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Kentucky Defensive Production Analysis

Kentucky Defensive Production Analysis

Pic by 247Sports

Kentucky linebackers and defensive backs accounted for an exorbitant percentage of the team’s season-ending statistical categories a year ago. The Wildcats execute a 3-4 defensive scheme which was established and is operated with intention for the defensive line to occupy blockers which permits linebackers and safeties/nickel to run free and make plays.

This post will present a production study which only accounts for last season’s defensive starters: 4-linebackers, 3-defensive linemen, and 5-defensive backs (Five due to Nickel package). It also only addresses three statistical categories: total tackles, tackles for loss (TFL), and QB sacks.

LINEBACKERS

The first breakdown underlines UK’s four starting linebackers from 2016. The following numbers are combined totals from Jordan Jones, Courtney Love, Josh Allen, and Denzil Ware. The entirety of this group returns for 2017 and is considered one of the better linebacker collections in the Southeastern Conference. It also includes junior LB Jordan Jones who’s the league’s top returner in total tackles (109) and tackles for loss (15.5).

-Total Tackles: 317–32.3% of team’s 979 total tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 37—53.6% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: 17.5—83.3% of team’s 21 sacks

Pic of Adrian Middleton by Scout.com

DEFENSIVE LINE

The next group to be studied is the defensive line which has been under fire by the media as of late. While there is no hiding the fact that it must show improvement in 2017; UK’s defensive line-of-scrimmage remains a critical area of concern going into fall camp. Public denunciations can be utilized as a motivational ploy for new DL coach Derrick LeBlanc.

While admittedly concerned, I’m not as bleak as others appear to be. DT Adrian Middleton had a promising sophomore season and a strong spring. NT Naquez Pringle displayed vast improvement from National Signing Day to mid-season after overtaking a starting spot. Youngsters DE TJ Carter and Kordell Looney have extremely high ceilings.

Again, the 3-4 scheme heavily emphasizes the defensive line to act as quasi-blockers to free up fellow defenders in order to make plays. However, statistical production is also required for a defense to be effective. Disruptive and explosive plays across the line-of-scrimmage have to collectively increase. The organic front three (Defensive tackle, nose tackle, and defensive end) have a thankless yet highly demanding task. It also must be noted that recruiting for the three aforementioned positions is challenging and competitive.

Identifying three starters from 2016 was difficult due to rotation, availability, and situation. For simplicity purposes, this study includes the following three players: DT Adrian Middleton, NT Naquez Pringle, and DE Courtney Miggins. 

-Total Tackles: 102—10.4% of team’s 979 tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 11.5—16.6% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: 1.5–7.1% of team’s 21 sacks

Pic of Mike Edwards via twitter (@M_Edwards7)

SECONDARY

The secondary is the last line of defense, pun intended. Kentucky is expected to have an upper-level group which is led by an All SEC safety and two, third year starters at cornerback. Safety Mike Edwards is the SEC’s second leading returning tackler after totaling 100 a year ago. UK’s cornerbacks play the same position but are placed in specific locations of the field based on formation strength and ball placement. Derrick Baity is the designated field corner (side with most open ground) while Chris Westry operates in the boundary or short side. Safety Darius West is coming off an injury but is expected to start alongside Edwards.

Adding difficulty in this report is that Mark Stoops frequently executes a “Nickel” package which designates five defensive backs on the field. So, for this study we’ll examine the 2016 secondary which consisted of safeties Mike Edwards and Marcus McWilson, Nickel Blake McClain, and cornerbacks Derrick Baity along with Chris Westry. 

-Total Tackles: 316—32.2% of team’s 979 tackles

-Tackles for Loss: 12.5—18.1% of team’s 69 TFLs

-QB Sacks: .5—2.3% of team’s 21 sacks.

What does all this mean?

979 total team tackles include special teams which skews the numbers. Furthermore, these figures were based solely on 2016 starters and did not include reserves or replacements due to injury. Thus, sums don’t add up for 100% of stat categories.

Kentucky is extraordinarily reliant on its linebackers and safeties. Additional tackle, sack, and TFL totals from the defensive line is paramount for Matt House to experience success in his first year as the Wildcat’s defensive coordinator. For the most part, all three groups should show improvement and increased development. Two of the three (LB and secondary) have a chance to be elite. All eyes will be on the Wildcat’s defensive line come September 2.


Derek Willis agrees to a one-year deal with the Detroit Pistons

Ready for some great news? According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Derek Willis has agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Pistons.

Derek played for the Pistons in the Orlando Summer League, averaging 3.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over four games. In his senior season at Kentucky, he averaged 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. With a deal in hand, he’ll head to training camp in September.

Congrats, Derek!

 


The metal siding around Rupp Arena is finally going away

The metal siding around Rupp Arena is finally going away

Hate that ugly metal siding around Rupp Arena? Good news: it’s going away.

Today, plans were unveiled to renovate and expand the Lexington Convention Center, which includes some big changes to Rupp Arena. A new glass or transparent entrance to Rupp will be built, which will free it from the metal siding. From the Herald-Leader:

The 2014 designs included expanding the second tier of Rupp Arena and installing a new glass outer wall. Under the plans unveiled Thursday, the top of Rupp Arena would still be visible. The current metal siding would be removed and it would get a new exterior covering. The glass or transparent covering would only go up a little more than half way. The plan would still “free Rupp Arena” so people can see it from Main Street. Currently, Rupp is only visible from High Street.

In addition, the Lexington Center hopes to replace the benches in the upper bowl of Rupp with chair backs, which will require the removal of some seats at the very top. As was announced back in December, Rupp will get four new hospitality suites, one exclusively for UK’s use. The estimated cost of the entire project is $265 million and construction is set to begin in January, with an estimated completion date of December 2020. As has been discussed ad nauseam, the Lexington Center Corporation will sell naming rights to the convention center, but NOT to Rupp.

Rupp already looks like a new arena on the inside thanks to the new ribbon boards and center-hung scoreboard. Now, it sounds like the outside is finally catching up to the times. Hallelujah.

For more details, head on over to the Herald-Leader.

UPDATE: Here are renderings of the new Rupp Arena entrance.

Photo via EOP

Photo via EOP

And “The Gorge”:

Photo via EOP


247

Where UK Stands with the Best College Basketball Recruits in the 2018 Class

247

Each year the live recruiting period provides more clarity as to where Kentucky stands with players in its upcoming recruiting class. After spending a weekend watching and talking to recruits on the Nike and Adidas circuit, I have some bad news, some good news and a few other nuggets of information. First, the bad news.

It’s Not Looking Good

Marvin Bagley
Power Forward | 6-11 | 200 lbs.
Phoenix, AZ | Sierra Canyon
AAU: Phoenix Phamily
★★★★★
ESPN No. 1 | 1 PF Top247 No. 1 | 1 PF
Rivals No. 1 | 1 PF Scout No. 1 | 1 PF

Before the Peach Jam, two Rivals recruiting analysts predicted the nation’s top-ranked player would eventually become a Kentucky Wildcat. After his second game at the Peach Jam, Bagley said he’ll “eventually get to Kentucky,” but he did not mean that in a good way.

The 6’11” athlete that does it all will visit Duke this week. Now the most likely East Coast destination for the West Coast kid, the word on the street is that Bagley could reclassify to play college basketball this year. He should do it. He’s wasting his time playing high school basketball. I just hope it’s USC, not Duke.

If Bagley doesn’t reclassify to 2017, Kentucky will still be in the mix, but I would not get my hopes up.

Romeo Langford 
Shooting Guard| 6-5 | 190 lbs.
New Albany, IN | New Albany High School
AAU: 22 Vision
★★★★★
ESPN No. 3 | 1 SG Top247 No. 3 | 1 SG
Rivals No. 3 | — SG Scout No. 3 | 1 SG

Langford’s recruitment has been the most entertaining since Patrick Patterson/Jai Lucas. Living in the middle of UK/IU/UofL country, the country’s top-ranked wing from New Albany, Indiana has created a buzz the area hasn’t seen in years. Now everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that knows sumthin’ bout (h/t Trick Daddy).

