By Aaron Torres on ©July 10th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
A few weeks ago, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas made headlines when he discussed an article about which college basketball programs produce the best NBA players. Bilas’ argument was that colleges don’t “produce” pros, they recruit them, with the premise being – as best I can tell – that most players in the NBA were born with physical gifts that would have gotten them to the NBA regardless of where they went to college.
And for the most part, I don’t disagree with Bilas. John Wall, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, De’Aaron Fox, Ben Simmons, Marvin Bagley – they all would have ended up lottery picks regardless of where they went to college.
Interesting article on college programs with the most pros. One thing: college programs don't "produce" pros, they recruit them. Good coaches at every level help players improve, but don't "produce" pros. Which NBA team "produces" the most NBA All-Stars? https://t.co/YhKYGvV0qp
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) June 17, 2019
Still, there are plenty of exceptions and we see them every year in college basketball. Virginia won a national championship with a lottery pick, DeAndre Hunter, who was ranked the 91st player in America coming out of high school. Was he recruited to be a pro, or did he develop at Virginia? How about Grant Williams at Tennessee? Isn’t it insulting to Rick Barnes to say that Tennessee didn’t help develop him into a first rounder? Texas Tech has had two lottery picks in the last two years (Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver) who were both ranked outside the Top 150 in their high school class. While both had natural physical gifts, I’d tend to think that Chris Beard had something to do with their success as well.
Which brings me to the main point of the article. With all due respect to Bilas (who covers college hoops as well as anybody) there might not be a single better example of the flaw in the “recruit vs. develop” argument right now than Tyler Herro. John Calipari used Herro’s name as proof that Kentucky “produces” pros a few weeks ago, and so far in Summer League – where Herro has been a breakout star – the former Wildcat is proving him correct.
Now look, I understand that playing well in Summer League isn’t a be-all, end-all to future NBA success. There are plenty of guys who play well every summer in Vegas, and it doesn’t translate to becoming a star in the NBA. Last year, Josh Hart won Summer League MVP, and he will never be anything more than a very good role player in the NBA. Lonzo Ball won Summer League MVP two years ago, and his career has been filled with injuries and up-and-down play on the court.
So again, to quote Denny Green I’m not going to “crown” Tyler Herro anything because he’s had a few good days in Vegas.
Still, it’s hard not to watch Herro ball out and feel like Kentucky and John Calipari didn’t at least play some part in his success.
For those who haven’t been paying attention (and I’m guessing most of you have been) Herro has been absolutely phenomenal in his short time as a pro. In the California Summer League (which was a precursor to Vegas) he averaged 19 points per game, and in his three games in Vegas has scored 21 per night. Over five games he’s averaging more than 20 points per game, and doing it all while hitting 40 percent from the field and adding five rebounds and two steals per contest as well.
So yeah, Herro is good. And please don’t tell me that it’s just because the “competition is bad” in Vegas. Keep in mind, RJ Barrett is averaging under 12 points on 28 percent shooting in his three games in Vegas. Let’s give a little bit of credit to Herro here.
Still, let’s also give a little credit to Calipari and Kentucky as well.
By now we all know Herro’s recruiting back-story, so we don’t need to take a deep dive here – but it is worth mentioning. This was a kid who ended up as somewhere around a Top 40 recruit in the recruiting rankings and a guy who – even after he decommitted from Wisconsin and ended up at Kentucky – wasn’t viewed as an immediate, unquestionable NBA talent. Most believed that even in Lexington, it would take two, three or four years for Herro to develop into an NBA player.
So yes, some of it was Herro’s natural talent, and yes, to a degree Kentucky did “recruit” a future NBA player when he signed his National Letter of Intent. To say otherwise would be to take away from Herro’s hard work.
At the same time, didn’t Kentucky play a role in how fast he got to the NBA, the fact that he was just a lottery pick after one season and that he’s been so successful so far in Summer League? I’d say the answer is yes when you consider, oh, I don’t know, that Herro got to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Lexington and was able to practice every day against NBA-level talent like PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans. I’d say that it didn’t hurt playing against other NBA caliber talent when Kentucky faced off against Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, LSU and others either.
Tyler Herro: "The first day I stepped on campus at Kentucky (Coach Cal) treated me like a pro."
"I think I made the best decision ever to go to Kentucky." pic.twitter.com/rSesmFMLsw
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) July 9, 2019
And if there was any doubt that Kentucky helped produce him into a pro, Herro put it to rest, when he himself discussed the role that Kentucky played in his development on Tuesday night. When asked about Kentucky, he said:
“The first day I stepped on campus at Kentucky (Coach Cal) treated me like a pro. Without Coach Cal and really the rest of the coaching staff I don’t think I would be here right now. I think I made the best decision ever to go to Kentucky.”
If that isn’t a ringing endorsement I don’t know what it is.
It also proves that while some pros are recruited to college campuses, quite a few others are developed there as well.
By Adam Luckett on ©July 10th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
With the Fourth of July holiday now in our rearview mirror, talking season is officially here. SEC Media Days begins in Hoover next week so it’s time to take a more in depth look at what the Wildcats have in front of them in 2019. With eight home games on the docket, expectations are high in the Big Blue Nation.
UK is entering 2019 set on not taking a step backwards following a historic 2018 season. They have the schedule to accomplish that goal.
The Wildcats only play four road games with Georgia being the only trip that would be classified as a big upset if UK were to win. Under Mark Stoops, UK has historically played its best football in September and if they are able to do that again you can start to dream big dreams.
The Rockets are historically one of the teams to beat in the MAC despite winning just three conference championships in the last two decades. Throughout their history, Toledo has had numerous coaches use the job to catapult into stardom. Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel, and Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell all used it to blast off their coaching careers. Jason Candle may be the next one in that group.
The former Mount Union player came to Toledo in 2009 to work with fellow college teammate Campbell and he’s still in The Glass City a decade later. After winning 28 games in his first four seasons with a MAC title under his belt (something Campbell never accomplished) it will not be long until he is at a Power Five program.
Under Candle’s watch, Toledo is known for their hurry-up offense and a risk taking defense built on speed. Last year the Rockets ranked 40th in the FBS in adjusted tempo while their defensed ranked 43rd in havoc rate (percentage of plays ending in a turnover, sack, tackle for loss, or pass break-up). That is their identity.
This year, however, they will be leaning on their ground game. UK transfer Bryant Koback put up six yards per carry and scored 14 touchdowns on 153 carries last fall. He’s due for a big season. Quarterbacks Mitchell Guadagni and Eli Peters both started for the Rockets and each return. Guadagni missed six games due to injury, but showed some real playmaking ability while in the lineup (8.8 yards per pass attempt, 8.6 yards per non-sack carry) despite a high sack rate. Peters, meanwhile, was more of a game manager who didn’t provide a run threat. These two are in a battle and the starter likely won’t be named until game week.
The Rockets return three starters upfront and should have one of the MAC’s best offensive lines. Where the big questions loom is at receiver. Outside of slot man Desmond Phillips, there is pretty much no playing experience and that is a concern for a team that wants to pass the ball a lot.
On the other side of the football, the Rockets lose seven starters but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since they gave up over 30 points per game for the fist time in the Candle era. Opponents put up nearly six yards per play against coordinator Brian George’s 4-2-5 defense. The Rockets weren’t really good at anything. Defensive end Jamal Hines is small (216 pounds) but that did not stop him from a huge rookie season. The Cincinnati native recorded 15 run stuffs and had two interceptions. He’s a future star.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Entering the 1988 season, EMU had been to two bowl games all-time. After five seasons at the helm, Chris Creighton has led the Eagles to two postseason appearances. Pound-for-pound no head coach may be doing more than the former NAIA, Division III, and FCS head coach.
The Eagles are fresh off their second 7-win campaign in three seasons and have two Power Five upsets under their belt. Kentucky better have their antennas up when EMU rolls into Lexington.
On offense, EMU has struggled to establish any running game but that changed when they turned to dual-threat quarterback Mike Glass III. The former junior college transfer averaged 7.5 yards on non-sack carries and put up 8.8 yards per pass attempt. He took a few too many sacks, but he was a huge reason this offense finished with their second highest offensive efficiency rating of the Creighton era.
EMU loses their top receiver, but they have four of their top five pass catchers returning. Line Latu is the most dangerous after averaging 16.1 yard per catch in his first season over from junior college. Arthur Jackson III is a very good possession receiver. There are huge questions on the offensive line, but this EMU passing attack should be very good.
The last two seasons, EMU has produced some of the best defenses in the MAC ranking in the top 60 overall in S&P+’s rankings. However, it feels like the Eagles are retooling with only three returning starters. However, the secondary should be very stout.
