By Drew Franklin on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 9:00am
Can you believe it has already been 10 years?
Last week marked my 10-year anniversary with Kentucky Sports Radio — yes, I am an old man now. It was in August of 2009, a couple months shy of the John Wall Dance and the resurgence of the Kentucky basketball program, when Matt Jones called me up and asked me to move my talents from The Horace Grant Halftime Report to KSR. I had a hard time leaving behind my own project because it was on the come up, but looking back it was the best decision I ever made.
Drew joining KSR was probably the most important moment in our history outside of the creation of the site.
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 19, 2019
Since joining Matt and the KSR website a decade ago, I have stirred up legal troubles with a porn star; broken a story about Matt Roark starting at quarterback against Tennessee, which nobody believed; flown across the country to Taco Bell headquarters to be the first to try the Doritos Locos Taco; made a split-second cameo in Kentucky’s “One Shining Moment” in 2012; done unspeakable things with UK basketball players in the Bahamas before the 2014-15 season; made fun of Louisville, a lot; made fun of Starkville, a lot; hit a buzzer-beater to knock Kentucky out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament; unintentionally started a feud with Gregg Marshall and his wife, which got so big, the story went international; made fun of Louisville some more; traveled approximately a gazillion miles with Matt, by car, and one time he let me play a song I like; plus much, much, much, much more fun while covering the Kentucky Wildcats for this here website. I could thank a million people, including you for reading this, but we will save that for another time. I don’t want to start crying on a Wednesday. Just know I am greatly appreciative for this sweet job I have that allows me to blab about whatever pops into my head, without any restrictions (or an editor to correct all of the typos). It has been a fun and exhausting decade and I’m ready for all of the exciting things ahead!
Now that we got that out of the way, here is what you need to know this morning:
Mark Stoops crossed the border into Tennessee and stole a four-star defensive lineman from the Volunteers.
Tennessee fans are up in arms over little ol’ Kentucky stealing one of the Volunteer state’s top football prospects from their own dirt.
Tre’vonn Rybka, a four-star defensive end out of the suburbs of Nashville, picked the Cats over the Vols on Tuesday. He did so by dropping a UT t-shirt to reveal a UK t-shirt in his commitment video.
Suck it, Tennessee.
For those of you keeping score at home, Rybka was UK’s second four-star commitment in two days.
Stoops & Co. added two elite talents to the Class of 2020 in a span of less than 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday. Rybka joined Deondre Buford, a four-star offensive lineman out of Michigan, who picked Kentucky over several schools, including LSU, Auburn, Penn State and Michigan State.
The UK program used to rarely get top-ranked players from other states; now it is getting two at a time.
Kentucky missed out on the No. 1 point guard yesterday. (Or maybe not.)
Daishen Nix, the top point guard in the Class of 2020 basketball rankings, announced he will attend UCLA for his basketball career. Nix named Kentucky a finalist in his recruitment Monday evening, only to turn around and pick the Bruins on Tuesday. The Alaska native, who now plays his high school ball in Las Vegas, likes Mick Cronin and the new staff in Westwood, he said after the commitment. Alabama, Kansas and Maryland were also in contention.
There is one pretty big detail to the story that shouldn’t be overlooked: Kentucky did not extend a scholarship offer to Nix. Nix named Kentucky throughout the process, even in the final hours before his commitment, but was never actually presented with the opportunity to attend UK. The belief is that Kentucky would’ve been the front runner had it shown a little more interest, but John Calipari and his staff will proceed with other options for its next backcourt, including the two that are already on board.
Our “Sources Say” podcast debuted yesterday.
KSR’s new basketball recruiting podcast with Jack Pilgrim and co-hosts Travis Graf and Jake Weingarten. To get caught up on all the latest UK basketball recruiting news, give it a listen here.
President Trump will be in Louisville today.
If you are into that sort of thing, you can try to catch a glimpse of him at The Galt House before or after he speaks to AMVETS at its national convention; however, be ready for a traffic nightmare in downtown Louisville, whether you’re downtown for Trump or not.
Trump’s Wednesday speaking engagement is not a rally that is open to the public, but rather an official White House event that is invite-only. Attendees can get a photo with Trump for only $21,000.
From there, Trump will head to a private fundraiser for Governor Bevin to assist Bevin in his pursuit of a second term.
The KSR Food Bracket is back!
Gather around your radios or your KSR streaming devices at 10 a.m. today because it is time to once again reveal our chain restaurant champion of the summer. This year’s bracket is out and ready to be dissected on the show today with a full house of KSR radio personalities, plus special guests Lee Cruse and Hayley Harmon. You can print out your copy now so you’re ready, but don’t waste your breath complaining about the seeding because we don’t have time for it.
By Nick Roush on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
The low-down, dirty Volunteers will watch one of their best players move across the northern border to play for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Tre’vonn Rybka is the 16th player in the Cats’ 2020 recruiting class and one of the most talented. A four-star prospect, Rivals ranks the Dickson, Tn. native as the No. 18 strong-side defensive end in America.
Recruited by defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc, Rybka’s announcement is just a day after Michigan’s Deondre Buford joined the Big Blue Nation. The two additions have put UK back into the top 25 of the national recruiting team rankings.
Rybka packs plenty of power behind his 6-4, 280-pound frame, yet he’s also versatile enough to play in a few different alignments in UK’s 3-4 defense. See some of his best work from 2018:
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
The countdown to Kentucky’s first game against Toledo will hit 10 days tomorrow and if you’re like all of us here at KSR, those ten days will feel like an eternity.
So over the next ten days, I will help you all pass the time by reliving the best 10 games from the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky.
Now, just so we’re clear, ‘best’ is kind of a loose term in this sense. If we were going off the quality of the game itself we would see games like the EKU overtime victory make the list (oof). That obviously will not be the case.
Some of the factors that will play into the ranking of the 10 games will be the importance of these games, the events following each game the quality of the game, and which games were the biggest in progressing Kentucky’s football program into what it is today.
Starting tomorrow, be on the lookout for the tenth-best game of the Mark Stoops era.
Does anybody have any guesses on what number 10 will be?
Last night, 2020 five-star point guard Daishen Nix cut his list to five schools, with UCLA, Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland, and Kansas all being included.
Today, after telling reporters that he was planning on taking visits to all five schools on his list, including one already scheduled for late September to Alabama, Nix shocked the world by announcing his commitment to UCLA this afternoon.
“Most of my family is round the west coast, so if I leave to go to UCLA it’s not that hard for them to fly over and drive over to see me,” Nix explained to Evan Daniels of 247Sports. “I loved the weather out there, the visit I had over the weekend was just unbelievable. It just really caught my eye.”
Nix also said he felt UCLA prioritized him the most among all the schools on his list.
“[Mick Cronin] prioritized me from the start,” he added. “As soon as he got there, and it was only him recruiting me, none of the assistant coaches.”
Now, Kentucky will turn its attention to Josh Christopher and Jalen Green to join BJ Boston in the backcourt.
We will have more on the decision on the Sources Say Podcast, set to debut this afternoon. I will also have another post on the site breaking down what this means for Kentucky in a bit.
Back on January 26th, Tennessee defensive tackle Tre’vonn Rybka received his first Power Five scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky. Following the Wildcats in the next three-plus months with offers were Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Arizona, West Virginia, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, LSU, Arkansas, Boston College, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Nebraska. It’s unclear whether each of them were committable offers, but it’s evident that Mark Stoops and his staff were early to the party.
Derrick LeBlanc was the point man on this recruitment and records his second crootin’ win of the 2020 cycle after reeling in offensive lineman Joshua Jones earlier this summer. In the end, the interior defensive lineman picked the Wildcats over Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Oregon as Kentucky dipped into the Volunteer State for a very intriguing prospect. Tre’vonn Rybka is the sixth highest rate recruit currently in this class, per the 247 Sports composite, and adds to an impressive defensive line haul.
Now it’s time to go into the KSR Film Room to show you what the Dickson County senior will be bringing to Lexington in 2020. It’s taken awhile, but under Derrick LeBlanc this defensive line group is climbing the ladder in the SEC.
In Kentucky’s 3-4 defense this season you are essentially going to see a nose man and two guys lined up on the offensive tackles. In a 3-4 Eagle Front, you essentially have two guys lined up on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackles. In football lingo, this is called a 4i technique while the nose on the center is a zero technique. The 4i fits exactly what Tre’Vonn Rybka does best.
