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The Top 5 Best & Worst “Friday Night Lights” Characters

The Top 5 Best & Worst “Friday Night Lights” Characters

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Every year, it’s the same. Fall camp starts, practice updates start rolling in, and you get that first morning where there’s a chill in the air to remind you football is right around the corner. With that, comes my annual viewing of “Friday Night Lights,” the best television show known to man.

Now, I don’t watch all five seasons every year — season two is so terrible I once threw the DVDs away in protest…only to fish them out of the trash the next day — but I do hop around to check in on my favorite characters in Dillon, Texas. Right now, I’m enjoying season three, just wrapping up the episode where Tim Riggins and Jason Street go to New York City, which includes the classic Riggins moment where he tries to convince Street to go see the musical “Gypsy.” Oh, that Tim Riggins. Always a hoot.

I’ve got a LOT of opinions about “Friday Night Lights,” and for years, have been assembling a list of the best and worst characters in my head. Because it’s Friday and why the hell not, I thought I’d share that list with you.

The 5 BEST Characters on “Friday Night Lights”

1. Tami Taylor

AKA the GOAT. AKA the best hair in show business. AKA my role model. Tami Taylor, brilliantly portrayed by Connie Britton, is the TV mom all other TV moms need to bow down to. But she’s so much more than just a mom. She’s a tireless defender of all that’s right in this world, including a nightly glass (or three) of wine. I am not a mother, my husband is not a football coach and I am not a school principal, but in all other aspects of life, I try to model myself after Tami. I even bought aviators, which historically have looked horrible on me, because she wears them. I call them my “Tami Taylors.”

2. Coach Taylor

Strongly considered putting Tami and Coach 1A and 1B, but couldn’t do that to Tami. What can you say about Coach Taylor? He’s also the best. He also has amazing hair. If he told me to eat razorblades, I’d probably do it. Not only is he the pinnacle of good, put up with Buddy Garrity, and gives the best pep talks in the world, he’s the hottest dad on television ever. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Because Coach Taylor says so.

3. Tim Riggins

Riggins is the tragic hero of FNL, the man women want and men want to be. Though he may come off as a really hot, simple guy who wants nothing more than beer, women, and TEXAS FOREVER, we watch Riggins struggle with his destiny and identity throughout the series. He’s the quintessential “what if” character. What if he didn’t drop out of San Antonio State? What if he didn’t take the fall for Billy and go to jail? What if he had never moved into that trailer and saved us all from meeting Becky? That would have been nice.

4. Buddy Garrity

Buddy’s totally over the top, but he’s totally someone I could see living in my hometown. As a person, he’s pretty terrible — cheated on his wife, puts football over family, and generally seems pretty obnoxious — but as a character, he’s awesome. His reaction to finding out his kids don’t eat meat is one of my favorite moments on the show. We all know a Buddy Garrity.

5. Grandma Saracen

A wildcard pick, I’ll admit, but nothing brings a smile to my face more than sassy Grandma Saracen. Her battle with dementia was sad, but she may have produced more laugh-out-loud moments than any other character. For instance: how she insists on calling Coach Taylor “Coach Eric Taylor” every single time she sees him and how she doesn’t hesitate to tell Landry he throws the ball like a girl and is “just a funny looking creature.” Grandma Saracen is the original captain of #TeamNF, and I love it.

Honorable mention:

  • Landry: Great except when you had to hear him sing
  • Tyra: Also great, but mean to Landry
  • Smash: Referred to himself in the third person too much

 

The 5 WORST Characters on “Friday Night Lights”

TOO LATE

1. Julie Taylor

Tami Taylor may be the best, but her daughter Julie is the worst. I’m not sure there are words for how awful Julie is. She’s completely incapable of communicating her emotions, to the point she WRECKED HER OWN CAR because she didn’t want to go back to college. WTF? Not only is she insanely rude to her awesome parents, the only decisions she makes are terrible ones, like cheating on Matt Saracen with the Swedish guy or having an affair with her married TA in college and then running away to Chicago to cry to Saracen about it. Her only saving grace is genetics.

2. Becky

You knew Becky was going to be awful the minute she came on screen singing the national anthem in the kitchen like a banshee. Nobody worth liking sings that loud that early in the morning. Also, the way she throws herself at Tim Riggins is cringe-worthy. “Hello, Tim Riggins!” “Wake up and give me a ride, Tim Riggins!” “Which dress should I wear to my pageant Tim Riggins?” Out of the good of his heart, Riggins eventually becomes her friend, but his initial reaction to her — STFU and go away — is all you need to know.

3. Lyla Garrity

I actually warmed up to Lyla as the series went on (anyone who goes boozing with Mindy goes up a notch in my book), but she had too much ground to make up from the first two seasons. I get that it couldn’t have been easy to cope with your boyfriend going from future NFL superstar to depressed paraplegic, but the solution is never to cheat on him with his best friend, even if that’s Tim Riggins. Between that and her stint as a born-again Christian, Lyla could never figure out who she was. No offense, Minka Kelly, but all Lyla was on this series was a really pretty face.

4. Joe McCoy

I originally had his son, JD, on this list, but swapped. Even though JD is a punk, it’s not his fault his dad’s an abusive asshole. Joe McCoy just looks like a villain, all smug sitting in his big house on top of the hill, drinking his fancy scotch and smoking his cigars. Plus, who the hell leads a coup to fire a coach who just took your team to State? An idiot, that’s who. In terms of boosters, Buddy Garrity >>>>> the parents who collect change at intersections >>>>> the creepy guy selling drugs under the stands >>>>> Joe McCoy.

5. Jason Street

I’ll probably get roasted for this, but I stand by it. Jason Street is nice. Jason Street is sweet. Jason Street is a good person. But he’s also really, really boring. I understand that the series need him to show how football and its fame and fortune can go away in an instant, but did we really have to stick with him through two more seasons? Plus, he’s meant to be this model of good judgment but then he went to Mexico and contemplated getting injected with SHARK DNA so he could walk again. SHARK DNA. I realize Season 2 was the pits, but COME ON.

Honorable mention:

  • Baby Grace: Didn’t contribute anything, looked like an alien
  • Cash, Tyra’s cowboy boyfriend: Because none of us saw that coming at all
  • Waverly, Smash’s bipolar girlfriend: So much drama

KSR’s 2015 College Football Preview Podcast

As Coach Stoops loves to say, “It’s been a process” creating this podcast but nonetheless, an absolute blast.  I would like to apologize in advance because at times, it isn’t the best quality, but it improves later in the podcast and will continue to improve in the future.   It’s what I call a “learning experience” (like when it begins and Matt says I’m shaking, because I was, and still am).

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed making it.  If you have any future suggestions, send them my way.

On iTunes search “Kentucky Sports Radio” and hit “Subscribe,” and it should then appear on your phone or computer.

UPDATE: You can also listen to it by clicking here.


Revisiting my 7 questions and predictions for Fall Camp

(Photo by UK Athletics)

(Photo by UK Athletics)

Back at the beginning of the month, I put together a list of seven questions and predictions for the football team heading into fall camp. Now that camp is officially over and game preparation has begun, let’s look over that list to see what I got right, what I got wrong, and what we still don’t know.

1. How long will the “Quarterback Race” continue?

Prediction: Not long

Result: Not long

Eleven days into camp, Mark Stoops announced that Patrick Towles is the team’s starting quarterback, putting an end to the battle that had been going on since the spring. Towles asserted himself as the leader of the team immediately, saying on “The Paul Finebaum Show” that he believes Kentucky can make it to the SEC Championship. Bold words, but would you want anything less from your starting QB?

Ryan Flannigan and Josh Forrest (Photo: Mark Zerof, 247Sports)

2. Who will step up and be the leader of the defense?

Prediction: Melvin Lewis

Result: TBD

This question will resolve itself over the season, but Stoops and DJ Eliot have praised several players for their leadership, including Lewis, Josh Forrest, Farrington Huguenin, and AJ Stamps. (The only comments we’ve heard about Ryan Flannigan have pertained to his injury.) While there may not be one overall leader of the defense yet, each unit seems to have its own chief(s): Lewis/Huguenin on the defensive line, Forrest/Flannigan at linebacker, and Stamps in the secondary.