All three returning starters are in the secondary and the Eagles have two studs in safety Vince Calhoun and nickel Brody Hoying. Calhoun had over 84 tackles last season in addition to being a very good coverage safety while Hoying recorded 11 tackles for loss. They’ll pace the defense while corner Kevin McGill nearly hit double-digits in passes defended.
After a brutal end to the Jim McElwain era, former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen returned to Gainesville to lead the Gators back to national relevancy. In a bit of a surprise, he led UF to 10 wins, snapped the losing streak against Florida State, and crushed Michigan in the Peach Bowl in his first season. Expectations are sky high entering 2019 and some people think the Gators may have what it takes to take down Georgia.
Mullen has been called a quarterback whisperer and he did a magnificent job developing Feleipe Franks. In his redshirt sophomore season, Franks averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, threw for 24 touchdowns, avoided sacks, and was an effective runner when called upon. He was a productive game manager and that allowed Florida to put up 35 points per game. Franks was awesome in November and had an outstanding performance in the bowl win. If the Gators are to take the next step, it will be because of Franks becoming less game manager and more playmaker.
The Gators return their top seven pass catchers and four of their top five backs. Not many programs have better skill talent depth than Florida. That depth and talent will give Franks a great chance to step into stardom. Where the questions lie are on the offensive line.
Only one starter returns in the trenches and center Nick Buchanan was at times a weak spot for the Gators last season. Florida has a lot of unknown parts in this group filled with their fair share of recruiting misses. If this unit isn’t able to produce it could hamper the progression for Mullen’s offense in year two.
Todd Grantham took over the Florida defense last season and they were extra aggressive in his 3-4 scheme. The Gators forced a ton of havoc while occasionally allowing a big play. With eight starters returning, expectations are high.
CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson might be the best corner duo in FBS. Jabari Zuniga is one of the best defensive ends in the SEC. David Reese has played at an all-conference level at inside linebacker when healthy. There is a ton of depth at saftey. Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard figures to play a big role at rush end. On paper, this is a top 10-15 defense.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Dan Mullen left for Gainesville, but he left behind a fully stocked cupboard for Joe Moorhead. The offensive savant inherited a nasty defense and the league’s most experienced quarterback. But after playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, the Bulldogs were only able to collect eight wins. Entering year two, the expectations are high for Moorhead and if the Bulldogs don’t take a step back he will quickly find himself in hot seat territory.
Nick Fitzgerald returned for his senior season in 2018 as one of the best running quarterbacks in the country. However, the improvement in the passing game never occurred and that was the biggest thing that held State back. This season, the Bulldogs have two quarterbacks who are more known as runners than passers. Those same issues could plague the Dogs.
Keytaon Thompson played a ton his freshman season and led State to an upset win over Louisville in the Gator Bowl. He started the opener last season due to a Nick Fitzgerald suspension and played sparingly throughout the season. He is a dynamic runner (nearly 700 yards on less than 100 career carries) with big play pass ability (8.1 yards per attempt). However, he has a career completion percentage of just 47.6 perecent. High risk, high reward.
In the offseason, Moorhead hit the grad transfer market and beat out Kentucky for Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens. The big quarterback looks like a Fitzgerald clone without the game experience or breakaway speed. In an effort to improve the passing game, State landed Kansas State transfer Isaiah Zuber who led the Wildcats in receiving last year. He appears to be the possession target this offense is missing.
Kylin Hill is back for his junior season after rushing for 734 yards in an injury riddle season. Hill had 22 catches last year and if he stays healthy he could be one of the SEC’s most productive tailbacks. On the line of scrimmage, Darryl Williams is slated to be one of the best centers in college football and he’ll be surrounded by experience. If the passing game comes alive this has the potential to be a top-15 offense.
Former Vanderbilt/Penn State/Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop did a masterful job last season with the Bulldogs finishing the season with the top overall defense in FBS per S&P+. However, eight of those starters are gone and the deepest defensive line outside of Clemson is suddenly in rebuild mode.
State will be leaning on former Georgia defensive end and Last Chance U star Chauncey Rivers to become the next draft pick. At the second level, Errol Thompson is one of the best inside linebackers in college football and he should be a first-team selection at SEC Media Days. Running mates Willie Gay Jr. and Leo Lewis are both very talented. In the secondary, Cameron Dantzler is one of the best corners in the SEC and former Michigan Wolverine and UK target Brian Cole mans the nickel spot. There are a ton of questions, but this defense still has next level talent.
Kentucky starts out 2019 with two MAC foes that should be wins. After that there are two games they’ll likely be a touchdown or more underdogs in. Most think Florida will be a top-10 team while Mississippi State appears to have a top-25 caliber roster. If the Wildcats are somehow able to get out of this stretch at 3-1 then things are in motion for another great season.
By Nick Roush on ©July 09th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Mark Stoops just got another year further removed from his playing days at the University of Iowa. Today the Youngstown native and Kentucky head football coach turned 52 years young.
To celebrate the occasion, let’s look back at six of his greatest moments as the Cats’ coach over his first six seasons in Lexington.
“We’re just getting started, bro.”
After consecutive two-win seasons, Kentucky fans were starving for a significant win. In his second season at the helm, Stoops’ troops were a delay of game in The Swamp away from snapping The Streak to Florida.
Snake bit with a difficult second half of the schedule, one of the BBN’s favorite enemies came to town. Riding on the back of JoJo Kemp, Kentucky overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to take down Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks with a Bud Dupree Pick Six.
After Kemp delivered a powerful message on the field, Stoops gave Matt Jones a call on the KSR Postgame Show. The first of many eventful and entertaining calls to the show, Stoops provided an exclamation point in his message to the fans, “We’re just getting started, bro.”
Schlarman’s Game Ball
Four years after the close call at The Swamp, Stoops finally got his victory in Gainesville. Kentucky’s first win over Florida in 31 years featured big plays from the defense, gutsy third down moves from Terry Wilson and most importantly, dominance at the line of scrimmage.
Florida simply could not slow down the Cats on the ground, punctuated by Bunchy Stallings’ fourth quarter pancake, Kentucky finished with 303 yards of rushing. Once the game was over, Stoops could have taken credit for the accomplishment. Instead, he poured praise all over the team and handed the ball to John Schlarman. A man who had never defeated Florida as a player or a coach, finally got his victory as he was battling cancer. The game ball was perfect poetic justice.
Hiring (and Keeping) Vince Marrow
Mark Stoops found early success on the recruiting front in the state of Ohio. That could not have happened without his righthand man, Vince Marrow. It’s hard to imagine Stoops without The Big Dog. Last year’s success could not have happened if Marrow departed for Michigan. Luckily, Vince kept his promise to Mrs. Stoops and remained in Lexington.
Signing Austin MacGinnis
Mark Stoops probably would not be here without the greatest kicker to ever lace them up for the Wildcats. MacGinnis played high school football in Alabama, but the Crimson Tide don’t offer kickers scholarships. Stoops gladly handed a scholarship to the man who beat Mississippi State and Louisville in the final minute.
Has there ever been a better celebration for a walk-off win? I think not.
Taking off from Columbia like… ? pic.twitter.com/WZd1OERRnM
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 28, 2018
The REAL Blue and White
The Swaggy Stoops we first heard after the South Carolina victory reached a new level when Kentucky’s 2018 season culminated with a tenth victory at the Citrus Bowl. His final words took a shot at Penn State’s James Franklin, letting the world know who wears the real blue and white.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 08th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Former Louisville offensive lineman Jamon Brown, now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, never met Jared Lorenzen. Brown and Lorenzen played on opposite sides of the state’s big rivalry, almost a decade apart, and grew up in different parts of Kentucky; Brown from Fern Creek in Louisville, Lorenzen a Highlands star from Northern Kentucky.
But Brown respected his fellow Kentuckian and felt compelled to help out once he learned of Lorenzen’s passing last week. According to Forbes’ SmartMoney, Brown, through his Jamon Brown Foundation, donated $5,000 to Lorenzen’s family to help cover funeral costs.
“I guess you can say he was a legend in the state of Kentucky, and for me, it’s important to pay respect to those who came before me, whether they played for the University of Kentucky or Louisville,” Brown told Forbes.
A very kind gesture by a rival.
The two do have one common bond, though: they both played for the New York Football Giants. Lorenzen of course won the Super Bowl with New York during his three years as Eli Manning’s backup. Brown spent half of last season with the Giants, starting at right guard from Week 10 through the end of the season. He signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Falcons this past spring.
UPDATE: Danny Mosby, executive director of the Jamon Brown Foundation, told the Courier-Journal that former Louisville players Deion Branch and Chris Redman will also be donating an unspecified amount toward Jared’s funeral costs. Good on them. [Courier-Journal]
By Nick Roush on ©July 08th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Before Jager Burton was a four-star prospect with a treasure trove of scholarship offers, the Lexington lineman was a Kentucky football camper.
