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Commonwealth Stadium is Transforming Into Kroger Field with New Signage

UK Athletics

When UK announced a new partnership on May 1 with Kroger to rename Commonwealth Stadium Kroger Field, they unveiled the picture above, replacing the signage that stood since the renovation in the late 90s close the end zones.  That signage was just a photoshop, not a final product.

For the first time, we can see what the stadium will look like as Kroger Field.  Take a look at the North side of the stadium, nearest to BCTC and opposite of the press box and Nutter Football Training Facility.

@DanPauley14

Pauley’s picture is the first look at the physical changes being made to introduce Kroger Field.  I’m sure we’ll see a few more before the first home game kicks-off on September 9 against Eastern Kentucky.

UPDATE: That was just the start. Jen Smith has provided the internet with another look of the sign, now completed.

 p


Seth Greenberg: “This could be the biggest Kentucky team I can remember”

Seth Greenberg: “This could be the biggest Kentucky team I can remember”

This year’s Kentucky team will be John Calipari’s youngest yet, but according to Seth Greenberg, they could also be his biggest. The ESPN analyst took over hosting duties for today’s show, and shared his thoughts on Kentucky’s upcoming squad, which he believes has all the pieces it needs to make a big run…after some growing pains, of course.

The Veterans

  

“The success of this team, in terms of big picture, might be the returning players. How good will Wenyen Gabriel be this year? Will he be that lockdown defender? Will he be that guy that can run and score? Will he be that guy who is that positionless player to lead because you need a guy that can lead a talented group of players. You need a guy who can explain to the freshmen Coach Cal’s intensity.”

“How much better will Sacha Killeya-Jones be? We know he can score it, can he maintain the intensity? That’s going to be the challenge: how hard will he play consistently? Tai Wynyard, a guy with international experience this year. How important will that be?”

The Freshmen

    

“The freshman class is no joke. It’s always no joke, but this group is really interesting. Diallo is a John Calipari type of player. He plays hard, he defends, he’s electric, he’s competitive; those guys always do well for Cal.”

“I look at PJ Washington. PJ Washington reminds me of the guys Cal had at UMass. Without position, physically tough, draws a line in the sand every play. I saw him at the adidas Nations camp a year ago. He was the hardest playing player at the camp. It wasn’t even close. Every 50/50 ball, every time the ball was shot, he ran the court, he drove it, he was skilled and more importantly, he knew exactly who he was and how he wins.”

“Kevin Knox will be the most skilled player. Kevin Knox is a guy that can knock down shots. He’s got a very smooth, easy game to him. At 6’9″, he can play anywhere on the floor. This could be the biggest Kentucky team I can remember. They can legitimately play a point guard and everyone else 6’9″ or bigger. Knox is just going to be fun to watch because he’s a guy that can be up to get buckets. He’s going to be a guy to knock down shots. You put him and Jarred Vanderbilt on the wings and you’ve got two wings that can absolutely put so much pressure on the defense with their athleticism, their length, their speed, their quickness. It will be interesting to see how John puts this team together.”

“And then a pure point guard Quade Green is a guy who can really set the table. He’s going to have to compete defensively and he’s going to have to learn to compete defensively, but a guy that has an understanding, a feel for the game. The ability to get the ball to guys when they’re open. Green has a chance to be really special.”

“This is a team that, to me, the pieces fit. But, like all John Calipari teams, it’s a process.”

Yes, it is. For more of Seth’s thoughts, listen to today’s podcast, which also features interviews with Dino Gaudio, Slice Rohrssen, Dan Dakich, and Kyle Tucker.

Here’s the rest of this week’s schedule, which now includes UK Baseball coach Nick Mingione on Wednesday:

July 25: Ramel “Smooth” Bradley
July 26: UK Baseball coach Nick Mingione
July 27: Guest Hosts
July 28: KSR Crew


The Joe B. Hall Mural Wants Today’s Top 10

The Joe B. Hall Mural Wants Today’s Top 10

@thebottomlineky

Good morning, friends. You’re looking at the new Joe B. Hall mural in Cynthiana, his hometown, the perfect image with which to start our week. The mural is being painted by Sergio Odeith, the Portuguese artist who created “The Walking Dead” mural in Cynthiana last year. I know I’m not alone when I say that so far, it looks amazing. It’s scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday night.

It’s a new week, so let’s jump right in.

1. Calipari gave us the video of the weekend

How does John Calipari celebrate the end of a busy trip? By getting in on the latest internet meme, of course. After trips to Philadelphia, Washington, Georgia, and Dallas, Cal did the Drive-By Dunk Challenge in Lexington, giving us the viral video of the weekend:

2. De’Aaron Fox followed suit

#DriveByDUNKChallenge 😂😂😂

A post shared by De'Aaron Fox (@swipathefox) on

I give this challenge one more week before it starts to get annoying. UK NBA players, you’re on the clock.

3. Cal’s office looks nice

@UKCoachCalipari

While Cal was away this summer, he had his office at the Joe Craft Center redone, and it looks fabulous. I especially like the SLAM cover with the stars of his first Kentucky team behind the desk. (UPDATE: Apparently, Cal’s office was redone last fall, not this summer. Regardless, it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a while and it looks nice.)

Anyways, Cal had the team in his office a few times this weekend, first to talk branding (he is the master) and then to meet with Karl Towns, who was on campus for a basketball camp. Speaking of…

4. Karl Towns reminded us we’re still not over the Wisconsin game

The Wisconsin loss is the Laettner shot for a new generation of Kentucky fans, and even two years later, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it; it’s nice to know that Karl Towns feels the same. While in town this weekend, Karl talked openly about the 38-1 team’s accomplishments, and how that one loss still stings.

“No one’s ever going to do that again… it’s almost impossible. I talked to Devin Booker awhile ago about it. It’s not going to be done again.”

“It wasn’t just the way that we won, it was how we won. I mean, we’re beating teams by 50. UCLA should’ve just walked off the court against us at one point,” Towns said. “It’s no disrespect to any university, but that year was our year.”

Yes, it was. Damnit.

