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RANKED: UK Basketball Posters of the Calipari Era

RANKED: UK Basketball Posters of the Calipari Era

You know basketball is really upon us when the team posters hit Kroger. This year’s posters were unveiled this afternoon:

How do this year’s posters rank up against the others from the Calipari Era? In what is becoming an annual exercise, I ranked the posters in terms of appearance, composition, or simply, “Would I hang this on my wall?”. I’ll start with my favorite, then work down to least favorite.

1.  2016-2017 Team Poster

2016-17-mbb-poster_fox_monk

From a graphic design standpoint, these posters are by far the most compelling of the Calipari Era. Each poster/side pairs two players up in almost a mirror image with the schedule in the middle and banners at the top. The high-def portraits against the black background are striking and sophisticated, showcasing UK photographer Chet White’s excellent work.


2. 2013-2014: “Play Like Wildcats”

2013-14-poster

I’m a big fan of posters in which the players are “anchored” in something and not just floating around space. This poster is a good example of that. Clean, classic, and showcasing each player in proper proportion (including Brian Long’s fauxhawk and Tod Lanter’s biceps), the composition of this image is excellent. Sometimes simple is best.


3. 2017-18: “Embrace the Challenge”

This year’s poster features silhouettes of all 14 current players surrounded by great players and moments from the Calipari era. This season’s slogan, “Embrace the Challenge,” runs along the top and all of Calipari’s famous sayings make up the background. Overall, I like the design, and it’s hard not to smile when you see all the nods to the past. While all of the players are shrouded in darkness on the primary poster (a nice touch of team unity), their portraits are included on the secondary posters.

Again, a sharp look, but not my favorite.


4. 2014-2015: “Succeed & Proceed”

2014-15-poster

UK really got some mileage out of this poster, releasing collectable versions of each frame throughout the season at home games. For that reason, I’ve got it in my top three because of the personalized slogan for each player (Alex: “Courage Doesn’t Always Roar”; Tyler Ulis: “Heart Over Height”). The composition of the poster may not be the most exciting in the world, but I’ll admit that I cherish it for sentimental reasons.


5. 2015-2016: “Who Wants to Be Next?”

2015-16-mbb-poster2

I love the state outline insert with Rupp and the bold KENTUCKY across the top, but the photoshopped players in various poses kind of ruins it for me. It just looks too messy on top of so many other layers of images; however, considering the bottom four of my rankings, it is light years ahead of the rest…


6. 2010-2011: “It Happens Here”

20102011-wallpaper

This is the first of what I call the “vignette posters,” which feature clusters of images paired with phrases (i.e.: “Celebrate” with DeMarcus in the UK2K shirt). It’s a nice way to feature a lot of pictures and accomplishments from the previous season (which was a huge one to say the least), but it’s all a little too much. It feels like looking inside Calipari’s brain, and not in a good way.


7. 2012-2013: “Count On It”

2012-13-poster

This is what I call the Count von Count poster, in which the numbers 1-8 represent not only the school’s eight national championships, but various other things, like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going first and second in the 2012 Draft, a terribly photoshopped Kyle Wiltjer doing three goggles, Final Fours, and the 2012 National Championship trophy.

The trophy saves this poster for me, honestly. Again, we’ve got a lot of propaganda in a small space, too much if you ask me. Thankfully, over the years, the posters have become less about Calipari’s latest buzzwords and more about actual design.


8. 2011-2012: “Kentucky Effect”

2011-12-poster

It’s a shame that the 2012 team didn’t have a poster to match their talent. This one isn’t horrible, just a little plain. It’s basically a shrine to Calipari’s latest slogan at the time, the “Kentucky Effect.” Several of the program’s accomplishments are featured alongside pictures of the players, and, for some reason, Josh Harrellson in his cap and gown (we graduate players, too!).


9. 2009-2010: “One World, One Big Blue Nation”

2009-2010-poster

Calipari’s first season in Lexington was arguably his most exciting, which is why it’s so unfortunate that the poster is the most depressing. There’s a lot going on here, from the “One World” theme, to the basketball planet Earth, to the different translations of “Go Big Blue” scattered all around the top of the poster, aka space. Did the graphic design double major in world studies or something? Photoshopped Calipari doesn’t even look happy.

The only explanation I can think of is Calipari trying to market the program to international players like Enes Kanter, who committed to Kentucky in November 2009. Remember when Calipari was obsessed with China for a while? This poster came out around the same time. On a team with such big personalities like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, I’m a little sad we couldn’t come up with anything better than something you’d see at an international fair or an arrivals area of an airport.

Which poster is your favorite? Rank them below:


UK Top Plays: How Kentucky got to 5-1 at the break

UK Top Plays: How Kentucky got to 5-1 at the break

It’s the bye week and the Cats are 5-1, so let’s celebrate with a look back at some of the big plays that got them here.


In the season opener, Denzil Ware scooped up a Southern Miss fumble and took it 20 yards for the score. It would prove to be the game-winning touchdown for Kentucky in the end…

Against Eastern Kentucky, Stephen Johnson scrambled for 21 yards to put Kentucky up by eight late in the game…

At South Carolina, the Kentucky defense, playing without linebacker Jordan Jones for the first time all season, held the Gamecocks on a 4th-and-Goal stand in the fourth quarter. It was the second consecutive drive the Cats forced the Cocks into a turnover on downs…

Later in that same game, Stephen Johnson broke free for a 54-yard run on third down to stretch the drive and put Kentucky in position for a field goal to extend the lead to two scores…

In yet another tight one, this time at home against Eastern Michigan, true freshman Joshua Paschal made the play of the game when he blocked a punt deep in Kentucky territory. Benny Snell would run it in for six on the very next play to give Kentucky a 10-point fourth quarter advantage…

In a game that saw Missouri go for several long scores on the UK secondary, Stephen Johnson and Garrett Johnson got one of their own to put Kentucky up by a touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter…

Then on Kentucky’s next drive, Mark Stoops rolled the dice on a fake punt call to keep from giving the ball back to Mizzou in a tie game. Kash Daniel took the snap and rushed for six yards up the left side to reward UK with a first down for the gamble…

A blocked kick proved to once again be the play of the game when Lonnie Johnson got into the Missouri backfield and deflected a game-tying field goal attempt. It was Johnson’s second blocked field goal of the young season…

With those winning plays and several others, the Cats are happy to be 5-1 at the much-needed break…


After Action Review: Missouri

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Missouri football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cats’ need to sustain and improve:

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game.

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Won the football game 40-34.

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS 

Opportunistic Special Teams

— LB Kash Daniel executed a fake punt for a first down.

— CB Lonnie Johnson blocked a Missouri field goal.

— Kicker Austin MacGinnis was perfect on the night: 4/4 FGs, 4/4 PATs, and kicked 5 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

— MacGinnis’ touchback kickoff with 1:48 remaining in the game was critical.

