Here we are, folks: the Final Four. I honestly don’t understand how some foods got →
Here we are, folks: the Final Four. I honestly don’t understand how some foods got here over others (Jambalaya is my Harambe…am I using that meme right?), but the people have spoken. Your Final Four: WINGS, QUESO, FRIED CHICKEN, and SAUSAGE BALLS. Your vote will decide who goes to the Championship game and we’ll leave the polls up through the weekend.
First, let’s hear from our panel…
Wings vs. Queso
(Previous round: Wings 52% Pulled Pork 48%; Queso 75% Salsa 25%)
QUESO: Wings are definitely a football food but football isn’t voting here, Drew is. And queso is a Drew food.
QUESO: Dry wings would get the W, But, inconstant wing texture percentage lowers its chances to close out tailgate in the 4th quarter. Cheese’s sustained success over the years seals the deal for me because it keeps me on a regular latrine cycle.
WINGS: First I’d like to say I’m disappointed in all of you taking my two favorite items, pulled pork and chili, off the list. In fact, a plate full of pulled pork smothered in chili sounds delicious right about now.
Wings and queso are both messy affairs. Both bring the heat. Despite its versatility, queso can’t make the finals. Most of my shirts have stains on the front thanks to queso. I ain’t with it.
WINGS: We’re outside of the regions now, which makes this even tougher. How do you compare wings and queso? Both are delicious in their own right. I’ll choose wings because when I think football, I think wings, not cheese dip; however, queso should be proud of its run. Beating Buffalo Dip in the Sweet 16 was a major upset (in my eyes).
Fried Chicken vs. Sausage Balls
(Previous round: Fried Chicken 51% Chili 49%; Sausage Balls 58% Pigs in a Blanket 42%)
SAUSAGE BALLS: With all due respect to our state food, I’m taking sausage balls here in the semifinal. They’re much easier to eat and, well, cheese. It’s sausage and cheese.
FRIED CHICKEN: Pregame poultry is the Leonard Fournette of tailgate cuisine. Don’t need a lot of carries to rack up huge yardage. Fried chicken possesses quick twitch tendencies of grab and go. Plus, I don’t like any humans that don’t love the Godfather movies or fried chicken. Running clock in the 3rd quarter butt whoopin’ here.
SAUSAGE BALLS: Fried chicken is too greasy, too heavy when drinking beer despite its saltiness. Sausage balls are perfect for every occasion.
SAUSAGE BALLS: This will probably be a controversial pick, but I’m taking sausage balls. Don’t get me wrong, I love fried chicken, but in terms of flavors, I much prefer the mix of spicy and savory in sausage balls to fried chicken (unless it’s hot chicken, of course).
I will say, if chili had beaten fried chicken, it would be in the finals instead of sausage balls.
You have until Monday morning to vote. Choose wisely.
There have been some major upsets along the way (still not over nachos beating jambalaya), but you, the KSR readers have spoken and we now have our Elite Eight of tailgate foods. There are some serious matchups in this round, so I went to the bench for some help. The popular vote will decide who goes to the Final Four, but Drew, Nick, Freddie, and I will give our picks as well.
Voting on this round ends tomorrow at 9 a.m.
THE GRILL REGION: Pulled Pork vs. Wings
(Previous round: Pulled Pork 66% Ribs 34%; Wings 59% Brats 41%)
PULLED PORK: If done right, there isn’t much better than pulled pork. The same goes for good wings, but good pulled pork tops good wings any day.
However, both can be bad, so it all depends on the quality of the product here. Give me the pork, especially if it’s from my man Tad on the smoker in the red lot.
WINGS: Wings in a landslide. Pulled pork is too messy. I’m the messiest eater in the Commonwealth. Can control wing smears to an extent. No tailgate food should have to be eaten with a fork or spoon. Plus, I loathe soggy buns. It’s not hogs, it’s poultry.
PULLED PORK: I can’t deal with the sloppiness of wings in an outdoor venue. If they’re spicy breaded wings from Indi’s, that’s a different story, but that’s more of the exception than the norm. Besides, pulled pork is probably the best tailgate entree around.
WINGS: Both are quality additions to any tailgate; however, I am of the belief that it’s not really football season until I’ve had hot wings and beer, so wings get my vote. Bonus if there’s celery and ranch on the side (but never blue cheese). A good pulled pork sandwich with a Carolina vinegar sauce is hard to beat though.
I think this is the toughest matchup of the Elite Eight.
THE DIP REGION: Queso vs. Salsa
(Previous round: Queso 53% Buffalo Dip 47%; Salsa 54% 7-Layer Dip 46%)
QUESO: This is a tough one here because I’m a back-and-forth guy. One chip queso, the next chip salsa. I’m an equal opportunist with queso and salsa. It’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. It’s an even split of equal love. If I have a bag of 100 chips, 50 of them go in the queso bowl and 50 of them go in the salsa bowl. Occasionally I’ll dip one chip in both but only in a crowd I feel comfortable with because I don’t want to mess with the setup.
That being said, I’m going to lean queso here because I’ve never had bad queso. I’ve had bad salsa, but never bad queso.
Sorry, salsa. I still love you.
QUESO: Again, the mess factor strongly favors queso. NFL-level queso is thick in nature, thus lessening the spill factor. Salsa has too many moving parts that normally end up on my shirt, shoes, or britches. Cheese keeps me regular as well.
QUESO: How do I pick against hot melty, spicy, cheesy deliciousness? I don’t.
QUESO: The Dip Region has been a total mess (pun intended). I’m still not sure how salsa made it past spinach dip in the first round, so I’m definitely going queso here. I agree with Drew that there are some bad salsas in this world (odds are, if you bring me one that you made yourself, I’m not going to like it), plus, I hate cilantro. Queso is not only cheese, therefore delicious, it holds its form well when made correctly and doesn’t soak through your plate.
THE ENTREE REGION: Fried Chicken vs. Chili
(Previous round: Fried Chicken 61% Pizza 39%; Chili 61% Nachos 39%)
FRIED CHICKEN: I don’t think I’ve ever had chili at a tailgate so I can’t vote for it. I’ve seen chili at a tailgate, but it’s too much work to carry around a bowl. I’m a butterfly. Gotta move around and socialize. Can’t be carrying around a bowl of chili doing that, especially with a beer or two in hand.
