Jarred Vanderbilt has arrived, ladies and gentlemen. You can put all of your worries, doubts →
Kentucky starting point guard Quade Green missed the last two games with a back strain, and it sounds like there is a good chance he’ll be out at least one more when UK travels to South Carolina tomorrow.
Kenny Payne said today that Green still hasn’t practiced, but he is getting close to a return.
“He has not practiced yet,” said Payne. “I think he’s any day now. I don’t even know if he’s going to practice today, but I know he’s getting close.”
“He’s been watching and observing, and hopefully he’s seeing a different side of the game that he didn’t see from playing, that he can watch and see exactly what we’re trying to get our guards to do.”
If Green doesn’t rejoin the team today, it’s hard to imagine he’ll play against the Gamecocks.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 15th, 2018 @ 11:12am
The Southeastern Conference finally came to its senses and named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the SEC Freshman of the Week.
With Quade Green out, Gilgeous-Alexander stepped into the starting lineup in Kentucky’s wins over Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. He played 39 minutes in each of those games, while leading the Cats in scoring at 19 points per game in the two wins. He also dished out a team-best 5.5 assists per game and shot 61.9 percent from the field.
It’s Gilgeous-Alexander’s first time winning the award, but probably not his last.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
They did it AGAIN.
The Kentucky cheerleading team just won their 23rd National Championship in school history.
Here is the team posing with the trophy:
— UCA (@UCAupdates) January 15, 2018
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) January 15, 2018
Six titles in eight years, 14 since 2000, and 23 overall. The dynasty continues.
We have never seen dominance like this. Ever.
Congratulations to the National Champion Wildcats!
GO BIG BLUE!
Kentucky is now 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference and 14-3 overall after traveling down to Nashville to beat Vanderbilt, 74-67, on Saturday. The Cats played with only seven scholarships available for a second straight game; and for a second straight game, they made the plays down the stretch to escape with a tough victory.
Ten takeaways from the W:
Riley LaChance choked at the foul line.
Of all the storylines from the game, the one that sticks out most is Vanderbilt’s reliable senior missing three consecutive free throws while down four late in the game. LaChance is an 89-percent shooter from the stripe and he was gifted a trip to the line to potentially cut his team’s deficit to one. If he makes those, who knows how everything plays out? Maybe Vandy wins it in the end. But he didn’t, and Hamidou Diallo’s inexplicable foul (after UK’s inexplicable turnover) is forgotten. Diallo owes LaChance a thank you card — as do I for other reasons, of the gambling nature.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander solidified his spot as the best player on the team.
I don’t think it’s up for debate any longer: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the best player on Kentucky’s roster. He led the team in scoring once again with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, plus four rebounds and six assists, in 39 minutes played. It was assumed Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo would be the two most important players on the team, but Gilgeous-Alexander is that guy. He’s always been the best defender, and now he’s the best weapon on offense too.
Wenyen Gabriel is the unsung hero once again.
Gabriel did what he does in every game: he scrapped, clawed and battled to come up with some of the biggest rebounds, loose balls and defensive stops in the game. The shot wasn’t falling again in this one, but he’s not going to leave the court when he is doing everything else.
“Wenyen was ridiculous again today,” Coach Cal said on his postgame show. “His energy and him going and battling for balls and what he does… I told the kids after the game, he was unbelievable.”
Nobody on the team has listened to Calipari’s toughness message more than Gabriel. He’s a fighter and a hustler, and he’s getting more and more confidence in himself with his good play.
Do we give up on Nick Richards?
I don’t know what to make of Nick Richards. The big man started off with more energy than we’ve seen from him in over a month, but then he quickly disappeared before having any kind of an impact on the game. This was the perfect opportunity for him to put up some numbers and find some confidence against a weak Vanderbilt frontcourt; instead he took a seat in the second half and never returned to the game, playing only 12 minutes the entire evening, 11 of which were in the first half. How much longer until we say ‘see ya next year’?
Quade Green needs to return soon.
The Cats survived two huge challenges without their starting point guard, but they can’t be expected to keep doing it. With Green on the bench in street clothes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has had to play 39 minutes in each of Kentucky’s last two games, while Hamidou Diallo played 34 against Texas A&M and then 39 against Vanderbilt. That’s too much to ask of the backcourt, although they’ve handled it well. Come back soon, Quade.
Late game mistakes still a problem.
