spring Practice


Just like that, we are less than two weeks away from the 2017 Spring Game.  Freddie and the crew put the basketball season to bed by giving you an outlook on where each position group stands ahead of the Blue/White game and much more, including:

—  Jack’s Elite Eight experience was as bad as it can get.

—  Why it has been a quiet spring practice.

—  Stephen Johnson is the man, even if he doesn’t consume all 5,000 calories.

—  How immaturity cost players years of eligibility.

—  What forced us to mute Jack’s microphone.


—  The differences in the defense under Matt House.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, streaming on Podbay, or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

One Question Answered; One More to Go

One Question Answered; One More to Go


Kentucky’s leading rusher, Boom Williams, declared for the NFL Draft. The Wildcat’s leading receiver, in terms of yardage, quit the team and has since transferred. Even with the need to replace its two most explosive offensive weapons, Kentucky’s two most pressing questions entering spring practice are its receiving corps and defensive line.

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is not a coach that tosses around unnecessary compliments. He, and other coaches, have bragged on the Cat pass catchers throughout 8 spring practices. That group has apparently answered the bell. Thus, one question remains: How and will the UK defensive line improve production and standing?

Production you say? 2016 defensive line starters DT Adrian Middleton, NT Naquez Pringle, and DE Courtney Miggins combined for 102 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 QB sacks, and just 1 QB hurry in 13 games.

In order for proper perspective take a look at these statistics. UK’s starting DT, NT, and DE averaged: 7.84 Tackles, 0.88 Tackle for Loss, 0.11 QB sack, and .07 QB hurry per game. These numbers emphasize desperation for improvement.

Two major components in UK’s 2017 defensive line projections are true sophomore defensive end TJ Carter and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kordell Looney. I caught up with both after Thursday’s practice:

Question: Is there a big difference in former DL Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh and Derrick LeBlanc?
TJ Carter: “Coach LeBlanc and Coach Brumbaugh learned from the same coach, Coach P. Both great coaches. We’re working on more fast-pace, penetration style. I’m 280 right now, want to play at 285. Want to improve play vs. the run, stay on gaps. Improve pass rush, play technique better.”

Kordell Looney: “Coach LeBlanc wants us to move faster, get more in, in same amount of time. So get 10 minutes of work in 8 minutes. He just wants us to play faster. I’m 300-pounds right now. I want to weigh more, want to play at least 305 this fall. I need to work on everything. It just takes work and practice.”

Question: How is it playing for new defensive coordinator Matt House?

TJ Carter: “Coach House is emphasizing strain, run to the ball, always run to the ball. He always talks about strain-strain-strain.”
Kordell Looney: “Coach House has way more energy. Coach House is on your butt, he knows everything. Everything he says is strain-strain-strain.”

Question: What was it like to play DE in SEC as a true freshman and play against Georgia Tech?
TJ Carter: “Going through season, coming in, getting a couple plays during the season helped me get experience. When I got a chance against Georgia Tech it was playing against the hometown team (Carter is from Atlanta-Tech did not offer), felt like a great opportunity.”

Looney is behind DT Adrian Middleton on the current depth chart. TJ Carter is running with the 1st defense. Judging by coach and player comments, I can foresee both having breakout seasons. If UK is to be better along its defensive front; Matt House will need both to play at a high level.

Defensive line play in the Southeastern Conference is vital. Matter of fact, it can be argued that quality defensive play can separate contenders from pretenders. Kentucky’s DL is in dire need of improvement in order for the Wildcats to achieve its lofty goals in 2017.

The Number 18


True freshman receiver Clevan Thomas Jr. did not ask to wear 18. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran surprised the early enrollee with the distinction of the number that has evolved into a status of consequence, distinction, and expectation for the Kentucky football program. The rookie from Miami understands its historical inference and is humbly willing to be judged in context to its storied past.

Full disclosure, I wore the number 18 at the University of Kentucky. However, I did not start the trend of numerical association with on-the-field achievement. That modern-day distinction belongs to Jacob Tamme.