I also don’t eat fried chicken at tailgates, but a drumstick can be devoured with one hand in a pinch, so it gets the nod.
By the way, how the hell did chicken tenders lose in the first round? Learn chicken tenders, people.
FRIED CHICKEN: I am from Kentucky. I live in Kentucky. Kentucky Fried Chicken originated in Corbin, Kentucky. Call me a Homer all you want, but I’m going with the Colonel. Chili normally comes on strong towards the end of the season as its roster is deep in ingredients.
CHILI: Even though Kentuckians should side with fried chicken, chili was invented to be a cold weather tailgate food. What makes chili even better are the variations. You can hop around to a dozen different tailgates and never replicate the taste. My ringer: white chicken chili.
CHILI: Chili is the ultimate football food. I agree with Nick that the number of varieties strengthens its case. Want to make an otherwise cold and dreary late November tailgate a rollicking good time? Make it a chili cookoff. Just avoid the chocolate chili. Someone always makes it thinking they’re fancy and it’s always gross.
Chorizo chili FTW.
THE SIDE DISH REGION: Pigs in a Blanket vs. Sausage Balls
(Previous round: Pigs in a blanket 67% Potato Salad 33%; Sausage Balls 66% Chips 34%)
PIGS IN A BLANKET: HUGE pigs in a blanket guy here. Also a huge sausage balls guy, but pigs in a blanket are a Final Four food in my bracket. Heavy favorite to take it all if I’m drawing up the Vegas odds.
PIGS IN A BLANKET: Unlike today’s goofy and health conscience school lunches our kids are forced to eat, I grew up on school cafeteria pigs in a blanket. Going old school with this pick, can’t beat the one-two punch of a wiener and biscuit.
SAUSAGE BALLS: I need nothing else, just a toothpick and a plate of meatballs. The secret ingredient: grape jelly.
SAUSAGE BALLS: Both are delicious, but the combination of cheese and sausage puts the balls over the top. Ones made with spicy Italian sausage? Fuggedaboutit.
Also, grape jelly? What the hell, Roush?
Voting ends tomorrow at 9 a.m., so get to it.
By Nick Roush on ©August 25th, 2016 @ 10:25pm
Former Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon joined the Football Podcast crew to help prepare the BBN for the 2016 Kentucky football season. A film studying analyst who saw UK’s last preseason scrimmage, Jarmon provides some insight that should make you fell more confident about the season opener vs. Southern Miss. There were also PLENTY of shenanigans, including:
— Dropping ‘F Bombs’ on live radio.
— Infamous fart stories from Kentucky football players.
— A history of Kentucky football’s nastiest hits.
— The best and worst highlights from preseason camp.
— How the new offensive coaches and skill players will help Drew Barker succeed.
If you would like to be a part of this year’s new and improved podcast by advertising on the show, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
You ever had one of those days where no matter what you do, you mess it up? Today has been that day for me. I apologize for the recording, editing and life errors. Today has been tough. Thanks for gutting it out with me.
We had almost 4,000 votes in Round One of KSR’s Tailgate Food Bracket, and it’s time to move on to the Sweet Sixteen. We’re on the clock, so you’ll have until 6 p.m. tonight to vote for your favorites then we’ll move on to the Elite Eight. Let’s get to it.
THE GRILL REGION
Pulled Pork vs. Ribs
Previous round: Pulled Pork 66%, Hot Dogs 34%; Ribs 59%, Sliders 41%
Tough matchup, but I’m going with pulled pork here.
Brats vs. Wings
Previous Round: Brats 58%, Brisket 42%; Wings 82%, BBQ Chicken 18%
Not an easy decision, but I have to go with wings.
THE DIP REGION
Buffalo Dip vs. Queso
Previous Round: Buffalo Dip 76%, Onion Dip 24%; Queso 92%, Hummus 8%
It’s hard to beat queso, but if there’s a dip to do it, it’s Buffalo. I can see this being very close.
Seven-Layer Dip vs. Salsa
Previous Round: Seven-Layer Dip 63%, Guacamole 37%; Salsa 68%, Spinach Dip 32%
I was surprised salsa made it to round two over spinach dip, so I’m definitely going Seven-Layer here. Don’t get me wrong, I love salsa, but it’s far too runny to put on paper plates.
THE ENTREE REGION
Fried Chicken vs. Pizza
Previous Round: Fried Chicken: 79%, Subs 21%; Pizza 74%, Tacos 26%
In any other scenario, I’d be tempted to pick pizza; however, fried chicken is perfect for tailgating.
Nachos vs. Chili
Previous Round: Nachos 65%, Jambalaya 35%; Chili 58%, Chicken Fingers 42%
I’m not over nachos beating jambalaya in round one. Seriously, that is criminal. No way it gets past chili.
THE SIDE DISH REGION
Pigs in a Blanket vs. Potato Salad
Previous Round: Pigs in a Blanket 61%, Deviled Eggs 39%; Potato Salad 57%, Veggie Tray 43%
I don’t see how potato salad can win this one.
Sausage Balls vs. Chips
Previous Round: Sausage Balls 77%, Pasta Salad 23%; Chips 69%, Snack Mix 31%
Same for chips. Sausage balls are one of God’s greatest creations.
You’ve got until 6 p.m., so vote, vote, vote.
Kentucky’s new luxury tailgating units have made their way to Commonwealth Stadium and they’re ready to be inhabited by football fans willing to spend a little more coin on their Saturday experience.
The 1865 Club suites, named for the year UK was established, are now available for full-season and single-game rentals. Prices range from $30,000 for all seven home games or $5,000 for a single Saturday.
Each tailgating unit offers a living area, a kitchen, four HD TVs, a full-size refrigerator and a half bath, as well as an outdoor area with a television, refrigerator and awning. The units can accommodate up to 30 people each game day in the grass outside Gate 9 in the southwest corner of CWS.
A standard menu is included and additional food can be ordered from catering. Booze can be pre-ordered and stocked prior to your Saturday arrival. All you have to do is show up and everything is ready to go.