However, it’s not enough of a problem to cost them the game. As they did against A&M in Rupp, the Cats handed their opponent an opportunity when the game should’ve been out of reach for good. And again the opponent didn’t capitalize as UK was able to close out a victory in spite of freshman mistakes.
We’ll take it.
Hamidou Diallo made a HUGE three-pointer.
Diallo still had his Diallo moments, but he hit the dagger in the corner to stretch the lead to eight points with a little over a minute to go. If not for that shot I’d probably be crushing him for playing too much Hami-ball and that horrible foul on LaChance.
Kevin Knox got back to his old ways.
Knox was second in scoring with 17 points for Kentucky. He made some big baskets when Vanderbilt was climbing back and he was perfect from the line in the game. It seems he’s over whatever bug bit him when he looked lost and unconformable during his minor slump, and it’s great to see him back.
P.J. Washington flirted with a double-double.
Washington had 10 points and eight rebounds against the Commodores, but not enough to earn praise from his head coach because Calipari called it an “off-day” for Washington.
Not a bad off-day, huh?
I have Washington up there with Gilgeous-Alexander in the importance rankings, ahead of Knox and Diallo.
Road wins are good wins, especially this year.
With the SEC beating each other up this season, any road win in the conference is a good one. For Kentucky, they won another hard-fought test in a hostile building, and they did it without their starting point guard.
On to the next one…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 13th, 2018 @ 10:00pm
Before the game, Jarred Vanderbilt went through pregame warmups and even the layup line in his uniform, leading to wide speculation that today would be the day he’d return to the court. That did not happen, and when asked afterwards, John Calipari gave his most puzzling comments yet about the freshman forward, who has been medically cleared to play.
“I don’t,” Cal said when asked when Kentucky would be back to a full rotation. “I didn’t even ask him. I didn’t know if Jarred [Vanderbilt] was going to play before the game. I was doing the board and just acting like he’s not here. If he is, he is. If they are, they are.”
This is where it gets a little weird.
“The problem with being injured if you’re on my teams is, I really spend no time with you. Sometimes — I’m going to say this out loud — I forget names. I even forget who he is because I have to focus on the guys that I’m coaching now. They’ve got to be healthy and ready to go. Jarred has to be the same.”
When asked what Jarred has to do to let Cal know he’s ready, Cal replied that he has to at least come up and talk to him, which he didn’t do today.
“I hope he would give me more than I got today because I didn’t see him all day. I hope. I don’t push kids. They know their pain. They also know their bodies. I’ll tell you what also happens when you’re injured; it’s not physically, it’s as much mentally. And conditioning. Those are the two things that get you. When he’s ready, he’ll be here with us.”
Hmm. Challenge extended?
By Nick Roush on ©January 13th, 2018 @ 6:10pm
Kentucky surged out to a nine-point halftime lead and withstood a late Vanderbilt run with physical play to pull away for a 74-67 victory at Memorial Gymnasium.
A week ago Kentucky got out-toughed in Knoxville. Today in Nashville they owned Vanderbilt inside. The Cats outscored the Commodores in the paint 36-26 and blocked seven Vanderbilt shots.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another excellent performance without Quade Green in the lineup. The point guard led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-11 shots. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones made plenty of hustle plays, Kevin Knox fought for buckets down the stretch and Hamidou Diallo nailed a corner three-pointer with 1:15 to seal a Kentucky victory.
Riley LaChance had three free throws with 30 seconds to play to make it a one-point game. A career 85.8 percent free throw shooter missed all three free throw attempts to end any chance Vanderbilt had to win the game.
Ford is back with their Tickets & Tours Giveaway and they want to send YOU and three friends to watch the Cats take on Mississippi State on Jan. 23 —but that’s not all. They’re also throwing in a tour of Rupp Arena and a Ford prize pack including a $500 Visa gift card as well!
Don’t miss your chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the home of the greatest tradition in college basketball and witness next class of Kentucky basketball greats—sign up for the Ford Tickets & Tours giveaway now. Registration is easy: just click here, fill out the form, and cross your fingers.
1. Vandy is off to its worst start since the 1977-78 season
Vandy is 6-10, which is the worst overall record in the SEC by far. In conference play, they’re 1-3, which is ahead of only 0-4 Texas A&M. The Commodores came into this season with some buzz but have stumbled early and often. Some of the losses are understandable (#10 USC, at #5 Arizona State, at Florida), but with a huge recruiting class coming in, the ‘Dores clearly have yet to take the next step in Bryce Drew’s second season.
