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Big Blue Nation’s Travel Guide to the TaxSlayer Bowl

Big Blue Nation’s Travel Guide to the TaxSlayer Bowl

travel-guide

Your Kentucky Wildcats are going bowling for the first time since 2010 and you’re thinking about making the trip to Jacksonville to watch the game. You should go (stop thinking about it and book it already) and here is everything you need to know before planning your TaxSlayer Bowl experience.

 


HOW TO GET TICKETS


Tickets to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com; however, UK is encouraging its fans to go through UKFootballTix.com to secure seats in the Kentucky sections.

Of course, you could gamble and try to purchase tickets outside EverBank Field prior to the game, but I recommend you go ahead and lock down your tickets now so you can focus on other stuff on game day. Like morning beers.


WHERE TO STAY


There are several hotels within walking distance of the game and many of them are still available and for a reasonable price. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation and the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront each offer special rates for TaxSlayer Bowl fans, so maybe consider those as they are the official platinum partners of the bowl game.

For fans traveling in large groups, it may be worth looking into home rentals on AirBnb or VRBO. There is some very nice oceanfront property for rent and who doesn’t love turning up in someone else’s house?


GAME DAY TRANSPORTATION


The TaxSlayer Bowl offers a stadium shuttle service to and from the game, beginning at 9 am on game day and ending one hour after the game ends. Information regarding the shuttle is as follows:

Downtown Lots
Convention Center Lot: 1005 Forsyth St.
Kings Avenue Parking Garage: 1003 Kings Ave.
The Landing (load on Hogan St across from the Landing)

Note: the Marbon lot in Mandarin is not available for the TaxSlayer Bowl

Suburban Lots
Beaches: Wingate Park, 277 Penman Road S., Jacksonville Beach
Southside: 7020 Philips Highway (at J. Turner Butler Blvd)

Fares
Downtown Shuttles – $7
Suburban Lots – $12

The Jacksonville Water Taxi looks like the more fun option, though. It is five dollars per person and will run from 8 am until two hours after the game.


TAXSLAYER BOWL EVENTS


THURSDAY:

Speaker Series Luncheon featuring Mark Stoops and Paul Johnson, 12 pm
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena; Cost: $50

FRIDAY:

Coaches Luncheon and Hall of Fame Induction honoring Frank Beamera and Tom Shouvlin, 12 pm
Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront; Cost: $50 (Bowl teams will attend)

VyStar 5K Run, 2 pm
Downtown Jacksonville

Kentucky Pep Rally, 6 pm
Jacksonville Landing

Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade, 7 pm
Jacksonville Landing; Fireworks begin at 9 pm

SATURDAY:

Touchdown Party, 9 am
EverBank Field; Cost: $50 (includes buffet, beer, wine and soda)

Watch Kentucky wax Georgia Tech’s ass in football, 11 am
EverBank Field


OTHER THINGS TO DO


There is plenty to do in Jacksonville when you’re not watching football. Consider some of the following activities to pass the time while you’re in town:

Go to the beach! (But watch out for sharks.)

Check out the art at Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens!

Play golf at TPC Sawgrass! (Take plenty of balls.)

Take a stroll on the Southbank Riverwalk along the St. John’s River!

MOSH! (That’s the Museum of Science and History.)

Get drunk on the Jax Ale Trail!

Be a zoo keeper for a day at the Jacksonville Zoo!

Take a day trip to Cumberland Island!

Sign with the Jaguars!


WHERE TO EAT


These are the eight must-try restaurants in Jacksonville, according to Zagat:

Orsay — an upscale French bistro [Menu]

BB’s — bistro serving new American dishes and desserts [Menu]

Bistro Aix — French and Mediterranean dining [Menu]

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails — chic scene with American fare and stylish cocktails [Menu]

Southern Charm (formerly Checkers BBQ) — BBQ and seafood eatery [Menu]

Chomp Chomp — burgers, sandwiches, tacos and more

Taverna — wine, brick-oven pizzas and pasta [Menu]

Marker 32 — voted #1 restaurant by Open Table in 2013 [Menu]


HOW TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR


Say goodbye to 2016 while listening to the sweet sounds of all these people I’ve never heard of at the NYE Bowl Bash. Admission is free for all or you can really get wild with the VIP experience. VIP tickets, which include booze and a better view, can be purchased here.

(Note: Brothers Osborne is a new country music duo; it is not the Osborne Brothers of 1960s and 70s Eastern Kentucky bluegrass fame. The Osborne Brothers, who sang “Rocky Top,” will not be performing because they are in their 80s.)


FUN JACKSONVILLE FACTS!


— Jacksonville is the largest city in area in the continental United States.

— At one time Jacksonville was considered the most Liberal and Progressive City in the United States.

— It is the birthplace of the father of the personal computer, Don Estridge, who developed the first IBM PC in 1981.

— “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” was shot in Jacksonville.

— Elvis Presley performed his first indoor concert as a headlining act in Jacksonville’s Florida Theater in 1956.

— The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Limp Bizkit all formed in Jacksonville.

— Friendship Fountain in St. Johns River Park was the world’s tallest and biggest fountain when it was completed in 1965.


CORNY JACKSONVILLE TOURISM VIDEO


Enjoy your time in Duval County, BBN!


Bobby Petrino Made One HUGE Mistake vs. UK

Jim Brown | USA Today Sports

Jim Brown | USA Today Sports

Louisville football fans believe Bobby Petrino is arguably the nation’s greatest football mind.  Other than Nick Saban, they believe no one is better at football X’s and O’s than Petrino.

Their minds might change after hearing this.

Leading into the Louisville game, Lamar Thomas was asked if he had any inside information on the Cardinals after coaching the wide receivers for the last two years.  “I was there for two years, so hopefully I learned some things.”

Some of the things Thomas learned were Petrino’s signals.  Surely Petrino would have changed them before playing Kentucky, right?  Wrong.  Sources tell KSR Petrino used the same signals vs. Kentucky that he used while Thomas was on Louisville’s staff.

