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Build, Select, Develop: Mark Stoops in Hoover

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops appeared more confident and comfortable in his fifth appearance at SEC Media Days. The head Cat’s opening remarks included a thank you to conference commissioner David Sankey for the league honoring four former Wildcats that integrated the conference nearly fifty years ago.

Build

Definition: Building a winning culture.

This has been a process for Mark Stoops. From strength and conditioning changes in both leadership and intent, facilities upgrades, and a goal for increased on/off field consistency, UK has placed its football players in an environment that negates excuses. The most important aspect of this program development pillar was winning seven of its last 10 regular season games. Wednesday’s Hoover environment is a prime example. There was a legitimate buzz and a much higher expectation surrounding the Cats than years prior.

Select

Definition: Selecting the right players; it’s self-explanatory.

To simplify; keep Vince Marrow on campus to lead Stoops’ recruiting program. Marrow is one of the nation’s best at identifying, enlisting, and signing talent in Lexington.

Develop

Definition: Developing player and have an intentional development plan once they get on campus.

Case in point; UK produced two, 1,000-yard rushers in 2016. Its offensive line returns four of five starters yet none were nominated for All SEC via Media Day’s voting selection. This can also be filed under selection but leans more towards John Schlarman’s development of the big fellas. Higher “starred” players coming out of high school receive increased name recognition in college, especially at offensive line. Regardless, Kentucky is developing players at a high level on both sides of the football.

Miscellaneous Notes

— JUCO DT Phil Hoskins will not be full-go on week one. Stoops indicated that the much needed defender may be ready week three-five. This was not good news for the Big Blue Nation as a beleaguered defensive line is down another player that was expected to contribute.

— Lynn Bowden and Michael Nesbitt are anticipated to be on campus for the first day of fall camp. Not having on campus for summer workouts could limit the rookie’s early impact.

— Stephen Johnson is the starting quarterback but Drew Barker and Gunnar Hoak will continue to compete. Stoops is confident in all three of his quarterbacks.

Excerpts from Stoops’ Speech

On Four Wildcats that integrated football in the Southeastern Conference:

 “Greg, I like to thank the commissioner on behalf of the University of Kentucky for your decision to recognize the four players that played at the University of Kentucky that broke the color barrier in the SEC some 50 years ago. We appreciate that.”

Benefits of bowl game and dealing with expectation:

“Like everybody says, it’s an exciting time of the year. I’m excited about our football team. I’m excited about our season. It’s really nice to come in here year five and build with some positive momentum that we had a year ago. You know, a year ago, we did not start the season the way we wanted to, but we finished strong when seven of our ten regular season games, and you know, to build on that positive momentum, to go to the TaxSlayer Bowl, to have those extra practices meant a great deal to our program.

“Our players have worked extremely hard to get to that point, and it was really nice to finish with that momentum. If you heard me talk a year ago, you heard me constantly talk about our capacity to do more. Our team needed to mature. We needed to work them harder. We needed to have stronger weightlifting sessions, run harder, longer practices, mentally and physically, to be able to endure the rigors of an SEC season.”

On this year’s offense:

“We lost our starting quarterback the second game of the year, came in with a back-up who’s here with us today and again led us to seven victories down the stretch and really starts with Eddie Gran. I really appreciate Eddie. He’s a seasoned veteran, spent a lot of time in the SEC prior to coming to Kentucky. Eddie’s a great person. He’s a great X-and-O guy. But more important, he’s a great leader, a great leader of men in developing these young guys and developing an attitude on the offensive side of the ball. I am very proud to have Eddie with us, along with co-offensive coordinator,

“Darin Hinshaw. Again I just mentioned it, but Darin did a heck of a job with Stephen Johnson to put us in a position to be successful, along with the rest of the offensive staff, very proud of those guys.

“Also on the offensive stat of the ball, I got to mention our recruiting coordinator, Vince Marrow. I’m proud of our entire staff the way we recruited. Vince heads up that effort. He has done a great job in Ohio. We’re really stepping up our recruiting and Vince is a big piece of that. We appreciate him.”

 

On this year’s Defense:

“On the defensive side of the ball, we have promoted Matt House to defensive coordinator. It will be a lot of fun for me. It already has been. It will be a collaborative effort with myself, Coach House, and the defensive staff to tweak our defense. We’ll be much the same. We will continue to build on the good things that we’ve done, but we’ll also strip it down and start over in certain areas.

“And I’m excited to work with Matt. And we have two new additions on the defensive side of the ball. Derrick LeBlanc will coach our defensive line. He’s already improved them. I like what I’ve seen in the preseason, what I’ve seen in the spring ball. He has a big job. We all know that we all need to improve. That’s one area we need to improve. And I’m counting on Derrick and our defensive staff and all of us to get those guys to play at the level that we expect them to.

“Also the addition of Dean Hood, Dean will coach our outside linebackers and special teams. Dean has a wealth of experience. He’s been a head coach. He has been a defensive coordinator. He’s another seasoned veteran. We are very proud to have Dean on our staff. He also knows the state of Kentucky. He’s been the head coach at Eastern Kentucky for quite a while. So we are very excited to have him and his expertise.”

On Recruiting Ohio:

“I know we’re in the deep south here, and we respect that, and we need to and will and continue to recruit in the deep south playing in the SEC. But for us, it just makes sense with our proximity to Ohio. Southern Ohio butts up to us. You can go two and a half hours of our campus, and there’s a heck of a lot of football players in that region.

“With my ties, I grew up in Ohio. My father was a high school teacher and coach for 30 years in Ohio. With myself, Coach Marrow, Coach Clinkscale, there are quite a few ties to the Ohio area within our staff. I think that is a big reason. I think the SEC is a selling point for guys that grew up in Ohio and respect SEC football. I think they embrace the opportunity to come down here and play in this league.”


SEC Media Day Emergency: UK safety ripped his pants

SEC Media Day Emergency: UK safety ripped his pants

Mike Edwards’ first SEC Media Day is off to a rough start.

The UK safety, a preseason All-SEC selection, somehow managed to tear his new pants while en route to Alabama. He now has about an hour to find new drawers or he’ll be pants-less while answering questions in front of a packed house full of reporters this afternoon.

I think Edwards should wear the shorts and make the day about his wardrobe malfunction; it would make a great story that would get a lot of traction.

But I bet Susan Lax of UK media relations is in an Uber to the nearest Hoover department store for some new slacks. (Slax, get it?)

Good luck, Badger.

 

UPDATE: Dang Alterations to save the day.

https://twitter.com/UKFootball/status/885161987214331904


Wednesday’s Top 10: Kentucky due up SEC Media Day

Wednesday’s Top 10: Kentucky due up SEC Media Day

It’s Kentucky day down in Hoover!

Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson, Courtney Love and Mike Edwards will soon hop on a private jet in Lexington for a trip down to SEC Media Days in ‘Bama for the opening day of college football’s talking season. They will follow Nick Saban and Alabama, per usual, and we’ll have all the coverage for you here on KSR all day/night long.

But first, the morning 10…

 

1. Mark Stoops is expected at the podium at 2 pm.

Possible topics of discussion include: the status/whereabouts of Lynn Bowden, Matt Elam (See No. 4 below), Stephen Johnson’s grip on the starting QB spot, the defensive line, and, of course, John Calipari and Kentucky basketball. It comes up every year.