Have a look at the new next-level tailgating in Lexington:
If you have any interest in renting one of the 1865 Club tailgating suites, click here for further information.
Kentucky held its second scrimmage on Saturday. Mark Stoops, DJ Eliot, and Eddie Gran took to the podium afterwards for rapid fire questions with media expectation (me included) for a sense of finality that can only be discovered after extensive film study. As in all scrimmages when Kentucky is taking on UK, there were positives, negatives, and concerns. Nevertheless, Saturday’s press conference had a strange vibe to it.
Positives, Negatives, and Concerns
— The defense forced a three-and-out on the first drive which also included a QB sack. The opening of Saturday’s action was encouraging as the defense apparently got their butts handed to them in the first scrimmage.
— Derrick Baity intercepted a Drew Barker pass. Much of camp talk has surrounded Chris Westry. CB Derrick Baity is equally as talented and will provide difficulties for opposing receivers.
— Jordan Bonner’s name keeps surfacing when coaches are asked about rising outside linebackers. Bonner is a pass rush specialist. Early thought was that he’d redshirt this fall. With pass rush limitations, Stoops/Eliot will be forced to play any and all defenders that can impede quarterbacks in the pocket. Kobie Walker is another name that has been consistently praised over the past two weeks. Walker is where I sense that defensive personnel’s diversity will lead to schematic multiplicity. The cold hard truth is that due to attrition (Hatcher, Meant, and Tubman), UK is not talented or deep enough to run a base defense and succeed in the Southeastern Conference. The kitchen sink may be thrown.
— LB Di’Niro Laster has recently been working inside. After originally playing outside linebacker, Laster’s move could be related to Jordan Bonner/Kobie Walker’s surge in the depth chart or lackluster play from the first and second team, inside backers. Kentucky’s front seven (defensive line and linebackers) will remain an enigma until kickoff on 3 September. Explanation: Lots of moving parts, inexperience, and lack of quality depth could force Stoops/Eliot to adjust scheme and rotation. The most telling and prevalent portion of the press conference was the duo’s overbearing concern about depth, or the lack thereof.
— Tackling is a mandatory fundamental football skill. Stoops and Eliot both harped on their discontent with the defense’s ability to take opponents to the ground. First pass is that this should not be unexpected given that the scrimmage was the team’s second attempt at total game-like conditions. But, it’s much deeper than that. To make up for personnel deficiencies, this defense must masterfully execute basic fundamentals in addition to manufacturing explosive plays. To go to a bowl game, the Cats can’t survive with either/or; it must be effective at both.
— Current defensive line situation could lead to a revolving door depth chart. I expect to see various fronts and substitution patterns as there is no clear cut definition of its starting lineup or two-deep rotation. Concern here is directed squarely on the shoulders of Tymere Dubose, Naquez Pringle, Alvonte Bell, TJ Carter, Kordell Looney and Kengera Daniel. This group must maximize every practice rep and instructional opportunity.
— Both Mark Stoops and DJ Eliot expressed earnest concern about the front seven. Linebacker and defensive line depth were the most critical points of discussion in the offseason. With two weeks remaining until the high flying Southern Miss Golden Eagles come to town, that concern may have evolved into anxiety. Both coaches’ facial expressions were solemn when discussing the matter.
— Kayaune Ross continues to make big plays. On the second drive, the 6’6, 230-pound receiver caught a 60-yard touchdown pass. Ross has attributed for three touchdown catches in UK’s two camp scrimmages if you’re keeping score at home. Ross is raw and needs to develop a better understanding of the offense; however, he’s been dynamic in one-on-one situations.
— Eddie Gran backed up his original “next man up” mantra by discussing Boom Williams’ scrimmage participation as competition remains at running back. Gran said this in a complimentary fashion. Fully expect Boom to be 100% for the opener but if he’s not, the team and offense must go on.
— Drew Barker continues to be consistent. The offense continued to impress other than the scrimmage’s first three-and-out and not finishing its fourth drive. Let me stress “good” not great. There’s a great deal of improvement that needs to take place in order for the Cats to start the season 1-0. Stephen Johnson and Gunnar Hoak are also developing under Darin Hinshaw’s tutelage.
— True freshman tight end Justin Rigg continues to impress. Rigg gives Gran three pass catching targets from a position that has struggled since Jacob Tamme’s departure.
— The offense has not been turnover prone during fall camp. Much like the defense, Gran’s crew has to excel at the “little things” that add up to points on the scoreboard. Apparently Kentucky’s offense will have to carry this team if postseason play is going to come to fruition.
What does all this mean?
The coaching staff has a great deal to process from Saturday’s scrimmage. From that practice will come the opening game depth chart, scout team, and redshirt decisions. Saturday’s press conference was odd. This was mainly due to the scrimmage being on a Saturday and coaches being anxious to depart the podium to evaluate film in order to see exactly what and who they have for 2016. I’ve known several coaches that believe that fall camp’s last scrimmage defines a team and season. 14 days separate Saturday’s dress rehearsal from the real show. Lots and lots of work still needs to be done.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 21st, 2016 @ 10:30pm
On this week’s episode of The OTT, I interview Brittany Wagner, the star of “Last Chance U,” Netflix’s six-part documentary about the East Mississippi Community College football program. Wagner is the academic advisor at EMCC and, in the weeks since the series came out, has become America’s sweetheart. Matt had Brittany on his podcast last week (even though I booked my interview first, grr), but she was able to sit down with me on Friday for an hour to explore some topics in depth, including…
— How she’s binge watching “Friday Night Lights” to figure out those Tami Taylor comparisons
— How she originally wanted to work for ESPN, but found her calling as an academic advisor
— The emotional roller coaster of taking kids under her wing and then seeing them leave
— Why Za’Darius Smith and AJ Stamps are two of her favorite former students
— What she’s going to do with all those pencils people keep sending her
— And much, much more.
Also, please send Brittany a note on Twitter @Brittany_MSgirl to thank her for coming on.
It is past time to improve America’s pasttime.
The game of baseball, once the national sport of this great country, is now dead. No one likes baseball. You may say you like baseball and you may follow baseball, but deep down inside, you know baseball is beyond terrible.