In high school, the 6-foot-4 defensive end is an anchor on the line of scrimmage. In the 3-4 scheme, you are playing a lot of isolation football with the offensive tackles and you need to have some power game. Rybka has a loaded lower body with what appears to be a strong upper core. That allows him create a push at the point of attack and make a play. Here that power results in a quarterback sack.
Yes, you need to have big and physical defensive line players at the line of scrimmage that can hold up and battle with big and strong offensive centers, guards, and tackles. That’s the most important part of the game, but you also must be able to move and make plays away from your starting point. On film, Tre’Vonn Rybka does that.
Above you see the jumbo defensive end start on the opposite of the play and in pursuit he factors into the tackle yards past the line of scrimmage. Athleticism and motor is a big part of the position and Rybka shows he has both of those traits.
The name of the game is establishing the run and stopping the run. A big reason for UK’s 10-win season in 2018 was their ability to do that on both sides of the football. We’ve seen Tre’vonn Rybka factor in on pass rush and pursuit, but the best part of his game might just be his run stuffing ability.
On this zone read action, Rybka does a great job with read and react defense. The defensive end delivers a strong punch and knocks the left tackle backwards. He quickly diagnoses the handoff and makes a sure tackle for a minimal gain. His presence here was much needed because the center and left guard got some great movement on the defensive tackle.
At the college level, the defensive end is going to have to make plays exactly like this to be a force in the run game. You must win at the point of attack, read and react, and then make a play on the football.
The Nashville metropolitan area native is another big recruiting win for the UK staff. After years of a slow build which included a ton of junior college plug-and-play players, Kentucky finally seems to be in a good spot attracting talented high school defensive line prospects.
In the 2020 class, Tre’vonn Rybka joins two other prospects (Samuel Anaele and Justin Rogers) who are both blue-chip recruits. All of a sudden, this position group is starting to become a team strength and Kentucky will be hopeful that Rybka will have the same impact as the last time they dipped into Tennessee to grab a nose guard (Quinton Bohanna) in 2017.
On the field, the borderline composite four-star prospect brings size, power, and athleticism. With a powerful lower body and room to add strength on top, he’s a schematic fit for UK’s 3-4 defensive end. It’s another solid 2020 recruiting win and quietly Derrick LeBlanc is becoming one of UK’s most valuable assistants.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 1:15pm
Yesterday, Ralph Hacker ruffled some feathers on the Terry Meiners Show when he said he believes John Calipari is “shortchanging” Kentucky fans with his one-and-done approach. This morning, the former Voice of the Wildcats called into Kentucky Sports Radio to clarify those comments.
The subject originally came up when Meiners mentioned Kyle Macy’s recent comments about Calipari being too focused on the NBA. Hacker took up for his former broadcast partner, telling Meiners he doesn’t feel the program has the fans in mind anymore, comparing it to radio hosts booking a superstar slate of guests for ratings week and only average guests the rest of the time.
“Perhaps it was a bad analogy,” Hacker said on KSR this morning. “What I was saying was to this point: when you recruit one-and-dones — and maybe that’s the way it’s all gone now, is that you have to recruit those, and again, John knows more about this than I do — is that if you recruit just for just for this one season rather than look for three years, two years, four years down the road, where you’re trying to stack up national championships for the benefit of the university and the benefit of your fans, it’s like you working just for one ratings week and saying, ‘I’m going to put everything I’ve got here just for this week. Everything I’ve got is going into this week and the rest of the time I’m going to coast and see what happens.'”
When Matt asked if he was implying that Calipari is coasting, Hacker once again said he probably misspoke and is just used to the way things used to be.
“Just because he does that doesn’t make it wrong. He’s probably right. I’m just saying from Joe Blow fan who’s used to, over the years — see, I’m a lot older than you. I’m a lot older than Cal. I’m used to being able to go to University of Kentucky games and see great teams come in there and you see Kentucky play them and beat them most of the time, used to being able to know the players and take pride in those particular players — and I do take pride for the year that they’re there. I just forgot who they are after they’re not there.”
In fact, Hacker said most of his frustrations stem from the non-conference home schedule, which has gotten weaker as the program adds more neutral site games.
“Everybody has their own way of doing it. The way that John does it is fine. That’s the way John wants to do it. That’s the way the university wants to do it and John’s made a commitment to do that. What I was attempting to say was, I believe as far as a fan goes — I’m thinking as a Ralph B. Hacker as a fan, a guy who writes the checks every year and buys the basketball tickets that I’ve had since the day Rupp Arena opened — is that I feel that I’m getting shortchanged. I’m thinking as a fan that I want to see more quality teams come in there. I don’t want to — while I love Eastern Kentucky University, while I love Transylvania — I don’t want that to be the highlight of my November and December schedule.”
Hacker said he’d prefer some of the neutral site games that take place in New York or Las Vegas move closer to Lexington so fans can be within driving distance.
“My point is that we play a tough schedule. There’s no question about that. My argument is, we play that schedule is with most of the games being away from home where it costs Joe Blow fan another $2,000 to go to New York City and play. Or to go to Las Vegas and play. Or to go to Chicago and play. Some of those games, if they could be worked out, need to be played where Kentucky fans can get to those games and enjoy that as part of their regular season schedule.”
Listen to Hacker’s interview below. He comes on halfway through Hour 1:
By Nick Roush on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 12:24pm
Mark Stoops opened the doors of the Joe Craft Football Training Facility to the media for practice No. 15. Enjoy observations from sideline on each position group after watching the Cats in action for an hour.
- The first group in 7-on-7: Cedrick Dort, Jordan Griffin, Yusuf Corker and Jamari Brown.
- Stoops asks Mosley why he is covering grass. The head coach is giving lot of individual attention to the DBs.
- Jamari Brown plays physical in bump coverage vs. Wagner.
- Mosely has some work to do in man coverage. The JUCO transfer is too slow to react when receivers break.
- Brown makes another physical play as the ball arrives. This guy has the potential to bring what Baity and Lonnie brought to the secondary.
- Echols is the only guy who’s come close to covering Bowden.
- Corker breaks up stuff across the middle in zone from safety. He was much more efficient as a safety than a nickel.
- Paschal blowing up running plays while defending the slot. Covering nicely too, giving Rigg nothing on the wheel route.
- Wright getting in work at Sam linebacker. Stoops said he’ll work both spots, likely the No. 2 option at each.
- Weaver and Casey are rolling with the twos; Casey is doing a good job keeping his outside shoulder free and forcing everything inside.
- Peters is way too good to be with the threes, especially in pursuit from the backside, but that’s what they have to do until they receive word from the NCAA.
- Q moves so damn well for his size. He’s an enormous nose guard that’s as agile as an end.
- Calvin Taylor has gotten quicker out of his stance.
- Bohanna is taking up two and sometimes three guys each snap. That’s how you blow up the middle of an offense.
- T.J. Carter practiced sparingly, slightly banged up after a grueling camp.
- Schlarman: “The cameras are on you. Your ass better not look like crap.”
- I really like the counter action they use with the tight end/H-back. It happens fast and gives the RB an extra two yards to get a head full of steam to get to and through the second level of the defense.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
- Bowden makes Griffin look stupid in one-on-ones.
- Wagner is exponentially quicker out of breaks, getting better separation.
- Nobody can guard Lynn Bowden at all.
- Ali gets a 1-on-1 with Dort and makes him pay. Terry delivered the deep ball to him in stride on the fade.
- Marrow absolutely lost his mind when Rigg dropped a pass over the middle. He’s heaped plenty of praise on his guys in the preseason. They can’t let him down when the lights turn on Saturdays.
- B.J. Alexander makes a great catch through solid coverage on a deep out from Smith. He probably won’t play this year, but he’s showing a lot of potential to contribute next year, while still making simple mistakes like carrying the ball in his inside arm.
- Gran refuses to curse. “Do you understand it? Gosh almighty, dang!”
- C-Rod shows patience in Wildcat.
- Smoke is rocking a red jersey, but still participating in 11-on-11.
- Sawyer Smith is hitting guys in stride out of their breaks.
- Bowden is throwing in WR drills and 7-on-7s. Most are under thrown, but they’re good looking spirals.