Ironically, Kentucky started the year with a loss to a former offensive coordinator.  There were rumors that Stoops’ staff didn’t change signals before taking on Shannon Dawson, although they were never confirmed.

It’s hard to say how much Petrino’s inaction affected Kentucky’s strategy, but it ain’t hard to tell that Bobby was mad after taking an L.

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BREAKING: 3-star DE Chris Whittaker flips commitment to Kentucky

@Chriswhitt_99

@Chriswhitt_99

Just a few minutes ago, Hollywood, Fla. and UCF commit Chris Whittaker flipped his commitment to the University of Kentucky.

Whittaker, a three-star prospect, is listed as the 55th strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 148 prospect in Florida in the 2017 class according to 247Sports. He held offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Georgia, among others.

Whittaker was on an official visit to Kentucky this weekend, and informed Mark Stoops of his commitment this afternoon.

Check out his interview with 247Sports following the decision:

“When I told coach Stoops in person (at the end of my trip) he jumped out of his seat and was so excited,” Whittaker said. “He asked me if I wanted to be a Wildcat and I told him yes.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh served as the recruiters.

“They did a perfect job,” Whittaker said. “He told me exactly what I wanted to hear and how they are going to do it. They have a spot for me if I work for it. I especially like coach Brumbaugh’s philosophy with what he does with the defensive linemen.”

Whittaker said he’s now done with official visits. He informed UCF’s staff of his intentions just now as well.

This is Kentucky’s 15th verbal commitment of the 2017 recruiting class.

Watch him work:

Today just keeps getting better and better.


First Pass: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Kentucky will face Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Jacksonville, here comes the BBN; prepare accordingly. At quick glance this matchup is not favorable for Mark Stoops and his youthful Wildcats. But, the more I research and analyze the more I like the Wildcat’s chances in Jacksonville.

Let’s dig in:

HEAD COACH: Paul Johnson

RECORD: 8-4
COMMON OPPONENTs: 28-27 win over Georgia, beat Vanderbilt 38-7.

OFFENSE

Scoring: 27.8 points per game

Rush: 257.4 yards per game (ACC-1st)
Pass: 131.2
Total: 388.6
3rd Down: 42%

Red Zone: 84%, 24/38 touchdowns

Fumbles: 25, lost 11

Three Best Players

  • QB Justin Thomas: 73-134, 54%, 1454 yards, 8 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 132 yards per game. On the ground: 128 carries, 562 yards, 5 TD’s.
  • RB Clinton Lynch: 35 carries, 2 TD’s, 11 yards per carry. As a pass catcher: 16 receptions, 490 yards, 6 TD’s.
  • RB Dedrick Mills: 121 carries, 602 yards, 11 TD’s, 75.2 yards per game.

DEFENSE

Scoring: Allows 25 points per game

Rush: 174.2 yards per game
Pass: 233.9
Total: 408.1

3rd Down: 50% (126th nationally)

QB Sacks: 16 (ACC-13th/last)

Tackles for Loss: 53 (ACC-13th)

Red Zone: 81%, 27/43 touchdowns

Three Top Players

  • DT Patrick Gamble: 47 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 QB sacks.
  • Safety Corey Griffin: 79 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 QB sack, 2 interceptions.
  • OLB PJ Davis: 70 tackles

What does all this mean?

Coach Paul Johnson’s flex-bone, option offense has given opposing coaches headaches at all three of his head coaching stops: Georgia Southern, Navy, and Georgia Tech. The Rambling Wreck’s leading rusher, RB Marcus Marshall, announced that he intended to transfer following the Yellow Jacket’s win over Georgia in its final regular season game.

Tech’s defense allowed opponents to convert 50% on 3rd down which ranks 126th nationally. It also ranks last in the ACC in QB sacks (16) as well as tackles for loss (53).

The Kentucky offense should present Georgia Tech with significant personnel and schematic problems. Furthermore, UK prepared for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in its last regular season game. The pending Heisman Trophy winner challenged the Wildcats to maintain disciplined gap responsibility. That same concept will apply as the Cats attempt to slow QB Justin Thomas and the triple option.

Much, much more to follow. 


BREAKING: Kentucky-Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl

BREAKING: Kentucky-Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl

kentucky_wildcats_logo-svg__2_-0

For much of the past week, the rumor has been Kentucky to the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. Now, it is official, Kentucky will face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on December 31st at 11:00am. An official release from the school will be coming soon. Georgia Tech finished the season at 8-4. This will be the 20th matchup between the Cats and the Yellow Jackets, but the two teams have not played since 1960. Georgia Tech leads the series 11-7-1.

Bowl Information

Tickets: http://bit.ly/16TSBtix

Hotels: http://bit.ly/16TSBhotels

Travel Packages: http://bit.ly/2gVDskp

Events: http://bit.ly/16TSBevents

Surrounding Area: http://bit.ly/16TSBjax

 

Stay tuned as UK Athletics will be hosting a Bowl Special soon. We will have a link to that video on here!


Kentucky: They’re not who we thought they were (yet)

Admit it: at some point in the past week, you thought about 40-0. No one wanted to say it out loud, but as Kentucky poured the points on Arizona State, it was there, like a little worm dancing in the back of your mind. Well, put that worm back in the tequila because the Cats got served a big piece of humble pie this afternoon in Rupp, losing to UCLA 97-92. Sadly, it wasn’t even that close.

Let’s break it down because I guess we have to.

1. Lots of firsts today, and not in a good way

Today’s loss was the first for the Cats in Rupp Arena since February 27, 2014. That’s a 42-game winning streak gone. It’s only Calipari’s fifth loss at Rupp Arena as UK’s head coach. Today was also the first time a team’s scored 97 points on Kentucky in the Calipari era. Simply put, it was not a good day. UCLA beat Kentucky in every facet of the game: points, obviously; rebounding (UCLA 41 UK 38); shooting (UCLA 53% UK 41%); and assists (UCLA 18 UK 16). Kentucky actually had fewer turnovers than UCLA (18-9), but didn’t capitalize on them enough.

