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SEC Bracket: If the SEC Tournament started today

SEC Bracket: If the SEC Tournament started today

Now that there is a six-way tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference standings, Kentucky’s projected seed in the SEC tournament is looking much better than the last time we did this, prior to this week’s slate of games.

With Tuesday’s win at Arkansas and all the other happenings around the league, Kentucky jumped from the No. 7 seed to the No. 4 seed in the new update. The new position would give UK the double-bye to the Friday quarterfinals with Mississippi State as the first opponent. Auburn, the tournament’s top seed, would likely be waiting on Saturday in the semis.

Click to enlarge

Kentucky’s odds to win have also increased, up to 13.66 percent from 9.76 percent.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Last 5 Regular Season Games Are Good Indicator

© Nelson Chenault | USATSI

I don’t see a way where this team isn’t going to give us all heartburn for the remainder of the season.  Even in beating Arkansas by 15, the Cats fell behind 11-0 and appeared to have no energy to start the game.  Even the wins have come the hard way and the losses usually come with tons of regret.  But UK has been able to pull out two very important wins over the last week and things are certainly looking up for March.

I wondered if a strong regular season finish showed any correlation to the strong postseason performance.  Below are the final five games record for each of the Calipari teams (this team currently 2-0):

2011-12: 5-0 (SEC Tournament Runner-Up, National Champs)
2014-15: 5-0 (SEC Tournament Champs, Final 4)
2016-17: 5-0 (SEC Tournament Champs, Elite 8)
2009-10: 4-1 (SEC Tournament Champs, Elite 8)
2010-11: 4-1 (SEC Tournament Champs, Final 4)
——————————————————
2012-13: 3-2 (SEC Tournament Quarterfinals, NIT)
2015-16: 3-2 (SEC Tournament Champs, 2nd Round)
2013-14: 2-3 (SEC Tournament Runner-Up, National Runner-Up)

I put the dotted line where I did for a reason.  Every team that has won at least 4 of the final 5 regular season games has made the SEC Tournament final and at least the Elite 8.  Of the three teams that didn’t win at least 4 of 5, only the 2014 squad made it past the 2nd round and only one won the SEC Tournament as opposed to 4 of 5 that did so above them.  

With home games left against Missouri and Ole Miss and a road game against struggling Florida remaining, I think it is looking very likely UK can get at least two of those three games.  I’m sure we would all like to see two halves put together like the one on Tuesday in the 2nd half but if the Cats are able to do that, all of the sudden a season that was on the brink all through January and early February appears bright headed into March.


Tune in to KSR! (Thursday Show Thread)

It’s another exciting morning on Kentucky Sports Radio radio. Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond and Shannon The Dude are back for two more hours of college basketball talk and other nonsense, including their thoughts on Rick Pitino’s Wednesday afternoon press conference from New York.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.

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Today on KSR: A Golden Shootout

Getty Images

While you were sleeping, the American women’s hockey team was winning gold.  Team USA had lost three straight gold medal games to Canada.  Last night those losses were avenged in a shootout.

Tied 2-2 after overtime, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson made the Canadian goalie miss with her signature move, “Oops, I did it Again,” to clinch an American gold medal.

Watch the thrilling shootout in its entirety here.  The Kentucky cheerleading celebrated Team USA’s victory with a performance in the medal plaza.  Before that, the Team USA cheerleaders made an appearance on the Today Show and took their talents to the speed skating center in Pyeongchang.

In other good news from last night…

Louisville Lost

The poor Cardinal birds lost 82-56 to Duke.  The final margin was 26, but it could have easily been 46.  It’s been a rough week to be a Louisville fan.

A Six-Way Tie for Third

Bring your brooms to St. Louis, because the SEC is a mess. Last night Tennessee defeated Florida 62-57, and Auburn rolled over Alabama 90-71 with just seven scholarship players (Mustapha Heron had the flu).  The Vols are two games behind the first-place Tigers, who are now one win away from clinching a share of the regular season title.

There are six 8-7 SEC teams — Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State.  The Cats control their destiny.  They hold the tie-breaker with three teams, and have a chance to split the season series with the remaining two teams, Missouri and Florida.

See the full SEC standings here.