5. Karl and Julius Randle like Kentucky’s chances vs. an NBA superteam

DeWayne Peevy’s proposal to have an NBA superteam, ala the Warriors or Rockets, face off against an All-UK Team in the Alumni Game has everyone talking, including Towns and Randle. Both said the Cats would win easily.

“Of course,” Karl said. “We’d kill anybody. That’s not a question. I don’t know what Julius [Randle] said yesterday, but I’m not as modest. If we get to pick our coach and we get to pick Cal, it’s over.”

“I definitely think we would win,” Randle said, also in town for a basketball camp. “I don’t think it would really be a challenge.”

Gotta love that confidence. Here’s hoping we get to see this hyped up hypothetical showdown on August 25.

6. How will that Kyrie trade affect NBA Cats?

Friday’s bombshell news that Kyrie Irving has requested a trade has the NBA world talking, and several Cats have been rumored to be part of the deal for the Cavs star. One rumor has De’Aaron Fox as part of a trade for Irving, another MKG, and another Eric Bledsoe. Whatever happens, this will be a huge deal, and should a former Cat be involved, they’ll join an immediate contender in the Cavs. Stay tuned…

7. John Wall is about to get paid

On Friday night, news also dropped that John Wall has agreed to a four-year $170 million contract with the Washington Wizards. That’s a lot of money, so big congrats to the man who helped Calipari turn it around in his first year at Kentucky.

8. Football is just around the corner

The NCAA has eliminated two-a-days in the preseason, so training camp will start a week earlier this year, meaning football really is just around the corner. Camp will begin later this week, with Media Day taking place on Sunday. The annual Women’s Clinic took place on Saturday, and while I wasn’t able to make it up to Lexington for the event, Maggie Davis had a great recap for us. Click here to check it out.

9. I can’t believe I wasted an hour watching “Phelps vs. Shark”

To kick off Shark Week, the Discovery Channel had Michael Phelps race a shark. Kind of. Okay, not really at all. Obviously, it wouldn’t have been very safe (or practical) to put Phelps in the same waters as a shark, so the Discovery Channel crew did a bunch of tests to determine the shark’s top speed and had Phelps try to beat it. He didn’t, and it was just as disappointing as it sounds.

In other, more exciting swimming news, shoutout to Danville native and Centre College grad Kyle Poland, who swam around the island of Manhattan yesterday. It took Poland, who swam the English Channel in 2013, seven hours and sixteen minutes to complete the 28-mile swim. That is way more impressive than a fake race against a shark, if you ask me.

10. Today on KSR: Seth Greenberg

Get ready to talk college basketball as we enter Matt’s final week of vacation.


WATCH: John Calipari does the Drive-By Dunk Challenge

WATCH: John Calipari does the Drive-By Dunk Challenge

First Anthony Davis, now John Calipari. It’s official: everyone is doing the Drive-By Dunk Challenge.

After a long day of recruiting, Calipari got in on the latest internet craze, stopping at a fan’s house, jumping out of the car, and dunking on their basketball hoop. The clip is classic Cal, right down to the humblebrag caption:

“HELLO!”


Kentucky Defensive Production Analysis

Kentucky Defensive Production Analysis

Pic by 247Sports

Kentucky linebackers and defensive backs accounted for an exorbitant percentage of the team’s season-ending statistical categories a year ago. The Wildcats execute a 3-4 defensive scheme which was established and is operated with intention for the defensive line to occupy blockers which permits linebackers and safeties/nickel to run free and make plays.

This post will present a production study which only accounts for last season’s defensive starters: 4-linebackers, 3-defensive linemen, and 5-defensive backs (Five due to Nickel package). It also only addresses three statistical categories: total tackles, tackles for loss (TFL), and QB sacks.

LINEBACKERS

The first breakdown underlines UK’s four starting linebackers from 2016. The following numbers are combined totals from Jordan Jones, Courtney Love, Josh Allen, and Denzil Ware. The entirety of this group returns for 2017 and is considered one of the better linebacker collections in the Southeastern Conference. It also includes junior LB Jordan Jones who’s the league’s top returner in total tackles (109) and tackles for loss (15.5).

-Total Tackles: 317–32.3% of team’s 979 total tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 37—53.6% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: 17.5—83.3% of team’s 21 sacks

Pic of Adrian Middleton by Scout.com

DEFENSIVE LINE

The next group to be studied is the defensive line which has been under fire by the media as of late. While there is no hiding the fact that it must show improvement in 2017; UK’s defensive line-of-scrimmage remains a critical area of concern going into fall camp. Public denunciations can be utilized as a motivational ploy for new DL coach Derrick LeBlanc.

While admittedly concerned, I’m not as bleak as others appear to be. DT Adrian Middleton had a promising sophomore season and a strong spring. NT Naquez Pringle displayed vast improvement from National Signing Day to mid-season after overtaking a starting spot. Youngsters DE TJ Carter and Kordell Looney have extremely high ceilings.

Again, the 3-4 scheme heavily emphasizes the defensive line to act as quasi-blockers to free up fellow defenders in order to make plays. However, statistical production is also required for a defense to be effective. Disruptive and explosive plays across the line-of-scrimmage have to collectively increase. The organic front three (Defensive tackle, nose tackle, and defensive end) have a thankless yet highly demanding task. It also must be noted that recruiting for the three aforementioned positions is challenging and competitive.

Identifying three starters from 2016 was difficult due to rotation, availability, and situation. For simplicity purposes, this study includes the following three players: DT Adrian Middleton, NT Naquez Pringle, and DE Courtney Miggins. 

-Total Tackles: 102—10.4% of team’s 979 tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 11.5—16.6% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: 1.5–7.1% of team’s 21 sacks

Pic of Mike Edwards via twitter (@M_Edwards7)

SECONDARY

The secondary is the last line of defense, pun intended. Kentucky is expected to have an upper-level group which is led by an All SEC safety and two, third year starters at cornerback. Safety Mike Edwards is the SEC’s second leading returning tackler after totaling 100 a year ago. UK’s cornerbacks play the same position but are placed in specific locations of the field based on formation strength and ball placement. Derrick Baity is the designated field corner (side with most open ground) while Chris Westry operates in the boundary or short side. Safety Darius West is coming off an injury but is expected to start alongside Edwards.