2. UCLA wanted it more

One of the more upsetting parts about today’s game was that it looked like UCLA just wanted it more. After hearing how this team hadn’t turned in a bad practice yet, that’s what bothered me the most. Same for Cal.

“To come in and do what they did to us, and they manhandled us, they physically manhandled us,” Calipari said. “You don’t see that very often, especially in this building.”

It felt off from the start. Despite the early start and time zone difference, UCLA sprinted out to a 4-0 lead, prompting Calipari to take a timeout about a minute in, which rarely happens.

“This is a lesson for us,” Cal said. “We didn’t have the energy. I had to call a timeout a minute into the game. I mean, just wasn’t the same team.”

Get ready, because “lesson” is the word of the day.

3. Where was the defense?

As mentioned, UCLA shot 53% from the floor, 43.5% from behind the three-point line. Give all the credit to UCLA, they came in with a game plan and stuck to it, doing everything well that Kentucky did poorly. The Bruins had better shot selection, poise, and execution. UCLA came into this game averaging 97 points, the third most in the country, and hit that mark exactly today; sadly, Kentucky didn’t do a lot to stop them.

“For us, this wasn’t about offensively, it was, we gave up ten threes and I’m guessing six of them, we left a shooter,” Cal said after. “We didn’t have discipline defensively. We just didn’t.”

4. TJ Leaf, man

All the talk heading into the game centered around Lonzo Ball, and he’s good, but it was TJ Leaf that tore the Cats apart today. Leaf finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Cats had no answer for him.

“I mean, what Leaf did, basically dominated the game,” Cal said.

Add in 19 from Isaac Hamilton and 14 from Lonzo Ball and that Welsh Feathers kid and it was not good.

5. Calipari decided not to have a shootaround today

Count Calipari among those that thought Kentucky could handle the big stage today. Cal admitted that he decided not to have a shoot-around this morning, a decision that in retrospect, he wished he hadn’t made.

“I decided not to have a shootaround. I’m not making an excuse. That was my choice. Now that I see the result, I would have had a shootaround this morning. I just felt maybe they were mature enough to do this. I’m learning about this team.”

6. No finishing around the rim

How many times today did Kentucky have an easy shot and missed it? Probably as many cuss words that flew across my living room, because that was infuriating. The Cats missed WAY too many gimmes, our post players especially (looking at you, Bam). Equally as infuriating was the shot selection. Why pull up and take an 18-footer when you can drive to the rim and get the layup? Isaiah Briscoe was 0-5 from the three-point line. Why are you shooting so many threes, Isaiah? I feel like each member of the team needed to be reminded of what they do well. I’m sure they’ll be reminded plenty this week.

“Dunk the ball, Bam. Why are you laying it?” Calipari lamented on the postgame show. “He missed a lot of one-foot shots. It’s demoralizing. Go dunk the ball.”

7. Five to six players were under the weather

It’s no excuse, but Derek Willis said in his postgame interview that five to six Kentucky players were under the weather, including himself. Derek said he didn’t get much sleep and was nauseous overnight. So, if you’re looking for an excuse, there’s one; however, Calipari’s not buying it.

“No. No, no no. Had nothing to do with anything. The factor in the game is they played better than us and they played harder than us and they had more fight than we had.”

8. Gotta hit free throws

UCLA connected on 17-21 from the charity stripe, whereas Kentucky went 18-27. Gotta hit those free throws. They’re free, you know.

9. Were the Cats too full of themselves?

I’ll be honest, I was very, very confident coming in to this game. Big lights, national television, CBS Sports trumpet fanfare, etc. According to Cal, the players may have felt a little too confident as well.

“This is the first time on this stage with a team like this, with national television, starting four freshmen. Kind of showed at times.”

It really showed when it comes to passing. Kentucky had 33 assists vs. Arizona State on Monday and only 16 assists today.

“It wasn’t the same team. We had 16 assists. Why didn’t we pass it today? Because it was national television, because it was my time? Now we all look bad,” Cal said. “I mean, there were a bunch of opportunities for us to pass that we didn’t make. I told them after the game, You can’t play that way, you all look bad.”

It’s cool, I didn’t really want a 40-0 shirt anyways.

10. Marlana’s anthem was great though

I can’t end this on a bad note because it’s only December and losing to a good team is definitely not the end of the world, so here’s Marlana VanHoose’s national anthem, which was beautiful:


Seven Things You Need to Know About UCLA vs. UK

Seven Things You Need to Know About UCLA vs. UK

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Brad Nessler and Bill Raftery are on the Call

You’re used to hearing Nessler’s voice on ESPN’s SEC basketball coverage with Sean Farnham.  Nessler made the switch to CBS in the offseason.  He’ll fill Verne Lundquist’s SEC football role next fall.  Until then, he has to deal with Raftery’s ONIONS!

UCLA’s Six-Man Rotation

Steve Alford doesn’t go to the end of his bench.  His top six players all average more than 10 points and 26 minutes a game.  After that, there’s a significant drop in production.  Their seventh and eighth players, G.G. Goloman and Ike Anigbonu, average a combined 5 points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Fox and Monk in Double Figures

Kentucky’s freshmen backcourt duo has made it to double figures in all seven games, averaging a combined 34.6 points per game.

Even though we’ve talked a lot about freshman Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s backcourt scoring comes from a pair of seniors.  Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford combine to average 33.5 points per game from the wing.

Sportscenter Believes the Hype

Even though their network isn’t crying the game, real recognizes real.

No Prince Ali

UCLA’s star small forward, not the alter-ego of Disney’s Aladdin, dunked all over Alex Poythress a year ago.  Ali will not be available today after undergoing meniscus repair surgery in July.  He should return to their lineup before the New Year.

UK Leads the Series

Kentucky holds a 7-5 advantage in the series.  The biggest game came in 1975 when John Wooden decided before the National Championship game it would be his last.