In the summer of 2018, Jager (pronounced Jagger, as in Mick) had just finished his freshman year of high school football. He spent his day working out in front of UK coaches as a defensive lineman. It would be his last day on that side of the line of scrimmage.
Burton quickly caught UK offensive line coach John Schlarman’s eye. Once drills wound down, the former UK offensive guard pulled Burton aside and suggested a switch. Five months later, Kentucky became the first school to offer the talented hometown kid a scholarship.
Burton’s sensational sophomore season at offensive guard for Frederick Douglass High School did not go unnoticed. Now a four-star prospect by Rivals and the No. 6 offensive guard in the 2021 class, he has more than a dozen offers from the likes of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon. He’s acquired plenty of attention, but the rising junior has no plans to pick a school anytime soon.
“I honestly think about it, but I wouldn’t do it until before senior year at the earliest,” Burton told Larry Vaught during an appearance on the Leach Report. “I definitely don’t want to decommit. I don’t like how that looks I guess. Whenever I make a decision I want to be 100% sure that’s where I want to go and start getting other guys to go there.”
Things will begin to clear up this fall. As of now, players can only reach out to coaches, who cannot reciprocate until September 1. Once that stage of the recruitment begins, Burton will have a better idea of who is making him a priority.
Up until this point, UK’s campus is the only place Burton has visited more than once. Proximity certainly plays a factor. It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up cheering for the Cats, and surprisingly, Oregon. The extravagant uniforms caught Burton’s eye at an early age. They’ve also provided a cautionary tale on the recruiting trail. Luckily, one of his closest friends has already been through the recruiting process, future Clemson offensive tackle Walker Parks.
“I’ve heard people who committed to Oregon will commit there just for the uniforms,” Burton said. “He’s (Parks) helped me stay away from the hype stuff which is something me and him don’t really like. I mean, I really like it, but people get so absorbed taking pictures of the uniforms and posting them on Twitter and getting likes. He’s helped me stay away from that and keep doing the same stuff we were doing before it all happened.”
Burton attended a Clemson camp this summer with Parks and another one of their talented Douglass teammates, Dekel Crowdus. The incredibly fast 2021 wide receiver (4.34 40-yard dash, no big deal) has received just as much attention on the recruiting trail and the two have talked at length about playing together at the next level.
Much will happen between now and Burton’s decision day. As he sorts through all of the madness, only one thing is certain — he does not want to play for a loser. Luckily for Kentucky, things have changed quite a bit over the last seven years.
“Really what they’ve done, I think Kentucky will be able to change up their recruiting pitch a lot throughout the next three years as they keep improving and winning more games, it’s a lot easier to get players. I think that helped a lot with John Young, Andru Phillips, Jordan Watkins, Izayah, all those guys, Beau. I talk to those guys a lot.
“Being able to stay home and win games is really important. I don’t know about a lot of other people, but I hate losing, whatever it is. I don’t think I’d want to go somewhere and lose. Kentucky is not like that at all anymore. You have the opportunity to compete for pretty much everything you would to compete for in college football now, especially as the years progress. I think that’s really important and I think that is a big reason why they’ve gotten a ton more high-level recruits, four and five-stars, even Justin Rogers. I think that’s really cool to see being from here, still being a Kentucky fan. It’s cool to see the progression of the program from Joker to Stoops.”
Hear more from Burton’s discussion on the Leach Report below.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 08th, 2019 @ 12:20pm
There is a change of plans in the week ahead on the KSR summer tour.
With our good friend Jared Lorenzen’s funeral set for Wednesday, we have canceled Thursday’s show at the West Kentucky Technology Park in Kevil, Ky., to allow us time to attend the funeral in Northern Kentucky. The show will be back in Western Kentucky on Friday at Tap 216 in Murray. Wednesday’s show in Central City will also go on as planned.
On Thursday, we will now do the show at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Lorenzen’s high school alma mater and hometown. It will be a special tribute show to Lorenzen’s life and career, and it will include several special guests who knew Lorenzen well. The live broadcast will be open to the public and we invite everyone to stop by for the celebration of Jared Lorenzen.
The week now looks like this:
Tuesday, 7/9 – Roy’s BBQ, Russellville, Ky.
Wednesday, 7/10 – Stellian’s, Central City, Ky.
Thursday, 7/11 – Highlands High School, Fort Thomas, Ky. (Jared Lorenzen Tribute Show)
Friday, 7/12 – Tap 216, Murray, Ky.
Kentucky fans have spent the week mourning the premature death of our beloved former quarterback, Jared Lorenzen. We can never compare suffering and tragedy, but it’s safe to say, in terms of the collective sadness of a university’s fanbase, this is about as bad as it gets. We lost one of our own, and it hurts.
But why are so many are mourning the loss of one who so few of us knew personally? The first conversation I’ve had with every UK fan I’ve seen this week has been about Jared, but barely any of us ever had the chance to meet him. How can it be that his death has had such a far-reaching impact?
Put simply, the loss of Jared hurts because Jared was one of us. Communities are comprised of people and places, and Jared was one of our people, who lived in our place. We lost one of us, and it’s right for us to mourn.
We all belong to communities. It’s true that no man, or woman, is an island. We are all formed by, and we all form, the people around us and the places in which we live, move, and have our being.
I was born in 1993 in Lexington, Kentucky. One of the most formative communities in my life has been the community of Kentucky football fans. Every Saturday in the fall brought the rituals of putting on blue, driving to Commonwealth Stadium, helping set up our family’s tent in the green lot, eating too much food, sweating in September, freezing in November, making the climb to section 216, shaking hands with Tommy, our usher, and screaming my head off for three-and-a-half hours, usually only to walk out disappointed. Despite the disappointment, we went back every week for more. Why? Because it’s not really about winning and losing; it’s about community—people and places.
The place was one: Commonwealth Stadium. The people were many: my mom and dad, my sister, uncles and aunts, cousins, Tommy, who I mentioned above, Evan, who I threw football with before and after the game, Ian, who stood waiting to celebrate with me on the 50-yard line after more than one upset. But perhaps no one epitomizes the community of Kentucky football for any of us more than the Hefty Lefty.
For most sports fans, the preteen years are the height of fandom—you’re knowledgeable enough to know what’s going on, old enough to stay engaged for the entire game, and optimistic enough to think you’re going to pull off every upset. This means the height of my fandom came in the Jared Lorenzen era at Kentucky. And boy did it ever.
I was at Jared’s first game as a starter against Louisville in Papa John’s Stadium. I was there when he threw for a million yards against Georgia later the same year, and when he threw for a million yards again against Eli Manning and Ole Miss a year later. I was there (for the first half) in 2001 when we had Tennessee beat, only to lose a nailbiter. I was there for our 4–0 start in 2002, and watched in agony as we blew a lead against Florida in the Swamp. I was there the next fall when we blew another lead against Florida and lost at home. And I was there, ten years old, for all seven overtimes against Arkansas in another heartbreaking defeat in 2003.
Most of those games may have been losses, but I remember them. And I remember watching most of them in a blue 22 jersey, the sleeves cut just below the numbers, like Jared’s. I wore that same jersey for years, and rushed the field in it in ’06 against Georgia, ’07 against Louisville, and ’07 against LSU. Why? Because Jared was part of our community. Even though I never met him, he was part of my community. And he was one of our favorite parts of our community.
The reason I wore that 22 jersey for years in the height of my UK fandom is the same reason so many in BBN have shed tears this week: because Jared was not only one of us, he was one of the best of us.
Jared Lorenzen was born and raised in Northern Kentucky. He was a KHSAA Mr. Football. He was a four-year starter who broke all kinds of school, conference, and national records. And after a short stint in the NFL, he came back home to his community—his people, in his place.
It just felt right when, a few years ago, Jared began leading the crowd in cheering on the Cats at the beginning of each fourth quarter. Who better to do so? Who better to represent our team and fans? Disappointments, upsets, losses—our team’s history, and Jared’s life, unfortunately, have plenty. But at the end of the day, it’s not about that. It’s people and places that matter. And still, even in his death, there’s no one that 10-year-old me or 26-year-old me would rather see representing the Blue and White.
So thanks Jared. Thanks for being a part of our community, and for letting us be a part of yours. We love you. We’ll miss you. And you’ll always be one of us.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 06th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Good evening and welcome back to another edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes. Last week, we discussed some of the top prospects in 2020 and 2021 and where Kentucky stood with each of them.
This time around, we’ll focus on N’Faly Dante’s visit/reclassification talk, Jalen Johnson’s decision, and a few other quick notes, keeping it a bit shorter than usual before going all-in on Peach Jam next week.
Let’s get started.
When Kentucky brought in N’Faly Dante for an official visit last week, it became fairly obvious that signaled that while UK understood they were likely out of the Kerry Blackshear Jr. sweepstakes, they were serious about adding one more piece to the 2019-20 roster.
