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Big Blue Blueprint: A Statistical Path to the Postseason

Big Blue Blueprint: A Statistical Path to the Postseason

blueprint-freddie

In just a few weeks, Nick Roush and I will be traveling to Birmingham for SEC Media Days. Throughout the summer I’ve frequently been asked, “How can the Cats win six games”? The answer is complicated. There’s no player that is elite enough or in a strategic position that can single-handedly carry UK to the postseason. Thus, this post will address six statistical categories that require improvement:

 

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Scoring Offense

2015: 24.7 points per game.

2016 Goal: 29.7 points per game.

— One way to score more points is to eliminate dropped passes, especially those of the end-zone variety. With the vast majority of returning receivers having significant game experience, there will be zero excuse for this trend to continue. From Dorian Baker to Ryan Timmons, all eyes will be on the talented yet customarily unreliable group of pass catchers.

— Score touchdowns in the red-zone. Field goals keep you close; touchdowns win games. Do I really need to discuss the Vanderbilt debacle again?

— Lessen required yardage to convert on third down. Conversely, improve yardage gained on first down. On far too many occasions, the Cats played behind the chains.


 

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Rushing Yards Per Game

2015: 162 yards per game.

2016 Goal: 195 yards per game.

— UK runners have to increase their endurance and stamina. Attrition is natural for the position, but the old adage rings true to this day, “can’t make the club in the tub.” Long runs from scrimmage need to finish in the end-zone.

— Eddie Gran inherits a position which I feel was mismanaged in previous seasons. Nonsensical substitution patterns coupled by the mid-season Boom Williams situation, there seemed to be turbulence within the running back corps. I don’t suspect this will be an issue in 2016.

— The Wildcats have four RBs with game experience including Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp, who have combined for 2,701 career yards. The two veterans provide a formidable one-two punch. OC Eddie Gran favors the power run. The Cats’ offensive line strength is at Guard and Center. Of all the categories, I’m most confident in saying that rushing for 195 yards per game goal will be accomplished.


 

drew-barker7

Passing Completion Percentage

2015: 54.9

2016 Goal: 62.5

— Let’s be perfectly honest, when talking heads and coaches say that UK’s pass completion percentage needs to increase, they are directly speaking of or at Drew Barker. Last season, Barker completed 50% of his passes to go along with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and 364 yards. Even with those suspect numbers, it quickly became obvious that Mark Stoops and staff felt that Barker’s ceiling was much higher than the departed Patrick Towles. Barker showed improvement during spring practice. However, the proof will lie within his results on September 3.

— Barker’s pocket presence and fundamentals must continue to improve. At times against Louisville, he appeared lost. In all fairness, the entire offense had the same facial expression and body language. Having a dedicated quarterback coach (Darin Hinshaw) should cure pocket deficiencies, confidence issues, and improve decision making ability. Again referencing spring practice, there were distinct instances of Barker’s enhanced technique.

— Patrick Towles and Drew Barker faced with far too many 3rd-and-Forever downs. These situations forced both to throw low percentage vertical or deep routes.

— Complete high percentage throws. With confidence comes accuracy. Accuracy initiates momentum. Momentum leads to touchdowns.


 

via UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Total Yards Surrendered Per Game

2015: 394.2

2016 Goal: 355

— In the 3-4 defense, nose tackles Matt Elam and Naquez Pringle’s obligation to provide interior push and occupy blockers are paramount tasks. If not successful in one or the other, offensive linemen will have free reign to get their hands on linebackers.

— By estimation, Coach House’s inside linebackers have less than 100 college snaps under their belts. Disciplined key reading and intelligent pursuit angles will come with trial and error results. Courtney Love needs to be who we think he is. In other words, Love needs to take control of the defense.

— 17 Quarterback Sacks and 53 Tackles for Loss were embarrassingly low totals. Forcing action across the line-of-scrimmage, or disruption plays, are principal.


 

Ware eyes down the running back, via Gary Moyer of The Cats' Pause

Ware eyes down the running back, via Gary Moyer of The Cats’ Pause

Quarterback Sacks

2015: 17

2016 Goal: 28

— Although young, Kentucky’s secondary is as talented and skilled as any UK grouping I can remember from the past two decades. But IF there is no pass rush, an average at best SEC quarterback will pick them apart.

— Southern Miss’ Nick Mullens will test the Wildcat pass rush in week one. Using Mullens as an example, if a 4,000-yard passer is given four to five seconds to dissect coverages, only bad things will happen.

— Courtney Miggins, Regie Meant, Kengera Daniel, Denzil Ware, and others will be called upon to influence opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis. DJ Eliot may have to institute creative blitz packages if his defensive linemen are not successful. Cornerback and Nickel blitzes can only help, but also places defensive backs in precarious situations. Thus, the front three defensive linemen must win a higher percentage of one-on-one pass rush scenarios.


 

Punting

2015: 39.60 yards per punt.

2016 Goal: 42 yards per punt.

— In 2015, Kentucky finished 14th or bad enough for last in the SEC.

— Inconsistent punting along with substandard kicks in crucial moments of critical games were highly influential in the season’s outcome. No sugar coating this one, the punt team has a great deal of work to do.

— As the only scholarship punter on the roster, true freshman Grant McKinniss has no other choice than to grow up in a hurry.

 

The goals provided above aren’t intended to place Kentucky at the top of the SEC’s statistical categories. The proposed numbers would rank the Cats in mid-pack. If these benchmarks are met, Kentucky will play in the postseason. If not, then for the fourth consecutive year, postseason narrative could again read “one or two plays away.”


A Saturday Afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium with 900 UK Fans

A Saturday Afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium with 900 UK Fans

welcome

The Kentucky football program invited 900 of its 2016 season ticket holders to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday to tour the facilities and hear from Mitch Barnhart and some of the players. I had nothing going on Saturday, so I crashed the party to check it all out myself.  Why not, right?

Let me tell you all about what I saw and learned…

 

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The new practice facility is on schedule to be complete on July 15.

Mitch Barnhart said the coaches plan on moving into their new offices on Friday, July 15. The project is on pace to be ready to go that day.

The players will begin using it August 1.

A new sports science laboratory will replace the old football offices in Nutter.

UK will soon have a new sports science lab with experts from all over the country to focus on injury prevention for the university’s student-athletes.

Fans of the Day:

Still no stadium Wi-Fi for fans.

“Those will be things we’ll come back — we’re going to get to,” Barnhart told one of the tours. “But they’re very expensive and we have to find a way to work through it. My goal is to get the players’ stuff done first and I’ll come back and address that later on.”

He said it costs around $6 million to install the new stadium-wide Wi-Fi.