2. Kyle Tucker made the headline of the week when he asked Jim McElwain about the shark.

Somebody was going to do it, and we shouldn’t be surprised it was Kyle.

McElwain’s response made it a story and now this is what you get when you type “J-I-M M-C-E” in Google:

Why couldn’t he just laugh it off like the rest of us? No one really thought it was him on that shark, although it REALLY looks like him on that shark:

There’s your Media Day story so far, folks.

3. Read Freddie Maggard’s team recaps from the first two days:

Arkansas
LSU
Tennessee
Georgia
Vanderbilt
Mississippi State
Florida

4. Greg McElroy BLASTED Matt Elam.

In speaking about Kentucky’s defensive line, the SEC Network analyst said, “It was an embarrassing effort last year, particularly by former five-star Matt Elam, who was lazy and as underachieving a player as I’ve seen in this league in some time.”

But is he wrong?

5. The Nike Peach Jam and the adidas Gauntlet Finale begin today.

The biggest five-day stretch in college basketball recruiting kicks off today with the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta and the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, putting the best high school basketball prospects less than a two-hour drive apart in South Carolina. Mrs. Tyler Thompson did a phenomenal job of previewing the two events for Kentucky fans (you can read that here) so there’s no point in me adding my two cents, but you should know that we have people in both places to get the latest scoop on who John Calipari and his staff are chasing, how those recruitments are going, and how those targets are playing against other elite players.

6. I’m leaving the United States in two days.

While the rest of the team keeps up the best stuff you’ll find on the internet and radio, I am making my first ever trip across the pond on Friday, and I’m not ready. I land in Dublin early Saturday morning and plan to drive straight out to Galway and the countryside for a day or two; then Liverpool/Manchester for the (British) Open; and then a couple of days in Scotland before coming on back home.

Some questions I have, that you might be able to answer:

— Is it tasteless to wear an American flag onesie to the Open? It looks like this. Is that too much?
— How terrible is Ryanair?
— How many times should I plan to wreck my rental car driving around Ireland?
— What would you do with a full day of nothing in Liverpool?
— Should I drive to Edinburgh from Liverpool or take a train?
— I have to go up to St. Andrew’s while in Edinburgh, right?
— Does it really rain a lot?
— How long do I extend the vacation if Kent Bulle wins the Open?
— Will someone come help me pack tonight?

Feel free to e-mail if you have any advice: drewfranklin@kentuckysportsradio.com

7. Mohamed Bamba cleared by NCAA to play at Texas.

Big news for college basketball yesterday when the NCAA ruled Mo Bamba eligible despite Bamba’s brother’s allegations about some funny business with a family friend. A statement read, “After evaluating all available information, the NCAA determined the assistance Greer Love provides to Mohamed Bamba does not violate rules. Bamba remains certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center.”

Bamba seems like a great kid, so great news for him. No hard feelings here over him turning down the Cats.

8. The Herald-Leader has an update on Jon Toth.

Jen Smith caught up with Jon Toth during his recovery from a freak injury and it’s pretty sad, especially for big Toth fans like us. Once a projected NFL draft pick only a few months ago, Toth is still without an NFL team and fighting to get back on the field.

“There’s certainly a time when that happens when you’re like, ‘This sucks. It’s terrible timing,’” he said.

Read the story here.

9. Rick Pitino was at the MLB All-Star Game last night.

I can’t believe Rick Pitino would go to the MLB All-Star Game on the 74th anniversary of the day German and Italian troops launched an attack on Allied forces in Sicily in World War II.

10. Mark Titus and Tate Frazier host today’s KSR.

Ready for some fireworks? Today’s show will be hosted by an Indiana/Ohio State fan and a North Carolina fan, both of The Ringer fame. Give them a call if they get out a hand to get them back on the task at hand: making fun of Duke.


KSR’s Guide to the Peach Jam & adidas Gauntlet Finale

KSR’s Guide to the Peach Jam & adidas Gauntlet Finale

Tomorrow, the two major recruiting events of the year begin 115 miles apart from each other in South Carolina. The top prospects in the 2018 and 2019 classes will be split amongst the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta and the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, meaning John Calipari and his staff will have the ole private jet fueled up and ready to travel between the two. All six players Kentucky has offered in the 2018 class will be in action, and in turn, KSR is sending two reporters to the Palmetto State. Nick Roush will make the trek from Hoover, Alabama to the Nike Peach Jam following Kentucky’s run at SEC Media Days, while Jack Pilgrim will be camped out at the adidas Gauntlet Finale.

While they pack their bags and steel their stomachs for five days of basketball and Hooters hot wings, check out my guide to the top recruits that will be in action this week.

 NIKE PEACH JAM

Riverview Park Activities Center, North Augusta, South Carolina; Games live streamed on FloHoops.com.

Players Offered:

Marvin Bagley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-11 220 lbs Phoenix, AZ Sierra Canyon/Nike Phamily
ESPN: 1 | 1 PF 247: 2 | 1 PF Rivals: 1 Scout: 1 | 1 PF

List: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, and Southern Cal

Latest: Only one recruiting service (247 Sports) doesn’t have Bagley in the top spot in the 2018 class. Otherwise, he been called a “once in a decade” type player (ESPN’s Paul Biancardi) with an unique arsenal of skills. Bagley’s Nike Phamily squad didn’t qualify for the Peach Jam, but was added as a wildcard, probably just so Bagley could participate.

Likelihood to Kentucky: Kentucky leads Bagley’s Crystal Ball, but he’s expected to take an official visit to Duke following the Peach Jam, so expect Calipari to make plenty of appearances during his games.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Wednesday, 6:30 PM: Nike Phamily vs. Each 1 Teach 1
  • Thursday, 2:00 PM: Nike Phamily vs. Mokan Elite
  • Thursday, 8:00 PM: Nike Phamily vs. Team Melo
  • Friday, 9:00 AM: Nike Phamily vs. Howard Pulley Panters

Bol Bol ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

List: Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA, Southern Cal, and others

Latest: Bol was the MVP of the EYBL regular season, averaging 24.1 points (65.6% from the field), 10 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game. He was the only 2018 player to earn a scholarship offer from Calipari in the April recruiting period, but was cut from John Calipari’s U19 National Team a few weeks back.

Likelihood to Kentucky: It will be interesting to see what effect being cut from the national team has on Kentucky’s chances with Bol. Team USA was allowed only one naturalized citizen on the squad and the committee went with Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie, an understandable decision given his age and experience. I expect Calipari will smooth things over just fine.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Wednesday, 8:00 PM: Cal Supreme vs. CIA Bounce
  • Thursday, 12:30 PM: Expressions Elite vs. Cal Supreme
  • Thursday, 9:30 PM: Cal Supreme vs. PSA Cardinals
  • Friday, 10:30 AM: Cal Supreme vs. Oakland Soldiers

Cameron Reddish ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-7 203 lbs. Norristown, PA Westtown/Team Final
ESPN: 3 | 1 SF 247: 5 | 2 SF Rivals: 4 Scout: 4 | 2 SF

List: Kentucky, Arizona, UConn, Duke, Maryland, Miami (Fl.), UCLA, Villanova

Latest: Reddish was one of the most impressive young players on Calipari’s U19 squad, thanks in part to Calipari’s willingness to let him play almost every position. Reddish started at point guard at times during the FIBA World Cup, averaging 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Team Final (which also includes Louis King) must win the play in game tomorrow afternoon to stay in the tournament.