While there were initial reports that Dante would not be reclassifying, I was informed almost immediately that this was not true and that a decision on that had not been made. In fact, going into the visit, sources tell KSR that the five-star center was still working toward getting his academics in order to see if a jump to 2019 was possible. This remains the case.
As far as the visit to Kentucky is concerned, things went extremely well and I’m confident that they now are one of the co-favorites, if not the favorite, in his recruitment. Going into the trip, Oregon and LSU were seen as the top landing spots, while Kentucky and Kansas were not far behind as the dark horses. Now, I believe Kentucky and Oregon are the top contenders, with the Cats likely having the slight edge. In fact, I think he’s Kentucky’s to-lose if he is able to reclassify to 2019.
Oregon has been involved for quite some time, and I’ve been told that his guardian pushed for the Ducks a bit early on in Dante’s recruitment. Now, though, sources tell KSR that those close to the elite shot blocker are very much open to the idea of him ending up in Lexington. This bodes well for the Cats.
In terms of his reclassification decision, I am told that a jump is still very much on the table if Dante can get his academic situation in order. KSR’s Matt Jones reported on the radio show late last week that the five-star center is still waiting on a test score (among a few other things) before he can even entertain the possibility of reclassifying to 2019. While I’m not sure what that test is, I’m told that there is no update on the status of that as of yet.
Overall, it won’t be easy and there are several moving parts to make it work in a limited amount of time. As long as that window of opportunity is available, though, they’ll continue to make that push.
Regardless, Dante is set to participate at Peach Jam this week, something he has been openly looking forward to since last year. While the academic side of thing is the biggest area of importance right now, he would not have been eligible to participate next week if Dante officially announced his reclassification earlier, which I think has also played a factor in all of this.
Starting on Wednesday, I’ll be able to ask him personally about where things stand and when we should expect a decision either way.
On Thursday evening, 2020 five-star small forward Jalen Johnson chose the Duke Blue Devils over Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Arizona, a decision that really didn’t shock anyone. He turned heads a while back when he said UK was his “dream school” growing up, but even then, nobody took it too seriously. While I think Kentucky was the No. 2 school on his list (I never bought the Wisconsin rumors), most conversations I’ve had with those familiar with his recruitment felt he has always seen himself eventually playing for Coach K in Durham, NC.
While the UK coaching staff will never back down to any program on the recruiting trail, it’s been fairly obvious that they’ve been prioritizing other top prospects over the last few months, likely understanding that Johnson was heavily favoring Duke. The main target of emphasis? 2020 top-five prospect Jalen Green, who the Kentucky coaches have visited all across the country and even overseas in Greece during the FIBA U19 World Cup last week.
Which leads me to my next topic…
With Johnson headed off to Duke, momentum with Jalen Green is growing heavily in favor of the Wildcats right now.
Last week, I wrote that Kentucky had put themselves in solid position with the 6-foot-5 prospect, and today, that was confirmed by Larry Vaught of VaughtsViews.com.
In an interview with Vaught, Green’s trainer, Marcus Green, said Kentucky has always been one of the elite prospect’s favorite schools and he plans on exploring the Wildcats “in-depth” during his recruitment.
“He grew up following Kentucky,” Marcus Green told Vaught. “Kentucky is one of his dream schools. One thing I told Coach Cal was that it was rough on him because he offered some other players before him and Jalen was ranked No. 1 (in the 2020 class at that time). Calipari broke it down for him and kept it 100 percent truthful. That’s why he has put Kentucky in the spot it is now and that remains his dream school. … One of his priorities is to make sure he explores that in depth.”
Kentucky hasn’t landed a top-five prospect since Skal Labbisiere in 2015, and I think Green just might be that guy to end the streak this season. Seeing just how hard the UK coaching staff is recruiting him, especially over the last few months, I think they realize that too.
I continue to feel good about Kentucky’s chances with Daishen Nix and BJ Boston, as well, pairing those two up with Green to make up the team’s starting backcourt in 2020-21.
Boston recently picked up two predictions in favor of the Blue Devils on his Crystal Ball (from two Duke writers, mind you), though I think that mostly has to do with UK’s momentum with Green and the assumption being that Boston and Green wouldn’t play together in college. As I wrote last week, sources tell KSR that this narrative is false and that they wouldn’t mind sharing the same backcourt. I still believe Boston favors Kentucky.
We’ll have more on Kentucky’s top 2020 and 2021 targets next week at Peach Jam.
See you then.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 05th, 2019 @ 7:30am
As a 21-year-old and a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, I admittedly don’t have memories of Art Still wreaking havoc in the backfield, Dermontti Dawson mauling defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, or Sonny Collins shattering rushing records. And while I’ve studied and analyzed plenty of film on guys like Tim Couch and Craig Yeast, even that was just before my time in terms of watching Kentucky games at Commonwealth Stadium and truly grasping the game of football.
And then came No. 22.
From the first moment I saw Jared Lorenzen play, I was hooked. Done for. The way he scrambled in and out of the pocket, flicked defenders off of him like flies, and rocketed the ball down the field with ease, it truly was poetry in motion for me. The sport was so fresh and new for me at the time, but the Hefty Lefty made me understand the craze. It just clicked for me. I got it. Jared was truly the reason I fell in love with football.
Not long after, I suited up on the football field for the very first time. Playing quarterback as a homegrown Kentucky kid who hadn’t quite lost his baby fat, Lorenzen was an obvious role model to me. In my eyes, if a guy like Jared could be a superstar athlete and write his name in the record books at Kentucky, what’s holding me back from finding a bit of success? I didn’t expect to become the next UK football legend, obviously, but I was at least inspired to give it all I had.
Fast forward three years from the end of his Kentucky career, and instead of being amazed by Jared’s on-field abilities, he was actually part of the reason why I cried for the first time during a sporting event. As a diehard New England Patriots fan (I had been for a whopping two seasons at that point, don’t judge me), Jared’s damned New York Giants ruined our potential 19-0 effort in 2007. I was heartbroken. Crushed. My little 10-year-old self simply couldn’t handle the pain, and Jared was a major part of it.
Thank you to the real hero of #SB42 @JaredLorenzen22
The referee ALMOST called the play dead.
Eli Manning ALMOST threw the ball to his offensive lineman.
The @nygiants ALMOST lost the game.#TheTimeline: #helmetcatch
Rp @NFLFilms #nflfilms @NFL pic.twitter.com/7EliKODF2q
— LPG – NYG (@LicensePlateGuy) February 1, 2018
When I got to college and started with KSR, Jared obviously had a significant role with us with podcasts, radio, pregame shows, and occasional posts here on the site. As excited as I was to get started with my writing and join such a close-knit group of individuals, part of the intrigue for me was that I would likely cross paths with No. 22 at some point. For starters, I wanted to tell him how much I idolized him as a kid and enjoyed watching him in his time at Kentucky. I wanted to thank him for inspiring me when I played.
Then, I wanted to flip him the ole bird for his Giants ruining New England’s perfect season.
That time finally came two years ago at the KSR Christmas Party, my first as part of the crew. Lorenzen was standing there with Freddie Maggard and Nick Roush, two of the only people in the room I had talked to on a fairly regular basis. Again, I was still brand new with the company, so I was admittedly a bit nervous to be there in the first place. I figured if I was going to meet my childhood idol, it’d be easiest to do it with two of my other KSR buds.
Star-struck, I hesitantly walked up to him and immediately gave him hell for his Super Bowl victory. I promised myself I would do it the first time I met him, and I was pretty proud of myself for following through with it.
But instead of the quick exchange I expected, Lorenzen sat there and talked to me for about 30 minutes, breaking down that horrendous game, what it’s like to take down the greatest quarterback in NFL history, showed me a picture of his ring (he wasn’t wearing it, unfortunately), and continued to talk about the league today. He rubbed it in my face as any Super Bowl champion should. I loved it.
Then, Kentucky’s all-time passing leader asked about me and my life. He wanted to know about school, what I was majoring in, what my goals were, how my time at KSR was going, and what I hoped to get out of it. It wasn’t just to check a box, Jared continued to give a young kid the same respect he would give to any of his closest peers. Thoughtful, genuine responses after thoughtful, genuine responses. He cared.
Why? I don’t know. He recognized my name, but he didn’t know me from Adam that night. I could’ve been anybody in the world, and that conversation still would have likely been the exact same with each and every one of them. After reading countless fan memories and notes since Wednesday afternoon, I’m sure of it. That’s just who Jared was. He may not have known you, but he was going to make you feel like you guys had been friends for years.
The thing is, it didn’t stop there. Every time I saw Jared out and about from that day on, he’d go out of his way to shake my hand and catch up. When I would write in-depth posts or game breakdowns on KSR, he’d reach out and let me know what he thought. A stranger quickly became a friend.