— Lynn Bowden recorded a 35-yard kickoff return.

Redshirt Freshman Offensive Linemen

— Center Drake Jackson surfaced in the lineup and didn’t relinquish snapping duties. He more than held his own against a good Missouri defensive line.

— Guard Luke Fortner’s block was key in Benny Snell’s 71-yard touchdown run and played at a high level. 

Fourteen Passing First Downs

— UK moved the chains through the air on 14 occasions compared to just 7 on the ground. This is the identity of the 2017 Wildcats.

— Steady quarterback play and the re-emergence of Blake Bone to go with a vastly improved receiving corps greatly factor.

— WR Garrett Johnson remains Stephen Johnson’s primary target on 3rd down.

Allowing Explosive Passing Touchdowns

— Missouri had touchdown passes that covered 58, 75, and 50 yards. QB Drew Lock threw for 172 yards in his other 19 completions.

— Long, touchdown passes have developed into a trend which is concerning with several highly ranked quarterbacks and receivers in the back half of the schedule.

Defensive Back Tackling on the Game’s Final Drive

— Efficient tackling and kept pass catchers in bounds which continued the game/play clock.

— CB Lonnie Johnson-3 tackles.

— CB Derrick Baity-2 tackles.

— S Mike Edwards-1 tackle.

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

Kicker Austin MacGinnis

— The senior kicker was clutch on Saturday to include a 53-yarder. He also became the program’s leading scorer. MacGinnis is an All-Timer.

Total Offensive Yards and Balance

— The Cats totaled 486-yards off 76 plays.

— Eddie Gran called 39 running plays (51.3%) and 37 passes (48.6%). 

Offensive Explosive Plays/Receivers

— Benny Snell 71-yard touchdown run.

— Garrett Johnson 64-yard reception.

— Lynn Bowden 22-yard run after catch.

— Tavin Richardson 27-yard receptions

— Blake Bone 14-yard touchdown catch.

— UK receivers have improved on a weekly basis. Coach Lamar Thomas is to be credited with player development. The 2017 group is collectively better than it was a year ago.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson

— Passing: 22/36 (61%), 298, 2 TDs, 1 INT. Rushing: 11 carries, 44-yards.

— Season results: Johnson has accounted for 1382-total yards (65.9%) of total offense and 11 out of UK’s 18 touchdowns (61.1%).

Benny’s 100 and 2

— Benny Snell surpassed the century mark for the eighth time in his career with 117 yards off 20 carries.

— His night included 2 touchdowns. One was a Red-Zone run play with Stephen Johnson under center. Snell appeared comfortable in that formation.

Linebackers Courtney Love and Josh Allen

— Love racked up 10 tackles and 1 fumble recovery. The senior leader is playing like a senior leader.

— Mizzou effectively schemed for Josh Allen. But the junior still managed 5 total tackles, 1 QB sack, 1 TFL, and a Forced Fumble.

IMPROVE

Pass Defense

— Surrendered 355-passing yards to include touchdowns of 50, 58, and 75 yards.

— Safety support was not timely or accurate in support of cornerbacks in 2/3 long scores.

— Cornerback injuries factored. Developing depth at that position critical.

— Credit Missouri for game planning UK’s pass rushers out of the equation.

Run Defense

— Kentucky entered the game 3rd in the nation allowing 74 rush yards per game. Mizzou had 33 carries for 213-yards.

— UK’s defensive line strength lies within its numbers (9-10 rotate in 3 positions). Tempo denied the Wildcat defensive line from its normal rotation.

Rushing Offense

— 39 carries, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns appear to be a positive. However, 71 came on a Benny Snell scoring run.

— Kentucky averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

— Play action passing is more productive when a run game is established. Offensive line continuity could help going forward.

— A third running back needs to surface. Going with just two (Snell and King) is a dangerous proposition.

Red-Zone Touchdowns

— Cats settled for field goals on three Red-Zone trips.

— 11/20 Red-Zone possessions have resulted in a touchdown through six games (55%).

Short Yardage Offense

— 8/17 on 3rd down (47%) but an excessive number of unsuccessful attempts were in short yardage situations. This especially applied in the Red-Zone.

— Kentucky is converting 39.53% on 3rd down for the season.

Delivering Knockout Punch

— Missouri was willing to surrender on two occasions when the Cats were up 13-0 and 20-7.

— Up 13-0: 50-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to J’Mon Moore.

— Leading 20-7: 58-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to Emanuel Hall with :40 remaining in 2nd quarter.

— Momentum shifted after both plays. The latter propelled the Tigers into the second half.

What does all this mean?

Kentucky is 5-1 and several teams are not. Saturday was a win and advance scenario as the Cats entered the game battered and fatigued from playing five close games. Mizzou traveled to Kroger Field fresh off a bye week, healed up, and seeking to right the ship. UK sustained the Tigers’ best punch and found a way to win. Bye week focus: Heal up, clean up, and develop a running game.


WATCH: Players reveal how often Calipari says “positionless” basketball

Positionless.

Learn it.

Calipari began using the word “positionless” a couple of years ago, to describe the way he wants all of his players to play. He saw the game of basketball moving toward a positionless style of play, and he embraced that style as his new coaching philosophy and catch phrase.

“We teach positionless basketball. It’s not one way of playing, it’s a lot of ways of playing,” Calipari said in the summer of 2015.

Since then, Calipari has said the word approximately a billion times, maybe more, and he favors positionless players when building his recruiting board for each class. This year he has his most positionless team since adopting the style, and we’re going to hear all about it in the coming months and beyond.

Knowing what’s ahead from Calipari and his positionless basketball, I asked his most positionless players how often he uses the word:

 


UK Pro Day: Our first look at Calipari’s new group of Wildcats

UK Pro Day: Our first look at Calipari’s new group of Wildcats

The Kentucky basketball program’s nationally-televised infomercial ran last night and it gave us our first look at John Calipari’s 2017-18 Wildcats.

Get your Monday morning rolling with 10 takeaways from the event, which they call a “Pro Day” but should really be called “Hey, We’re Kentucky And We’re The Gold Standard Of College Basketball… Day.”

 

1. The SEC Network cut back on talking at Pro Day this year, and that’s good.

With all due respect to ESPN’s college basketball team, I was happy to see them distance themselves from Kentucky’s Pro Day this year. In years past they dominated the broadcast with too much camera time, but this year it seemed they got the message (or the complaints) and let the action carry the show.

Sean Farnham and Seth Greenberg did a good job commentating the basketball and I think it made for a much better show this time around from a viewer standpoint. The network finally learned that Big Blue Nation just wants to watch the Wildcats run without a panel full of talking heads trying to fill time.