Likelihood to Kentucky: Coming in to the FIBA World Cup, Duke was thought to be the leader for Reddish, but he told Kyle Tucker that is “absolutely not” the case. Calipari letting Reddish showcase his versatility seems to have done Kentucky some big favors in his recruitment.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Wednesday, 12:00 PM: Team Final vs. Nike Team Florida

Other interests:

 Louis King, SF (Team Final)

King also played for Calipari in the FIBA World Cup and could be one of the next targets to receive an offer. He’s teammates with Cameron Reddish on Team Final.

Simi Shittu, PF (CIA Bounce)

I Shittu not, Kentucky has shown some interest in this Canada native recently, with Kenny Payne checking in on him at a Nike event in April. Every year, someone breaks out at one of these tournaments, so keep an eye on this versatile power forward.

Keldon Johnson, SG (Boo Williams)

Johnson’s ranked 13th in ESPN’s rankings and just transferred to Oak Hill Academy from Huntington Prep. Maryland seems to be the early leader, but should Calipari extend an offer, that could change.

 Zion Harmon (2021, Boo Williams)

The point guard from Bowling Green may only be a rising freshman, but he’s already turning heads. As the youngest player in the EYBL, Harmon averaged 12.6 points and 3.6 assists in 16 games for Boo Williams. He also led Bowling Green to its first state title as an eighth grader and played in the FIBA Americas U15 Championships last month in Argentina.

 Evelyn (1959, Hooters)

Evelyn’s been the head waitress at the Augusta Hooters since it opened in 1990. If Nick knows what’s good for him, he won’t give her any lip.

Additional Note: 2019 #1 prospect RJ Barrett’s team did not qualify.


ADIDAS GAUNTLET FINALE

Upward Star Center, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Players Offered:

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power/Small Forward 6-7 230 lbs Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg Day School/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 2 PF 247: 1 | 1 SF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 1 SF

List: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Clemson, North Carolina, UCLA, and others

Latest: Williamson is just coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for a few months, but showed off his signature explosive dunks at a scrimmage this past week. With the adidas Gauntlet Finale taking place in his hometown, expect Williamson to be the star.

Likelihood to Kentucky: Williamson wasn’t able to participate in training camp for Calipari’s U19 National Team due to his knee injury, but Kentucky is still up there among the perceived favorites, along with Duke, Clemson (his dad’s alma mater), UNC, etc. etc.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Thursday, 11:20 AM: Team Knight vs. SC Supreme

Romeo Langford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting Guard 6-5 195 lbs New Albany, IN New Albany/Twenty Two Vision
ESPN: 5 | 1 SG 247: 4 | 1 SG Rivals: 5 Scout: 5 | 1 SG

List: Kentucky, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Kansas

Latest: Langford battled back spasms throughout the FIBA World Cup, averaging 4.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game. He sat out the Angola and Canada games, but rallied to score eight points in three minutes vs. Spain in the bronze medal game. Despite the injury, he said he still plans to play in the adidas event.

Likelihood to Kentucky: It will be interesting to hear feedback from Langford on his experience in Egypt. Dealing with his back injury must have been frustrating, but his latest USA Today HSS blog included this perplexing line: “I really don’t like watching and knowing that I could play.” Hmm. Is he calling out Calipari and staff for not playing him?

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Thursday, 12:40 PM: Twenty Two Vision vs. AC Georgia

Immanuel Quickley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-3 180 lbs Bel Air, MD John Carroll/Team BBC
ESPN: 14 | 2 PG 247: 14 | 3 PG Rivals: 10 Scout: 10 | 3 PG

List: Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, Miami (Fl.)

Latest: Quickley averaged 6.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 rebounds in 18.3 minutes for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, and showcased all the qualities John Calipari likes in a point guard: size, athleticism, length, and smarts.

Likelihood to Kentucky: Very, very high. Quickley confirmed on KSR that Kentucky is “definitely” his leader, and although he still plans to take his four official visits later this summer before announcing this fall, it looks like he’s Calipari’s to lose.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Thursday, 3:20 PM: Team BBC vs. TBD

 Quentin Grimes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point/Shooting Guard 6-4 195 lbs The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands College Park/Basketball University
ESPN: 29 | 6 SG 247: 17 | 5 PG Rivals: 20 Scout: 23 | 6 PG

List: Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas, and others

Latest: There hasn’t been much buzz about Grimes lately. The Texas native primarily plays point, but is comfortable playing off the ball as well.

Likelihood to Kentucky: Kansas seems to be the early leader for Grimes, which makes sense considering Quickley is Kentucky’s priority at the point guard position; however, Grimes did tell MadeHoops he wants to take an official visit to Kentucky this fall.

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Thursday, 11:20 AM: Basketball University vs. Ohio Basketball Club

Other interests:

 David McCormack, C (Team Loaded)

The 6-10 center plays on Bam Adebayo’s old AAU team and visited Kentucky unofficially back in April. He’s shed a lot of weight over the past several months, and as a result, his stock is rising.

 Charles Bassey, C (2019, YIIS TX Future)

Bassey is considered the second best player in the 2019 class behind RJ Barrett and visited Kentucky last month.

 Ashton Hagans, PG (2019, Game Elite)

Hagans visited UK for Big Blue Madness last season and was one of the standouts at the NBA Top 100 Camp last month. In a recent USA Today HSS blog, he said he’s looking forward to hearing more from Kentucky. He also said his favorite movie is Norbit; he was eight when it came out, so I’ll let that one slide.


Watch Greg McElroy crush Matt Elam for being lazy

Watch Greg McElroy crush Matt Elam for being lazy

Greg McElroy did not hold back in issuing a challenge to the Kentucky defensive line, namely Matt Elam.

Sitting on the SEC Network’s Media Day set down in Hoover earlier today, McElroy sent a message to the Wildcats, saying, “Step up, right now. Step up. It was an embarrassing effort. The linebackers covered their bases an awful lot, who are really good and played their tails off, but this defensive line, they need to be issued a challenge.”

“It was an embarrassing effort last year, particularly by former five-star Matt Elam, who was lazy and as underachieving a player as I’ve seen in this league in some time.”

Tell us how you really feel, Greg.

Elam should watch this clip every morning from now until the end of the season.


UK Football Pioneers are Focal Point of Greg Sankey’s SEC Media Days Opening Address

Each year SEC Media Days begin with a statement from the Commissioner.  Each year it begins with a pat on the back to celebrate the conference’s long list of accomplishments.  Each year we’re lucky to hear one mention of Kentucky.  This year that was not the case.

After Greg Sankey read through the SEC’s 2016-17 titles, the Commissioner asked us to look even further back to the year 1967.  He didn’t do it to remind us it was the first year the Super Bowl was played.  He didn’t do it to give the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels a shout out.  He did it to acknowledge Kentucky’s Nate Northington, the first African-American to play varsity football in the SEC.