College Basketball on TV

Time Game Network
7:00 #9 Purdue at Illinois FS1
7:00 Uconn at #11 Cincinnati ESPN
7:00 Wisconsin at Northwestern ESPN2
7:00 Winthrop at UNC-Asheville ESPNU
9:00 #6 Gonzaga at San Diego ESPN2
9:00 #14 Arizona at Oregon State FS1
9:00 #23 Houston at Memphis CBSSN
9:00 UCLA at Utah ESPN

UK Hoops Returns to the Court

You can watch the Kentucky women’s basketball team take on the Ole Miss Rebels tonight at 8:30 on the SEC Network.  It’s the Cats final road game of the season before they host Miss. State for Senior Day this Sunday at noon.

The State Football Finals are Staying at Kroger Field

After setting attendance records in its first season at Kroger Field, the KHSAA Board of Control voted to keep the state football finals in Lexington through 2022.  The KHSAA also released their proposal for class realignment that could shake up who your team will play in 2019.

Derek Willis is on Team USA

Just days after Willis told the Rupp Arena, “The G-League sucks,” he was added to Team USA’s World Cup Qualifying Team.  The only better way to get a break from the G-League is with an NBA contract.

Willis joined Aaron Harrison and Archie Goodwin to create this one-minute clip to brag about Coach Cal.


Yahoo! Sports: “If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

Last week, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports dropped a bombshell report saying over 50 schools could find themselves in trouble with the NCAA following the major FBI investigation sweeping college basketball.

Tonight, both Thamel and Pat Forde released another report that should terrify the entire nation even further.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the FBI has spreadsheets detailing every single player to receive illegal benefits, how much money they received, and how much they planned to receive. They also reported no school with a first-round pick over the last three years should sleep easy each night.

“There are spreadsheets detailing who got paid, how much they got paid and how much more they were planning to pay,” said a source familiar with the investigation. “The feds got everything they wanted and much more. Don’t think it will only be players who ended up signing with ASM that got paid. Those spreadsheets cast a wide net throughout college basketball. If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

In fact, this could impact the current eligibility of NCAA players, including “numerous prominent players in the upcoming NCAA tournament.”

According to the sources, the financial records from Miller and wiretap conversations featuring Dawkins illuminate the blatant nature of deal-making to land top talent well before the players turn professional. Those deals could threaten the current eligibility of players because of NCAA amateurism rules and retroactively put in peril the contests participated in by those players. Sources said this includes numerous prominent players in the upcoming NCAA tournament, the showcase of college basketball. “It’s all there,” said a different source familiar with the investigation.

So when could we start seeing these NCAA violations/announcements come to fruition? Yahoo! reports it could last all the way through 2019 because the case is so massive.

In terms of potential NCAA violations, the information is expected to inevitably trickle out through pretrial motions and the trials themselves. Dates for three trials have been set, some of them not scheduled to begin until 2019. (There’s no certainty all of the collected information will get out, nor will there be any specific timeline when it’s released.)

There were several elite recruits that didn’t sign on the dotted line with former NBA agent Andy Miller, but that doesn’t make you immune from this case. In fact, more players received improper benefits from Miller than the agency actually signed.

So how deep did Miller’s operation go? One source with knowledge of the investigation estimated that ASM Sports was paying more than three times as many prospects, and families of prospects, as clients they signed. The impact on the NCAA landscape is expected to be significant. No one is certain if the federal government is targeting other NBA agents amid the competitive landscape, but it is widely believed within the sport that Miller was far from the only agent operating in this manner.

Uh oh.


KSR Top 10 Tweets of the Day

McDowell


The one and only Big Mick is a meaty masterpiece in its own right. Composed of two quarter-pound patties* of never-fresh, frozen, mostly beef raised close to the processing plant. Only McDowell’s has the frosted beef and processed cheese to give you a major reason for the afternoon trip to the secret bathroom only you and Debra know about on the 9th floor that is under construction.


You can be a part of McDowell’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag.If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day.

If you are interested in sponsoring KSR’s Top 10 Tweets, please contact us at Via Email.

#10 Brian Thomas


Truth

#9 TerriH


Are we surprised?

#8 Justin Sizemore


The cutest thing ever.

#7 Andy Wade


That’s the truth.

#6 Dal


Accurate.

#5 Lori Mills!