2. The 4-on-4 scrimmage showed us how good this team will be defensively.

This year’s Pro Day concluded with a scrimmage, although there weren’t enough scholarship players to make it a full 5-on-5. Still, we got a preview of this team’s length and how they’ll cause all kinds of problems for opposing offenses this upcoming season. Outside of Quade Green, everyone is incredibly long for their position and they appear to be committed to Calipari’s defensive philosophy. I think the defense will go a long way in carrying the team until the offense catches up, whenever that will be. Expect some low scoring contests before Christmas.

3. Hamidou Diallo is not human. 

Diallo recorded the second-highest vertical in NBA Combine history earlier this year, and then gave scouts a repeat performance in Lexington:

There were no official numbers for Diallo’s max vert, but I think the video is enough to prove he can fly.

4. Wenyen Gabriel, you have our attention.

All of the offseason talk about Wenyen Gabriel has been about the muscle he added to his frame, but let’s address his three-point shooting on Sunday when he hit 66 jumpers (many of which were three-pointers) in the five-minute drill. Sure, it’s one drill in an empty arena, but if he can shoot anywhere near that clip when it matters, he’ll provide a tremendous value to what the Cats do offensively. They’ll need all the outside shooting help they can get it.

5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will play… a lot.

With so many McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster, it’s easy to overlook Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, who would be one of the most talked about signees for any other program in America. But at Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander has flown under the radar with guys like Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards and Quade Green dominating the conversations.

That is no longer the case, though; not after Sunday’s Pro Day. Fans finally got to see just how tall and long Gilgeous-Alexander is for a guard and what he’ll do to disrupt opponents on the perimeter and in passing lanes. He and Quade Green should be a good combination at point guard given what each of them do well, which is completely different and beneficial in various scenarios. If I’m Gilgeous-Alexander, I channel my inner-Liggins right now and embrace the lockdown defender role.

6. I’m torn on whose game I love the most right now, but P.J. Washington is in the lead.

If you’re trying to pick a favorite player before the season, Kevin Knox or Hamidou Diallo are probably the easy answer. Or maybe Wenyen Gabriel as the sophomore leader, or even Quade Green since he’s going to run point. But I’ve been leaning P.J. Washington, and Sunday might’ve confirmed it.

Washington didn’t do anything to blow viewers away, but his versatility is already very apparent in the limited glimpse we got at Pro Day. I think he’ll come off the bench to start the year; however, if Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones aren’t doing much inside (which I’m worried about), I think Cal will be quick to play a smaller lineup with Washington manning the middle next to Gabriel and Knox. And when I say he’ll man the middle, I mean he’ll do everything at whatever position he needs to play because he is that “position-less.” Want 15 rebounds? He’ll do that. Want him to step out and help guard a wing? I think he can do that, too. He’s going to be special.

KSR UK Player Interviews: PJ Washington embracing alpha dog persona

7. There’s still a very long way to go.

As exciting as the Cats seem in the looks test, there is a lot of learning to do before they’re anywhere near what we, the fans, expect them to be. It’s going to be very frustrating in the beginning because they’re so young (and Cal will remind us of that daily), so let’s do our best to temper expectations while they try to crawl before they walk and then walk before they run and then run before they beat Duke by 20 in the Final Four.

Practices will be hard and they’ll rely on their God-given talent and size early in the year to win games. Cal can only hope they bring it in each and every practice; and if they do, February and March (and hopefully April) will be very, very, very fun. There is a lot to figure out between now and then, though.

Like Cal said, “Can you imagine if we went this hard every day in practice? We’d be off the charts. You can’t just do it because they (the scouts) are here.”

8. Drake coming to Big Blue Madness.

Coach Cal let it slip at a charity function back in August that Drake will be attending Big Blue Madness. I didn’t pass that information along because I don’t think he wanted it to leave the room that night, but last night he put it out there for all to hear: Drake will be in the building.

Calipari confirms Drake will be at Big Blue Madness

9. Kevin Knox can really move for a 6-foot-9 guy.

Both Calipari and Knox have said he will play guard. It sounds absurd until you see his quickness for his size.

I also enjoyed Knox saying how hard he’s been pushed through four practices. That part about wanting to win a ring was nice to hear, too.

10. They appear to be a fun-loving, good group of kids, per usual.

Let’s all say it together now: I like my team.


The Cats Need a Break After Beating Missouri

The Cats Need a Break After Beating Missouri

Kentucky moved to 5-1 on the season and 12-4 over its last 16 regular games with a gutty victory with a banged up depth chart against an inferior opponent. My concern all week was that the Mizzou offense and all that talent would “wake up;” it did so in a big way by amassing 568 total yards and exceeding its scoring average by 9-points.

Most wanted to see more offense after the Cats scored just 24 points against Eastern Michigan a week ago (Who has a much better defense than Missouri by the way; not talent wise, but in relation to execution). Eddie Gran’s unit answered by totaling 486-yards and hanging 40 on the Tigers. It arguably left another 21 on the Kroger Field turf.

Full disclosure; Missouri was allowing 40-points per game so let’s keep Saturday’s offensive performance in perspective. But, did you know that Kentucky has won 8 of its last 10 home games? There was a sense of testiness following Saturday’s win. But; perspective.

The defense struggled. Missouri is to be credited for its offensive game plan which all but negated UK’s key pass rushers: OLB’s Josh Allen and Denzil Ware.

The Tigers were assisted by a sketchy pass defense and that’s being kind. Of its three long touchdown passes, one was a schematic flaw which matched up linebacker Courtney Love on Mizzou’s top pass catcher Johnathon Johnson that resulted in a 75-yard pitch and catch for six points. J’Mon Moore’s 50-yard score was a result of a great throw from quarterback Drew Lock that was perfectly placed behind the cornerback and in front of the safety in a Cover 2 look.

Hey, football happens. Sometimes the bad guys win. The third came when WR Emmanuel Hall just flat-out ran past the cornerback on a go route to the end zone at the end of the first half.

Missouri’s offensive line was rated as one of the SEC’s top 5 going into 2017. It played so on Saturday night as the Tigers rushed for 213 net yards against a Wildcat defense that was allowing just 74 per game. Kentucky had not faced two dynamic runners on the same team like Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett. Crockett was the foremost concern but it was Witter who ran for 139-yards off 17 carries for an average of 8.2 per.

Yet another game was decided with the opposing team possessing the football in the game’s final drive with the contest in doubt. Mark Stoops’ decision to kick a field goal on 4th and goal at the 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter was the right call and forced Mizzou into scoring a touchdown and an extra point for the win with just over a minute to play with no timeouts.

Kentucky won the football game 40-34. Its 5-1 going into a necessary break in action to heal up, clean up, and develop a run game. Now let’s dive deeper:

Hello Drake Jackson

The redshirt freshman center played the majority of offensive plays and more than held his own against future pro defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. Jackson’s snaps were accurate and he was a key blocker in several of the Cats explosive plays. Plainly, given the status of the Mizzou defensive line; Drake Jackson played his guts out. Having the rookie solidify that position frees up Bunchy Stallings to move back to guard, a position that he played at a high level in 2016. Perhaps Jackson’s performance could be a step forward in answering offensive line questions. Time will tell.