- Bowden’s favorite ball to throw is the deep ball.
- Smith is making the right reads in 11-on-11, dropping a beautiful ball in Clevan Thomas’ bucket on a wheel route. This guy is a solid back-up for TW3.
- Terry is getting to his third and fourth reads pretty seamlessly. He had a great start to the day but had a few throws he’d like to get back in the second half of practice.
The Big Takeaways
1. “Quarterback Lynn Bowden”
Kentucky’s top wide receiver is also QB3. This year the Wildcat quarterback will not just be a running threat. If Bowden shows anything in the passing game, opposing defenses must honor the deep threat every time he takes a snap. He’s thrown a few balls before, but the former high school quarterback failed to deliver right away. He has enough arm power and accuracy. As training camp nears a conclusion, they’re working him into the action more often in practice to improve his timing, and more importantly, keep him from receiving too much contact from the defense.
2. Brandin Echols HAS to play
The JUCO cornerback simply doesn’t let the opposing wide receivers do what they want. Nobody can cover Bowden, except Echols. Wagner is at least six inches taller than Echols, but it did not matter. Echols knocked him off his route and took him out of the play. He will be the closest thing Kentucky has to a “lock down” corner. Coming off a summer hamstring injury, UK’s coaches need to do whatever they can to make sure Echols receives as many snaps as possible.
3. Finding a Nickel will be Difficult
The Cats are really going to miss Mike Edwards. UK’s secondary has a few different candidates who can provide competent run support, but Corker, Ajian and Griffin struggled to cover slots in man coverage. To be fair, they’re usually covering Lynn Bowden. Davonte Robinson’s absence will be felt until one player rises to the occasion.
4. Ahmad Wagner will Contribute
The former basketball player’s greatest advantage is also a disadvantage. Corners can’t match up with his size, but it also slows him down. You can tell Wagner’s anticipation at the position has exponentially improved. He wasn’t just catching jump balls, he was beating corners cutting out of breaks. When he’s not catching passes, he’ll be a valuable asset blocking on the outside.
5. Leaning on 12 Personnel
Kentucky’s base offense will feature Josh Ali, Lynn Bowden, Justin Rigg and Keaton Upshaw as the H-back. The big guys make the Cats more dynamic in the run game and they’re big targets in the middle of the field. There’s a ton of potential out of this personnel grouping, but the inexperienced bigs must grow up fast to become consistent weapons.
After previewing the entire offense (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line) we are finally wrapping up the defense after touching on the defensive line, edge, and inside linebackers. This year, Mark Stoops and his secondary coaches have a ton to replace. Just how much?
161 starts. 853 tackles. 38 tackles for loss. 4.5 sacks. 24 interceptions. 79 pass break-ups. 8 forced fumbles. 3 blocked kicks.
That’s a lot.
Then you add in the loss of redshirt junior Davonte Robinson for the season before training camp started and there are a lot of unanswered questions entering the fall. After being one of college football’s best secondary units last year, the Wildcats must now try to reload in 2019.
When Mark Stoops was hired, many were excited about what he would bring to the defensive side of the football. For years, the Wildcats had put points on the board, but have struggled to stop people. Under Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips, Kentucky only recorded one top-40 defense (2008) per S&P+. The hope was that Stoops could quickly build on that side of the ball.
It was a slow start for the former Arizona and Florida State defensive coordinator with Kentucky only finishing in the top-60 (2014) once in his first five seasons on campus. That all changed this past season.
Behind the best defensive player in college football and five seniors in the secondary, the Wildcats ranked first in the SEC in scoring defense and finished 15th overall per S&P+. It was a dominant unit for most of the season and the secondary was a big reason why.
After a slow climb that began in 2015 with Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards, and Chris Westry all breaking into starting roles as freshmen, the Wildcats slowly started to improve. Edwards became an All-SEC player and was drafted. Lonnie Johnson, a junior college prospect, rode a strong senior season into a draft selection. Both Derrick Baity and Chris Westry seem set to make rosters for the Cowboys and Texans. This isn’t even including Darius West who collected 171 tackles and four interceptions the last two seasons.
Mark Stoops, Steve Clinkscale, and Dean Hood have proven they can build a good secondary when give the right pieces and time. Now Kentucky must start the rebuild with six former high three-star/four-star recruits and two junior college transfers.
The Secondary Room
At Kentucky, the Wildcats split up the secondary between two position coaches. Steve Clinkscale handles the corners while former Wake Forest defensive coordinator and Eastern Kentucky head coach Dean Hood guides the safeties. Both have their hands full this season, but there is one very important upperclassmen.
Jordan Griffin is entering senior season and the former high three-star recruit, per the 247 Sports composite, needs to be good for Kentucky this season. The defensive back has moved all over the secondary, but appears set to have one of the starting safety spots locked up in 2019. The Atlanta area native has made one career start, has played in 33 games, and has 41 tackles with one career interception. Those numbers have to improve this season.
Next to Griffin at safety figures to be either Tyrell Ajian or Yusuf Corker. Both are former blue-chip recruits and Ajian played in all 13 games last season while being the sixth defensive back used in UK’s dime packages. Corker, meanwhile, also played in all 13 games but mainly in a special teams role. Kentucky needs one to emerge and take control of that starting spot. True freshman Moses Douglass also figures to factor into this battle.
Now it’s time to switch to corner where Kentucky has zero experience returning. At the defense’s boundary corner spot, redshirt sophomore Cedrick Dort, Jr. is the expected starter. The South Florida native was redshirted due to a high ankle sprain injury last season after playing in nine games as a true freshman. At just 5-foot-11, Dort will be giving up some size at the position but was a physical and solid tackler coming out of high school.
At the field corner spot, junior college transfer Brandin Echols was the heavy favorite to start at this spot after recording six interceptions and 12 pass break-ups at Northwest Mississippi Community College last fall. However, he’s been hampered in fall camp by a hamstring injury. That has meant two freshmen being thrown into the fire.
Redshirt freshman Jamari Brown figured to be the next guy up at this spot, but one of the stars at camp appears to be true freshman M.J. Devonshire. The high three-star recruit has been lauded by Vince Marrow and could be the day one starter if Brandin Echols isn’t able to run with the ones during game prep. The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native had eight interceptions as a senior in high school in addition to being an explosive playmaker on offense. Don’t be surprised if he’s the team’s starting kick returner.
At nickel, UK lost Mike Edwards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and that won’t be an easy spot to fill. The slot corner is essentially a starter for the defense and the staff asks this position to do a lot. The defensive back must constantly guard slot receivers in man coverage in addition to being an effective blitzer and run defender in the box. At this point, we really don’t know what UK will do here. It will likely be a spot where they try to get either Tyrell Ajian, Yusuf Corker, or junior college transfer Quandre Mosely on the field. Brandin Echols’ man coverage ability could be effective there. M.J. Devonshire could be plugged in to get the best 11 on the field. We likely won’t know who it will be until the defense takes the field against Toledo’s spread offense.
Kentucky was gutted in the secondary following last season and the unexpected loss of Davonte Robinson was a huge blow to this position group. Now the Wildcats are heavily dependent on junior college transfers, a handful of underclassmen, and a senior who has been a reserve for three seasons. There are a ton of unanswered questions.
At corner, Cedrick Dort, Jr. has one spot locked down but is giving up a lot of size at the position. Kentucky has had large boundary corners the last four seasons and only time will tell if Dort can hold up. We are not sure who will be the backup there. On the other side, Brandin Echols is the best cover man on the team, but a hamstring injury has hampered his progress. That could mean Kentucky could be starting a freshman at corner for the first time since 2015.
At safety, it is essential for the Wildcats to get really good play from senior Jordan Griffin. He is by far the most experienced player in the back end and must be a rock for the young players surrounding him. Next to Griffin will be three former blue-chippers and UK should feel good about at least one of them becoming a very solid contributor in 2019. Quandre Mosely figures to be a wild card and the staff appears to be determined to find him a role this season.
At nickel, your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully we will get some type of answer on Monday when UK’s first depth chart of the season is released. Mark Stoops is going to have to show off those secondary coaching chops this fall.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 8:00am
This evening, UK broadcasting legend Ralph Hacker was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.
Before that, though, the former Voice of the Wildcats ruffled feathers in a major way during his appearance on the Terry Meiners Show.