She’s not wrong!!!

#4 banjo kervorkian


I don’t see anything wrong!

#3 Mary Jo Perino


Babes!!!

#2 Joe Seiter


Perfect!

#1 Debra Sizemore


We love Laura!


John Calipari visits 2019 No. 1 prospect James Wiseman in Memphis

(Photo by Bart Young/USAB)

John Calipari has officially put the full-court press on the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019.

According to recruiting insider Pat Lawless, Coach Cal was in Memphis this afternoon to see James Wiseman play in the district title game:

Here is Cal in the stands:

Wiseman is considered the top prospect in 2019, and almost all recruiting analysts consider him a heavy Kentucky lean.

Kyle Tucker of SEC Country reported just two days ago that the Kentucky coaching staff sees Wiseman as the next Karl-Anthony Towns, and the talented big man is in love with the comparison. In fact, one source close to Wiseman’s high school basketball program told Tucker he was a near-lock to head to Lexington.

“James is going to Kentucky,” he told Tucker. “That’s what he tells everybody.”

If you missed his profile, check it out here:

This profile of James Wiseman bodes well for Kentucky

Earlier in the day, Calipari also reportedly visited five-star prospect DJ Jeffries in Mississippi, another player reportedly heavily favoring the Wildcats.

After striking out on some top talent in 2018, it’s good to see Calipari doing whatever it takes to lock up top talent for 2019.


Current and former Kentucky stars help out this afternoon with Special Olympics

Current and former Kentucky stars help out this afternoon with Special Olympics

This afternoon, several current and former UK Athletics stars joined together for a great cause.

Jack “Goose” Givens, Kyle Macy, Anthony White, Austin MacGinnis, Eddie Gran, Jon Hood, and Craig Skinner were just a few of the individuals to participate in today’s UNIFIED event for Special Olympics at Rupp Arena.

KSR’s Ryan Lemond even got in on the action, acting as one of the event’s emcees.

At Rupp, several Special Olympic teams throughout the state of Kentucky competed in games against one another, with the final game being a UNIFIED one between the Lexington Wildcats and the Northern Kentucky Wildcats.

UNIFIED is a branch of Special Olympics designed to promote inclusion amongst those with and without intellectual or developmental disabilities, where they take the same court or field to play games with one another.

Tonight, these Special Olympic athletes got the chance of a lifetime to be coached by and play with some of their biggest role models as Kentucky fans.

Check out just some of the footage from the event:

Not a bad way to spend your Wednesday night at all.

Well done to both the athletes participating and the former and current Wildcats for taking part!


Billy Graham’s Good News

(Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

I had Wednesday morning set aside to write my monthly column for KSR, but I was at a loss for a topic. On Tuesday I tweeted out a request for ideas and got a lot of good suggestions, but none of them resonated. So I woke up Wednesday with a few hours to write, but nothing to say. Then with one breaking headline, I am now overwhelmed with too much to say.

Billy Graham has died.

Where do I even begin? Of course I could talk about his impact as the greatest evangelist the Church has known, arguably since the Apostle Paul himself; perhaps a piece on his above-reproach character as a needed rebuke to the scandal-plagued lives of public religious leaders in our days; or his willingness to serve as a spiritual advisor to both Democrat and Republican presidents as a refreshing example to our deeply polarized and partisan culture. These and many other ideas came to mind, but none seemed fitting. In the coming days, years, and even centuries, historians and biographers much more qualified than I will be writing on those matters.

Instead, I want to write what I believe, with all my heart, he would ask me to write. The best way to honor this great man is to once more share what he devoted his life to sharing. And the best way for you to honor one of the greatest figures of American culture is to at least spend a few minutes considering what he had to say. Agree or disagree with Billy Graham, I think we can all agree his life’s work is worth consideration.

I won’t say it as well as he said it, but thankfully its truth is true, whether expressed in the eloquent and powerful words of Billy Graham or from the clumsy stammering lips of the rest of us. In hundreds of different ways, throughout thousands of different places, to millions of different people, Billy Graham had only one thing to say: Gospel.

Have you ever wondered what it is that Christians actually believe? At the core of our faith is this word gospel, which means “good news.” Religions are full of good advice—systems to follow, tenants to adhere to, rules to keep. But in contrast, Christianity is good news. Not something that we are to do, but something that has been done.