All of the bleacher-backs will be in place in “about a season and a half.”

The visitors and students will not get them, though. UK decided against bleacher-backs in the student section to encourage students to stand and be part of the game.

They’re doing about a half a million each year on the installment of the new backs.

Watch more of Barnhart’s comments during the tour:

There is a foosball table in the back service area of CWS.

Ever wonder why the concessions stands can run a little behind? I may have found the answer. There is a foosball table in the back service area where everything is stored.

 

FREE FOOD!!!!

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You’re looking at the new pork chop sandwich. It’s marinated pork loin with pineapple, dipped in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Get you one at Commonwealth this fall.

There is a new Wildcat Creed on the wall of the locker room.

The new creed was written last year by the UK Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and it defines what it means to be a Wildcat. It’s on both sides of a wall in the center of the CWS locker room.

uk-creed

One of the tour groups wanted to sing the fight song.

So, they sang the fight song.

This is also where the football team sings the fight song after wins, hopefully with a little more passion and enthusiasm than this bunch.

Jacob Hyde’s ringtone is “House Party” by Sam Hunt.

A little fun fact for you there. His phone, which was plugged into the sound system, went off while he was speaking to one of the groups.

Courtney Love said Nebraska didn’t have anything like UK’s stadium locker room.

Love raved about UK’s new stadium locker room and how organized it is for game days. Each position group is assigned its own area in the room with dry erase boards on the walls for pregame and halftime coaching.

Wesley Woodyard said NFL teams don’t have anything like it, either.

Fans got to run (most walked) through the tunnel and onto the field.

It’s a party! It’s a party! It’s a partay!

Again, this wasn’t the most enthusiastic bunch. I would’ve been shoving people into the wall and bashing heads with grandma once those doors opened.

We are 67 days away from kick-off.

LESSSSGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


8 Notes from My (Fan) Experience at the NBA Draft

8 Notes from My (Fan) Experience at the NBA Draft

IMG_0943

The NBA decided KSR wasn’t important enough to get a media credential for last night’s Draft, so my husband and I went to the event decked out in our Kentucky gear instead. What happened? I’m glad you asked.

Here’s what $50 at the Barclays will get you

That’s Section 225, Row 18, Seats 10 & 11. And yes, it was that high up.

Sixers fans were EVERYWHERE

We made peace with our nosebleeds after meeting the Sixers fans around us. At first, they were extremely entertaining, doing various chants and mocking every other fan that climbed into our section. Hilariously, most wore Nerlens Noel jerseys while clamoring for Nerlens to get traded to the Celtics for the third pick.

Regardless, they all seemed happy when Simmons joined the fam:

Their charm quickly wore off. After a few crude and unoriginal jokes about Calipari (“Hey, Jamal, how much did that car Cal got you cost?”), we made our way farther down in the section.

I was pretty much the only female fan there

It takes a special type of fan to attend the NBA Draft, so I wasn’t surprised that 99.9% of the crowd was male. I spotted maybe five other female fans at the Draft, most of which shared the same eye-rolling expressions I did at their male counterparts. There are sausage fests, and then there’s the NBA Draft, apparently.

But hey, no bathroom lines.

Drunk NBA Draft fans are the most obnoxious of them all

I’ve seen plenty of drunk, obnoxious fans in my day. (Hell, some days I’ve been one of them.) I thought drunk, angry NFL fans took the cake until I went to a NHL game and witnessed drunk, happy hockey fans; however, when it comes to levels of inebriation and obnoxiousness, drunk NBA Draft fans take the cake. You know what’s a great idea? Putting a bunch of drunk Philadelphia fans next to a bunch of drunk New York and Boston fans. Yeah, that won’t end in a brawl. Never.

God bless that cop.

Waiting for Skal to get drafted was painful

Going in to last night, Skal Labissiere was projected by most to go eleventh to the Orlando Magic. That didn’t happen. In fact, Skal didn’t go until the 28th pick to the Sacramento Kings (via Phoenix). The hour or so it took for that to happen was excruciating. Obviously, we were very far away from the Draft floor, but even in the rafters, the tension from Skal’s table as he, his family, and Calipari waited for his name to be called was palpable. Skal’s year at Kentucky didn’t go as planned, but you couldn’t help but hurt for the kid as name after name was called other than his. Calipari was clearly agitated, pacing to and from Skal’s table on the floor. Even though Skal is with fellow former Cats in Sacramento, that organization is so dysfunctional you wonder if it will stick.

After a day in which there was so much positive spin for Kentucky basketball, watching Skal slide to the end of the first round was jarring.

I’m going to need a Phoenix Suns jersey

The wait for Tyler Ulis was also tough, but at least he’s going to Phoenix to reunite with Devin Booker. The pure joy that emanated from Ulis’ camp in Chicago when his name was called was the best part of the night:

There was also joy in our camp, to the point that my husband bought tequila shots, a move I definitely regretted this morning.

Everyone loves Karl

@ESPNNBA

Karl has been my favorite since I first met him in the Bahamas, and after an historic rookie season, the rest of the world is catching on to what an awesome guy he is. Karl joined Calipari on various ESPN shows yesterday, but he really shined as a correspondent on last night’s Draft telecast. They played ESPN’s coverage on the big screens at the Barclays Center, and every time Karl came on, the fans around us stopped and listened, kids especially. The BBN is accustomed to Karl’s charm, but after last night, it’s clear the league is under his spell and determined to put him front and center.

Clearly, there was no media space for KSR

The NBA turned down KSR’s credential request due to “high demand and limited working space.” One of the benefits of our birds-eye view was being able to see all those empty chairs in the media work areas:

Thanks, NBA. I had more fun anyways.


Calipari denies taking shot at Rick Pitino, says he doesn’t believe Pitino knew

Calipari denies taking shot at Rick Pitino, says he doesn’t believe Pitino knew

cal-mike-mike

During his appearance on ESPN’s Mike & Mike this morning, John Calipari clarified his previous comments to Mike Lupica on Lupica’s show regarding what coaches should and shouldn’t know about their program outside of basketball. Cal’s comments were taken as a shot at Rick Pitino, which led to a response from Pitino, but Cal wants to be clear: he has nothing but respect for Pitino and the words were not aimed at him.

“The stuff has blown up more than it should be,” Cal said. “If (Pitino) took it wrong, I apologize.”


Karl-Anthony Towns says his rookie season was at Kentucky, not Minnesota

Karl-Anthony Towns says his rookie season was at Kentucky, not Minnesota

towns-mike-mike

Karl-Anthony Towns won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 2015-16, becoming only the fifth player to win the award unanimously since it debuted in 1952-53. Towns also swept the Rookie of the Month awards in the Western Conference by earning honors in all six months of the season. Needless to say, it was a pretty big rookie year for Towns in Minnesota.