So stop lying to yourself. Stop wasting your time by sitting through hours and hours of standstill ball-grabbing and dip-spitting for 14 total minutes of sport. This misconception, this lie, that people actually enjoy baseball; it needs to stop. It has lasted far too long, which, coincidentally, is the very problem with baseball.
Now let me be clear: not all baseball sucks; only Major League Baseball sucks. Little league baseball is fine because it gets kids outside and off their Playstations for some good physical activity. All kids should play little league baseball. It’s good for so many reasons beyond the game that I don’t feel like listing right now. High school and college baseball are okay, too.
Major League Baseball, however, needs to change its ways if it ever wants to be respected again. It is, without question, the worst product of all professional sports in America; and yes, I am including the MLS, the WNBA and the PBA in that conversation.
For the MLB to regain its entertainment value and compete with the NFL and NBA, it needs a complete makeover. It needs an overhaul and revamping of its format and rules. It needs to be modernized. Honus Wagner and the boys have been dead for half a century, yet we’re still playing the game the way Abner Doubleday drew it up in a cow pasture before the Civil War.
Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, it is time for change; and for change to be made, the MLB needs to get the rosin bag in the right hands to get the ball moving forward. Simply put, the MLB needs a new commissioner. And I think I am just the man for the job.
You see, I’ve spent some time thinking how to improve baseball, while the rest of you were wasting time watching baseball. While you were busy watching a five-hour, extra-inning game in the middle of May that has no real significance in the grand scheme of the season, I was writing my foolproof amendments to the Major League’s rulebook.
So take a moment, if you will, to read some of my proposed rule changes that could forever change the sport for the better — if you’re not too busy watching that nailbiter of a game between the Reds and Marlins.
PROPOSED RULE CHANGES
FOR THE NEW MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
I. REDUCE SCHEDULE TO 81 GAMES
My biggest problem with baseball is the regular season is too damn long. I’ll never understand how fans get fired up for a May game when there are another 100+ games to go.
“We’re up three games on the Cubs in the NL Central!”
“Yeah, with 130 games left to play.”
Early season baseball is currently irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Under the new 81-game schedule, the season won’t even begin until June, after the NBA Finals. Baseball gets the summer months all to itself and each game is much more meaningful with the season cut in half.
II. NO DESIGNATED HITTER
Pitchers, learn to hit like everyone else. Those four days you’re off doing nothing? Get in the batting cage.
III. SHORTEN GAME TO SIX INNINGS
We live in a fast-moving world where everyone wants immediate results, and baseball is the furthest thing from fast-moving. Baseball needs to catch up with the times.
IV. EACH PLAYOFF SERIES WILL BE BEST OF ONE GAME
We’re speeding up the entire process of baseball.
V. ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST BET ON THE GAME
Rather than blackballing Pete Rose from the sport, it’s time we honor him with mandatory gambling. Each player must put up a minimum of one percent of their salary on their team to cover the spread each game.
Payouts and all the minor details will be discussed by the Charlie Hustle Committee at a later date. I haven’t thought that far ahead.
VI. IMPROVE PIPELINE TO CUBA
How? I don’t know. We’ll figure it out. Build a bridge or something.
VII. MAKE MANAGERS DRESS LIKE MANAGERS
If a manager wants to dress like a player, he is required to pinch run at the very least. If he wants to manage baseball, he can wear khaki pants and a polo like an adult.
VIII. HAVE VIN SCULLY CALL EVERY GAME
Move Vin Scully from Los Angeles to a broadcast station in New York City where he will call every game, simultaneously, via satellite.
IX. SHORTEN THE FIELD
All playing fields will be shortened and uniform in size. It makes absolutely no sense to play a sport with different sized playing fields.
Also, I’m thinking 150 to 200 feet to deep center.
X. ALLOW ALUMINUM BATS
Home runs. The people want home runs.
XI. CHANGE THE BALL DESIGN
I’m thinking more like tennis balls or racquetballs. Something with some bounce so hitters can really get some distance coming off those aluminum bats. The new balls will be easier for fans to catch all those home runs, too.
XII. MANDATORY STEROID USE
It’s no secret there is prevalent steroid use all across Major League Baseball. The league currently has strict penalties in place for those who are caught using PEDs, but too many guys are still getting away with it.
That is why steroid use should not only be accepted, it should be required. Everyone loved the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit a million home runs with their gigantic arms, acne and tiny testicles. Let’s bring the magic of that season back but get everyone involved. I’m talkin’ about needles in asses in the on-deck circle. HGH-infused sunflower seeds. Let’s get aggressive with it and create some superhuman athletes. Again, fans love home runs. Let’s give them home runs.
I’m open to more suggestions in the comments section. Together, we can do this.
It’s past time to improve America’s past time.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 18th, 2016 @ 3:00pm
If you listened to today’s show, you may have heard Matt throw down the gauntlet to our colleagues that cover Kentucky sports. In true “Anchorman” style, Matt challenged the local media to a 4×100 relay, betting that he, Shannon, Drew, and Ryan could beat any foursome of sports reporters in the state.
“We will challenge any media outlet in a 4×100 race, anytime. I throw the gauntlet down. If you’re a media outlet in the state of Kentucky, let’s go,” Matt said, noting that each outlet has to use their primary reporters, not their interns. “You pick your four and we’ve got our four and we’ll roll.”
There is some debate over who would be on KSR’s team, but we’ll let you, the readers, pick the best foursome from our vastly talented squad:
- Matt (history of back problems)
- Drew (history of shin splints)
- Ryan (claims he can beat anyone)
- Shannon (former baseball player)
- Tyler (actual runner, albeit long distance)
- Nick (former football player)
- Freddie (former football player)
- Maria (former college athlete)
Or, maybe we’ll just have two teams in the race.