But this good news begins with bad news: We are all sinners. In our day, the concept of sin is at best trivialized and at worst despised, but on the deepest levels, we all know it to be true. Our guilt and shame bear witness to the reality that none of us is as we ought to be. This is because we were created by a just God who has just expectations for the world in the same way you have just expectations for the world.

Not only do you believe in this thing called justice, you demand it. From the deepest forms of injustice to the smallest acts like cutting in line, everyone expects that everyone else behave rightly. And yet that same expectation we have of others simultaneously indicts us. I cannot demand justice while also asking to be the one exception to justice. Instead, I must play by the same rules. If I want there to be such a thing as right and wrong (and who doesn’t?), then I must I ask whether I myself do what is right and not do what is wrong. And friends, I do not. Again and again, I fail to do what I demand of you.

But the reality of justice gets only worse, because God is not interested in whether I adhere to my own standard of justice. God wants to know how I measure up to his standard.  And if I can’t even live up to my own standard, then how shall I stand before perfect justice? The answer is I cannot stand. When people say, “Only God can judge me,” I don’t think they realize how awful that news is. Indeed, only God can judge us, but God judges based upon his standard of justice, not ours. And God’s standard far exceeds my standard, for it is nothing short of perfection. Therefore, none of us has any hope of ever escaping the justice of God.

Perhaps you’re wondering at this point how this could ever be called “good news.” Well, there is more to the story. God is not only just; God is love. In the same way God’s justice far exceeds our standards of justice, God’s love far exceeds our standards of love. Indeed, God is the perfect standard of love. And so it would seem that the justice and love of God are irreconcilably at odds. He must judge perfectly, and yet he loves perfectly those he must judge.

Every revival that Billy Graham ever preached confronted his hearers in some way with that tension, and every revival that Billy Graham ever preached ended with Jesus as the answer to that tension. Jesus Christ—specifically the cross of Jesus Christ—is the answer to the justice/love dilemma of God. Here I’ll quote Graham directly, “God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” But how is the death of Jesus the love of God? Because the death of Jesus wasn’t just his death, it was my death.

Jesus took upon himself all my sin and carried it to Calvary to receive the judgment day it deserves. On the cross, Jesus received the justice that I deserve, endured the punishment that I have earned, and died the death I should have died, so that now the justice of God is satisfied and the love of God is all that remains forevermore.

That is the good news Billy Graham shared with hundreds of millions of people. And today, that is the good news Billy Graham died trusting. The messenger finally inheriting the good news of his message. I’ll let him have the final word: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Robert Cunningham is the Senior Pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church. Follow him on twitter at @tcpcrobert and send any comments or questions to assistant@tcpca.org


Watch me suck at ice skating on “Hey Kentucky!”

Watch me suck at ice skating on “Hey Kentucky!”

With the Winter Olympics excitement flowing through the halls of the LEX 18 studio in Lexington, I got an itch to try my hand at ice skating with intentions of competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Coincidentally, Mary Jo Perino knows a thing or two about skating from her time in Minnesota, so we decided to work as a team with our eyes set on pair skating gold.

See our first training routine below from tonight’s episode of Hey Kentucky:

And big shout-out to my stunt-double and the star player of the Lexington Ice Center’s rec hockey league, Michael Leonard!


Kentucky’s win over Arkansas showed everything this team is capable of being

If you’ve been reading my articles here at KSR over the last few weeks, you know that I was always a bit more optimistic about this year’s Kentucky Wildcats than most. As I’ve written about since the Wildcats started a four-game skid a few weeks back, UK’s struggles had always been more to do with the SEC being really good, than Kentucky being really bad. Remember, all four of Kentucky’s losses during that losing skid came to projected NCAA Tournament teams.

Still, as good as I thought Kentucky could be, I have to admit one thing: I never expected to see a performance like the one we got Tuesday night at Arkansas. On the road, against another NCAA Tournament caliber team (there are a lot of them in the SEC this year, aren’t there?) the Wildcats played at a level that frankly, I didn’t know they had. And it got me wondering: How much higher is Kentucky’s ceiling? And how much better can they get? The answer I believe, is a lot.