But in Towns’ mind, it was his second season in the NBA, not his first — because his rookie season was his one year at the University of Kentucky.

He told Mike Greenberg:

“At the end of the day, it depends where you play that one year of college. So I was blessed to have the opportunity to play for the man beside me in John Calipari. When you go to a program like that, you learn how to play the game in the right way in a professional standpoint. And that’s what I did: I played the whole year feeling as if it was my rookie year. That was my rookie year; not this year for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but my first and only year for the University of Kentucky.”

Watch:


10 Best Things John Calipari Said On Draft Teleconference

cal

John Calipari held a lengthy teleconference today to discuss Thursday night’s draft with some of his favorite people in the media. He hit several NBA-related topics — no other questions allowed — and I’ve narrowed it down to 10 interesting statements from the entire 40-minute chat:

 

1 | The NBA likes the Kentucky kids’ winning attitude.

“One of the GMs said to me, ‘The great thing is your kids, they come with that attitude that they want to win and they’re willing to be a great teammate to win.’ And that’s what I’m hoping is that last gift they get from us before they walk in that league, that they have an idea about winning and playing to win. So, I’m proud of the guys that are gonna go this year and I’m proud of the guys that have performed in the league to this point.”

2 | He doesn’t believe Tyler Ulis’ “hip issue.”

“Did he look like he had a hip injury? So there maybe something structurally that they’re seeing, that they’re looking at that I don’t know about, but I just can’t believe it. I think that he did hurt his knee in one of the workouts. I don’t think the hip issue – the kid played every game and played 38 minutes a game, was a defensive player, was the energy of our team, and he went all year with it. When he had to take over a game – so if the hip, there is a question, it would be, ‘Wow.’ Now, if they want to know about hips, I had both of my hips replaced. They may be talking about me. They’re watching me walk and think it was him.”

3 | Jamal Murray used his office to meditate before games.

“I walked into the locker room – we have a video room that we meet prior to the game, and the light’s out. I turn the light on and there he is. This is early in the year. He’s meditating. I say, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’m meditating.’ I said, ‘Well go use my office so I can get the board up.’ So that became his routine. He would go into my office, turn the light out. I’d give him his time, I’d put up the board as I prepared for the game, and then I would either knock on the door or he would come out and say, ‘I’m done.'”

4 | Murray wanted to shoot left-handed in a game.

“He’s ambidextrous, which maybe they don’t know, but he is. He can shoot both hands. I’d come into practice and he’d be shooting threes with his left hand. And I’m like, ‘What’re you doing?’ And he’s saying, ‘Watch.’ And he’d make like three. He said, ‘I’m gonna shoot this in a game.’ I said, ‘You’re not shooting a lefty.'”

5 | He believes Murray will lead all NBA rookies in scoring.

“I believe that Jamal Murray will be the leading-scoring rookie in the NBA. That’s what I believe.”

6 | Teams are interested in drafting Alex Poythress.

“I am so proud of Alex right now. These teams are calling me back like, saying, he’s gotten healthy, he has leg strength on both sides, which some of that falls on us where he was probably injured more than we thought throughout this year. But shooting and all that. All of a sudden, he becomes that solid second round – maybe he slips late first.”

7 | He takes the blame for Labissiere’s slow start last season.

“They’re working him out now and they’re looking at Skal saying, ‘He’s 7-foot tall. This kid is a good athlete. He can shoot.’ It’s huge in the NBA that you can make shots now. He can make perimeter shots. They are even calling me saying, ‘You know what? He’s more physical around the basket than we even thought he was.’ Now, you may say he didn’t show a lot of that in the year. A lot of that’s on me. I was trying to use the blueprint of Karl Towns and Anthony Davis. Guess what? That lesson plan didn’t fit him. It took me three months to figure out exactly what he was.”

8 | He would love to see Ulis to the Spurs at No. 29.

“If he could ever play with the Spurs and that organization, I would do a backflip on draft day. And the reason is, you’re around true professionals who are teammates that understand what do we all have to do to win and how does winning supersede everything else. It’s amazing what gets done when no one cares who gets the credit. That saying has the Spurs logo beside it.”

“I would probably say ‘Tyler, to go later in the draft would be better and show up in San Antonio,’ and he’d probably say, ‘Coach, I wouldn’t want to risk it. I probably think I’d want to go earlier.’ But I think he’d be ecstatic there and he’d be a great fit.”

9 | Jamal Murray is interested in Minnesota.

“Jamal, now I’m saying this to you and no one else — Jamal loves Minnesota. Matter of fact, that’s where he’d like to go. And again, when someone asked me earlier, ‘Are you more concerned with where they’re picked,’ well, I’ll be honest — selfishly, I like these kids when they’re the No. 1 pick, because the No. 1 pick should end up coming here. We’ve had four. There’s only been the No. 1 pick and No. 2 pick in the same draft one time with Michael Kidd and Anthony, in any sports league. So yeah, but these kids are also smart. And he looked at that situation and said, ‘They need me and I’d love to be there.’ He’s met Karl and been around Karl and knows what a great kid he is. But I’m not saying that’s – so Thibs has gotta take him, but I know that’s what Jamal likes, that situation, the young guys and what they have and what he would add to that team.”

10 | Skal Labissiere is doing this for his family.

“To see him go in this draft and to see him – I know he’s in the green room, so hopefully it plays out lottery – it’s just life-changing for his family, for him. And his thing is, when you ask him, ‘What is your why? Why do you want to do this?’ he’ll tell you, ‘Coach, my family. I’ve gotta do this for my family.’ And that’s what I said to him after the season: ‘Are you sure you’re ready?’ (He said), ‘Coach, what I just went through here, I’m ready to do this and I gotta do it for my family.’ And I gave him a hug and said ‘Well, we’re going to get this done.’”

 


KSR Week in Review: June 13-17

KSR Week in Review: June 13-17

weekinksr

It’s been an interesting and busy week in KSR land with both Matt and Nick on vacation, but Drew and I have done our best to plow through. In case you’ve also been on vacation, here’s what you missed this week:

 

*****

MONDAY

— John Calipari was named to a committee to give feedback on the NCAA Tournament Selection process.

Freddie explained some more football terms to us.

— Nick and TJ Walker broke down episode 8 of “Game of Thrones.”

Marcus Lee to Cal became official

UK got a new baseball coach in Nick Mingione.

Alan Cutler took over KSR in a way only Alan Cutler can

— Drew presented you with the first KSR Mock Draft of the summer

Malik Monk proved he can fly

— Nick told us more about satellite camps


TUESDAY

— Coach Cal went on the Mike Lupica Show

— ..And threw some shots at Louisville and Rick Pitino.