Johnson to Johnson

See the first sentence of this post. Kentucky is 12-4 in its past 16 regular season games with Stephen Johnson at quarterback. The senior was 22/36 (61.1%), 298-yards, 2 touchdowns, and was intercepted once. He also rushed the football for 44-yards off 11 carries; many of which were drive extenders. I don’t know how others evaluate quarterbacks but I’d describe his game as solid, motivational, gutty, and indispensable. Remember, Johnson is also beat up and has taken several shots over the course of six games.

Senior receiver Garrett Johnson led the team with 7 receptions for 111 yards and 1 score. Juice has proven time and time again to be UK’s go-to pass catcher during critical 3rd down plays. He’s also continuing to climb the program’s record books in several receiving categories.

The Receivers and the Emergence of Lynn Bowden

I said in the preseason that the receivers would be better in 2017 than it was a year ago. I stand by that statement. Kayaune Ross played his best game as a Wildcat with 4 catches for 77 yards. The resurrection of Blake Bone continued as the senior grabbed 3 passes for 30-yards including a touchdown. True freshman Lynn Bowden’s route running has drastically improved. A specific instance impressed as he executed a flawless three-move corner route for a catch. He’s starting to understand the position. Bowden finished the game with 3 receptions for 49-yards and had one explosive play called back due to penalty. The BBN got a glimpse of his special playmaking abilities with spectacular runs after catch. There was a dropped potential touchdown on a post route. UK cannot afford missed touchdown opportunities especially in a season that scoring points and connecting on explosive plays have proven to be a challenge.

Kentucky Can’t Deliver the Knockout Punch

Cornerback Derrick Baity, “I think our instinct to destroy an opponent, we don’t really have it. We’ll jump out on them and it’s good, but we’re not consistent enough to keep going on them…. We’re letting up ourselves.  We’re getting complacent once we take a good lead and I think that’s why it’s coming down to the wire.”

Up 13-0, which could have easily been 21-0 with more efficiency in the Red-Zone; Missouri was ready to quit. UK didn’t oblige when Lock hit J’Mon Moore down the sideline for a touchdown strike. Up 20-7, the Cats allowed its opponent back into self-esteem land by giving up a 58-yard TD pass with :40 prior to halftime. This was reminiscent of Southern Miss-2016.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson, “It’s just execution on our side, putting the game out of reach.  That’s something we have to work on this Bye Week and the following week after that get it all together.”

Benny Went Back Over 100 and into the End Zone

Snell’s night included 117-yards off 20 carries and two touchdowns. That involves a 71-yard scamper to pay dirt. The sophomore averaged 5.8 tough yards for the game. Reality is that he’s not gotten the same level of offensive line support as he did a year ago when he rushed for over 1,000-yards. But seeing him break a 71-yarder had to be considered encouraging. Another positive was seeing Stephen Johnson go under center to hand off to Snell for a touchdown. He looked comfortable in that role.

Austin MacGinnis is the Kentucky G.O.A.T

The senior kicker became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 314-points. MacGinnis made all four of his field goals and four extra points, totaling 16 for the night. The 16 points tied his career high for a game and is the second-most points for a kicker in one game in school history. He also became the first player in school history with three career field goals of at least 53 yards.

Pass Defense Deficiencies 

That’s been covered throughout this post. Starting cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Chris Westry have both battled injuries. Not an excuse, but relevant. Depth must continue be developed at that position. Safeties Darius West and Mike Edwards have both played an enormous amount of snaps through six games. But, the trend of surrendering explosive plays through the air is alarming. Missouri QB Drew Lock was the SEC’s 2nd rated passer entering Saturday’s contest. We knew that the Missouri receivers averaged 15 yards-per-catch which ranks high nationally. J’Mon Moore was averaging 26 yards-per-catch entering Saturday. However, giving up homerun grabs for points has to stop or at least slow.

Run Defense

Kentucky entered the game 3rd in the nation by allowing just 74 rush yards per game. Missouri gashed the Cats for 213. Missed tackles again reared its ugly head. But, give credit to Missouri and that mammoth offensive line for opening running lanes for RB’s Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett. Preseason All SEC tackle Paul Adams was excellent. The running backs ran through arm tackles. Mizzou won the line-of-scrimmage for the better part of sixty minutes.

What does all this mean?

Simple; UK is 5-1 going into the bye week. I may have been wrong with my assessment that the 2017 schedule was more challenging than 2016. But, there are teams left on the slate that are very Missouri-like. This means that even though records and recent results aren’t extraordinary; there are still very talented individual players and especially quarterbacks remaining in the back half of the season. Saturday’s pass defense didn’t exactly sanction confidence. This team has simply found ways to win.

The first half of the season has produced a heartbreaking nightmare against Florida, impressive road wins at South Carolina and Southern Miss, two ho-hum home wins over EKU and EMU, and a scarier than necessary victory over Missouri. As we are at the halfway point in the season; I think most would have taken 5-1 going into the bye week and labeled that outcome as a success. Style points don’t count in football. At the end of the season only W’s and L’s matter. Right now Mark Stoops’ team sits at 5-1 and a whole bunch of teams across the nation are not.


Kevin Knox: “We Want Number Nine”

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Knox’s family knows a thing or two about championships. Kevin Knox Sr. won one as a wide receiver at Florida State in the 90s, and tonight, Kevin Jr. told Sean Farnham he’s ready to follow in his dad’s footsteps and bring number nine home to the Bluegrass.

We want number nine. We all talk about that in the locker room. The fans really want another championship, it’s been since 2012. My dad’s got like four different rings in his closet. I used to play with them when I was little and put them on. It would be good to get my own ring and wear it around my own house and show it off to him”

I got a really big team, they need some really big rings…


John Calipari on his new team: “I’m going to have to be patient”

John Calipari on his new team: “I’m going to have to be patient”

John Calipari spoke to Seth Greenberg and Sean Farnham during UK’s open practice on the SEC Network, and once again, bemoaned this squad’s youth and inexperience; however, once again, you couldn’t miss the excitement in his voice as he described their potential. Some quick hitters:

— What he’s learned through four practices: “We’ve got a great group of kids who want to learn and want to get better…some of this is we’re trying to go and learn as we run, but it’s hard. Young kids. I’m having fun with them, but it’s hard.”

— With so few veterans, the search for a leader is still ongoing: “You have to be the hardest worker, the first one in. You’ve got to be the one that wins the drills and then you can lead your teammates…The leadership here will develop over time.”

— Cal claims he was so excited for his players to go through Pro Day that he didn’t sleep well last night.