Adding difficulty in this report is that Mark Stoops frequently executes a “Nickel” package which designates five defensive backs on the field. So, for this study we’ll examine the 2016 secondary which consisted of safeties Mike Edwards and Marcus McWilson, Nickel Blake McClain, and cornerbacks Derrick Baity along with Chris Westry. 

-Total Tackles: 316—32.2% of team’s 979 tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 12.5—18.1% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: .5—2.3% of team’s 21 sacks.

What does all this mean?

979 total team tackles include special teams which skews the numbers. Furthermore, these figures were based solely on 2016 starters and did not include reserves or replacements due to injury. Thus, sums don’t add up for 100% of stat categories.

Kentucky is extraordinarily reliant on its linebackers and safeties. Additional tackle, sack, and TFL totals from the defensive line is paramount for Matt House to experience success in his first year as the Wildcat’s defensive coordinator. For the most part, all three groups should show improvement and increased development. Two of the three (LB and secondary) have a chance to be elite. All eyes will be on the Wildcat’s defensive line come September 2.


Derek Willis agrees to a one-year deal with the Detroit Pistons

Ready for some great news? According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Derek Willis has agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Pistons.

Derek played for the Pistons in the Orlando Summer League, averaging 3.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over four games. In his senior season at Kentucky, he averaged 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. With a deal in hand, he’ll head to training camp in September.

Congrats, Derek!

 


The metal siding around Rupp Arena is finally going away

The metal siding around Rupp Arena is finally going away

Hate that ugly metal siding around Rupp Arena? Good news: it’s going away.

Today, plans were unveiled to renovate and expand the Lexington Convention Center, which includes some big changes to Rupp Arena. A new glass or transparent entrance to Rupp will be built, which will free it from the metal siding. From the Herald-Leader:

The 2014 designs included expanding the second tier of Rupp Arena and installing a new glass outer wall. Under the plans unveiled Thursday, the top of Rupp Arena would still be visible. The current metal siding would be removed and it would get a new exterior covering. The glass or transparent covering would only go up a little more than half way. The plan would still “free Rupp Arena” so people can see it from Main Street. Currently, Rupp is only visible from High Street.

In addition, the Lexington Center hopes to replace the benches in the upper bowl of Rupp with chair backs, which will require the removal of some seats at the very top. As was announced back in December, Rupp will get four new hospitality suites, one exclusively for UK’s use. The estimated cost of the entire project is $265 million and construction is set to begin in January, with an estimated completion date of December 2020. As has been discussed ad nauseam, the Lexington Center Corporation will sell naming rights to the convention center, but NOT to Rupp.

Rupp already looks like a new arena on the inside thanks to the new ribbon boards and center-hung scoreboard. Now, it sounds like the outside is finally catching up to the times. Hallelujah.

For more details, head on over to the Herald-Leader.

UPDATE: Here are renderings of the new Rupp Arena entrance.

Photo via EOP

Photo via EOP

And “The Gorge”:

Photo via EOP


247

Where UK Stands with the Best College Basketball Recruits in the 2018 Class

247

Each year the live recruiting period provides more clarity as to where Kentucky stands with players in its upcoming recruiting class. After spending a weekend watching and talking to recruits on the Nike and Adidas circuit, I have some bad news, some good news and a few other nuggets of information. First, the bad news.

It’s Not Looking Good

Marvin Bagley
Power Forward | 6-11 | 200 lbs.
Phoenix, AZ | Sierra Canyon
AAU: Phoenix Phamily
★★★★★
ESPN No. 1 | 1 PF Top247 No. 1 | 1 PF
Rivals No. 1 | 1 PF Scout No. 1 | 1 PF

Before the Peach Jam, two Rivals recruiting analysts predicted the nation’s top-ranked player would eventually become a Kentucky Wildcat. After his second game at the Peach Jam, Bagley said he’ll “eventually get to Kentucky,” but he did not mean that in a good way.

The 6’11” athlete that does it all will visit Duke this week. Now the most likely East Coast destination for the West Coast kid, the word on the street is that Bagley could reclassify to play college basketball this year. He should do it. He’s wasting his time playing high school basketball. I just hope it’s USC, not Duke.

If Bagley doesn’t reclassify to 2017, Kentucky will still be in the mix, but I would not get my hopes up.

Romeo Langford 
Shooting Guard| 6-5 | 190 lbs.
New Albany, IN | New Albany High School
AAU: 22 Vision
★★★★★
ESPN No. 3 | 1 SG Top247 No. 3 | 1 SG
Rivals No. 3 | — SG Scout No. 3 | 1 SG

Langford’s recruitment has been the most entertaining since Patrick Patterson/Jai Lucas. Living in the middle of UK/IU/UofL country, the country’s top-ranked wing from New Albany, Indiana has created a buzz the area hasn’t seen in years. Now everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that knows sumthin’ bout (h/t Trick Daddy).

Amidst all of the buzz there were two schools that stood out early in the process: Duke and Kentucky, with the Blue Devils receiving a slight edge. Now, neither school is a serious contender, especially Duke. After a game at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, Langford said he is no longer communicating with Duke.

The Duke vacancy isn’t an opportunity for Calipari. Even though many believed coaching Team USA in Egypt would be nothing but a positive for Coach Cal, that’s not the case with Langford. Even if he wasn’t limited by back spasms, Langford still wasn’t going to be a star for that team, forced to take a backseat to another UK recruit.

Langford’s recruitment will be a circus for the next nine months. His recent, sudden change could reverse course later in the process, but it’s doubtful to turn toward UK following his Team USA experience. Indiana and Texas were two prominent names to watch, two places where Langford can be the show.

UK is the Team to Beat 

Cameron Reddish
Small Forward | 6-8 | 196 lbs.
Norristown, PA | Westtown
AAU: Team Final
★★★★★
ESPN No. 4 | 1 SF Top247 No. 4 | 2 SF
Rivals No. 5 | 2 SF Scout No. 4 | 1 SF

Reddish is the reason Langford will most likely not play college basketball in Lexington. A 6’8” forward with elite guard skills, Reddish received the starting two-spot for Team USA instead of Langford. Even if he didn’t directly take Langford’s place, the way Calipari played Reddish all but convinced Langford he can’t play with Cam.