Freddie broke down his frontrunners for the Rimington Trophy

Matthew Mitchell and Ryan Lemond took over KSR

— We first heard about Tyler Ulis’ hip issue.

— Mitch Barnhart announced plans for a $45 million baseball facility

Drew broke down some footage of the newcomers at one of the UK Basketball camps


WEDNESDAY

— The basketball team got in some very early work at the Nutter Training Center

— Drew profiled five 2018 targets John Calipari might have called after the contact period began

Isaiah Briscoe and Tai Wynyard spoke to the media about their experiences this summer

Tyler Ulis worked out for the Chicago Bulls

Paul Biancardi broke down UK’s freshmen with Jay Bilas, who hosted KSR from the Studio 1C dungeon in Charlotte

— A Cincinnati news station released the dash cam footage of Derek Willis’ arrest


THURSDAY

— Drew told us what the pundits are saying about UK’s draft prospects one week before the big day

Willie Cauley-Stein joined me and Jennifer Palumbo in studio.

— Erin Calipari told us about her dad’s many superstitions

— Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said WKU students that wear UK or UofL shirts need to transfer

— SLAM Magazine did an excellent video feature on Tyler Ulis

— John Short convinced Willie Cauley-Stein to do a Bluegrass album

Russ Yeast decommitted


FRIDAY

— Governor Matt Bevin removed all existing members from the UofL Board of Trustees and announced UofL president James Ramsey is retiring

— We found out Charles Matthews is visiting Xavier

— Willie Cauley-Stein showed off a portrait of himself with “Space Jam” characters that he commissioned

— ESPN’s Chad Ford shared his thoughts on where UK’s players will be drafted

Lamar Thomas, Eddie Gran, and Vince Marrow gave us two entertaining hours of Kentucky Sports Radio, featuring a call from Darius Rucker, which made Ryan Lemond melt

— Vince Marrow spoke out about decommitments

 

Now, go enjoy your weekend.


Cincinnati news station releases video of Derek Willis’ arrest

Cincinnati news station releases video of Derek Willis’ arrest

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 9.18.14 PM

By now, you know that Derek Willis was arrested on Saturday for alcohol intoxication in a public place after police in Boone County responded to a report of a person lying in the road next to their car. Since then, details of the arrest have trickled out, including that Derek was passed out beside the driver’s side door, which was open, and he admitted to police that he’d had a lot to drink. In recent days, the story went quiet…until now.

This afternoon, a Cincinnati news station posted the video of the arrest from the dash cam of the police car. It’s not good:

UK still hasn’t released a statement on the matter, with UK spokesman Deb Moore telling the Courier-Journal on Monday that the school was still gathering information.

[WCPO Cincinnati]


Highlights, Quotes and Video from Q&A with Isaiah Briscoe and Tai Wynyard

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Isaiah Briscoe and Tai Wynyard were available to the media today for a brief summer basketball Q&A session.

You can find highlights, quotes and video below:

 

Isaiah Briscoe met with John Calipari and Kenny Payne on the day of the deadline to discuss his future.

Briscoe was asked if he is surprised to be back for a sophomore season, to which he said, “Not really with the new rule. I think I used it to the best of my ability, and, on the 25th I had a long conversation with Coach Cal and KP (Kenny Payne) and we all agreed that it was best for me to come back to school.”

In a story from earlier today, George Briscoe, Isaiah’s father, told CatsPause.com that things would’ve been “interesting” if Isaiah had another week or two to decide.

Briscoe did well in his NBA workouts, which made the decision much tougher.

“In a way it was kind of hard just because I was doing so well in the workouts,” Briscoe said of the decision to return. “But I think that the conversation me and KP had brought everything to the light, and it made it more obvious that it was good for me to come back to school.”

Payne stressed the importance of security as a first-rounder to Briscoe, and the worry of a guaranteed contract if he were to fall into the second round. Payne encouraged him to come back and focus on becoming a better player.

NBA teams were actually impressed by Briscoe in shooting drills.

Briscoe said teams told him his shot was much better than they expected, but it wouldn’t hurt to return to school and prove he can do it consistently.

He wants to be a second coach on the court next season.

Briscoe’s plan for his sophomore campaign is to:

— Run the team

— Make sure everything is in order

— Be a second coach on the court

— Build a better relationship with Calipari

— Lead the newcomers

— Be a floor general

Tai Wynyard did tell Calipari he didn’t want to go into a game last year.

The rumors are true: Wynyard asked to remain seated when Calipari tried to send him into game action last season. He said it was a difficult situation because he wanted to keep his redshirt status, but didn’t have a lot of time to explain himself in the moment.

He said Calipari asked him, “Oh you don’t want to play?!”

“It was kind of a tough question to answer.”

Wynyard’s personal goals for next season are…

“I’m going to try to dunk on everyone if I can. I’m going to try to be physical. I’m going to try to play strong by setting great screens and getting rebounds and things like that.”

 

Watch the interviews below:


Get to Know the 2017 Prospects: Trae Young

Get to Know the 2017 Prospects: Trae Young

gettoknowty

With what is likely to be a roster overhaul on the horizon, the 2017 recruiting class is crucial to Kentucky’s success over the next several years. With that in mind, KSR will introduce you to John Calipari’s top targets in the 2017 class over the course of the summer. Here’s who we’ve profiled so far:

Next up: Kentucky’s primary target at point guard in the 2017 class, Trae Young.


Vitals

Trae Young
Point Guard | 6-1 | 170 lbs.
Norman, OK | Norman North
★★★★★
ESPN No. 21 | 2 PG Top247 No. 19 | 2 PG
Rivals No. 13 Scout No. 26 | 5 PG

The other contenders

Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, Washington, Virginia, and Washington.

Most believe it’s down to Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Oklahoma.

Background

Young first popped up on our radar back in April 2015, when Calipari watched him, his EYBL teammate Michael Porter, and future Cat Malik Monk play in a tournament in Virginia. At the time, Young was a four-star point guard known primarily as a shooter, but over time, his game has become more well-rounded, causing his stock to rise. Now considered a five-star Top 25 player, Young has his pick of the elite programs in the country.