Amidst all of the buzz there were two schools that stood out early in the process: Duke and Kentucky, with the Blue Devils receiving a slight edge. Now, neither school is a serious contender, especially Duke. After a game at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, Langford said he is no longer communicating with Duke.

The Duke vacancy isn’t an opportunity for Calipari. Even though many believed coaching Team USA in Egypt would be nothing but a positive for Coach Cal, that’s not the case with Langford. Even if he wasn’t limited by back spasms, Langford still wasn’t going to be a star for that team, forced to take a backseat to another UK recruit.

Langford’s recruitment will be a circus for the next nine months. His recent, sudden change could reverse course later in the process, but it’s doubtful to turn toward UK following his Team USA experience. Indiana and Texas were two prominent names to watch, two places where Langford can be the show.

UK is the Team to Beat 

Cameron Reddish
Small Forward | 6-8 | 196 lbs.
Norristown, PA | Westtown
AAU: Team Final
★★★★★
ESPN No. 4 | 1 SF Top247 No. 4 | 2 SF
Rivals No. 5 | 2 SF Scout No. 4 | 1 SF

Reddish is the reason Langford will most likely not play college basketball in Lexington. A 6’8” forward with elite guard skills, Reddish received the starting two-spot for Team USA instead of Langford. Even if he didn’t directly take Langford’s place, the way Calipari played Reddish all but convinced Langford he can’t play with Cam.

This is not necessarily bad news. If Langford isn’t scoring, there’s not much else he can do to contribute. Reddish can do just about anything and everything at any given moment on a basketball court. His three-point shot has improved, but if it’s not falling he can get easy buckets in the post. Defensively, Reddish is a physical presence and an excellent rebounder.

Intitially perceived as a Duke-lean, Reddish told Kyle Tucker the Blue Devils are “absolutely not” his leader. Cal’s Team USA experience will help get Reddish to UK.  For another recruit, that experience helped even more.

Immanuel Quickley
Point Guard (2018) | 6-3 | 175 lbs.
Bel Air, MD | John Carroll School
AAU: Team BBC
★★★★★
ESPN No. 14 | 2 PG Top247 No. 16 | 5 PG
Rivals No. 15 | 4 PG Scout No. 10 | 3 PG

The point guard has not committed to Kentucky, but everybody already considers Quickley a Wildcat. There are still some people in his ear trying to convince him to stay home to play for Maryland, but that’s highly doubtful. Quickley doesn’t just speak positively about his experience with Calipari, he provides glowing reviews and discusses the importance of working with him over the summer.

Even though I’d seen Quickley in action for Team USA, he was even more impressive in Spartanburg, playing off just one day of rest in the last month. An excellent passer with an improved shot, Quickley’s skills will be valuable to Kentucky, but maybe not as valuable as his ability to bring other elite recruits into the fold.   Just like Quade Green in 2017, Quickley’s skill-set and personality will attract some of the best in the nation to UK.

Zion Williamson
Forward | 6-7 | 220 lbs.
Spartanburg, SC | Spartanburg
AAU: SC Supreme
★★★★★
ESPN No. 2 | 2 PF Top247 No. 1 | 1 SF
Rivals No. 2 | 1 SF Scout No. 2 | 2 PF

The previous two players are certainly close to committing to Kentucky.  Zion is not close to making a decision, but Kentucky does appear to be in much better shape, thanks to Quickley.

“Me and Immanuel are good friends,” Williamson said.  “We bonded over the Adidas Path and I just love the way he plays point guard.  That’s the type of point guard I want to play with.”

They don’t make big guys as explosive as Zion is. Truly a marvel to watch, his highlights don’t do it justice. I could write 1,300 words about him (like Jack did here) but it still doesn’t encapsulate his presence on and off the court.

A Spartanburg native, he brought crowds that are abnormal for AAU events. Those crowds will try to convince him to stay home and play for Frank Martin at South Carolina. After the Gamecocks’ Final Four run, it’s possible. He’s also the kind of kid that would stay home.

We will not know Zion’s destination for a long time, but Kentucky is in a better place now than they’ve ever been before.

There’s a Long Way to Go

Bol Bol
Power Forward/Center | 7-3 | 225 lbs.
Santa Ana, CA | Mater Dei
AAU: Cal Supreme
★★★★★
ESPN No. 41 | 13 PF Top247 No. 5 | 2 PF
Rivals No. 7 | 3 PF Scout No. 13 | 3 C

Bol is a beast that can help you quickly forget the Cats are seemingly out of the picture for Marvin Bagley. A 7’3” guy with elite offensive skills (even a jump shot that can extend beyond the three-point line), it’s unbelievable that he didn’t make the cut for Team USA. Bol did not sound too terribly upset that he did not make the team, but Kenny Payne made sure Bol knew immediately after the cut that he should have made the team.

Even though many recruiting analysts are hearing he will stay on the West Coast, Calipari is in a good position. Coach Cal will continue to build that relationship throughout the year until Bol makes a decision next spring.

Quentin Grimes
Point Guard | 6-4 | 175 lbs.
The Woodlands, TX | College Park
AAU: Basketball University
★★★★★
ESPN No. 14 | 2 PG Top247 No. 8 | 1 PG
Rivals No. 12 | 3 PG Scout No. 24 | 6 PG

Considered one of the top point guards in the class, he’s not really a point guard, he’s a shooting guard. The one time I watched Grimes play, he scored 30 and made threes from all over the floor.

A guy that could complement Immanuel Quickley well on the wing, Kentucky likes their position with Grimes, even though the 247 Crystal Ball currently predicts Grimes will end up at Kansas.

Questionable

Darius Garland
Point Guard | 6-2 | 170 lbs.
Brentwood, TN | Brentwood Academy
AAU: St. Louis Eagles
★★★★★
ESPN No. 11 | 1 PG Top247 No. 10 | 2 PG
Rivals No. 12 |   — Scout No. 8 | 2 PG

The Cats held off on extending a scholarship offer to the nation’s top-ranked point guard until this weekend.  Reading between the lines, the move was probably because of the situation with Romeo Langford. Long seen as a Duke-lean, it’ll be interesting to see if Kentucky gets any traction following the offer.

Moses Brown
Center | 7-1 | 210 lbs.
Briarwood, NY | Archbishop Malloy
AAU: New Heights
★★★★★
ESPN No. 6 | 2 C Top247 No. 25 | 2 C
Rivals No. 7 |  — Scout No. 6 | 2 C

Calipari has watched the nation’s top-ranked center (Bol and Bagley are considered forwards) multiple times on the Under Armour circuit, including tonight, however, he has yet to extend a scholarship offer to Brown. The Cats might not lose a ton of talent in the post after next season. Brown will likely be UK’s next option if things do not go well with Bol.

Louis King
Small Forward | 6-6 | 205 lbs.
Columbus, NJ | Hudson Catholic
AAU: Team Final
★★★★★
ESPN No. 16 | 2 SF Top247 No. 14 | 3 SF
Rivals No. 16 |   — Scout No. 12 | 3 SF

One of the wings on Team USA and Cam Reddish’s AAU teammate, King has not been shy about his intentions: he wants a scholarship offer from Kentucky. King believes he did enough in Egypt to earn one, but Cal still has not pulled the trigger.  If he does, it would not take King long to do the same and commit to Kentucky.


Scary Skill Positions; An Early Look at Southern Miss

Scary Skill Positions; An Early Look at Southern Miss

Pic by UHCougars.com

Are you pencil or Sharpie confident in the Cats winning its opener in Hattiesburg? UK is an early thirteen-point favorite and will be seeking redemption. Offseason motivation should look no further than week one. Let’s take a July look at the Golden Eagles.

Overview

Head Coach: Jay Hopson, 7-6 at Southern Miss

2016 Results: 7-6, beat Louisiana 28-21 in New Orleans Bowl


OFFENSE

Pic of Ito Smith by Sun Herald

Southern Miss lost four-year starting quarterback Nick Mullens who passed for 11,994 career yards. Sophomore QB Keon Howard was forced into action following a Mullens concussion against Charlotte a year ago. The rookie struggled as he turned the football over at a high rate (5 fumbles vs. Old Dominion) and lost both starts. Howard is talented and was vastly recruited out of high school after passing for over 10,000-yards. Kwadra Griggs will also compete for the job. Either Howard or Griggs will have elite skill-position talent to ease the post-Mullens transition.

