Can you believe it? We’re only one week from the start of Spring Practice in Lexington. The break between the fall and spring seasons does not feel so long following a New Year’s Day bowl victory.
Next Monday morning Mark Stoops’ team will strap on their helmets to prepare for the 2019 season for the first time. Unlike previous spring practices, there’s no quarterback competition, however, there aren’t a lot of returning stars either.
After seeing Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Benny, Baity and C.J. Conrad featured in promo videos over the last three years, there will be an adjustment period this spring. Kash Daniel, Lynn Bowden, A.J. Rose and Terry Wilson have captured the BBN’s attention, but who will be the next to emerge? There are plenty of prospective candidates — Boogie Watson, Josh Paschal, Davonte Robinson, Josh Ali, Ahmad Wagner, Justin Rigg — that can use this spring to assert themselves at the top of the Kentucky football food chain.
Over the next two months you’ll typically receive practice updates Tuesday and Thursday afternoons around lunchtime. All of the action will coalesce with the Blue/White Game, Friday, April 12, at Kroger Field. Beginning tomorrow season ticket holders can secure a spot at the game.
Before the players on campus begin preparation for the 2019 football season, Stoops’ coaching staff has been hosting the nation’s most talented prep prospects for unofficial visits. Last weekend they focused their attention on in-state prospects. This weekend their attention turned to the Buckeye State.
Unprecedented Talent in Lexington
Three of the four best football players in the state of Ohio were in Lexington this weekend. That’s great, but it’s even more crazy when you consider where each player is ranked.
- Paris Johnson Jr. — No. 1 OH, No. 5 overall, No. 1 OT
- Darrion Henry — No. 2 OH, No. 42 overall, No. 4 SDE
- Jaheim Thomas — No. 4 OH, No. 253 overall, No. 17 OLB
If you’re wondering where the third-ranked player in the class was, running back Michael Drennen visited campus last weekend.
Paris Johnson Jr.’s presence is quite shocking. When has UK ever had a Top 5 recruit on campus? I cannot personally recall, however, the 2020 class is making it a new norm. Justin Rogers, the nation’s top-ranked offensive guard and the No. 17 player overall, has been to UK more than once. Even though landing each player may appear to be a long shot on paper, the trips aren’t just for kicks and giggles.
Johnson is committed to Ohio State, but he committed when Urban Meyer was the head coach. Vince Marrow has made UK a viable option, and at this point in the recruiting season, that’s all you can ask for.
that Kentucky Blue goes hard.. no ?
— Paris Johnson Jr. (@ParisJohnsonJr) February 25, 2019
— Jaheim (@JaheimThomas454) February 23, 2019
They were not the only recruits in town. Cincinnati Colerain safety Deshawn Pace picked up a scholarship offer, his first from the SEC, after the visit. Sean Hill, a 2020 offensive tackle, made the trip from Georgia after visiting the University of Louisville. UK also hosted Miquan Grace, a three-star safety from Mike Edwards’ alma mater, Winton Woods.
KSBar is kind of a Big Deal
When the KSR braintrust decided to open a bar, the intention was to create a place for UK fans to gather in Lexington and celebrate the Cats. We never meant for it to become the place to take visiting recruits, but that’s what has happened.
When Stoops and Marrow host elite recruits on visits, they want each player to experience something that cannot be found anywhere else. The standing ovation they receive from UK fans on a game day at KSBar is not easily replicated. Some may come to campus believing UK is “just a basketball school.” The applause quickly debunks that myth. So far, it’s left a lasting first impression. I doubt our sports bar will convince anybody to commit to UK, but like the Big Dog, I’ll never second guess the power of smoked brisket.
How Good was Mike Edwards in 2018?
Not many would say Edwards was the best safety in the SEC, but the numbers do not lie. There was not another safety in the conference better at stopping the run than Kentucky’s Badger.
Willie McGinest: Josh Allen Fan
The former Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots is now employed by the NFL Network. Ahead of the draft and free agency season, the former Pro Bowl linebacker listed his top ten pass rushers on the market. UK’s Josh Allen was the first draft prospect to appear on the list, making his mark at No. 9.
“At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Allen is reminiscent of players like Whitney Mercilus, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, who all entered the NFL as big, versatile prospects. The Kentucky product, who is projected to be a top-three draft pick, sits this low on my list because he has yet to play a down in the league. It’s hard to slot prospects (even the most talented guys) above the players who have already proven themselves. But Allen is a guy who should come in and be a game-changer with multiple moves in his pass rush. He gets around the edge and tracks the quarterback well, but the one thing that really makes him special is how well he can cover and move in space.”
Weekly Alliance Update
I’m not sure if you care about this update, because according to their own production team, nobody cares. Nobody is watching.
— David Berrisford (@berrisforce) February 23, 2019
After three weeks of spring football, that clip perfectly sums up the fledgling league. The only noteworthy event from the weekend was the announcement of the inaugural Steve Spurrier Cruise happening this summer, but even the Old Ball Coach isn’t as entertaining as this dog.
This dog caught an 83-yard frisbee toss during halftime of the Orlando Apollos football game Saturday night. The PA announcer claims it’s an all-time record. Pretty impressive. pic.twitter.com/bLwCbFEzbG
— J.C. Carnahan (@JCCarnz) February 24, 2019
I take it back — there was one cool Kentucky thing in the Alliance this week. Former Franklin County quarterback Logan Woodside threw a 42-yard touchdown to former Louisville Moore wide receiver Mekale McKay.
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 25, 2019
Josh Allen is Jacked
It’s safe to say the elite edge rusher is ready for the Combine.
— EXOS Sports (@EXOSsports) February 25, 2019
I will be in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend. Interviews begin Thursday afternoon, but C.J. Conrad is kind enough to join me on the radio tomorrow morning at 9:00 am on Kentucky Roll Call. There are a few different ways you can listen to it live on Big X Sports Radio. Workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium begin for the Wildcats Friday morning, with Benny Snell up first.
My first trip to the NFL Combine, it will be an exciting people-watching venture. However, there is one enormous downside: Josh Allen and Jordan Jones’ interview window is right in the middle of the UK-Tennessee game. The one downside will ultimately be worth it. Eight Wildcats will prove they belong in the NFL and I’ll be there to witness it all firsthand for Kentucky Sports Radio.