On the show, Hacker was asked about his legendary career with the UK Radio Network as a basketball and football analyst, breaking down some of the top sports moments he has had while on the job.
At the tail end of his segment, Meiners brought up John Calipari’s time in Lexington, along with Kyle Macy’s recent controversial comments about the current Kentucky head coach being too focused on the NBA and not enough about doing what is best for the program.
To start with, Hacker complimented Calipari, saying he developed a system and title formula similar to what Eddie Sutton tried during his time in Lexington.
But unlike Sutton, the broadcast legend believes Calipari has gotten the system to work in his favor at Kentucky, with multiple titles almost certainly coming through the program if those elite players stuck around for more than one season.
“What he has done, and people will probably have a hard time drawing this relation, he has recruited every year for an NCAA championship,” he said. “He says it’s for one-and-done, and perhaps it is. But you don’t go [for] one-and-done [guys] unless you have NCAA championship-type players on there. That’s what Sutton tried to do. He had it all planned out to where if he got this player this year, this player, and this player, he could build up a dynasty of where it was just a matter of getting one player the next year and win that NCAA championship many times. Cal has pretty much done that. And if they had stayed [as opposed to entering the draft], he certainly would have done it.”
He added that he likely learned the system during his time in the NBA, seeing the level of talent he would need to win titles at the college level.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Rick [Pitino], he figured it out in the pros. Basically said, if I go [recruit this way] in college, I can do this and get this caliber of player.”
The only issue, according to Hacker, is that the system hasn’t worked because those players are not staying in Lexington for multiple years. Thus, multiple championships haven’t come during Calipari’s time at Kentucky.
And because of that fact, and that fact alone, Hacker stood up for Macy, saying he believes the UK head coach is “shortchanging fans.”
“I know Kyle Macy took a lot of heat for what he said. But I [told him] “I think you’re right.” I said they’re shortchanging the fans by doing what we’re doing now,” he said. “Even though we’re proud of the University of Kentucky basketball team, we cheer for them, pay for the tickets, all that stuff, but in the end, you’re not doing right by the fan.”
To explain his point, he created a hypothetical for Meiners, telling him to imagine a scenario where he took a lazy approach to his radio show until the spotlight was on him when it came time for ratings.
And after a long-winded explanation, he tried to drive the point home that the diehard fans simply want to see more titles in Lexington.
“It’d be like if you decided you were going to come in here and not do your work to get your show done every day and you were going to do just enough to get by,” he said. “Like, “I’m going to have a good show today because it’s ratings week. But after ratings week, I’m not going to do anything.” And maybe that’s a bad analogy, but they’re working their butts off, they’re winning ball games, doing all this stuff, but I still think the people in Kentucky – the further you get from Lexington, the more rabid the fans are – I think they’d like to see championships.”
Long story short, he ultimately defended Macy’s comments, saying those around Lexington may be okay with settling for what we see at Kentucky now, but fans around the state aren’t content with Calipari’s one title in ten years as head coach.
“They don’t see Coach Cal every day, they don’t run into him at Wheeler’s Drug Store,” he said. “They don’t do these things, they don’t get to see Coach Cal. These people, they’d like to see championships. People in [Lexington], maybe they can say, “Coach, you’re doing a really good job and maybe it’s okay if you don’t win them.” Maybe it’s okay? Maybe that’s the way the people of Lexington feel, but I think Macy was right.”
To finish off the segment, he added that despite all of the criticism Macy has received over the last several weeks, he knows that the Kentucky basketball legend is just as passionate about his Wildcats as the rest of us.
“And he loves the Wildcats, he loves the University of Kentucky,” he said. “His children go there. One of them graduated, the other is in school there. Does he love them? He pays the tuition.”
You can listen to Hacker’s entire interview on the Terry Meiners Show here:
By Nick Roush on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Friends, the long summer is almost over. That is why tonight will be the last Monday night football notebook of 2019. This time one week from now we’ll have a Mark Stoops press conference under our belt as we prepare for the season-opener against Toledo. It’s been a fun ride during a summer that has flown by. Now, let’s quit wasting time and get to the football.
Two Epic Weekends
Whatever Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are doing during official visits, it’s working. Following Deondre Buford’s announcement that he has been committed to Kentucky, UK pulled off a clean sweep on a weekend that was filled with highly-ranked recruits.
- DT Justin Rogers
- QB Beau Allen
- OL John Young
- CB Dru Phillips
- OT Deondre Buford
UK followed up the final weekend in April with an epic weekend in June, going four-for-four starting on June 22.
- OL Joshua Jones
- WR Jordan Watkins
- WR Izayah Cummings
- WR Earnest Sanders
Only those that attended the visits know exactly how the events transpired. We simply have to tip our caps to the Cats’ coaches from afar for successfully closing each deal.
There are only so many things you can factor into one’s recruiting ranking. Their 247 or Rivals profile cannot accurately capture the complete picture. Knowing how to operate within a successful program is an immeasurable intangible, one that every single future UK offensive lineman knows all to well. Last year Deondre Buford, John Young and Joshua Jones were state champions in Michigan, Kentucky and Alabama respectively.
Another Potential Addition
While some may be on their way out, another may be on his way in. Tre’Vonn Rybka, a 6-5 270-pound four-star recruit ranked by Rivals as the No. 18 strong-side defensive end in the country, is announcing his college decision tomorrow. Choosing between Kentucky and Tennessee, most believe the Dickson, Tn. native will rock Kentucky blue before the day is done.
Look Ma! One Hand
I can’t decide what’s more impressive, Josh Ali’s reception or Jamin Davis’ six-pack.
Trimming the Depth Chart
Saturday’s second UK football scrimmage of the preseason served as a final tryout for underclassmen who are trying to crack into the rotation.
“We have to get dialed in here this week starting Monday, make some decisions today or tomorrow. Not that it’s a final decision, but have some good idea of who is in the two-deep,” Stoops said Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got to work hard and concentrate on putting one great unit out there on each side of the ball and have some guys who can go out there and play winning football as well.”
At this point, players have been informed where they stand. We will not receive a two-deep until just before Stoops’ press conference next Monday morning. As an average cryptic-Tweet reader, it looks like J.J. Weaver is starting the season on the outside looking in.
Keep fighting ??? my time will come….
— JJ Weaver (@jjtimeee) August 18, 2019
Prepare for an Exodus
Over the last two Sundays, KyWildcatsTV has released features on a pair of their talented stars, Lynn Bowden and Quinton Bohanna. Is it a coincidence they are both juniors? I think not. While some fans may already have their sights set on an outstanding 2020 season, don’t put the horse before the cart. Bohanna and Bowden are just a few of the juniors that could play their way into the NFL Draft, along with offensive tackle Landon Young, outside linebacker Boogie Watson and running back A.J. Rose.
The Secondary’s Greatest Menace
Stoops’ staff has been hesitant to single out any individual in the secondary. UK’s coaches are trying to temper expectations as much as possible by keeping things tight-lipped. However, you can’t keep everyone quiet. When Terry Wilson was asked who has caused him the most problems in the secondary, he replied, “Jordan Griffin.”
“He’s been doing really good,” said Wilson. “He’s a veteran back there for those guys. From what I’ve seen, he’s done a good job of leading those guys, making the correct calls. He’s been making some big plays too.”
Before the depth chart is released next week, we should receive more clarity on where each player stands when Stoops opens practice to the media.
Joe Moorhead’s SEC Media Days Wish is Granted
Mississippi State’s head coach used the platform of the SEC Media Days’ podium to address his childhood hero, Dan Marino. The former quarterback from Pittsburgh attended the same high school as the NFL legend. Moorhead’s request was simple. All he wanted was a follow-back from Marino. One month later, Marino finally fulfilled Moorhead’s request. You can cross one off your bucket list, Joe.
— Coach Joe Moorhead (@BallCoachJoeMo) August 18, 2019
Shout Out to Somerset
The Briarjumpers might have the most beautiful football field in the Commonwealth.
On a completely unrelated note, Trinity destroyed Frederick Douglass in a scrimmage last Friday and I still can’t figure out how. Douglass has a lot of work to do or Brian Landis won’t have much to show for all of that blue chip talent.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
The No. 1 point guard in the class of 2020 has included Kentucky in his final five.