2. Memorial Gym hasn’t been so magical
With its end zone benches and raised floor, Vandy’s opera house turned gymnasium is usually one of the toughest venues in the SEC. The ‘Dores have a 78% all-time winning percentage at home, but Memorial Gym hasn’t been so magical this season, with Vandy losing four of their ten home games thus far. Part of that is due to low attendance, but with the Kentucky game being the first sell-out of the season, you can probably expect some of that Memorial Magic to return tomorrow afternoon.
3. Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Jeff Roberson are STILL there
If it feels like you’ve seen those three names since the dawn of time, well, you have. LaChance, Fisher-Davis, and Roberson are finally seniors, each with over 1,000 points in their Vandy careers, and lead the ‘Dores in scoring. Even though LaChance is now 21 years old, he still looks 12. I’ll never forget when the SEC Network’s Pat Bradley asked him often he shaves at SEC Basketball Media Day. The answer is never, Pat.
4. Saban Lee is a preview of the future
The freshman guard has been on a tear in SEC play, leading the ‘Dores in scoring the past three games (20.3 ppg). In conference play, the former four-star recruit is the SEC’s top scoring freshman. Once Darius Garland gets to Vandy next season, watch out because the ‘Dores’ backcourt will be legit.
5. Roberson is a double-double machine
Senior forward Jeff Roberson leads the ‘Dores in scoring and rebounding with 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He’s currently second in the SEC in double doubles (six), fourth in rebounding, and sixth in free-throw percentage (87.5%).
6. Vandy’s holding a blackout
As I mentioned earlier, attendance at Vanderbilt games this season is the lowest it’s been since 1964-65 season, so you better believe the ‘Dores are capitalizing on tomorrow’s game vs. Kentucky. Tomorrow’s game will be a blackout, with the first 10,000 fans receiving free black t-shirts. If you’re going to the game, make sure a Vandy fan thanks you for coming and boosting their attendance numbers.
7. Their big man is coming off two bad games
Redshirt sophomore center Djery Baptiste looks like the kind of player that could give Kentucky fits. At 6’10”, 235 lbs., the Haiti native is physically imposing, but still very raw, as the last two games have shown. Baptiste scored only 11 points total in Vanderbilt’s losses to South Carolina and Tennessee, and the players he guarded, Chris Silva and Grant Williams, combined for 64 points. Eek.
Ya hear that, PJ Washington? Go. At. Him.
8. Dick Vitale is on the call
Have you been going through Dick Vitale withdrawal? Have no fear because Vitale, Bob Wischusen, and Allison Williams are calling tomorrow’s game for ESPN. Get ready for a few no-so-subtle references to Ricky P, baybee!
9. Tomorrow is the 100th meeting of a ranked Kentucky team and a Vanderbilt team
Tomorrow’s game is the 190th meeting between Kentucky and Vandy, but per Vandy’s game notes, it’s also the 100th meeting between the two when Kentucky is ranked. Vanderbilt is 16-83 all-time when the Cats are ranked overall and 12-32 against a ranked Kentucky team at Memorial Gym. Let’s make it 16-84 and 12-33, shall we?
10. Kentucky fans are pregaming at the Marriott hotel bar
Coming to the game? The UK Nashville Alumni Club is holding a pregame social at Park25 Bistro, the lobby bar at the Marriott Vanderbilt hotel. The gathering will start at 1 p.m. CT and there will be door prizes, so get in there and help us get the W!
By Drew Franklin on ©January 12th, 2018 @ 3:30pm
An official in a Kentucky high school basketball game had an embarrassing moment when he got caught in the path of a long pass.
The ball struck the official in the back of the head, which is embarrassing enough, but it was actually much, much worse than that.
Because the ball also knocked off his toupee.
My body doesn’t know if it should laugh or cringe when watching the video:
Poor guy. They should have toupee him double for working that game. But to his credit, he quickly rogained his composure and didn’t flip his wig. He swept it right under the rug. I would’ve bald my eyes out.
Ok I’m done.
Kentucky basketball’s new Marksbury Players First Suite and Healy Family Locker Room are finally complete as part of the major renovation of the team’s practice facility.