“We did it for the kids. everybody will say, well you did it for recruiting. No, we did it for the kids. Now, the ancillary thing is, wow, it’s helping us in other areas too, but that’s not why we did it,” Cal said. “I was excited for them. I didn’t sleep good last night. We’re not winning and losing, but they are. So, you want them to walk away and have these guys say, wow, I’m really going to keep my eye on a bunch of these kids.”

— The difference between Hamidou Diallo last season (redshirt) and now: “I’m having to get on him now about every drill matters. And every shot matters and you’ve got to be more consistent in your workouts. And when it doesn’t go right, you’ve got to come back and double down. ”

— Of course, he talked about the “positionless” philosophy: “We started the positionless stuff based on, we really, the way we play, if you’re a wing, if you’re a 2, or a 3, or a 4, you’re really the same. And eventually, I would like to have a bunch of 6-9 guys that can play point and shoot it and wings and bigs…The positionless is, you’re going to see us posting a bunch this year.”

— It’s easy to compare Quade Green to Tyler Ulis because of his size, but Calipari doesn’t want you to do it.

“What Tyler Ulis did for us is show us that you can be a little smaller than 6-9 and play with the heart of a 6-9 player. Quade, I don’t want him compared to Tyler Ulis because that’s not fair. Tyler Ulis is a once in a lifetime player and he’s in the NBA proving it.”

— Calipari on what they’re focusing on in practice right now: “I think it could be a fairly good pressing team, but we can’t start a press [right now]. We need to start a zone — we don’t have time yet. We’ll probably go into the first week of our real games and have just a couple of offenses, an out of bounds play, a side out of bounds play and we’ll learn as we go.”

— “One of the things I told them today is, there are things that you do well. Then you’ve got to tell me in a huddle, we’re going to you, where do you want the ball? Tell me where you want the ball. It’s a game-winning play. The reason I have to do that is these are all new. I’ve never coached them. We’re four practices in and I’m going to control this more than I have in the past because my job is to protect them. I’ve got to protect them now too. I can’t let them go out and hurt themselves losing their minds.”

— On when he believes his system will finally be in place with this group: “I just hope we don’t run out of runway. We need to land this plane and hopefully there’s enough runway and enough time to do it. The team that went to the national championship game with Connecticut, we didn’t get it until March. We figured it out in March, thank goodness and then we played. I don’t know this team. I’ll tell you agin, this may be one of those teams where we shoot it and four guys go to rebound it. We may not be that consistent. You play zone against us, we move it twice, shoot it, and send four guys to the glass. That may be what happens.”

— One good thing so far is each player is pushing themselves to the limits: “They go so hard in some of this stuff that they’ll cramp up. If you see me stop [practice], it’s because two guys are cramping up. And then I’ll tell them, you know what that means? You don’t ever go this hard. This is what they have to learn, the pace and the effort. Go until your legs burn. They don’t know this. It’s all new.”

— Calipari is reminding players to be patient, but he needs the players to remind him to be patient too.

“Here’s what I’ve been telling them. I stopped practice, I’m ready to kill people. I tell them, you need to remind me to be patient. So say, Coach, be patient. We’re good guys, we’re good players, we just don’t know. Just be patient. Because I want to kill some of you in here right now. I’m going to have to be patient.”


The Final Play has Decided Kentucky’s Last Three Games

The Final Play has Decided Kentucky’s Last Three Games

One final play has determined the outcome of Kentucky’s last three games.  Playing in a high-pressure situation would rattle most, but the Cats remain poised no matter what.

“In the defense’s hands I feel very confident,” cornerback Derrick Baity said after the game.

Baity controls the team’s destiny because he’s on the field.  Fans freak out in the stands.  You might think that there would be similar feelings shared on the sidelines but, “It’s not,” receiver Kayaune Ross said. “We just gotta trust in our team to make the plays and do what we’ve been doing.”

The defense has proved that they can and will make plays in pressure situations.  When the defense is on the field for the final play, Kentucky has walked away with a win every time.

“We’re not a fragile football team, they can handle adversity,” Mark Stoops said following the win. “We’re going to work on our mistakes, but we’ll keep on finding ways to win. There’s not many football teams that go through the season that don’t win, somehow, some close games. We don’t need to do every week like we’re doing. I would like to have one that you could breathe a little bit, but it shows a lot of character.”

Kentucky shouldn’t always be in this situation, but timely mistakes continually set them back and leave points on the scoreboard.

A flag called back a Benny Snell touchdown and forced UK to settle for a field goal.  A holding call stalled a late second half drive and led to a Missouri touchdown.  Missouri missed a short second half field goal, but a running into the kicker penalty gave their kicker a chance for redemption that he took advantage of.

“I think our instinct to destroy an opponent, we don’t really have it,” Baity said. “We’ll jump out on them and it’s good, but we’re not consistent enough to keep going on them….We’re letting up ourselves.  We’re getting complacent once we take a good lead and I think that’s why it’s coming down to the wire.”

Stephen Johnson accepts the blame. “It’s just execution on our side, putting the game out of reach.  That’s something we have to work on this Bye Week and the following week after that get it all together.”

Kentucky has made mistakes, but they’ve overcome those mistakes and made the plays they needed to win.  It could eventually catch up with them, but as of right now they have found a way to win five out of six games to start the season.

“We haven’t been perfect, we lost one, but you’ve seen us fight back from adversity and that’s the way this team’s built right now,” Stoops said.  “It’s going to be tough, hard fought-games. And that’s the way most of this league is. Y’all see it. Y’all see — take a look around, I mean, it’s tough. So I’m just proud of the way our team fights back from some tough situations and most of our games are going to be sixty minute games.”


Josh Allen made the play of the game by delaying final spot

Josh Allen made the play of the game by delaying final spot

Josh Allen made the play that saved Kentucky in the end, but many of you probably didn’t even notice.

With Missouri rushing to the line of scrimmage to stop the clock in the final seconds of the game, Allen poked the ball loose from Missouri’s J’Mon Moore as Moore was trying to get it to the official for the spot. The ball rolled about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, and the official, who was in no hurry to grab it, spent almost 10 seconds retrieving the ball and getting it to the spot.

The delay left Missouri with only three seconds to run a play, when the Tigers likely would’ve gotten two looks at the end zone if Allen hadn’t intervened.

It was smart thinking on Allen’s part. You can’t teach that.


Kentucky Outscores, Outlasts Missouri 40-34

Kentucky Outscores, Outlasts Missouri 40-34

Missouri’s explosive offense exploited the Kentucky defense, but the UK offense had an excellent counterpunch for the Tigers.

Mizzou scored on passes of 50, 58 and 75 yards.  Drew Lock also completed a 48-yard pass before sneaking in a Missouri score.  The Tigers tied the game on a three-play, 75 yard drive to start the fourth quarter to put Kentucky against the ropes.