Young and his mother, Candace, and father, Ray (Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman) 

A Norman, Oklahoma native, Young got an offer from Kentucky in August 2015. He’s been Calipari’s top priority at the point guard position in the 2017 class, and, in turn, Kentucky is considered his favorite. In the past month, two potential roadblocks have come in the way of what was considered an easy recruitment:

  • Micheal Porter’s father being hired by Washington: Young and Porter play alongside each other on Mokan Elite (Willie Cauley-Stein’s old EYBL team) and have long discussed being a package deal at the next level. Kentucky’s chances of landing the duo took a big hit when Porter’s father was hired by Lorenzo Romar at Washington. Romar is a close friend — Michael’s godfather, in fact — and the Huskies are the far and away favorite to land the superb small forward. A few weeks ago, Porter cut his list to Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington, and Young says as of now, the package deal is still on; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this deal, like so many package deals, go the way of the dodo.
  • Staying in Norman for his senior year: Yesterday, Young announced he will stay in his hometown for his senior year of high school. Calipari and other high profile coaches urged Young to go to prep school for a year at Montverde Academy in Florida or Findlay Prep in Nevada, but Young chose to stay at his current high school, Norman North. That’s bad news for Kentucky in one aspect: Norman is also home to the University of Oklahoma, which is also vying for Young’s services. Kentucky may still be the leader, but Lon Kruger will have Young in his backyard for another year, and, coming off a successful season, will certainly use that to his advantage.

As you’ll read later on, I think Kentucky’s still in a good position.

Recruitment timeline

trae-young-cal

  • 04/12/2015: Calipari watches Young in EYBL event in Virginia
  • 08/09/2015: Kentucky offers Young
  • 09/30/2015: Calipari visits Young
  • 10/16/2015: Young visits Kentucky for Big Blue Madness
  • 03/24/2016: Calipari visits Young
  • 04/16/2016: Calipari visits Young
  • 04/23/2016: Calipari watches Young at the Indianapolis EYBL event

Strengths

  • Excellent shooter, especially from 3-point range
  • High basketball IQ
  • Good ball handler
  • Ability to break down defenses
  • Quick release

Weaknesses

  • Does not have elite speed
  • Needs to increase strength
  • Needs to improve on-the-ball defense

Here’s how Blue Star Media’s Christopher Lawlor broke down Young’s performance at last week’s Pangos All-American Camp, which include DeAndre Ayton, Hamidou Diallo, top-rated PG Trevon Duval, PJ Washington, Gary Trent, and other elite 2017 players:

Trae Young, 6-2, Norman, Okla.: He was one of the most talked about players last weekend and lived up to the pre-camp chatter. He’s crafty with the ball and will drive and kick at will. He has a quick, smooth release especially with a defender draping him. He’s not big enough to be a wing guard but can stretch the defense from 3-point range. Top-20 player who will play in the McDonald’s All American Game.

Sounds good to me.

[BlueStar Media]

Video evidence

Social Media Profile

Young’s Twitter (@TheTraeYoung) and Instagram (TraeYoung) are like those of most hoopers his age — lots of basketball pictures, highlights, and commentary. Quick research shows his favorite emoji is 💯:

What is not 💯? The fact that ESPN moved Trae down a spot to #21 overall in their latest 2017 rankings. Trae retweeted about twenty tweets complaining about the ranking, but it’s okay, because he’s got:

His Instagram is mostly pics of him with his girlfriend, famous NBA players at camps, etc., but I did spot this gem of him and Julius Randle from a few years back:

Got that work in today! #JR30 #WeTexasMade

A photo posted by Trae_Young (@traeyoung) on

And to make you feel really old, here’s what Trae looked like almost three and a half years ago in his first Instagram post:

😍 @crymsonrose

A photo posted by Trae_Young (@traeyoung) on

Want to feel even older? Here’s another Instagram post from around that time:

The Only thing in the WORLD I can draw! #thatsashame #scooby #doo

A photo posted by Trae_Young (@traeyoung) on

Likelihood to commit: Likely

Despite the package deal with Michael Porter and his plans to stay in Lon Kruger’s backyard for his senior year, I remain confident Kentucky will land Young. Calipari made it clear very early on that Young is his priority at point guard in the 2017 class, and although he recently handed out an offer to Tremont Waters, I think that’s still the case. Here’s why, in Young’s own words.

“They’ve made me a priority since day one,” Young told ZagsBlog at the EYBL event in Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend. “They’ve come down to my school twice already this year. I’m definitely going to take an official visit there. As for playing for Coach Cal, he’s had a lot of very good point guards, [Eric] Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, the list goes on and on. He says he sees me coming in and being able to start right away, and be the lead guard from Day 1. I haven’t looked at all of the official visits I’m going to take, but Kentucky will definitely be one.”

…On Saturday, he told 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer more of the same at the Pangos Top 100 Camp.

“Kentucky has definitely made me a priority, Coach Cal and them,” Young said. “Coach (Lon) Kruger at OU, Washington, Kansas, Texas – those schools are the ones that stand out.”

Young also told Meyer that going to a school “where I can be put in the best position to make it to the highest level” is paramount in his decision, along with a good relationship with the coaching staff.

Trae, I think I know just the place.


KSR Goes (Satellite) Camping: How it Works

KSR Goes (Satellite) Camping: How it Works

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With football talking season underway, satellite camps have been the hot topic.  Jim Harbaugh has made headlines for tucking in a different jersey into his khakis at every stop, while SEC coaches cry wolf, condemning the camps at any given opportunity.

In the midst of all the debating, only one question came to mind, “What’s the big deal?”

My curiosities took me to the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday for the Midwest Gridiron Showcase at Wayne High School.  Hosted by former player Jeff Berk, the perennial Division I powerhouse is a regular in USA Today’s Super 25, sending a few players Kentucky’s way; Dorian Hendrix in the class of 2014 and Tobias Gilliam in the class of 2016.

I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the stadium.  Here’s what I saw Wednesday afternoon.

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The Drills

As soon as I saw the facility, I was shocked.  The football complex was impressive, but for a Wednesday in June I simply could not believe how many people were there.  There were just under 250 campers, more than 50 college coaches, coaches running the drills and plenty of proud parents in the stands.

I shared my initial shock with one local coach, who replied, “You all have basketball, we have football.”

Once I got over the magnitude of the camp, it followed the normal progression of a football camp.  There was a loud strength coach leading the stretches, commanding synchronized claps and acting as the hype man before the “real football” began.  I use quotation marks because you cannot properly simulate a game without at least helmets and shoulder pads.  But there were still a few things you could hang your hat on.

The began with indos, a.k.a. individual skills work, grouping up by position for drills tailored to their specific spot on the field.  For players, this is where you learn new things that can improve your game.  Linemen, running backs and defensive backs reap the most benefits because these drills emphasize footwork and hand placement; the little things that make a big difference.

After 45 minutes, the skill guys and the fat guys split the field.  The fat guys did more work between the box, doing stuff that is exponentially more fun with pads.  For the skill guys, it was one-on-ones, taking plays from a laminated play card.  One-on-ones are probably the most exciting part of the camp, but getting separation and going up high for jump balls isn’t the same against somebody without pads.