100-Point Games

UCLA has scored more than 100 twice; the Cats have done it three times in a row, the first time since 1977.  It’s a matchup between two of the nation’s top three scoring teams.  UCLA is no. 2 at 97.0 points per game, UK is third at 95.6.


Basketball Gameday’s Top 10: UK vs. UCLA

Basketball Gameday’s Top 10: UK vs. UCLA

USA Today

USA Today

For the first time since August, we have a Saturday without Kentucky football.  Luckily, there’s more Kentucky football on the horizon.  Until we officially discover where Kentucky will play next, the BBN has a basketball treat.

The No. 11 UCLA Bruins travel to Rupp Arena to open the CBS college basketball season, preempting the SEC Championship game at 12:30.  I probably don’t have to tell you this, but the two have 19 combined National Championships.

Even though they’ve been streaky over the last decade, this is probably the Bruins’ best team since Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook carried Ben Howland to the Final Four.  Steve Alford has returning experience and Lonzo Ball, arguably the most electric freshman in the country.

Today’s game should be a fun one, so let’s get to it.

1. Lonzo Ball vs. De’Aaron Fox

A year ago they were the two top high school point guards in the country.  Today they’ll battle head-to-head.  Ball is the nation’s leader in assists, dishing out 9.6 a game, but Fox isn’t far behind at No. 4 with 7.6 assists a game.  Even though Isaiah Briscoe is probably best suited to defend Ball, I’d like to see Cal let Fox and Ball settle it mono e mono.

2. A Shoot Out

I said the same thing before the Arizona State game and we all know how that turned out, but this UCLA team has the big guns to go back and forth with the Big Blue.  Can they remain composed in Rupp?  Probably not for the entire game, but the numbers say it will be a wild one.

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3.  A Grudge Match

Even though the two have the most National Championships in college basketball, the Cats and the Bruins are infrequent opponents.  This will be the first time UCLA has ever played at Rupp Arena.

The series was revived at the 2014 CBS sports Classic before a home-and-home was scheduled.  For the third consecutive year, Kentucky enters as the No. 1 team in the nation.  Last year Thomas Welsh and his stupid face dominated the post.  I have a hunch that won’t happen again.  It probably won’t be like the dominant defensive performance from the 38-1 team either.

The 24-0 shutout to start the game in Chicago is the most fun I’ve ever had at a basketball game.  Let’s relive it uno mas tiempo.

If you prefer quick highlights from the game, watch the three minute version from KY Wildcats TV.

4. Paint Rupp Blue and White

Rupp rarely throws out gimmicks, but a game against UCLA is worth it.  They are encouraging fans to wear either blue or white, depending on where you are sitting.  If you’re going to today’s game, take a look at the graphic below and dress accordingly.

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5.  Stoops Recruits at Rupp Arena

After spending a week on the road, the finale for the biggest recruiting week of the year is today in Lexington.  A dozen or more top targets will be in town for official visits.  Now with momentum, Stoops should be able to capitalize and land a few commits before the day is over.  The official visitors:

  • Cedrick Dort, Florida Cornerback**
  • Joshua Ali, Florida Wide Receiver**
  • Jamin Davis, Georgia Linebacker**
  • Walker Wood, Kentucky Quarterback**
  • Javonte Richardson, Ohio Wide Receiver**
  • Michael Nesbitt, Florida Cornerback**
  • Bryant Koback, Ohio Running Back**
  • Danny Davis, Ohio Wide Receiver
  • Lynn Bowden, Ohio Athlete
  • Thayer Munford, Ohio Offensive Tackle
  • Leroy Henley, Florida Wide Receiver
  • Joshua Paschal, Maryland Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
  • Lonnie Johnson, Junior College Defensive Back

To see a more complete look at recruiting from this week, click here.

6. Congrats to the 1A State Champs

Hazard did not go down without a fight.  Trying to prevent Beechwood from winning their 12th state title, Hazard tied the game with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  On the following drive, Beechwood responded with a touchdown to take a 21-14 lead, a lead they never surrendered.  Beechwood is now tied with Mayfield and St. X for the second-most state championships in the state of Kentucky.

If you an’t make it to today’s game, you can stream them live on prepspin.com.

  • Belfry vs. Central, 5:00
  • Trinity vs. Lafayette, 8:00

7. Miss Hey Kentucky?

Start your day with this clip, then watch the full episode here.

8. UK Volleyball Advances in the NCAA Tournament

The Cats have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament behind exceptional defense.  In her first start of the year, sophomore McKenzie Watson had a career-high 21 digs to help the Cats take down Colorado State in four sets.  The team totaled 80 digs on the day, a season-high.  They’ll play Washington tomorrow night at 10:30.

9.  Conference Championship Saturday

Washington and Western Michigan are the first two winners of championship week.  Another one will be crowned before Kentucky crowns two state football champions.  WKU hosts Louisiana Tech in the C-USA Championship game at noon.  Here’s a look at the rest of today’s games.

  • Noon — Temple at Navy
  • 12:30 — Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
  • 3:30 — Baylor at West Virginia
  • 4:00 — Alabama vs. Florida
  • 8:00 — Clemson vs. Virginia Tech
  • 8:00 — Wisconsin vs. Penn State

10.  The KSR Pregame Show Begins at 10:00

Get those radio dials turned 630 WLAP or stream the show here.


9 More Notes from Calipari’s pre-UCLA press conference

9 More Notes from Calipari’s pre-UCLA press conference

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I’ve already shared some notes from John Calipari’s press conference today, but here are nine more, starting with his thoughts on tomorrow’s matchup with UCLA:

1. “This is going to be a shot-maker’s game”

UCLA and Kentucky rank third and fourth in the country in points scored per game at 97 and 95.6 respectively, so there are going to be A LOT of points scored tomorrow. Right, Cal?