Eliot says Stamps in particular has become a vocal leader, calling out to young corners like Westry and Baity to make sure they’re in the right coverages. Similarly, fellow senior Josh Forrest, who started his career at UK as a wide receiver, has started coaching younger players on the field, a sign he’s come full circle in his transition to linebacker.

3. Will C.J. Johnson top his “poop” comment from last year?

Prediction: Yes

Result: Maybe not, but this comment on Media Day was still pretty good:

4. How many practices until we get an Angry Stoops?

Prediction: Hopefully more than one, but no more than three

Result: 15!

Boy, was I off. Stoops seemed pretty happy with his team for two weeks until a piss poor outing last Friday afternoon. Stoops was furious with his group’s effort, and when they didn’t respond in the scrimmage the next day, he made them all come back Saturday night for unscheduled practice. We’ve covered that ad nauseam, but one thing Stoops has been harping on all offseason and preseason is players holding themselves and each other accountable for their performance on and off the field. That clearly didn’t happen last Friday and Saturday, and a message was sent. So far, it looks like it was received.

(Photo: Mark Zerof, 247Sports)(Photo: Mark Zerof, 247Sports)

5. Which wide receiver will stand out the most?

Prediction: Garrett Johnson

Result: Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker

I was half right. Both Johnson and Baker have turned heads in camp for their consistency, with Shannon Dawson singling them out as guys who make plays “every day,” not just when the lights are on. Juice has also assumed a leadership role, doing push-ups with any receiver that drops a pass and watching film on his own late at night. That’s pretty impressive coming from a sophomore.

At 6’3″, 208 lbs., Baker earned the nickname “American Pharoah from his teammates for his size and athleticism. After offseason knee surgery, he’s really turned it on these past few weeks, becoming one of UK’s best outside threats. Jeff Badet has also made some big plays, but has had his reps limited due to a minor injury.

Westry (21) is tall. (Photo @KyleTucker_CJ)

6. Will the new guys take over at corner or will the veterans stand up?

Prediction: New guys will take over, but not by the first game

Result: One new guy has already taken over

After a week and a half of practice, true freshman Chris Westry was running with the ones on defense. Fellow freshman Derrick Baity has also impressed, and could be on his way to taking over the other cornerback spot from Cody Quinn. Earlier this week, Stoops said he wouldn’t hesitate to play both freshman together when they’re ready, but for now, Quinn is holding on to his spot.

Stoops also said that Fred Tiller, whom Westry jumped on the depth chart, isn’t pouting and has stepped his game up at practice, but the influx of young talent has some players, like junior corner Jaleel Hytchye, looking elsewhere. After he moved further down the depth chart, it was announced Hytchye will transfer.

7. Will Patrick Towles cut his hair?

Prediction: He’ll cut it, or Freddie Maggard will do it for him.

Result: Nope. Long hair don’t care. 

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Watch out for Freddie and those clippers, Patrick.

Verdict: I got two predictions right and four wrong, with one still hanging in the balance. That calls for a few laps around the KSR Compound. Be back soon.


Stoops’ primary objective in year three? Exorcising Kentucky football’s losing mentality

Stoops’ primary objective in year three? Exorcising Kentucky football’s losing mentality

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Since the dawn of time, Kentucky football has followed a pretty consistent script: convincing yourself you have a shot in the preseason, getting high on a sliver of success (“FIRST DOWN KENTUCKY!”), and, with a sad shake of your head because you knew it was coming, enduring beatdown after beatdown until, bloodied and panting, you crawl under the table until basketball.

There are exceptions, of course. Fran Curci, Jerry Claiborne, the thrill of scratching plays in the dirt with Hal Mumme and Tim Couch, and the blissful 2007 season with Rich Brooks that had us dreaming of a different life, one where upsets became the norm and “College Gameday” was com-ing to our cit-taaay. However, the cruel “Rise” of the Joker era plummeted the program back to the cellar, where we resumed our old habits and occasionally looked up through the glass ceiling at our SEC counterparts.

I can only speak as a fan, but I think it’s safe to say that the players have lived under this ceiling as well. For too long, Kentucky football has been haunted by a “losing mentality.” You can almost feel the moment coming, a sick sixth sense. With the first big hit from an SEC linebacker goes the sugar high of the cupcake season. Whereas most would get up and shake it off, the old Kentucky football taught us that it’s okay to roll over. The beating’s going to come anyways, right? Why fight it.

Although Kentucky made considerable strides last season, that mentality still pops up occasionally, most notably last Saturday afternoon.

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“If you don’t play with a chip on your shoulder, we’ll have no chance”

Stoops has been candid about how dire things were when he took over: poor talent, poor fundamentals, mediocre facilities, and an impossible schedule. In two years, he’s done an excellent job resolving three of those issues, and there’s not much he can do about the fourth; however, I’d argue the biggest challenge he’s facing right now is getting rid of the losing mentality around the program. After listening to his comments on the show yesterday, I believe that’s the entire reason he called the practice on Saturday night.

“I was clearly frustrated after the scrimmage. More than anything, it was about what I felt on that field,” Stoops said on KSR. “The bottom line is, I’m looking for an attitude, I’m looking for an effort. This game is played with a giant chip on your shoulder. And if you don’t play with a chip on your shoulder, we’ll have no chance. When we do, when we play with that toughness, when we play with that attitude, when we play with that chip on your shoulder, we’ll have a chance to beat anybody.”

Last year at SEC Media Days, Bud Dupree acknowledged the team’s confidence problems, which have built up over years of struggle.

“We have enough talent to win games. Now, the big key behind it is, do we believe we have enough talent to win games?,” Dupree said before the beginning of last season. “Even though the coach is telling me I can do it, if I don’t believe in my mind I can do it, it’s not going to happen.”

A 5-1 start showed the team believed, but a 0-6 finish (with three blowouts) revealed there’s still a long way to go.

“We truly are getting started, but you know what? It’s time to go.”

Sometimes it’s easier to roll over and play dead than push past your comfort zone, especially if the former is a habit. With the talent gap narrowed, Stoops’ next obstacle is the space between the ears. He said as much yesterday, noting that even though his team was worn out physically from a scrimmage earlier that day, he wanted to push them to see how they would respond mentally.

“Once you challenge them to that point, it could have went one of two ways,” Stoops said. “I was very happy with the way our team responded, and I felt like they needed that challenge. Quite frankly, if I had done that and challenged them to that brink earlier, I’m not sure they would have handled it the right way.”

When the going gets tough, whether it be in the dog days of camp or in the middle of the SEC schedule, Stoops is pushing his players to go. Even if it means playing football in the dark when you could be partying with your friends on the first weekend of school.

“We truly are getting started, but you know what? It’s time to go. It’s no longer acceptable for us to accept the mediocrity and below. We need to step it up and push ourselves and compete at a higher level.”

Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

Finally fielding a product you can be proud of

Leaving a perennial powerhouse like Florida State for Kentucky must have been quite the culture shock, so you can’t blame Mark Stoops for not wanting to shout his 7-17 record from the rooftops. He knows the dangers of false expectations, especially with a vulnerable fan base like Kentucky’s. When asked about the excitement in the fan base, Stoops had a very telling response.

“You know, I’ve always danced around that question since I’ve been here for this reason: I want to put a good product on the field. So, if I’m calling for people to drive hours and hours and spend the money and deal with all the crowds and how long it takes people to get here, to come from the Eastern part of the state or the Western part of the state…”

“I take pride in the product we put on the field,” he repeated. “Quite honestly, it hasn’t been good enough for me either, but this year, I feel like we have a good chance to have a very good football team.”