This is not necessarily bad news. If Langford isn’t scoring, there’s not much else he can do to contribute. Reddish can do just about anything and everything at any given moment on a basketball court. His three-point shot has improved, but if it’s not falling he can get easy buckets in the post. Defensively, Reddish is a physical presence and an excellent rebounder.

Intitially perceived as a Duke-lean, Reddish told Kyle Tucker the Blue Devils are “absolutely not” his leader. Cal’s Team USA experience will help get Reddish to UK.  For another recruit, that experience helped even more.

Immanuel Quickley
Point Guard (2018) | 6-3 | 175 lbs.
Bel Air, MD | John Carroll School
AAU: Team BBC
★★★★★
ESPN No. 14 | 2 PG Top247 No. 16 | 5 PG
Rivals No. 15 | 4 PG Scout No. 10 | 3 PG

The point guard has not committed to Kentucky, but everybody already considers Quickley a Wildcat. There are still some people in his ear trying to convince him to stay home to play for Maryland, but that’s highly doubtful. Quickley doesn’t just speak positively about his experience with Calipari, he provides glowing reviews and discusses the importance of working with him over the summer.

Even though I’d seen Quickley in action for Team USA, he was even more impressive in Spartanburg, playing off just one day of rest in the last month. An excellent passer with an improved shot, Quickley’s skills will be valuable to Kentucky, but maybe not as valuable as his ability to bring other elite recruits into the fold.   Just like Quade Green in 2017, Quickley’s skill-set and personality will attract some of the best in the nation to UK.

Zion Williamson
Forward | 6-7 | 220 lbs.
Spartanburg, SC | Spartanburg
AAU: SC Supreme
★★★★★
ESPN No. 2 | 2 PF Top247 No. 1 | 1 SF
Rivals No. 2 | 1 SF Scout No. 2 | 2 PF

The previous two players are certainly close to committing to Kentucky.  Zion is not close to making a decision, but Kentucky does appear to be in much better shape, thanks to Quickley.

“Me and Immanuel are good friends,” Williamson said.  “We bonded over the Adidas Path and I just love the way he plays point guard.  That’s the type of point guard I want to play with.”

They don’t make big guys as explosive as Zion is. Truly a marvel to watch, his highlights don’t do it justice. I could write 1,300 words about him (like Jack did here) but it still doesn’t encapsulate his presence on and off the court.

A Spartanburg native, he brought crowds that are abnormal for AAU events. Those crowds will try to convince him to stay home and play for Frank Martin at South Carolina. After the Gamecocks’ Final Four run, it’s possible. He’s also the kind of kid that would stay home.

We will not know Zion’s destination for a long time, but Kentucky is in a better place now than they’ve ever been before.

There’s a Long Way to Go

Bol Bol
Power Forward/Center | 7-3 | 225 lbs.
Santa Ana, CA | Mater Dei
AAU: Cal Supreme
★★★★★
ESPN No. 41 | 13 PF Top247 No. 5 | 2 PF
Rivals No. 7 | 3 PF Scout No. 13 | 3 C

Bol is a beast that can help you quickly forget the Cats are seemingly out of the picture for Marvin Bagley. A 7’3” guy with elite offensive skills (even a jump shot that can extend beyond the three-point line), it’s unbelievable that he didn’t make the cut for Team USA. Bol did not sound too terribly upset that he did not make the team, but Kenny Payne made sure Bol knew immediately after the cut that he should have made the team.

Even though many recruiting analysts are hearing he will stay on the West Coast, Calipari is in a good position. Coach Cal will continue to build that relationship throughout the year until Bol makes a decision next spring.

Quentin Grimes
Point Guard | 6-4 | 175 lbs.
The Woodlands, TX | College Park
AAU: Basketball University
★★★★★
ESPN No. 14 | 2 PG Top247 No. 8 | 1 PG
Rivals No. 12 | 3 PG Scout No. 24 | 6 PG

Considered one of the top point guards in the class, he’s not really a point guard, he’s a shooting guard. The one time I watched Grimes play, he scored 30 and made threes from all over the floor.

A guy that could complement Immanuel Quickley well on the wing, Kentucky likes their position with Grimes, even though the 247 Crystal Ball currently predicts Grimes will end up at Kansas.

Questionable

Darius Garland
Point Guard | 6-2 | 170 lbs.
Brentwood, TN | Brentwood Academy
AAU: St. Louis Eagles
★★★★★
ESPN No. 11 | 1 PG Top247 No. 10 | 2 PG
Rivals No. 12 |   — Scout No. 8 | 2 PG

The Cats held off on extending a scholarship offer to the nation’s top-ranked point guard until this weekend.  Reading between the lines, the move was probably because of the situation with Romeo Langford. Long seen as a Duke-lean, it’ll be interesting to see if Kentucky gets any traction following the offer.

Moses Brown
Center | 7-1 | 210 lbs.
Briarwood, NY | Archbishop Malloy
AAU: New Heights
★★★★★
ESPN No. 6 | 2 C Top247 No. 25 | 2 C
Rivals No. 7 |  — Scout No. 6 | 2 C

Calipari has watched the nation’s top-ranked center (Bol and Bagley are considered forwards) multiple times on the Under Armour circuit, including tonight, however, he has yet to extend a scholarship offer to Brown. The Cats might not lose a ton of talent in the post after next season. Brown will likely be UK’s next option if things do not go well with Bol.

Louis King
Small Forward | 6-6 | 205 lbs.
Columbus, NJ | Hudson Catholic
AAU: Team Final
★★★★★
ESPN No. 16 | 2 SF Top247 No. 14 | 3 SF
Rivals No. 16 |   — Scout No. 12 | 3 SF

One of the wings on Team USA and Cam Reddish’s AAU teammate, King has not been shy about his intentions: he wants a scholarship offer from Kentucky. King believes he did enough in Egypt to earn one, but Cal still has not pulled the trigger.  If he does, it would not take King long to do the same and commit to Kentucky.