“This is a shot maker’s game,” Cal said. “If either team is not making shots, you’ll be in trouble. I doubt both teams won’t be making shots so you better hope it’s not you.”

2. Calipari’s rule of 62

“I always say, to advance in the NCAA Tournament, you can’t be a team that scores 62 points a game. You want to win a national title, go to Final Fours, scoring 62 points a game makes it really hard. Here’s why. You’re going to play a team that can score 75 and if you can’t score 75, you just lost that game. That’s why I think you’d like to have your team scoring 75-80 points is where you want.”

As previously mentioned, Kentucky’s scoring 95.6 points per game, an average that will dip as they enter the tough part of their non-conference schedule. But still, gotta feel good about where they’re at.

3. Comparing Lonzo Ball to Jason Kidd

ball-kidd

A reporter asked Cal if Jason Kidd was a fair comparison for UCLA super frosh Lonzo Ball. Cal said yes, but Ball’s a better shooter right now.

“Somewhat, but he shoots it probably better than when Jason was in college,” Cal said. “He’s really good. Like, he’s big. He sees the court. He’s OK to take no shots. He doesn’t care. Or if he needs to score 25 he will. He’s good. He’s good. He’s smart. You can see on the court, he’s like our guys – he’s got a nimble mind. He’ll see something happening before it happens. He’s good.”

4. Also good? TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton

UCLA is not the University of Lonzo Ball. Calipari named a few other Bruins that he’s paying special attention to in scouting, such as TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford, and “that wing player,” Isaac Hamilton.

“Leaf has been good. Big guys have been good. Steve’s (Alford) son (Bryce Alford) has been good. They have a full team of guys. The guys come off the bench have played well. I’m forgetting the wing’s player’s name. [Reporter says Isaac Hamilton.] Yeah, he may be – because he can score in so many different ways, he’s got a little beastly to him. He’s good. He’s good. This will be one of those games, let’s throw it up and see what happens. I mean, it’s going to be hard for both teams.”

…But Lonzo Ball is still their best player.

5. “I mean, they’re good.”

Calipari stressed that UCLA, ranked 11th in the country, is good. Like actually good. Like, probably the best team UK’s faced so far.

“Steve has done a great job with his team. He’s really playing to their strengths. You watch them play, they play to their team’s strengths. They’re not trying to do stuff that they can’t do. Their big men can really shoot 15-footers. Their big men can shoot some 3s, so they play that way. Now, they’ll post it and jam it, but if I don’t have anything, I’m screening on the perimeter and shooting the 3. They do a lot of good stuff, and that’s why I said this is a game where you must talk because they bring people together. They do a lot of guard-to-guard screens. They try to throw lobs to Ball. I mean, they’re good.”

6. A rare Tai Wynyard update!

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The quote most of you all have been waiting for!

“Tai is not even the same kid. The problem is that he’s behind Bam (Adebayo), Isaac (Humphries), and Sacha (Killeya-Jones) who are a little bit in front of him. But, that kid goes in and he’s tough, he’s good around the basket. He shoots the ball better. He’s getting in shape. He’s getting closer to where he needs to be. It’s a little harder because he’s behind these guys, but there’s no question that he’s a better player.”

7. Shoutout to Dominique Hawkins and his 22 assists and two turnovers

While rattling through his usual opening talking points, Cal made sure to praise Dominique Hawkins, who has 22 assists this year and only two turnovers.

“Dom has 22 assists and two turnovers for the year. Can I say that again? Twenty-two assists and two turnovers for the year,” Cal said, adding later, “He’s making easy plays. He’s a better basketball player. He’s got a better feel for the game. He’s more confident. He feels better about himself. There’s no anxiousness, so he just plays.”

8. Calipari says UCLA “could bash us”

“This is a great game in early December for us. Hard. They could bash us. They beat us last year and they beat us bigger than the score. Score said nine or 10, whatever. It was 20. It was not even a game. We never had a chance. Never had a chance in the game. We got down. Tried to mess around. Never had a chance. And they got the same team back with Ball. We lost everybody and have a brand new team so it’ll be interesting.”

“Could they go in here and lose their minds? Yeah, they’re all freshmen. They’re all sophomores. The sophomores might as well have been freshmen. So yeah, they can go in here and this be overwhelming for them.”

9. But…

“I’m glad I’ve got the team I have. Win or lose I’m glad I’ve got the team I have, and this is all building toward March.”

Same.


VIDEO: Here’s why Stoops didn’t need to do a pregame speech Saturday

VIDEO: Here’s why Stoops didn’t need to do a pregame speech Saturday

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Yesterday on KSR, Mark Stoops told us that he didn’t feel the need to do a pregame speech before the Louisville game because his team was already so hyped. This morning, KyWildcatsTV released a video of the team in the locker room and man, he was right:

Landon Young’s face is priceless. I also love how Derrick Baity refuses to put his L’s down…down as they walk onto the field:

lsdown


Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

KSR Trend Watch: December 1

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Back in the fall of 2012, I started a feature called “KSR Trend Watch” in which I charted all the latest trends in UK sports. For some reason, that feature fell by the wayside (probably our depression over going to the NIT), but with an exciting new basketball team and a football team that just beat Louisville and is going bowling, it’s time to resurrect it. Join me as I break down what’s hot and what’s not this week in UK sports.