This evening, Daishen Nix cut his list to five schools, with the Wildcats joining UCLA, Kansas, Maryland, and Alabama.
“Picking my top five wasn’t easy,” Nix said in a Twitter post. “There are some good schools with great coaching staffs that are being left off this list, Washington, Marquette, and Arizona, just to name a few.”
Picking my top 5 wasn’t easy . There are some good schools , with great coaching staffs that are being left off this list , Washington , Marquette , and Arizona , just to name a few . pic.twitter.com/yr8uM9dVVf
— daishen (@djfromveg) August 20, 2019
While it’s certainly major news that the No. 1 point guard in the nation and top passer in all of high school basketball is seriously considering Kentucky, it’s an even bigger deal when you consider the fact that they were included without Nix even holding an offer.
On Friday evening, I reported on the site that the 6-foot-5 point guard out of Las Vegas, NV was hoping to take an official visit to Kentucky before making a decision, with one source close to Nix telling KSR that it would be a “point of emphasis” to get to Lexington in the very near future.
That being said, sources also tell KSR that there has been a bit of frustration within Nix’s camp about Kentucky’s lack of offer and that it wasn’t a done deal in the slightest that UK was going to be included on this list. While UCLA, Maryland, Alabama, and Kansas were near-locks, I was told around noon today that Kentucky was “fighting” for that final spot. If they didn’t get the feel from the staff that an offer was on the horizon, sources tell KSR that they would not have made the cut.
In short, Nix loves John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program, and he has been comfortable in letting UK get involved at their own pace. He has openly admitted that the UK coaching staff wants to see more out of him both as a shooter and on defense, something he’s happy to prove he can do. He feels that despite Kentucky’s lack of offer, one is coming.
On the flip side, others close to Nix feel the talented passing guard has done more than enough already to earn a scholarship and believe he should be prioritized. While Kentucky was one of the five-star guard’s favorite schools growing up and his camp understands this, they also don’t feel it is fair to some of the other programs that are dying to bring him in as the centerpiece of their respective recruiting classes.
On Kentucky’s end, sources tell KSR that they have genuine interest in Nix, especially as a passer and leader of the offense, and they are open to bringing him in on an official visit sooner rather than later, but they still want to watch him play more before extending an offer. As mentioned before, there have been concerns about the five-star guard’s shooting abilities.
With Nix hoping to reach a decision in the near future, though, the opportunities will be extremely limited for the coaching staff to make that happen.
As things stand today, UCLA and Kansas are seen as the two favorites to land Nix, though an offer from Kentucky would shake things up in a major way for the talented guard. With an official visit to Lexington now on the itinerary – sources tell KSR this will happen in the coming weeks – we should know one way or the other soon.
Until then, check out some of his highlights below:
Kentucky added another member to its 2020 recruiting class and this time they got John Schlarman an impressive player to work with on the offensive line. Deondre Buford is a tackle prospect out of Detroit who was wanted by a ton of schools. In the end, UK beat out Purdue, Pittsburgh, Mizzou, and Arizona. Meanwhile, LSU, Penn State, Louisville, Miami, and West Virginia all have listed offers. He is a heavily sought after tackle and Steve Clinkscale scored another crootin’ victory in the state of Michigan.
Now it is time to take you into the KSR film room to tell you what kind of player Kentucky is getting. The Wildcats still need to find out who will take over for Landon Young once he leaves Lexington and Deondre Buford might just have the skillset required to man that spot.
On tape, Deondre Buford looks like your prototypical left tackle. At 6-foot-4, he has very good positional athleticism and that shows up in his pass protection. Here in the five-step drop out of the shotgun formation, Buford does a great job staying balanced and getting his hands on the pass rusher. He uses a nice jump back move to stay square and that creates a very easy throwing window for his quarterback to launch the deep ball.
The high school senior has some major tools in pass protection.
He can also get stuff done in the run game. On a designed counter that is meant go to the right, the play is blown up by the playside defensive tackle. Despite that disruption, Deondre Buford flashes some nice down blocking ability. The left tackle quickly turns the defensive end inside and with nice leg drive, he drives him from one end of the line to the other. This is where hand placement and sled work come into actuality and this type of blocking is much needed in Kentucky’s offensive scheme.
We saw what happened when the left tackle locks in right away, but there are going to be times when the opposing defender beats you off the ball. On this run play, the defensive end beats Deondre Buford at the snap and wins the early battle. Inside hands usually wins the fight at the line of scrimmage, but some good recovery technique and power allow Buford to takeover. Improvisation is needed in isolation situations.
To wrap up the combination of what he does best in one clip, check out this camp highlight.
— Joe Tramble (@TrambleJoe) January 27, 2019
Deondre Buford is the third player from Michigan to join this class and the fifth recruit Steve Clinkscale has reeled to Lexington since 2018. All have been rated at least a high three-star and Kentucky is currently building a nice pipeline in The Great Lakes State. The latest addition is very substantial because it is at a position of need.
This season, Landon Young is entering his redshirt junior season and after him there are some questions about the left tackle spot. Naasir Watkins is guy that played both tackle positions last season, but we’re not sure which spot is the redshirt sophomore’s best yet. Redshirt freshman Nick Lewis and true freshman Jake Pope are both set to play the position, but each seem to be projects at this point. The chance for early playing time at left tackle could be there.
The high three-star recruit, per the 247 Sports composite, will most likely need a redshirt year because he needs to put on some weight. It appears right now he’s somewhere between 260-275 pounds and that is not going to cut it in the SEC. Other than the weight, there are some things to really be excited about.
Deondre Buford is excellent in pass protection and has all the tools you want in a left tackle. It would help if he were an inch or two taller, but he seems to have very long arms to go with good hands and feet on top of positional athleticism. His takeoff at the line of scrimmage needs some sharpening, but he has shown the power required to succeed in run blocking. He is one of the my favorite prospects in the class of 2020.
By Nick Roush on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 4:51pm
Another one of Michigan’s top athletes will play football at the University of Kentucky.
According to 247 Sports’ Josh Edwards, offensive tackle Deondre Buford has committed to Kentucky. A four-star recruit by 247 Sports, the publication ranks Buford as the No. 24 offensive tackle in America and No. 295 prospect overall. He chose UK over Auburn, Missouri, Pitt, Purdue and Arizona. Edwards reports that Buford has been silently committed to the program since April, but wanted to wait to announce it until a meaningful day for him and his family.
— Jared Purcell (@JaredPurcellDET) August 19, 2019
A star for Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit, Buford is UK’s third commitment in the 2020 class from the Great Lakes State, joining defensive tackle Justin Rogers and wide receiver Earnest Sanders. Steve Clinkscale now has pulled in five commitments from Michigan over three recruiting classes.
Buford’s official visit to Kentucky will go down as one of the most influential recruiting weekends in the history of the football program. On the final weekend of April 2019, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow hosted Buford, Rogers, Beau Allen, Dru Phillips and John Young. All five fringe four-star players are now members of the Cats’ 2020 class. What a weekend.
A powerful 6-5 270 pound tackle, here’s a sample of what you’ll see in a Kentucky uniform in the future.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 17th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
The dirt surrounding college basketball recruiting and popular shoe and apparel companies continues to pile up.
On Friday evening, Pat Forde, Pete Thamel, and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports released yet another bombshell report, filled with the various exhibitions submitted to federal court by controversial lawyer Michael Avenatti.
His goal? To support his claims from earlier in the week that Nike has engaged in corruption and illegal payments to high-level basketball recruits.
As we’ve seen in some of the past breaking news stories over the last year or so, multiple big-name athletes and schools were included in Friday’s report.
And as we discussed on the site last night, Kentucky was one of the schools named in the documents, sparking a sense of uneasiness throughout the Big Blue Nation.
But what does it all mean, specifically for the Kentucky program? Do UK fans have any reason to be worried?
Let’s take a look.
Deandre Ayton, Zion Williamson, and Romeo Langford
While Kentucky fans were most interested in UK’s involvement, the biggest aspect of the story had to do with former Arizona center Deandre Ayton, among with fellow former prized recruits Zion Williamson (Duke) and Romeo Langford (Indiana).
For Ayton, the evidence was rather damning. According to the official court documents, Nike EYBL director Carlton DeBose received an email on his official Nike corporate account from Mel McDonald, a known middleman and handler for Ayton and former five-star big man Bol Bol, along with other associates.