Let’s look at the rest of the field:
LEX18 True Blue Team
- Alan Cutler
- Keith Farmer
- Dorian Craft
- Jonathan Dunn
WKYT News Team
- Dave Baker
- Rob Bromley
- Lee K. Howard
- Brian Milam
Sunday Morning Sports Talk Team
- Larry Vaught
- Anthony White
- Mark Buerger
- Curtis Burch
- Bradley “B-Roll” McKee
- TJ Beisner
- Garrett Moore
- Clayton Abernathy
93.9 The Ville Team
- Mike Rutherford
- John Ramsey, aka “Captain Suntan”
- Drew Deener
- Mark Ennis
Sports Radio 790/WHAS Team
- Tony Vanetti
- David Jennings
- Terry Meiners
- Leland Conway
- Jerry Tipton
- John Clay
- Mark Story
- Ben Roberts
Cats Illustrated Team
- Justin Rowland
- TJ Walker
- Derek Terry
- Josh Ellis
Here’s my projected order of finish:
3. Sunday AM Sports Talk (Larry and Mark are runners, Anthony White is still more athletic than any of us)
4. LEX 18 True Blue Team (As he proved during the Gillispie chase, Cutler can run)
5. Cats Illustrated
6. 93.9 The Ville Team (Ramsey does GTL)
7. WKYT News Team
8. Sports Radio 790/WHAS Team
9. Herald-Leader Team
KSTV has already accepted the challenge:
.@kysportsradio challenge accepted.
— TJ Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) August 18, 2016
Oh, it’s on.
Eighteen days from now, we’ll be under the lights at Commonwealth Stadium for Kentucky’s season-opener against Southern Miss. If you’re a football fan, that alone should give you goosebumps, but after five seasons of dumpster fires, close calls, and gut-wrenching losses, the UK fanbase is a little slower to get up off the mat this time around, myself included. In an attempt to fire us all back up and get back on the football bus, I spent my afternoon compiling a list of 18 reasons to get excited for football season. (Get it, because there are 18 days until kickoff.)
For some, the most obvious reason. Nothing beats waking up, packing up the cooler/tent/grill/TV/generator/etc. and setting up shop in the parking lot outside Commonwealth. This isn’t as easy as it once was, but the first sip of the first beer on a long day of pregaming is still one of the most blessed experiences known to man.
2. There’s finally no quarterback battle
For the past several years, the first game of the season has also been a proving ground for whoever was named starter during fall camp. Fortunately, we haven’t had to endure a quarterback battle this season, with Drew Barker firmly entrenched as QB1 from day one. Barker hasn’t had an easy path since coming to UK, but all reports out of UK this preseason have been promising, and barring meltdown or injury, the job is his.
3. Boom Williams will do something special
Boom christened the renovated Commonwealth Stadium with a spectacular 75-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the 2015 season. Last year, he led the Cats in rushing with 121 carries for 855 yards and 6 touchdowns in 10 games, but injured his elbow twice. Now back to 100% after an offseason surgery, I have a feeling the junior speedster will give us at least a few reasons to go “Booooooooom!” vs. Southern Miss.
4. Boom Williams Sr. will do something special
Boom’s famously outgoing father has been a fixture on the tailgating scene the past three years, and although last season, he was asked to only pump up the crowd before and after the Cat Walk, not during, it’s still something I look forward to every year.
5. Matt Elam running with the American flag
Fat or skinny, Elam carrying the American flag out of the tunnel is a thing of beauty.
6. Our secondary is really good
Despite the loss of Darius West, Kentucky finally has a secondary that can compete at an SEC level. Chris Westry, Derrick Baity, and Mike Edwards have the talent and the swagger required to play in this league, and although there are other gaping holes on defense (the line, oh the line!), secondary is one position at which we may actually win some battles.
7. Our running backs aren’t bad either
Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, Mikel Horton, Sihiem King, and Benny Snell combine to make a formidable unit. In fact, ESPN ranked UK’s running backs the fifth best in the SEC behind LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
8. The return of the KSR Pregame Show
As if hearing them five days out of the week wasn’t enough, Matt, Ryan, Drew, and Jared will grace the airwaves three hours before kickoff each Saturday. I hear they’re already accepting invitations to your tailgates. Just please don’t give Ryan Lemond too many jello shots.
9. An extra 30 minutes of Freddie Maggard and Christi Thomas on the pregame show
“Cat Walk to Cat Talk” was so popular last season that the UK Radio Network is extending it from thirty minutes to an hour. Freddie’s been on a strict kale and salmon diet all summer to prepare.
10. CJ Conrad will be a star
Conrad had a decent first year in Lexington, leading SEC freshmen tight ends with 15 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown, but if Eddie Gran has anything to say about it, this will be his breakout season. Gran’s offense is known for featuring tight ends, and Gran himself promised that the first offensive play would be a pass to Conrad. (We’re holding you to that, Coach.)
11. More bench backs!
With the exception of the student section, the entire lower bowl of Commonwealth Stadium now has bench backs. In addition, the first ten rows of the upper deck also have backs, making for a much more comfortable experience during timeouts, halftime, and offensive series.
12. The chance to enjoy Kentucky Proud products at Commonwealth Stadium
Last year, UK spent $90,000 on locally-sourced foods to serve at Commonwealth Stadium, including new menu items like the Bluegrass Burger and Spicy Cat Tail Brat, both of which are made in the school’s own butcher shop. Other “Kentucky Proud” items on the menu: popcorn, bred pudding, and corn on the cob.
13. There are no more excuses
With a renovated stadium, state of the art football training facility, and four classes worth of his own recruits, Mark Stoops and the UK Football program are out of excuses. While Stoops’ buyout may ensure him another season regardless of whether or not the Cats go to a bowl, there is definitely a feeling of, “If not now, never?” around the fanbase. This isn’t exactly cause for excitement, but according to those around the program, that sense of urgency is also fueling the players and coaches in camp.
14. New uniforms
Even though they feature the new
birds having relations secondary Wildcat logo, the new uniforms seem to be a hit with players and recruits. I’m more of a traditionalist, but I’ll admit that the white uniform is pretty sharp, especially in person.
15. Saturdays are restored to their rightful place
Thank God for the Olympics, because Saturdays during the month of August are usually the worst. In 18 days, Saturdays will get back to what they’re meant to be: football from “College GameDay” to the Pac-12 nightcap. In turn, my social life will finally get back on its axis. Game coverage occupies most of my Saturdays in the fall, but there’s always a game on, meaning there’s always a chance to gather at the local watering hole with my pals.
