Southern Miss will execute a version of the 4-2-5 defense in its attempt to slow →
By Drew Franklin on ©August 03rd, 2017 @ 5:00pm
The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team released it preseason prospectus on Thursday and it includes the official team roster for 2017-18, complete with unofficial measurements for the Wildcats.
The heights and weights of the players — which, again, are unofficial — can be seen here:
A couple quick observations:
— Kevin Knox is a dangerous 6-9
— I thought P.J. Washington would be taller
— I find it hard to believe that Wenyen Gabriel has lost weight since last season (213 lbs)
Did I mention these are unofficial?
By Drew Franklin on ©August 03rd, 2017 @ 10:15am
Louisville’s Valhalla Golf Club has a storied history with the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, and now one former PGA president wants Valhalla to become the permanent home for the two of the sport’s biggest tournaments.
Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America in 2013-14, has called for Valhalla to be the official host of the PGA Championship each year and the official host of all domestic Ryder Cup competitions. Bishop makes great points, too: he cites Valhalla’s 480-acre property; the fact that it’s already owned by the PGA; and the city’s proven track record hosting major events, like the Kentucky Derby, as reasons it could work.
Bishop also thinks permanent infrastructure on the property could be put into place (the actual course only takes up about 250 of the 480 acres) to better accommodate the annual major championship and the occasional Ryder Cup every four years. He tossed out ideas like on-site lodging, and PGA Championship and Ryder Cup villages promoting the events’ history, to better enhance the experience.
After reading Bishop’s proposal, I think it’s a great idea. And that’s not just because I’m a golf fan who lives within a one-hour drive of the first tee box.
But can it happen?
Jack Nicklaus called it “an interesting concept,” according to this story.
Read more from Bishop in his write-up: PGA, Ryder Cup belong at Valhalla
By Drew Franklin on ©August 03rd, 2017 @ 9:00am
Class of 2020 prospect Brandon Boston checked out Kentucky’s campus with a couple of his peers earlier this week and I want to lead off today’s Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com action with some observations from a photo his father shared with John Calipari from his unofficial visit.
— Brandon Boston Sr (@brandonboston5) August 1, 2017
First, the obvious: the “Earned Not Given” shirt. I love it. Where can I get one? Are they available for purchase? Boston is wearing one; one of his friends also wore one on the visit; and Brad Calipari has been spotted in one. Now I need one. Tell me more. Do I have to earn it? Or is it given? One would assume it is earned, but if it can be given, I would love one.
Second: The new office looks fancy. I believe this has been addressed already, but Cal’s digs look completely different after a major overhaul sometime recently. I assume it was part of the project to renovate the basketball locker rooms, meeting rooms, etc. Whatever the case may be, it’s a much nicer look.
Third, and maybe the most important: Calipari is a tippy-toe guy.
It’s not uncommon for someone to do this, often without realizing it, when taking a photo next to someone who is much taller. It’s nice to know Calipari does it, too.
Let’s continue with the A.M. 10…
D. No media availability at fall camp today.
For those of you hoping to get a bunch of new news out of football practice, we regret to inform you that there will be no interviews at the Joe Craft Training Facility today. We are truly sorry.
Interviews will return on Friday.
5. Saturday is UK Football Fan Day.
Kentucky’s Fan Day is only 48 hours away as the Cats get ready to open their doors to Big Blue Nation for the annual meet-and-greet ahead of the football season. Nutter Field House will open to fans beginning at 9 am for an autograph session with the team, which will then conclude around 10:15 am. A 90-minute open practice will follow on the practice fields beginning at 11 am; doors for that will open around 10:40 am. Go Cats.
VI. Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk spoke to the media in Lexington yesterday.
Those are two of the worst talkers (no offense, guys) in media settings, but they provided some good stuff on Wednesday.
Adebayo said he and his mother live in the same condo building in Miami. Mama lives on the fifth floor because she is afraid of heights, and Bam lives up on the 46th floor. (TMI, Bam.)
Adebayo and Monk also said they refuse to watch the highlights from the UNC loss this past March. Adebayo went as far to report it as an annoyance on Twitter when it came across his timeline recently.
7. I’m really bummed about Allen Iverson not playing with the BIG3 in Lexington.
I don’t know how many people are excited about the BIG3 basketball league coming to Lexington, but I was in that group… until yesterday when the league announced Allen Iverson’s suspension. Iverson will now miss Sunday’s game in Rupp Arena for intentionally missing a game in Dallas, and that’s a big loss from an entertainment standpoint. The BIG3 first grabbed my interest when it announced Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and Iverson were among those set to participate; Williams has since suffered a knee injury and Iverson will miss the one event I planned to attend. Sunday’s games should still be a lot of fun, but Iverson was the headliner and he will not be in attendance. Get your tickets here if you want to go. I hope I didn’t talk you out of it. There are still some big names; they’re just not Iverson.