In four years at Kentucky, the Hefty Lefty threw for a program record 10,354 total yards and 78 touchdowns. On the field, he was one of the greatest players in school history and arguably the most beloved former football Wildcat of all time. His talent was evident, and he had the numbers to back it up.
Off the field, though, he was one of us. As much as he loved re-living his glory days with a microphone in his hands or a headset on, Jared was the exact same fun-loving guy off-air as he was on. He sat in the stands and cheered on touchdowns, screamed at missed calls, held his breath in high-pressure situations, and got down in the dumps over tough losses. If there was one individual who truly bled blue through and through, it was him.
Simply put, there will never be another guy like Jared both on and off the field.
It breaks my heart that I only got to know him for a few years, but I thank God I at least got that.
Rest easy, No. 22.
They say to get to know a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes; for me, that proved to be 100% true with Jared Lorenzen.
I got to know Jared early in my KSR career. He was a fixture at football games and KSR functions, a larger than life figure in every sense of the term. Any nerves I had meeting him, a Kentucky Football legend, quickly dissipated on contact. Jared had a unique way of making everyone feel like his friend, no matter if you were someone he’d grown up with or simply a fan outside Kroger Field. To me, that was his greatest trait and made the walk from the RV lot to the stadium in 2015 one I’ll never forget.
The lead-up to the Kentucky-Auburn game in 2015 was manic. The Cats were 4-1, the only loss being a heartbreaker to Florida (natch). ESPN picked the game for its Thursday night slot, and in turn, we decided to do an all-day pregame show, with me, Jared, Freddie, and Nick in studio and Matt, Ryan, and Drew prowling the tailgating grounds in the Gator. In true KSR fashion, a lot of crazy things happened that day — the Gator breaking down, for one — but somehow, we got through it and to the stadium. Jared and I arrived at the RV lot and began the walk through the tailgates, chatting easily about completely random stuff (in true Jared fashion).
I’d seen Jared interact with fans before during pregame shows, etc., but experiencing it alongside him for those 20 or so minutes was something different altogether. It was the same cycle with each group we passed: 1) Is that Jared Lorenzen? 2) Holy crap, that’s Jared Lorenzen 3) “HEY JARED!” Most fans would shout out one of Jared’s many nicknames, which he’d lobby back with, “What’s going on” and a wave. Occasionally, a football would get tossed to him and he’d grab it and flick it back effortlessly. As we crossed University Drive into the Blue Lot, a fan who’d clearly had a few jokingly mentioned the Florida game, which had come up during the pregame show. Jared rolled his eyes back and growled. When the guy apologized for bringing it up, he shook it off and smiled.
A few steps later, a fan in a No. 22 jersey stopped in his tracks and, after picking his chin off the ground, asked Jared for a picture. He didn’t just oblige, he made sure they got several. When we walked on, I told him I felt like I was walking with a rockstar. As we neared the stadium, I ran into an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years. We chatted for a bit and after we parted ways, Jared joked that he felt like he was walking with a rockstar.The high fives, shoutouts, and selfies continued until we got to the gate and morphed into warm smiles and greetings as we got to the press box. I made my way to my seat and Jared went to his, our journey over.
This isn’t my greatest memory of Jared — singing Fake Barney’s parody of “Crown Royal” with him in a bar full of Louisville fans is hard to top — but it is the most telling. So many times, you meet your heroes and they fail to live up to your expectations. Jared exceeded mine because, without knowing, he made people part of his experience. Just another day for him was, for me, an unforgettable glimpse into the life of one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. The world could use a few more Jareds.
August 18, 2014 was a day I will never forget.
In my second season covering the Kentucky football beat for KSR, there was plenty anticipation surrounding the hot preseason practice. It wasn’t for the interviews after practice. After all, there wasn’t too much hoopla entering Stoops’ second season besides, “We might not suck again!”
An ambitious 22-year old, I was prepared to have the best ice bucket challenge in the short history of ice bucket challenges. Instead of pouring the cold water over my head, I was simply going to take a dip into the frigid waters at the Tim Couch Practice Fields once the players had finished their post-practice routine. With the help of Matt Elam, I boldly took the plunge.
View this post on Instagram
Pleased with my effort, I had a little extra pep in my step as I prepared to depart. The false confidence was exactly what I needed when I saw the the practice field’s namesake step onto the scene.
Still soaked from my dip into the cold pool, the sight of Tim Couch, Shane Boyd and Jared Lorenzen caught me completely off guard. It was as if Jesus came sauntering down the runway from the pearly gates with his 12 disciples.
The Couch-Lorenzen-Boyd quarterback triumvirate is at the cornerstone of my fandom. I’ve loved the Wildcats my entire life, but those three took it to another level. In my second game at Commonwealth Stadium, Couch threw a touchdown to Yeast in overtime to beat Alabama. From that point forward, if I got a chance to use one of the two season tickets (or sneak in), I was going to be in the stands.
My passion for Kentucky football was permanently cemented into my soul in 2002. At 11-years old, I discovered the art of trash-talking when Lorenzen threw for 195 yards and a touchdown to defeat Dave Ragone and the seventeenth-ranked Cards on their own turf to kickoff a special season. The win over Louisville ignited a win streak, one that featured my most memorable moment as a young fan.
The Roush family season tickets were in section 225, row 25, far from the field. By this time I had matured what I thought was well beyond my years. Now a fifth grader on the top floor of my school with the rest of the older kids, the rite of passage also gave me the freedom to walk on my own to my friend’s section to sit with his family near the end zone. In one of my first experiences near the goal line, I got to see Lorenzen at his finest hour.
As the first half drew to a close, Middle Tennessee State crept back into the game to make it 24-16. Jared made quite a few big plays in a 305-yard, three-touchdown outing, but his best performance was on the final play of the half. Even though I was supposed to get back to my section at halftime, I stuck around for the final play. I was treated to a bench-clearing brawl, thanks to the Hefty Lefty’s theatrics.
Jared was never afraid to scrap ?? pic.twitter.com/CRLWH6mpCW
— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) July 3, 2019
Twelve years later I wasn’t the swaggy frat guy who just made an awesome Instagram video, I was the wide-eyed kid in the stands watching Lorenzen raise hell at Commonwealth Stadium.
Upon introducing myself, Jared could not have been nicer. We casually reminisced on old games, he introduced me to Couch and his former right hand man Shane Boyd before we posed for a picture, one I will cherish forever.
When I left the UK practice facility on August 18, 2014, I knew I found my calling. For the next 12 months, I worked vigorously until Matt Jones asked me to join the KSR team full time. One of the job’s duties was to produce a podcast with Freddie Maggard and Jared Lorenzen. Twist my arm.
For the next three years, I got to hangout with my childhood hero once a week and talk football. Unlike many in the media biz, Jared didn’t show up just to punch the clock and cash a check. He was there to have fun, bust some chops and talk football. At first, I was too nervous. Hell, my first introduction sounded more like “Gerald Lorenzo” than Jared Lorenzen. Even when I couldn’t correctly say my name, he always treated me like I was one of the guys. Instead of the dumb kid who didn’t know nothing about football, he looked me in the eyes, broke down plays, then gave me a hard time. It was as though we were just a couple of old jocks, hanging out in the locker. In the middle of an uncertain, chaotic time in my life, Jared’s acceptance pushed me forward and affirmed that I was doing the right thing with my life.
Over the course of the three years we spent talking football on a microphone, the man I once idolized became a friend. He wasn’t just the kind of friend you talk sports with either. He was the kind of friend you first asked about each other’s family, then shared a laugh at a silly YouTube video. He was an honest man who was willing to share his life, the good and the bad, with the entire world. His courage and strength will always be an inspiration.
When I grew up, I wanted to be Jared Lorenzen. The quarterback I idolized as a child isn’t half the man I got to befriend as an adult. If the next generation of leaders can live up to the standard Lorenzen set, the future of our state is in good hands.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 03rd, 2019 @ 4:16pm
It is with a shattered heart and a mind that is in complete shock that I have to write these words:
Jared Lorenzen — a college football legend, a Super Bowl champion and an even better friend and person — has passed away.
Details at this point are limited, not that the details matter right now. We all knew Jared was hospitalized last Friday and he was “fighting with everything,” his family said over the weekend.
On Wednesday, Jared lost that fight. He was only 38 years old.
A statement from his family:
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his two kids, Taylar and Tayden. He was so involved with their youth sports (Taylar in softball, Tayden following in his old man’s footsteps with football) and he loved bragging on how well they were doing. He was such a proud dad.