Four of seven on second half third down conversions, Missouri had a chance to take the lead with 6:15 to play but was forced to settle for a 45-yard field goal.  Lonnie Johnson blocked it to put UK in the driver’s seat.

Even with an unbelievable play from Lynn Bowden, Kentucky was stopped on third and goal from the four and (surprisingly) opted to settle for a chip shot field goal.  The decision almost cost them the game.

Kentucky almost stopped them without a first down, until Missouri scampered 17 yards on a 4th and 2.  They continued to move rather easily until Johnson made a great tackle on the 28 that ran the clock down to three seconds.  On the final play of the game Lock’s pass fell short of the goal line.

Some how, some way, Kentucky got another close victory.  Halfway through the season, Kentucky is 5-1.


Up Next For The Cats: Missouri Tigers Scouting Report

Up Next For The Cats: Missouri Tigers Scouting Report

Missouri comes to Kroger Field ranked 2nd in the league’s passing offense category. So, the key to beating the Tigers is obviously to stop the forward pass. This may surprise you, but I’m going against conventional wisdom here and think that slowing running back Damarea Crockett and the Mizzou run game are the keys for victory. This is a very confusing and perplexing team to scout. Its 1-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play but has future professionals on the 2-deep depth chart.

Remember, this is Part I of the Missouri Scouting Report which means that the following information is a basic overview of personnel, schemes, projections, and results. A more in-depth version or Part II can be heard on the Depth Chart Podcast which will be posted on KSR on Thursday.

OFFENSE

Second year head coach Barry Odom based his program’s success on an offensive system that is more suitable for the Big 12 than the SEC. It scores points in bunches against Group of 5 and 1AA opponents but has not exactly busted scoreboard light bulbs against its Power 5 peers both inside and out of the Southeastern Conference. Quarterback Drew Lock will appear similar in style and efficacy as Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback. The noticeable difference between the two is that Lock is surrounded by a much more talented supporting cast. Lock is the league’s 2nd leading passer: 70/130, 1115-yards, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s. Missouri is 9th in the nation by averaging 15.93 yards per catch.

Running back Damarea Crockett rushed for 1062-yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman a year ago. 2017 numbers: 59, 375-yards, and 2 touchdowns. Crockett blazed out the gate by running for 202-yards and 2 scores against 1AA opponent Missouri State. But, his numbers have decreased in his team’s three consecutive losses as the level of competition increased: 18 carries, 97-yds vs South Carolina. 10 carries, 19-yards vs. Purdue, and 13 rushes for 57 against Auburn. As Crockett goes, so do the Tigers. The team’s point total also significantly decreased after dropping 72 against Missouri State: 13 vs. South Carolina, 3 vs. Purdue, and 14 against Auburn.

WR J’Mon Moore led the league a year ago with 62 receptions, 1062-yards, and 8 scores. He currently ranks 9th in the country with a 26 yards-per-catch average. WR Johnathon Johnson is the team’s leading receiver with 18 catches, 233-yards, and 2 touchdowns. Former starting WR/KR Demetrios Mason was recently dismissed from the team. Mizzou rotates three tight ends that possess optimal size for blocking and the ability to catch the football.

Missouri has the largest offensive line in the SEC. It averages 6’5, 326-pounds. This is mystifying as the Tigers rely on a fast tempo to score points. Most teams that lean on a high number of plays possess offensive linemen that are smaller and more mobile. However, it has only allowed 4 QB sacks which ranks 12th nationally. Preseason All SEC tackle Paul Adams is considered the unit’s best.

This team confuses me and is difficult to scout. I’m not talking about tendencies or schemes. I’m referencing the fact that talent is not matching results. Missouri averages just 25 points per game but is 3rd in the league in total offense.

Top Performers

Passing

Drew Lock

70/133, 52.6%, 1115-yds, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s 278-ypg, SEC-2nd

Receiving

Johnathon Johnson

18 rec, 233-yds, 2 TD’s, SEC-10th

Rushing

Damarea Crockett

59 carries, 375-yards, 2 TD, 93.8-ypg, SEC-4th 

2017 Production

Scoring

25.5 points per game, SEC-10th

Rushing

166.5 yards per game, SEC-8th 

Passing

278.8, SEC-2nd

Total

445.2, SEC-3rd

3rd Down

19/50, 38%. SEC-8th 

Turnover Margin

-9, SEC-14th

Projected Starters

Tight End

Kendall Blanton

6’6, 260 Jr.

Left Tackle

Tyler Howell

6’8 330 Sr.

Left Guard

Kevin Pendleton

6’4, 330 Jr.

Center

Trystan Castillo

6’4, 315 Fr.

Right Guard

Tre’Vour Simms

6’5, 340 So.

Right Tackle

Paul Adams

6’6, 315 Jr.

Quarterback

Drew Lock

6’4, 225 Jr.

Running Back

Damarea Crockett

5’11, 225 So.

Receiver

J’Mon Moore

6’3, 205 Sr.

Receiver

Emmanuel Hall

6’3, 200 Jr.

Receiver

Johnathon Johnson

5’10, 185 So.

DEFENSE

Missouri’s defense is yet again ranked dead last in the SEC. The Tigers finished 2nd in total defense in 2015 while annually producing NFL defensive linemen and linebackers. It finished 14th a year ago and has maintained that trend and status by allowing 452.5 yards per game through four 2017 games. DT Terry Beckner Jr. and DE Marcell Frazier are future professionals. Frazier has been consistent and is a fascinating character. He self-imposed a local media ban but broke his silence in an attempt to portray leadership following the Tiger’s loss to South Carolina. Former 5-star recruit Terry Beckner has experienced a roller coaster, three year stay in Columbia. A revolving door at safety has limited pass defense. Initial thoughts are that Mizzou does not possess a lockdown cornerback.

Head coach Barry Odom fired his new defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach DeMontie Cross after a 31-13 loss to South Carolina. Even though the head coach assumed both vacated duties, the Tiger defense has worsened. It surrendered 35 points to Purdue and 51 to Auburn.

Schemes have changed and remained the same. Puzzling right? Mizzou is most efficient utilizing a four-man front but went with a 3-3-5 then back to an even front. 40 points per game is a lot. Giving up 43 to Missouri State started an alarming trend that has continued leading up to its bye week.

The best aspect of the unit lies within its rush defense. Ranked 8th in the league, Mizzou is giving up 194 run-yards per game. Opponents have also experienced success through the air to the tune of 257.8 ypg. Talent is not matching result. Normally a pass rush nightmare team; Missouri has registered 9 quarterback sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Those numbers are similar to UK’s.