I was no superstar. Nor was I as pretty as Randall Cobb. I am as Kentucky-country as catfish and cornbread but was never mentioned with the same reverence as home-state hero Jacob Tamme. Truth be known; unlike its latest owner Boom Williams, I never rushed for a touchdown in Commonwealth Stadium.


How I came to wear the now-famous number did not develop from some dramatic circumstance. Decades before dual numbers and recruiting decisions were being based off numerical promises, long-time UK equipment manager Tom Kalinowski randomly handed out numbers/jerseys to incoming freshmen in an assembly line type of operation at the start of training camp.

I didn’t care what number I wore. I moved to the back of the line so my vainer teammates could fight for their aesthetic preference. After the jerseys were divvied out in a piranha feeding frenzy type situation, there was just one QB acceptable number that remained on the table. That number just so happened to be 18. Today at the University of Kentucky, 18 is coveted and worn as a badge of honor.

I recently sat down with the UK’s newest number 18 and discussed spring practice, jersey expectation, and history. I found Clevan Thomas Jr. to be a humble yet confident young man who is eagerly taking advantage of an opportunity to earn early playing time. But, like with most true freshman, the learning curve is steep. That has not dissuaded the determined Thomas.


Question: How did you get the number 18, did you ask for it?

Clevan Thomas Jr: “No, I didn’t ask for it. Honestly, I didn’t expect to get 18, I thought I’d get my number which is 8. Coach Gran surprised me and was like, “You got 18.” That’s an honor because of Randall Cobb, Boom, and Jacob Tamme. 18 is really a special number here. I’m going to try to reach that gold standard held here with that number.”

Question: Going back, who are some of the 18’s in UK history that inspired you to be honored to wear the number?

Thomas Jr
: “Jacob Tamme and Randall Cobb because they both made it in the NFL. That’s my dream right there. Since they made it, I got to work to make it too. Boom is a great RB who recently had the number 18 too.”

Question: Lots of expectation from wearing 18. Do you feel additional pressure?

Thomas Jr: “Feels good, instead of going out with a regular number that people have to make, the number 18 is already made, proven, and respected. My teammates look at me like, hey that’s a big number and I got to work hard because all the greats had that number. I have to work hard because everybody will have their eyes on that number. I can never really be them (Tamme-Cobb-Boom). I have to be myself. But when I put that number on I have to represent them well, with class and honor. Coach Gran put a lot of faith in me.”

Question: Tell me about your first college scrimmage.

Thomas Jr: “It was real-real fast. I just feel like I can get better. I can always get better. I made some mistakes, coach just told me not to get mad at myself. When I look in the mirror, I hold myself to a higher standard.”

Question: You played at the nation’s highest level of high school football in Florida’s 8A division. How different was Saturday’s scrimmage from football you’ve played in the past?

Thomas Jr: “There is no comparison. Scrimmage was way-way faster. I played in state championships, I feel like that Saturday’s scrimmage was really hard hitting, lots faster. I’m going to get better.”

Question: What is like to have a senior QB like Stephen Johnson, what have you learned from him?

Thomas Jr: “He’s so calm, poised in the pocket. I talk to him about my route running. Without him, I’d be a few steps back in the playbook. I’m honored to play beside him.”


The 18 File

Andy Molls, Safety/Returner, 1979-1982
Program’s 4th all-time leading punt return leader: 524 yards, 1 TD, 12.186 yards per. 87 yard return for TD vs. Vanderbilt in 1981. Led team in INT’s.

Otis Grigsby, Defensive End, 1998-2002
Recorded 18 career sacks, played for Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Minnesota Vikings.

Freddie Maggard, Blogger, 1987-1991
Has gone on to write 258 Kentucky Sports Radio posts, recorded 48 podcasts, and participated in 5 live remotes.

Jacob Tamme, Tight End, 2003-2007
All-time top pass-catching TE with 133 catches for 1,417 yards. 4th round selection by the Indianapolis Colts. Later played for the Denver Broncos, and currently is with the Atlanta Falcons. All three teams advanced to the Super Bowl.