8. The Basketball Tournament championship is tonight.
Around 7 pm on ESPN, basketball fans can tune in to The Basketball Tournament championship between with Overseas Elie and Team Challenge ALS, with $2 million on the line. Overseas Elite (comprised of overseas players, I assume) is led by former Pitt star Dajuan Blair; while Team Challenge ALS’s most recognizable player is probably Austin Daye, formerly of Gonzaga fame; or Jerry Smith, a former Louisville Cardinal.
Team Challenge ALS made it to the title game by beating what looks like the 2013 Ohio State team because it includes Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and David Lightly. On second thought, that is the 2011 Ohio State team — the one that lost to Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
Anyway, title game tonight at 7 pm.
9. Did you vote for your favorite KSR guest host?
The poll is open for just a little bit longer.
Unfortunately it will take a Christmas miracle for anything but Pardon My Take to win this year’s crown as Big Cat and PMT have an enormous lead on the competition.
10. The second leg of the KSR Summer Tour kicks off today.
Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond will be at Griffin Gate Golf Club in Lexington for the first stop of the back end of the summer tour. Stop by to (1) hear the show; (2) meet the guys; (3) potentially win UK tickets; and (d) potentially win free golf.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 02nd, 2017 @ 11:05pm
What did Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk buy their mothers with their first NBA paycheck? Bam Adebayo started with dinner.
“I took my mama to Cheesecake Factory,” said Bam, who was drafted 14th by the Miami Heat. “She didn’t really want anything, so I took her to Cheesecake, took her out to eat.”
Eventually, Bam admitted that he bought his mom a condo as well, in the same building as his in South Beach.
“I bought her a condo,” Bam said. “My mom doesn’t drive, so I couldn’t buy her a car. My mom is moving with me to Miami. We’re going to be in the same building, but she’s going to be on the fifth floor because she doesn’t like heights and I’m going to be on the 46th.”
By now, you know about Bam’s close relationship with his mother, Marilyn Blount. When Bam was seven, his mom moved him from Newark, New Jersey to her home state of North Carolina to give him a better life. The two lived in a trailer as Marilyn worked long hours as a cashier to support her son’s basketball dreams. Bam told reporters today that being able to take care of her now is an “indescribable” feeling.
“It’s indescribable. Just being able to tell your mom, ‘You don’t have to work anymore.’ She can just sit back and relax and you can buy her whatever she needs.”
Monk, who also grew up with a single mother, agreed. After being drafted 11th by the Charlotte Hornets, Monk bought his mom a house and a car, the latter of which he surprised her with at work.
“It just pulled up on her at work,” Monk said of the car. “I didn’t get a video or anything but I got a phone call. She was super happy. She said she wasn’t crying, but I heard her.”
That’s what it’s all about. Watch the funny exchange between Monk and Bam around the six-minute mark below:
It was a long five weeks without Matt, but we survived thanks to some incredible guest hosts. Which was your favorite? On today’s show, the gang narrowed the field to seven, and we’re letting you pick the winner.
Here are the candidates:
Pardon My Take
For the second year in a row, the PMT crew took over the show with their unique brand of satire, which included putting John Calipari on the hot seat. Little did they know that the Cal to the Knicks rumors would pop up the very next day. The show also included interviews with Mark Stoops and Malik Monk.
As you knew it would be, Daniels’ show was chock full of recruiting info and special guests, including 2018 point guard Immanuel Quickley, who said on KSR for the first time that Kentucky is his favorite. Daniels also interviewed Bruce Pearl, Patrick Patterson, and Tom Crean.
Tyler Thompson and Jennifer Palumbo
Jen and I interviewed Ellen and Erin Calipari AND Chantel Stoops, and asked our male callers to share their #ManCardConfessions. Vince Marrow even called in and admitted that he likes strawberry daiquiris.
Rutledge knocked it out of the park in her first KSR appearance, sharing her thoughts on UK’s appearance at Media Days and joking about her awkward encounter with John Calipari last season. Ryan and Shannon weren’t the only ones that were totally smitten.
UK’s Deputy Director of Athletics got UK Week off to a great start, breaking the news that Randall Cobb and John Wall are part of this year’s UK Hall of Fame on air and sharing his plans to get an NBA super team to square off vs. a UK squad in this year’s Alumni Game.
Lamar Thomas and Vince Marrow
The UK Football coaches had entirely too much fun during their appearance, which also featured the UK strength coaches, a call from Mark Stoops, and an interview with UK Volleyball coach Craig Skinner. After listening, I doubt anyone will be able to top Marrow when asked for the most famous person in their contact list.
The UK Baseball coach had to postpone his guest hosting stint due to a death in his family, but brought his trademark energy the next week, reminding us all why we love him so much. It went so well Matt’s agreed to let him have a 30-second spot each Monday to motivate the BBN to get up and tackle the week.
Now, it’s time to vote. The poll will stay up until tomorrow’s show, so vote, vote, vote.