For starters, Tuesday night showed us everything Kentucky is capable of being. They were the bigger, stronger, more aggressive club against Arkansas, and it showed not only in the final score, but the box score too. The Wildcats have been a good defensive team all season but took it to the next level on the road against the Razorbacks, holding a team which is averaging 82 points per game to just 72, while also limiting them to 39 percent shooting from the field. Arkansas shot an average of over 48 percent coming into the game.

More importantly though, the game showed just how far some of the players on this roster have come –players that Kentucky will need if they want to make noise this March. Quade Green has carved out an important role for himself off the bench as this team’s second play-maker and ball-handler and is averaging 12 points and four assists in his last two games. Jarred Vanderbilt has literally gone from a player who can’t make a layup two games ago to a dynamic offensive and defensive force for the Wildcats. He had 11 and 9 against Arkansas, and I’ve got imagine he is amongst the top rebounders-per-minute-played in college basketball.  P.J. Washington is coming off his third straight solid game with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Add those three in with Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and that is a core that is about as talented in anyone in college basketball.

But really, that last part is why I’m so optimistic about this team: They are just now starting to reach their potential. That’s because remember, not only are they the youngest team in college basketball (wait, has anyone mentioned that this season?) but also because few teams anywhere in the country have dealt with more roster instability than John Calipari. Jarred Vanderbilt missed two months with an injury then came back. Quade Green missed several games with back problems, and Sacha Killeya-Jones has missed time for various reasons as well. Tai Wynyard was part of the team and now he isn’t (remember kids, next time you got out on the town, leave your armed bodyguard at home). So you take the youngest team in college basketball and add in just overall inconsistency, and well, I don’t know how to tell you this but… of course this team was going to struggle!

That’s why I always thought it was premature to give up on this team: It’s late February and John Calipari is just now figuring out who his players are and what they’re capable of doing. And as we’ve gotten later in the season, the results have begun to speak for themselves. The Wildcats have won two in a row and are 19-9 overall, and while that win-loss record doesn’t sound crazy impressive, keep in mind that Kentucky has the No. 2 strength of schedule in all of college basketball. No. 2! Why has no one talked about this? Does anyone realize just how tough this schedule has been?

Only it’s been brutal, which has led to some more-impressive-than-anyone-realizes results for these Wildcats. They have a staggering 11 wins against RPI Top 75 teams, and according to my math, just under half their victories (eight) have come against projected NCAA Tournament teams. That includes three in the SEC (Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M), three against Power 5 teams in the non-conference (Virginia Tech, Louisville and West Virginia) and two more projected to win their league (Vermont and East Tennessee State). Did I mention Mississippi State and Georgia (two more Kentucky wins) are also teams on the bubble and could play their way in?

And it’s because of the strength of that schedule, which is why I think this team can do real damage in March. The truth is, the Wildcats have already seen any kind of team they might get matched up with in the Big Dance. Think about it. If Kentucky gets pitted against a team with dominant guards, that’s no different than playing Auburn on the road. How about a team with size? Who has more size than Texas A&M? Want defensive toughness? It doesn’t get tougher than Missouri. How about a team with balance from all five spots? That perfectly describes Tennessee.

Point being, that as big as Tuesday night’s win was, it also set the tone for what could come next month.

We’re already in the last week in February. And incredibly, Kentucky is just now starting to find itself.


Rajon Rondo treats 320 students to screening of Black Panther in Louisville

PHOTO: WDRB NEWS

This weekend, former Wildcat Rajon Rondo took over 300 students in Louisville out to go see the new Black Panther movie.

Rondo, a Louisville native, did this kind gesture as part of his”Assisting Youth Foundation,” where he bought the movie ticket, popcorn, and a drink for each individual.

The price of admission for the kids? An essay on the historical events, people, or places in Black History to celebrate Black History Month.

“He congratulated us all for coming, read through some of our papers, shook all of our hands, and took pictures with all the kids,” said MJ Romaine, a Central High School student.

“I was happy to put a smile on kid’s faces,” said Rondo. “I didn’t grow up in a two-person household, and a lot of these kids don’t. I can relate to some of these kids in those ways. There are some nights you’re on your own and you don’t know who is there or who’s willing to help you.