 

📈 Rising faster than Bobby Petrino’s blood pressure

up-arrow1  open-bowling-strikeKentucky’s bowl resume

When Kentucky became bowl eligible after beating Austin Peay, it seemed they would end up in the Liberty Bowl, the Independence Bowl, or the Birmingham Bowl, which was just fine with fans. Just happy to be going to a bowl for the first time in six years, won’t be greedy, thanks. Kentucky’s improbable upset of Louisville vaulted them into a shiny new tier of bowls, and it looks like the Cats may go to the most prestigious of the three, the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. A New Year’s Eve bowl! Could any of us have imagined this after the Southern Miss loss?

up-arrow1  Jacksonville

Jacksonville isn’t exactly the most exciting city in the world — heck, it barely cracks the top five in Florida alone — but if Kentucky goes to the TaxSlayer Bowl, it might as well be Shangri La. For instance, did you know Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the country? And 22 miles of white sandy beaches? Downtown nightlife may not be as wild as say, Nashville, but they’ve got a beach, and even if it’s mid 60’s, Kentucky fans will be sipping Coronas on it.

up-arrow1sjohnson Stephen Johnson

If you didn’t respect Johnson before the Louisville game, you certainly did after. The junior quarterback had a career day when it mattered, passing for 338 passing yards and three touchdowns to lead Kentucky to the win over its arch rival, arguably the biggest win in program history. Johnson outplayed Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson and his performance was so impressive he won the Manning Quarterback of the Week award. The JuCo transfer was already a hero for taking the Cats to a bowl game after Drew Barker went down, but with the win over the Cards, he cemented his place in Kentucky football history.

up-arrow1 fox-small De’Aaron Fox

We knew De’Aaron Fox would be good, but right now, he’s ahead of Tyler Ulis’ pace for assists in a single season, with 53 to Tyler’s 35 through seven games. If you remember, Tyler holds the Kentucky basketball record for most assists in a single season. And, even though Fox may have been gifted an extra assist vs. Arizona State, he now has only the second triple double in Kentucky basketball history. Something tells me it won’t be his last, either.

up-arrow1 shoes Mismatched shoes

In case you didn’t notice, Fox, Malik Monk, and Wenyen Gabriel each wore one blue shoe and one white shoe vs. Arizona State on Monday:

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

According to my shoe guru Nick Roush, the shoes in question are the Kentucky Kobe 11 PEs. On Saturday, we’ll find out if that trend sticks, or if it will morph even further into the players wearing their jerseys backwards ala Kriss Kross.

up-arrow1 angry-roy Roy Williams’ moxie

Ole Roy went up a notch in my book after criticizing Carolina fans for being too quiet during games after his team lost to Indiana in a rowdy Assembly Hall.

“But it was a wonderful crowd. Gosh. I’d like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin’ Duke game.”

Watch out, Roy, you might not be invited to wine club in Chapel Hill next week.

up-arrow1   Football recruiting

Saturday’s win was great for fans, Kentucky’s bowl resume, and the rivalry, but the biggest dividends may come in recruiting. The staff hit the trail Sunday morning to check in on their 2017 commits and lure some new targets in; so far, it’s working. Several high-profile targets are sitting up and taking notice of the Cats, including four-star athlete Lynn Bowden, who will be on campus this weekend along with a bevy of elite prospects. For years, Stoops sold recruits on what could happen; on Saturday, the program finally manifested that dream.


📉 Falling faster than Louisville in the College Football Playoff Rankings

down-arrow1 sad-card Louisville

The Cards were a 27-point favorite and still managed to lose on their home field. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

To their arch rival! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

And their basketball team blew a 22-point lead! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

At least they’ve still got soccer.

down-arrow1  Bobby Petrino

Not only did Petrino lose to Kentucky — a cardinal sin, indeed — he snapped at a reporter over a perfectly reasonable question in the postgame press conference. This GIF of him having to walk through Kentucky’s celebration on the field afterwards is priceless:

ulvid2

down-arrow1 lamar-little Lamar Jackson

Did you see Lamar do the Heisman pose?

Did you see him fumble?

down-arrow1  SEC Basketball

Last night, Ole Miss — who Kentucky opens conference play with on December 29 — lost to Middle Tennessee State by 15 at home. On Monday, Missouri lost to North Carolina Central. Last week, Mississippi State lost to Lehigh. The SEC still has some good teams — South Carolina and Florida are at least ranked — but man, some of the teams in the league are woofing their way through non-conference play.

down-arrow1 🔥🔥🔥 The wildfires in Gatlinburg

Seven dead, 74 injured, and more than 17,000 acres burned. There’s no other way to put it; the wildfires that burned parts of Gatlinburg and East Tennessee this week have been devastating and their aftermath heartbreaking. Dolly Parton (Patron Saint of Awesome & Full-Busted Women) pledged to pay $1,000 a month to help families who lost their homes. If you’d also like to donate, visit www.dollywoodfoundation.org.


🏆 TREND OF THE WEEK 🏆: L’s Down

lsdown

The gesture was EVERYWHERE after Kentucky beat Louisville on Saturday. From the field to the locker room to all of the tweets and snapchats in between, the Cats have clearly embraced what is basically our way of reminding little brother where they stand. Jacob Hyde even wore an L’s Down t-shirt on the field before the game:

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Yeah, that’ll never get old.


The OTT Podcast Episode 14: Jacob Tamme & The Wooks

The OTT Podcast Episode 14: Jacob Tamme & The Wooks

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The OTT Podcast is back and talking football with former Cat and current Atlanta Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme. Jacob joins the podcast to give his take on Kentucky’s huge win over Louisville, an update on his shoulder injury, and all the Danville/Boyle County chatter you could dream of. The Wooks, a bluegrass band from Lexington, also comes on the podcast to describe what it was like to sing the national anthem before the Austin Peay game. Highlights include…

— Tamme’s thoughts on the Louisville game and how it was similar to his team’s win over the Cards in 2007

— Why he hasn’t been in one of Peyton Manning’s commercials yet

— His rankings of the best #18’s in Kentucky football history

— The “Are you a real Danvillian” quiz

— How The Wooks got started

— Singing the national anthem at Commonwealth Stadium. Next up, Rupp?

…and much, much more. Be sure to check out The OTT’s sponsor, BluegrassMonkey.com, to see their selection of high end women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories at an affordable cost. Visit them online at BluegrassMonkey.com and use the promo code “OTT10” for 10% off.

To listen, just subscribe to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or stream on Podbay. And then send Jacob Tamme (@JacobTamme) and The Wooks (@WookOutAmerica) a note on Twitter to thank them for coming on.