“This September will mark the 50th anniversary of that Autumn Saturday,” Sankey said.  “When the Kentucky football team reported for preseason practice in 1967, there were four young African-American men who were part of that program; Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg. Northington and Page were varsity players. Hogg and Hackett freshman recruited to join Kentucky’s team.

“These four men, one whose life was lost too soon, one who broke the color barrier in football in the Southeastern Conference and two others who carried forth the torch of change in Kentucky in the SEC dealt with realities most of us don’t understand, and they were not alone over the years this change took place.”

Page, Northington, Hackett and Hogg’s story was the primary focus during Sankey’s speech.  It’s a story that’s been overshadowed for far too long, but one that has an enormous effect throughout the African-American community in the South that can be best explained by a quote from Dr. King.

“In April of 1963, not far from this very spot, a letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior wrote this quote: ‘We’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’

By playing in a football game on September 30th, 1967, Nate Northington affected us all,” Sankey said.  “This network of mutuality involves more than the four football players at Kentucky, more than just one date, one sport, one team, or one university.”

 

Sankey proceeded to read off the names of African-Americans who broke the color barrier at each SEC institution, all which stemmed from the sacrifice of UK’s four pioneers.

“The winds of change began earlier than the fall of 1967, but the seeds of change planted by Stephen Martin, Nate Northington and Perry Wallace and so many others have blossomed today into hundreds of opportunities in every SEC sport all across the campuses of our great universities.”

Northington’s time at Kentucky ended earlier than expected after he decided to transfer following his sophomore season.  Sankey drew to a Courier-Journal column from the time that described African-Americans in the SEC as a failed experiment.

“Last year, the ceremony unveiling a statue to honor Nate and his three teammates which now stands on Kentucky’s campus, he (Northington) said this: ‘Now, it doesn’t look like a failure to me.'”

 

The SEC has invited Kentucky’s three living pioneers — Northington, Hackett, Hogg — and the family of Greg Page to this year’s SEC Championship Game to honor and celebrate their sacrifice 50 years later.

You can read all of Sankey’s profound and poignant speech about UK’s pioneers after the jump.   (more…)


Monday’s Top 10: SEC Media Days begins, Team USA comes home, Summer League amps up

Monday’s Top 10: SEC Media Days begins, Team USA comes home, Summer League amps up

Good morning, friends, and welcome to a new week. Shoutout to these two Cats fans, who are posing in front of the Dottifoss waterfall in Iceland, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. If the picture wasn’t great enough, the two met a fellow Kentuckian while filling up their car at a gas station in nearby Akureyri. As I always say, small world, Big Blue Nation.

With that in mind, let’s jump right in to today’s top 10.

1. SEC Media Days begins today

Today is the unofficial start to football season. SEC Media Days begins in Hoover, Alabama, meaning sportswriters across the South will freeze their butts off in the Wynfrey Hotel and drink more than their fair share of Sunkist and Dr. Pepper over the next four days. Kentucky isn’t up until Wednesday, but Freddie Maggard and Nick Roush arrived in Hoover last night. Check back in an hour from now for Freddie’s preview. In the meantime, here’s a schedule of what you can expect today, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET:

  • SEC commissioner Greg Sankey
  • Arkansas coach Bret Bielema; QB Austin Allen, OL Frank Ragnow, DB Kevin Richardson II
  • LSU coach Ed Orgeron; WR D.J. Chark, RB Derrius Guice, DB Christian LaCouture
  • Tennessee coach Butch Jones; DB Emmanuel Moseley, OL Jashon Robertson, DL Kendal Vickers

Because this is the SEC, all of the fun will be televised on the SEC Network, along with WatchESPN.com. Bonus points to whomever spots Freddie or Nick on TV first.

2. Keep an eye out for a new Depth Chart Podcast

In addition to several posts throughout the day, Freddie and Nick will be taping a daily edition of the Depth Chart Podcast, which you’ll be able to find on your KSR podcast feed each evening. Tune in for their expert analysis on all of the happenings in Hoover, including how popular Freddie is on Radio Row. You can hear their preview, which hit the feed last night.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

3. We have our first actual Depth Chart

Scroll down to the post directly below this one or click here to check it out.

4. Team USA got the Bronze Medal in Egypt

On Saturday, Team USA was upset by Team Canada, led by 2019 phenom RJ Barrett. Barrett had a ridiculous 38 points and 13 rebounds in Canada’s 99-87 semifinal win, and he went on to lead his country to the tournament title on Sunday, ousting Italy 79-60. John Calipari’s squad finished third, beating Spain 96-72.

Team USA’s semifinal was extremely disappointing, but like the pro he is, Calipari shouldered the blame, telling reporters not finding a way to shut down Barrett was “my mistake, not these kids’ mistake.” Despite the early exit, he said he was proud of his team for rallying to beat Spain for the bronze medal.

“To be able to bounce back and play the way they did from start to finish shows me a lot about them. We were all still really disappointed. We came here to not only play for the gold, but win the gold, and to play like we did and have Canada come out and play so well, it was just disappointing that we couldn’t get it done. To come back today and play and win the bronze, it’s a good way to end.”

5. RJ Barrett is the real deal

Barrett was named the tournament’s MVP, leading all scorers with 21.6 points per game, along with 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds. Barrett is the number one player in the 2019, but is considering reclassifying to 2018. These highlights of his performance will show you why:

He’s good.

6. Hamidou Diallo’s tweet will make you feel better about USA’s loss

Neither can we.

7. Davis Bertans now knows not to mess with Alex Poythress

Poythress didn’t take too kindly to Bertans’ elbow to the face last night:

Alex finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds in the 76ers’ loss, while Aaron Harrison chipped in 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Isaiah Briscoe had 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists.

In other Summer League news, De’Aaron Fox continued his impressive start for Sacramento, putting up 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists (5 turnovers), and 3 steals. Skal Labissiere had 13 points and 8 rebounds. Dominique Hawkins didn’t play.

Today’s action, headlined by Lonzo Ball vs. De’Aaron Fox in the nightcap:

  • 4:30 PM ET: Miami Heat (Bam Adebayo) vs. Washington Wizards, NBATV
  • 6:00 PM ET: Brooklyn Nets (Archie Goodwin) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (James Young), ESPNU
  • 10:30 PM ET: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings (De’Aaron Fox, Skal Labissiere, Dominique Hawkins)

After spending 24 hours with three 10-year-old boys this weekend, I can verify that Ball vs. Fox is the rivalry of the future in the NBA.

8. Do you live in Northern Kentucky, love UK, and golf?

If you answered yes, check out the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati UK Alumni Club Golf Scramble, which will take place at Summit Hills Country Club on Monday, July 24. So, two weeks from today. Details below:

Registration is $140 per person which includes golf, continental breakfast, grill lunch, two drink tickets on the course and admission to the Big Blue Follow Through Party. Early bird registration ends Monday, July 10 (so, TODAY), after which the cost increases to $160 per person. All proceeds go to the club’s scholarship fund for UK students. More information and golfer registration can be found at www.ukalumni.net/nkygcgolfscramble2017.