As for his own athletic career, you don’t need me to tell you about Jared Lorenzen’s legacy. You witnessed it and you loved every minute of it. He will be remembered as one of the all-time greats at Kentucky, forever. There will never be another player like Jared Lorenzen; not just in Lexington, but anywhere in football. When he was the quarterback at Kentucky, he was must-see television for football fans everywhere; and for that, he will always be one of the faces of the UK football program — and one of its most exciting players to watch.
Outside of football, we here at KSR grew close to Jared once he joined our radio and podcast teams for football coverage. Through our time with him on the shows and off the air, Jared became a dear friend and we will miss him so much, as will everyone who knew him personally, and many more who didn’t.
Jared Lorenzen was special. He was special for both his insane athletic abilities at his size and for his fun-loving personality. He was always so great and personable with his fans, even if all they wanted to do was talk about his size. He was just one of those people who would light up any room, just as he lit up whatever poor defensive back tried to tackle him shy of a first down.
Jared Lorenzen was truly an unbelievable human being and we are lucky to have known him.
By Nick Roush on ©July 01st, 2019 @ 11:30pm
Update: Less than an hour after this story was initially published, Samuel Anaele (No. 5 DE, No. 96 overall) committed to Kentucky, the second four-star commitment of the day. Not too shabby.
The month of June was kind to Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow.
The Cats entered the month with four football commitments. After a week of camps, three weeks of official visitors and the efforts of a talented quarterback and his future teammates, Kentucky has the
No. 25 No. 20 recruiting class in America according to Rivals. Four of the 12 Five of the 13 commitments are ranked as four-star prospects by at least one recruiting service.
Things will begin to slow down on the football recruiting front as we enter the month of July and high school football practices begin across the country. Here’s how Kentucky reached this point and who could be next.
Kentucky began the month of June with a solid foundation to build its class. The Cats had a talented offensive lineman from Louisville, four-star offense tackle John Young, and a four-star quarterback who lived just minutes from campus, Beau Allen. When talented recruits officially visited and camped in Lexington, the commits were there to make the pitch. Jordan Watkins was one of the first high profile recruits to camp at Kentucky. He caught passes from Allen and was guarded by future UK cornerback Andru Phillips.
The team effort made dominos fall. The night Watkins camped in Lexington, running back Torrance Davis committed to UK. Less than 24 hours later, running back JuTahn McClain rolled the dice. Three days later, Georgia linebacker D’Eryk Jackson became Jon Sumrall’s first commitment. Sumrall’s second Yahtzee came two weeks later during the biggest weekend of the summer.
Alabama offensive lineman Joshua Jones started off the Saturday hot. Before the weekend ended, three wide receivers pledged their allegiance to UK — Michigan’s Earnest Sanders, Louisville’s Watkins and Izayah Cummings. The final addition to the wide receivers room in the 2020 class happened Monday evening when Kalil Branham announced his commitment. Recruiting receivers is much easier when they know the quarterback they’ll be catching passes from in the future.
Kentucky Football Class of 2020
|Justin Rogers||DT||Oak Park, MI||6-4||315||5-star, #12 Overall|
|Samuel Anaele||DE/OLB||Miami, FL||6-4||250||4-star, #96 Overall|
|John Young||OT||Louisville, KY||6-6||295||4-star, #5 KY|
|Beau Allen||QB||Lexington, KY||6-2||200||4-star, #18 QB|
|Andru Phillips||CB||Mauldin, SC||6-0||180||3-star, #6 SC|
|Torrance Davis||RB||Cleveland, OH||6-1||215||3-star, #25 RB|
|JuTahn McClain||APB||Fairfield, OH||5-9||176||3-star, #11 APB|
|Kalil Branham||WR||Columbus, OH||6-1||205||3-star, #82 WR|
|Jordan Watkins||WR||Louisville, KY||6-0||180||3-star, #23 ATH|
|Izayah Cummings||WR||Louisville, KY||6-3||210||3-star, #8 KY|
|Earnest Sanders||WR||Flint, MI||6-2||190||3-star, #100 WR|
|D'Eryk Jackson||LB||Dexter, GA||6-2||235||3-star, #115 GA|
|Joshua Jones||OT||Phenix City, AL||6-6||300||3-star, #58 OT|
Off the Board
When Kentucky missed, they missed with the best and brightest.
There were four different four-star prospects who narrowed their choices to Kentucky and one other school. Defensive tackle Dallas Walker (Texas Ranger) chose Texas A&M over UK, cornerback Enzo Jennings picked Penn State over Kentucky, Birmingham linebacker Quandarrius Robinson yelled Roll Tide and offensive lineman Chris Mayo took country roads to West Virginia. Kentucky put themselves in a position to win, but you can’t win them all.
Another four-star recruit, outside linebacker Romello Height, declared Kentucky his favorite after officially visiting UK and Miami. Two weeks later, he changed his mind and committed to The U, with a caveat — Height is still open to visit other schools. Kentucky’s pursuit of Height may not be complete.
The University of Louisville is engaged with a few former UK targets. Josh Minkins, a Ballard defensive back and Louisville legacy recruit, committed shortly after camping with Kentucky. There were no hard feelings after his performance in Lexington. The Cards are now heavily pursuing Jaheim Thomas, a four-star Cincinnati linebacker, who revealed last week the Cats have moved on.
Who’s Up Next?
If you plan on taking a long, four-day weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July, you might also have a UK football commitment to celebrate. Friday evening on July 5th, offensive lineman Richie Leonard will announce his college decision. Leonard was one of UK’s first commitments in the 2020 class, but reopened his recruitment when the major players in his home state of Florida got involved. Florida State, Tennessee, Miami, Florida, UCF and Georgia Tech are also finalists. The chances he rolls the dice are promising.
Leonard isn’t the only Florida native in UK’s crosshairs. Nigerian-born pass rusher Samuel Anaele recently decommitted from his hometown team of Miami. Kentucky is the favorite moving forward, although a timetable on his decision is unclear.
Narrator: “It’s now clear.”
The two biggest uncommitted targets within the Commonwealth — North Hardin four-star defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine and Bowling Green four-star safety Vito Tisdale — are not expected to make a decision anytime soon. Frequent flyers to Lexington, UK is in a good spot for each elite defender.
Kentucky will end up having room for about 20 prospects. The final spots will be set aside for a defensive back or two, then the best players available. JUCO cornerback Marco Domio and defensive back Carrington Valentine have already officially visited. Offensive tackle Deondre Buford has as well; a commitment would give UK three from the state of Michigan in the 2020 class. Potentially the biggest piece left of the puzzle is Michael Drennen. Kentucky has commitments from six WRs/RBs, but they would make room for one of the best overall athletes in America.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 01st, 2019 @ 10:36pm
How about a second four-star YAHTZEE to close out your Monday evening?
2020 top-100 prospect and consensus four-star defensive end Samuel Anaele has committed to Kentucky.
According to Justin Rowland of Rivals.com, Anaele made the pledge official this evening:
BREAKING: Huge story. Cats Illustrated has learned #Rivals100 four-star defensive end Samuel Anaele has committed to Kentucky. @coachclink has now landed two of the highest-ranked players in UK football history in this class alone. Both d-linemen https://t.co/kn4OPZzHg8
— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) July 2, 2019
Ranked by Rivals as the No. 5 defensive end in America and No. 96 player overall, Anaele is now Kentucky’s second highest-ranked player in their 2020 class, behind only Justin Rogers. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, who decommitted from Miami yesterday, chose Kentucky over offers from Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, and Oregon, among others.
Anaele joins four-star wide receiver Kalil Branham as Kentucky’s commitments today, giving the Wildcats their 13th pledge in the class of 2020. Anaele and Branham join Rogers, John Young, Beau Allen, Jutahn McClain, Earnest Sanders, Torrance Davis, Izayah Cummings, Andru Phillips, Jordan Watkins, Joshua Jones, and D’Eryk Jackson as commitments.
With today’s commitments of Anaele and Branham, Kentucky now moves up to No. 20 overall in the team recruiting rankings on Rivals.com. They are now ahead of schools such as South Carolina, Mississippi State, Louisville, Tennessee, and Auburn.
Check out some of the newest Wildcat’s most recent highlights below:
Welcome home, big fella.
Kentucky has added an incredibly talented athlete to complete its arsenal of wide receivers in the 2020 recruiting class.
Four-star wide receiver Kalil Branham is ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 350 player in America and No. 61 wide receiver. The one-time Michigan commit went all-in on the Cats shortly after unofficially visiting for the spring game. Most onlookers quickly judge a player’s significance based on his recruiting ranking and offer sheet. Neither can accurately describe what Branham brings to the table.
A versatile athlete, Branham varsity lettered in four sports — football, basketball, baseball and track and field — as a high school freshman. A state champion that competed in track and field on the national level, Branham’s speed is the first thing that jumps out on his film. Speed can only you get you so far. His ability to quickly change direction and accelerate into a second gear is remarkable.