Kentucky has five away games on the schedule this season; which qualifies as the best road trip? With a month until the season opener in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, odds are you may be asking yourself that same question. As someone who loves football road trips and this great region we call the South, I’m here to help. I ranked the five road games based on five factors on a scale of 1-5 (1 being worst, 5 being best):
- Proximity to Lexington
- Stadium/tailgating scene
- Food/drink scene
- Intangibles (the one thing that makes that place unique to any other)
Here are the candidates:
- Southern Miss (September 2, Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
- South Carolina (September 16, Columbia, South Carolina)
- Mississippi State (October 21, Starkville, Mississippi)
- Vanderbilt (November 11, Nashville, Tennessee)
- Georgia (November 18, Athens, Georgia)
Let’s break them down one by one.
Southern Miss (September 2, Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
Proximity to Lexington: 1
Hattiesburg is 634 miles from Lexington, which, according to Google Maps, is a 9 hour 38 minute drive through Nashville and Birmingham on I-65 S and I-59 S. That’s a LONG drive. Flights aren’t great either. As you might expect, there’s no nonstop from Bluegrass Airport to Hattieburg-Laurel Regional Airport, so the best you can do is a $400-$550 series of connecting flights with a minimum travel time of almost seven hours. Woof.
Of all five games, this is the most winnable, despite the fact that Southern Miss beat the Cats in Lexington last year. As Freddie Maggard has dutifully warned you, Southern Miss still has star RB Ito Smith, but after being humiliated in last season’s opener, I expect the Cats to go down to Hattiesburg and take care of business.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 2
M.M. Roberts Stadium, aka “The Rock,” seats 36,000 and was renovated in 2008 to enclose the south end zone and add luxury suites. I have never been, but it looks like a nice stadium for a school of Southern Miss’ size; in fact, from pictures, it looks way nicer than Vanderbilt Stadium. That being said, it’s nowhere near the three other stadiums on the list, so I’ll give it a 2.
Food/drink scene: 2
Again, haven’t been to Hattiesburg yet, but Google suggests it has some decent restaurants and watering holes. Crescent City Grill, Keg & Barrel, and Cotton Blues seem to be popular spots. Yet, other than Starkville, Hattiesburg pales in comparison to the rest of the towns on this list.
The one thing Hattiesburg has going for it? It’s less than two hours from New Orleans, an hour and a half from Gulfport/other Mississippi coastal towns, and three hours from Gulf Shores and Pensacola. Given that the game falls on Labor Day weekend, you can definitely make a trip out of it via one of those destinations. Personally, I would go for New Orleans, especially since the UK Alumni Association down there is chartering a bus to take fans to and from Hattiesburg the game. Yes, food and drinks are allowed.
Total score for Southern Miss: 13/25
South Carolina (September 2, Columbia, South Carolina)
Proximity to Lexington: 3
Columbia is 433 miles from Lexington, or a 6 hour 37 minute drive via Google Maps. That’s not bad, especially since that route takes you through Asheville, one of the coolest towns in the Southeast.
Kentucky has beaten South Carolina three years in a row, but the Gamecocks have some buzz thanks to sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 1,420 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions in seven starts last year. While Vandy, South Carolina, and Mississippi State all feel like they’re on the same level to me, we know this game will take place under the lights, which means Williams-Brice Stadium will be at its loudest.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 4
As mentioned, the atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium will be at its best for a night game vs. a team that’s beaten the Gamecocks three years straight. Brace yourself. “Sandstorm” is coming.
Food/drink scene: 3
Columbia’s a fine town. It’s nowhere near as fun as Nashville or Athens, but it’s better than Hattiesburg and Starkville (anything is better than Starkville). Like all South Carolinians, people in Columbia love to eat and drink to excess, so if you go, good times will be had.
Columbia’s best asset? It’s two hours from Charleston, one of the best cities in the country. If you can, do yourself a favor and make it a long weekend, spending Sunday and Monday in the Holy City. Go one step further and enjoy a low country boil during sunset on one of the islands.
Total score for South Carolina: 14/25
Mississippi State (October 21, Starkville, Mississippi)
Proximity to Lexington: 2
Starkville is 497 miles, or 7 hours 55 minutes from Lexington. I am not exaggerating when I say it’s in the middle of nowhere.
Mississippi State was picked to finish second to last in the SEC West ahead of Ole Miss, which has flown off the rails. The Bulldogs aren’t great, but they’ve got cowbell and the chance to catch Kentucky looking ahead to Tennessee the next week.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 3
By far the nicest thing in Starkville is Davis Wade Stadium, which seats 61,000 and is coming off a $75 million expansion/renovation in 2014. There’s nothing else to do in Starkville than go to the game, so it will be packed, and almost every fan will have a cowbell. As Nick Roush learned the hard way back in 2015, the worst thing you can do is forget earplugs.
Food/drink scene: 1
I went to Starkville for UK’s basketball game back in 2015 and wanted to give the much-maligned city a fair shake, but was disappointed to see it’s just as lame as everyone says it is. A few buildings have nice wrought-iron balconies to make you think it’s like New Orleans or Oxford, but then you look around and realize it couldn’t be more different.