Ito Smith was one of the best running backs the Wildcats faced in 2016, period. He dominated the second half and finished the Golden Eagles’ upset win over the Wildcats with 173-yards. Smith is special as he’s the only active FBS player with over 3000 career rushing and 1000 receiving yards. He’ll be joined by Biletnikoff watch list receiver Allenzae Staggers (63 catches, 1165-yards, 7 TDs) as well as fellow pass catchers Korey Robertson and Isaiah Jones to form one of the most formidable skill groups that Kentucky will face in 2017.

Tackle Ty Pollard and guard Devin Farrior are the offensive line’s only returning starters. It must replace all conference center Cameron Tom which will be as challenging as replacing its starting quarterback.

Returning Statistical Leaders

-Returning Starters: 6

-Rushing: Ito Smith – 265 carries, 1459 yards, 17 TDs

-Passing: Keon Howard – 22/50, 365 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs

Receiving: Allenzae Staggers – 63 receptions, 1165 yards, 7 TDs, 18.5 yards per catch

2016 Offensive Standings

-Scoring: 32.8 ppg (Conf USA-5th)

-Rush: 174.5 ypg (Conf USA-7th)

-Pass: 298.2 ypg (Conf USA-4th)

-Total: 472.8 ypg (Conf USA-4th)


DEFENSE

Pic of Xavier Thigpen by Hattiesburg American

Safety D’Nerius Antoine and DE Dylan Bradley were highly impactful in USM’s win over Kentucky last September. Much like QB Nick Mullens, the pair is now in the NFL. Hopson will deploy a nickel based defense in the opener. Expect safety/nickel Picasso Nelson and linebacker Sherrod Ruff to lead a unit that finished first in Conference USA’s total defense category by allowing just 324-yards per game. DE Xavier Thigpen led the team in QB sacks and will provide pressure off the edge. 

Returning Statistical Leaders

-Tackles: Picasso Nelson – 48

-Interceptions: Picasso Nelson – 2

-Sacks: Xavier Thigpen – 5

2016 Defensive Standings

-Scoring: 29.5 ppg (Conf USA-4th)

-Rush: 149 ypg (Conf USA-4th)

-Pass: 174 ypg (Conf USA-1st)

-Total: 324 ypg (Conf USA-1st)


What does all this mean?

I expect M.M. Roberts Stadium to be filled to its 36,000 seat capacity on September 2; a significant portion will be wearing blue. First year defensive coordinator Matt House can anticipate a heavy dose of RB Ito Smith as USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will likely test the UK defensive line early in the contest. Smith is arguably the nation’s best RB in the screen game which will be utilized to steady its new quarterback. WR Allenzae Staggers vs. Derrick Baity and or Chris Westry will be worth the price of admission. Staggers will be one of the cornerback duo’s top challenges in 2017.

Kentucky will benefit from an experienced and highly talented linebacker corps and secondary to match up against an inexperienced quarterback. The Cats can present an overabundance of pre-snap looks that can quickly transition following the snap of the football which can complicate matters for a new signal caller. Thus, Dawson may keep it simple early with Ito Smith right and Ito Smith left.

Concerns for the Cats when Southern Miss has the football

Easy, prevent big plays. Trust me on this: strip the logo off the helmets and understand that Ito Smith and Allenzae Staggers are two of the better offensive players that UK will face in 2017. A missed tackle against either of these two could lead to an explosive play touchdown. The loss of center Cameron Tom decreases its capability in the physical run game. Tom’s absence plus three new OL starters could allow the UK defensive line to establish early confidence. But, expect Shannon Dawson to frequently test the Kentucky front. UK can’t allow early, physical run-game dominated drives for scores.

Concerns for the Cats against the USM defense

Easy again: UK cannot afford first half turnovers or miss during sure-completion passing game scenarios. Do-it-all defender Picasso Nelson will be Stephen Johnson’s key defensive read. Nelson is active vs. the run, in pass coverage, and frequently used as a blitzer. Kentucky has a significant depth advantage for the 4:00pm kickoff which will assuredly call for extremely hot weather.

Eddie Gran’s ability to challenge the Golden Eagles’ lack of front-seven depth and inexperience with a physical run game could be the difference. It could be wild early on, but Kentucky’s offensive line should win the battle of attrition in the trenches. As the BBN witnessed in 2016, if the Cats jump out to an early lead it must extend success into the second half.

Stay tuned for much more.


Wednesday’s Top 10: Getting over that hump

Wednesday’s Top 10: Getting over that hump

You know what Wednesday is? It’s Hump Day, and during one of the slower weeks of the summer, that is certainly something to celebrate. Shoutout to Beth, an avid UK and KSR fan, for repping the Cats while in the Dominican Republic doing humanitarian work. Great picture, Beth. This Top 10 is for you.

1. Bovada updated the over/under win total for UK Football

The oddsmakers at the popular online sportsbook set Kentucky’s win total at 7 for this season. We’ll do this a lot over the next few months, but I’m picking the Cats to go OVER with wins over Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky, Florida (I’ve already talked myself into this), Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. It’s still July, so I reserve the right to change my picks before the season begins…but, because it’s July, if my picks turn out to be correct, I’m a freaking genius.

2. Thoughts on the UK Football Media Guide cover?

They’re really committed to that handwriting font, aren’t they?

3. Stephen Johnson, Alex Montgomery, and Lamar Thomas went bowling

The kind with bowling pins, of course. Who won is still up for debate:

Hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of this when Thomas and other UK coaches host the show on Friday.

4. Nerlens Noel is still waiting for an offer from Dallas

Noel was traded to the Mavericks near the end of last season and it seemed like a good match, but he’s still waiting on them to extend what his camp is calling a “realistic offer.” With the Mavericks still weighing options on Summer League players, it seems negotiations have stalled, leaving Noel in yet another frustrating situation with a front office.

Make it happen, Mark Cuban.

5. Recruiting link of the day: “Why UK will lose out on Romeo Langford”

The Courier-Journal’s Fletcher Page penned an article yesterday outlining all the reasons why five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford will go somewhere other than Kentucky. Basically, he argues that Calipari got in the race for Langford too late and is focusing on a variety of five-star recruits right now, whereas schools like Louisville and Indiana are honing in solely on the New Albany native. For more of this reasoning, check out the link below.

[Courier-Journal]

6. NBA rumor of the day: Boston wants Anthony Davis

Who doesn’t, right? On Monday, a report came out that the Boston Celtics will make a “strong run” for Davis if the Boogie/Brow situation in New Orleans doesn’t work out this season. Should they be able to pry him away from the Pelicans (he’s under contract until 2020-21), that would make them the latest superteam in the league. Make of that what you will.

7. This pool at LSU is awesome

@LSU

I’m jealous of just about anyone with a pool these days, but this brand new one at LSU might take the cake. Check out the Tigers’ new outdoor leisure pool, which is only 3.5 feet deep and includes four bubbler lounges. Kindsey Bernhard, when you get to Baton Rouge, I expect a full review.

8. The results of the Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters poll

The top four vote-getters in the Calipari haters Mount Rushmore are…Bobby Knight, Pat Forde, John Chaney, and John Feinstein. Here are the complete results:

Items Number of Points Number of First
Bobby Knight 26611 1227
Pat Forde 25228 880
John Chaney 14166 509
John Feinstein 12355 401
Rick Pitino 10950 238
Jeff Goodman 10364 99
Pete Thamel 9343 115
Jim Calhoun 9227 133
Dan Shaughnessy 8254 145
Dana O’Neil 1036 3

Shoutout to the following write-in votes:

  • “My stupid cousin”
  • Colin Cowherd
  • John Higgins
  • Shep Smith
  • Matt Jones
  • and “You forgot that Memphis Commercial Appeal sports writer”

9. Is it just me or are the mosquitoes worse than ever this year?

Mosquitoes love me, which is especially unfortunate since every bite I get turns into a welt. Are they as bad in the Bluegrass as they are in Nashville this year? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been swarmed, most likely while watering flowers at night, and other than soaking the bites in scalding hot water and dousing myself in stinky, sticky bug spray, I’ve got nothing. We’ve tried spraying our yard with Cutter Backyard Bug Control, etc., but clearly it’s not working. Is it worth it to have our yard professionally sprayed, or does that only work when your neighbors do the same?