On that note…
16. Day drinking
Or, at least socially acceptable day drinking. Beer just tastes better before 5 p.m. with football in the background. It’s a proven fact.
17. It’s better than being depressed
This being UK Football and all, the letdown may be inevitable, but for now, why not rally and enjoy the preseason glow while the slate’s still clean? We’ll even let you get in as many “I told you so”s if things go south later on.
18. It’s football
And it’s the best, most American sport we’ve got. Get on board.
By Nick Roush on ©August 16th, 2016 @ 9:00pm
When Drew Barker chose Mark Stoops’ Kentucky over Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina in May of 2013, fans believed Stoops found the program’s White Knight. What was once perceived as a monumental decision is not seen in the same light ahead of Barker’s first season as the Cats’ starting quarterback.
Last season as a redshirt freshman, Drew Barker acquired intermittent experience. He took his first significant snaps in the Vanderbilt game, where he threw his first touchdown pass but failed to lead Kentucky to a victory. Barker earned starts in the final two games of the season, but only completed 22 of 51 passes for 257 yards.
Barker’s lack of production at the end of the year has many fans unsure of this year’s offense. On the practice field, there’s a polar opposite reaction.
“Drew’s looking like a ten-year vet out here,” wide receiver Jeff Badet said last week.
Since he was named the starter following the spring game, the people around the program could not feel more confident about their new leader. The differences from 2015 to 2016 are dramatic.
Building a New Brand
It didn’t take long for Barker to grab headlines when he got to Kentucky, all for the wrong reasons.
Campus was put on lockdown after he and some of his fellow freshmen were playing with pellet guns near the dorms. Not long after, video surfaced from an altercation at a Richmond bar that culminated with Barker receiving a knockout blow from an EKU football player.
Darin Hinshaw has done a lot to change Barker’s game since the quarterback coach arrived on campus, but Barker told Jen Smith the first thing he addressed wasn’t his play on the field, it was his poor brand off the field. “It definitely wasn’t positive like I’d like it to be,” Barker said.
It started in the classroom, earning a 4.0 GPA in the spring semester. He took that onto the practice field, leading the offense in summer workouts. The commander of the offensive huddle learned that being a leader isn’t the same thing as being popular.
“In between these white lines you’ve got to step up. You’ve got to be disliked sometimes and say something that someone doesn’t want to hear,” Barker said.
Hinshaw is confident he can be the leader the offense needs. “I’m really proud of how he’s handled himself.”
Technical Changes on the Field
In his first three years on campus, Barker has had three different offensive coordinators. For the first time he has his own quarterbacks coach.
Darin Hinshaw wasted no time, focusing on fundamentals, but probably not where you’d expect. Barker’s biggest problem wasn’t how he was throwing the ball with his right arm, it was how his feet were moving.
“We had a lot of wasted movement in our footwork. We were taking too big of steps,” Barker said.
The poor footwork slowed down his throwing motion. “There’s guys open but the ball’s not getting there in time and it’s because his feet aren’t set. They’re not prepared, ready to go,” Hinshaw said. “If your feet are slow, your arm is slow.”
Hinshaw compares a quarterback’s arm and throwing motion to a shooter’s weapon. “To line your gun up, the only way to do that is with your feet.”
To solve the problem, the quarterbacks are taking shorter, quicker steps to become more efficient in the pocket. The tweaks in technique should help Barker get the ball out of his hand quicker, and more accurately. “We’re keeping our base under us at all times to be able to make an accurate throw,” Barker said.
The quicker he moves his feet, the quicker the ball is being released, the quicker the athletes can make plays in the open field.
“When you’re talking about footwork, it’s about speeding up so that your arm can be on time to deliver the ball,” Hinshaw said. “He’s been fantastic. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do.”
Barker described winning the starting job as a “dream come true.” Now it’s time to turn that abstract dream into concrete production.
Last week Eddie Gran was pleased to report that Drew was completing around 70% of his passes, but that’s still not good enough for Hinshaw. “Nothing’s perfect right now, and our expectations are perfect. We have high expectations. I expect him to complete every throw,” Hinshaw said.
Requiring football players to be perfect is something you’ve probably only heard from T.C. Williams’ Coach Boone, but Hinshaw doesn’t shy away from it. “He should know exactly where to throw the ball, against any coverage, every play,” he said.
The demands appear overwhelming, but they do not give Barker any anxiety. He’s the starter. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his job if he makes a mistake. Even though Hinshaw emphasizes perfection, Barker does not have to be a hero. That’s up to the playmakers.
“I’m just a facilitator, a point guard really, just passing it to the playmakers. I don’t really feel like I have to do too much at all.” But Barker added that it doesn’t mean Hinshaw is taking it easy on them. “Sometimes it can be frustrating, but we know he’s pushing us to be the best.”
Finding balance has worked well so far for Barker. In the first scrimmage he did all of the right things. He took care of the ball. He made the right decisions in the pocket. He continually put the offense in situations to be successful.
Hinshaw said before camp, “I want him to take care of the game like a professional,” and that’s exactly what he’s done so far.
Barker has taken care of all the little things. We’ll see in the first Saturday in September if he can put it all together for a complete performance. If he can, Kentucky football fans should not leave the season disappointed.
“If we do everything that I know we’re capable of doing and that the coaches have asked of us, I know we can get to a bowl game,” Barker said.
It has been 11 days since the University of Kentucky football team checked in for its fall camp. Those 11 days have felt more like two months with all of the talking coming out of the new practice facility, and there is still another 10 days before camp concludes and Week 1 prep begins.
So since we’re at the halfway point in camp and have consumed more news than most have been able to keep up with, I thought I’d revisit the top headlines of the preseason.
Some have been good, others have not.
GOOD / NOT GOOD
NOT GOOD: Darius West out for the year
Mark Stoops delivered the devastating news following Saturday’s practice: Darius West out for the season.
West, the team’s projected starter at strong safety, suffered a patella tendon injury in his knee during last Friday’s practice.
“That’s a tough blow for him,” Stoops told reporters. “He’s been through injuries before. It’s not the same leg. It’s not the same injury that he had before.”