You can drive an hour south and tour Scooba, the location of Last Chance U‘s East Mississippi Community College? I got nothing.
Total score for Starkville: 10/25
Vanderbilt (November 11, Nashville, Tennessee)
Proximity to Lexington: 5
As I know all too well, Nashville is an easy three hour drive (215 miles) from Lexington, just enough time to catch up on the radio show and one of KSR’s many fine podcasts.
Vandy has quietly built itself back up under Derek Mason, and may be the second best of Kentucky’s five road opponents, but their game atmosphere sucks. Add in the 20,000+ Kentucky fans that will take over crumbling Vanderbilt Stadium and you’ve got the recipe for a road win.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 1
Vanderbilt Stadium needs to be torn down. I’m not being a hater here; Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said the same thing last year. The 40,000-seat stadium is so bad the school is contemplating building a new stadium off campus to share with a potential Major League Soccer team. That’s a horrible idea on Vandy’s part, but the situation is so dire they’re considering it. Regardless, Kentucky fans will pack the concrete horseshoe of sadness on November 11, if for no other reason than Nashville.
Food/drink scene: 5
You don’t come to Nashville to watch the Vandy game, you come to Nashville to watch the Vandy game and party. For more, consult my flowcharts from March, which are already out of date, a testament to the ridiculous rate at which this city is growing. It really is hard to keep up.
That being said, it was a tough call between Music City and Athens for this category. Nashville is the best party town in the South, but Athens might be the best college town in the South. I couldn’t decide, so I let hot chicken be the tiebreaker because it is that good.
Kentucky plays Vandy on Saturday and the Bengals play the Titans at Nissan Stadium on Sunday. Other than SEC Tournament, you couldn’t script a better weekend for a Bluegrass invasion.
Total score for Nashville: 20/25
Georgia (November 18, Athens, Georgia)
Proximity to Lexington: 4
There are two routes to Athens from Lexington; I suggest taking the one that goes through the western tip of North Carolina so you can avoid Atlanta traffic. Thank me later.
Georgia is really, really good; according to the SEC media, they’re Kentucky’s toughest opponent this season. The Cats played the Dawgs close in Lexington last year, but coming off a road trip to Nashville in a rowdy environment, they may be due for a hangover.
Stadium/tailgating scene: 5
Georgia does everything well when it comes to atmosphere. With a capacity of 92,746, Sanford Stadium is big and beautiful, and the grounds surrounding it are packed with fun-loving, friendly fans who won’t hesitate to invite you to their tailgate. Seeing a game between the hedges is an SEC bucket list trip.
Food/drink scene: 4
I went back and forth on whether or not to put Nashville or Athens at the top in this category. Nashville won because of hot chicken, but it was a tough call. Some of my favorite bars and restaurants are in Athens: Trappeze Pub, Last Resort, The National. I hear amazing things about 5 & 10 as well, and can’t wait to try it. Athens is right there with Oxford in my pantheon of favorite college towns in the SEC, which is why both Roush and I will be making the trip in November.
Atlanta is an hour and a half away (although on game day, double that), but Athens is so cool I wouldn’t bother.
Total score for Athens: 18/25
The best UK Football road trip to make this fall, per my calculations…
1. at Vanderbilt (November 11, Nashville, Tennessee) 20/25
2. at Georgia (November 18, Athens, Georgia) 18/25
3. at South Carolina (September 16, Columbia, South Carolina) 14/25
4. at Southern Miss (September 2, Hattiesburg, Mississippi) 13/25
5. at Mississippi State (October 21, Starkville, Mississippi) 10/25
If you start saving now, you might be able to afford a hotel downtown!
By Drew Franklin on ©August 01st, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Dominique Hawkins took a break from John Calipari’s basketball camp in Lexington on Tuesday to field questions from the media about his future in basketball… and football.
Hawkins, an All-SEC Tournament honoree in his senior season at Kentucky, is still committed to pursuing a professional basketball career, but last week he tested out his football legs in a workout with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Basically, I’m just weighing out all my opportunities,” Hawkins said on Tuesday. “I haven’t decided on what I really want to do yet, but I definitely want to continue with basketball so far. Just waiting for what’s going to be the best for my future.”
“I definitely have a passion for basketball and I love it so much,” he continued. “I really don’t want to leave it. I’ve just given football a try to see what I can do. I went to that workout last week and they told me I did pretty well.”
Hawkins hasn’t been on the gridiron since his senior season of high school, and he didn’t even play defense back then. But he has since developed the physical makeup of an All-Pro defensive back, so teams are taking him into consideration, despite his lack of experience.
“Everybody tells me I’m an NFL football player,” he said. “I remember my high school coach, he wanted me to play in college. He was always telling me I’d be a top three round draft pick… But I just had so much love and passion for basketball. It grew up as my first love and I just want to continue and enjoy it.”