9. I made a guest appearance on a podcast about the new Spider-Man movie

My friends at the “2 Guys, 1 Girl, Santa” podcast were nice enough to invite me on their show this weekend to discuss the newest Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. We had a rollicking good time discussing the latest addition to the franchise, so if you’ve seen the movie OR you’re okay with spoilers, check it out below:

They’re just getting their feet under them with this podcasting thing, so please leave them some feedback @GuyGirlSanta.

10. Today on KSR: Cameron Mills and Lee K. Howard

We had a scheduling change, so Cameron Mills and Lee K. Howard will man the mics in Matt’s absence this morning. Tune in an hour from now to hear their takes on all things UK Sports.


Image via FIBA.com

USA earns bronze medal with 96-72 win over Spain at FIBA U19 World Cup

Image via FIBA.com

 

The United States men’s basketball team cruised to a 96-72 win over Spain, claiming the bronze medal at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup.

 

The Americans received a balanced offensive attack in which all 12 players on the roster scored, with none surpassing more than 13 points. Rising Kentucky freshmen Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington both garnered a starting nod from UK head coach John Calipari, scoring nine and six points, respectively.

 

In addition to his nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor (and 3-of-4 shooting from the foul line), Diallo tallied four rebounds and two assists over an efficient 16 minutes of playing time. Washington’s six points came on 2-of-3 shooting, while knocking down 2-of-5 at the charity stripe. The 6-foot-8 forward managed one assist, as well as a steal on the defensive end.


USA Can’t Contain R.J. Barrett, Falls to Canada 99-87

USA Can’t Contain R.J. Barrett, Falls to Canada 99-87

FIBA

Team USA had no answer for R.J. Barrett.  The No. 1 player in the 2019 class, the Canadian sensation scored 38 points to lead Canada to a 99-87 and keep John Calipari’s squad out of the World Cup Gold Medal Game.

Barrett was a man among boys.  No American could stop the 6’6″ swingman from getting to the rim. Barrett made 50 percent of his shots and got to the free throw line early and often (12/15 FT).  He also had 13 rebounds and 5 assists.

The only thing that could slow him down was foul trouble.  Canada had an 11-point lead when fouled out with three minutes left, but it wasn’t enough time for the Americans to mount a comeback.

Offensively, USA struggled to score against Canada’s zone defense.  P.J. Washington and Hamidou Diallo worked the lane well in the middle of the zone, but failed to finish tough, contested baskets and left too many points off the scoreboard. The two Wildcats combined to make only 6 of 25 shots.   

Team USA left even more points at the free throw line.  The Americans made only 25-of-43 free throws (58.1 percent).

Washington still led Team USA in scoring with a 17-points, and added 11 rebounds for a double-double.  Diallo finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

While the Americans struggled to get momentum at the beginning of the second half, they looked to Diallo to provide a spark on defense.  He created some turnovers, but not enough without fouling, forcing him to sit for much of the third quarter.

When Diallo returned to the game, he did not provide much during crunch time.  Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony chalked it up to inexperience.  “Hamidou Diallo bricking free throws, running into brick walls for charges, heaving up tough shots. Lacks big game experience in a major way.”

Team USA’s Stats 

Team USA will play Spain tomorrow at noon for the bronze medal.  More to come from Cairo.


First Impressions of UK’s Basketball Future

Calipari and Kenny Payne watch uncommitted P.J. Washington (25) at the Peach Jam.

Every year around this time The Peach Jam, Nike’s National Championship, provides the BBN with a sneak peek of the possible players with a future in Lexington.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my first trip to the tournament.  My initial takeaways on the future Wildcats were semi-newsworthy at the time, but in hindsight they are much more interesting.

Knox vs. Diallo

The second game I saw at the Peach Jam was an action-packed showdown between two future Kentucky stars.  Now they are friends and teammates.  A year ago they were throwing each other to the ground.

“Going for the dunk in the fast break, Diallo took out Knox.  Knox’s head hit the wooden bleachers and Diallo got hit with an intentional…Probably wasn’t intentional, but Diallo showed no mercy (almost got the block) so the refs will give him none.”

Reading between the lines of my 140 character Tweets, I became a big fan of Diallo on that play.  In many AAU settings, most players will easily surrender a transition bucket to the opposing team’s best player, but Diallo isn’t like most players.  He went for the block, and when he didn’t get it, he made sure Knox was going to earn those points from the free throw line.

I was impressed with Diallo after that play, but questioned his shooting form on every jump shot he took. Knox on the other hand was the total package.

“Of all the SFs I’ve seen in this talented SF class, Knox is the most physically impressive. Not a bad 3-point shot either.”

He had all of the tools — a smooth shot, exceptional ball handling, a weapon in transition — and he was physically gifted well beyond his peers.  To be fair, Jarred Vanderbilt was in a walking boot and did not play, but Knox still had it all.  He came up big in the biggest moments too.

“Knox just made a poster to go up 4 with .35 to play.  If that’s the dagger, it’s one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.”

I don’t recall the specific play to describe it, because it was not the dagger.

“Diallo’s defense kept his team in the game. Not enough to win, but he did all the little things. Knox was annoyed every time they matched up.”

Two minutes later, Diallo did enough for his team to win.

“Then a guy hits a fadeaway three to tie it at the buzzer. I spoke too soon.”

“A guy” was named Hamidou Diallo.  I could not see who it was because every person in the audience was standing when he let the deep, contested game-tying three fly.

Hami kept the team on his back and carried the NY Rens to an overtime victory over Knox’s E1T1.

P.J. Washington vs. Marvin Bagley

The first game I watched at the Peach Jam did not feature as much drama, but there was still some awesomeness to be seen thanks to P.J. Washington.

“PJ Washington with a tough finish at the rim, an And 1 over 6’11” #NotTooShabby”

Upon further investigation, I discovered that 6’11” guy was Marvin Bagley, the No. 1 player in the 2018 class.  A center with guard skills, some think he’s the best recruit in a decade.  He receives that tag because his skills are incomparable to any player his size.

“Bagley, the #1 player in 18, just had a nice top in transition.  A 6’11” athlete that I can find no immediate comparison for.”

Bagley hasn’t given much away in his recruitment, but the Kentucky Wildcats are currently his Crystal Ball leader at 50 percent, just ahead of Duke, UCLA, USC and Arizona.  A West Coast kid, getting him across the country may be difficult, but if anyone can do it, Calipari can.  I’ll have updates on Bagley from the Peach Jam next week.

Quade Green vs. P.J. Washington

Green with Greg Anthony following a quarterfinal Peach Jam win via @AdamZagoria

Quade Green was the person I knew the least entering the event.  Leaving the event he was one of my favorite players.

Nobody was more clutch than Quade.  His PSA Cardinals teammate, Mo Bamba, received all the attention, but Green stole the show at the end of games.  He penetrated to finish with contact near the rim, or created space with a step-back.  At the highest level in the semifinals against Washington’s Team Penny, PSA couldn’t win without him.