10. Today on KSR: Tim Couch

The Deuce is loose on KSR in approximately one hour. Anyone else wearing their Couch Browns jersey?


Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of John Calipari haters?

Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of John Calipari haters?

The news that John Wall will be in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame stirred up some of John Calipari’s critics online, notably John Feinstein. Feinstein has been a longtime Calipari and Kentucky hater, and upon hearing the news of Wall’s honor, brought up a bet he made with Calipari when Wall went to the NBA back in 2010. Calipari bet Feinstein that Wall would graduate from Kentucky within ten years, which Feinstein just felt the need to mention yesterday on Twitter. When asked by a fan if I considered the tweet trolling, I said that the timing absolutely suggested it. For that, Feinstein blocked me, confirming his status as one of the biggest Cal haters ever.

The interaction got me thinking: if we were to make a Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters, who would be on it? It’s summer and we’ve got nothing better to talk about, so let’s break down ten contenders, starting with Feinstein.

The Contenders

John Feinstein

Feinstein doesn’t just hate Cal, he hates Kentucky. The Duke graduate has criticized the Cats for years, going back to his days covering the 1978 Duke team that lost to UK in the NCAA Championship. He’s called Adolph Rupp a racist, accused the program of cheating numerous times, and blasted UK fans for their reaction when Rick Pitino took the job at Louisville. When Calipari came to Kentucky, it was the perfect storm for Feinstein, who has seized every opportunity to criticize both ever since.


Bobby Knight

How does Knight loathe Calipari? Let me count the ways:

  • In December 2009, Knight blasted Calipari during a speech at the Indiana Hall of Fame, blaming Calipari for the lack of integrity in college basketball: “You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”
  • In April 2011, he accused all five starters on UK’s 2009-10 of not attending spring classes. (He was later forced to apologize by ESPN)
  • In March 2015, he refused to go on “Pardon the Interruption” to discuss the probability of Kentucky going 40-0.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but yes, Knight really, really hates Cal.


Pat Forde

If the fact that Forde bought an entire bar a round of drinks when UK lost to West Virginia in 2010 wasn’t indication enough that hates Cal, his article about how Cal made his bed and needed to lie in it after the 2014 loss at South Carolina should be. Thankfully, that season turned out to be a pretty good story, so I’m sure Cal slept just fine.


Dan Shaughnessy

The Boston Globe columnist has hated on Calipari for years, calling him everything from a “snake oil salesman” to a “glorified AAU bag man” and analogizing him to Bill Cosby. When UMass announced they were retiring Calipari’s jersey in 2015, Shaughnessy blasted the school, calling for them to “vacate” the decision and referring to Cal as “college basketball’s all-time bag man.”


Jeff Goodman

Goodman’s disdain for Calipari and Kentucky is no secret. In 2012, Goodman even accused Cal of trying to get him fired from one of his reporting jobs. Since then, Goodman’s jabs have been more subtle, but there’s no denying true hate runs underneath.


Rick Pitino

Pitino actually helped Calipari get the UMass job, but the relationship turned frosty once Cal took the job at UK and started beating Rick every year. Both deny it publicly, but it’s clear the rivalry between the two is just as heated as the rivalry between the two teams.


John Chaney

A lot of people may hate Calipari, but only one has actually tried to kill him (that we know of).


Dana O’Neil

Once part of the ESPN triumvirate of Calipari hate, O’Neil has backed off in recent years; however, when Cal came to Kentucky, there’s no denying she was one of those who leapt at the chance to talk about the negatives but disappeared when there were positives. Along with…


Pete Thamel

Who can forget Thamel’s quests to take down Eric Bledsoe, Enes Kanter, and Nerlens Noel? Definitely not DeMarcus Cousins, who confronted Thamel about his Bledsoe hit piece at a Derby party several years back. Thamel’s thirst for Calipari dirt was unparalleled from 2009-2012, to the point that his colleagues in the media called him out for going too far.


Jim Calhoun

I’m not sure what offends Calhoun more about Calipari: that he keeps winning or that he can’t pronounce “clam chowda” like a true New Englander.

 

Who do you think belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Calipari haters? I weighed in with my four picks in the graphic at the top of the post, but I’m giving you the final word. Vote for four below and I’ll share the final results tomorrow morning:


Tuesday’s Top 10: Blue got into the Grand Canyon

Good morning, friends, and shoutout to this Kentucky fan for repping the Cats at the Grand Canyon. The only way that picture could get more American is if it also included John Short and a bald eagle. This Top 10’s for you, sir.

1. UK Football landed a big transfer last night

@Goaldyn

USC offensive lineman EJ Price visited Kentucky this weekend and liked it so much he decided he wanted to stay. Yesterday evening, the 6-6, 325 lbs. Price committed to Kentucky. He was the 9th best offensive tackle in the 2016 class per 247 Sports and initially chose USC over the likes of Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, and, Notre Dame. After three games at Southern Cal, he decided to transfer to be closer to home. Now, he’ll play his college ball for Mark Stoops and company after sitting out for a season. He’s ready:

For more on Price, check out Nick’s post from last night.

2. John Wall and Randall Cobb are going to the Hall of Fame

Yesterday, DeWayne Peevy broke the news on KSR that John Wall and Randall Cobb are part of the 2017 UK Athletics Hall of Fame class, which also includes Collin Cowgill (baseball), Ralph Hacker (broadcaster), Sherry Hoover Bordner (cross country/indoor track/outdoor track), and Sarah Rumely (volleyball).

The group will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 22-23, in conjunction with the football home game vs. Florida. A big weekend just got bigger.

3. This year’s Alumni Game could be the best yet

Peevy also teased that he’s working on getting the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets to play an All-UK dream team in this year’s Alumni Charity Game, which takes place on August 25 at Rupp Arena. If that happens (a big IF), it would be incredible. Ticket info for the game will be released later this week.

4. The team is finally all together in Lexington

During his interview with Peevy, Calipari said the team would probably go through its first practice either last night or today. In typical Cal form, he went on and on about how this will be his greatest challenge as a coach yet.

“I had a meeting, I just told them this will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which means it will be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. The most inexperienced team I’ve ever coached, which means maybe the most inexperienced team ever to try to do something unique and special. And if you think it’s going to be easy, there’s a magic wand, you’re in the wrong room. It’s going to be hard, everybody’s going to have to be about each other even though they’re responsible for themselves. You’ve got to be about each other or this thing doesn’t get done. Great meeting, I’m going to have a workout with them tonight or tomorrow.”

We’ll bring you scuttlebutt when it comes out.

5. If you haven’t yet, go back and listen to yesterday’s podcast

If you couldn’t tell by all the content it produced, Peevy’s turn in the hosting chair was a hit. Go back and check it out to hear his interviews with Calipari, Randall Cobb, and several more behind-the-scenes stories, including Cal’s reaction to his first ever practice at Kentucky. Spoiler: he was overwhelmed, to say the least.

6. Speaking of podcasts…

We’ve got two new ones for you this morning: Kentucky Thrones Radio with Nick and TJ Walker, and the Depth Chart Podcast with Freddie Maggard. I’m counting on KTR to get me through a humid, hot run today, so let’s hope Nick and TJ don’t spend too much time talking about that disgusting Samwell poop-shoveling montage.

7. This LSU defensive lineman totally looks like a fat Harrison Twin

Photo by Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country

Shoutout to Kyle Tucker, who first pointed out that LSU defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence totally resembles a fat Aaron Harrison. Or Andrew. Either way, can someone check on one of the two to make sure they didn’t gain 100 lbs. overnight?

8. This Texas Tech defensive back had fun with the media at Big 12 Media Days

@YahooDrSaturday

Media Days can be an exhausting process for players, coaches, and reporters, but Texas Tech defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson had some fun with it by making Media Day Bingo in anticipation of the questions he’d receive. As someone who has asked a lot of predictable questions at these things, I think he nailed it.