Listen to Mark Stoops’ interview with KSR

Did you miss Mark Stoops’ appearance on this morning’s edition of Kentucky Sports Radio radio? Well a replay of the show is now available in podcast form for your listening pleasure.

Some brief notes/quotes from the interview before you hear it for yourself:

— He knew the offense was taking a shot on the first play of the game. Defensively, “the first play of defense, I think I could’ve done better on that one in particular… I could’ve done a better job of starting the game off.”

— The win over Louisville was a huge step forward in recruiting and building the program. “The belief is always there… but until it gets verified on the field, until you get some wins and play in a big bowl game that’s meaningful… it’s hard to keep going in there.”

— He hit the recruiting trail immediately after bringing the Governor’s Cup home to Lexington. “I left the next morning to go recruit. I couldn’t even enjoy it. I got right on the road Sunday morning and I’ve been gone. I’ve been all over the country.”

— Regarding the pending bowl invite: “We’ll be happy wherever we land.”

 

Tune in to the second hour to hear all of Stoops’ comments, or check out the entire show here.


Show Me My Opponent: UCLA Bruins

Show Me My Opponent: UCLA Bruins

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Show Me My Opponent returns with a special basketball edition! This week we are looking ahead to UCLA, that school traveling from way out west to play the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon. Let’s get to know ’em…


UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES


The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the largest university in California. Located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles and famous for the creation of the internet, UCLA is a school that traditionally succeeds in academics, athletics and beautiful people. Ask the folks over at USC, the rival school, and they’ll try to make some joke about Asians. But UCLA truly is about as good as it gets, which is why it is considered one of the best universities in America. (And why I wish I had been smart enough, rich enough, athletic enough, or good-looking enough to attend.)

More fun UCLA facts:

— UCLA is the most applied-to university in the country with over 112,000 applications received in Fall 2015.

— Many movies and TV shows use UCLA’s campus to replicate other schools, like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. For example, scenes from Jobs, Old School, Legally Blonde, Californication, House M.D., and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were filmed in Westwood.

— UCLA leads the nation with 113 NCAA team championships.

— There is an In-N-Out Burger across the street from south campus. #Jealous

— UCLA is credited with the first Undie Run, started in 2011. Undie Runs are now done at campuses all over America, but apparently the UCLA student body was the first to strip down and take off running. I won’t lie to you, friends — it looks like a good time.


 NOTABLE UCLA PEOPLE


Way too many of them to name, but my two favorites are Reggie Miller and Emily Ratajkowski.


INSTAGRAM SCOUTING REPORT



2016 SCHEDULE


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SO WHO’S THE HEAD COACH?


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Steve Alford is currently in his fourth season as head man of the Bruins. He was hired in 2013 to replace Ben Howland, who was fired after 10 years of service that included three consecutive Final Fours, and now coaches at Mississippi State.

A former Indiana standout and national champion, Alford was at one time the Hoosiers’ all-time leading scorer and a three-time All-Big Ten selection. He went 1-2 against the Cats as a player with games of 26, 24 and 17 points.

You may also remember Alford for his comments following UCLA’s 83-44 loss to Kentucky in Chicago in 2014-15. He predicted an undefeated season for the Cats and said, “I don’t know in my 20 years coaching at the Division I level that I’ve coached against a better team than this.”

His coaching career also includes stops at Manchester University, Southwest Missouri State University, the University of Iowa and the University of New Mexico.


THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH


#2 | LONZO BALL | Guard | Freshman | 6-6 | 190

When Adam Silver announces the first pick in next summer’s NBA draft, Lonzo Ball could very well be the name he calls. The Bruins’ freshman guard has been outstanding to start the season, averaging 16 points, 5.3 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 9.1 assists per game, while shooting 57.4 from the field and 48.6 from three-point range.

His battle with De’Aaron Fox, another star freshman guard, is one of the most-anticipated marquee head-to-head matchups in all of college basketball this season. Two young stars squaring off in the battle of the two most storied programs.

#40 | THOMAS WELSH | Center | Junior | 7-0 | 245

Thomas Welsh was the star of last year’s UK-UCLA game in Pauley Pavilion, where he finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. The awkward, lanky center was lethal with the midrange jumper in that one as he connected on eight of his 11 attempts from the field, including his last six in the game.

There is no way he can be that efficient again, right?

RIGHT?!

#20 | BRYCE ALFORD | Guard | Senior | 6-3 | 185

Bryce Alford, a starting senior guard and the son of the head coach, has scored in double figures in all seven games this season.

Alford entered the season as the only returning player in a Power 5 conference to have averaged at least 16.0 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game last year. He is also only the fifth player in school history to have scored at least 1,400 career points and registered 400 or more assists.

Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy! Dad-dy’s Boy!


LAST TIME WE MET


UCLA avenged its embarrassing 83-44 drubbing in 2014-15 by returning the favor in Los Angeles last year. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 87-77, for the school’s first victory over a No. 1 team since 2003.

After that game, John Calipari told reporters, “Playing at Kentucky, that’s what you get. We get the other team’s best. We walk into another team’s arena, it’s the best crowd in the world. We did not meet that challenge. Neither did I as a coach. I thought we were more prepared than we were, and we weren’t.”


 THAT TIME STEVE URKEL TALKED TRASH


In related news, Jaleel White still exists.


GAME PREDICTION


UCLA is very good this year and Lonzo Ball is one of the best players in the game, but Kentucky is a complete team with a better backcourt and the Cats will be playing on their home floor in Rupp Arena, where John Calipari has only lost four games.

I don’t think this game will be close, honestly. ESPN’s Jay Bilas doesn’t think UCLA will be able to hang, either.

Cats win by double digits.



PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

Mark Stoops’ Player Development

PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

PIC BY San Diego Union Tribune

An unfounded and irresponsible criticism of Mark Stoops has been a deficiency in player development. While profitable for message board fodder and social media click bait, questioning Stoops’ player development scores as the most ridiculous in a long line of irresponsible denigrations.