It sounds like Hawkins is pretty committed to basketball, which will certainly land him a deal somewhere sooner than later. But wouldn’t it be a cool story if a college basketball player with two Final Four appearances picked up the game of football and made it in the NFL?
Whatever he does, Hawkins’ athleticism and work ethic will make him a lot of money in the near future.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 01st, 2017 @ 12:00pm
Dominique Hawkins is still in search of a professional contract, and he hasn’t limited his options to just basketball.
Lachlan McLean brought Hawkins on to his Louisville radio show this morning to discuss Hawkins’ prospects in basketball, only to find that Hawkins had an NFL tryout last week. Hawkins told McLean that he worked out with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Breaking News! Dominique Hawkins (@Dhawk_25) just told us on The Midday Rush that he had a workout with the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
— Lachlan McLean (@LachTalk) August 1, 2017
Philadelphia isn’t the first NFL team to inquire about Hawkins’ football potential; the Dallas Cowboys attended one of Hawkins’ pre-draft workouts with Lakers back in May.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 31st, 2017 @ 3:00pm
Coming off the hardest year in his life, Drew Barker says the one thing he’s looking forward to the most in fall camp is getting hit. You might not expect that from someone who underwent back surgery nine months ago, but Barker said being tackled in practice is the final step in his recovery process.
“I’ve done a lot of stuff this offseason with Coach Edmond in the weight room. Pulling sleds, pushing sleds, pulling chains, a bunch of crazy stuff. I feel pretty confident that I’m good. The only box that I have left unchecked is ‘take a hit.’ I’m ready for that to happen, which sounds kind of weird, you don’t usually want to get hit, but in my case, I want to take a hit to know that, alright, I’m ready to go.”
This time last year, Barker was unequivocally the starting quarterback heading into fall camp, but now, he’s unequivocally the backup behind Stephen Johnson. Once poised to be the face of the program, Barker says he’s embraced the underdog role and looks forward to fighting for his old job.
“It’s definitely a different feeling trying to get the job back, but I kind of like it, being an underdog now. It’s really a motivating factor for me, to come out here and show the coaches and everybody I’m ready to go, that I’m 100% healthy.”
Barker admitted that the past year has been hard on him, especially the months following his back surgery when all he could do was walk around the track while his teammates prepared for a bowl game; however, he continues to draw confidence from his impressive performance in the first half of Kentucky’s season opener vs. Southern Miss, when he threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
“There’s definitely some hard times where you get down on yourself and you look at it like, I was the starter, I could have been the one leading us to a bowl game, so that kind of wears on you mentally, but really the motivating factor for me was seeing how well I played in the first half of the Southern Miss game and knowing I can play like that all the time. That’s really what got me through the rehab because in the first few months, you’re not really doing anything, just walking on an elliptical. Everyone’s out there practicing for the bowl game and I’m walking around the track. It got monotonous and stuff, but I’m ready to go now. I’m really confident and ready to go.”
What does Barker hope to prove in fall camp?
“I feel like I’ve shown in glimpses that I can play at the high level I know I can play at. I kinda feel that I haven’t been able to go out there really and show what I’m fully capable of because even last year before the first game, my back was bothering me, so I’m ready to go out there and show everyone and myself that I can play how I know I can play.”
The summer officially concluded yesterday for Mark Stoops’ Kentucky football team (and us here at KSR) with Stoops’ fifth edition of UK Football Media Day, held at Kroger Field on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
For three hours the coaching staff and the players fielded tough, hard-hitting questions in the heat in front of reporters and bloggers and photographers and TV stars and Alan Cutler and the like, all before kicking off fall practice Sunday evening. The fall practices will continue over the course of the next month, all the way up until things get really real with the season opener on Labor Day Weekend. (Who up Hattiesburg.)
We here at KSR will, of course, have plenty of coverage from now until that first kickoff at Southern Miss and all the way up through the bowl game, so go ahead and get settled into football mode if you aren’t already. Today I’ll begin with a brief recap of Sunday’s Media Day action, although what you find here is only a fraction of what’s to come from the many interviews we conducted with the Cats.
Lynn Bowden still not with the team.
Arguably the biggest piece of news from Media Day came first when Mark Stoops opened things up with the announcement that incoming freshman Lynn Bowden is not yet eligible and will not participate at the start of fall camp.
“We’re waiting on Lynn here in the next couple of days,” he said. “It’s Clearinghouse. It’s academic eligibility.”
Soon after the news got out, Bowden tweeted, “I’m coming don’t worry or don’t count me out.”
For what it’s worth, Bowden is in Lexington.
WATCH: Mark Stoops’ entire press conference.
Coach Stoops spoke for almost 30 minutes.
A transcript of the entire conversation can be read here:
WATCH MORE: Eddie Gran and Matt House preview their units.
Coach Gran was first with talk of the offense:
Followed by House’s talk of the defense:
Kentucky also picked up a Sunday commitment.