9. This golden retriever is a good dog

Today in “Good Dogs,” a golden retriever noticed a fawn drowning in the Long Island Sound, so he jumped in and saved it:

Thankfully, both Storm and the fawn are okay. Storm deserves all the treats today.

10. Who will host today’s KSR?

UK Baseball coach Nick Mingione was scheduled to host this morning’s show but had to cancel due to a family emergency. Who will fill in for him? I’d tell you, but what’s the fun in that? Tune in an hour from now to find out.


Alumni Game may feature All-Kentucky NBA team vs. Warriors or Rockets

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang

It’s been the debate of the Calipari Era: could a team of former Kentucky players take down an NBA super team like the Golden State Warriors? If the folks at UK have their way, we might find out next month.

This morning on KSR, Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy said he wants this year’s Alumni Game to feature an all-star UK team and an NBA super team, ala the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets.

“Everybody talks about this All-Kentucky basketball team,” Peevy said. “I’d like to invite one of these so-called NBA super teams to play against us. Whether it’s the Warriors, the Rockets, all these people who are putting these teams together, come play us, an All-Kentucky team, at Rupp Arena on August 25 for charity. Let’s do it.”

In fact, Peevy said he’s already reached out to some of the NBA’s biggest stars to see if they’re interested.

“I’ve got a few feelers out. I’m talking to James Harden (Rockets) and Kevin Durant (Warriors). Bring your team — I don’t care if they combine themselves, they’re not taking down Big Blue Nation.”

Later in the show, Calipari called in and said that while he’s skeptical that Peevy could pull the idea off, he loves it.

“I already put in a call to [Kevin] Durant and [James] Harden,” Peevy told Cal. “I may need you to call Lebron [James]. They might have to all come together to beat us.”

The Alumni Game will take place Friday, August 25 at Rupp Arena. Tickets should go on sale later this week. In the meantime, have fun debating whether a team featuring John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, and Devin Booker (or any combination of your liking) could take down the Warriors, Rockets, or Cavs. I say yes.


USC Offensive Tackle will Transfer to Kentucky

@Goaldyn

The Kentucky Wildcats have picked up a four-star recruit from an unexpected place.  E.J. Price will transfer from USC to Kentucky as first reported by Josh Edwards of 247 Sports and later confirmed by Price via Twitter.

The 6’6″ 325-pounder was the ninth-best offensive tackle in the nation when he chose USC over Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and a slew of other schools in 2016.  After playing three games as a true freshman, the Georgia native chose to change locales to play a little closer to home.  Price should have three years of eligibility at UK, beginning in 2018.

Anytime you can land a Top 100 recruit, it’s great for your program.  This time it’s just coming from an atypical source.


Monday’s Top 10: It’s A Total UK Takeover

Monday’s Top 10: It’s A Total UK Takeover

Good morning, friends, and what a way to start the week. At midnight, UK’s takeover of the SEC Network began, meaning if you want to spend your day doing nothing but watching UK sports, it’s totally possible. In fact, I bet your boss would totally understand. With that in mind, let’s hop right in to the top 10.

1. Stop what you’re doing and program that DVR

It’s all UK all day on the SEC Network, so if you’ve been looking to catch up on some of the biggest games of the year, program the DVR to record the following:

  • 8:30-10 a.m. – Gymnastics vs. Alabama, Feb. 10, 2017
  • 10-10:30 a.m. – Big Blue Review
  • 10:30-11 a.m. – The Kentucky Experience: Wildcat Roundtable
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Women’s basketball vs. Mississippi State, Feb. 23, 2017
  • 12:30-2:30 p.m. – Softball vs. Florida, April 15, 2017
  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. – Softball vs. Texas A&M, April 29, 2017
  • 4:30-5 p.m. – Big Blue Review
  • 5-5:30 p.m. – The Kentucky Experience: Wildcat Roundtable
  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. – Baseball vs. North Carolina State, June 5, 2017
  • 7:30-8 p.m. – Never Been Done Before: Kentucky Baseball 2017
  • 8-10 p.m. – Football at Louisville, Nov. 26, 2016
  • 10 p.m.-midnight – One and Not Done

2. Just in case you can’t wait until 8 p.m. for football highlights

Don’t feel bad for needing a fix. I pretty much watch this every morning.

3. It’s UK Takeover Week on KSR as well

Normally, I reserve show news and guest host announcements for the end of the wakeup post, but today’s show is so big it’s up at #3. Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy will host today’s show alongside Ryan Lemond, and I’m sure he’s going to bring on some special guests that the rest of us could only dream of having in our Rolodex (contact list for you young folk). DeWayne’s hosting gig is just an appetizer for UK’s takeover of KSR this week. Here’s the entire schedule:

July 17: DeWayne Peevy
July 18: Nick Mingione
July 19: Tim Couch
July 20: Matthew Mitchell
July 21: UK Football coaches

4. Matt was spotted at the Tour De France

Had fun at the Tour De France today. Great afternoon

A post shared by Matt Jones (@kysportsradio) on

Where in the world is Matt Jones? Yesterday, he did a short Periscope from the Tour de France with an adorable old French man who didn’t speak any English. Today, I believe our fearless leader is headed towards Switzerland. Between all of my coworker’s vacations, I’ve got five straight dayshifts staring at me this week, so he better bring me a Toblerone.

5. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo was spotted eating popcorn off the floor

Does the five second rule apply here? With most foods, I might say yes, but he’s got more kernels in that box and who the heck knows what’s happened in that hallway, so let it be, Tom. Let it be.

6. Immanuel Quickley will visit UK on September 16

Kentucky remains in the driver’s seat for the five-star point guard, who set the dates for official visits last night. Per Evan Daniels, Quickley will visit Kentucky the weekend of September 16, the last of his four official visits. This keeps him on track to announce his decision before the start of his senior season in late September. Speaking of…

7. Did you hear he’s a potential package deal with Zion Williamson?

The biggest news out of the adidas Gauntlet Finale was the possibility of Quickley teaming up with Zion Williamson at the next level. That’s excellent news for Kentucky because the Cats are currently the favorite for both. For more on Williamson, check out Jack Pilgrim’s in-depth profile from yesterday.

8. Jerry Bird passed away yesterday

UK lost two greats this weekend. On Saturday, UK Football legend Babe Parilli passed away at the age of 87, and yesterday, former UK Basketball player Jerry Bird passed away at the age of 83. Bird played at UK from 1954-56, helping the Cats to two SEC titles and the 1954 Helms Athletic Foundation title. He was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 as a part of the hall of fame’s charter class and his No. 22 jersey is retired in the Rupp Arena rafters.

After his basketball career in the NBA was over, Bird returned to his hometown of Corbin and worked for American Greeting Card until retirement. A memorial service in his honor is planned for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Central Baptist Church in Corbin. It is open to the public.

9. What did we think of the season premiere of “Game of Thrones”?

No spoilers, but I was very pleased with the exception of one horrible cameo. I thought GofT was above such things. Nick Roush and TJ Walker are currently taping a new episode of “Kentucky Thrones Radio,” so look for that on the KSR podcast feed later today.

10. DeWayne Peevy and friends one hour from now

Call in and congratulate him on his son’s 9U team winning the State Championship yesterday:

Ice cream on Uncle Matt, kiddos.


Immanuel Quickley, Zion Williamson Discuss Package Deal after Duel

Adidas

The duel between Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson lived up the hype.  Two of the ten best players in the class of 2018 put on a show at the Adidas Final.  When the dust settled, Quickley emerged on top and the two friends talked about playing college basketball together.

“We actually just talked about it after the game,” Quickley said after I mentioned every college recruiter’s favorite term ‘package deal.’   “He’s going to talk to his mom.  I’m going to talk to my people and we’re going to try to get it done.”

Before playing against each other on the Adidas circuit, they have a history of playing with each other at other Adidas events.

“I played with him at the Path, for Adidas.  He’s usually my roommate when we go to those events, so I know him pretty well,” Quickley said.

Zion took it one step further when asked if there was any truth to a potential package deal.