Hopefully one that will use the lessons learned on a dark August night to push through.


The most important facilities upgrade? Locker room mirrors

Fair warning, following Saturday’s practice reports, I’m beyond ticked off.

Another warning, I’m crossing over a dangerous line of a part-time blogger to former team captain. Somewhere in the middle is my mood and it’s not rosy.

I wrote earlier how important the final evaluation/dress rehearsal scrimmage was to the 2015 Cats. Apparently the players, especially the veterans, missed that memo. When I read and heard Mark Stoops comments about a lack of effort, leadership, and accountability, I could only shake my head in disbelief. I can’t imagine how mad he actually was or what he really wanted to say. Also, as a former player, I couldn’t imagine letting down a head coach in such a critical point of the preseason. I don’t hide my respect and admiration for Mark Stoops. I’ve personally witnessed his tireless effort in building a football program. Stoops and staff have invested their lives into a football program that was on its last leg prior to their arrival. I think that’s one reason I’m so mad. Stoops deserves better than this from his players.

I hope the cleaning crew has Windexed the Nutter Center and Commonwealth Stadium locker room mirrors because those images within are the sole contributors to the apparent dud of a scrimmage. Current UK players have every amenity, luxury, training aid, and coaching/teaching to succeed. If that is not valued, then I look directly at the players themselves and more specifically, the team’s veterans to fix whatever problems exists.

If UK were a pro team, Saturday’s scrimmage would have been a clearing house of trades and cuts. Am I overreacting? Probably. But I’m speaking from a fan’s perspective. During my playing days I always heard that fans cared more about the program than players. I didn’t get it then. I do now. I was absolutely as guilty as today’s players in throwing out a dud or ten. But today as a fan and an adult that understands just how badly the BBN wants this team to succeed, well I look at it a little differently. Before you comment, I am admitting a double standard. I lost more games than I won. But effort was always there.

During the open practice I could sense a confidence that I valued. But, that aura was leaning towards a “too big for their britches” attitude that apparently ruled Saturday’s scrum. That’s got to get cleaned up now.

Not in my lifetime have I witnessed a coaching staff that has put more effort, time, and dedication into building a program. As I’ve often mentioned my love for Jerry Claiborne, I don’t throw around compliments as above if it wasn’t sincere. Same can be said about the support staff that deals with everything from athletic training, Nike/manager staff, nutrition, psychology, strength/weight training, amongst a plethora of other advantages that no prior Wildcats had to honor to have available. Just referencing leadership, today’s players have professionals guiding them in the most inspirational and effective leader training known to man. No time in program history has the university poured millions into a stadium and new training facility in order for the very best experience for its student athletes.

Look in the daggone mirror. If substandard effort is how you’re repaying these coaches and even more importantly, fans, then a reality check is in order. One bad practice is expected and can be chalked up to dead camp legs. But a blatant disregard in the most important scrimmage of the preseason tells me that this team needs to grow up. And fast.

Louisiana Lafayette is coming to town. A half-butt effort against the Ragin Cajuns will lead to an embarrassment. This year’s ULL team is not as talented as in year’s past, but has sufficient athletes with one superstar in Elijah McGuire and a desire to beat an SEC team that will ensure the visitors give UK its best shot. My best advice to the 2015 Wildcats is to get to work. You only get this opportunity once. Too many people are working hard to see you succeed. Too many folks like me have invested their hard earned money for season tickets. That fan excitement must be met with team effort. Look in the mirror, rub dirt on it, and play the game that is paying for your tuition, room, and board.

Now that’s off my chest, have a nice day.


Ranking all 33 games on UK’s 2015-2016 schedule

Ranking all 33 games on UK’s 2015-2016 schedule

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Last night, the conference schedule was released, meaning we finally have the entire 2015-2016 schedule to overanalyze. So, that’s exactly what I did today. Here are all 33 games on UK’s schedule, including exhibitions, ranked.

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Not only is Duke Duke, there’s lingering resentment over them winning the title, making this a twisted sort of revenge game. Duke had nothing to do with Kentucky not making the finals, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate them for winning. The Blue Devils are riding a huge wave of momentum, especially in recruiting, and beating them in the feature game of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon would be incredibly satisfying.

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Kansas has become a benign rival over the years, but the trip to The Phog vaults this game into the #2 spot. Kentucky embarrassed Kansas last year in the Champions Classic, and with a rowdy home crowd behind them, the Jayhawks will be out for blood. Bring it on.

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Louisville is anything but intimidating after losing five games in Puerto Rico, but that might make this game even more fun. In fact, if it were the same team with any other name, this game would be much lower in my rankings, but Louisville is Louisville and beating them in December has become a holiday tradition.

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This is UK’s first SEC road game, and will get the ESPN Super Tuesday treatment for very good reason. While UK avenged their 2014 loss in Baton Rouge last season, it was close (remember Cal’s sarcastic fist pump when LSU hit a three?). Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey are both gone, but Ben Simmons, the #1 recruit in the 2015 class, and Antonio Blakeney, another highly regarded recruit, will give the Tigers an immediate talent boost. Team chemistry may be another story, but there’s no better rallying cry than Kentucky.

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This is Kentucky’s first-ever trip to Pauley Pavilion, and that, combined with a trip to Los Angeles, gave this game a boost in my rankings. UK annihilated UCLA 83-44 in Chicago last season, but the Bruins rebounded to make the Sweet 16 and return Bryce Alford, Tony Parker, and they’ve got some good recruits coming in, including Prince Ali, fabulous he, Ali Ababwa.

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Last season, Kentucky didn’t play in Memorial, eliminating my “home game.” Thankfully, the game is back on the schedule this season, which means I get to complain about Memorial’s funky layout and Kevin Stallings again. Vandy’s actually supposed to be pretty good this season and it’s always a tough environment to play in, so this definitely deserves its CBS Saturday afternoon time slot and the partying in Nashville comes along with it.

lsuhome

Interestingly, LSU has replaced Florida as the final game on UK’s schedule, a telling sign of how the Tigers are rising and the Gators are falling in the post Donovan era. We’ve already talked about LSU, but this game ranks high on my list because it will be Alex Poythress’ Senior Night. I’m crying already.

atTxAm

Yes, I put this game in my top ten. Why? Not only did the Aggies take the Cats to double overtime in College Station last year, they should be much improved this season. Billy Kennedy has an impressive 10-man rotation, and, sandwiched between winnable games at home vs. Tennessee and Alabama, this could be a trap game.

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This game is part of the second annual CBS Sports Classic, aka “The Extra Neutral-Site Non-Conference Event Calipari Wanted.” Normally, a game against the Buckeyes would be higher on my list, but D’Angelo Russell and their second leading scorer–Googling..Googling–Sam Thompson are gone. Nevertheless, this is a weekend in New York, so let’s go.

vandyhome

As mentioned earlier, Vandy’s going to be legit this year, with a whole roster of the type of Vandy players you’re used to hating. There’s little to no chance they’ll upset Kentucky at Rupp, but it could be an interesting game.

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The ball Aaron Harrison desperately flung inbounds in an attempt to escape an upset from the Razorbacks in January 2014 still sits atop the Arkansas scoreboard as a fitting reminder of how hard it is to play in Bud Walton Arena. Even if the Razorbacks are in rebuilding mode.

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Like Arkansas, playing at the O-Dome is always a challenge. How good will the Gators be under first-year coach Mike White? Who knows, but the crowd will be loud.

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Malik Newman and an improved Bulldogs squad come to Rupp.By January, Mississippi State could be a dangerous group. Craig Sword is a senior, which means we get to enjoy calling him “Chicken Sword” for one more year.

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South Carolina’s got good, experienced guards in Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier and would have made more noise last year if not for a bunch of injuries. Plus, weird things always happen in Columbia. Have you seen Gamecock Jesus?