Prior to the start of Media Day, we got word of a new commitment for UK football.
Christopher Rodriguez, a running back out of Georgia, announced his intentions to become a Wildcat in a tweet:
— Chris Rodriguez Jr (@kidd_chris123) July 30, 2017
Rodriguez had offers from two other SEC schools in Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He is now the 16th member of the 2018 class.
Can you spot the kicker in this photo?
Believe it or not, the kicker is No. 91. I’m not kidding. That massive human being is Tyler Pack, your redshirt freshman kicker. He’s as big as some of the offensive lineman, if not bigger.
Read all of KSR’s Media Day stories:
Weren’t at the computer yesterday?
Check out our photo gallery from the day:
Garrett Johnson, JaVonte Richardson, Mike Edwards, Charles Walker and Benny Snell took over my SnapChat.
It’s hard to get any work done without a phone, but these guys were having fun and it made for a good video. Give it a watch.
Alright, digest all of that and then get ready for plenty more coming your way.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 30th, 2017 @ 10:15pm
Mark Stoops had a ton of things to say at the podium during his fifth UK Football Media Day in Lexington. You can read our running written coverage of his comments here or watch the video of his press conference here; or if you’re only in it for the the headlines, read five pieces of news from his comments below:
Lynn Bowden is not ready for the start of camp.
When the Cats begin their preseason at the conclusion of Sunday’s media appearance, they will be without Lynn Bowden, who has been projected as an immediate contributor in his true freshman season. Coach Stoops said today that they hope to add Bowden to the camp roster in the coming days, but the Ohio native is still working through his eligibility with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Bowden has been in and around Lexington since last weekend.
There is still a QB competition.
When asked if there is a competition at quarterback entering the fall, Stoops quickly replied, “Of course. There is a competition at every position.”
But don’t get it twisted: Stephen Johnson is the starter as of today.
At SEC Media Days earlier this month, Stoops told reporters, “The situation is, and it’ll be the same message all talking season, that Stephen has earned the right to be the starting quarterback right now, but that’s today. Drew (Barker) was the starter last year as we were talking right here. Something happened, Stephen stepped in, did a heck of a job, and he’s earned that right.”
Barker is back to 100 percent after suffering an early-season back injury in 2016. Stoops expects him to be even better this time around as he tries to win his job back.
He and Matt Elam discussed Greg McElroy’s comment.
Greg McElroy’s harsh criticism of Matt Elam did not get past the UK locker room. Linebacker Courtney Love admitted he sent the clip to Elam as soon as he heard it, and Stoops said today that he and Elam also talked about McElroy’s comments. (In case you missed it: McElroy called Elam the most underachieving player he’s seen in a long time.)
“We had a conversation,” Stoops said. I was very blunt with him.”
McElroy’s words will hopefully fuel Elam even more this summer, but Stoops doesn’t think it’s right to single out a player. “I don’t think it’s right to personally come at Matt,” he said. “He has worked hard, losing weight and getting in shape a piece of that.”
Mike Edwards could move up to nickel.
Mike Edwards may have a new assignment on defense in 2017. The junior safety, an All-SEC selection, will try his hand at nickel in fall camp as Stoops and his staff look to fill the vacancy left open from the departure of Blake McClain.
Kendall Randolph, who relieved McClain at nickel at times last season, will also compete for the spot.
Edwards’ prospects of moving up and playing one of the toughest positions on the field will depend on who, if anyone, can slide into safety behind him. Stoops doesn’t want to rely too heavily on the young guys in the secondary.
New NCAA restrictions on camp won’t make workload any easier.
The NCAA put a stop to two-a-day practices this fall, but that doesn’t mean camp will be a lighter workload for the players. Camp has an earlier start in 2017 and the staff has a new game plan in place to avoid obstacles from the new rules.
“At the end of the day our players will have more for this year than they did last,” said Stoops.
With the earlier start date, many players on the team will have to balance football and summer school for the first time. The current summer session does not end until August 3.
Despite previous reports that he was ready to go, incoming freshman Lynn Bowden, considered to be one of the top signees in the class, is not ready to go for fall camp. Bowden is in Lexington, but he is not with the team to kick off fall camp on Sunday.
“We’re waiting on Lynn here in the next couple of days,” said Stoops. “It’s Clearinghouse. It’s academic eligibility.”
Outside of Bowden, everyone else is enrolled and will begin camp today. That includes cornerback Michael Nesbitt, who arrived in Lexington on Friday.
Tune in now to hear Mark Stoops’ remarks from UK Football Media 2017.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and defensive coordinator Matt House will follow with more from each of their sides of the ball.
By Nick Roush on ©July 29th, 2017 @ 10:30pm
College football season is right around the corner. The Kentucky football team has momentum following the upset win over Louisville. The Cats cashed in on the recruiting front, but can they do it on the field? All signs point to ‘yes.’ Allow me to validate that answer by breaking down each position group over the next month, starting with Eddie Gran’s group of running backs, a.k.a Benny and the Jets.