Scary Skill Positions; An Early Look at Southern Miss

Scary Skill Positions; An Early Look at Southern Miss

Pic by UHCougars.com

Are you pencil or Sharpie confident in the Cats winning its opener in Hattiesburg? UK is an early thirteen-point favorite and will be seeking redemption. Offseason motivation should look no further than week one. Let’s take a July look at the Golden Eagles.

Overview

Head Coach: Jay Hopson, 7-6 at Southern Miss

2016 Results: 7-6, beat Louisiana 28-21 in New Orleans Bowl


OFFENSE

Pic of Ito Smith by Sun Herald

Southern Miss lost four-year starting quarterback Nick Mullens who passed for 11,994 career yards. Sophomore QB Keon Howard was forced into action following a Mullens concussion against Charlotte a year ago. The rookie struggled as he turned the football over at a high rate (5 fumbles vs. Old Dominion) and lost both starts. Howard is talented and was vastly recruited out of high school after passing for over 10,000-yards. Kwadra Griggs will also compete for the job. Either Howard or Griggs will have elite skill-position talent to ease the post-Mullens transition.

Ito Smith was one of the best running backs the Wildcats faced in 2016, period. He dominated the second half and finished the Golden Eagles’ upset win over the Wildcats with 173-yards. Smith is special as he’s the only active FBS player with over 3000 career rushing and 1000 receiving yards. He’ll be joined by Biletnikoff watch list receiver Allenzae Staggers (63 catches, 1165-yards, 7 TDs) as well as fellow pass catchers Korey Robertson and Isaiah Jones to form one of the most formidable skill groups that Kentucky will face in 2017.

Tackle Ty Pollard and guard Devin Farrior are the offensive line’s only returning starters. It must replace all conference center Cameron Tom which will be as challenging as replacing its starting quarterback.

Returning Statistical Leaders

-Returning Starters: 6

-Rushing: Ito Smith – 265 carries, 1459 yards, 17 TDs

-Passing: Keon Howard – 22/50, 365 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs

Receiving: Allenzae Staggers – 63 receptions, 1165 yards, 7 TDs, 18.5 yards per catch

2016 Offensive Standings

-Scoring: 32.8 ppg (Conf USA-5th)

-Rush: 174.5 ypg (Conf USA-7th)

-Pass: 298.2 ypg (Conf USA-4th)

-Total: 472.8 ypg (Conf USA-4th)


DEFENSE

Pic of Xavier Thigpen by Hattiesburg American

Safety D’Nerius Antoine and DE Dylan Bradley were highly impactful in USM’s win over Kentucky last September. Much like QB Nick Mullens, the pair is now in the NFL. Hopson will deploy a nickel based defense in the opener. Expect safety/nickel Picasso Nelson and linebacker Sherrod Ruff to lead a unit that finished first in Conference USA’s total defense category by allowing just 324-yards per game. DE Xavier Thigpen led the team in QB sacks and will provide pressure off the edge. 

Returning Statistical Leaders

-Tackles: Picasso Nelson – 48

-Interceptions: Picasso Nelson – 2

-Sacks: Xavier Thigpen – 5

2016 Defensive Standings

-Scoring: 29.5 ppg (Conf USA-4th)

-Rush: 149 ypg (Conf USA-4th)

-Pass: 174 ypg (Conf USA-1st)

-Total: 324 ypg (Conf USA-1st)


What does all this mean?

I expect M.M. Roberts Stadium to be filled to its 36,000 seat capacity on September 2; a significant portion will be wearing blue. First year defensive coordinator Matt House can anticipate a heavy dose of RB Ito Smith as USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will likely test the UK defensive line early in the contest. Smith is arguably the nation’s best RB in the screen game which will be utilized to steady its new quarterback. WR Allenzae Staggers vs. Derrick Baity and or Chris Westry will be worth the price of admission. Staggers will be one of the cornerback duo’s top challenges in 2017.

Kentucky will benefit from an experienced and highly talented linebacker corps and secondary to match up against an inexperienced quarterback. The Cats can present an overabundance of pre-snap looks that can quickly transition following the snap of the football which can complicate matters for a new signal caller. Thus, Dawson may keep it simple early with Ito Smith right and Ito Smith left.

Concerns for the Cats when Southern Miss has the football

Easy, prevent big plays. Trust me on this: strip the logo off the helmets and understand that Ito Smith and Allenzae Staggers are two of the better offensive players that UK will face in 2017. A missed tackle against either of these two could lead to an explosive play touchdown. The loss of center Cameron Tom decreases its capability in the physical run game. Tom’s absence plus three new OL starters could allow the UK defensive line to establish early confidence. But, expect Shannon Dawson to frequently test the Kentucky front. UK can’t allow early, physical run-game dominated drives for scores.

Concerns for the Cats against the USM defense

Easy again: UK cannot afford first half turnovers or miss during sure-completion passing game scenarios. Do-it-all defender Picasso Nelson will be Stephen Johnson’s key defensive read. Nelson is active vs. the run, in pass coverage, and frequently used as a blitzer. Kentucky has a significant depth advantage for the 4:00pm kickoff which will assuredly call for extremely hot weather.

Eddie Gran’s ability to challenge the Golden Eagles’ lack of front-seven depth and inexperience with a physical run game could be the difference. It could be wild early on, but Kentucky’s offensive line should win the battle of attrition in the trenches. As the BBN witnessed in 2016, if the Cats jump out to an early lead it must extend success into the second half.

Stay tuned for much more.


Wednesday’s Top 10: Getting over that hump

Wednesday’s Top 10: Getting over that hump

You know what Wednesday is? It’s Hump Day, and during one of the slower weeks of the summer, that is certainly something to celebrate. Shoutout to Beth, an avid UK and KSR fan, for repping the Cats while in the Dominican Republic doing humanitarian work. Great picture, Beth. This Top 10 is for you.

1. Bovada updated the over/under win total for UK Football

The oddsmakers at the popular online sportsbook set Kentucky’s win total at 7 for this season. We’ll do this a lot over the next few months, but I’m picking the Cats to go OVER with wins over Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky, Florida (I’ve already talked myself into this), Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. It’s still July, so I reserve the right to change my picks before the season begins…but, because it’s July, if my picks turn out to be correct, I’m a freaking genius.