2017 Production

Scoring

40 points per game, SEC-14th

Rushing

Allowing 194.8 yards per game, SEC-8th

Passing

257.8, SEC-12th

Total

452.5, SEC-14th 

Top Performers

Tackles

Cale Garrett, 30 tackles, SEC-25th

Tackles for Loss

Marcel Frazier, Rashad Brandson-2.5. SEC-46th

QB Sacks

Terry Beckner Jr., Marcel Frazier-1.5, SEC-31st

Interceptions

Thomas Wilson, Logan Cheadle-1, SEC-10th (tied with multiple)

QB Hurries

Marcel Frazier, Cam Hilton-2

Projected Starters

Defensive End

Jordan Harold

6’2, 255 Sr.

Defensive Tackle

Terry Beckner Jr.

6’4, 305 Jr.

Defensive Tackle

Markell Utsey

6’4, 305 So.

Defensive End

Marcell Frazier

6’5, 265 Sr.

Linebacker

Cale Garrett

6’3, 235 So.

Linebacker

Terez Hall

6’2, 230 Jr.

Linebacker

Kaleb Prewett

6’1, 210 Jr.

Safety

Thomas Wilson

5’10, 190 Sr.

Safety

Anthony Sherrils

6’0, 200 Sr.

Cornerback

Logan Cheadle

5’10, 185 Sr.

Cornerback

DeMarkus Acy

6’2, 195 So.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter

Corey Fatony

46.67 per, SEC-3rd

Kicker

Tucker McCann

4/5 FG’s, long-43

Kick Return

*Dimetrios Mason

27.5 yards per

Punt Return

Johnathan Johnson

7.0 yards per

*Demetrios Mason no longer on team.

Punter Corey Fatony is the league’s 3rd leading punter and is very, very good. Kick returner Dimetrios Mason was 2nd in the SEC by averaging 27.5 yards per return but as mentioned earlier, was dismissed from the team.

What does all this mean?

Heck, I don’t know yet. Who is this Missouri team? I’m not sure they know either. How motivated will it be coming off a bye week and after getting stomped by South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn? What I do know is that running back Damarea Crockett is next-level talented. Stopping or slowing him could be the key to the game for the Cats. QB Drew Lock counts defenders in the box which dictates his decision to run or pass. Tempo will not allow UK time to substitute. WR J’Mon Moore led the league with catches a year ago. Perplexing team these Missouri Tigers.

Defensive ends Marcell Frazier and Jordan Harold are formidable pass rushers. Defensive tackles Terry Beckner Jr. and Markell Utsey can force the issue along the line-of-scrimmage. Yet, even with that talented defensive front Mizzou is allowing 40 points per game.

Numbers, talent, and results are not adding up. As of now, I can’t pretend to know which or what Tiger team shows up on Saturday night. We’ll continue to analyze personnel and tendencies for Thursday’s Depth Chart Podcast.


The Numbers Don’t Add Up For Missouri

The Numbers Don’t Add Up For Missouri

Jay Biggerstaff | USA Today

When you look at the Missouri football team’s stats, nothing makes sense.

Their offense average 445 yards per game, third in the SEC, but only scores 25 points per game.  They had more than 800 yards in the season-opener and scored 72 points, but since then the Tigers have not scored more than 14 points in a game.

Quarterback Drew Lock is widely-considered the best or second-best quarterback in the SEC.  He’s currently second in passing with 278.8 yards per game.  He doesn’t have to do it all either.  Demarea Crockett rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2016 as a true freshman; this year he’s fourth in the conference with 93.8 yards per game.

How does this offense not score points?  Turnovers and third downs.

Lock has thrown six interceptions to help give the Tigers a -9 turnover margin, ranked last in the SEC and tied for 127th in the nation.  On third down, the Missouri offense is in the middle of the road, converting 38 percent of the time (just a hair better than UK), but the Missouri defense is a completely different story.  They let their opponents convert on third down 50 percent of the time (No. 121 in the nation).

The Missouri defense has NFL talent, yet they might be the worst defense in the history of defenses (and I remember Hal Mumme’s porous defensive product).  If you look in the national rankings in the four major statistical categories, you will not find Missouri until you get into the 100s.

  • Scoring Defense: 40 points per game, #123
  • Rushing Defense: 192.3 yards per game, #102
  • Passing Defense: 257.8 yards, #105
  • Total Defense: 452 yards, #107

Judging purely off the stats, the Tigers look like a team with a bad defense and an offense than can be great if they don’t turn the ball over.  The recipe for a Kentucky win: score points, force Mizzou to make some mistakes and posses the football.


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The Schedule

  • 3:30 — The KSR Pregame show begins at the Bluegrass RV Lot
  • 4:30LexTran shuttle services start from downtown to campus.
  • 5:15 — The Cat Walk
  • 5:30 — Countdown to Kickoff with Freddie Maggard & Christi Thomas
  • 5:35 — Magnolia Vale Concert at the Gate 12 plaza
  • 7:30 — Kickoff on the SEC Network

Opening Weekend at Keeneland

You can pull off the first of two Keeneland/Kentucky football doubles today with a little help from LexTran.  It’s only $1 each way, starts at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 8:00 p.m.  You can find shuttle times, the pick-up and drop-off locations here.

How to Watch/Listen

Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Olivia Harlan are on the call for the SEC Network.  If you haven’t memorized where to find America’s favorite television channel…

  • Cable: 516, 517
  • AT&T UVerse: 607, 1607
  • DirecTV: 611
  • Dish: 408

If you’re stuck on the road and can’t watch, there are multiple ways to listen to Leach and Piecoro.

  • AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
  • FM: 98.1 WBUL
  • Satellite: XM-191 and Sirius-138
  • Online: iHeart Radio

It’s Homecoming Weekend

No, there’s not a dance, but one couple will wear a crown at halftime.  Other than that, I don’t really know what homecoming means for a college football program.  If you have any insight to share, I’d love to be enlightened.

Rain, Rain Stay Away

The forecast is clear throughout the day, but you will probably leave Kroger Field wet.  Storms are supposed to move into the area between 8:00-10:00 p.m. and dump an inch of rain overnight.

Neither team has played a game in the rain this year.  It’s extremely important for Kentucky to get an early lead.  The rain will make it difficult for Mizzou to pass and the Cats can kill Mizzou’s momentum by running it out down the defense’s throat that surrenders 194.7 rushing yards per game (11th in the SEC, 102nd in the nation).

Mizzou’s First Road Trip

It is the first weekend of October and the Missouri Tigers are just now playing their first road game. A team that relies on an uptempo offense, the Kroger Field crowd could cause communication problems they have yet to face this season.  If their offense can’t get rolling, the Cats could beat their Eastern Division opponent for the third consecutive year.

Podcast Prep

Unlike the last night game at Kroger Field, you don’t have an extra three and a half hours of pregame coverage on WLAP.  Fend off boredom by catching up on KSR podcasts.  There’s a new hilarious Funkhouser podcast, UofL talk with Matt and Dr. Ricky Jones and a trio of football podcasts.