“(Rondo) is not doing this to gain notoriety,” Rondo’s high school basketball coach, Doug Bibby, said. “He’s doing this because he cares for the community.”

Non-profit groups Nerd Louisville and Wibby’s Foundation have decided to follow in Rondo’s footsteps, and are combining to send nearly 200 students from West Louisville to a Black Panther screening in the coming weeks.

Check out the entire package from WDRB, featuring more from the former Kentucky point guard:

WDRB 41 Louisville News


Photo: Getty Images

Bill Belichick donates $10,000 to Lexington Youth Football

Photo: Getty Images

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his foundation have donated $10,000 to Lexington’s youth football program, the largest donation they have ever received.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, ten NFL players and dozens of college football stars got their start in the Lexington youth leagues, and a recent upswing in participation has led to their grant from the Bill Belichick foundation.

In 2017, more than 677 players participated in the league. That’s more than double than what it was two years ago, when the number of kids dropped to 319, the lowest in the history of the nearly 50-year program, parks officials say.

Darliene Haley, athletic director for Lexington parks youth, said the grant will help pay for pads, helmets, safety equipment, blocking dummies, agility hoops, and blocking shields, among other things.

“Football is an expensive program to run,” Haley told the Herald-Leader. “We would never be able to afford this equipment without this grant.”

Dermontti Dawson, Frank Minniefield, Marc Logan, Cornell Burbage, and George Adams are just a few former NFL standouts to get their start in Lexington youth leagues.

With Belichick’s help, along with a recent spike in local participation, maybe Lexington’s next legendary football player will be suiting up this fall.


Benny And The Rest: Spring Running Back Preview

The easy spring practice write and fan fascination will justifiably surround Kentucky’s quarterback competition. However, adjacent offensive positions significantly impact the QB race as well as the offense in its entirety. Today we’ll focus on the running backs.

Benny Snell is now the standard in which Kentucky running backs will be measured. The rising junior has blazed a path through the UK record books. But, is Benny enough? You be the judge. The second half of the Music City Bowl mirrored similar moments throughout last season when the star was sidelined. The Snell-less backfield ignited a genuine sense of concern in Nashville. The Cats mustered very little running back production after Snell was prematurely dispatched to the locker room. To make matters worse, unexpected attrition reared it’s ugly head again in the offseason with the transfer of Bryant Koback, who had been spoken of with high regards prior to announcing his early departure from the program.

Let’s take a look at a comparison between 2016 and 2017:

2017 Running Back Production

NAME

CARRIES

YARDS

TOUCHDOWNS

Benny Snell

262

1333

19

Sihiem King

79

364

2

AJ Rose

15

37

0

TOTAL

356

1732

21

2016 Running Back Production

NAME

CARRIES

YARDS

TOUCHDOWNS

Boom Williams

171

1170

7

Benny Snell

186

1091

13

JoJo Kemp

70

349

6

Sihiem King

11

81

1

TOTAL

438

2591

27

— Benny Snell accounted for 77% of all RB rushing yards and 90.4% of the position’s touchdowns in 2017.

— Kentucky finished 2016 ranked 3rd in the SEC by averaging 234.15 yards-per-game.

— UK averaged 30 points-per-game in 2016. That declined to 25 in 2017.

— 2017 saw the Cats finish 8th in the league after averaging 161.69 rush-yards per contest.

Unexpected attrition took its toll on the Kentucky offense.  Boom Williams’ questionable decision to enter the NFL Draft limited the Cats attack much like Jeff Badet’s departure to Oklahoma. So did losing tackle Cole Mosier and Dorian Baker to preseason injuries as well as not having guard Nick Haynes at 100%.

The result; Kentucky rushed for 859 fewer yards in 2017 than it did in 2016. The position also produced 6 less touchdowns. This comparison is also somewhat unfair due to the number of RB participants, a steady offensive line, a deep threat passing game led by a healthy quarterback. But, the above numbers paint a picture of a team that is desperate need of finding quality depth at the running back position. This is common for most teams that possesses a star at the position.

I’d feel safe writing that Benny Snell will be UK’s starting running back. Neither rookie is on campus and will not factor in the spring competition. But again the question remains; who’s next? Which RB will provide quality carries in order to lessen the load for the All American candidate? Will Benny Snell be full-go during spring practice or will he be sidelined for precautionary reasons? I’m on record saying that I’d bubble wrap the Doak Walker hopeful until late in fall camp. That’s a wish but not practical due to familiarization necessities with the new starting quarterback and offensive line.