2. Thoughts on the UK Football Media Guide cover?

They’re really committed to that handwriting font, aren’t they?

3. Stephen Johnson, Alex Montgomery, and Lamar Thomas went bowling

The kind with bowling pins, of course. Who won is still up for debate:

Hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of this when Thomas and other UK coaches host the show on Friday.

4. Nerlens Noel is still waiting for an offer from Dallas

Noel was traded to the Mavericks near the end of last season and it seemed like a good match, but he’s still waiting on them to extend what his camp is calling a “realistic offer.” With the Mavericks still weighing options on Summer League players, it seems negotiations have stalled, leaving Noel in yet another frustrating situation with a front office.

Make it happen, Mark Cuban.

5. Recruiting link of the day: “Why UK will lose out on Romeo Langford”

The Courier-Journal’s Fletcher Page penned an article yesterday outlining all the reasons why five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford will go somewhere other than Kentucky. Basically, he argues that Calipari got in the race for Langford too late and is focusing on a variety of five-star recruits right now, whereas schools like Louisville and Indiana are honing in solely on the New Albany native. For more of this reasoning, check out the link below.

[Courier-Journal]

6. NBA rumor of the day: Boston wants Anthony Davis

Who doesn’t, right? On Monday, a report came out that the Boston Celtics will make a “strong run” for Davis if the Boogie/Brow situation in New Orleans doesn’t work out this season. Should they be able to pry him away from the Pelicans (he’s under contract until 2020-21), that would make them the latest superteam in the league. Make of that what you will.

7. This pool at LSU is awesome

@LSU

I’m jealous of just about anyone with a pool these days, but this brand new one at LSU might take the cake. Check out the Tigers’ new outdoor leisure pool, which is only 3.5 feet deep and includes four bubbler lounges. Kindsey Bernhard, when you get to Baton Rouge, I expect a full review.

8. The results of the Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters poll

The top four vote-getters in the Calipari haters Mount Rushmore are…Bobby Knight, Pat Forde, John Chaney, and John Feinstein. Here are the complete results:

Items Number of Points Number of First
Bobby Knight 26611 1227
Pat Forde 25228 880
John Chaney 14166 509
John Feinstein 12355 401
Rick Pitino 10950 238
Jeff Goodman 10364 99
Pete Thamel 9343 115
Jim Calhoun 9227 133
Dan Shaughnessy 8254 145
Dana O’Neil 1036 3

Shoutout to the following write-in votes:

  • “My stupid cousin”
  • Colin Cowherd
  • John Higgins
  • Shep Smith
  • Matt Jones
  • and “You forgot that Memphis Commercial Appeal sports writer”

9. Is it just me or are the mosquitoes worse than ever this year?

Mosquitoes love me, which is especially unfortunate since every bite I get turns into a welt. Are they as bad in the Bluegrass as they are in Nashville this year? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been swarmed, most likely while watering flowers at night, and other than soaking the bites in scalding hot water and dousing myself in stinky, sticky bug spray, I’ve got nothing. We’ve tried spraying our yard with Cutter Backyard Bug Control, etc., but clearly it’s not working. Is it worth it to have our yard professionally sprayed, or does that only work when your neighbors do the same?

10. Today on KSR: Tim Couch

The Deuce is loose on KSR in approximately one hour. Anyone else wearing their Couch Browns jersey?


Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of John Calipari haters?

Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of John Calipari haters?

The news that John Wall will be in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame stirred up some of John Calipari’s critics online, notably John Feinstein. Feinstein has been a longtime Calipari and Kentucky hater, and upon hearing the news of Wall’s honor, brought up a bet he made with Calipari when Wall went to the NBA back in 2010. Calipari bet Feinstein that Wall would graduate from Kentucky within ten years, which Feinstein just felt the need to mention yesterday on Twitter. When asked by a fan if I considered the tweet trolling, I said that the timing absolutely suggested it. For that, Feinstein blocked me, confirming his status as one of the biggest Cal haters ever.

The interaction got me thinking: if we were to make a Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters, who would be on it? It’s summer and we’ve got nothing better to talk about, so let’s break down ten contenders, starting with Feinstein.

The Contenders

John Feinstein

Feinstein doesn’t just hate Cal, he hates Kentucky. The Duke graduate has criticized the Cats for years, going back to his days covering the 1978 Duke team that lost to UK in the NCAA Championship. He’s called Adolph Rupp a racist, accused the program of cheating numerous times, and blasted UK fans for their reaction when Rick Pitino took the job at Louisville. When Calipari came to Kentucky, it was the perfect storm for Feinstein, who has seized every opportunity to criticize both ever since.


Bobby Knight

How does Knight loathe Calipari? Let me count the ways:

  • In December 2009, Knight blasted Calipari during a speech at the Indiana Hall of Fame, blaming Calipari for the lack of integrity in college basketball: “You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”
  • In April 2011, he accused all five starters on UK’s 2009-10 of not attending spring classes. (He was later forced to apologize by ESPN)
  • In March 2015, he refused to go on “Pardon the Interruption” to discuss the probability of Kentucky going 40-0.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but yes, Knight really, really hates Cal.


Pat Forde

If the fact that Forde bought an entire bar a round of drinks when UK lost to West Virginia in 2010 wasn’t indication enough that hates Cal, his article about how Cal made his bed and needed to lie in it after the 2014 loss at South Carolina should be. Thankfully, that season turned out to be a pretty good story, so I’m sure Cal slept just fine.


Dan Shaughnessy

The Boston Globe columnist has hated on Calipari for years, calling him everything from a “snake oil salesman” to a “glorified AAU bag man” and analogizing him to Bill Cosby. When UMass announced they were retiring Calipari’s jersey in 2015, Shaughnessy blasted the school, calling for them to “vacate” the decision and referring to Cal as “college basketball’s all-time bag man.”


Jeff Goodman

Goodman’s disdain for Calipari and Kentucky is no secret. In 2012, Goodman even accused Cal of trying to get him fired from one of his reporting jobs. Since then, Goodman’s jabs have been more subtle, but there’s no denying true hate runs underneath.