Randall Cobb, Quarterback/Wide Receiver/Returner, 2008-2010
One of the all-time fan-favorites, Cobb scored 32 total touchdowns. Arguably the best football player to ever play at the University of Kentucky. Played quarterback, running back, receiver, and kick/punt returner. Drafted in the 2nd round by the Green Bay Packers where he continues to excel.

Boom Williams, Running Back, 2014-2016
Rushed for 2,511 career yards (7th in UK history) and 18 touchdowns. Owns top two single-season averages per rush attempt: 7.10 in 2015, 6.84 in 2016.

The origin of 18’s status was recently a topic of discussion on the Kentucky Sports Radio show. Ryan Lemond indicated, in a round-about-way, that I had started the tradition. Our founder and boss Matt Jones simply snickered in disagreement.

When I asked Clevan Thomas Jr. about which former 18’s he admired, the freshman WR understandably failed to mention my name. I showed him an old picture. His response, “(Laughter…laughter, and some more laughter) no way.”

My place in UK history has been cemented. I am the Fredo Corleone of Kentucky Wildcat 18s.


Denzil Ware and Josh Allen: “It’s Our Turn”

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats conducted its first spring scrimmage on Saturday. Both Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran praised QB Stephen Johnson’s efficiency, composure and decision making during the two-hour practice session.

With the vast majority of UK related media in Memphis, hacks that actually attended the post-practice press conference surrounded the Wildcat QB once the coaches completed their brief remarks. Not me. I turned my attention to junior OLB/DE Denzil Ware.

Ware is rated as one of the SEC’s top OLB/DE hybrid defenders for the 2017 season. He partners with fellow OLB Josh Allen to form a formidable edge combination. Ware finished 2016 with 70 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5.5 QB sacks. The following comments are from Saturday’s conversation:

Question: What do you feel more comfortable with; a hand in the dirt defensive end, a standup outside linebacker, or a combination of both?

Denzil Ware: “Just a combination of both. When it’s 3rd and long and I got a chance to go, I like to put my hand in the dirt and get as comfortable as I can be so I can get out of my stance as fast as I can. Overall I like to stand up because it gives me a better chance to see everything, see the whole formation, and see receivers in coverage. But I really love my hand in the dirt.”

Question: With you and Josh Allen now being juniors, do defensive players look at you two as leaders-examples, and do they look at you differently than they did a year ago?

Ware: “Yes sir, I tend to notice that some of the younger guys look up to us. My job here is to play ball and be the best teammate I can be. I see myself as a leader. Lot of guys ask me questions at times. I take them guys under my wing and treat them guys as if they were my blood, my family.”

Question: How often do you and Josh Allen compete?

Ware: “We compete every day. We competed today to see who got the most sacks, most tackles. Everything is a competition inside our meeting room. We got a lot of things to compete for, at the end of the day we’re trying to do better than we did last year.”

Question: How are the big guys (Defensive Line) doing upfront?

Ware: “They doing good. I got a lot of faith in my interior guys and they got a lot of faith in me and Josh. We got two great coaches that came in here and they know what they’re doing (DL Coach Derrick LeBlanc and OLB Coach Dean Hood). We got a wonderful staff, I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”

Ware on young defensive players:

“TJ Carter and Kordell Looney are standing out. The guy that’s surprising me the most is Kengera Daniel. He goes hard every day, don’t complain. Just makes plays and stands out to me the most. The new freshman Jamin Davis surprised me, he has a pick in every practice. Bannerman and Watson improve every day.”

Question: Fans that visited Commonwealth Stadium saw the giant poster featuring former Wildcat greats Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. You and Josh Allen combined for more QB sacks and tackles for loss than Dupree and Smith during their final season in Lexington. Is it your turn now?