“There’s a lot of truth to that,” Zion said.  “Me and Immanuel are good friends.  We bonded over the Adidas Path and I just love the way he plays point guard.  That’s the type of point guard I want to play with.”

But wait, there’s more.

After watching the two today, they might be the most powerful package deal mentioned to date.

Quickley connected on an alley-oop from half-court.  Williamson had so many tip-slams, I lost count.  In the end, the talented point guard prevailed.  Quickley was one assist away from a triple-double in a 68-64 win; 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.  Williamson finished 28 points and 16 rebounds.

UK assistant coach Joel Justus watched the game courtside.  There were dozens of other coaches from Duke, Kansas and everyone in-between.

“I enjoy it,” Quickley said after the game.  “That’s the most fun for me.  A packed gym, all the coaches, I think that’s the best part of the AAU circuit.”

Quickley has somehow continued to play at a high level throughout the tournament, even though he’s only had one day off in the last month.  The most rewarding experience throughout his basketball travels from around the world was playing for Coach Cal in Egypt.

“It was really cool.  Just him being hands on with me, I think that was really important.”  Quickley said their conversations haven’t ended since the trip.  “I keep in touch with him a lot.”

Williamson talks to the Kentucky coaches just as much.  “Coach Cal and Coach Joel text almost every two days.”

Quickley is very close to making a decision.  Many already consider him to be a Kentucky commit, but he has yet to officially pull the trigger.  He plans on doing just that before his senior season of high school basketball.  Zion is taking it slower.  He will just start visiting schools before his senior season.

“I’m just looking at every opportunity because I only get one chance to pick a school and I got to make sure it’s the right school.”

If the right point guard is at the right school, it could be an easy decision for the five-star phenom.


Friday’s Top 10: Winter is coming

Friday’s Top 10: Winter is coming

Winter is coming on Sunday in the form of the “Game of Thrones” Season 7 premiere, and what better way to get ready than this picture of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, aka Gregor Clegane, aka “The Mountain,” throwing up three goggles with Michael, a diehard UK and KSR fan? For those who don’t watch the show, here’s what The Mountain looks like in costume:

Also, don’t worry; if you stop your life right now and start binge watching, you’ll be ready for Sunday night. Or, you can just catch up with Nick and TJ Walker’s Kentucky Thrones Radio podcast, a new episode of which you can expect later today, I hear.

In the meantime, here’s what’s going on in the world of UK sports….

1. Zion Williamson wants to decide before his senior season

John Calipari started his recruiting marathon by watching Zion Williamson at the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, and the five-star forward definitely put on a show, scoring 31 points to lead SC Supreme to the comeback win:

Williamson told our own Jack Pilgrim that he’d like to make his college decision before the start of his senior season, and that his relationship with Calipari is “really good.”

“We have a really good relationship,” Williamson said. “He tells me if my dream is to go to the NBA, he can help me achieve that.”

Here’s hoping that really good relationship and NBA pitch is enough to get Zion out of the Carolinas. Read more of his comments here.

2. Cal finished the day watching Marvin Bagley and Bol Bol

How big is the hype around the No. 1 player in the 2018 class? Kevin Durant came to watch him play (and sat next to Kenny Payne) and Calipari fired up the private jet for the 115-mile trip between Spartanburg and North Augusta to see him in the night session, where he was joined by Malik Monk. The 6’11” power forward has lived up to the hype so far, averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds through three games. Here are his highlights from the early game:

Where does Kentucky stand in the race for what some are calling a once-in-a-generation type player? He’ll take an official visit to Duke following the Peach Jam, but said he plans to make it to Kentucky eventually.

3. Bol Bol says he has no hard feelings over being cut from Calipari’s U19 Team

The question on everyone’s mind after 7’3″ Bol Bol was cut from the U19 Team was what effect it would have on Kentucky’s chances in his recruitment. Bol told reporters yesterday that he has no hard feelings about the decision, which he knows wasn’t just Calipari’s.

“It wasn’t just his fault,” Bol said via Kyle Tucker. “It was a coaching staff and a USA Basketball staff, so I don’t really blame him for not putting me on the team, because he can’t, like, officially decide everyone who’s on the team.”

4. Romeo Langford re-aggravated his back injury

Langford battled back spasms throughout the FIBA World Cup, and yesterday, they flared up again during his first game at the adidas Gauntlet Finale. No word yet on if he’ll be able to go today. Despite a report from Evan Daniels that Kentucky is fading in the race for the New Albany native, that didn’t stop Calipari and Joel Justus from being front and center for his first game.

5. More good vibes from Immanuel Quickley

Quickley continues to give off vibes that he could be the first 2018 recruit to commit to Kentucky, telling Jack Pilgrim and other reporters that he was very impressed with Calipari during the FIBA World Cup.

“It was good. We wanted to win the gold but obviously came up a little short. It was a good experience overall on and off the floor. (Calipari) is a great coach on and off the floor. I think it was really cool to get to learn from him. When you spend time for three or four weeks, almost a month with one person you get to know them pretty well.”

Well enough to want to spend a whole year with him? We’ll see soon.

6. Today’s schedule

Peach Jam

  • 9:00 AM: Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley) vs. Howard Pulley
  • 10:30 AM: Cal Supreme (Bol Bol) vs. Oakland Soldiers
  • 6:00 PM: New York Lightning vs. Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley)
  • 9:00 PM: Bradley Beal Elite vs. Cal Supreme (Bol Bol)

adidas Gauntlet Finale

  • 10:20 AM: SC Supreme (Zion Williamson) vs. Garner Road
  • 10:20 AM: Team BBC (Immanuel Quickley) vs. Gamepoint Pump N Run
  • 1:00 PM: Rytes Warriors vs. Twenty Two Vision (Romeo Langford)
  • 1:00 PM: Team Arsenal vs. Basketball University (Quentin Grimes)

Want to watch? Peach Jam games are being streamed on Facebook via FloHoops and adidas games via BallisLife.

7. All-SEC Preseason Teams will be announced today

Media Days is over, but this morning, the media’s choices for the All-SEC Preseason Teams and conference standings will be released. Did they pick Kentucky or South Carolina third in the East? Or, did old habits die hard and the Cats didn’t get any respect?

Speaking of football…

8. The 2017 Schedule posters are available at Kroger starting tomorrow

Starting tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., all seven posters will be available at Kroger stores statewide, so go get yours. And if you go to the Euclid one, say hi to John Short.

9. You all have a lot of french fry opinions

Yesterday was National French Fry Day — one of the least annoying of the “Why is this a holiday?” holidays — and to celebrate, I ran a Twitter poll asking people to pick their favorite fries between McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, and Chick-fil-A. Naturally, McDonald’s won, but people went after me for not including Rally’s. In the interest of a fair and complete evaluation, I’m including Rally’s (or, as it is called in Tennessee, Checkers) in a new poll below:


10. Today on KSR: Laura Rutledge

The SEC Network reporter will take over the mics today to talk Media Days, UK Football, and whatever else is on her mind. That starts in one hour.


50 Things To Know About SEC Media Days ’17 (Yes, FIFTY!)

50 Things To Know About SEC Media Days ’17 (Yes, FIFTY!)

The 2017 edition of SEC Media Days is finally in the books after four long days at the Wynfrey Hotel in sunny Hoover, Alabama; the largest suburb outside Birmingham. Coaches and player representatives from all 14 of the Southeastern Conference’s football programs, and hundreds of college football’s chubbiest and baldest media stars, descended upon Hoover to look ahead to the upcoming season in what is unofficially considered SEC’s Opening Day.

Coverage from the event spans the internet far and wide, and it is a lot to digest at once. For the casual fan, it is probably too much detailed information to consume. So with those casual SEC football fans in mind, I compiled what I consider the 50 things you need to know from Media Days ’17.

Is it everything you need to know from Hoover? Well, no. But it’ll get you through the cooler talk at work or if you run into a fellow SEC fan while on the beach or in line for the Pigeon Forge ferris wheel during your late-summer vacation.