Rick Pitino

Pitino actually helped Calipari get the UMass job, but the relationship turned frosty once Cal took the job at UK and started beating Rick every year. Both deny it publicly, but it’s clear the rivalry between the two is just as heated as the rivalry between the two teams.


John Chaney

A lot of people may hate Calipari, but only one has actually tried to kill him (that we know of).


Dana O’Neil

Once part of the ESPN triumvirate of Calipari hate, O’Neil has backed off in recent years; however, when Cal came to Kentucky, there’s no denying she was one of those who leapt at the chance to talk about the negatives but disappeared when there were positives. Along with…


Pete Thamel

Who can forget Thamel’s quests to take down Eric Bledsoe, Enes Kanter, and Nerlens Noel? Definitely not DeMarcus Cousins, who confronted Thamel about his Bledsoe hit piece at a Derby party several years back. Thamel’s thirst for Calipari dirt was unparalleled from 2009-2012, to the point that his colleagues in the media called him out for going too far.


Jim Calhoun

I’m not sure what offends Calhoun more about Calipari: that he keeps winning or that he can’t pronounce “clam chowda” like a true New Englander.

 

Who do you think belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters? I weighed in with my four picks in the graphic at the top of the post, but I’m giving you the final word. Vote for four below and I’ll share the final results tomorrow morning:


Tuesday’s Top 10: Blue got into the Grand Canyon

Good morning, friends, and shoutout to this Kentucky fan for repping the Cats at the Grand Canyon. The only way that picture could get more American is if it also included John Short and a bald eagle. This Top 10’s for you, sir.

1. UK Football landed a big transfer last night

@Goaldyn

USC offensive lineman EJ Price visited Kentucky this weekend and liked it so much he decided he wanted to stay. Yesterday evening, the 6-6, 325 lbs. Price committed to Kentucky. He was the 9th best offensive tackle in the 2016 class per 247 Sports and initially chose USC over the likes of Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, and, Notre Dame. After three games at Southern Cal, he decided to transfer to be closer to home. Now, he’ll play his college ball for Mark Stoops and company after sitting out for a season. He’s ready:

For more on Price, check out Nick’s post from last night.

2. John Wall and Randall Cobb are going to the Hall of Fame

Yesterday, DeWayne Peevy broke the news on KSR that John Wall and Randall Cobb are part of the 2017 UK Athletics Hall of Fame class, which also includes Collin Cowgill (baseball), Ralph Hacker (broadcaster), Sherry Hoover Bordner (cross country/indoor track/outdoor track), and Sarah Rumely (volleyball).

The group will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 22-23, in conjunction with the football home game vs. Florida. A big weekend just got bigger.

3. This year’s Alumni Game could be the best yet

Peevy also teased that he’s working on getting the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets to play an All-UK dream team in this year’s Alumni Charity Game, which takes place on August 25 at Rupp Arena. If that happens (a big IF), it would be incredible. Ticket info for the game will be released later this week.

4. The team is finally all together in Lexington

During his interview with Peevy, Calipari said the team would probably go through its first practice either last night or today. In typical Cal form, he went on and on about how this will be his greatest challenge as a coach yet.

“I had a meeting, I just told them this will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which means it will be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. The most inexperienced team I’ve ever coached, which means maybe the most inexperienced team ever to try to do something unique and special. And if you think it’s going to be easy, there’s a magic wand, you’re in the wrong room. It’s going to be hard, everybody’s going to have to be about each other even though they’re responsible for themselves. You’ve got to be about each other or this thing doesn’t get done. Great meeting, I’m going to have a workout with them tonight or tomorrow.”

We’ll bring you scuttlebutt when it comes out.

5. If you haven’t yet, go back and listen to yesterday’s podcast

If you couldn’t tell by all the content it produced, Peevy’s turn in the hosting chair was a hit. Go back and check it out to hear his interviews with Calipari, Randall Cobb, and several more behind-the-scenes stories, including Cal’s reaction to his first ever practice at Kentucky. Spoiler: he was overwhelmed, to say the least.

6. Speaking of podcasts…

We’ve got two new ones for you this morning: Kentucky Thrones Radio with Nick and TJ Walker, and the Depth Chart Podcast with Freddie Maggard. I’m counting on KTR to get me through a humid, hot run today, so let’s hope Nick and TJ don’t spend too much time talking about that disgusting Samwell poop-shoveling montage.

7. This LSU defensive lineman totally looks like a fat Harrison Twin

Photo by Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country

Shoutout to Kyle Tucker, who first pointed out that LSU defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence totally resembles a fat Aaron Harrison. Or Andrew. Either way, can someone check on one of the two to make sure they didn’t gain 100 lbs. overnight?

8. This Texas Tech defensive back had fun with the media at Big 12 Media Days

@YahooDrSaturday

Media Days can be an exhausting process for players, coaches, and reporters, but Texas Tech defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson had some fun with it by making Media Day Bingo in anticipation of the questions he’d receive. As someone who has asked a lot of predictable questions at these things, I think he nailed it.

9. This golden retriever is a good dog

Today in “Good Dogs,” a golden retriever noticed a fawn drowning in the Long Island Sound, so he jumped in and saved it:

Thankfully, both Storm and the fawn are okay. Storm deserves all the treats today.

10. Who will host today’s KSR?

UK Baseball coach Nick Mingione was scheduled to host this morning’s show but had to cancel due to a family emergency. Who will fill in for him? I’d tell you, but what’s the fun in that? Tune in an hour from now to find out.


Alumni Game may feature All-Kentucky NBA team vs. Warriors or Rockets

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang

It’s been the debate of the Calipari Era: could a team of former Kentucky players take down an NBA super team like the Golden State Warriors? If the folks at UK have their way, we might find out next month.

This morning on KSR, Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy said he wants this year’s Alumni Game to feature an all-star UK team and an NBA super team, ala the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets.

“Everybody talks about this All-Kentucky basketball team,” Peevy said. “I’d like to invite one of these so-called NBA super teams to play against us. Whether it’s the Warriors, the Rockets, all these people who are putting these teams together, come play us, an All-Kentucky team, at Rupp Arena on August 25 for charity. Let’s do it.”