The email had a subject line of “Numbers,” with in-depth details on the money spent on Ayton and those close to him.
The expenses revealed in the report covered travel, cell phone, and immigration costs, among other things, totaling $65,840.
In the same email, a long list of payouts were listed, including:
- Nov. 3rd – $5K
- Nov. 24th – $5K
- Dec. 2nd – $5K
- Dec. 12th – 5K in Kentucky (3 cells 2K cash)
- Dec. 15th – $5K Xmas Gifts
- Dec. 15th – $4K (loan) (Met mom about Larnelle)
- Jan. 8th – $2940 mom $600 auntie
- Feb. 9th – $5,000 for March to mom $3,500 for Bahamas to dad.
As far as the “Kentucky” line is concerned, this is likely in reference to the location of the payment, not the UK basketball program. Hillcrest Prep (AZ), Ayton’s high school, played in Lexington back on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, 2015 for a tournament called the Bluegrass Showcase. While the document doesn’t clarify what the money was used for in Kentucky, the timeline certainly adds up.
Back in April, Avenatti accused Nike of making $83,000 worth of payments to those close to Ayton, providing documents to back up his accusations, as well.
On February 25, 2018, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach also reported that FBI wiretaps showed that Arizona head coach Sean Miller discussed a $100,000 payment to secure a commitment from Ayton.
Outside of Ayton, Avenatti also provided a series of text messages from February 2017 between DeBose, Nike recruiting coordinator John Stovall, and Nike EYBL manager Jamal James, where the trio discussed a plan to pay Williamson, Langford, and another undisclosed player from Michigan.
In one of the exhibits, James wrote to DeBose in a group text message trying to figure out what they would be able to swing financially for all three players.
“Remember that the Romeo and Zion deals are NOT done yet! We are still in it. Just want u to remember that possible financial obligation also,” James said in a text on February 11.
“We’re still in there for Zion and Langford?!?! I thought that ship had sailed,” DeBose later responded.
“Are we willing to do the additional 30K for this (California) [kid] along with whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re not going to do for the kid in Michigan?” James wrote back.
In one group text, James wrote to DeBose seeking to find out if they would be “willing to do … whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re now going to do for the [minor] kid in Michigan.”
“Langford — 20 (thousand), Zion — 35-plus (thousand), [Michigan kid] – 15 (thousand),” Stovall responded.
Later, DeBose added that he was okay with spending “70” if it meant they could “cripple adidas,” saying that those involved needed to “stay aggressive.”
“The other 70 listed I’m willing to spend to cripple adidas,” he said. “The amount of work that you guys are doing is more than worth me spinning the approximate 100K to support the efforts. I will have to get creative elsewhere in the budget but I’m encouraging you all to stay aggressive and I will figure out the money part.”
On February 28, Stovall then said a “new offer” for Williamson had not been presented, but they “hinted at it.”
“[No update on Williamson] yet,” he said. “[A third party] had not talked to them directly in a couple of days. Still has not presented our new offer. Only hinted at it. He did not want to put it in print which I agreed with.”
“What moved Langford?” DeBose responded.
“$$ is my guess,” Stovall said. “They claim “a chance to start a new path.” I’m not buying it. They admitted [Indiana] will stink and said “it’s not about wins and losses” lol.”
Unlike Ayton’s situation, the text messages did not indicate any money explicitly exchanged hands or whether or not any offers were officially presented.
Nonetheless, if you believe the documents, the discussions happened.
Kenny Payne’s “involvement”
As you guys read last night, Kenny Payne participated in a text message exchange with Carlton DeBose in the early hours of July 6, 2017.
According to the official exhibits in Avenatti’s case, Payne – listed by his initials and nickname of “KP” in the messages – had a conversation with DeBose, who told the Kentucky assistant which Nike EYBL coaches he supplied money to in order to help families of players on the popular shoe circuit.
“Do [you] help people like Webster and speedy every year and how many more people asked you to help them,” Payne asked DeBose. “They both are happy [you] are helping them. How many more are [there?]”
“Those two [Nike coaches]. And about 10 other brothers,” DeBose responded, adding nine more names to the list. “About 10 coaches who are helping families to the total of about [$200,000] annually and I still have to meet budget.”
“Wow,” Payne responded.
“You’re the only one that knows about it [because] so many of these dudes are selfish and would want more [because] they would argue that someone else don’t deserve the help more than they do,” DeBose said. “It’s a stressful balancing act.”
“Damn man, can it come back [and] hurt you?” Payne responded.
“Not really. Have to do it cleanly and with a process. I’m good, but it’s enough to where Lynn [Merritt, Nike’s global vice president for sports marketing and basketball] and Nico [Harrison, Nike’s vice president of North American Basketball Operations] don’t want to know the intimate details to cover their asses,” DeBose said. “So it’s a risk but my every day job is a damn risk so I’m used to it now.”
“Watch your back bro,” Payne responded, his final message in the exhibits.
Should Kentucky fans be worried?
Now that you know who DeBose is and what Payne said to him in the text exchange, is there any reason to sweat if you’re a Kentucky basketball fan?
In short, not really.
While it’s never a “good” thing to have your name associated with any scandal, Payne’s text exchange seemed to indicate he and the Kentucky program had seemingly minimal involvement in the entire process and that he was simply telling an individual he had known for quite some time to be careful.
Diving into the assistant’s quotes alone, while it’s obvious he’s not ignorant to the shadiness going on in the world of AAU basketball – he did acknowledge “Webster” and “Speedy” by name and was aware that they appreciated DeBose’s help – he was admittedly surprised at the number of EYBL coaches involved, the dollar figure attached to the process, and seemed to be unaware of the logistics of it all.
Looking at Kentucky’s recruiting track record, especially as of late, with players of questionable backgrounds and those rumored to be looking for handouts, John Calipari and his staff have backed off on multiple occasions.
Ayton, a player who publicly listed Kentucky as one of his favorite schools and was the first in the class of 2016 to receive a scholarship offer from UK, was outspoken about how his recruitment hadn’t gone the way he had hoped and wanted more schools to reach out. For a player who was deemed the most dominant and NBA-ready big man in his class, why would Kentucky randomly cut off all communication during the home stretch of his recruitment, especially when they likely could have reeled him in?
And with Langford, you may recall, Kentucky’s interest and communication dropped off almost completely in the spring of 2018. At the time, Langford’s father, Tim, told the Courier Journal about his disagreements with John Calipari during his time coaching the former five-star prospect with USA Basketball at the U19 FIBA World Cup in Egypt. He also added that Langford called Calipari in hopes of taking an official visit to Lexington in hopes of potentially solving their issues and rebuild burnt bridges.
Bol Bol’s contact dropped off, Terrance Ferguson essentially begged for an offer, Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t prioritized, Josh Jackson’s recruitment drew red flags, Anthony Bennett went from Kentucky lean to minimal interest, etc.
You go down the list, and it’s no secret that Kentucky has mostly stayed away from the prospects – especially late in their respective recruitments – that could have caused them potential headaches with the NCAA. This case only seems to be more of the same.
Going back to Payne’s text messages, there’s always the possibility – a very real one – that the Kentucky assistant used DeBose to find out which AAU programs, coaches, and prospects to avoid on the recruiting trail, not who to go after. If you need a safety blanket to know who will get you in trouble and who will keep you out of it, why not go to the direct source?
Considering the program’s recent track record and the fact that the NCAA has been watching Calipari like a hawk from the day he arrived in Lexington, it’d be far-fetched to think that Payne was using DeBose to find out which prospects were looking for handouts and use that information for more bad than good, to say the least. National analysts and rival fans may jump on this and assume guilt based on name recognition alone, but there is little-to-no substance here that should make Kentucky fans sweat.
Friday’s report didn’t completely clear Payne or the Kentucky basketball program of any wrongdoing, but it certainly didn’t implicate them in any way, either.
Players fought to move up the depth chart during Saturday’s preseason scrimmage at Kroger Field. It was closed to the general public, but KSR spoke to some folks who got to see the action.
1. Smoke Welcomes a Freshman to the SEC
After the scrimmage I asked Jamin Davis who is the hardest running back to tackle. “Smoke. He’s a hard runner,” said Davis. “He keeps his feet moving on contact. He’s real physical.”