Ware: “Yes sir, it’s our turn. Me and Josh had a talk this summer and again on spring break. When we leave here we don’t want to be compared to Bud and Z, we want to be Denzil and Josh. It’s always a compliment when Josh and I are compared to Za’Darius and Bud. But at the end of the day, I’m Denzil Ware and he’s Josh Allen.

We love competing and we just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. But passing them and letting the SEC know that UK got two guys on the edge that are willing to do the same thing as Bud and Z, that’s pretty good cause now they respect us more on Saturdays and when we’re in a bowl game next year. It’s our turn to shine.”

*2014-Dupree and Smith combined for 19.5 TFL and 12 QB sacks.

**2016-Ware and Allen combined for 20.5 TFL and 12.5 QB sacks.

Kentucky returns to the practice field on Monday.

The Depth Chart Podcast Catches March Madness Fever


During the month of March, even the football guys gotta talk a little basketball, but it’s not what you might think.  Fresh off the KHSAA Sweet 16, Freddie talks about his time covering the games at Rupp Arena.  There he stumbled upon one of our biggest fans, head coach of Scott High, Steve Fromeyer.  The coach joins the program to discuss a variety of topics before the crew gets to football.  Highlights:

—  If a player leaves Kentucky for a prep school, are they still considered a Kentuckian?

—  How Jake Ohmer got recruited by Rick Stansbury.

—  A former football official, Fromeyer has a different outlook on referees as a head coach.


—  The message Eddie Gran is sending to his veteran receivers.

—  Freddie compares QB play before Stephen Johnson as “Hot and cold, like a Motel 6 shower.”

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, streaming on Podbay, or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Scott Soars Over the Black Bears 77-65 in the Sweet 16



Not to be confused with Scott County, the Scott High School Eagles (22-12) jumped out on Harlan County (31-4) and never looked back as it shot 54% in the first half. Harlan County offensively struggled in the first two quarters by making only 23.1% of their shots. The team’s leading scorer Cameron Carmical could never get untracked as he uncharacteristically made just 3-8 shots from the field and missed both his free throw attempts. The Black Bears’ dismal first half shooting performance carried over to the free throw line as it was just 1-6. Scott’s shooting was much more accurate. The Eagles shot 41% (5-12) from 3-point land and 50% field goals.

Ty Simmons, also a standout on the football field, led Harlan County with 10 first half points and 7 rebounds. His team won the boards by a 21-15 count. Scott was paced in the first half by standout Jake Ohmer’s 18 points which included 3-6 from beyond the 3-point line. Ohmer’s 18 was a mere precursor to one of the most impressive Sweet 16 scoring performances in recent memory. Reserve guard Vincent Dumlao provided a spark off the bench by scoring nine, 1st half points.

Harlan County clawed back into the game in the 3rd quarter as it out-scored Scott 24-19. However, Jake Ohmer was again just too much as he totaled 35 points and 13 rebounds in just 24 minutes.

Both teams scored 22 points in the 4th quarter. Jake Ohmer’s 41 points-17 rebounds closed out Bears with a 77-65 win. Ohmer was more concerned about his team’s win than individual accolades that accompany 41 points and 17 rebounds, “Feels good, I’m more glad how team played together and got the win.” Harlan County’s Cameron Carmical finished with 25 points, but that came off an 8-30 shooting performance.

The Eagles understood that Carmical would take the bulk of the Black Bears’ shots and turned their attention to Ty Simmons. Jake Ohmer: “Carmical was going to get his, 21 (Ty Simmons) was the guy we had to shut down on the glass.” Simmons finished the game 7-7 from the field but was not targeted in the 2nd half. His last basket came with 6:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter. He later fouled out.

Harlan County head coach Michael Jones was unsure what led to his team’s shooting woes as the Bears finished the game at just 37.9% and 5 assist on the game. “Scott played really well, got a good ball club. I can’t pinpoint why we chose to shoot our worst in Rupp Arena. If we could just have made some of those shots early it would have been a different ball game. No explanation (Poor shooting).”

Scott advances to play Perry County Central on Friday. The Eagles impressed the large crowd with its shooting prowess and disciplined style of basketball.