In fact, Peevy said he’s already reached out to some of the NBA’s biggest stars to see if they’re interested.

“I’ve got a few feelers out. I’m talking to James Harden (Rockets) and Kevin Durant (Warriors). Bring your team — I don’t care if they combine themselves, they’re not taking down Big Blue Nation.”

Later in the show, Calipari called in and said that while he’s skeptical that Peevy could pull the idea off, he loves it.

“I already put in a call to [Kevin] Durant and [James] Harden,” Peevy told Cal. “I may need you to call Lebron [James]. They might have to all come together to beat us.”

The Alumni Game will take place Friday, August 25 at Rupp Arena. Tickets should go on sale later this week. In the meantime, have fun debating whether a team featuring John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, and Devin Booker (or any combination of your liking) could take down the Warriors, Rockets, or Cavs. I say yes.


USC Offensive Tackle will Transfer to Kentucky

@Goaldyn

The Kentucky Wildcats have picked up a four-star recruit from an unexpected place.  E.J. Price will transfer from USC to Kentucky as first reported by Josh Edwards of 247 Sports and later confirmed by Price via Twitter.

The 6’6″ 325-pounder was the ninth-best offensive tackle in the nation when he chose USC over Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and a slew of other schools in 2016.  After playing three games as a true freshman, the Georgia native chose to change locales to play a little closer to home.  Price should have three years of eligibility at UK, beginning in 2018.

Anytime you can land a Top 100 recruit, it’s great for your program.  This time it’s just coming from an atypical source.


Monday’s Top 10: It’s A Total UK Takeover

Monday’s Top 10: It’s A Total UK Takeover

Good morning, friends, and what a way to start the week. At midnight, UK’s takeover of the SEC Network began, meaning if you want to spend your day doing nothing but watching UK sports, it’s totally possible. In fact, I bet your boss would totally understand. With that in mind, let’s hop right in to the top 10.

1. Stop what you’re doing and program that DVR

It’s all UK all day on the SEC Network, so if you’ve been looking to catch up on some of the biggest games of the year, program the DVR to record the following:

  • 8:30-10 a.m. – Gymnastics vs. Alabama, Feb. 10, 2017
  • 10-10:30 a.m. – Big Blue Review
  • 10:30-11 a.m. – The Kentucky Experience: Wildcat Roundtable
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Women’s basketball vs. Mississippi State, Feb. 23, 2017
  • 12:30-2:30 p.m. – Softball vs. Florida, April 15, 2017
  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. – Softball vs. Texas A&M, April 29, 2017
  • 4:30-5 p.m. – Big Blue Review
  • 5-5:30 p.m. – The Kentucky Experience: Wildcat Roundtable
  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. – Baseball vs. North Carolina State, June 5, 2017
  • 7:30-8 p.m. – Never Been Done Before: Kentucky Baseball 2017
  • 8-10 p.m. – Football at Louisville, Nov. 26, 2016
  • 10 p.m.-midnight – One and Not Done

2. Just in case you can’t wait until 8 p.m. for football highlights

Don’t feel bad for needing a fix. I pretty much watch this every morning.

3. It’s UK Takeover Week on KSR as well

Normally, I reserve show news and guest host announcements for the end of the wakeup post, but today’s show is so big it’s up at #3. Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy will host today’s show alongside Ryan Lemond, and I’m sure he’s going to bring on some special guests that the rest of us could only dream of having in our Rolodex (contact list for you young folk). DeWayne’s hosting gig is just an appetizer for UK’s takeover of KSR this week. Here’s the entire schedule:

July 17: DeWayne Peevy
July 18: Nick Mingione
July 19: Tim Couch
July 20: Matthew Mitchell
July 21: UK Football coaches

4. Matt was spotted at the Tour De France

Had fun at the Tour De France today. Great afternoon

A post shared by Matt Jones (@kysportsradio) on

Where in the world is Matt Jones? Yesterday, he did a short Periscope from the Tour de France with an adorable old French man who didn’t speak any English. Today, I believe our fearless leader is headed towards Switzerland. Between all of my coworker’s vacations, I’ve got five straight dayshifts staring at me this week, so he better bring me a Toblerone.

5. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo was spotted eating popcorn off the floor

Does the five second rule apply here? With most foods, I might say yes, but he’s got more kernels in that box and who the heck knows what’s happened in that hallway, so let it be, Tom. Let it be.

6. Immanuel Quickley will visit UK on September 16

Kentucky remains in the driver’s seat for the five-star point guard, who set the dates for official visits last night. Per Evan Daniels, Quickley will visit Kentucky the weekend of September 16, the last of his four official visits. This keeps him on track to announce his decision before the start of his senior season in late September. Speaking of…

7. Did you hear he’s a potential package deal with Zion Williamson?

The biggest news out of the adidas Gauntlet Finale was the possibility of Quickley teaming up with Zion Williamson at the next level. That’s excellent news for Kentucky because the Cats are currently the favorite for both. For more on Williamson, check out Jack Pilgrim’s in-depth profile from yesterday.

8. Jerry Bird passed away yesterday

UK lost two greats this weekend. On Saturday, UK Football legend Babe Parilli passed away at the age of 87, and yesterday, former UK Basketball player Jerry Bird passed away at the age of 83. Bird played at UK from 1954-56, helping the Cats to two SEC titles and the 1954 Helms Athletic Foundation title. He was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 as a part of the hall of fame’s charter class and his No. 22 jersey is retired in the Rupp Arena rafters.

After his basketball career in the NBA was over, Bird returned to his hometown of Corbin and worked for American Greeting Card until retirement. A memorial service in his honor is planned for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Central Baptist Church in Corbin. It is open to the public.

9. What did we think of the season premiere of “Game of Thrones”?

No spoilers, but I was very pleased with the exception of one horrible cameo. I thought GofT was above such things. Nick Roush and TJ Walker are currently taping a new episode of “Kentucky Thrones Radio,” so look for that on the KSR podcast feed later today.

10. DeWayne Peevy and friends one hour from now

Call in and congratulate him on his son’s 9U team winning the State Championship yesterday:

Ice cream on Uncle Matt, kiddos.