The two big groups remained split for the final hour, with the fat guys taking their turn in one-on-ones and skill positions splitting the field for 7v7.  Usually things aren’t as fun with the fat guys, but you see and learn more from them than the players looking at cards for plays while QBs try to make correct reads.

The Attire

If you’re a player, ALWAYS try to wear highlighter colors.  Even though I hated those kids when I was playing on the AAU circuit, it’s science.  While everyone is wearing plain white and gray t-shirts, the person in the neon shorts is the most noticeable.  Just look at this picture:

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If you’re a person watching the camp, wear a coaches’ polo for your favorite school.  With a broken dryer, the only golf shirt I had available was a UK polo.  For the entirety of the three hour camp, people called me “Coach.”  I was wandering around aimlessly checking out drills, but some kids thought a Kentucky coach was watching them, causing them to step their game up.  Other coaches would ask me who I was watching, forcing me to admit that I wasn’t a coach.  Their responses were kind, sparking small talk as they sighed with relief that Kentucky only brought one coach to the camp.

The Coaches

The one coach representing Kentucky at the camp was the only coach they needed to send to the camp — Vince Marrow.

You’ve seen swag Marrow before, but this is different.  Marrow was in his zone, the element in which he thrives.  Rocking UK gear, he spent the camp off to the side, watching from afar alongside Ohio State assistant Zach Smith.  High school coaches, former players, parents and other college coaches went out of their way to shake Marrow’s hand and receive some charismatic conversation.

If it was evident before that Kentucky is the #2 college in Ohio, this camp proved that Ohio is Stoops and Marrow’s territory.

Marrow (left in the black UK attire) talks with an Ohio State coach while watching wide receiver drills.

Marrow (left in the black UK attire) talks with an Ohio State coach while watching wide receiver drills.

While UK and Ohio State only sent one coach, their competition brought at least three coaches to scour the landscape for talent.  Michigan State, the school that was once #2 in Ohio, had at least three, maybe four coaches on the field watching a variety of drills.  Iowa State brought their head coach, along with two or three assistants.  There were representatives from about a dozen D-I schools — Iowa, Indiana, WKU, Cincinnati and Bowling Green to name a few — with about 20 other lower division coaches on hand as well, primarily small Ohio colleges but also D-II schools like EKU and Dayton.

The coaches were there to look at specific players and to keep an open for new talent, although they spent more time socializing than scouting.  They might ask one another what they thought about a certain player.  They also asked about players they had once recruited that had moved on to the other school, genuinely interested in that person’s progress.

It reminded me of an AAU basketball event, except they were much more cordial with one another than the hyper-competitive curmudgeons of the college basketball world.

The Players

WR L'Christian Smith fights for position in one-on-ones.

WR L’Christian Smith (highlighter shorts) fights for position in one-on-ones.

Of the 250 players at the camp, the overwhelming majority were trying to catch coaches’ eyes.  The others were using the opportunity to prove to the coaches recruiting them that they’re worth a scholarship offer.

The best prospect at the camp was playing on his home turf.  Wayne wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith is a 6’4″ stud in the class of 2018.  Just like Jordan Wright, Smith is a two-sport star.  Playing the basketball card, Coach Calipari told Smith a few weeks ago that he could potentially walk-on for the basketball team.

Marrow spent most of his time watching receivers like Smith.  At the conclusion of the camp, Dayton Dunbar junior-to-be wide receiver Joseph Scates received a scholarship offer from Marrow.  Scates is another large target at 6’3″, using his body to display exceptional ball skills.

He’s only played one year at Cincinnati Moeller, but wide receiver Jaxon Hayes towered over his competition.  He’ll need to add weight to his wiry 6’6″ frame, but he’ll remain on Kentucky’s radar throughout his progression.


I didn’t know what I was walking into at my first satellite camp.  When I left, I realized that it’s not much different than any other summer football camp at an area high school.  What makes them different than other camps is that college coaches are watching.  College coaches have the same opportunity when they host camps on campus, but this environment breeds competition between the schools.

Even though the differences are subtle, satellite camps can change the way college football recruiting works.  I’ll explain how the recruiting dynamics will be different in the second part of this series.


Why the Mac Jones saga showcases everything that is wrong with college football recruiting

Last night, Mac Jones flipped his commitment from Kentucky to Alabama, an understandable decision for a 17-year-old quarterback, albeit one that stings quite a bit for the UK Football program. Over the past few months, Jones positioned himself as the centerpiece of UK’s 2017 class, going as far as to don a hard hat and pose in front of the program’s new practice facility. “Mac the Builder” being #AllIn with UK Football then flipping hurts, but more interesting to me is what Jones’ decision — and what happened afterwards — says about college football recruiting. Specifically, that it sucks.

Here’s why.

Verbal commitments mean nothing

Mac Jones committed to Kentucky back on July 27, 2015. At the time, he was a three-star prospect with offers from Mercer and East Carolina. First off, kudos to the Kentucky staff for having a nose for talent; Jones is yet another example of Mark Stoops’ staff getting on a kid early and snagging a commitment. Unfortunately for Kentucky, his stock soared. In the span of about ten months, Jones picked up a fourth star and 19 more offers, including four from other SEC schools, none bigger than defending national champion Alabama.

Last July, I don’t doubt that Mac Jones wanted to come to Kentucky. It was his first major offer and from an SEC school to boot; however, my problem here is that kids are allowed to commit to schools so early, before their junior seasons and many of the major recruiting events. With decommitments on the rise, expecting high schoolers to take their time with the recruiting process before committing is obviously asking too much, so the NCAA should prohibit verbal commitments until after National Signing Day for the previous class. So, in this case, 2017 recruits would only be able to verbally commit to a school after February 3, which was Signing Day for the 2016 class.

OR, if players really, really want to commit to a school before then, institute an early signing period in the fall. Otherwise, stop calling it a verbal commitment and call it, “Well, this sounds good for now, but let’s see if something better comes along.”


Grown men trolling each other on Twitter

An hour after Jones’ announcement, UK co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw tweeted a quote from renowned religious leader James E. Faust:

Now, unless Hinshaw is having some moral crisis none of us know about (if that’s the case, why share on Twitter?), that tweet clearly has to be about Jones’ decision, right? I’ll touch more on the merits of a grown man casting judgment on a kid’s decision in a public forum here in a minute, but first, we have to talk about Lane Kiffin’s response. Kiffin, a notorious troll, saw Hinshaw’s tweet and retweeted it, which some Alabama sportswriters claim is NOT an act of trolling, but most certainly is. I mean, come on, earlier in the day, Kiffin tweeted this bitmoji of himself wiping his hands and saying “Done and Done,” which has to be a reference to the Mac Jones flip because Jones retweeted it later that night:

(The fact that Kiffin uses bitmojis is mockable in itself, but Kiffin’s response to me would probably be a bitmoji of himself in sunglasses saying “Who got the last laugh?”, so whatever.)