We got a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the new digs via a video tour on UK’s official Twitter account. If you pay close attention, you can read the message John Calipari is trying to get through to his team:
Make getting better every day your goal; TOUGH PLAYERS come to work every day to get better, and keep their horizons short. They meet victory and defeat the same way: They get up the next day and go to WORK to be better than they were the day before. Tough players hate losing but are not shaken or deterred by a loss. Tough players enjoy winning but are NEVER SATISFIED. For tough players, a championship or a trophy is not a goal; it is a destination.
THE GOAL IS TO GET BETTER EVERY DAY.
Always with the toughness.
There is also a new interactive media wall to celebrate the players, both past and present, with a touchscreen!
A quick pan of the shower shows that the players use Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo, which is nice because it has the 3-Action Formula that cleans to remove oil and flakes; protects the scalp from dandruff; and moisturizes each hair strand from scalp to tip.
I believe that is the Head & Shoulders Ocean Lift with sea mineral essence and cooling mint to really invigorate the hair and scalp, but I could be wrong. It’s a little blurry.
The video also gives us a sneak peek into the team’s snack cabinet, which includes the No. 1 necessity for all college students: Kraft Easy Mac.
Take the full tour below:
The gold standard has been raised. We present to you the Marksbury Players First Suite. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/FeAs1UlLdl
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 11, 2018
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2018 @ 5:12pm
Kentucky is looking for a new wide receivers coach. Mark Stoops has parted ways with Lamar Thomas.
The former Miami Dolphin and Hurricane wide out spent the last two seasons coaching wide receivers in Lexington. He came to Kentucky after spending two years on Bobby Petrino’s staff at Louisville.
Thomas became a BBN favorite for trolling Louisville fans on Twitter. Now Stoops needs to fill two assistant coaching positions, one on offense and one on defense, prior to the 2018 season.
For those speculating as to why Thomas was let go:
Source tells KSR the decision to let go of Lamar Thomas was not for one particular reason but just overall need to make a change at WR Coach position
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 11, 2018
In a statement, Mark Stoops had this to say after Thomas’ contract was not renewed: “I appreciate the contributions Lamar made to our program during the last two years,” Stoops said. “We wish him the best in the future.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 11th, 2018 @ 3:42pm
It’s official: Denzil Ware is returning to Kentucky for his senior season.
Earlier today, Josh Allen hinted that Ware would also be coming back to school, but the talented linebacker just confirmed the news on Twitter moments ago:
— zel (@young_zel35) January 11, 2018
After Ware was suspended from the Music City Bowl, there was uncertainty about his future at Kentucky, but today’s tweet makes it pretty clear. He, Allen, and Mike Edwards have all publicly declared they’re coming back, leaving Jordan Jones as the only one yet to make an official announcement, although Allen included Jones in his comments earlier this afternoon.
Welcome back, Denzil. Let’s win the East.
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2018 @ 12:35pm
Kentucky’s most talented defenders will be back in 2018.
Following the 2017 season, we knew four or five underclassmen had to make a decision: NFL Draft, or one more year at UK. Mike Edwards and Josh Allen made official announcements earlier this week to return for one final year, but we did not hear anything about Denzil Ware or Jordan Jones. Today Allen provided some clarity.
While talking about the defense’s potential in 2018, Allen mentioned Ware as one of the top returners.
“We need senior leadership, leadership from people who’s been there, who’s been in the trenches, who’s been at Kentucky when they were bad…I feel like we have that now with me, Mike (Edwards), Denzil (Ware), (Derrick) Baity, Lonnie (Johnson).”
A few moments later, Allen said the defense’s potential for an exceptional season alongside his Blitz Bro played a big role in his decision to return.
“I feel like that played into it a lot, especially with Mike coming back, Denzil and Jordan, and Lonnie and Chris (Westry), Baity and Darius (West). It just, all around the board we’re going to be solid and I just want to be a part of that.”
With Jones and Ware in the fold, that means nine of Kentucky’s top ten tacklers and nine of 11 defensive starters will return for the 2018 season.
With 64 tackles in 2018, Kentucky Safety/Nickel Mike Edwards will become just the second defensive back to ever join the 300-Tackle Club. That exclusive collection of defenders is dominated by linebackers. I put a question on Twitter asking followers to name UK’s Top 3 all-time leading tacklers. Answers varied, were mostly incorrect, and heavily leaned towards recent names. In fact, zero of the program’s top six tacklers have played a down for the Cats in nearly 25 years. So, I thought we’d have periodical history lessons throughout the offseason in order to show respect to well-deserving former Cats. Today’s presentation is about the Wildcat’s all-time leading tacklers and trust me, you’ll want to read this post all the way through.