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The Cats escaped Athens by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins last season, and although UK won’t have to face Georgia on the road this go around, this game should still be interesting. The Bulldogs lost Marcus Thornton and Nemi Djurisic (aka the awkward white guy that couldn’t miss last year), but they return a dangerous core of JJ Frazier, Kenny Gaines, and Charles Mann.

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A CBS slot on a Saturday against Florida isn’t as sexy as it used to be when Billy Donovan was at the helm, but you never know. There’s still a lot of talent in Gainesville, including South Florida transfer John Egbunu, finally eligible this season.

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It’ll be another year before Auburn’s impressive recruiting haul comes to fruition, but any time Kentucky goes into Bruce Pearl’s house, it’s going to be a show. Pearl will pull off all the stops in hopes of getting an upset, even if it means stripping down to his skivvies and sliding across the court with a War Eagle painted across his chest. That’s a normal Saturday night for him anyways.

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Bobby Hurley returned to Rupp last season as the head coach of Buffalo, and he’s back again with Arizona State. This game will get attention for more than just the boos he’ll receive; Hurley is a darling in the coaching world and many think he can make some noise at Arizona State. At the very least, he can be the star of some craptacular Photoshops.

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Ole Miss (barely) made the tournament last year, but lost five seniors; however, they’ll return Stefan Moody, who put up 25 points in the Rebels’ overtime loss against the Cats last season.

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Tennessee won’t be good this year, but it will be our first time playing them since Rick Barnes took over as head coach. Because NBA rumors always swirl around Calipari, expect Barnes to take his name out of consideration at the beginning of his postgame presser.

(more…)


I Hate Facebook.

I Hate Facebook.

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I remember it like it was yesterday.

“Click to confirm your Facebook account,” the e-mail read.

It was the happiest day of my young college life. Once I got that @uky.edu e-mail address, I went straight to Facebook to set up my profile. It wouldn’t be long before I could poke every sorority girl on campus, I thought. I couldn’t wait to write Beer pong tonite? on Skyler’s wall, to see if he and the guys over at Audubon wanted to get some games in before sundown.

The mouse couldn’t move fast enough. I frantically tapped my feet between page loads. I was officially a member of the exclusive Facebook world, then known as Thefacebook.

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That was a long, long time ago; back when Facebook was restricted to students with e-mail addresses from a hundred or so colleges and universities. That was back when Facebook was fun and exciting; before it was flooded with opinionated bullshit, auto-play videos and links to TOP SECRET DIET SUPPLEMENT USED IN HOLLYWOOD.

No parents. No teachers. No employers. No redneck high school classmates griping about “the gays” getting married, in all-caps. Just a database of college students, looking to meet others like themselves and write short, booze-fueled posts they would one day regret.

Those were the good ol’ days.

Now, Facebook is my least favorite website on the internet — and, yes, I’ve seen Two Girls, One Cup. I’ve seen it twice.

Facebook is the internet’s trailer park. It’s where the dumbest are the loudest and the ugliest babies have the most albums. It’s where people complain to people who don’t give a shit. It’s where sick people die if their page doesn’t get 500,000 likes. It’s where I go twice a day out of habit, only to be reminded how much I don’t care what my “friends” think about Barack Obama or the new Wal-Mart.

Facebook is the world’s worst drug, and I hope its 1.44 billion addicts read this.

 

Facebook used to be simple.

Let’s go back about ten years, when Facebook was for college students and MySpace was for everyone else.

Back then, things were different. Things were simple. A friend request meant you were getting out and meeting new people on campus; or if you didn’t mind adding strangers, it meant you were trying to get out and meet new people. (Or you were a creep.)

Writing on walls was as common as text messaging. Last night was so much fun! was a perfectly acceptable thing to write on someone’s page. It’s how we communicated with each other. It’s how we made new friends. It’s how we flirted. It’s how Alex got those girls to meet us at Blue Line one night. Damn that was a fun night.

There were no shares or ads or links or grandmas or BuzzFeed cooking videos. It was simple. It was college kids interacting with college kids.

Those were the days.

Public access ruined everything.

From a business standpoint, opening Facebook to the masses was the only play. It was too popular to be limited to college students forever. Facebook needed to grow, and to grow it needed more and more people. Perfectly understandable. It needed to happen.

But all hell broke loose when it did.

Though we all use it daily, we’ve all said “I hate Facebook” at some point.

Whether it was after a crazy relative aired out family laundry, or when you wasted six minutes of your life reading about someone’s bad experience at Applebee’s, you’ve sworn off Facebook forever, at least once.

“I’m done with Facebook.” We’ve all said it.

If you haven’t, then you’re the problem.

We get it. You do CrossFit. 

You know how I know you do CrossFit? Because you’ve been flipping that same tire every morning for two months and you’ve taken a picture of it every time. Seeing you and that tire has become a part of my daily routine. I bet you flip it again tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll get flipped again the day after that. The day I don’t see you flipping that tire is when I will assume you are dead, or the day you realized there is no direct correlation between Facebook likes and muscle mass.

First rule of CrossFit: Tell everyone you do CrossFit.

That’s a link to a fake news story, you idiot.

Hey dumbass, Arizona didn’t legalize meth because it reduces cholesterol. No, Jennifer Aniston did not die in a tragic snowboarding accident. And believe it or not, scientists still haven’t found a way to build invisible cars out of recycled aluminum cans.

So before you go sharing that story about the man who survived three years in a sink hole by eating his own elbow, take a second to check the source. If it checks out, do as you please. If you can’t tell, you don’t belong on the internet.

Can you elaborate?

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Oh. You just wanted attention. Gotcha.

I don’t know any of those People I May Know.

That’s a photo of a dog and we have three mutual friends. I can’t say we know each other.

The sexual predator-looking guy, with the glasses? File him under People I Don’t Want To Know, Ever.

I also don’t know the six people in that wedding party photo; that lakehouse; the girl I never talked to in high school; or the man swinging a golf club, although we do have four mutual friends, who I also don’t know.

What’s with all the ads?

Zuckerberg, chill with the sponsored posts. Don’t you have enough money by now?

I don’t want to join Trunk Club or Sock Club or Shoe Closet or Hat Pantry or any of these other startups you’re pushing on me. My NewsFeed is bad enough without the unwanted advertising.

One first day of school photo is plenty.

Cute kid. Love the backpack. He’s killing it in that new Polo.

It’s okay to be proud of Junior’s first day in the third grade. That’s a big moment and you should capture it. It won’t be long before he’s stealing cash out of the sock drawer to go buy booze from the gas station that doesn’t card down the street. Enjoy these precious moments while they’re here. Make them last and get as many He’s adorable! comments as you can.

However, one, maybe two photos are plenty — three max. One in the driveway and one outside the school is more than enough. We don’t need to see his entire classroom, his Lunchable or his new Hunger Games notebook. Upload a couple of little man ready to learn his cursive and then move along.

Sell your Zija somewhere else.

Couldn’t be happier for you that you lost 70 pounds and you make six figures pushing the product that helped you shed the weight. Seriously, congrats. I’m sure you deserve that BMW for outselling everyone in your territory.

But if you’ll notice, everyone on Facebook hates you. We would rather see a photo of the inside of your toilet after a 15-day cleanse than read another post about how we can make $5,000 in one week and live a healthier lifestyle if we give you a call.

You make me want to add more CrossFitters.

If you spoil a TV show within 36 hours, you give every one of your friends the right to kick you in the shin.

That Game of Thrones finale was pretty nuts, huh? I bet other people would like to enjoy it, too, when they get home from their busy lives to catch up on their DVR. Maybe wait to write R.I.P. (Main Character) in a Facebook status. It’s a common courtesy.

“Bob tagged you and 173 other people in a photo.”

Did I go to church camp last weekend and not remember it? Why am I tagged in a photo with 173 people? When was I within a camera’s reach of 173 other people recently?

Oh, it’s just Bob trying to sell his old truck.

Get CraigsList, Bob. People go there to buy old trucks.

You mean I’ll burn in hell if I don’t share this?