Today’s College Football Schedule

  • Noon: Penn State at Northwestern on ABC
  • Noon: Georgia at Vanderbilt on ESPN
  • Noon: Ole Miss at Auburn on SEC Network
  • 3:30: No. 23 West Virginia at No. 8 TCU on FS1
  • 3:30: No. 13 Miami at Florida State on ESPN
  • 3:30: No. 21 Notre Dame at North Carolina on ABC
  • 3:30 LSU at No. 21 Florida on CBS
  • 3:30: Minnesota at Purdue on ESPN2
  • 4:00: Arkansas at South Carolina on SEC Network
  • 7:15: No. 1 Alabama at Texas A&M on ESPN
  • 7:30: Michigan State at No.7 Michigan on ABC
  • 8:00: No. 11 Washington State at Oregon on Fox
  • 10:45: Cal at No. 6 Washington on ESPN

KHSAA Football Scores

To all my Twitter followers, sorry not sorry for bombarding your timeline with subpar CAL trash-talk. Probably not my smoothest move, but the Colts won, so I think it’s safe to say it worked.

  • DeSales 21, CAL 3
  • Danville 37, Somerset 26
  • Henry County 40, Bardstown 31
  • Male 37, Bryan Station 6
  • Mason County 54, Harrison County 48 (2OT)
  • Ballard Memorial 74, Crittenden County 70
  • Ryle 34, Cooper 14
  • St. X 56, Manual 34

Kentucky Basketball Recruiting Update: Immanuel Quickley goes to work

Kentucky Basketball Recruiting Update: Immanuel Quickley goes to work

With Big Blue Madness a week away and the early signing period just around the corner, we’re entering a crucial stretch in 2018 recruiting. Over the past few days alone, there have been some significant developments with Kentucky’s targets. Let’s review them.

Committed

Immanuel Quickley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-3 | 175 lbs Bel Air, MD John Carroll School/Team BBC
ESPN: 12 | 3 PG Top 247: 13 | 2 PG Rivals: 10 Scout: 8 | 3 PG

🔵 Visiting for Big Blue Madness 🔵

As expected, Quickley became UK’s first 2018 commitment and will assume the role as lead recruiter this weekend at the USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado Springs. Several Kentucky prospects will be at the camp, including Bol Bol, Quentin Grimes, Keldon Johnson, and Zion Williamson, so look for Quickley to go to work, particularly on his buddy Zion.

Heating up 🔥

Bol Bol ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-2 | 220 lbs. Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei/Cal Supreme
ESPN: 4 | 1 C Top 247: 4 | 1 C Rivals: 3 Scout: 2 | 1 C

🔵 Visiting for Big Blue Madness 🔵

Earlier this week, reports came out that Bol was still upset over his snub from the U19 National Team, but Kenny Payne went to California on Tuesday to do damage control and Calipari will probably smooth things over even more on Bol’s visit for Big Blue Madness. Arizona and USC are out of the picture due to their involvement into the FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball, making it a race between Kentucky and Oregon for the 7-2 center.

The FBI investigation could also help UK land…

Shareef O’Neal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-8 | 205 lbs. Santa Monica, CA Crossroads/Cal Supreme
ESPN: 24 | 9 PF Top 247: 44 | 11 PF Rivals: 27 Scout: 45 | 11 PF

Bol’s good friend and AAU teammate is reportedly rethinking his commitment to Arizona in light of the scandal, prompting several recruiting experts to predict a flip to Kentucky. O’Neal hasn’t decommitted from Arizona yet, but this is something to keep an eye on, particularly if he comes to Madness with Bol.

Quentin Grimes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting/Point Guard 6-4 | 185 lbs. The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands/Basketball University
ESPN: 13 | 3 SG Top 247: 17 | 5 PG Rivals: 11 Scout: 11 | 4 PG

Everyone assumed Grimes was a Kansas lock, but he always insisted Kentucky was still in the hunt. After his official visit to Lexington last week, Kentucky may have a better chance than we first thought. Grimes’ AAU coach told Rivals that the five-star guard wouldn’t be opposed to playing alongside Immanuel Quickely and that Calipari’s positionless pitch really resonated with Grimes and his family. Kansas is still the favorite and Grimes will visit the Jayhawks next weekend, but, once again, don’t count the Cats out.

Deciding next month ⏳

R.J. Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-7 | 185 lbs. Mississauga, Ont., CAN Montverde/Nike UPlay Canada
ESPN: 1 | 1 SF Top 247: 2 | 2 SF Rivals: 1 Scout: 1 | 1 SF

This morning, Barrett announced he will decide between Duke, Kentucky, and Oregon on November 10. The Blue Devils have had all the momentum lately, so the fact that he’s waiting a month to decide is promising for Kentucky.

Holding pattern 💬

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Forward 6-7 | 230 lbs. Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 1 PF Top 247: 1 | 1 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 2 SF

Williamson visited Kansas last weekend for “Late Night in the Phog” and has yet to reschedule his official visit to Kentucky. Ideally, he would come for Madness next weekend, especially since a certain Canadian rapper is supposed to be in town. Make it happen, Immanuel!

In other Zion news, both ESPN and Rivals analysts agree that he will end up at Kentucky.

Keldon Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-6 | 205 lbs. South Hill, VA Oak Hill Academy
ESPN: 7 | 3 SF Top 247: 11 | 2 SG Rivals: 18 Scout: 24 | 2 SG

Johnson is down to Kentucky, Maryland, N.C. State, and Texas, with the Longhorns maintaining momentum. Johnson and Quickley took their official visits to Kentucky on the same weekend and appeared to hit it off, so it will be interesting to see what effect them being together once again at the USA minicamp will have on his recruitment, if any.

Trending down ❄️

Simi Shittu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-10 | 220 lbs. Burlington, Ontario, CAN Vermont Academy
ESPN: 6 | 2 PF Top 247: 8 | 1 PF Rivals: 8 Scout: 9 | 1 PF

Things have cooled off in a major way between the Cats and Shittu, who did not include Kentucky on his list of official visits. This weekend, he’ll be at Vanderbilt, which has seized momentum in his Crystal Ball.

Darius Garland ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-2 | 170 lbs. Brentwood, TN Brentwood Academy/Bradley Beal Elite
ESPN: 11 | 2 PG Top 247: 15 | 4 PG Rivals: 15 Scout: 7 | 2 PG

🔵 Visiting for Big Blue Madness 🔵

Garland will be on campus for his official visit next weekend, but with Immanuel Quickley already on board, it looks to be a two-way race between Vanderbilt and Indiana for the Nashville native.

Nope

Romeo Langford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting Guard 6-5 | 191 lbs. New Albany New Albany/Eric Gordon All Stars
ESPN: 5 | 1 SG Top 247: 5 | 1 SG Rivals: 6 Scout: 5 | 1 SG

Langford eliminated Louisville last week after news of the scandal broke and will take trips to UNC, Indiana, and Kansas over the next month. Kentucky hasn’t been in the picture for months.