Kentucky’s 300 Tackle Club
|Position/Name||Total Tackles||Years Played|
|LB Dr. Jim Kovach||521||1974-78|
|LB Chris Chenault||482||1985-88|
|LB Jeff Kremer||475||1984-87|
|LB Marty Moore||462||1990-93|
|LB John Grimsley||437||1980-83|
|LB Kevin McClellan||416||1980-83|
|LB Wesley Woodyard||395||2004-07|
|NT Jerry Blanton||389||1974-77|
|LB Randy Holleran||379||1987, 88, 90|
|LB Danny Trevathan||374||2008-11|
|NT Richard Jaffe||350||1976-79|
|DE Brian Williams||350||1982-85|
|LB Tom Ehlers||349||1972-74|
|DB Darryl Bishop||348||1971-73|
|LB Larry Smith||342||1983-86|
|LB Tom Ranieri||329||1972-74|
|DE Art Still||327||1974-77|
|DT Doug Martin||319||1980-83|
BOLD=UK Hall of Members
* Brian Williams is listed as a defensive end. In the Wide-Tackle-6, DE’s were actually outside linebackers.
** Jerry Claiborne’s LB coach and defensive coordinator Terry Strock mentored six of the twelve linebackers listed.
As you can see above, there are five former Wildcats that accumulated over 400 tackles. Dr. Jim Kovach registered a mind boggling 521. Individual tackling records make for sketchy research; however, per Saturday Down South, the University of Kentucky claims 4 of the SEC’s Top 9 tacklers of all-time.
- Jim Kovach – 521
- Chris Chenault – 482
- Jeff Kremer – 475
- Marty Moore – 462
I posed a Twitter question inquiring if the accomplishment of recording 400 college football tackles was the equivalent of scoring 2,000 basketball points. The answer was an overwhelming yes. If that’s that case, then I continue to have an overbearing and tiring question regarding the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame.
There’s been three basketball Cats to score 2,000 career points: Dan Issel (2,038), Kenny Walker (2,080), and Jack Givens (2,038). All three were inducted in the inaugural class of university’s Hall of Fame. UK has produced six defenders that registered over 400-tackles. Just two of the six are in the Hall: Jim Kovach (1st) and Marty Moore (4th). A mere four of the eighteen members of the 300 Tackle Club are in the Hall of Fame yet four former Wildcats are listed ranked in the Top 10 in the SEC’s All-Time, Career Total Tackle category.
The program’s second all-time leading tackler, Chris Chenault, is nowhere to be found in the heralds of distinction. Same can be said of number three (Jeff Kremer), five (John Grimsley), and six (Kevin McClellan). The time has come to fix this. But, like in most processes there must be a starting point. Thirty years after his last snap while wearing the Power K, Chris Chenault deserves the respect of having his number eternally remembered.
The SEC’s fifth all-time leading tackler with 482 stops is Kentucky’s second leading tackler in program history. Can you imagine if Kenny Walker was not in the Hall? The retired Kentucky State Trooper’s enshrinement into the best of the best club needs to be now, 2018. Come on, let’s get this right. The fifth leading tackler in the nation’s most prestigious football conference is grounds for nomination to the National College Football Hall of Fame no less his alma mater’s.
So yes, Mike Edwards being 64 tackles short of joining this select club would be a significant accomplishment; no, actually Edwards would join historical all-timers. In terms of historic individual tacklers, the Wildcats own the league.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 10th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
The most common complaint I’ve heard from Kentucky fans this season is, “I just can’t get into this team.” The other is, “They just don’t have it.” Frankly, after last night’s win over Texas A&M, I’ve had it with both arguments.
Kentucky should not have won last night. Not only did Wenyen Gabriel foul Tyler Davis in the final two seconds (thanks for not noticing, refs!), the Cats were without their starting point guard and a backup center facing a veteran team with whom they matched up terribly that desperately needed a win. Yet, somehow, Kentucky won, despite Kevin Knox still not playing to his potential and zero interior defense. Regardless, some fans still grumble, lamenting all of the Kentucky’s growing pains and pining for the days when the Cats would steamroll opponents.