Benny Snell

— 2017 Associated Press 1st Team All SEC

— 2017 SEC regular season rushing leader.

— Two-year totals: 29 touchdowns, 448 carries, 2424-yards.

— Holds school records for points in a season (110), TD’s in a season (19), rushing TD’s in a season (19), rush TD’s in a career (32).

— First player in school history to have 10, 100-yards games prior to their senior season.

— 3rd player in SEC history to have at least 2409-yards and 31 career rushing touchdowns prior to his junior season. Snell joins Herschel Walker and Leonard Fournette in this category.

— Only player in SEC since 2000 to have at least 116-yards and 3-touchdowns in three consecutive games.

— This could go on for a while. For brevity sakes; I’ll shorten Snell’s accomplishments. This should paint the picture of his importance to the Kentucky Football program.

Sihiem King

— 2017 totals: 79 carries, 364-yards, 2 TD’s. 

— 15 carries, 69-yards, 2 touchdowns in career high game vs. Vanderbilt.

— 5 carries, 64-yards vs. Florida.

AJ Rose

— 2017 totals: 15 carries, 37-yards.

— Limited in fall camp due to ankle injury.

— Career high 9 carries, 26-yards vs. Mississippi State.

— Redshirted in 2016.

 

What does all this mean?

I hope these articles help in explaining how different positions impact the others. Lower production from the WR’s allowed opposing defenses to condense (load the box) in order to stop the run. That strategy worked and is another factor that led to a decrease from the running back position and scoring totals.

Kentucky quarterbacks threw just 10 touchdown passes in 2017 which was a drop of 7 from the prior season. Some of that decline lies on the shoulders of an offensive line that struggled to find its identity until later in the season as well as the WR’s/QB’s not being able to connect on the homerun ball. Offense is an eleven-man operation; it all ties together.

2018 Spring Practice Position Competition: Wide Receiver

Spring Practice Position Competitions: Quarterback

Now back to the running backs.

Plain and simple Benny Snell is a star. However, the team will need Sihiem King and AJ Rose to provide quality carries and perfect the blitz pickup during spring practice. Snell’s future must be taken into consideration in the big picture. Fewer hits from quality reps provided by backups would be the optimal spring result.

Sihiem King is a shifty yet undersized runner that has shown flashes. The rising senior is who we’ve seen for the past three seasons. In other words, I’d expect more of the same from the Georgia native and that’s a pretty darn good change of pace RB by the way. King can also increase his role during passing downs and on special teams.

AJ Rose was a high school quarterback. His learning curve for the position has been steep and was dampened by an ankle injury during fall camp. Rose has a tremendous upside but needs to become more consistent in basic fundamentals that are obligatory for the position. Another spring practice may lead to a discovery of a quality SEC RB. His development is incredibly important for Eddie Gran’s offense. Gran is a proven RB teacher with several pupils having played on Sundays.

Rose’s talent has never been in question. I can’t emphasize enough how important spring practice is for the sophomore. With two promising rookies arriving in June; his time is now.

Back to surrounding positions. Kentucky returns 4/5 offensive line starters and an All SEC TE. Experience can be the best teacher in the facility. Somehow, someway Eddie Gran has to design more non-Snell rushing threats. That could come in the form of a backup RB, the multitalented Lynn Bowden, or the quarterback position. In simpler terms; the Wildcat’s need to expand its rushing attack. Benny needs some help.


Third place in the SEC could get really crowded tonight

Third place in the SEC could get really crowded tonight

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If Auburn and Tennessee defend their home floors tonight, there will be a six-way tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference. SIX!

Alabama and Florida are currently alone in a tie for third, but if both teams were to lose tonight on the road against the league’s first and second place teams, they’ll each fall into a group of six teams with an 8-7 record.

Alabama is up first in the 7 pm game as a heavy underdog at Auburn. Then second-place Tennessee hosts Florida as a five-point favorite in the 9 pm game.

If both teams lose, they will enter into a tie with Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Missouri for third.

And that would mean the SEC seeding race is wide open with three games to play.