Still, grown men using bitmojis and getting into Twitter wars over teenagers is what college football recruiting has come to, and that sucks.


Grown men “subtweeting” kids

I’ll preface this by saying I’m sure Darin Hinshaw is a great guy, and I’ve been impressed with him in interviews so far; however, commenting (even indirectly) on a 17-year-old’s decision on a public forum like Twitter is kind of a bad look. Sure, it may have been a “subtweet” (defined by Google as a post that refers to a particular user without directly mentioning them, typically as a form of furtive mockery or criticism), but it was clearly a reference to Jones in my opinion.

(As a side, the fact that the word “subtweet” even exists is embarrassing.)

I get that Hinshaw and the rest of the coaching staff were hurt by Jones’ decision, especially since he seemed so #AllIn with the program (as of Monday, he was scheduled to be a guest on the radio show later this week to promote it), but he’s a kid, so let’s just step back and let cooler heads prevail. Coach-on-coach Twitter attacks are fine, as are player-on-player (see Matt Elam’s subtweet), but when it comes to coach-on-player, that’s where you get in trouble. Case in point: the drama at Texas A&M last month when wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead subtweeted five-star QB Tate Martelli after his decommitment, which led to a string of decommitments and recruits eliminating the Aggies from their lists.

A much more mature response would have been one like Mark Stoops’ after losing Damien Harris to Alabama in 2015:

So, one more time for those keeping score at home:

FOOTBALL RECRUITING TWITTER WARS

Player-to-Player: ✅

Coach-to-Coach: 🙄 but ✅

Coach-to-Player: 🚫

Fan-to-Player: 🚫 🚫 🚫


Until Kentucky starts winning, the big dogs will keep eating

This isn’t something that sucks about college football recruiting, this is just the reality for Kentucky football right now. Losing Mac Jones sucks, but until the Cats start going to bowl games, big time recruits will more often than not defer to bigger, better offers. Stoops and company can lean on the home state hero pitch to keep kids like Matt Elam, Landon Young, and Davonte Robinson on board, but expecting out-of-state players to remain loyal to a program that hasn’t proven itself over a perennial power is asking a whole, whole lot.

Kentucky Football 2016: Just Win


An Afternoon At The Governor’s Cup Classic

An Afternoon At The Governor’s Cup Classic

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I am a big fan of football and I am a bigger fan of free food.

Those two things came together today at the Governor’s Cup Classic in Frankfort, so I made the 30-minute trip west of my couch to attend the event.

Held at the lovely Frankfort Country Club, the 2016 Governor’s Classic brought fans and boosters of both sides of the UK-UofL rivalry together for a golf scramble and fundraiser. The mixing of blue and red made for a bizarre atmosphere, and it was a little uncomfortable, honestly.

At one table I got smiles and waves from Cats fans proudly wearing blue; at another, lots of ugly looks from people who despise Kentucky Sports Radio. As Freddie Maggard said to me when I first got there, it is weird seeing Louisville fans in person because sometimes it feels like they only exist online. But it turns out they’re actually real people with real money to do fun stuff for a good cause, like the Governor’s Cup Classic.

Enough about Card Nation, though. Let’s talk about the Classic. By now you’ve probably seen a ton of stuff from it, but I’m here to share with you the behind-the-scenes takes and observations.

We’ll start with lunch…

 

On the Menu:

— Pulled pork
— Chicken breasts
— Baked beans
— Pasta salad
— Coleslaw
— Cookies (for those who aren’t perfecting their summer bod)

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Hey look! Oscar Combs and Joe B. Hall!

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Nice hat, Coach.

The President of Kroger couldn’t get the governor’s name right.

Calvin Kaufman, President of the Kroger Louisville Division, had the honor of introducing Matt Bevin to kick off the press conference, and in his opening remarks, he referred to the governor as “Matt Blevin” at least four or five times.

Then to top it off, Mark Stoops thanked “Senator Bevin” to conclude the press conference.

Rough day of recognition for the gov.

I did not pay attention to Bobby Petrino.

Bobby Petrino was the first of the two head football coaches to address the crowd, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen to a single word he said.

But I did have some fun on SnapChat!

petrino-snaps

Follow me on SnapChat here for more from the day.

On second thought, I do remember hearing something about it being a “friendly rivalry.” I think I laughed and then went back to drawing on him.

The crowd was incredibly disrespectful to Mark Stoops.

I was sitting 15 feet from Mark Stoops and it was hard to hear him (and he had a microphone) over the crowd towards the back. Stoops tried to speak over them for a couple of minutes, but they only got louder and louder.

Then Alan Cutler stepped in and became the hero we all needed:

In all seriousness, it was one of the rudest things I’ve seen in a long time. The room was completely silent for Bobby Petrino then obnoxiously loud when it came time for Stoops to speak. I don’t know if a new group of folks walked in and didn’t know Stoops was talking or what, but you could tell he felt disrespected.

Thank you, Cutler!

 

Easy with the trophy there, Governor.

Leave the heavy trophy lifting to the Wildcats when they win it back later this year.

I tried to get a selfie with Bevin and failed.

But check out the extension on this selfie he took with the three Louisville honorees: Deion Branch, Mark Sander and John L. Smith.

 

It was good seeing former players back to support Rich Brooks.

Aside from Jeremy Jarmon, one of the honorees, I spotted Dicky Lyons Jr. and Trevard Lindley in attendance, among a few others. (And Freddie.)

Dicky looks like he could still go out there and take someone’s chin off.

Rich Brooks’ belt game is strong.

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Yet another reason to love Brooks. (Who sources tell me had lots of fun Monday night.)

The event raised a lot of money for Dare to Care Food Bank and God’s Pantry Food Bank.

As well as $10,000 donations from Kroger to the general scholarship fund of each school.

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Now let’s quit pretending Mark Stoops and Bobby Petrino like each other and get ready for some football.


A Look Back and Beyond: 2016 Governor’s Cup Honoree Jeremy Jarmon

Finding a classier representative of the UK football program than Jeremy Jarmon would be an exceedingly difficult task. During Monday and Tuesday’s Governor’s Cup festivities, Jarmon, Coach Rich Brooks, and Dr. Jim Kovach will represent the University of Kentucky as this year’s honorees at the annual two-day event. I recently conducted a Q&A session with Jeremy. The following are his heartening responses about his time as a Kentucky Wildcat.