Four defenders were in position to make a play, yet even after slipping he still found a way to make them all miss.
Recruited by Vince Marrow to be Kentucky’s “next Lynn Bowden,” his high school film mirrors the UK slot receiver’s. Each did a little big of everything for their high school team — return kicks, play quarterback and catch passes. Last season Branham returned a kickoff for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown, rushed for quite a few and caught deep balls on top of opponents. The following play is the most Bowden-esque, flipping the field as the running quarterback to finish with a score.
It’s always impressive to see someone juke an entire defense, then blow by 11 guys. What makes Branham special is that he doesn’t just run around people. A 6’1″ 205-pound prospect, Branham is not afraid of contact. He uses physicality to finish plays where other slots would simply take the easy road out of bounds.
Branham could have made a nice 15-yard gain by busting it straight to the edge. Instead, he created space with a jab step, then finished with a spin off of his defender to finish in the end zone. That football IQ is rarely seen so young.
What makes Branham special cannot be seen on film. An incredibly hard worker, he catches at least 125 footballs everyday. To break up the monotony with daily training, he runs hills, jumps boxes and throws on gloves to box in his garage. The younger brother to a Division I running back — his brother John will begin his first season at Eastern Michigan this fall — Kalil’s drive will pave the way for a successful career as playmaker as a slot receiver and returner at the University of Kentucky.
Kentucky added another four-star talent to its recruiting class with the commitment of Kalil Branham, a wide receiver out of Columbus, Ohio. Branham pledged his commitment to the Wildcats in an announcement video via his Twitter account Monday afternoon:
Thank you to the ones who gave me opportunity and Prayer. The ones that gave me their time. Please watch my commitment video. pic.twitter.com/ENquLMJg7C
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) July 1, 2019
A former Michigan Wolverines commit, Branham reopened his recruitment back in early April, following an unofficial visit to Kentucky, coincidentally. The visit went very well and UK had been considered the leader for Branham since that time.
Branham picked Kentucky over a number of schools, including Louisville, to become the 12th commitment in the 2020 class. He is one of four four-star prospects and the fourth wide receiver of the group.
Brad Calipari’s career at Kentucky has officially come to an end. A few minutes ago, Brad announced he is transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy, where he’ll be coached by former Indiana coach Mike Davis.
Blessed to be in this position. Just want to thank everybody who’s been there along the way. Especially everyone who said I couldn’t. All the unseen hours of work paying off. It doesn’t stop now tho! #TheNextChapter @DetroitMBB pic.twitter.com/NIwjrAGLdk
— Brad Calipari (@bradcalipari) July 1, 2019
“Ten years ago, my life completely changed when my dad took the head coaching job at the University of Kentucky. I became part of a family. I didn’t know it then but I became part of something that will define who I am and what I want to be. During my time at Kentucky I’ve grown from a kid into a man. I got in the gym and earned that opportunity a few years ago and I’ve had the privilege of wearing the Kentucky jersey for the last three years and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“This hasn’t been an easy decision for me but I’ve decided to finish the rest of my basketball career elsewhere. It always has been a dream of mine to make a major impact on the court at a college level and I believe the best opportunity for me to do that is at the University of Detroit Mercy.
“I wouldn’t be in this position without being at Kentucky. I’ve grown so much over the years going against the best college basketball players in the nation and also having the best coaching staff. I want to thank the assistants Kenny, Tony, Joel, and Robes, my brothers, and of course my dad for pushing me to be the best version of myself.
“Last but not least, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for all of their support over the years and although I’ll be playing my final two seasons elsewhere, this place will always be important to me. Thank you and Go Big Blue.”
Brad graduated from UK in May and will have two years of immediate eligibility remaining. During his two seasons of play, he scored 11 points with five rebounds, two assists and a block, appearing in 27 games. In a statement from UK, John Calipari said he’s very proud of his son and supports his decision.
“At the end of the year, each of our players has an opportunity to explore their options and find out what opportunities they have,” John Calipari said. “I didn’t believe Brad should be treated any different. I’m proud of the fact that he graduated in three years and gave himself this opportunity to play the next two seasons either here or at another university. He’s worked really hard and he’s gained the respect of our players because of his work ethic, his drive, his commitment to the game and his skills, so he’s had my full support throughout this process.
“I did not attend any visits with him because I wanted this to be about him and his decision. He came to Kentucky understanding it would be hard to earn minutes because of the level of players here, but he also knew it was his best opportunity to get better every day and to push himself. He always said he may go into coaching one day, which is one of the reasons he decided to come to Kentucky. Now he’s doing what’s best for him and hoping to benefit from the work he’s put in to where he has the opportunity to earn minutes and to play with other really good players and for a good coach.
“That place will be Detroit Mercy with head coach Mike Davis. I’ve coached against Mike and know him well. I have great respect for him as a coach and as a leader of young people.
“I know Brad leaves here with great feelings for our fans and for how he’s been treated, and Ellen and I truly appreciate how he’s been supported. It’s not easy being the coach’s son, especially at a place like Kentucky, but our fans really embraced him. I’m really looking forward to following Brad’s career at Detroit. Proud of you, son.”
We wish Brad the best of luck. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.
By Nick Roush on ©June 29th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
The Kentucky football season featured a ton of highlights. The following five plays are the best of the best from the Cats’ historic ten-win season. Who didn’t make the cut: Honorable Mention, Nos. 10-6.
5. Mossing with C.J. Conrad
Fans clamored for Eddie Gran to get C.J. Conrad the football. When passes went his way, incredible things happened. In the middle of the pouring rain at Kroger Field, Terry Wilson threw it up for Conrad to make a play. It produced the most spectacular reception of the 2018 season.
Dr. Mike captured the moment, one that’s even more impressive seen frame by frame.
4. “Coach, I’m feeling it.”
The best of the best perform when it’s needed most. That’s exactly what Lynn Bowden did in Columbia.
Entering the trip to Missouri, fans called for a change at quarterback. Mark Stoops said before the game Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark would get an opportunity to see the field. All of the moving and shaking created an awful afternoon of offense. After three and a half quarters of crap, Bowden had seen enough.
Trailing 14-3 with five minutes to play, Bowden subbed himself into the game. “Coach, I’m feeling it.” He wasn’t lying.
Bowden’s 66-yard score injected life into the team and ignited an improbable fourth quarter comeback.
3. Let It Rip
The most magnificent play from Kentucky’s win over Florida was accompanied by the most accurate UK Radio Network call.
Kentucky had a 14-10 lead on the opening possession of the second half. Facing a third and 16 in their own territory, the wise thing to do would be to play it safe on third down and let the defense win the fight for field position. That’s exactly what Tom Leach said.
“Just try to play it safe and if you don’t get a first down, punt them back into a hole.”
Shortly after the snap, Jeff Piecoro interjects, “THROW IT!”
As the ball sailed through the air, Piecoro knew. “Got it,” was followed by his signature celebratory “I can’t believe that just happened” laugh to cap off a 56-yard rocket from Wilson to Bowden.
2. A Walk-Off
It’s rare to witness a win on the last play of the game in any sport, but when they happen, they’re remembered forever. This buzzer-beater does not qualify as a buzzer-beater because there was no time left on the clock.
After an abysmal afternoon of offense at Missouri, Terry Wilson put the team on his back in the final minute of the game. Needing a touchdown to secure a victory, the drive began on the 19-yard line with 1:24 to play. Wilson found one target, then another and another; just like that, the Cats were rolling. With just a few seconds remaining, Gran dialed up a shot at the end zone, calling on rarely used 6’6″ Ahmad Wagner to make a play on the jump ball. His fade route went out of bounds, but Wagner still reeled in an incredible one-handed reception. Since he was forced out of bounds, officials threw a flag, giving the Cats one final untimed down.
Like Bowden, Conrad told the coaches to call his number. Typically not used in two-minute drive packages, Conrad knew the perfect play to win the game. From two yards away, the tight end shook his defender and Wilson fired the ball right out of the pass-catcher’s break. Kentucky won in spectacular fashion.
Once the referees signaled a touchdown, Mizzou’s athletic director cursed and I did not know what to do.
Absolutely stunning loss for Missouri. Kentucky scores on TD pass, last play of game. Mizzou loses 15–14. Crushing defeat. pic.twitter.com/swo77ydf7M
— Rod Smith (@RodKRCG13) October 27, 2018
The euphoric celebration on the field carried into the locker room where Mark Stoops’ crowd-surfing made Mo Bamba the biggest Kentucky football song since Grove Street.
Taking off from Columbia like… ? pic.twitter.com/WZd1OERRnM
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 28, 2018
1. A Storybook Ending
If you wrote a script for a movie, the running back would break the unbreakable record with a touchdown in the championship game. That’s exactly how Benny Snell ended his Kentucky career.