Seniors Blake McClain and Marcus McWilson, two very experienced veterans, will carry the load in West’s absence. Obviously it’s a blow to the defense, but if there’s a position on that side of the ball with trusted and proven depth, it’s at safety.
Still, heartbreaking news for the young sophomore who was poised for a big year in the secondary.
GOOD: Charles Walker earned a full scholarship
Formerly a walk-on wide receiver, Charles Walker is now on a full scholarship as a member of the Kentucky football team. And he earned it, dammit.
Walker was gifted his hard-earned scholarship during a two-hour meeting last Friday night, captured here in this video from UK:
Today he told reporters, “My heart was about to jump out of my body.”
NOT GOOD: Regie Meant out indefinitely
Arguably the worst piece of news from fall camp, junior defensive tackle Regie Meant took an indefinite leave from the program for personal reasons. He is not expected to be back this season.
Meant was one of the only veterans on Kentucky’s worrisome defensive line and the Cats’ leading returning tackler in that group. His unexpected departure leaves an enormous void on the D-line with only inexperienced youth left to take over his role.
Though we do not know the reason behind his exit, it came as a huge surprise considering most of the talk around Meant had been how much progress he had made entering his junior season. Adrian Middleton and Tymere Dubose are two players who will get a look in his place, among others.
GOOD: Drew Barker impressing his coaches and teammates
Barker is a new man now that he’s been “given the keys” to Kentucky’s offense.
Everyone, from coaches to teammates and others around the program, has said Barker is a completely different player after his rebranding and commitment to the job.
Early in camp, it was Barker’s accuracy that turned heads. Saturday, it was his decision-making.
“I thought he really made good decisions,” Stoops said after the scrimmage. “I felt like he was really smart with the ball and was decisive, made good decisions, quick decisions and took care of the football and moved the offense.”
Along with the accuracy and decision-making, Barker’s leadership has improved immensely. He says he is ready to be the guy for the Wildcats, and his teammates are all confident he will, too.
NOT GOOD: Darryl Long left the team
A bad piece of news we can live with is the departure of Darryl Long, a would-be redshirt sophomore tight end. Long decided to pack up and move to another program for his three remaining years of eligibility, likely due to a fall down the depth chart.
ESPN’s 19th-best tight end in the 2014 class, Long dropped behind C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart at his position with another young player, Justin Rigg, drawing some attention as a true freshman.
The loss shouldn’t be too detrimental to the offense; if anything, it shows how deep the talent is at tight end.
GOOD: Landon Young pushing the starters as a true freshman
It should come as no surprise that Landon Young is already fighting for snaps as a true freshman. The third-ranked offensive tackle in last year’s high school class is build like an SEC veteran and has the tools to compete right away.
Anytime a player or coach has been asked which young players have stood out in camp, Young is always the first name out of their mouths.
“He’s pressing our guys to go out there and play,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Cole Mosier and Kyle Meadows will likely start at the two tackles positions in Week 1, although they better not get too comfortable in those starting roles. If Young continues to adjust to the next level at his current pace, I predict he’ll be starting by the time the halfway point in the season rolls around.
NOT GOOD: Inconsistency in kicking and punting
A true freshman and a walk-on sophomore are competing for the starting punter job, while the veteran placekicker struggled in Saturday’s scrimmage.
First, the punters. Freshman Grant McKinniss signed on as the fourth-best in the 2016 class and the presumed starter, but consistency has been an early issue in camp. Stoops hinted that Bryan Kirshe is also an option if McKinniss is unable to perform on game days. “Hopefully he will,” Stoops said.
Then there’s Austin MacGinnis, the team’s junior placekicker who performed well in his first two seasons, including making a school-record 11 consecutive field goals. He is completely healthy this season, but was inexplicably bad in Saturday’s scrimmage. Stoops said he missed a few of his “seven or eight” kicks in live-game situations.
GOOD: Matt Elam lost 30 pounds, in much better shape
The talk of Media Day was Matt Elam’s obvious weight loss. Elam’s appearance confirmed what Stoops told us earlier in the summer, that Elam had dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 pounds. He looked like a completely different person in his first public appearance with the team and said he worked hard in the offseason to shed the bad weight.
Many have said the entire season could come down to the play of Elam and Barker, so it’s good to hear they’re both using that responsibility and pressure to improve what needed to be improved. There is still a lot of work to be done before Elam is the reliable run-stopper UK needs him to be, but dropping some weight was a great start in that direction.
NOT GOOD: Coaches disappointed in linebackers and tackling
The defense let its coach down in Saturday’s scrimmage, the first live-game scrimmage of the fall. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said, “I would have liked to have tackled a little better. So that’s something we have to harp on.”
Tackling will be an emphasis moving forward with more live tackling drills implemented into practice. Stoops expects it will improve as camp goes on.
As for the guilty parties, it sounds like Stoops was very disappointed in his linebackers. “We weren’t very good Saturday,” he admitted.
Stoops said that unit has a lot to iron out, from ball pursuit to assignments to discipline and tackling. Linebackers are a major concern entering the season with many new faces, and Stoops’ comments after Saturday’s practice did not ease those concerns.
GOOD: Wide receivers are catching the football and they’re not pouting!
As Kentucky football fans, we’re pretty accustomed to watching wide receivers drop passes. That goes for members of the current wide receiving corps and those in years past. It’s just something we’ve had to deal with, for reasons we’ll never fully understand.
But things are on the up and up this year, we hope. Eddie Gran and Lamar Thomas have both been pleased with their receivers’ pass-catching and playmaking abilities thus far. In fact, two of last year’s frequent butterfingers, Ryan Timmons and Dorian Baker, were singled out for catching the football on Saturday.
“You know, really they’ve got a really good attitude, and they’re making some plays,” Gran said of the whole bunch. “We talked about that. There’s going to be some drops once in awhile, but I think our kids made some plays today, some contested plays. That was huge. That’s what I’m excited about. And I don’t see anybody pouting.”
18 days until kickoff…
This morning, Bobby Petrino made headlines when his Twitter account “liked” a sexually suggestive tweet with a link to an adult website. Petrino has since issued a statement saying that either someone on his coaching staff with access to his account liked the tweet by accident, or that he was hacked. What really happened is between Bobby and the man upstairs (no, not Jurich. The other one), but the incident got me thinking…what kinds of tweets do other college coaches like?