 

Question: What were your thoughts after learning about being honored by the Governor’s Cup?

I was actually pretty surprised. There have been dozens of good players over the years in the UL-UK rivalry that are worthy of receiving this honor. It brings me joy to know that I am being acknowledged as being one of the best players in the history of the Battle for the Governor’s Cup trophy.

 

Question: Honored to be distinguished the same year as Rich Brooks? 

Most people that are close to me know how much I care for Rich Brooks. I’m honored to be receiving this recognition with him. It’s going to be great reminiscing with him and guys from each of his teams at UK.

 

Question: Tell us something about Rich Brooks that nobody knows.               

Coach Brooks was never the same person two days in a row. There were days he would bounce around and talk with us in the stretch line and other days we wouldn’t hear one word from him. He sometimes would watch practice intensely about 20 yards away from everyone and other days perform long, hands-on demonstrations showing us how to be the best lineman or running back in the country. He always kept us guessing. When he spoke he had everyone’s attention and respect.

Coach Brooks and Steve Ortmayer came to my house on an in-home visit and my mom cooked a dinner that consisted of baked chicken, beans, cabbage, and pan-fried, oval shaped, hot-water cornbread. Coach Brooks enjoyed the cornbread so much that after dinner, he turns to my mom and says,” Susie, Can I get that pancake recipe so I can share it with wife my Karen.” Of course me and my mom died of laughter!

 

Question: Describe your time as a Kentucky Wildcat? 

It was an uphill battle for me since I spent my first 1.5 years recovering from a shoulder injury from high school and knee injury freshman year in college. I worked hard in physical rehabilitation and fought depression my first 2 years in college to emerge as one of the best defensive lineman in my class. I never envisioned that coming into college I would experience such an extreme of low points and high points. Now looking back, I am so grateful to have been a part of such a great coaching staff and team. People like Rich Brooks, Steve Brown, Joker Phillips, Steve Ortmayer, Chuck Smith, Marc Hill, Jim Madaleno, Barb Deniston, Dontae Wright and Rick Petri showed us how to be detail oriented in various facets of life, while enjoying the opportunity to play college football in the SEC.

 

Question: Talk about your press conference with Mitch Barnhart.

It was a very difficult time period to be dealing with that situation for two months prior to my graduation. Mitch Barnhart and Sandy Bell had always been there in my corner to support me over my four years at UK. That day was not any different. The hardest thing that I had to do that day was let Coach Brooks know that I wouldn’t be able to play for him during the 2009 season.

 

What are you doing these days?

Currently, I’m working in the medical device industry and providing support for healthcare facilities, physicians, and patients in Central Kentucky

 

Question: Talk about being a Kentucky Wildcat and life after football.

The University of Kentucky will embrace its student athletes that are devoted to excellence. Choose a university that has an administrator, coaches, and support personnel that you trust and genuinely want the best for you. I chose UK because I believed in the UK brand that President Lee Todd, AD Mitch Barnhart, and Head Coach Rich Brooks represented. I still receive advice and encouragement from this group. Less than a month after retiring from football, I was offered the ADFO position on the football staff. This position gave me a chance to give back to the student athletes, while being mentored during this transition by the staff and administration.

My life is just beginning now that football is over and various people here have assisted me with resume building, job seeking, outreach, investments, relationship and family advice, continuing education, etc. This community continues to find ways for me and others to stay involved with the program and this has only increased my regional contacts within the UK Alumni network. There’s a certain “je ne said quoi” about being affiliated with the University of Kentucky. People are just absolutely fanatical about this university and the reach of its brand.

 

Question: As a compassionate person, ever consider going into politics?

As of now I do not have any interests in becoming an elected official. I am certain that I will be assisting with some races in central Kentucky in the next few years.

 

Question: What was your favorite UK moment?

My last college football game was played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis against East Carolina. It was amazing hosting my friends and teammates in my hometown over the Christmas/New Year’s break. I couldn’t have asked for a better place and outcome in my final game as a Kentucky Wildcat.

 

Full disclosure, I deeply care for Jeremy Jarmon. He’s a pleasure to work with on television and radio. But most importantly he’s a loyal and honorable friend that I highly admire. Congratulations to a great guy for this well-deserved honor.


John Calipari’s preseason SEC Tournament idea keeps getting worse

John Calipari’s preseason SEC Tournament idea keeps getting worse

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John Calipari’s brilliant (in his eyes) idea to play the SEC tournament before the regular season, keeps getting worse.

After going on The Paul Finebaum Show to make his pitch to the public for a preseason conference tourney, Calipari took to Twitter to elaborate on his masterful plan:

I’m sure you’ve heard about my crazy idea for the SEC Tournament being played before the season. Got another crazy idea while I was driving.

Why don’t we play the games in the football stadium in Atlanta and set up two courts with stands split down the middle? 

You could play the games where fans can go from side to side and watch multiple games. You could even have the winner’s bracket on one court and the loser’s bracket on the other court.

He’s really serious about this, isn’t he? He wants to play the tournament in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium with two games going on at once on parallel basketball courts, with fans dividing the action. On one side: the loser’s bracket. On the other: the winner’s bracket.

But who in their right mind would sit and watch an SEC loser’s bracket? The current format can’t even get fans to show up for a game that doesn’t include Kentucky. Cal’s new preseason tournament would ask fans to sit and watch the equivalent of the current Wednesday night session at the SEC tourney.

He is all about it, though. It seems there is no convincing him it’s a farfetched idea.

On The Paul Finebaum Show, Calipari made his initial pitch, before going all-out with the double-court idea. Here’s what he had to say to the show:

You know I don’t like postseason tournament. If you lose in the first round of our postseason tournament, the SEC, what happens? You’re not in the NCAA tournament. You lost in the first round of the SEC. Well what about other leagues, when they lose in the first round? ‘Ah they’ve got more time off to get ready for the NCAA.’

What if you win the SEC tournament? Does it help you? It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t do a thing! So I’m like saying, ‘Why in the world are we even playing this?’

How about we do this? Let’s go to Atlanta, get two sites, have a preseason tournament. Every team is guaranteed three games. The winner wins the tournament. That’s your November. That’s early November and everybody knows we’re all going to Atlanta and we’re going to have a ball. We’re going to play each other and we’re not going to have a postseason tournament, and you know what? The team that wins the regular season gets the automatic bid. And you do that.

Calipari at least acknowledged he sounds like he is out of his mind, but he wants everyone to at least look at it. He asked that, before we comment: write it down; go have a cocktail; go have dinner; then tomorrow morning, pull it out and read it, and ask yourself if it actually makes sense.

Will do, Coach.