In this post, we are going to outline three offensive and defensive players that were not shiny star prospects coming out of high school but have developed into upper-level, SEC performers.

Let’s dig in:

OFFENSE

2

Guard Logan Stenberg

— 6’6, 320-pound redshirt freshman from Madison, Alabama’s James Clemens High School. Had a dominant performance in Alabama-Mississippi all-star game as a high school senior. Stenberg was credited for 34 pancake blocks in his final season at James Clemens.

— Played in all 12 regular season games rotating with Nick Haynes at Guard. Has proven to be a mauler with rapidly improving technique

— Redshirted as a freshman

— Has the potential, size, skill, and demeanor to develop into an NFL player

— I made the comment on National Signing Day that the Logan Stenberg for 5-star RB Damien Harris trade would eventually be a win for Mark Stoops. Most, as usual, thought I was crazy. However, identifying and signing high-level line-of-scrimmage players proves to be a challenge for all college football programs. Reality states that rosters are built from the inside-out. I’ll take a physical, offensive or defensive lineman over a running back any day of the week and twice on Saturdays.

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Logan Stenberg’s only Power 5 offer.


Offensive Tackle Cole Mosier

— 6’6, 335-pounds junior. Former in-state, walk-on from Walton-Verona High School

— Mosier secured the starting left tackle position in fall camp but later missed time due to an injury. He has safeguarded Stephen Johnson’s blindside since becoming healthy. Mosier was governing in UK’s win over Louisville as the Wildcat offensive line surrendered zero QB sacks to the nation’s #7 ranked defense. It also racked up 581 total yards.

— Played in 12 games as a freshman with 2 starts vs. Florida and Ohio

— Sophomore season: played in 11 games, 1 start vs. EKU

— Redshirted as a freshman

— Chose UK over: No Power 5 offers, walked on at Kentucky


Offensive Guard Nick Haynes

— 6’3, 315-pound junior from Niceville, Florida

— John Schlarman’s top non-Toth technician and best athlete. Haynes will become the leader of the offensive line once Jon Toth departs for the NFL.

— Started all 12 regular season games in 2016. Pro Football Focus, or PFF, listed Haynes as the nation’s top graded guard for his performance in UK’s 35-21 win at Missouri. PFF also had Haynes as the highest graded Wildcat in its win over the 11th ranked Louisville Cardinals.

— Sophomore season: 5 starts, played in 11 games

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Nick Haynes’ only Power 5 scholarship offer.

 

Haynes/Stenberg/Mosier and offensive line mates helped Kentucky smash offensive records:

  • Finished as the SEC’s 3rd leading rushing team with 2895 yards.
  • Broke a program record by averaging 5.5 yards per rush.
  • Only Power 5 team to have 2, 1,000 yard rushers in Boom Williams and Benny Snell.
  • RB Benny Snell became the 1st UK freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards as Snell ran for 1057 in 2016.

DEFENSE 

 

OLB Josh Allen

— 2-star prospect from Montclair, New Jersey where he led the state in QB sacks with 22. Moved from Alabama where he was an all-state receiver as a junior.

— Was not offered by the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers. Thus, evaluators skipped over the SEC’s future leader in Forced Fumbles. Not a smart move.

— Was forced into action as a 6’5, 205-pound linebacker due to Jason Hatcher’s depth chart inconsistencies and tribulations. Played in 12 games as a reserve OLB and on special teams. Registered 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and .5 QB sack.

— Fast forward to 2016; now 6’6, 240-pounds, Allen finished the regular season ranked 1st in the SEC with 4 forced fumbles, 10th in QB sacks with 7, registered 55 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss.

— With 2 more seasons to add size and strength; Allen will depart Lexington at 6’6, 265-pounds before departing for an NFL career.

— Chose UK over: Monmouth and Buffalo. Kentucky was Josh Allen’s only Power 5 scholarship offer.


Photo by the BGDailyNews.com

Photo by the BGDailyNews.com

DT Adrian Middleton

— 6’3, 303-pound sophomore. Played in 4 games as a freshman; finished season with 8 tackles

— Developed into starting defensive tackle after Regie Meant’s sudden departure from the program. Started 10 regular season games in 2016.

— Played his best game as a Wildcat on the season’s biggest stage with 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss in UK’s Governor’s Cup victory.

— Finished 2016 as the Wildcat’s statistical defensive linemen leader with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1 QB sack.

— Middleton was a vital in-state signee in the Class of 2014; however, he was not one of the heralded, must-gets as depicted by recruiting services. He was also the first player in the three-year history of his high school to sign a scholarship with a Division I university.


 

Nose Tackle Naquez Pringle

— 6’3, 320-pound junior, Itawamba Community College.

— Pringle’s improvement is a classic case study of Jimmy Brumbaugh’s ability to develop defensive linemen.

— I did not project Pringle as a fall contributor based on spring practice performance; however, weight loss, conditioning, and positional development catapulted Pringle into a high-level contributor as well as an eventual starter for Mark Stoops.

— Pringle played in 11 games, starting 5 in 2016 as he totaled 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1 QB sack.

— Chose UK over: Kentucky was Naquez Pringle’s only Power 5 scholarship offer coming out of junior college.

 

All that glitters may not always develop into gold. As shown above, player development is as much about grit and attitude as it is physical traits and star rankings. I’d argue that shiny trophies are won and lost on the line-of-scrimmage.

For those familiar with the military, I’ll provide this analogy: Officers are like 4-5 star recruits. Sure, they look pretty in uniform and are popular for social gathering invitations but at times are not keen on putting in work. 2-3 star players that develop into upper-level starters are like NCOs, or Non-Commissioned Officers. NCOs are the backbone of all military organizations and are reliable when the tough gets going.

As we enter “Silly Season,” or the period of time leading up to National Signing Day, remember this: don’t infatuate on stars to the point that you ignore building blocks. Prospect identification and player development are equally as important as recruiting.

It’s not personal, it’s personnel.