“Team Penny is up 17 now in the first half. The difference? Quade Green isn’t playing like himself tonight”

32 minutes later…

“Green has come back to life and it’s a one point game”

29 minutes later…

“PSA wins thanks to Green’s second half heroics. Came from 18 down for the win”

Next weekend I’ll get a first look at guys that could become Wildcats in the 2018-19 season at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina.  Who knows, maybe Cameron Reddish could be the next P.J. Washington…


Photo: FIBA

10 Things We’ve Learned So Far In The FIBA World Cup

Tomorrow at 3:15 p.m., Team USA faces Germany in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup. What have we learned about John Calipari, PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and UK’s 2018 targets since training camp began almost three weeks ago? Quite a lot, actually. I’ve narrowed my list of observations down to ten.

1. PJ Washington is going to be a fan favorite for many reasons

Most of the buzz in the freshman class has surrounded Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo, but this summer, PJ Washington has proven that he’s a star in his own right. The 6’8″ forward has been the most “positionless” player on the court, creating mismatches for almost every single team the US has faced. Washington is fifth in the FIBA World Cup in scoring at 16.0 points per game despite playing only 17.5 minutes per game (95th out of 192 players in the tournament). He ranks first in field goal percentage with 67.5%, a good 8% better than Canada’s Danilo Djuricic, the next most efficient scorer.

Washington does a little bit of everything: scoring, rebounding, and creating for others while refusing to back down on defense. As Calipari put it earlier this week, Washington is playing like a “beast” this summer, which should help him get ahead in a loaded crop of forwards this fall. Combine Washington’s on-the-court versatility with his off-the-court charisma and childhood love of the Wildcats and you’ve got an early leader for fan favorite.

2. …But he’s gonna have to work on those free throws

The one glaring hole in Washington’s game right now? His free throw shooting. Washington’s hitting only 42.9% of his shots from the charity stripe, a stat that must improve or teams won’t hesitate to go right at him.

3. Hamidou Diallo will be on SportsCenter‘s Top 10 more than once this season

We knew Diallo was a freak, but he turned in so many ridiculous plays and dunks through four games that FIBA made him his own mixtape:

4. Tai Wynyard’s got potential, but struggles with consistency

Early on, it looked like Wynyard was going to be one of the surprises of the tournament. In New Zealand’s opener vs. Korea, he scored 22 points, 16 in the fourth quarter alone; however, his production has been inconsistent ever since. Wynyard only had three points in New Zealand’s loss to Argentina, but contributed in other ways, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking three shots. Against Germany, he finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, but turned the ball over four times. Wynyard clearly has potential, but to get minutes over Sacha Killeya-Jones and Nick Richards, he’ll have to be more consistent.

5. His Haka is on point though

6. Watching games without commentary is weird

All of the FIBA World Cup games are streamed live on YouTube, which is probably the way of the future and incredibly convenient for us since we can just embed that stream on the website; however, it has been odd watching games without commentary. There are no broadcast announcers, so the only thing you hear during the game is the PA announcer in the gym (who, to his credit, is lively), vuvuzelas (more on those in a minute), and the occasional shriek or stomp from Calipari. As fans in the modern era, we’ve been conditioned to hear game commentary, even if we complain about it and threaten to turn down the sound. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.

7. Vuvuzelas are still popular in Egypt

If you were wondering what happened to vuvuzelas after the 2010 World Cup, well, they’re all at the FIBA World Cup in Egypt now. Vuvuzelas still pop up from time to time (we all have that one friend who brings it to a soccer watch party), but I’ll admit that it took me a second or two to place that annoying, mind-numbing buzz. Let’s keep those over there, okay?

8. PJ Washington’s dad is doing his part to recruit Kentucky’s 2018 prospects

Three of Calipari’s primary targets in the 2018 class have been under his wing for the past three weeks, which is inevitably a great thing for Kentucky, right? Yes, although other than a tweet from Immanuel Quickley and a blog post from Romeo Langford, we haven’t heard a ton of feedback. PJ Washington’s dad Paul traveled to Egypt with his wife and son for the FIBA World Cup and told Larry Vaught he’s been doing his best to recruit Quickley, Langford, Cameron Reddish, and Louis King, the latter of which doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky…yet.

“We had dinner the other night with them all,” Washington said from Egypt. “We talk a lot of recruiting. We are the only parents here, so we are together a lot. So you know me. Whatever I need to do for the UK family, I will do it.”

Washington Sr. also got into Kevin Knox Sr.’s ear during the McDonald’s All-American Game a few months back and that seemed to work out pretty well. Shoutout to Paul and his wife, Sherry, for their extra efforts.

9. Calipari’s “casual” coaching look actually costs a lot

Photo: FIBA

Calipari debuted his new, custom fit Blue Delta Jeans at the FIBA World Cup, which cost approximately $500/pair. According to sneakerheads on Twitter, he is also wearing Nike’s new self-lacing HyperAdapt sneakers, which retail for about $800/pair. I’m sure he got that polo shirt for free (if we’re being honest, probably the jeans and shoes too), so all in all, that outfit retails for about $1,300. Image is everything, right?

10. The picture of him on a camel will never get old

The best way to handle yet another NBA rumor if you’re John Calipari? Hop on a camel, pull up in front of the pyramids, and give us a picture we’ll be using until the end of time. Add some text and a little more swagger and you’ve got the perfect GIF to send to your Louisville friends:


2017 Schedule Is More Difficult Than 2016

An argument exists that Kentucky’s 2017 football schedule is less challenging than recent years; not me and here’s one reason why.

Opposing quarterback play will be vastly improved from a year ago. 2017 features ten “winnable” games that will showcase high-level, upgraded signal callers that can take over football games with both their arms and legs.

Against the following quarterbacks and their surrounding casts; a pass rush must be established for the Wildcats to experience the season that many are expecting. It is no secret that Kentucky has questions along the defensive line.

Let’s take a look:

At Southern Miss

Quarterback Keon Howard is a 6’0, 226-pound sophomore from Laurel, Mississippi. A quick look at his offer sheet shows that Louisville, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and others took significant interest in this highly athletic quarterback that threw for over 10,000-yards in high school. He also led Mississippi to an all-star game win over Alabama and led his team to a 5A state championship. While replacing long-time starter Nick Mullens will be a difficult chore, Howard started two games as a true freshman in which he was the team’s leading rusher with 98-yards against Old Dominion.

Howard’s supporting cast is excellent. Remember, strip the logo’s when analyzing personnel. RB Ito Smith returned for his senior season after rushing for 1459-yards and 17 touchdowns. Smith rushed for 173-yards against the Cats in 2016. The USM receiving corps is athletic and possesses choice size. It’s led by 6’2, 219-pound senior Allenzae Staggers who had 63 grabs a year ago. Joining Staggers are Korey Robertson (37 catches, 3 TD’s) and Isaiah Jones (20 catches, 2 TD’s).

Kentucky is favored by 13-points in its opener. However, Southern Miss’s offensive skill positions offer a more significant challenge than prognosticators are presenting in July.

At South Carolina

In 2016, true freshman (early enrollee) Jake Bentley completed 65.8% of his passes for 1420-yards and 9 touchdowns. Carolina averaged 14 points per game prior to Bentley taking over. It rolled up 31 points per game after.

The sophomore will also have 1st Team All SEC support from WR Deebo Samuel (59 catches, 783-yards) as well as TE Hayden Hurst’s 48 receptions. USC is projected to make noise in the SEC East; its strength is at quarterback and offensive skill players.