It’s time for a reality check. Not to be a Caliparrot, but this is the youngest team in college basketball; not just “our best players are freshmen” young, but “our top six scorers are freshmen” young. This year’s freshman class is producing more than any other of the John Calipari Era — 79.2% of the minutes, 86.1% of the scoring and 69.6% of the rebounding — because they have to. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones have been great (more on them in a minute), but the core of this team is babies. If you came into this season expecting Kentucky to steamroll opponents, you set yourself up for disappointment. Don’t blame the “KSR hype machine” either; all along, we’ve warned you guys this was going to be a process. More than ever, Calipari tried to brace fans for what is coming.
That’s why I don’t understand the vitriol. Sure, the Cats look like absolute crap on defense more often than not and, inevitably, someone is going to disappear for one (or two or three) game. But, judging by the backlash of criticism, you would think all of that was coming from a junior and senior-laden squad instead of a bunch of kids trying to break bad habits. Learning is not easy, especially when you’re doing it with no crash cushion in front of a fanbase that expects nothing but the best.
So, why are we so hard on them? The easy answer is, we’ve been spoiled by success. Calipari’s best teams have blended superstar freshmen talent with veteran experience, and even the ones that were short on the latter had at least a sophomore guard and a few other sophomores or juniors to ease the transition. Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dominique Hawkins, and Derek Willis will never get enough credit because, for the most part, their biggest contributions came behind the scenes. Wenyen and Sacha are carving their roles as contributors, but as Calipari said earlier this week, as sophomores, they’re still going through the process too.
Another way this season is different than others: the SEC has never been so unforgiving. In past years, you could count on easy home wins and at least two or three easy road wins. Not this year. The influx of talent — both players and coaches — in the league a few years ago is finally paying off, which is great for Kentucky’s resume but leaves little margin for error. Loafing through a routine home game vs. a lower level SEC team is a luxury this young team just doesn’t have. Stumbles have and will continue to happen; instead of being infuriated by the bad, we should all try being encouraged by the good, because there is a lot of good.
A few ugly stretches aside, one thing you can’t fault this team for is effort; it may not always come in the form you’d like, but there’s no denying that this team is trying. Like I wrote last night, I’ve never seen a team try so hard to both win and lose a game like Kentucky did vs. A&M. The fight was clearly there; unfortunately, the errors were too. With two months of SEC play ahead of them, there are plenty of opportunities to learn.
There are also plenty of players to love. For those of you complaining that you just can’t get into this team, how can you not love PJ Washington and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Both freshman have exhibited unbelievable toughness over the past month to the point that Kentucky can’t afford to not have them on the court. PJ was born in Louisville and grew up a Kentucky fan for goodness’ sake.
Or what about Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones? After somewhat disappointing freshman years, they’ve found their roles and positively influence the team when in. Quade Green may not be Tyler Ulis 2.0 as some had hoped, but he’s arguably Kentucky’s best shooter and will be the stable hand we need for years to come. Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have struggled, but if the Cats are coping this well without them, imagine what they’ll be like once they pull it together. And then there’s Jarred Vanderbilt, the mystery piece just dripping with intrigue.
Yet, there’s still anger that they’re “just not getting it.” Fury that the “light hasn’t come on” and “this group is soft.” In some cases, that may be true; however, in a season in which NOBODY is great in college basketball, haven’t we learned by now that it’s way too early to throw in the towel? What’s the fun in being a fan if you only expect your team to lose, or even worse, only expect them to win? That game was fun last night. Sure, it almost gave me a heart attack, but it was exciting. There was a sequence in the second half when Shai got a steal and threw it ahead to Hamidou Diallo for a slam that shows you what this group is capable of. In March, I’ll take that ridiculous length and athleticism over almost anything else.
And say Kentucky does go down in the second round this year. With only two, maybe three guys likely to go to the draft, they’ll return more players than ever before. Add in another intriguing freshman class and you’ve got another perfect storm brewing. Regardless of what happens in March, this year is an incredible foundation on which to build. At the very least, be excited for that.
So, as our New Year’s Resolution, can we all just take a deep breath and try to enjoy the ride? Because this is all a lot more fun when you do. Promise.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 10th, 2018 @ 9:15pm
When Josh Allen and Mike Edwards announced their returns this week, there was an uncanny sense of “here we go” around the program. The football team was just a few crucial plays away from a historic season this past year, and with almost the entire roster back, both the fanbase and those within the program know the opportunity for a do-over is there.
The pieces are in place for a special season for the Kentucky Wildcats, and Mark Stoops has to capitalize on it.