Benjamin Snell Jr. — Snell exploded onto the scene in the third game of the year to break virtually every Kentucky freshman rushing and scoring record. He finished the year with 1,091 rushing yards and was tied for third in the SEC with 13 rushing touchdowns.
A powerful runner, Snell carried the team to long-second half drives out of the Wildcat formation. This year Snell will play a different role: primary running back. That could change how he is used in the Wildcat and where we see him on the field, but he’s prepared for it. He has slimmed down and has worked on his receiving abilities to add another component to his game. One thing hasn’t changed: he will run the ball like he’s trying to earn the nation’s respect, or as Chris Westry put it: “That man runs like someone hit his mom.”
Asim “A.J.” Rose — A running quarterback for Cleveland’s Garfield Heights High School, many expected the explosive runner to play as a true freshman in 2016. Snell won the battle, forcing Rose to redshirt. Unfortunately, Rose was injured after a big hit in the spring game, leaving the Kentucky fanbase wondering what we may see from Rose this fall.
Sihiem King — The shifty junior running back started his UK career playing behind Boom Williams. Unlike Boom, King showed in the spring game he’s not hesitant to run between the tackles. His experience has been limited to special teams and a reserve role — where he stole the show with 6 carries, 75 yards and a touchdown vs. Tennessee — but King’s patience could provide a premiere role alongside Benny Snell in 2017.
Bryant Koback — Considered the No. 34 running back in the 2017 recruiting class by the 247 Composite, Koback was on pace to contend for Mr. Football honors in Ohio when he suffered a broken right tibia and fibula midway through his senior season. A spectacular combination of speed and power, enrolling in January helped jump start the rehab process to get him back onto the field for training camp.
What will Benny do? The freshman phenom surprised the Big Blue Nation, but now he has a target on his back. Opposing defenses will load the box to force UK into the air, but Benny will still get his. Gran will get him the ball in different ways than previously seen, but how he does it will not be answered until game one. One thing is certain, we’ve yet to see the best from Benny, and we’ve seen him do this:
Who will be Benny’s Sidekick? Arguably the most intriguing preseason storyline, Gran will have an entertaining competition to see who will bring the boom alongside Benny. Right now it’s completely up in the air between all three backs. I could write an entire post comparing and contrasting King and Rose, only to see Koback steal the show.
At the end of the day, the most important thing Gran wants to see is consistency. Who ever is willing to work their ass off everyday will be the one who receives the second-most carries. We will hear good and bad stories from throughout camp, but Gran won’t provide any hint until the first game kicks off against Southern Miss.
Can Koback play? Koback’s injury was devastating. It kept him off the field for most of his senior year and the entirety of spring practice, however, Gran shared some encouraging news last week: Koback will be ready to participate in 100 percent of fall camp activities. Ahead of his rehab schedule, Koback showed some special things in film, things that remind Freddie Maggard of Benny Snell. Even though he’s not needed right away, if he wows coaches in camp like Snell did a year ago, he will receive some reps right away.
Can Bowden fit into the mix? Lynn Bowden will start his Kentucky career as a slot receiver who was not been with the team in the summer. The steep learning curve will be even greater for Bowden entering training camp.
An elite athlete that could play a variety of positions, he has to master the slot first. After that, Gran will try to get the ball in Bowden’s hands in unconventional ways. A quarterback in high school, the first inclination is for Bowden to play Wildcat quarterback. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he also received reps at running back, but that will probably not be until the season has matured.
Last year Kentucky had the third-most rushing yards in the SEC, the second-most in school history (3,044) and was the only power five conference school with two 1,000-yard rushers. Those outstanding numbers will not be replicated in 2017.
Kentucky was forced to rely on running the ball 60-65 percent of the time after Drew Barker was injured. Without proven quarterback play, Gran leaned on the run game to open up the play-action pass for Stephen Johnson. Now with seven wins under his belt, a year of experience and ten pounds of muscle, Johnson will give the Kentucky offense more balance.
Without Boom Williams, Benny Snell will be tasked to carry the load, but that load will not consistently exceed 25 touches a game. The physical runner can take a beating, but last year’s 38-carry game vs. Missouri must be an exception, not a norm.
In Boom’s absence, Sihiem King will fill the void. My gut says King’s maturity, his pass-blocking and pass-catching abilities will make him the second featured back in the offense. Rose could prove me wrong, but I’m rolling the dice with King.
Behind one of the best offensive lines in the country, Kentucky will have on of the five best rushing offenses in the SEC. Benny Snell will once again ‘WOW’ the Big Blue Nation, but UK’s 2017 offense will not live and die on the shoulders of the running backs.
By Nick Roush on ©July 29th, 2017 @ 7:30pm
This year’s Kentucky football team has star-power unlike we’ve ever seen under Mark Stoops. There’s a proven winner under center, a record-breaking running back, two dynamic pass rushers and the two top returning tacklers in the SEC. Star-power is great, but you need 11 trustworthy players on the field at all times to win in the SEC.