Florida

Redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks is penciled in as the Gator’s starter. A high school All American, Franks was considered as one of the country’s best pro-style quarterbacks coming out of Wakulla High School. Still on the roster is Luke Del Rio who shredded the Cats in the Swamp a year ago.

Let’s be honest, Florida’s 2016 offense struggled at was ranked 114th in the nation at one point in the season. Inconsistent quarterback play and injuries at the position significantly factored in the Gator’s inefficiencies. The offense returns nine starters including a pair of TE’s that could greatly benefit an inexperienced quarterback: DeAndre Goolsby (38 catches, 3 TD’s) and C’yontai Lewis. Leading rusher Jordan Scarlett (889-yards, 6 TD’s) and dangerous receivers Antonio Calloway (54 receptions, 3 TD’s) and Brandon Powell (45 catches, 2 TD’s) will help to ease the transition for a new quarterback.   

How Franks performs against Michigan in the opener will provide an indicator of what to expect from the former 4-star prospect. Head coach Jim McElwain also brought in his third grad-transfer in former Notre Dame signal caller Malik Zaire. Zaire has experienced success at his former school. He was the MVP of the 2014 Music City Bowl after he rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown over LSU.

Eastern Michigan

Quarterback Brogan Roback led the Eagles to its first bowl game since 1987. The senior threw for 2694-yards and 18 touchdowns and returns his top-two targets in Sergio Bailey (60 receptions, 7 TD’s), and Antoine Porter (44 catches, 4 TD’s). EMU returns 8 offensive starters which includes its leading rusher from 2016: Ian Eriksen (771-yards, 9 TD’s).

Missouri

Drew Lock was the SEC’s leading passer a year ago. Lock completed 54.6% of his passes for 3399-yards and 23 touchdowns. The Tigers also return the league’s top receiver in J’Mon Moore (62 catches, 1012-yards, 8 TD’s), and 1000-yard rusher RB Damarea Crockett to go along with an upper-level offensive line. Summary; Mizzou will be a dangerous team that should be able to light up the scoreboard in 2017.

At Mississippi State

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 1375-yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016. He also threw for 2423-yards and 21 scores. Fitzgerald lacks the supporting cast of the aforementioned quarterbacks but the Dogs return WR Donald Gray (41 receptions). But, he is elite and should be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race.

Complete disclosure, I voted Fitzgerald as my 1st Team All SEC QB. Kentucky’s game in Starkville is extremely dangerous due to his dynamic ability to take over a football game.

Ole Miss

Shea Patterson if often compared to Johnny Manziel. His improvisational skills are influential and places a tremendous amount of pressure on opposing defenses. Forced into late, true freshman action a year ago; Patterson completed 72 passes for 880-yards and 6 touchdowns.

The sophomore will be surrounded by arguably the best group of receivers that Kentucky will face in 2017: Van Jefferson (49 receptions, 3 TD’s), AJ Brown (29 catches), and DK Metcalf.

At Vanderbilt

First of all, Kentucky has to travel to Nashville for this game. Secondly, QB Kyle Shurmer threw for 2409-yards and 9 touchdowns in 2016. His notable, late-season improvement led the Commodores to become bowl eligible. Shurmer will benefit from nine returning offensive starters including RB Ralph Webb (1283-yards, 13 TD’s) and a pair of solid receivers in CJ Duncan (44 catches) and Trent Sherfield (34 receptions, 1 TD).

At Georgia

The BBN got a glimpse of the Dawg’s future as Jacob Eason methodically led his team to a late, game winning field goal drive in Kroger Field. Eason’s true freshman season has to be considered as success: 204/370, 2430-yards, 16 touchdowns.

Eason has the enviable task of handing the football off to elite running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. In addition, he has two upper-shelf tight ends in Isaac Nauta (29 receptions, 3 TD’s) and Jeb Blazevich. UGA is the most talented team in the East but must replace three starters from an offensive line that struggled in 2016. Eason doesn’t have an elite, go-to receiver which could increase reliance on the running game and short to intermediate passing game with the TE’s.

Louisville

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson will travel to Kroger Field with vengeance on his mind following a late fumble in the 2016 Governor’s Cup. Jackson wowed all of America in the Cardinal’s first ten games of the season as it averaged 49 points per game. However, UofL dropped to 19 points per game in its final three contests against Houston, Kentucky, and LSU.

Jackson rushed for 1571-yards and 21 scores in 2016. He passed for 3543-yards and 30 touchdowns. Eye-popping numbers, but his offense only returns four starters. Thus, Jackson’s supporting cast is difficult to evaluate and is mostly projection.

Enthusiasm is appropriately high in anticipation for the Kentucky football season. However, it must be noted that opponents will also be improved, especially at the quarterback position.


COMMITTED: Kentucky’s 15 members of the 2018 recruiting class

COMMITTED: Kentucky’s 15 members of the 2018 recruiting class

With two new commitments over the holiday, including the program’s highest-ranked out-of-state linebacker ever in Xavier Peters, Kentucky’s 2018 football class is coming together and it is full of potential and star power.

A quick glance at the team rankings for the class shows the Wildcats are fourth in the SEC and No. 15 overall in both the 247Sports and Rivals.com rankings. It goes without saying that that is some uncharted territory for a school that couldn’t get a sniff of the top 25 under previous regimes.

So as excitement rides high and the dice stay hot, let’s meet the 15 UK commits as of today, listed in order by their rating in the 247Sports Composite:

MARQUAN McCALL
Offensive Guard | 6-4 | 320 lbs.
Oak Park, MI | Oak Park
Committed: 5/8/17
★★★★
ESPN No. 13 OG Top247 No. 4 OG
Rivals No. 4 OG Scout No. 6 OG

Marquan McCall committed to Kentucky as the top-ranked player in the state of Michigan. UK defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale pulled McCall out of his home state and away from Michigan and Michigan State, from which McCall held scholarship offers, among many others.

XAVIER PETERS
Outside Linebacker | 6-4 | 225 lbs.
West Chester, OH | Lakota West
Committed: 7/4/17
★★★★
ESPN No. 17 OLB Top247 No. 8 OLB
Rivals No. 32 OLB Scout No. 7 ILB

Xavier Peters’ 4th of July commitment gave Kentucky one of the best linebacker prospects in the entire country; however, Peters’ commitment doesn’t seem so solid 24 hours after he made the announcement. The highly-touted Ohioan sent out a Wednesday afternoon tweet saying, “I still have to sit down and think about some things.”

DARIAN KINNARD
Offensive Tackle | 6-7 | 336 lbs.
Cleveland, OH | St. Ignatius
Committed: 4/30/17
★★★★
ESPN No. 27 OT Top247 No. 18 OT
Rivals No. 21 OT Scout No. 16 OT

Darian Kinnard is widely considered a standout at offensive tackle and he wants to join John Schlarman’s line in Lexington. At 6-foot-7 and 336 pounds, Kinnard already looks the part to line up in the SEC.