The quarterback situation is interesting, as the starting job will either go to highly-touted newcomer Terry “Touchdown” Wilson, or Spring Game sensation Gunnar Hoak. Wilson is the fan-favorite, and the coaching staff said on National Signing Day that he had a major opportunity to start next year. Going into this past year, Darin Hinshaw said Hoak could have been a winning quarterback in the SEC. With an added year of experience and maturity, Hoak’s stable presence in the pocket could win out in the end. Regardless, there are two quarterbacks on the Kentucky roster with the ability to make an impact this season.
Dorian Baker, CJ Conrad, Benny Snell, and Lynn Bowden will be back for the offense, and the significance of that is obvious. Four incredible playmakers for the Cats, four guys that have the ability to put a ton of points on the board next season. The offense will be run by a new quarterback, and these four weapons alone will make life easier for him, regardless of who wins the job.
Baker was primed for a fantastic year before his season-ending injury, and he’s reportedly well ahead of schedule for next season. Conrad has the ability to be one of the best tight ends in college football, and Eddie Gran will almost certainly make him more of a focal point of the offense in his final year. Snell will continue to smash records at Kentucky and could find himself in the Heisman race with the national attention he received during the Music City Bowl. Bowden already showed signs of stardom in limited touches his freshman year, and that’s going to catapult forward next season.
Wide receivers Charles Walker, Garrett Johnson, Blake Bone, and Kayaune Ross are graduating, but the staff is extremely confident in freshmen Isaiah Epps, Josh Ali, and Clevan Thomas. They won’t be able to find the same level of success immediately, especially that of Walker and Johnson, but the potential is there. Tavin Richardson had a breakout game against Northwestern, and many think he could be a star on the outside for the Cats next season. Kentucky signee Marvin Alexander was praised on National Signing Day by the coaching staff as a guy that could play early, and surprise signee Bryce Oliver is a sleeper, as well. Baker, Richardson, and Bowden will be the core group, and the other pieces will likely fall in place beyond that. With Conrad’s usage rate increasing as well, the young guns won’t necessarily need to get an abundance of touches right away.
On the offensive line, four of five starters are returning, and seven key pieces of the rotation are back. USC transfer EJ Price will be eligible, and he’s expected to be a high-impact starter right away. Sebastien Dolcine and Naasir Watkins will be coming off a redshirt year, and early reports on them are impressive. The offensive line found a way to click without Jon Toth and Cole Mosier as the season progressed, and with little turnover, there’s no reason to believe we’ll see the unit take a step back.
Barring any surprises, 19 of 22 players from the Music City Bowl two-deep depth chart will be returning for the Kentucky defense. Kendall Randolph’s presence at Nickel will be missed, and Courtney Love’s impact both on and off the field is obvious, but both of those positions have capable replacements ready to see the field. Beyond those two departures, the Cats are absolutley stacked on the defensive side of the ball.
A pass rush of Josh Allen, Joshua Pachal, and Denzil Ware will be deadly, no questions asked. If Jamar “Boogie” Watson and TJ Carter continue to progress, and we see a few of the other redshirted prospects on the defensive line contribute solid reps, I’ll take my chances. The defensive line has been inconsistent in bringing the pressure, and they’ll have no option but to improve this offseason. Jordan Jones is an elite linebacker, and if he can clean up his on-field antics a bit, he could have a huge senior campaign. Quinton Bohanna has owned the nose guard position, taking the starting job from seniors Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam. Mike Edwards, Jordan Griffin, Chris Westry, Darius West, Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson, and Davonte Robinson all return for the Wildcat secondary, a unit that turned heads against Northwestern in the Music City Bowl. If they can build off of that performance and live up to the potential we all know they possess, the defense has a real opportunity to be Stoops’ best.
Austin MacGinnis’ foot will certainly be missed, as he finished his Kentucky career as the best kicker in school history. Freshman Chance Poore was considered one of the top high school kickers in the nation, and like MacGinnis did out of high school, has the opportunity to start right away. If we see growing pains early, Miles Butler is a capable replacement. Dean Hood helped take the special teams unit to a new level this past year, and if anyone can figure out how to replace MacGinnis, it’s him.
All in all, this is one of the most talented rosters we’ve seen at Kentucky in quite some time. Mark Stoops has the senior leadership, talent, and depth to do something special. The pieces are there.
The Cats have had good seasons the past two years, but it’s time for a breakthrough.