Technically, it’s the offseason, but UK Sports never really stop; in fact, when you look at the calendar, there’s a ton of stuff happening over the next three and a half months to keep the news train churning.
Here’s what you can look forward to this summer.
May 14: NBA Draft Lottery
Which team gets Zion? We’ll find out tonight. We may also get a better picture of which team will draft PJ Washington, currently the only Kentucky player expected to go in the lottery.
May 14-19: NBA Draft Combine
PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson are in Chicago until Sunday to be tested, measured, and interviewed by NBA executives alongside other top draft prospects.
May 15: End of the Spring Signing Period
That’s tomorrow! Will Jaden McDaniels announce his decision? His high school coach thinks so, which could be bad news for Kentucky considering recent buzz, but he could also drag this decision into the summer and sign financial aid papers at the school of his choice this fall.
May 17: UK Softball hosts NCAA Regional
The Hittin’ Kittens are the No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host a regional at John Cropp Stadium this weekend. On Friday at 2:30 p.m., they’ll play Toledo to face the winner of Illinois vs. Virginia Tech on Saturday. Each regional follows a double-elimination format with at least three wins required to get to the NCAA Super Regionals, which take place May 23-26 at eight different sites.
May 18: The Preakness
With neither Country House nor Maximum Security running, does anyone care?
May 20: KSR Lexington Golf Scramble
AKA Ryan’s Putt for Prison. For each five-foot putt he misses, he has to stay in KSBar jail for two days.
May 29, 11:59 p.m.: Deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft
Two weeks from tomorrow night, we’ll know for certain whether or not EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards are coming back to Kentucky and if Kerry Blackshear Jr. will go to the NBA or return to college for another season.
First week: Basketball players return to campus
It’s now customary for players to return to campus in early June to start summer classes and offseason workouts. Since the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline will have passed, the players who decided to come back to school will be back in Lexington with the rest of the team, including incoming freshmen.
June 4-21: John Calipari Satellite Camps
With the players back on campus, the satellite camps will also begin, giving fans across the state the chance to meet the new team. Calipari usually does a few media opps at the camps, so we’ll get to hear his first impressions of the squad.
June 7-9: Kentucky Football Camps
In early June, some of the top high school football players in the country will make their way to Kroger Field for UK’s Friday Night Lights Camp, the Saturday Night Prime Time Camp, and the Sunday Night Showcase Camp. Given the roll Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops are on right now, this could be another important week for the future of the program.
June 8: Belmont Stakes
June 20: NBA Draft
As always, Calipari will be front and center to see PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson achieve their dreams.
TBD: KSR Summer Tour
The dates and locations are still being finalized, but the 2019 KSR Summer Tour will begin in early July. Once the schedule is final, we will post it on the site ad nauseam.
July 1-15: NBA Summer League
The NBA Summer League is bigger than ever. Utah and Sacramento will host leagues July 1-3, but the main draw is the Vegas Summer League, which takes place July 5-15 and will feature teams from China and Croatia. Expect to see plenty of former Cats in the mix.
July 10-14: Peach Jam & Under Armour Association Finals
Jack Pilgrim will split his time between the Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina and the UAA Finals in Atlanta, Georgia to bring you the latest on Kentucky’s top prospects in the 2020 and 2021 classes.
July 15-18: SEC Media Days
SEC Media Days is back in Hoover and Kentucky will be up on the final day, Thursday, July 18. As always, Nick Roush will be there to cover the sights and sounds of the kickoff to talking season.
July 19-21: The Basketball Tournament (TBT) Regional in Lexington
The Bluegrass Boys, Kentucky’s Alumni Team, is hosting a regional of this year’s TBT at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington. So far, the team consists of Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Josh Harrellson and Ramon Harris, with Mark Krebs serving as team director. DeMarcus Cousins also has a team in the TBT Lexington Regional, Loyalty is Love. The winners of each region will meet for the semifinals and $2 million championship game in Chicago August 1-6.
July 22: Somerset Golf Scramble
TBD: Football Women’s Clinic
The date hasn’t been set for the annual football women’s clinic, but it typically takes place in late July. As someone who’s been to both, I can tell you it’s twice as fun as the basketball one.
Late July/Early August: Media Day
Talking season continues a few weeks later as the local media gets their turn to grill Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, Brad White, Vince Marrow, and the players.
Early August: Football Fan Day, Fall Camp begins
Prepare yourself for practice reports.
August 31: Kentucky vs. Toledo
It’s finally football time in the Bluegrass.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 5:05pm
As more and more people cry out for changes in the NCAA, the four-letter organization is taking the first step to modifying the amateurism model.
Today the NCAA announced the creation of the “NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group.” The name is a mouthful. The group’s ultimate goal is to consider if athletes should be able to profit from their likeness.
“This group will bring together diverse opinions from the membership — from presidents and commissioners to student-athletes — that will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”
That statement makes the NCAA sound open for change…until you get to the next sentence of the press release.
According to the board, the group will not consider any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports.
The move by the NCAA is reactionary. The first loss in court was to Ed O’Bannon. In March a California court ruled in Alston v. NCAA that its scholarship rules were illegal for capping educational benefits. Meanwhile, legislators in Washington and California have created bills that would force state universities to allow players to be compensated for their own image.
The Rice Commission did not directly address the issue. This will be the first time the NCAA directly tackles players profiting from their likeness. The only question is, will this working group meaningfully act on the matter?
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
“Two guys hop on the back of a camel” sounds like the premise of a bad joke. “Two enormous Kentucky offensive linemen hop on the back of the camel” is a jaw-dropping, hilarious sight to see.
Over the last week, three Kentucky football players have participated in the program’s annual service trip to Ethiopia. During some down time offensive tackle Landon Young, defensive tackle Calvin Taylor Jr. and outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson had a little fun by taking guided camel rides around town.
This was not a kid hopping on top of a pony for a ride. Calvin Taylor is listed at 6’9″ 310 pounds. Male dromedary camels on average are 6’2″ at the shoulders and weigh about 1,000 pounds. One would assume that would be tough on the camel, but it had no trouble popping into cruise control with Taylor on his back.
The camel looked like he struggled a bit more when the 6’7″ 324-pound offensive tackle hopped on his back.
Do not worry; Young still got to fly down the street atop a salivating dromedary.
Boogie also got to take a turn on the back of the camel, but the logistics did not provide as much slapstick humor.
So who did it better, the UK offensive linemen or John Calipari?
By Aaron Torres on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Tonight, the future of the entire NBA will change at right around 8:30 ET. That is when this year’s NBA Draft lottery kicks off, and we begin to find out what this year’s draft will look like.
Yup, now that players have declared for the draft, this is the next big step in the process, to go along with individual workouts, the NBA Draft Combine (also taking place this week) and of course the draft itself on June on Thursday, June 20th.
So with the NBA Draft Lottery tonight, what do you need to know? Here are a few things:
What is the NBA Draft Lottery?
I find it impossible to believe that anyone reading this article wouldn’t know what the NBA Draft lottery is, but for the one percent of one percent who might not be sure, here goes:
The NBA Draft lottery is a literal lottery (with ping pong balls and everything) which helps the NBA determine the draft order. Every team that didn’t make the playoffs this season (assuming they haven’t traded their pick) is eligible, with the worst teams having the best odds of landing the number one pick.
Only the top three picks are determined by the lottery, and from then on, the draft order is determined based on win-loss record. The worst teams get the highest picks.
Coverage of the draft lottery begins at 8:30 ET, which means that by 9:00 p.m., we will all know who is selecting where. And the fortune of one franchise will change forever (more on that coming).
C.J. Conrad’s path to the NFL was not an easy road to traverse.
The Big Blue Nation is quite familiar with Conrad’s story. Once a mid-round selection, a health scare discovered at the NFL Combine nearly derailed his football career. It knocked him out of the draft before he found a home with the New York Giants. Thanks to a profile by North Jersey, a USA Today affiliate, New York fans know Conrad’s story and UK fans know how he ended up in New York.
Conrad first met Giants tight end coach Lunda Wells at the East-West Shrine Game. Once an injury in practice sent him home early, Wells was anxious to formally interview Conrad at the Combine. The day before their planned meeting, Conrad received bad news.
“We were always supposed to meet officially, then I got sent home, and Coach Wells joked that I was avoiding him,” Conrad recalled. “He called me right after I left the Combine, and said a prayer for me, and told me he’d be thinking of me, and they thought a lot of me as a player, and it meant the world to me going through those three weeks. Then, after I got cleared, and he texted me again a couple of days before the draft and said, ‘I’m thinking of you, happy for you, good luck this weekend.’”
The former UK tight end was on the Giants’ board, but he did not get selected in the NFL Draft. As soon as the free agency period began, Wells gave Conrad a call.
“I like Conrad. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn,” Wells said. “He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well. I really like that kid from what we saw over the three-day rookie minicamp.”
Conrad made a good first impression, but cracking the 53-man roster will not be easy. The Giants currently have four tight ends: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson and second-year pro Garrett Dickerson.
Conrad has survived unlikely odds before. This pales in comparison to the challenge he faced just a few months ago.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 1:35pm
Are you ready for yet another Jaden McDaniels update? Because you’re about to get one. Even though Evan Daniels changed his prediction for the five-star power forward from Kentucky to undecided last night, McDaniels’ high school coach Yattah Reed still believes a decision will come tomorrow, the final day of the spring signing period.
Reed told Scorebook Live — who, it bears noting, reported on Friday that McDaniels would announce tomorrow and had to backtrack — that he spoke with McDaniels yesterday and believes news is on the way.
He thinks some news will come down Wednesday concerning McDaniels’ next-chapter decision. The Eagles’ senior has made official visits to his five preferred schools – Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA and Washington.
As prior reports suggested, Reed also believes the announcement will come in the form of a social media post because McDaniels doesn’t want the attention a ceremony or television would bring. Part of me thinks that’s a good reason he will go to Washington instead of Kentucky altogether, but hey, what do I know?
In related news, Jerry Meyer isn’t feeling too confident about the McDaniels to Kentucky pick he made last Wednesday:
Not really https://t.co/WhhsksdoQb
— Jerry Meyer (@jerrymeyer247) May 14, 2019
Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow. Maybe not.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
A wise man once said, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” That’s been the case throughout Rick Pitino’s search for a new college basketball head coaching gig, but Vegas still believes it can happen.
Following John Beilein’s abrupt departure from Ann Arbor, Bovada has released odds for who will fill the Michigan head coaching vacancy. Rick Pitino is the second choice, behind only Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Pitino is even higher than former Fab Five member and current NBA Heat assistant coach, Juwan Howard.
- Chris Beard +275
- Rick Pitino +475
- Juwan Howard +500
- Lavell Jordan +800
- Mike White +800
- Saddi Washington +950
- Luke Yalich +950
- Bob McKillop +2000
- Bobby Hurley +2000
- Jay Wright +2000
You can find the rest of the odds here.
For those who don’t believe it could happen, it almost happened once before. When Pitino chose to coach the Louisville Cardinals, Michigan was his other option. If the program that was caught cheating in the early 90s is still down for a cheater, Ann Arbor is the perfect place for Pitino.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Monday night 247 Sports basketball recruiting analyst Evan Daniels flipped his 247 Crystal Ball prediction from UK to “undecided.” This morning he explained his decision in a couple of interviews.
“New information would probably be the best way to put it,” he told Matt Jones on KSR.
“It’s fluid. I think this time last week Jaden McDaniels would have headed to Kentucky. The recruitment, however, wasn’t done. I have reason not believe that’s changed some. I think it’s a battle between Kentucky and Washington right now and I really don’t know where he’s headed.”
McDaniels’ mind has changed often throughout the recruiting process. Even though right now Daniels isn’t bullish on UK’s chances, there still is a chance he becomes a Wildcat.
“Here’s the thing, he could announce tonight. If he announced tonight, I would probably expect that it’s going to be Washington. I don’t know for sure. He could announce in two weeks. Like I said, he’s been very different about this process, definitely not in any kind of hurry and as I mentioned, there’s a lot of fluidity in recruiting. When you’re dealing with 17 and 18-year old kids, minds change.”
In an earlier interview with Kentucky Roll Call, when asked if he believes there’s a leader in McDaniels’ recruitment, Daniels said, “I don’t know if I could pick one right now, to be honest.”
As of now, there’s no commitment date or a time-table on his recruitment. “Let’s see how it plays out.”
To understand why there’s been so much volatility in his recruitment, it’s worth knowing how McDaniels became a top ten player in the 2019 recruiting class.
“He kind of blew up late in his high school career,” said Daniels. “It really happened last spring. He rose in our rankings into the top five and it happened quickly. I think there’s an adjustment period sometimes. We certainly can be more aggressive, but he also had a lot coming at him in a quick timeframe. I think you gotta be patient with a guy like him. He needs to get stronger. He doesn’t necessarily have a slight build and I think that sometimes factors into a lack of aggression. With strength usually comes confidence in those type of kids. I think he’s really talented, but there’s obviously areas for him to get better at too.”
In each discussion he touched on more than just McDaniels’ recruitment. On KRC Daniels revealed he believes R.J. Hampton will commit to Kansas. He also described the wild game between future phenom Emoni Bates and Bronny James. On KSR Daniels picked Ashton Hagans to be UK’s 2019-20 MVP, although Tyrese Maxey will be the team’s leading scorer.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 11:00am
As Jaden McDaniels’ fluid recruitment takes one unexpected turn after another, Kerry Blackshear Jr.’s camp has remained quiet.
The Virginia Tech forward has multiple options to consider. The top-ranked transfer on the college basketball market according to ESPN, Blackshear Jr. could attend any school he wants. He also could keep his name in the NBA Draft. Blackshear Jr. was not one of 66 players invited to the NBA Combine, but Rivals’ Corey Evans believes the All-ACC forward is leaning toward staying in the draft.
“Sources have told Rivals.com that Blackshear seems to be leaning toward keeping his name in the NBA Draft. While he may go undrafted, the feeling is that he would be OK spending a year in the G-League instead of spending next year at a new college program.”
If you recall, Evans was the first person to report Blackshear’s camp contacted John Calipari. The Cats would likely be the team to beat, followed by Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Blackshear Jr. has until May 29 at 11:59 p.m. ET to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 10:05am
Chris Westry did not hear his name called in the NFL Draft, but he may have found the perfect landing spot.
The former UK cornerback signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. Westry had other options, but Dallas was calling.
“The first day on my visit, I was like, this has gotta be home,” he told the media after rookie mini-camp practice.
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ amazing facilities were not the selling point for Westry. That would be defensive backs coach Kris Richard. A member of Pete Carrol’s Seattle Seahawks staff for eight years, Richard prefers to work with big, long cornerbacks like Westry. His frame and athleticism caught the eye of one team scout on day one.
Chris Westry is an impressive looking kid when it comes to his height. It’s not often that you see a cornerback that’s over 6-4. The challenge for these coaches will be to work with Westry on his ability to open and turn. His legs are so long that he’s not going to look quick doing it. There were a couple of snaps where he was paired with Mike Jackson, who was able to get turned around much quicker than Westry out of his pedal. Jackson is 3 inches shorter, but like Westry he has long legs too.
There are quite a few cuts in-between rookie mini-camp and the season-opener. Westry has gotten off to a good start, but still has a long way to go to make the 53-man active roster.
At this time yesterday, all the scuttlebutt pointed Jaden McDaniels to Kentucky. That all changed last night when Even Daniels changed his McDaniels prediction to “unknown.” He’ll join KSR to explain why he changed his prediction and more.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (772) 774-5254.
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By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 9:00am
Kentucky is falling further and further behind other states in the sports gambling gold rush.
When West Virginia was the first neighbor to act, fine. It’s basically the wild, wild west there anyway. Then Tennessee passed a measure to legalize sports gambling. Last week Indiana joined the fold. If you thought it felt bad to see Hoosiers twist the knife, now Iowa, IOWA has passed sports gambling legislation. They are the 11th state to join the movement. As many as five more could make the move before the end of 2019. Now the golden corn won’t be the state’s most valuable good.
As the Commonwealth sits idly by and lets valuable tax-based income flow to neighboring states, there are a few other things happening in the Kentucky sports world.
Cats Add a Quarterback
Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting momentum carried over into the current class. Following Gunnar Hoak’s departure, Mark Stoops found quality quarterback depth in the transfer portal. Sawyer Smith leaves Troy for Lexington after helping the Trojans to a 10-win season in 2018.A duel-threat weapon, Smith brings experience invaluable experience to the quarterback room. I did some deep-diving into Smith’s game yesterday and here’s what I found.
What’s going on with Jaden McDaniels?
As Kentucky appeared to be gaining all the momentum, last night Evan Daniels switched his Crystal Ball pick from Kentucky to “unknown.” McDaniels also told the recruiting insider that he has in fact not signed a letter of intent. The once incredibly quiet recruitment has created uncertainty. Jack Pilgrim will try to striaghten out the fact from fiction in today’s insider notes.
Who will win the Zion Williamson Sweepstakes?
A few teams tanked all season long to earn the chance to select Zion Williamson with the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Tonight the Knicks, Cavs and Suns will learn if they’ve earned their reward at the NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago. It airs at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. A look at the odds for each team for each pick:
Some might feel bad for the long-suffering Knicks fans. Not me. Let’s get Devin Booker some help STAT.
Iron Throne Odds
Following the Mad Queen’s bonfire at King’s Landing, Odds Shark has updated their final odds for who will win the Game of Thrones. For some reason, Bran is even money. If that happens, I don’t know what I’ll do. Rioting in the streets is not out of the question.
Updated odds to rule Westeros #GameofThrones:
Jon (Aegon) +175
Jon & Daenerys' baby +2000
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) May 13, 2019
While you’re at it, listen to the latest episode of Kentucky Thrones Radio. T.J. loved the episode and I hated it, creating the perfect combination to help you find relief following the show’s penultimate episode.
Justin Thomas out at the PGA
This year the PGA Championship has been moved from August to May. The switch will benefit the sport in general, but not Justin Thomas. A wrist injury will prevent the Louisville native from playing at Bethpage Black this weekend. The 2017 PGA Champion, it’s a shame we won’t get to see one of Kentucky’s finest compete for the title.
The Kentucky football team has already successfully recruited some of the best athletes in the state. One that’s still uncommitted is North Hardin defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine. This guy isn’t just a big body, he’s an incredible athlete. 310 pounds can’t keep him on the ground.
— Brent Thompson (@FBCoachThompson) May 13, 2019
Final UK Baseball Homestand
Tonight the Bat Cats will host the Michigan Wolverines in the final non-conference game of the 2019 season. They’ll take tomorrow off before opening the final series of the season Thursday against Vanderbilt. First pitch at Kentucky Proud Park is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Matt Jones and Drew Franklin are back on the air in one hour. Don’t go anywhere.
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
A top 25 wide receiver in America has spent quite a bit of time in Lexington over the last month. Each time he’s returned home to Columbus, Ohio, he’s left impressed.
“I like everything about UK, the facilities, dorms, the people, fans. I like everything,” Kalil Branham told KSR Monday evening.
A four-star prospect ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 22 wide receiver in America, Branham first entered the BBN’s radar at the Blue/White Game. Not long after Branham watched the exhibition from the Kroger Field stands, the Michigan commit reopened his recruitment. Three weeks later he returned to Lexington for an official visit.
“It was nice,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to how nice the school is and what’s around it. We went through the whole school facilities and we got to eat at some of the finest restaurants there, like Tony’s, KSBar and Jeff Ruby’s.”
KSBar is in good company.
At one stop Branham ran into Tim Couch, also known as “the guy on the wall.”
That wasn’t the only big Kentucky football name to share a moment with Branham. Josh Allen posed for a picture with the four-star athlete just a week after he was drafted seventh overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Primarily recruited by Vince Marrow and wide receivers coach Michael Smith, their pitch to Branham is simple.
“They’re saying that I’m going to come in and replace Lynn Bowden. I’ll be the No. 1 guy. They say I’m a five-star recruit in their eyes.”
If Kentucky can convince Branham to commit to the Cats, the 2020 class will have an incredibly fast, hard-working athlete whose stock continues to rise. A few more things you should know about Branham and his relationship with UK:
Allen and Young are in Touch
Once they committed to Kentucky, John Young and Beau Allen vowed they would be two of UK’s staunchest recruiters. So far, they’re living up to that promise.
“I talk to John Young and Beau Allen a lot.” Branham has never thrown around the pigskin with Allen but, “His film is very nice. I think we could work together good.”
You People are Crazy
During Branham’s visits to Lexington, fans are making the most significant impressions. The Big Blue Nation is unlike any other fanbase, for better or worse.
“The fans are — they’re huggers. I’m not used to that, but I like it though.”
I don’t know how well hugs from strangers will go over with every recruit, but it isn’t scaring off Branham.
Not a One-Trick Pony
When he isn’t running through ladders or catching balls from the gun on the football field, Branham picks up the boxing gloves.
“It’s a training thing. I always kind of liked boxing. I figured it could make my hands quicker and my reactions, so I just kind of got into it.”
He’s never stepped into a ring for a formal fight, exclusively using pads and light sparring, but I would not mess with this man.
It aint grinding if you love it. while you at somebody's draft party watching their dreams come true . We with Coach Ron AKA The Champ working on quick hands
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 26, 2019
Outside of boxing, Branham’s first love was lacrosse. As a high school freshman he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track and field, a sport where he continues to completely crush the competition. Branham won the 2017 200m Ohio state championship and it wasn’t even close. In the following relay, his team was in dead last until he took over for the final leg. Watching him catch up with the competition is absolutely incredible.
Never question my effort or desire to win. im not a Ra Ra guy never have been. Dont take my quietness as a weakness. Its just why talk trash if you cant finish. #branhamboys pic.twitter.com/A2n81VBx0g
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 16, 2019
He’s not just an athlete. Branham’s mind is incredibly sharp. To exercise his artistic side he plays piano.
“I just started, I’d say about three years ago; just taught myself and kept going with it.”
He learned to play like this simply by listening? Incredible.
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) February 18, 2019
It might not be a rivalry per se, but Kalil does not deny that the competition between him and his older brother, John, has helped him grow.
“Me going against, or going with my brother, has always pushed me to go a little further, work a little harder and it’s made me better as a person and a football player,” Branham said. “He always stepped it up a little bit and taken it a little bit further than somebody my age would normally do. Since my brother is two years older than me, I’m working at a higher level than normal people are.”
Last season Kalil’s big brother John rushed for 2,013 yards and 22 touchdowns. A first team all-state selection, John Branham played in the annual Ohio North-South Classic. Next season the running back will suit up for Eastern Michigan.
Despite all the honors, if the two lined up to race, Kalil would leave him in the dust. “It’s not normally a competition, but when something like that comes up, always I dominate.”
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 18, 2019
If you didn’t think athleticism runs in the family, his cousin Malaki Branham is a top 50 shooting guard in the 2021 class, playing for LeBron James’ alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.
When will Branham Decide?
It appears that Kentucky has all of the momentum in Branham’s recruitment, but there’s no end in sight.
“I’m taking my time, going through all my options,” Branham told KSR.
Branham has 14 reported offers but he does not have a list of finalists. When the time comes, Kentucky should be in position to contend. We’ll see if Smith and Marrow can seal the deal for “the next Lynn Bowden.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Over the last several days, Kentucky has picked up nearly all of the momentum when it comes to 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels. There were even some rumors on Twitter that the UK coaching staff had received his National Letter of Intent and an announcement was imminent.
Tonight, though, recruiting guru Evan Daniels decided to jump off the Kentucky hype train… at least temporarily.
After submitting a prediction in favor of the Wildcats last week, Daniels, who has an all-time prediction success rate of 93.51%, changed his Crystal Ball pick on 247 Sports to “undecided.”
Recruiting analyst Josh Gershon, who also has an all-time success rate of over 90%, changed his pick to “undecided,” as well.
In other brief recruiting news, 2019 four-star guard and Duke decommit Boogie Ellis announced his commitment to Memphis this afternoon, all but taking the Tigers out of the running for five-star combo guard RJ Hampton.
With Texas Tech having little-to-no momentum right now for the Little Elm, TX native, one would think it’s down to Kansas and Kentucky, right?
Possibly, but according to Daniels, that doesn’t mean the Cats have a serious shot to land Hampton.
This evening on Twitter, Daniels said he “(doesn’t) think he’s going to Kentucky.”
Don’t think he’s going to Kentucky
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) May 13, 2019
We’ll talk about it all tomorrow on Pilgrim’s Insider Notes.
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 10:35pm
This offseason Mark Stoops tried something new — he searched for a player in the transfer portal. His first excursion was a success.
With the help of two former Troy staff members, Jon Sumrall and Mark Perry, quarterback Sawyer Smith became Kentucky’s first grad transfer of the Stoops era. Smith is the right fit for Kentucky’s offense over the next two seasons.
1. Terry Wilson Runs Free
When Gunnar Hoak announced three weeks ago his intentions to transfer to Ohio State, the UK coaches knew they needed another quarterback. Not to take anything away from Walker Wood, Nik Scalzo and Amani Gilmore, but without Hoak, UK’s offense was one bad Terry Wilson hit away from being completely flipped upside down. To prevent that from happening, Eddie Gran would surely tighten up the playbook to keep Wilson as safe as possible.
With the addition of Smith, Gran does not need to restrict Wilson’s legs. UK’s most explosive playmaker on the ground in his first season, Wilson gained 6.75 yards per carry on 8.2 attempts per game. Now that Wilson has someone behind him with experience, the offense can naturally progress by giving Wilson up to 12 or 13 carries a game.
When Terry Wilson runs the ball, he’s one big play away from a score or one hit away from being sidelined. Sawyer Smith ensures the risk isn’t too great to gamble for the reward.
2. Serenade the Offense
If he isn’t throwing darts, Smith is know for his excellent singing on the sideline (even if he doesn’t know the words).
3. Throw the Deep Ball
The weakest link of UK’s offense over the past two years has been the vertical passing game. The long ball just so happens to be Sawyer Smith’s greatest strength.
Whether he’s in the pocket or on the move, Smith can muscle the ball down the field. In the opening drive of the Dollar General Bowl, he threw a pearl 48 yards in the air that hit his receiver in stride for a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty.
Arm strength aside, Smith’s most important asset is that his game isn’t too different from Terry Wilson’s. If Wilson goes down with an injury, Gran doesn’t have to bring out an entirely new playbook. Smith uses his legs well enough to escape pass rushers or execute a read option. At Nebraska he turned one simple read into an explosive 57-yard run.
4. Experience, Experience, Experience
What sets Smith apart from any UK quarterback not-named Terry Wilson — or any quarterback entering the 2018 season — is the invaluable experience he received as a redshirt sophomore.
Smith played sparingly, primarily as a rushing option, in each of the first five games of the season before Troy starter Kaleb Barker suffered a torn ACL. Thrust into action, Smith was not perfect, but he showed up when the Trojans needed him most.
His best game of the year was at the Dollar General Bowl. Seeking a tenth win, Smith rose to the occasion, completing 70.5% of his 44 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That kind of experience you can’t teach. You can try to simulate a third and seven from the 46-yard line with a four-point lead in a bowl game, but the blitz does not feel as real in practice. In that situation Smith looked off the single safety and remained calm in the pocket before dropping an absolute dime for a touchdown.
Sawyer Smith’s addition gives UK’s quarterback room a pair of 10-win signal callers. If Terry Wilson cannot complete his duties, Smith is perfectly prepared to keep the offense on course.