1. The SEC will honor UK’s four trailblazers at the 2017 SEC Championship. League commissioner Greg Sankey kicked off SEC Media Days with the announcement that Wilber Hackett, Nate Northington, Houston Hogg and representatives of Greg Page’s family will be in Atlanta to celebrate their breaking of the color barrier 50 years ago.

2. Arkansas was up first on the podium and head coach Brett Bielema left his newborn baby to attend. Bielema and his wife, Jen, welcomed their daughter, Briella Nichole Bielema, into the world on Saturday. Bielema said she has already changed his perspective on life.

3. Bielema butt-FaceTimed the commissioner while walking out of Chipotle with a double-veggie bowl for his wife, soon after their child’s birth. “I said, ‘This is pretty cool, the commissioner is FaceTiming me. That’s pretty unique.’ He said, ‘Why were you calling me? I said, ‘I apologize, I must have butt-dialed you.’ That was a unique experience.”

4. LSU running back Derrius Guice sees no difference in him and Leonard Fournette. Guice said he and Fournette are both angry and mean runners, both are bruisers. Guice led the SEC in rushing last season with 1,387 yards.

5. Guice stole his Media Day look from a mannequin. “I was at the store and I saw the mannequin with this on,” Guice said in a televised interview on the SEC Network. “And I thought, ‘Bro, that would look way better on me.’ So obviously I took it off and I tried it on.”

6. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron called his program “DBU.” That title has been used by several other programs, including rival Florida, over the years. Related: I could listen to Coach O talk forever.

7. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was very Butch Jones-like in his SEC Media Day comments. Paul Finebaum suspected Jones was trying to lower Tennessee fans’ expectations for the upcoming season.

8. Butch Jones said he doesn’t see the Vols’ 2016 season as a disappointment. Reminder: Tennessee went .500 in conference play with losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina, after being picked to win the SEC East. The Vols opened the season with a close overtime win over Appalachian State, which completely blew that game down the stretch.

9. Dan Mullen revealed two non-football things about himself: One, he caddied for his eight-year-old son the day before he traveled to Hoover for Media Day; and two, his mom made him take ballet as a kid.

10. Mullen also said his wife told him he should’ve called a timeout to ice the kicker in the Kentucky game last year when UK’s Austin MacGinnis connected on a 51-yard field goal as time expired to give the Wildcats its first win over the Dawgs since 2008.

11. Mullen continued his SEC Media Day tradition of wearing a pair of adidas’s trendiest shoes; this time, he sported a pair of the adidas NMDs. He wore Yeezy Boosts the last two years.

12. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, the hottest topic in Mississippi State football discussions, was not one of the three players who represented the Bulldogs. However, he is still very, very good at football.

12. Florida head coach Jim McElwain doesn’t have a sense of humor. McElwain took it personally when everyone, literally everyone, said the naked man straddling a shark looked like him. No one really thought it was McElwain in the viral photo, but when asked by Kyle Tucker, McElwain said it was a personal attack on the University of Florida and his family. Whatever. Lighten up. Dude looked like you.

13. Despite reports saying otherwise, McElwain does not know Florida’s starting quarterback. “I know we will start a quarterback,” he said, but that quarterback is still TBD.

14. McElwain insists he had no input in Florida scheduling LSU on homecoming weekend. Here’s how he explained the process behind that decision: “So, I get off the plane, having been gone for a week (to his cabin in Wyoming) and believe it or not, unlike maybe Coach Saban at Alabama, I have no choice in it… It’s a university choice. So, they didn’t tell me until I got off the plane and somebody said, ‘Hey, guess who your homecoming game is?’ That’s the first I heard about it.”

15. Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey said Florida-LSU is the new rivalry, not Florida-FSU. That upcoming homecoming game was all the talk around the Gators on Media Day.

16. No decision has been made on what disciplinary action will be taken for Florida wide receiver Antonio Calloway, whose latest off-the-field issue was an offseason marijuana citation back in May. It wasn’t Calloway’s first run-in with the law; he was at the center of a sexual assault investigation in which he admitted to being high during the night in question, but was eventually ruled “not responsible” on the sexual assault charge. Calloway led the Gators in receiving in 2016.

17. Man, Jim McElwain was really upset about that shark photo question.

18. Georgia running back Sony Michel said he and Nick Chubb returned to school for their senior seasons to chase an SEC championship. The NFL was calling, but they’re both back to form the best backfield in the entire league.

19. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart took a shot at Butch Jones, saying, “We had one coach that told us we had better talent. Then he had six guys taken in the first four rounds and we had one player drafted.” Got-eeeeeem!

20. Smart also played off Jones (although likely unintentional) when he said Georgia’s season was a disappointment. Jones had just said Tennessee’s season wasn’t a disappointment. Both teams were 4-4 in SEC play.

21. No quarterback controversy in Athens. Jacob Eason is Georgia’s starter. Plan accordingly.

22. “Vanderbilt football is on the rise,” per Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.

23. Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb called himself the best back in the nation. If he can come up with 1,249 yards on the ground this upcoming season, he will become the second-leading rusher in SEC history, behind only Herschel Walker.

24. Vanderbilt isn’t afraid of Alabama, its intimidating SEC West opponent this year. Coach Mason made it very clear that he doesn’t fear anybody, nor does his team. The Commodores host ‘Bama on Sept. 23 to open SEC play.

25. Alabama fans got in. The lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel rolled Tide, per usual.

26. Nick Saban didn’t remember his heated exchange with Paul Finebaum on the SEC Network set last year. The argument started over the suspension (or lack thereof) of Cam Robinson, and it carried over into a commercial break. Saban didn’t remember it, though. (Everyone else did.)

27. Do not make stuff up about the Alabama football program to create a headline. Saban won’t tolerate it. Ask the reporter who tried to say Jalen Hurts’ job is in jeopardy. He caught an earful.

29. Greg McElroy hasn’t been impressed by the play of Kentucky’s Matt Elam. In McElroy’s words, Elam is as lazy and as underachieving as anyone he has seen in the league in a long time.

30. When Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love saw McElroy’s comments, he immediately sent the clip directly to Elam to motivate the defensive lineman and hold him accountable.

31. UK quarterback Drew Barker is back to 100 percent after offseason back surgery and sitting out the spring game to recover. Stephen Johnson will start Week 1, but a healthy Barker is a solid backup that will push Johnson to keep his job.

32. Dang Alterations saved the day for the Kentucky Wildcats. Located in a Hoover shopping mall, Dang sewed All-SEC safety Mike Edwards’ pants back together after he ripped them down the crotch while getting dressed for the flight.

33. Stephen Johnson opened up about his Tourette syndrome, which he has struggled with since he was a child. Johnson said he never would’ve imagine being comfortable in front of all of the bright lights and cameras in front of him at Media Day. “It’s divine how it’s all come about,” he said. “I really couldn’t expect this. I dreamed of it all the time.”

34. Mark Stoops said it is “nut-cutting time” in Lexington. No more talking. No more excuses. It is time to produce. “When I was hired they said, ‘It’s a five-year rebuild.’  Well guess what, in Year 4 they don’t want to hear a darn thing about it.”

35. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, one of the league’s top returning passers, does not like his own forehead, which is why he grew his bangs out to almost his eyebrows. Meanwhile, the SEC Network’s Jordan Rogers’ hair is still immaculate. This is info you can’t get everywhere, folks.

36. Nick Saban stole Missouri head coach Barry Odom’s joy. Odom said he could feel a buzz when he arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel for his second Media Day and he thought it was for him. “Then I was quickly reminded Nick Saban was in the room.”

37. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin doesn’t want to go 8-5 for a fourth consecutive season. He better not, because that will likely cost him his job. He’s sitting on the hottest seat in the conference.

38. Rumor mill: Texas A&M really wants Chip Kelly, so Sumlin may be screwed if he does anything shy of winning the West.

39. Painting your pup to look like an Auburn Tiger is animal cruelty.

40. Auburn took its kicker to Hoover to be one of its three player representatives. (Yes, a kicker.) Fresh off his engagement to his girlfriend, too. Big week for Daniel Carlson, the first kicker at SEC Media Days since South Carolina brought its kicker two years ago.