M.J. Devonshire knows that all too well. The freshman cornerback, who is alternating between the first and second team, ate a stiff-arm from Smoke before the redshirt freshman running back scampered into the end zone. The move incited a reaction from the entire sideline. It was the equivalent to a dunk at an AAU game that shuts down the gym.
2. A Freshman Uses the Hit Stick
The freshmen don’t always have to be on the receiving end of “welcome to the SEC” moments. They can deliver the blow too. That’s exactly what Taj Dodson did today. As a unsuspecting wide receiver crossed the middle of the field, the early enrollee safety lowered the boom stick. “It was a nice hit. It wasn’t targeting,” insisted linebacker DeAndre Square.
3. Terry Wilson’s Reads Through Progressions
We’ve heard throughout training camp that Terry Wilson is more “comfortable” in the pocket, but what exactly does that mean? A year ago, if Wilson’s first read wasn’t open, he panicked more times than not. That is no longer the case.
For the first time, Wilson is finding his check-downs. When a few reads aren’t there, A.J. Rose and the rest of the UK running backs will gladly bail out the quarterback. Rose turned one third medium into a hard-fought first down.
Arguably Wilson’s best throw of the day happened before he could get to his running back check-down. Twenty-five yards away from the end zone, he went through two different reads before finding his third option, tight end Keaton Upshaw, open in the end zone for a touchdown. Terry is taking the next step.
4. Jordan Wright Makes his Case
The outside linebacker room got a little more crowded when UK’s coaches moved Josh Paschal back to Jack. Forced to perform in a pressure cooker, Wright brought his A-Game today. One play in particular stood out. Facing an athlete in the flat, Wright did not fall for any jukes. Instead, he hit the receiver in the open field for a tackle for loss.
If Wright does not continue to play at a high level, Xavier Peters certainly has the physical tools to make an impact. As for the NCAA, Stoops is still waiting to see if Peters will be eligible to play this fall.
5. Stoops Makes up his Own Rules
Kentucky’s head coach has a tendency to favor the defense. If you need anymore proof, he did not let the offense get away with a busted play.
“There was a play early offensively. We were keeping them out of the end zone pretty good. There was a broken play and I couldn’t give them the first down. I just couldn’t do it,” Stoops laughed. “It was a dropped snap, the running back picked it up and somehow managed to get a first down. I said ‘field goal.’ They didn’t deserve it. We couldn’t be so lucky.”
By Nick Roush on ©August 17th, 2019 @ 9:00am
Every year fall camp produces one impact player from off the radar. Unlike previous fall camps, this rising star’s performances in practice are being compared to a former National Defensive Player of the Year.
“T.J. Carter has worked himself into, it’s kind of like Josh Allen. I’m not going to say on that level, but he is playing like a grown man now,” said Vince Marrow.
“He is really getting after them tackles and guards. He’s a program guy that developed here and I think he’s one of the strongest guys on our team. I really like the way he’s playing right now. And he’s taken on a leadership role. You see the guy’s guns, and they’re huge. I really like the way his demeanor is right now and I think it’s flowing with the whole D-line.”
Any sort of comparison to Josh Allen is unfair. Carter does not deserve those overwhelming expectations, however, his growth in the summer of 2019 mirrors what coaches saw from Allen in 2018. The two share more than that in common.
1. Explosive Defensive Playmaker
When reporters ask coaches for specific standouts, Carter’s name is the always the first they share.
“He’s probably the most noticeable guy on defense right now,” said defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc. “He’s consistently showing up. Run game wise, he’s being stout, tough. Pass rush wise, he’s showing up and getting to the quarterback for the most part, and his effort is unbelievable. He’s getting to the ball, running up and down the field, he’s got a lot of energy.”
It’s not just coaches. The guy who lines up against Carter everyday, and who faced Allen last year, can feel the difference in the trenches.
“He has really, really upped his game this year,” said offensive tackle Landon Young. “It’s not just getting in the weight room. He’s gotten tremendously stronger; you can see it in his body. But coming off the line he’s good with his hands, he’s really, really explosive, he’s quick for a big guy that’s around 290 or something like that. He’s a really quick, versatile player that’s stepped up his game.”
Fellow defensive lineman, Calvin Taylor Jr., can hardly contain his excitement.
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) August 15, 2019
2. From Quiet Kid to Leader
Josh Allen was a shy guy when he came to Kentucky. It took a concerted effort for him to leave his comfort zone and become a vocal leader. Of all the changes Carter made this offseason, LeBlanc hears the most obvious development on the field and in the meeting room.
“I think he’s always been that kid that stays in the back and doesn’t say much, but works. He always worked hard, didn’t say a whole lot,” LeBlanc said. “All of the extra stuff you do on your own is showing up for him in fall camp. Hopefully that carries on to game one and all through his senior season.”
3. A True Senior
Neither player had the luxury of a redshirt season. Allen played in every single game of his career. Carter has only missed two.
You first saw No. 90 making plays on the field as a true freshman in the TaxSlayer Bowl. According to Pro Football Focus, he was UK’s top-graded defensive performer after the true freshman made a pair of tackles and a crucial pass break-up on third down. Since his first bowl game, Carter has produced modest numbers, averaging 17 tackles, 3 for loss and 2 sacks over the last two seasons.
After watching Allen terrorize opponents all year, Carter kicked it into another gear.
“I saw all the guys getting drafted and stuff. I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t I do something like that?’ I saw the work the guys were putting in and I knew that’s what you gotta do to be a good player,” Carter said. “I’ve just been trying to work real hard this summer and in camp go hard every play.”
Mimicking Allen, Carter worked tirelessly to quicken his first step. To add more explosiveness to the equation, he also needed more muscle mass. LeBlanc was not surprised to find him in the weight room late at night over the summer. Muscle mass doesn’t generate exclusively in the weight room.
“I’ve gotta stay big,” Carter said. “I can’t be eating like a supermodel. I just try to run really hard and eat a lot.”
The most experienced player on Kentucky’s defense, defensive coordinator Brad White recalls Josh Allen’s offseason transformation ahead of his final season. Many have the opportunity. Few take advantage of it. Carter is seizing the moment.
“Last year 90 made a lot of plays. This year, it’s kind of a lot like Josh (Allen),” said White. “It’s funny how that works. Sometimes it happens between sophomore and junior year and then sometimes it takes till all the way from junior to senior year and there’s that light bulb, that urgency that people see that helps amp them up. He’s responded to that sense of urgency.
“Some guys, they let it go. That little spark, you either sense the spark and you respond to it, or there’s that little sense of urgency and it’s too hard. They wilt away. Just like Josh last year, he responded to that and said, ‘You know what, this is my chance and this is my last chance.’ He’s been really solid, he’s been really consistent and he needs to be a big performer for us this year.”
By Drew Franklin on ©August 16th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Michael Avenatti was back in court today to continue his War On Nike and this time he brought more texts and e-mails as his ammunition.
One of the texts, Avenatti claims, identifies Kenny Payne as the previously unnamed “assistant coach at the University of Kentucky’ from Avenatti’s first batch of allegations.
Here’s the Kentucky-related excerpt from Yahoo’s new story on the day’s events with Avenatti:
DeBose also participated in a text message exchange on July 6, 2017, with an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, according to the motion. In the exhibits, the initials “KP” are attached to one non-DeBose number. Kentucky has an assistant basketball coach named Kenny Payne.In the exchange with “KP,” DeBose explains that he provides money to “about 10 [Nike EYBL] coaches who are helping families to the total of about 200K annually.”
He names the coaches using first names and nicknames that couldn’t immediately be identified by Yahoo Sports. DeBose declares the business is “stressful” because he has “to do it cleanly and with a process. I’m good but it’s enough to where Lynn and Nico don’t want to know the intimate details to cover their asses.”
Nike’s global vice president for sports marketing and basketball is Lynn Merritt, who has been a longtime fixture at the company.
“So it’s a risk,” DeBose wrote, “but my everyday job is a damn risk so I’m used to it now.”
“Watch your back, bro,” KP wrote back. [Yahoo!]
The rest of Yahoo’s lengthy report is full of more alleged dirt on Nike and its Nike EYBL circuit, including more suspicious behavior around the very suspicious recruitment of DeAndre Ayton, as well as the recruitments of Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford.