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I think I’ll take my chances. Besides, I never knew Jesus to be so hungry for web hits. I must’ve missed that Sunday.

I can’t say that I do want to watch ISIS behead someone.

Nor do I want to watch a routine traffic stop turn violent.

I didn’t log on to learn the truth behind 9/11, either.

Believe it or not, I have exactly zero interest in seeing the world’s most brutal car wreck.

And though it sounds wild, I did not click my Facebook bookmark to watch THE VIDEO THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T WANT US TO SEE.

Maybe some other time, guys.

No, I would not like to play FarmVille. In fact, I hope your fake farm dries up and your fake barn burns down with all of your fake livestock in it.

There are two types of people in this world: those who play FarmVille, and those who leave the house. The latter is 99.99999 percent of America — you know, people who do things in real life with real people. The other 0.00001 percent want you to water their crops and feed their chickens while they set a new high score in Candy Crush Saga.

I mean this in the nicest way possible: I wish awful, awful things on anyone who invites me to play FarmVille.

If you have a strong political opinion and feel the need to share it, glance down at your keyboard, then bang your head against it until you pass out. 

If you take only one thing away from this rant, let this be it. I can’t stress this point enough. The moment you think it’s time to write a couple hundred words about your political views, put a hammer to your computer.

It’s Facebook. No one cares. Out of all those people on your friends list, zero of them care. Literally no one. Not one person will read your post and think, “You know what, my day is better because I know what Jeff thinks about gun control.” Never in the history of ever has someone said, “Hell yes! So glad Linda shared her thoughts on healthcare. So awesome. Day made.”

Let’s all try to be better.

And maybe, just maybe, what was once the best thing on the internet will one day be tolerable again.

Until then, I’ll be scrolling through my NewsFeed — and hating every minute of it.

See you over there.


Sacha Killeya-Jones commits to Kentucky

That certainly didn’t take long. About an hour after Evan Daniels hinted it might happen, 2016 power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones committed to Kentucky via a post on his Instagram page.

Killeya-Jones is considered the fifth best power forward and the 18th overall player in a loaded 2016 class by 247 Sports, and looked VERY impressive during the July Recruiting Period this summer. He joins Tai Wynyard as UK’s second commitment in the 2016 class. He’s ranked a four-star by ESPN and Rivals and a five-star by 247 Sports.

We’ll have more for you later, but until then, enjoy these highlights:

Another hyphenated name! Rejoice!


Bourbon, Bluegrass, and Beaumont: A Weekend on The Trail

Bourbon, Bluegrass, and Beaumont: A Weekend on The Trail

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My friends from Nashville and I have talked about doing a bourbon weekend for years. Like most Kentuckians, I’ve visited a few distilleries throughout my life, becoming an Ambassador at Maker’s Mark and looking forward to the fun and creative Christmas gifts from them over the years. My cousin works at Woodford, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it, preferring it over other brands. When the bourbon renaissance began a while back, the hypothetical bourbon trip came up more and more often, especially after all of us had had a few; however, it wasn’t until this summer that it became a reality, and in the most unlikely of ways.

This spring, my friend Michelle found out she was expecting, and, like the true rockstar she is, offered to be our designated driver on the bourbon trail, swiftly eliminating the fly in the ointment. The stars shifted further into alignment when my parents purchased a Sprinter van to drive around in for their retirement (a whole other story altogether) and agreed to let us borrow it. The trip picked up new steam, and eight of us decided to head up to my homeland in August, with Michelle ferrying us around the trail in the giant van.

Beaumont Inn is the perfect home base

But where to stay? Between my sister’s and my parents’ houses in Danville, we could make room for eight people, but that didn’t seem like the ideal solution. Instead, we settled on historic Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, a place I’d frequented many times for meals but never actually stayed at. As a kid, Beaumont meant dressing up in church clothes, being careful not to knock anything over, and convincing my mom to let me order more corn cakes. As an adult, it’s been fun to rediscover Beaumont, which has been given new life under fifth-generation innkeeper Dixon Dedman, who opened the more casual Old Owl Tavern in 2004, and the Owl’s Nest, a cozy upstairs pub, in 2009.

Beaumont has always been a dining destination in the area, with food so simple, southern and straight up good it makes my mouth water just thinking about it, but now it’s a place you want to go every day, not just Sunday for brunch. Dixon has also established the Inn as a stop on the Bourbon Trail, offering private bourbon tastings and flights in the Tavern. (More on that in a minute.)

Once the entire crew was in town Saturday morning, we loaded up the Sprinter (affectionally called “Greyhound” by my parents), and took off for Maker’s, the first stop of the day.

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Maker’s is Bourbon Disneyland

This was my third trip to Maker’s, but man, has it changed. A new visitor’s center adjacent to the Burks House opened five weeks ago to handle the large crowds that pour in daily. Tours take off starting at 9:30 a.m., with about thirty people a piece, a bachelor or bachelorette party always whooping somewhere on the property. As always, the grounds were gorgeous, the red, black, and white colors popping off one another and the lush green landscape in pristine fashion. I always joke that because Maker’s is the most recognizable bourbon brand and the most popular distillery to visit, it often comes off as Bourbon Disneyland, from the 1935 Chandler & Price printing press for each label to the bottling line where each bottle is hand-dipped in the signature red wax by a duo of ladies always happy to offer a smile for the camera. Almost too good to believe, right? (Hmm…)

It isn’t until you get into the new tasting building/gift shop that you realize just how much money this place is making. Whereas you used to get a shot of Maker’s at the end of tours back in the day, now visitors are privy to an entire tasting in Maker’s new tasting rooms, glass-enclosed, soundproof spaces in one of the distillery’s rack houses. The tour guide leads you through the tasting, which I’m sure always includes one clown who claims to like the “white dog,” aka moonshine, and someone the guide will dub “Shots McGee.” I’m not a huge Maker’s fan, but I did enjoy the Maker’s 46, and, of course, the bourbon ball at the very end.

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“The Spirit of Maker’s” Chihuly installation

Last year, Maker’s debuted “The Spirit of Maker’s,” a massive art installation by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. The display, which commemorates Maker’s 60th anniversary, is beyond impressive and greets visitors as they leave the tasting rooms for the gift shop, which is equally grand and stocked with every Maker’s item you could imagine. I’ll be honest, while Maker’s is nice, the real reason I brought my friends here was so they could dip their own bottle in the red wax, the ultimate souvenir for the liquor shelf.

With our bottles, shirts, and Maker’s Mark ornaments in hand, we loaded back up into Greyhound and got back on the trail.

Woodford is booming

After a picturesque pitstop at Wallace Station for lunch, we arrived at Woodford Reserve, the most beautiful of the distilleries to this blogger. Smack dab in the middle of horse country, the drive alone is worth the trip. Unfortunately, all the tours were full, but we were able to get into one of the “porch presentations,” a new feature that allows visitors to sample a few bourbons while getting a short overview of the process and flavors.

Woodford just reopened its visitor’s center last year, and I was stunned by the transformation. It was always a pretty place, but now it is much more upscale, with large sitting areas with leather couches; a gorgeous, spacious tasting room; panoramic views from the limestone porch; and even a new cafe boasting farm to table fare. Even though we didn’t get the full tour, just hanging out in the visitor’s center was a treat in itself. Little did we know the best was yet to come.

Dixon and his wares at Old Owl Tavern

The most interesting bourbon tasting in the Bluegrass

We got back to Beaumont Inn just in time for our private tasting with Dixon. The table was carefully laid out with five glasses each of Blade & Bow 22, Pappy Van Winkle 23, Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2014, Willett Family Estate 13, and the grandaddy of them all, George T. Stagg. I’ll admit, I’m not a bourbon aficionado, so the rarity of these bourbons was a bit lost on me, but I still enjoyed getting to taste them, especially with Dixon as our guide.