41. Gus Malzahn said the biggest question mark with his team is who’s going to be Auburn’s starting punter. That’s a testament to how many returners he has, not an emphasis on the Tigers’ punting competition.

42. Hugh Freeze rambled for over 15 minutes in his opening statement, which led reporters to call it Freeze’s filibuster on the main stage. Why did the Ole Miss coach talk for so long before opening it up to the crowd? Because he didn’t want to answer questions about all of the trouble Ole Miss is currently in.

43. Houston Nutt was the MVP of SEC Media Days. He dropped a lawsuit on Ole Miss the day before Ole Miss was due up in Hoover, alleging defamation of character related to how the school handled an NCAA investigation. Coincidence? No way. It was brilliant on his part and a direct punch to the throat of his former employer.

44. Nobody wanted to talk football with Ole Miss, which has become the norm this week. Coach Freeze said, “This’ll be my sixth media day, if my memory’s right, and it’ll be the fifth time we’re talking about something other than our team.” Maybe stop having scandals then.

45. Conference realignment has not been discussed, per SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. If he hasn’t had any discussion about it, then it’s a long, long way from happening.

46. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp had some fun with some of the reporters on the Florida beat, who he remembered from his time as the Gators’ head coach. He told one of them, “You remind me of that Josh Turner song, ‘You Look Like I Need a Drink.’”; and said to another, “You don’t have to identify yourself. They could use your voice to torture prisoners of war.”

47. Abiding by the new sideline rule will require a little help. Several SEC coaches have said they already brought on additional “get-back coaches” to help them stay off the playing field when arguing with an official. Muschamp said he has given his assistants permission to tackle him.

48. Steve Spurrier was dearly missed, which begs the question: is SEC Media Days really an SEC Media Days without Steve Spurrier? He carried the entire show for years.

49. SEC Media Days on the move? Sankey teased new locations for future Media Days, and Atlanta and Nashville were among the cities in consideration. Hoover has long been the event’s home, but it sounds like that could soon change. Whatever happens, that’s a conversation on down the road. As for the present…

50. The 2017 college football season has officially begun…


Thursday’s Top 10: Switching gears from football to basketball recruiting

Thursday’s Top 10: Switching gears from football to basketball recruiting

Good morning, friends, and shoutout to these Kentucky fans for climbing Grays and Torreys Peaks in Colorado recently. Well done pairing that UK Football shirt with that gorgeous view. With football in mind, let’s hop right into today’s top 10:

1. Mark Stoops seemed loose and confident

As we’ve seen all week, Media Days can be a boring affair, with coaches gliding by on coach speak and roster talk; however, in his fifth year at the event, Mark Stoops looked more relaxed and confident than ever. Whereas some coaches seemed to have a stick up their butt (cough, McElwain, cough), Stoops cracked jokes about Bret Bielema’s small dogs and Mike Edwards’ ripped pants. Stoops seemed relieved to finally have some results to point to in his rebuilding project, and preached the importance of continuing to build a winning culture, select the right players, and develop them.

Aside from the confirmation that Stephen Johnson is the starter at quarterback and JuCo defensive lineman Phil Hoskins not being ready to go by game one, there wasn’t a lot of big news yesterday; however, when the main story about your team is your junior safety ripping his pants on the plane ride down, that’s probably a good thing.

Watch a portion of Stoops’ main podium speech below:

2. Catch up on all the headlines from yesterday

Build, Select, Develop: Mark Stoops in Hoover
WATCH: Behind-the-Scenes Photos and Videos from UK’s Appearance at SEC Media Days
Mark Stoops Describes the 2016 Season as “Nut-Cuttin’ Time”
WATCH: Mike Edwards Explains How He Ripped His Pants
Mark Stoops Provides Updates on Four Players
Courtney Love Didn’t Let Matt Elam Shy Away from Criticism

Don’t forget to listen to the latest Depth Chart Podcast to hear Nick and Freddie recap the day in audio form. If that’s not enough, Nick will be on The Leach Report at 9:35 a.m. to talk about it some more.

3. Check out Freddie’s recaps of all the other teams

Arkansas
LSU
Tennessee
Georgia
Vanderbilt
Mississippi State
Florida
Alabama
Missouri

4. Up today: South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Auburn

Normally, reporters look for every excuse to get out of the hotel as fast as possible on the final day of Media Days, but given yesterday’s news, that may not be the case this time around. Not only is Ole Miss wrapped up in an NCAA investigation, former head coach Houston Nutt sued the university yesterday for breach of contract, arguing that current head coach Hugh Freeze and school officials created a “false narrative” in order to pin the blame on him for the violations. Something tells me that will come up.

5. Basketball everywhere at the Peach Jam & adidas Gauntlet Finale

It’s the first full day of action at two of the biggest recruiting events of the year. Here’s when UK’s primary targets will be playing today:

PEACH JAM (Games streamed live via FloHoops on Facebook)

  • 12:30 PM: Expressions Elite vs. Cal Supreme (Bol Bol)
  • 2:00 PM: Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley) vs. Mokan Elite
  • 8:00 PM: Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley) vs. Team Melo
  • 9:30 PM: Cal Supreme (Bol Bol) vs. PSA Cardinals

adidas Gauntlet Finale

  • 11:20 AM: Team Knight vs. SC Supreme (Zion Williamson)
  • 11:20 AM: Basketball University (Quentin Grimes) vs. Ohio Basketball Club
  • 12:40 PM: Twenty Two Vision (Romeo Langford) vs. AC Georgia
  • 3:20 PM: Team BBC (Immanuel Quickley) vs. TBD

For more on each recruit, check out my preview from Tuesday night. Sadly, we won’t get to see anymore from Cameron Reddish, whose team lost their play-in game at the Peach Jam yesterday despite his 44-point performance.

6. Alex Poythress said no to Lonzo Ball’s shot

The 76ers played the Lakers in the Summer League last night, and Lonzo Ball rallied from the sore groin injury that held him out of Monday’s game vs. De’Aaron Fox’s Kings to put up 36 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds. That’s impressive, but so is Alex Poythress blocking this shot by Ball in the third quarter:

7. That block also broke a laptop, apparently

Alex finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds in the 76ers’ loss. Here’s how all of the Cats did in the Summer League last night:

PLAYER TEAM MIN FG 3PT FT OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
Alex Poythress 76ers 21 7-11 1-3 1-2 3 2 5 0 1 1 1 16
Aaron Harrison 76ers 8 0-2 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 0
Isaiah Briscoe 76ers 8 5-7 0-2 2-2 0 2 2 2 1 0 2 12
Skal Labissiere Kings 34 8-13 0-0 3-8 2 7 9 1 3 2 3 19
Dominique Hawkins Kings 11 1-2 1-1 0-2 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 3
James Young Pelicans 21 3-8 2-7 0-0 0 3 3 1 1 0 1 8

De’Aaron Fox (Kings) and Bam Adebayo (Heat) sat out.

8. This video from the ESPYs may make you cry

I only watched a few minutes of the ESPYs, which apparently included lots of Peyton Manning jokes and Kevin Durant memes, but I did see 15-year-old Saints superfan Jarrius Robertson win the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Warning, you may need tissues as you watch his story:

Jarrius was a star last night, taking over the red carpet and charming everyone with his sense of humor and incredible positivity.

Suddenly, all the little things I’ve complained about lately don’t seem like such a big deal.

9. Lexington lost a restaurant pioneer yesterday

If you live in Lexington, odds are you’ve been to one of Lucie Slone Meyers’ restaurants. The veteran restauranteur passed away yesterday after a battle with lung cancer at the age of 68. Meyers’ latest venture was the Red Light Kitchen & Lounge, which opened in February, but she was most well known for a la Lucie, which closed in 2015 after a 31-year run. Meyers also opened Rosebud, Roy & Nadine’s, the Phoenix, Pacific Pearl, and the Julep Cup.

Growing up, dinner at Roy & Nadine’s or a la Lucie was the epitome of a big night out in the city for this Danville girl, so I know I’m not alone when I say Lexington has lost a culinary star. Rest in peace, Lucie.

10. Today on KSR: The Sklar Brothers

Get your Conway Twitty jokes ready! The Sklars return to KSR in one hour.