You can read it all here on Yahoo.com. For now, just find peace in knowing the one mention of Kentucky isn’t anywhere near the accusations around Arizona, Duke and Indiana. We don’t love reading Kenny Payne’s name in the report, but it is a minor detail in this overall story of Avenatti V. Nike.
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 16th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
Former chairman of the U of L Board of Trustees David Grissom did not mince words when talking about Rick Pitino, James Ramsey, and former chief of staff Kathleen Smith in a just-released deposition from July 26th.
Grissom’s sworn testimony was taken as part of the 2018 financial fraud against Ramsey, Smith and other former administrators, in which U of L and its foundation are looking to get back around $80 million in alleged damages to the university’s endowment.
The University’s foundation paid Ramsey $7.2 million, and Smith $2.6 million, in deferred compensation under the plan from 2010 to 2016, according to a 2017 forensic investigation that was brought on by the university.
In the deposition, Grissom said he wasn’t one bit surprised that Ramsey and Smith were able to receive that much money in compensation. However, he noted that the former board members at Louisville didn’t have full knowledge of what was going on which allowed Ramsey and Smith to take advantage of their board members. In Grissom’s eyes, Ramsey and Smith were all about greed.
“Everything that President Ramsey and Kathleen Smith put in front of them, they never turned it down,” Grissom said.
U of L’s case against its former president and his associates relies on the excessive amount of spending from the university’s endowment, which the foundation manages. Among other claims, the university and foundation contend Ramsey and Smith were complicit in getting “excessive” compensation from the foundation.
Grissom even went as far as agreeing with a lawyer when the lawyer asked if Grissom viewed the board members in the Ramsey era “a bunch of bozos that didn’t know what they were doing.”
Grissom replied, “couldn’t have said it better.”
Grissom went on to say that Ramsey and Smith got away with robbery at the expense of the former board members.
“There was no hold up here; there was no bank robbery. But the fact is that, the behavior of Ramsey and Smith resulted in a loss of assets at the foundation level that would have the same effect as if somebody had walked into the foundation offices on a Friday afternoon with a .357 Magnum and said, ‘give me all your cash,’” Grissom said in the deposition.
Also in the deposition, Ramsey’s attorney, Ann Oldfather, asked Grissom about a May 24, 2016 letter signed by seven former foundation and university board members. The letter raved about the university’s increased graduation rate, fundraising and other accomplishments under Ramsey and defended their use of deferred compensation to keep Ramsey from leaving Louisville for a better job.
Grissom responded that by saying he refutes the statistics in the letter. “If they were produced by President Ramsey — and I’m sure they were produced under his supervision at the minimum — I have a deep distrust about the dependability of any of these numbers,” said the former chairman.
“If they were produced by President Ramsey — and I’m sure they were produced under his supervision at the minimum — I have a deep distrust about the dependability of any of these numbers,” Grissom said.
Then, to top it all off, Grissom threw shade at the foundation for not getting rid of Pitino after his Porchini’s incident in 2003, which became public in 2009.
“Let’s start with Coach Pitino fornicating on the table. In my world, that would have been reason to have him dismissed the next morning. That wasn’t done,” Grissom said, as an example of bad publicity that harmed fundraising.
Sheesh…tell us how you really feel, Dave.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 16th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
2020 five-star guard Daishen Nix is considered the top passer in all of high school basketball, and with summer slowly coming to a close, he’s hoping to announce where he is taking those talents in the very near future.
And during the home stretch of his recruitment, Kentucky remains right in the thick of things.
Back at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA in June, the 6-foot-5 prospect out of Las Vegas told KSR that despite the fact that he didn’t hold an offer from UK quite yet, the Wildcats were still a major priority of his during his recruitment.
In fact, the elite passing guard said that he was dying to meet Kentucky head coach John Calipari, a “legend” in his eyes, sooner rather than later.
“I really want to meet Coach Cal [in person],” Nix said. “Because growing up, watching all the top schools, they were my dream schools. It was pretty good that I got to finally talk to him. … It’ll be a shock [when I meet him] because he’s a great coach. He’s a legend to me.”
Back on May 2, UK assistant Joel Justus visited Nix at his high school, where he praised the five-star point guard for his elite passing abilities and said he could be an immediate impact player in Lexington.
When asked about the meeting, Nix said having a coach from Kentucky reach out stands out among some of the other visits he has had.
“It was a surprise because Kentucky walked in,” the five-star prospect said. “It was just like some of the other visits, but they were just higher than the other coaches that have come in so far.”
While conversations have remained consistent between Nix and the Kentucky coaching staff since the NBPA Top 100 Camp, an offer is still not on the table, and there are questions as to whether or not one will ever come.
As I’ve mentioned on the site before, while the Kentucky coaches are in love with Nix has a primary ball handler, passer, and leader, there are questions about his shooting and scoring potential at the next level. For better or for worse, Kentucky sees a ton of Isaiah Briscoe in his game, and they are wondering how that would fit in with some of the other pieces they are looking to bring in, most notably with Jalen Green and Josh Christopher.
I’m told that an offer could still absolutely come, but Kentucky would prefer to see him in action just a bit more over the next few months before officially extending one.
Sources close to Nix tell KSR, however, that the five-star guard is still extremely interested in visiting Lexington in the coming weeks in hopes of earning a scholarship offer in person.
In fact, if the Kentucky coaching staff will have him, Nix would like to schedule an official visit to the school sooner rather than later.
“[Visiting Kentucky] is a point of emphasis, most definitely,” a source close to Nix said. “Coach Cal will be the one to decide the order of things. That’s up to Cal.”
If that visit comes to fruition and an offer does come, sources tell KSR that Kentucky would likely climb up Nix’s leaderboard, potentially as high as No. 1 on his list.
Why? Outside of the consensus top-25 prospect’s outspoken admiration of John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program, Nix also told KSR that he is extremely interested in playing with UK commitment BJ Boston in college after the two built incredible chemistry together back at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
“We’ve got really good chemistry,” Nix told KSR. “He’s a really cool guy, he’s down to earth. He’s really funny too, that’s what a lot of people don’t know about him.”
“Our chemistry is developing really good, he’s a pass-first point guard,” Boston told KSR in Charlottesville. “I really like that when I’m playing. We connected from the time we first stepped on the court together.”
But the clock is ticking, however. Sources tell KSR that Nix is looking to make his decision in the coming weeks, with the latest likely being September, meaning this visit and offer would have to come together rather quickly.
If not, UCLA will likely be the favorite to land the top passing guard in all of America.
Until then, watch him work below:
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 16th, 2019 @ 5:18pm
KSR founder and “Hey Kentucky!” host Matt Jones will not return to the WLEX18 television program “Hey Kentucky!”
After being pulled from the show a little over a month ago due to his impending decision on running for US senate, manger of WLEX 18 Pat Dalbey made the decision to remove Jones from the show completely after Jones announced he was writing a book on US Senator Mitch McConnell.
“As a journalism company, we are committed to bringing quality journalism and objectivity to the news products and programs that we produce. To protect our objectivity, Matt has been off the air from “Hey Kentucky!” while he considers pursuing a political career. In light of the news about Matt’s book and his still-pending decision on whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate, I have decided that he will not return to LEX18.”
Chris Tomlin also resigned from the show earlier this week to focus on the book.
Following the decision, Matt responded with a statement of his own on Twitter:
“Today WLEX made the decision to end my time as host of Hey Kentucky! due my decision to write the “Mitch, Please” book,” he said. “I disagree strongly with this decision but it is what it is. I will continue to pursue my passions and beliefs, regardless of the result. I will however miss doing Hey Kentucky! more than I can even say. What we built during a short time was remarkable and creating and developing that show was a true joy in my life. Thanks to Mike, Noah, Daniel, Chris and all the co-hosts over the years that helped me do Hey Kentucky. I have never had more fun at any job. And thank you to the viewers. you guys embraced a show unlike anything on local tv. Going from zero to beating Jeopardy was the best.
“Finally, thanks to WLEX. I don’t like how it ended but they took a chance on us when no one else would and I will be forever indebted. For now, I will focus on KSR Radio and making “Mitch, Please” a book worthy of losing your job for.”
A new permanent host has not been announced yet.