Chants of “Benny! Benny! Benny!” roared as Snell lined up 12 yards away from the end zone. Like many times before, every person in the stadium knew he was getting the ball, but they couldn’t stop him. Snell rushed directly up the middle and powered into the end zone for a touchdown. Overcome by emotion, he fell to his knees as Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher.
Benny Snell’s record-setting Citrus Bowl moment will never be forgotten. A once in a lifetime experience, it was the perfect way to end an historic season.
By Nick Roush on ©June 29th, 2019 @ 9:30pm
As we close in on the beginning of Mark Stoops’ seventh year in Lexington, let’s celebrate the historic 2018 season by reminiscing on the top moments. After eliminating some awfully impressive plays, here’s who just made the cut.
This countdown could not be complete without at least one play from the Cats’ 56-10 curb-stomping of the Louisville Cardinals. It was a tough choice between Terry Wilson’s lunge for the end zone and his deep touchdown pass to Lynn Bowden, but the receiver’s celebration put it over the top.
9. Snell Silences Miss. State
Mississippi State gave up only seven rushing touchdowns all year, the fewest in FBS. Benny Snell ran for four in one night.
There are many things that made Benny Snell great. His timing is unlike any other player I’ve seen in a Kentucky uniform. Leading by a touchdown with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter, safety Tyrell Ajian picked off a Nick Fitzgerald pass. The soggy Kroger Field crowd entered a frenzy. Just when you thought the stadium couldn’t get any louder, Snell sprung free 36 yards for a touchdown, setting a new school record for career scores on the ground.
Snell finished the game with 165 yards on only 25 carries (6.6 yards per attempt). Kentucky dominated the trenches, capping off the four-touchdown performance with a perfect call from Tom Leach. “Wonder who’s going to get the ball?”
8. Senior Day Pick 6
Mike Edwards could not have dreamed of a more perfect start to his final game at Kroger Field. Four plays into the game, the Badger picked off a pass and took it 66 yards to the house. He followed that up four plays later by forcing a fumble. Middle Tennessee State hung around closer than most would have liked to see, but the outcome was never in question thanks to Edwards’ efforts.
7. Scoop and Score
One week away from the midseason bye, Kentucky entered College Station with 5-0 record. The team did not appear to have much left in the tank, except for Darius West.
In a slog between two teams that wanted to possess the ball by keeping it on the ground, UK’s dominant defense struggled to slow down the read option between Trayveon Williams and Kellen Mond. Without much help from the offense, Darius West singlehandedly kept Kentucky in the game.
The senior safety started the fourth quarter by picking off a pass once the Aggies entered UK territory. Trailing by a touchdown with four minutes to play, West sprung into action once again, scooping up a Mond fumble and carrying it 40 yards for a touchdown. West’s heroics forced overtime, but Kentucky could not pull off the upset at Kyle Field to remain undefeated.
6. No Points for You
In 25 years, we will look back fondly at Josh Allen’s career and remember him as a pass rusher. It’s appropriate, considering he holds UK’s all-time sack record, however, versatility is what made him college football’s consensus defensive player of the year. One play perfectly illustrates his ability to do it all when it mattered most.
The sky was starting to fall. It was a situation Kentucky fans had seen too many times before against Florida. The Cats were in the driver’s seat with Florida pinned back at their own one. Ten plays later Florida had a third and 28. Some how, some way the Gators still finished the drive a touchdown.
Needing a two-point conversion to get within a field goal, Kentucky avoided a disaster. Florida’s motion man, Malik Davis, went uncovered on the two-point play, yet Feleipe Franks missed the open man. Instead his eyes turned left. Another man was wide open, ready to reel in the reception. Then Josh Allen arrived. Spotting the designed throwback, Allen recovered just in time to tip the two-point pass away.
Ultimately, the two points did not matter. Bunchy Stallings paved the way for Benny Snell to chew up the clock before Allen’s strip sack sealed it. If things did not go UK’s way, Allen’s efforts gave Kentucky just enough insurance in the waning minutes of the streak snapper.
The season is quickly approaching and the Wildcats are putting in work on the recruiting trail. Vince Marrow and the rest of the staff are collecting the best wide receiver haul of the Mark Stoops era in the 2020 cycle. It is much needed.
The wide receiver position has been a spot of weakness on the UK offense since the former Florida State defensive coordinator took over the program in 2013. This season, under wide receivers coach Michael Smith, Kentucky is going to attempt to change that.
Entering the year, Kentucky has one solid answer and multiple players with some big time snaps under their belt. The Wildcats have experience at quarterback and will enter 2019 with 11 scholarship wideouts. It’s time for the this group to produce and it feels like they have the required pieces to make some noise in the SEC.
Lynn Bowden, Jr. was one of the biggest recruiting wins in recent memory and the Youngstown, Ohio blue-chipper evolved into a true gamebreaker for the Wildcats in 2018. Bowden led the offense with 67 grabs and a very efficient 80.7% catch rate. Despite averaging just 11.1 yards per catch, Bowden was easily Kentucky’s best big play option on offense.
In the upset wins over Florida and Penn State, Bowden was responsible for multiple chunk plays that helped produce scores. In the road loss to Texas A&M, he took a jet sweep 54 yards to paydirt for UK’s only offensive score of the night. Against Georgia, the slot receiver recorded six catches for 52 yards. He roasted Louisville’s olé defense by scoring two touchdowns on six receptions. No matter who the Wildcats played, Bowden was a huge part of the gameplan.
Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Vanderbilt’s Kalija Lipscomb are the only returning receivers who collected more grabs than Bowden last season. The receiver/wildcat quarterback/return man extraordinare will be an All-SEC pick at SEC Media Days next month in Hoover. With the offense putting more trust in Terry Wilson, Bowden will be called on to make more plays vertically and he has proven to be capable in that regard. He’ll look to become Kentucky’s first wideout in nearly a decade to record over 1,00o yards in a season and that feels like a pretty safe bet.
Enjoy the playmaker in 2019 because this will likely be his last season playing in the blue and white. The guy is a pro.
After the 2016 season, Kentucky had a big hole at the wide receiver position. Jeff Badet unexpectedly left the program for Oklahoma and Dorian Baker suffered a season ending injury in fall camp. That opened a big opportunity for the five wide receivers added in that recruiting haul.
Lynn Bowden, Jr. contributed right away. JaVonte Richardson redshirted and later left the program for the junior college ranks. Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, and Clevan Thomas, Jr. were thrown in the fire right away. As expected, they struggled in their rookie campaign.
The coaching staff decided to redshirt Thomas in 2018, while Ali and Epps were a major part of the rotation this past season. The two outside receivers combined for 18 receptions, 191 yards, and a 60 percent catch rate. Those numbers are not good enough and must improve with these two becoming upperclassmen.
Entering this season, 63.6 percent of UK’s receivers will be underclassmen. That’s a big number, but should tell you that the future of this position should be very bright. We saw a bit of the young talent in the spring game.
Bryce Oliver came from out of nowhere to have a huge spring game and it’s pretty evident that he will be a huge part of the rotation this season. The redshirt freshman has the ability to play both outside and inside with a very solid catch radius. He’ll be a guy Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran will be asked about a million times in fall camp, but there are other players available.
B.J. Alexander has the measurables you are looking for in an outside receiver (6-foot-3, 189 pounds) but must just put it all together on the field. Allen Dailey, Jr. had 1,441 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior year of high school and played sparingly last year. He’s another big target on the outside. Akeem Hayes and Clevan Thomas, Jr. both can contribute in the slot. True freshman Tae Tae Crumes and DeMarcus Harris are likely headed for redshirt season.
There is talent there and UK needs a couple of these guys to take the next step.
Ahmad Wagner spurned a bunch of football programs out of high school when he decided to play hoops at Iowa. After a few years in Iowa City, Wagner decided to give the gridiron a try for two seasons. Kentucky was finally able to land the big outside receiver.
Wagner did not play football until his senior season of high school. That year he recorded over 1,00o yards and 17 touchdowns. He collected first-team All-State honors in Ohio and it was clear he was a special talent. Last year, Wagner was thrown to the fire late in the season and he produced. Just not in the way you would expect.
The 6-foot-5 wideout drew three pass interference penalties in a small sample size and one setup the game winning touchdown at Missouri. He was a total project and entering his senior season, Kentucky will be putting more on his plate. Look for Wagner to be used on deep vertical shots and in the red zone. He could develop into a unique weapon for UK to use in the passing game.
Wide receiver has long been a position of weakness for the Kentucky offense, but now it is time for that to change. UK has a nice blend entering 2019. They have one superstar, a couple of upperclassmen who are in make or break seasons, and a ton of youngsters with potential. Hit on a couple of those upperclassmen, have a couple rookies turn into a reliable option, and this position will be in great shape.