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As the late afternoon sun filtered in through the inn’s windows, Dixon broke down each bourbon for us and explained the history behind each distillery and how they benefitted or changed after the bourbon boom. I won’t divulge all of Dixon’s insider secrets, but it was fascinating to learn the story behind each prominent brand. Most interesting to me was Willett, which, until recently, was essentially an extensive collection of other distilleries’ surplus that the family bought in the barrels and aged themselves until ready for purchase. Willett now has their own distillery, which I got to visit Friday and recommend, but any bourbon nut will tell you that the Family Estate Collection is famous because each bottle is a mystery. Is it old Maker’s? Woodford? Who knows, but trying to guess is half the fun.

The Willett was impressive, but I liked the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch the best, maybe because I tend to lean more towards fruity/spicier flavors rather than vanilla/caramel flavors. (The fact that I just wrote that sentence kind of stuns me, and speaks to what an excellent teacher Dixon was.)

Resurrecting another family business: Kentucky Owl Bourbon

Given Dixon’s extensive knowledge of bourbon, it’s no surprise that he started his family’s old distillery, Kentucky Owl, back up a few years back. The original Kentucky Owl distillery was founded on the banks of the Kentucky River in Mercer County in 1896 by Dixon’s family, but was shut down by teetotaling state authorities in 1916. After Prohibition was enacted a few years later, a mysterious fire leveled the warehouse, and the distillery became a wistful part of the Dedman family lore.

About eight years ago, Dixon decided to resurrect the old family distillery through a partnership with Mark and Sherri Carter, friends and fellow innkeepers from California that are also prestigious winemakers. Kentucky Owl was born again, and was bottled for the first time last summer. Since then, it’s already made noise, winning Garden & Gun‘s “Made in the South” award for Best Drink and selling out in a matter of weeks. If you missed the first release of Kentucky Owl, don’t worry; the second release is coming up later this month, but get ready to stand in line.

The good times kept rolling in March, when Dixon and Beaumont Inn were awarded the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classic Award. The building that serves as the main house at the Inn was built in 1845 and used as a women’s college before Glave Goddard and Annie Bell Goddard founded it as Beaumont Inn in 1917. Almost a century later, it’s good to see it’s still going strong.

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A fitting end to a perfect weekend

After our tasting, we ate at Old Owl Tavern, introducing my non-Kentucky pals to the wonders of green beans done right (in ham/bacon, natch), corn pudding, country ham, and the best ranch dressing known to man. My friend Theresa proclaimed it the best meal she’s had in months while the rest of us practically licked our plates clean. We retired to the porch for a nightcap and slept soundly before rising early for one last meal before hitting the road back to Nashville.

A long time in the making and expectations high, the weekend did not disappoint. Even though these were things I’ve done a million times before — eat at Beaumont, watch a Kentucky sunset, taste bourbon, sit on the porch with my friends — it all felt new, and I couldn’t help but wonder why we had waited so long.

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If you’re interested in Beaumont Inn, please check them out on their website, Twitter, or Facebook page


Patrick Towles is your starting quarterback

@UKphotogs

@UKphotogs

BREAKING NEWS from the Nutter Training Facility: Mark Stoops just announced that Patrick Towles has won the starting quarterback job and Drew Barker will serve as backup.

“We came to some clarity at the quarterback position. Patrick Towles will start,” Stoops said. “It was a good battle, Drew did some very good things, but once again, Patrick played exceptionally on Saturday. We’re very encouraged by his progress.”

Stoops stressed that “Patrick’s the guy,” but the staff has a lot of confidence in Drew and is excited to see him play when the opportunity arises.

Nick will be by with more in just a few…


Who is Jon Toth?

Who is Jon Toth?

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Last year on the Monday Morning Quarterback radio show, I declared Kentucky center Jon Toth as the 2014 offensive most valuable player. That comment fueled discussion and led to an inquiring stare from Tom Leach. From Mark Stoops to Shannon Dawson, UK coaches rave about their center’s ability to manage the line of scrimmage. But, who is Jon Toth and why is the most unassuming sports star on campus?

Jon Toth is from Indianapolis, Indiana. He played at Brebeuf Jesuit High School where he was ranked as the 11th best player in the state of Indiana as well as being named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association all state team. Recruiting services varied on their opinion and ranked him both as a guard and tackle. He participated in track and field, basketball, and lacrosse.

At UK, Jon wears the number 72 because, “everyone has to wear a number.” He states the one thing he likes most about playing football is, “playing it.” His abbreviated and unassuming media guide quotes acted as a precursor to our interview. Toth is a defined athlete and person. He won’t win a press conference and I don’t think he would care to. He didn’t like me asking about his potential NFL career. I speak the language of Offensive Linemen and his glare was confirmation enough for me to change my line of questioning. What he does very well is play football.

The two time All SEC Academic Honor Roll student can be best described as an intellectual mauler. Toth was forced into action as a redshirt freshman and played in all twelve games while being named to the All SEC Freshman Team. During his freshman year, Jon played a stretch of games weighing as little as 270 pounds. In 2014, the sophomore started all twelve games and was named as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week in UK’s season opening game against UT Martin. Jon Toth is a combination of brains and brawn. His intellect allows him to direct offensive line traffic while his physical prowess factors in his ability to move large humans on a weekly basis. When I interviewed Kentucky defensive tackles, they all said that Jon Toth was the best center they’ve played against. High compliment given the Wildcat’s strength of schedule.

On Media Day I interviewed the 6’5 310 pound junior. Here are some questions and answers from our conversation:

Q-During the off-season, how did you prepare to lead the offensive line going into the 2015 season?

Toth-Spent a lot of time in the weight room just trying to get stronger, little bit of time in the film room.

Q-How much more confident are you at 310 pounds?

Toth-It’s a big boost to self-confidence.

Q-What’s the difference in Neal Brown and Shannon Dawson’s offensive on-line calls from the center position?

Toth-Not a huge difference in Coach Dawson’s and Coach Browns.

Q-Are you the leader in offensive line film room?

Toth-Yeah, I try to help the guys make calls.

Q-Do you need to become a more vocal leader?

Toth-Definitely that’s where I think I lack a little bit. On practice field being more vocal. Helping lead guys in the right direction.

Q-Do anything cool this summer?

Toth-Not really stayed in Lexington lifting and taking a class.

Q-You are named on NFL draft boards, did that factor in your season approach?

Toth-I’m not focused on NFL, I’m focused on being the best player I can be. Getting after it in the weight room. Be a better teammate for the guys out there.

Q-What are three things you worked in the offseason?

Toth-Getting stronger, working on calls, being more flexible.

Q-Are you comfortable snapping the ball with your left or right hand?

Toth-I only snap with my left hand but could snap right handed if I had to.

With Jon Toth, it’s what you see is what you get. I really like that. Jon Toth has a unique style of friendly brevity and blatant confidence.  I hope the BBN realizes just how good he is and how great he could potentially be. I’ve been sky high on Jon for over a year. In an earlier KSR post, I named my All UK Team from Claiborne to Stoops. Jon Toth was my starting center. His black and white answers are indicative of his personality. Toth is an incredibly humble young man. Jon Toth is also the best technical football player on Kentucky’s team.


The Best Quotes From The First Week Of Fall Football Camp

The Best Quotes From The First Week Of Fall Football Camp

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This time last week, the Kentucky football team was checking into dorms and meeting for the first time this fall on the night before the first fall practice. Since then, there’s been Media Day, Fan Day, an open scrimmage, practice with pads, practice without pads, and more interviews for Mark Stoops and his staff than they probably wanted to do.

It’s finally football season, Cats fans.

So tonight, as we hit the one-week mark of fall camp, I’d like to share with you some of the best quotes from Stoops, his assistants, and Mitch Barnhart over the last seven days. They did a whole lot of talking about a whole lot of preseason football, and these are some of the lines that stood out…

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The last line of Mark Stoops’ opening statement on Media Day, his first comments of the fall.