The following six players have the potential to be stars, but they don’t need to be. They just need to consistently do their job. If they can’t, a younger player with less experience and comparable talent will surpass them and they’ll get lost in the wash.
Just by reading the title you knew you’d see his name, so I won’t bury the lede. By now you know his story: five-star recruit turns down Alabama to stay home, has fleeting moments of greatness but fails to be consistent on and off the field. The senior nose tackle was called out by Greg McElroy during SEC Media Days, but another SEC Network analyst knows the five-star potential is still there.
Matt Elam can be a handful when he wants to be. pic.twitter.com/MmNaeWqcgZ
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 6, 2017
Should you be hopeful that we’ll see more of the player in the video above, or the out of shape, overweight player who’s relegated to the sidelines? That’s a question only Matt can answer. I can tell you this, the coaches have not given up on Elam. Derrick LeBlanc was constantly coaching him up during spring practice, using positive reinforcement to get the most out of Elam.
If Elam can rise to the occasion and split reps with Naquez Pringle, UK’s rush defense will dramatically improve. If he cannot, Mr. Pringle will be stuck on an island, with the only help coming from a true freshman.
The Colquitt County, Georgia product was forced to start his UK career in the shadow of another small, extremely fast Georgia running back, Boom Williams. Now a junior, King has an opportunity to be Eddie Gran’s second running back as the ‘scat back’ to complement to Benny Snell.
Every time King has had an opportunity in his career, he’s taken advantage of it. Inserted into the lineup while trailing to Tennessee, he turned 6 carries into 75 yards and a touchdown. In this year’s spring game, he stole the spotlight from Benny Snell (limited snaps) and A.J. Rose (injury). Arguably the best offensive player on the field, King had 107 yards and 2 touchdowns.
(Mute the NSFW language when watching this highlight.)
Those two instances make me confident he can win out the No. 2 running back spot, but it will not be easy. Rose is extremely talented; we thought he’d be the running back to play as a true freshman, not Snell. Whoever is the most consistent performer in practice will earn the reps from Eddie Gran.
Arguably the best athlete on the defensive line, the former early enrollee has not shown much of it on the football field. Most of it can be attributed to off the field issues. Now a junior, he has no more time to waste with off the field matters.
Built like an outside linebacker, Daniel could play an important role as a pass rusher with his hand in the dirt. He’s currently listed as a No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive end behind true sophomore T.J. Carter. If Daniel doesn’t show LeBlanc something in training camp, the sophomore will surpass him for good.
A former four-star recruit, the Army All-American from Warren East High School was the highest ranked player in the class of 2015. Set back by injuries before arriving in Lexington, he redshirted his first year. Now he’s playing behind another member of the 2015 recruiting class, the SEC’s leading returning tackler, Jordan Jones.
Brown has never been put into a position to succeed. His best opportunity came last year against Tennessee when an injury forced Jones to the sideline. It could not have happened at a worse time. Earlier that week Brown was dealing with family issues and missed significant practice time, preventing him from completely understanding that week’s specific Tennessee scheme. The coaches did not hold it against him, they just wished he could’ve had an opportunity to show the world the improvements he made throughout the season.
Unlike most on this list, I’m confident Brown will not get sucked into the roster wash. There’s no bad blood between Jones and Brown, but Brown is determined to take his spot.
“I’m not here to be a two. I’m trying to be a one,” he said this spring. You’d think it’d create tension between the two, but Jones encourages Brown to beat him every single day. It probably will not happen, but I expect Brown to rise to the occasion to make impact plays this fall in some capacity.
The Kentucky punter was forced to play as a true freshman and McKinnis looked like a true freshman on the field last year. It doesn’t take a statistical wizard like Freddie Maggard to know the punts gotta be better. His leg is unquestionably there; that’s not the problem. The problem is in-between his ears. If Dean Hood can’t help McKinnis fix what’s wrong upstairs, he’ll have to go with the rugby-style Aussie, Matt Panton. The Cats can’t afford another lackluster year from the punter position.
The outspoken and outlandish 6’5″ receiver from South Carolina has always fit the role of class clown. It makes my job fun, but it probably doesn’t help his game. Entering last year Bone had 34 catches for 404 yards and 3 touchdowns. Last year under Lamar Thomas he caught just 5 passes for 82 yards.
To his credit, Bone fought throughout the year to get back onto the field after his reps were taken away to start the season. If he wants to beat out Tavin Richardson and the talented freshman JaVonte Richardson (Bone is currently No. 2 on the depth chart), Bone must do two things:
1. Separate from the defender to provide a window for the QB.
2. Stop jumping to catch every pass.
“Get open” and “run after you catch the pass instead of fall down” sounds simple, but it’s the two things Bone must be serious about in his final season at UK or his career will end quietly.