JARREN WILLIAMS
Quarterback | 6-2 | 206 lbs.
Lawrenceville, GA | Central Gwinnett
Committed: 5/15/17
★★★★
ESPN No. 9 DT-QB Top247 No. 9 DT-QB
Rivals No. 2 | 12 DT-QB Scout No. 28 QB

The distant future of the Kentucky offense will likely fall into the hands of quarterback Jarren Williams, one of the hottest names in football recruiting this summer. Williams added several elite offers after committing to the Cats last summer, but then decommitted in May to consider his many new options. The second round of his recruitment was short lived, though, and Williams re-pledged his commitment to the Wildcats once again to be the face and star QB of the class. He’ll soon see a jump in his rankings after showing out at this week’s The Opening Finals out in Oregon.

DeANDRE SQUARE
Safety/Linebacker | 6-1 | 200 lbs.
Detroit, MI | Cass Technical
Committed: 6/16/17
★★★
ESPN No. 47 OLB Top247 No. 30 S
Rivals No. 44 OLB Scout No. 20 OLB

What’s better than having the best player in Michigan? Adding another top player from the state to go along with him. That is what Coach Clinkscale did when he landed DeAndre Square, a defensive menace out of Detroit. It was another recruiting victory for Clinkscale and Kentucky over Michigan State in its own backyard.

BRENDEN BATES
Tight End | 6-5 | 230 lbs.
Cincinnati, OH | Archbishop Moeller
Committed: 3/10/17
★★★
ESPN No. 10 TE-Y Top247 No. 18 TE
Rivals No. 11 TE Scout No. 22 TE

Cincinnati tight end Brenden Bates has a father and a big brother who played for the hometown Cincinnati Bearcats, but Brendan is breaking the family trend and taking his talents across the river into Kentucky. Considered a four-star tight end by the Rivals folks, Bates is going with the school that offered him first in the summer before his junior season at Archbishop Moeller.

ALEX REIGELSPERGER
Defensive End | 6-3 | 225 lbs.
Dayton, OH | Wayne
Committed: 2/25/17
★★★
ESPN No. 17 DE Top247 No. 65 ATH
Rivals No. 38 WDE Scout No. 47 DE

Maybe the most outgoing of UK’s 2018 class, at least on social media, is defensive end Alex Reigelsperger, who seems to be recruiting more players as much as anyone. Reigelsperger, another Ohio kid, announced his commitment on a KSR basketball pregame show and now his focus is on getting his high school teammate, four-star wide receiver Blue Smith, to join him in Lexington.

MARVIN ALEXANDER
Wide Receiver | 6-3 | 175 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Chaminade-Madonna Prep
Committed: 2/21/17
★★★
ESPN No. 123 WR Top247 No. 123 WR
Rivals No. 73 WR Scout No. 156 WR

Marvin Alexander was one of two players from Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Florida to commit to Kentucky on the same day back in February. He and teammate Davoan Hawkins, a defensive end, pulled the trigger together with Alexander following Hawkins’ lead.

QUINTIN WILSON
Center | 6-3 | 290 lbs.
Cincinnati, OH | Walnut Hills
Committed: 5/14/17
★★★
ESPN No. 8 C Top247 No. 10 C
Rivals No. 5 C Scout No. 61 OG

Cincinnati has been a recruiting hot bed for Mark Stoops’ staff and Quintin Wilson is another example of that success. A top-10 center nationally, Wilson announced his commitment on Mother’s Day.

DAVOAN HAWKINS
Defensive End | 6-4 | 246 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Chaminade-Madonna Prep
Committed: 2/21/17
★★★
ESPN No. 56 DT Top247 No. 33 SDE
Rivals Scout No. 93 DE

Hawkins became the second member of Kentucky’s 2018 class when he committed back in February. Minutes later, his high school teammate, Marvin Alexander, made it two commitments from Chaminade-Madonna Prep on the same morning.

AKEEM HAYES
Athlete | 5-10 | 175 lbs.
Hollywood, FL | Chaminade-Madonna Prep
Committed: 6/20/17
★★★
ESPN No. 50 ATH Top247 No. 95 WR
Rivals Scout No. 160 WR

Yet another prospect from Chaminade-Madonna Prep made it three in UK’s 2018 class when Akeem Hayes flipped his commitment from Louisville to Kentucky earlier this summer. Hayes became the fifth player from Chaminade-Madonna to pick Kentucky over the last two years, all of whom were recruited by Eddie Gran. How’s that for a pipeline?

TYLER BENTLEY
Defensive Tackle | 6-3 | 295 lbs.
West Chester, OH | Lakota West
Committed: 6/11/17
★★★
ESPN No. 39 DT Top247 No. 67 DT
Rivals Scout No. 52 DT

Tyler Bentley hails from the same Ohio high school as new stud linebacker commit Xavier Peters. And like Peters, Bentley picked the Cats over offers from SEC powerhouses like Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and LSU.

KEATON UPSHAW
Tight End | 6-7 | 225 lbs.
Lima, OH | Lima Senior
Committed: 7/1/17
★★★
ESPN Top247 No. 41 TE
Rivals No. 33 TE Scout No. 25 TE

The first of the two 4th of July weekend commitments came from Keaton Upshaw, an athletic tight end out of — you guessed it — Ohio. Kentucky loves Upshaw’s upside and he adds a different dynamic to the tight end position than 2018 commit Brendan Bates.

DOMONIQUE WILLIAMS
Cornerback | 5-10 | 190 lbs.
Highland, KS | Highland C.C. (JC)
Committed: 6/15/17
★★★
ESPN Top247 No. 2 JUCO CB
Rivals Scout

Domonique Williams is the lone JUCO transfer in Kentucky’s current haul and a familiar name to UK assistant Dean Hood. A Knoxville native, Williams originally signed with Eastern Kentucky out of high school when Hood was the head coach, but he failed to qualify academically. He then committed to Colorado State and eventually made his way to Highland Community College, where he had 52 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass breakups as a freshman last season.

CHANCE POORE
Kicker | 6-3 | 200 lbs.
Anderson, SC | Westside
Committed: 6/6/17
N/A
ESPN Top247
Rivals Scout No. 2 | 2 PF

That’s a hell of a name for a kicker, but he trained with NFL kickers when he was only 14 years old and kicked his first 40-yarder in middle school.

 

Who’s next?

Hi, Blue Smith.

WATCH LIVE: Team USA plays Mali in the Round of 16

WATCH LIVE: Team USA plays Mali in the Round of 16

After rolling through pool play, Team USA is now in the Round of 16 in the FIBA World Cup. This morning, they’re taking on Mali, a live stream of which you can see below:

Yesterday, Team USA rolled over Italy 98-65. PJ Washington led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Cameron Reddish with 15.

Here’s the Round of 16 bracket:

If USA beats Mali and New Zealand beats Germany, Calipari, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo will square off against fellow Cat Tai Wynyard and the New Zealand team on Friday.


Kentucky lands star linebacker from Ohio

The University of Kentucky landed a big 4th of July Yahtzee with the commitment of Xavier Peters, a four-star outside linebacker out of Ohio.

Peters announced his commitment to the Wildcats via Twitter:

Ranked eighth at his position and No. 129 overall in his class, Peters picked Kentucky over offers from Alabama, USC, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and many more.

This is an enormous pull by Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow and the UK staff.