Tickets for this year’s Big Blue Madness will be distributed on Friday, September 30 at 10:00 pm. As always, those tickets are free and will be available at the Memorial Coliseum ticket windows on Avenue of Champions and online at Ticketmaster.com.
But let’s get to the details that really matter. Let’s talk about that campout.
Fans will be allowed to set up campsites at 5:00 am on Wednesday, September 28. UK has asked that campers follow these guidelines:
— No permanent, wooden-type structures
— No portable generators
— No propane tanks or other open flames
— Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products are not permitted
— Selling sports tickets in excess of face value is illegal in Kentucky
A limited number of control cards will be issued to campers at 2:00 pm on Friday afternoon. All fans must be present to obtain their control cards and only one control card per person will be accepted at distribution. Additionally, all people with control cards must be in line by 10:00 pm.
Also note: Space will be limited this year due to construction, therefore fans are encouraged to go the Ticketmaster route to obtain tickets. UK Athletics will inform fans once available camp space has reached capacity and they are unlikely to receive control cards for the in-person ticket distribution.
Parking and transportation information, along with further ticketing details, will be released at a later time.
Big Blue Madness is set for Friday, October 14 at 7:00 pm. It will be televised live on the SEC Network.
We all know one of each, probably more.
There’s the overly-optimistic fan: that person who thinks Kentucky will win seven or eight games, every single year. While good people, they need to pump the brakes just a bit. Let’s be a little more realistic and cautious with our expectations. Love that attitude, though.
Then there’s the fan who expects the absolute worst, each and every year. They’re never happy. They predict three or four wins and think we’re wasting our time with Mark Stoops. Many of them think Mitch Barnhart should go, too. These people are terrible. Why follow at all if you’re going to be so grumpy all the time?
Of course, there are plenty of fans — the majority, actually — who fall somewhere in-between. I lean toward the optimist’s side, personally. I set the bar high each August, but know I will likely be disappointed in the end, while enjoying it all no matter what.
How about you? How do you feel this August? Are you still all-in with the process? Or are you too fed up with Kentucky’s history to get excited for another season?
Tonight I’ll give some of the current hot UK football topics followed by imaginary, slightly-exaggerated opinions from an optimistic and pessimistic fan. Then tell me which way you feel or lean.
Topic: Matt Elam’s weight loss
Optimist: “It’s great to hear Elam is taking his new role seriously; the team really needs him to be a run-stopper and stay on the field at nose tackle. If he can continue to shape his body and turn that bad weight into good weight, he will be a much more productive football player. It will show in his agility and endurance, which will in turn make him a better player. Love seeing that hard work and commitment going into his junior season. I expect big things from him if he maintains a good weight.”
Pessimist: “So what? He shouldn’t have been that out of shape in the first place. Hell, if he had gone down to Alabama, they would’ve whooped his ass into gear as a freshman and he’d be an All-SEC D-lineman right now. He hasn’t shown me anything at UK and until he does, I don’t want to hear about him losing a little bit of baby fat before his junior year.”
Topic: Drew Barker’s 67-70 completion percentage in live drills
Optimist: “Wow, that’s pretty good if he’s doing it against UK’s first-team secondary. Mark Stoops called that group the best he’s had since he’s been here, so if Barker is completing 70 percent against them, the passing game must be rolling. Can’t wait to see how he does in his first year as the guy.”
Topic: Wide receiver depth
Optimist: “This is the best receiving corps since I’ve been following. I saw the SEC Network name it the best in the SEC East. They’re big, athletic and they’ll push each other to perform. Lots of competition for looks. The Cats are going to score a lot of points if Barker can get them the ball.”
Pessimist: “What’s it matter? They can’t catch. Stoops could have Joe Montana under center and he wouldn’t complete a pass with the butterfingers we have out there.”
Optimist: “This group is so good and they’re only SOPHOMORES. The secondary is loaded with NFL talent and we’re going to see them in Lexington for at least two more seasons. Chris Westry is special. Mike Edwards is special. Derrick Baity isn’t far behind. So much talent back there!”
Pessimist: “Doesn’t matter how good they are without a front seven. Opposing quarterbacks will pick the DBs apart without pressure from the D.”
Topic: Eddie Gran
Optimist: “I love the hire and look forward to the offense under his direction. He and Stoops know each other well from their days at Florida State and Stoops trusts him, unlike his predecessor. I also like his strictly-business attitude and how he knows this conference from his time at Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee. I think he and Darin Hinshaw are just what this team needs. Great hires by Stoops. Can’t wait to see what they do with the talent.”
Pessimist: “Third O.C. in three years? What a joke. Stoops won’t give Gran the freedom to do what he wants. Even if he did, we’re talking about the guy who coached Cincinnati’s offense to seven points in the Hawaii bowl last year.”
Topic: Mark Stoops
Optimist: “He will get us there in time. Football takes five or six years to turn a bad program around and he inherited a very bad program from Joker Phillips. Look what he’s done with the facilities and in recruiting. He’s signed some of the best classes in school history and there’s more talent and depth across the board. Be patient and keep supporting him. We’re on the right track. Give him time.”
Pessimist: “I’m tired of hearing about all these good recruits we’re getting when Mark Stoops hasn’t shown me anything on the field. He has more contract extensions than bowl appearances. With the way they finish each year and with some of the close games they’ve lost, I just don’t think he’s the guy. Vanderbilt and Louisville did it for me last year. Mitch’ll probably give him another raise this year for beating Austin Peay.”
Topic: Bowl Game
Optimist: “I think this is the year we get back to a bowl. The team will be much better and I think they’ll win the three non-conference games plus South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Missouri to reach six wins, maybe seven with a win over Mississippi State. Three of those four teams are way down this year; the other, Vanderbilt, is a home game that UK should be favored in. This is the year the Cats get over the hump.”
Pessimist: “They’ll win four games at best. They’ll be lucky to win a conference game this year. They might lose the first game to Southern Miss.”
If you’re a pessimist, drink some bourbon and it’ll all be okay.