 

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Sure, it would’ve been nice to reach a bowl last season. At the end of the day, it’s all about wins and losses. Stoops currently has more of the latter, unfortunately, but he is clearly on to something at the University of Kentucky.

People tend to forget: Football programs aren’t built in a day; they aren’t built in three years. It takes progress over time and that is exactly what Stoops is accomplishing. He has Barnhart’s support, one-hunnid-thousand percent.

 

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There is competition at almost every position on both sides of the ball. Outside of maybe inside linebacker, center and Stamps’ safety spot, no one sitting on a starting role on the post-summer depth chart should feel too comfortable. Playing time is earned and the hardest workers will be rewarded in the end.

Veterans, look out for the youngsters. They’re hungry and talented.

 

 

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Drew Barker made it a competition, but this quote from Stoops tells us all we need to know about who will win the starting quarterback job in the end. It’s hard to imagine Towles having a great year as the second option.

 

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Stoops is very proud of Towles and the work he put in, both this summer and last. The one-time third-stringer has improved every year, and that’s all anyone asked of him.

“I’ve asked him to get better from last year to this year, and that’s what he’s done,” Stoops said.

 

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Naming a starter at QB isn’t as urgent to Dawson as it is to the fans. He mocked reporters’ constant questioning of the competition after practice earlier this week, saying, “There are 10 other guys out there — you do know that don’t you?”

 

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While most of the wide receiver talk out of camp has been about Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons is still an extremely lethal weapon with the football in his hands. Though his catches may see a slight drop with increased talent and depth around him, he will still be a playmaker in the passing and return games. He’s the most likely option at punt returner at this point in the preseason.

 

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For the first time since he’s been in Lexington, Mark Stoops loves what he sees out of his safeties. A.J. Stamps is back with Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain, in addition to two future stars in redshirt freshmen Mike Edwards and Darius West backing them up.

 

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Defensive depth was a major issue and it cost Kentucky several opportunities late in the season. This year, D.J. Eliot has more bodies he feels comfortable subbing in, thanks to an improvement in talent across the board. He hopes to be two-deep at every position, plus one.

“If you have two defensive ends, you have two deep plus one ready to play in every game,” he explained. “If you have more, that is great but I look at that at every position on defense going two-deep, plus one. So what that means is that I have two corners I want to be able to have two-deep, plus one that can go to either.”

 

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Will Jacob Hyde really line up in the backfield? Here’s your answer.

Sounds like Hyde at fullback is more than a little spring football fun that was overblown once it got out. He’s a legitimate option to go in and knock someone’s head off, freeing up room for the ball carrier to score. (Or maybe, hopefully, he’s the ball carrier.)

 

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After predicting Matt Elam will be a “solid contributor” in his sophomore season, Stoops asked reporters, “How would like to be a center and line up across from him?”

Point being, Elam’s size alone makes him a problem for opposing lineman. Just wait until he improves his quickness after the snap.

 

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Take one glance at any handful of players on the roster and it’s very clear: Kentucky looks like an SEC football team, finally. Seemingly everyone looks different than they did last year, some look different than they did two months ago. We’ve never seen the level of athletes Mark Stoops is running onto the field in 2015.

 

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22 days…


Jordan Swindle and Kyle Meadows face off in the KSR Rubik’s Cube Challenge

I think it’s probably safe to say that if you’re 30 years or older, you’ve had your hands on a Rubik’s Cube at some point in your life. The 3D puzzle first debuted in 1974 and has been a staple toy for kids ever since. While my generation came at the tail end of the Rubik’s Cube’s heyday, I definitely remember the first time I tried to solve one, and how I marveled at how my brother, six years my senior, came out of his room one day with each side a solid 3×3 plane of color. Had I not been so awestruck, I might have noticed that the corners of each square were curled up, meaning he totally peeled the stickers off and cheated.

The Rubik’s Cube has gone through a bit of a renaissance in the past decade, with kids picking the Cube back up and learning to solve it, most likely through tutorials on YouTube. Both Jordan Swindle and Kyle Meadows claimed in the UK Media Guide that they could solve the Cube, Swindle in a minute and Meadows in a minute and a half. That’s a pretty bold claim, so I borrowed my husband’s Rubik’s Cube and challenged them both at Media Day.

Who did the best? See for yourself:

As Kyle put it, “See, he know all the algorithms.”

While Jordan’s time of 1:29 is impressive, it’s very, very far from a record. According to the all-knowing and always correct Wikipedia, the current world record for a single time on a regulation sized Rubik’s Cube is 5.25 seconds, set by Collin Burns at a competition in April 2015. If that’s not impressive enough, Jakub Kipa solved the Cube with his feet in 20.57 seconds at another event this year. In case you’re curious what that looks like, yes, there is video:

Jordan, I think you have a new goal.


A Recipe for Success: How a Cooking Class is Changing the Game for UK Football

A Recipe for Success: How a Cooking Class is Changing the Game for UK Football

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Monica Fowler and some of her pupils in 2013 (Photo by UK Athletics)

Heading into year three, Mark Stoops made one objective very clear: he wants his players to start taking responsibility for their habits off the field as well as on it. That’s where the high-performance staff comes in. A few weeks ago, I profiled head high-performance coach Erik Korem, who told me about the hard work the team dietitian Monica Fowler is doing to educate players on the importance of eating right. Fowler, in her third year of working with the football team, started a cooking class this summer to help athletes transition from living in the dorm to living in an off-campus apartment.

“What we noticed with our football team this year is when they transition from the first year in the dorm to an apartment, they stumble a little bit with things because they don’t know how to cook,” Fowler said. “When I say they don’t know how to cook, I mean they would consider heating up frozen lasagna cooking.”

Approximately 70 athletes from the gymnastics team, volleyball team, women’s basketball team and football team participated in the class, which became so popular players bragged about it on Twitter, with sophomore wide receiver Alex Montgomery going as far to say he wished he could have cooking class three times a week instead of just one. Probably just because he gets to eat, right? Not exactly. Turns out the class has yielded results in the team’s body composition tests. Three football players who took Fowler’s cooking class scored better than their teammates by a considerable margin: redshirt freshmen linebacker Nico Firios, senior defensive end Farrington Huguenin, and walk-on Alex Brownell.

“I think it’s interesting that they were the ones taking personal responsibility for their time off the field to improve their performance,” Fowler said. “By coming to the cooking class, it’s just another step they’re taking to say ‘I’m taking care of myself off the field because I want to be good on the field.'”

So, what does cooking class entail? Fowler gave me the breakdown.

Step One: Think

Fowler said the objective of the class is to get athletes to think critically about what they’re feeding their body in order to achieve maximum results.

“I would equate learning how to cook for an athlete to a strength coach saying you need to lift weights to get better and not teaching them how to hold the bar or do a squat properly,” Fowler said. “If we don’t teach them how to do it, how can we expect them to do it?”

One of the first switches is probably the easiest: swap Gatorade for water. Fowler said a lot of the athletes she works with grew up drinking Kool-Aid or Gatorade like it was water, and by simply swapping it for actual water, they can drop three to five pounds pretty quickly. Also, more fruit and vegetables.

Fowler said she’s also trying to broaden the players’ horizons when it comes to foods. When I asked about if there were certain foods certain players were picky about, she said some of them don’t eat any cheese, which floored me. Who doesn’t love cheese? Also, she said some of the players don’t like eggs, which was equally as surprising. But, as my husband would tell you, who am I to judge a picky eater?

“Everyone has their little quirks,” Fowler said. “If I can just make 51% of them happy with the food, that’s my goal. I will say I think they’re more likely to try things now.”

“I’ve learned to accept ‘It’s not bad’ as a compliment,” she laughed.

Freshman linebacker Jordan Jones making lettuce wraps

Step Two: Learn

As far as lesson plans go, Fowler said the first class was all about chopping. While making frittatas, the athletes learned basic cooking skills, like how to hold a knife and rock it back and forth while chopping. Basic stuff, but for a generation of kids who grew up more with a microwave than a stove, it’s essential to start with things like how to cut an onion, mince garlic, or cut jalapeño peppers so the seeds don’t get on your fingers.

The second class is all about food safety, i.e. how to handle raw chicken, etc. The players learned how to make lettuce wraps with chicken and quinoa. Nico Firios said it was his favorite dish, and Alex Montgomery liked it so much, he ate a little bit, stopped himself, and took the rest home to his girlfriend. 

“I’d never cooked anything for her before, so I wanted to share it,” Alex told me at Media Day. “She loved them.”

Ryan Timmons and Alex Montgomery making Santa Fe soup

Step Three: Change

At the end of the class, Fowler said she just hopes the players can take home a few valuable lessons to change their habits. For example, adding in whole grains for your carbs and saving sugar for when you’re getting ready to perform. Also, not depriving yourself of your favorite foods, just eating them in moderation. (A good lesson for us all.)

“If you are going to have a day where you know you’re going to get chicken wings or something for dinner, your breakfast and your lunch has to be in line,” Fowler said. “It’s all about making those choices. Think critically.”

Ultimately, Fowler knows she won’t break all of the players’ bad eating habits. She just hopes to meet them in the middle.

“I’ll say, ‘Tell me what you’ve got in your kitchen,’ and give them suggestions. A box of mac and cheese? Okay, when you’re boiling the macaroni, add two handfuls of vegetables to that so you can cook the vegetables at the same time and still have the mac and cheese.”

Photo by UK Athletics

Monica spreading the health (Photo by UK Athletics)

The NCAA deregulation was a game changer

Fowler’s work became even more important last April when the NCAA approved unlimited snacks and meals, doing away with all the ridiculous guidelines Fowler and her staff had to abide by. For example, when she first came to Kentucky on a part-time basis five years ago, the NCAA rules only allowed the staff to give players a piece of fruit, some nuts, and a bagel. At the time, they weren’t allowed to give players spreads to put on the bagels, so Fowler would go around practice and collect spare change from players, buy peanut butter for them at Kroger with that money, and save all the receipts so they could have peanut butter on their bagels. Fowler said it was a red-letter day when the NCAA finally allowed spreads like cream cheese, honey, peanut butter, and jelly.

“You would have thought it was like Shangri-La over at football. They were so happy. When we could start having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over there, you would have thought we were feeding them prime rib,” Fowler joked. “They were so happy to get that stuff, and we were happy too. You wouldn’t believe how inventive we got. We started making shakes out of cream cheese and strawberries to help them gain weight.”

Another challenge was making sure players got enough protein. The old guidelines wouldn’t allow the staff to bring in anything with 30% of calories from protein except for shakes and protein bars. Once those guidelines went away in April 2014, it opened the doors for a total health makeover.

“The quality of diet improved automatically with the stroke of that pen when they enacted that legislation,” Fowler said. “We were able to give them better choices and we’ve seen that change their body composition.”

Skal Labissiere even participated in some cooking classes this summer

Results you can see

We’ve talked about the “eye test” a lot in recent weeks. More than ever, Kentucky’s football players look like their SEC counterparts, a testament to hard work in the weight room AND the kitchen.

“I think the team looks really good. Them being able to come in and get their snacks has really helped them,” Fowler said. “Being able to have that food there to give them is huge.”

Redshirt freshman center Bunchy Stallings told me he’s lost thirty pounds this year, and Fowler’s cooking class definitely has something to do with it.

“[Monica and her staff] played a huge part in it because I could eat healthier,” Bunchy said. “I try to eat more protein than breads now because the breads weigh you down.”

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Bunchy Stallings manning the grill at the cookout

You could hear the smile in Fowler’s voice when she talked about Bunchy.

“At first, he struggled a little bit trying to get to where he ate the right way,” Fowler said of the 6’3″, 335 lbs. center. “He had a great summer and was one of the ones that came to cooking class and would ask questions. I’ve seen Bunchy really grow up over the summer.”

Bunchy’s favorite dish to make now? A grain bowl with brown rice, steak or chicken, broccoli, onion, garlic, vegetables and teriyaki sauce.

Alex Montgomery said the cooking class came along when he needed it the most. Montgomery tore his ACL celebrating a touchdown in 2013 as a true freshman, and redshirted his sophomore year to recover.

“I feel so much better,” Montgomery said. “When I got hurt, my weight dropped to 190 lbs. from 217 lbs. My body fat went up from 8% to 12%. My muscle mass went down from 190 to 177. Now that I did the whole summer from Ms. Monica and working out, everything’s back up. My weight’s at 206 lbs., body fat 7.1%, everything, I feel better, healthier.”

The most delicious final ever

The final class of the summer was a cookout for all of the athletes. Each athlete was responsible for a part of the meal and training table chef Marty Burton set up his grill so they could grill chicken and lamb, the latter of which many of the athletes had never tried. Farrington Huguenin came early to cut up the lamb chops and do the marinade, and Bunchy Stallings and Khalid Henderson helped man the grill. The meal also included green beans, tomatoes, fresh corn, fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, and peaches from local farms. The staff also got fresh bread from Bluegrass Bakery, which the players grilled and brushed with olive oil from Stuarto’s Olive Oil, who also did a held a tasting for everyone to promote the benefits of cooking with olive oil.

Left: Khalid Henderson manning the grill at the cookout; Right: Mark Stoops trying things out

She’s just getting started, bro

Fowler worked with the team during Joker Phillips’ last year, but said her role really increased when Stoops took over and the high-performance program began. When the new practice facility is finished, Fowler will have a big kitchen, a large smoothie/nutrition bar, and a large room for the entire team to eat in. She said Stoops made a state-of-the-art dining facility a priority.

“That’s something Coach Stoops has put a lot of emphasis on, is guys having a place to eat together,” Fowler said.

For now, Fowler is just encouraged to see her athletes take responsibility for their bodies, even if it means taking the time to cook instead of popping something in the microwave.

“You see these guys come in and they just kind of get it. They get that food is important and they start finding the joy in eating the food that they make themselves. That’s the goal,” Fowler said. “We had several freshmen that came and really got into it, which is really encouraging to see. I feel like they’re going to be our leaders on down the road.”


Meeting Room Shenanigans and the Funniest Cats on the Team

Meeting Room Shenanigans and the Funniest Cats on the Team

defensive-line

Going back a couple decades, the defensive line film room was the spot for chaos and laughter. Long-time UK DL Coach Bill Glaser must have had the patience of a saint. His meeting room acted as the headquarters for team jokes, pranks, and all around tomfoolery. Unbeknownst to Coach Glaser, defensive tackle Jerry Bell once used a laser pointer that projected an image of a triangle to reenact a space shuttle launch during a team meeting. On another occasion, a pack of defensive linemen hijacked the team bus intercom system on the way to a pregame practice.  Once they successfully took over the mic, they put on a twenty minute comedy show.  We laughed till we cried. On most teams, the biggest personalities lie within the defensive line. For UK, this became evident on Media Day.

On Media Day, I traveled back in time to the 80s. I had the opportunity to interview modern day defensive linemen and the only thing that had changed were the names on the back of their jerseys. Same positions, familiar personalities.

Once the conversation began to flow, I was ready to drop the recorder thing and start a bull in the ring drill.  Hearing the big guys talk and joke in such close proximity livened up my competitive spirit. One that’s been known to get a little out of hand by the way. Jimmy Brumbaugh could make more money selling a film room reality television show than he could earn in thirty years of coaching football. Matt Elam, CJ Johnson, and Courtney Miggins are comedians. Rather large comedians, but still hilarious jokesters. Farrington Huguennin tried to dial them in. At one point in the interview, I lost all control.

So, watch and listen for yourself. In self-evaluation, I could tell that I was entering adrenaline overdrive when I started chewing gum like it was my job.

Here you go… There’s some very positive stuff about the UK offensive line mixed in the mayhem too: