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Seven Reasons To Go into this Week Very Happy


photo by Regina Rickert

Do you want to be extremely happy? I want you to be happy because I feel like everything is better when your mood is cheerful. And for the past month, if your happiness was solely dependent on the state of your favorite college sports team (which I hope it is not), then you might have not been that happy. The past 30 days or so have been trying for the Big Blue Nation as we watched our basketball season collapse, while also seeing unprecedented success for our uncultured vagrant cousins down the road. But the tide has shifted, and the last days have definitely seen a movement in our collective moods. Saturday night at the UK Spring Game was a cathartic celebration for Kentucky fans everywhere and it led me to start this week with Seven Reasons (Five Football and Two Basketball) Why You Should be Very Excited:

1. Fan Turnout at Spring Game was Amazing:

I know everyone has said it, but it bears repeating. What we saw Saturday night at the Spring Game was as powerful a step towards making UK football relevant as we have seen in a long time. Kentucky fans showed up, and not only did they show up, they came ready to party and celebrate a new era in a long dormant product. The 51,000 people who showed up (and yes this was the official attendance listed by UK, but I don’t think it was much of, if at all, an exaggeration) signaled that when it comes to the Kentucky football fan base, we are ALL IN. I stood on the field with a number of former players, including Tim Couch, Andre Woodson and Dicky Lyons and to a man they simply repeated, “I can’t believe this is happening.” The excitement was palpable before the game, when our preview show was rowdier than any from last season as fans celebrated a long-awaited return to relevancy. Spring games are by their very nature, less than exciting, but for the fans there it wasn’t the point. They wanted to make a statement that UK football mattered and that optimism was in the air and the 51,000 people there did that. It was the SECOND LARGEST CROWD IN AMERICA FOR A SPRING GAME THIS YEAR…behind only Nebraska. Read that sentence again and soak it in. And while you are at it, look at the pictures comparing this season’s Spring Game and last season’s. It definitely is a new era:


2. The Coaches Inspire Confidence:

You know how when John Calipari says something, you are almost certain it will happen? Well for me, when UK football coaches in the past have spoken, I have unfortunately almost felt the exact opposite. It culminated last Media Day, when Joker Phillips admonished me for not believing his team could win six games, and then subsequently costing me money when they won only two. But this group is different. When Mark Stoops speaks, I feel the quiet confidence that makes me think, “yes…this time it can happen.” Neil Brown and DJ Eliot have a look in their eyes that suggest, “just wait and see, we are going to surprise some people.” And the bounce in the step of every coach on the staff, leading to an energy from the players that was non-existent most of last year, makes me believe that a change is going to occur. Here is how much faith I have in the Stoops group. I honestly believe, if this group can’t do it here, it simply can’t be done. But I think it will be done and we got a great one.


Stoops posed for pictures with fans at Keeneland last weekend. We were told he was great with the many folks who approached him to wish good luck

3. The Recruits Are Noticing

It is going to be a big week in UK football recruiting. Two Four star players from Ohio are making a joint announcement this week and the smart money is on the Cats (both visited this weekend). But more importantly, there is a sense coming around the recruiting world that Stoops is going to get it done and make a huge change. A person who follows that world closely told me Saturday night, “Kentucky is quickly becoming the #2 school in Ohio for recruits (behind Ohio State)…if that continues, watch out.” Ohio is going to be THE fertile ground for Stoops and company and if they lock it up, as they are doing, we will see things here that we have never seen. As Zadarius Smith told me after the game on Saturday night, “The coaches here make you believe…you hear it when they talk. That is why I came here and a bunch of other guys will too.”


Photo by Regina Rickert

4. Speaking of Zadarius, He is a GAM

If you were at the game Saturday, one guy stood out more than any other. #94 Za’Darius Smith is the kind of player we don’t see much in these parts. He is a physical specimen that knows the fundamentals of line play and gets to the Quarterback almost at will. If the QBs could have been hit during the Spring Game, they may have been hurt, as Smith dominated the game during his playing time. Watching Smith play makes one believe he could be a future All-SEC guy as he showcases an athleticism that simply has not been a part of this program in some time. I spoke with him after the game and noted that he is also a great talker, who truly is thrilled to be in Lexington. He said, “I have never played before this many people in my life. These have to be the greatest fans in the world. I just can’t wait till this season.” Based on what we saw Saturday, we can’t either.

5. Jalen Whitlow Looks Really Good

The other huge takeaway from Saturday night was the slight surprise of seeing Jalen Whitlow emerge as the potential leader at the Quarterback battle. We had been hearing whispers all Spring that Whitlow was moving up and may have even had the best camp of any of the three guys. But those whispers turned into roars on Saturday, as Whitlow by far shined the brightest of the three quarterbacks. He was able to run at will (and was hurt more than the others by the inability to break tackles on scrambles due to the “touch” rule), but more importantly, showcased a significantly improved arm in the process. Every drive he led was efficient and he was the only player who consistently moved the football. You don’t base a starter on one Spring Game, but if you did, Whitlow would be the guy. And that means that with the confidence I already have in Max Smith and the potential of Patrick Towles, UK has a lot of options at the Quarterback position, which will clearly be one of this team’s strengths.

6. Andrew Wiggins Gave a Good Quote

As with every big recruitment, I think some fans are becoming a bit fatigued with all things Andrew Wiggins. But with that said, his performance at the Jordan Game, led to a quote that should make UK fans feel better. He said that the three most important qualities he is looking for with his decision are “coaching style, great facilities and great talent I can surround myself with.” Now if he really means this, how could the choice be anyone but Kentucky? The coaching style of Calipari, the facilities at UK and the talent at UK, are simply better than the other choices for a future NBAer. You could make a case for Kansas and North Carolina on the first two (if you so chose), but on the third, UK far outweighs everyone. And if these are the three criteria, Florida State shouldn’t even be in the conversation. Bottom line…if you want to feel good about Kentucky’s chances, you like this quote. But with that said, none of us still have any idea what he will do.


7. The Guys We Have Continue to Impress:

Julius Randle was the MVP of the Jordan Game and looked dominant. James Young has been scoring at will, the Twins are dishing assists left and right, Marcus Lee is hitting the glass and Dakari Johnson may have been the biggest surprise of the All Star circuit so far. Add in Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis (both of whom will be playing in the KENTUCKY DERBY CLASSIC this weekend in Louisville…you should check it out for sure), and you have a ton of reasons to be excited about the future. What is amazing about this group, especially when combined with Poythress, Cauley-Stein and Wiltjer, is that they will make up a core of guys who not only will excel next year, but their talent is so varied that a number will simply have to return the next year. That essentially means that you have created a monster team for two years, before even starting 2014 recruiting (where UK is situated very well). In short, the train is still rolling and next year is going to be unbelievably special.

So all of that should help get this April week off to a rollicking start. Like “El Pato”, Angel Cabrera, we should be able to smile no matter what happens and recognize that life is great. We are Kentucky and you are not…a line that sounds arrogant, but is also true. Fun lies ahead.

Listen up on radio tomorrow morning at 10 am and enjoy this picture of Darius getting it done in the league: 544735_10152725785045534_181141411_n

Article written by Matt Jones

42 Comments for Seven Reasons To Go into this Week Very Happy

  1. A turkey hunter
    10:38 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Also, it’s turkey season

  2. Jmack
    10:45 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Zadarius is a BEAST.

  3. Scott
    10:48 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Also new Game of Thrones tonight, so there’s a lot to be happy about.

  4. pooter
    11:04 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Also, my cat came back home. I think he has finally forgiven me

  5. TT's Fake Boobs
    11:07 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Also Flener has stopped those gay bachelor posts….

  6. Kcmunk
    11:18 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky football is here. I won’t say back because we haven’t been since the 50’s. With that said. How many games will we win??????? I say 4 would be incredible.

  7. Scott
    11:32 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    #6 – Seriously? Thanks for the [fun]ing spoilers.

  8. Bunzz
    11:33 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Umm, at the risk of sounding grown…what exactly is a “GAM”?

  9. fyi
    11:40 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Grown Ass Man

    11:41 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    the internet as a whole will crash if Wiggins ends up here…

  11. Kingslayer
    11:42 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    Hahaha #6 I already knew that! Read the books.

  12. cats11
    11:43 pm April 14, 2013 Permalink

    After googling GAM, I think its usage should cease here.

  13. SadCat
    12:13 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    God save the football cats.
    He is our only hope with the worst schedule in the NCAA.

  14. SadCat
    12:21 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Actually, i doubt God could care less.
    Our hope is Stoops and
    lots of big fast stoopid athletes
    who think they might make $ in the NFL.

  15. Gandalf the Blue
    12:37 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    15) cats11

    I hope you’re kidding. You’re kidding. Right?

  16. DJCats
    1:08 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Love the use of the adjectives vagrant and rollicking…Awesome! As football Cats fans go, we all know there is a sleeping giant lurking! Rich got us close, but unfortunately Joker couldn’t keep the momentum rolling. I can’t agree with your more about the confidence that Stoops is instilling in all of us. It’s great to be looking forward to football once again! Do you think Wiggins is waiting to make his decison based on Noel’s rehab progress and decision to go Pro, or is that a mute point?

  17. yevkazim
    2:06 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    I dont want to focus too much on this, but look how much bigger Lebron is than Darius.

  18. SeaCat
    2:17 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    17) So… Lebron is a freak of nature
    just like Magic Johnson was. 6’8″ guys
    that move like 6′ footers.

  19. Wildcatsteeler
    3:36 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    I love the enthusiasm but I know BBN all too well and when this season is the rebuilding one it is they will turn like the halfass fans they usually are. You’re foolin yourself if you think we are gonna do much in football this season. 5 wins is a successful season. Welcome to the SEC.

  20. Go Cards
    6:29 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    2013 Champs!!!!

  21. RealCatsFan
    6:30 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Sounds like Smith may return for UofL, and Dieng is not a definite to go in the draft. Card fans are thinking that they will repeat if both come back, but I’m not seeing it. College BB will be a lot stronger across the board last year, and everything just fell into place for them this year = perfect storm scenario. Plus, they would have to go through the Cats to get there! 🙂

    Excited to see what kind of improvements Stoops can bring about in football, but my REAL excitement lies in this monster recruiting class we have coming in for basketball!

  22. RealCatsFan
    6:34 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    19 – up until the final lousy games of Joker’s last year, UK’s football fans were still supporting them pretty well. As long as the team shows a competitive spirit and at least makes some exciting plays on offense the fans will hang around. Very few fane are delusional enough to expect much more than a 4 or 5 win season this year. Walk before running…. baby steps….etc.

  23. RealCatsFan
    6:35 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    17 – imagine the likes of Archie Goodwin or Russ Smith having to go up against that dude.

  24. Sta troya
    6:47 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    LBJ is a beast!

  25. fish on
    8:17 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    the bball team next year will be huge, in terms of shear size. 5 guys will weigh 240 lbs or bigger… 2 7-footers and 2 more that are 6-9/ 6-10. the guaurds will be 6-5, 6-5, and 6-6, and all 200 lbs. plus. AND they’re all McDonald’s All-Americans, except WCS- who should be the 1st big man picked in the nba draft.
    imagine other teams front lines banging against poythress, randle and dakari all game, then lee, WCS and wiltjer!

  26. barn
    8:26 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    we may only win 4 games this year but the future looks bright because UK has finally made a serious ($$) commitment to football. this is the first time i’ve been excited about football season since the year #2 came in

  27. Cats
    8:28 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    25, I was with you until you added Wiltjer in there. He’s not banging against anybody. He’s going back to his freshman role of hanging out on the perimeter and knocking down some threes which will help to create space everywhere else.

  28. Beverly
    8:52 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    @ 27 and there is nothing wrong with that :). That is Kyle’s strength – he can be the zone buster. That way he doesn’t really have to defend so much; he can pass the ball very well, plus he IS deadly from the three. I think he lost his mojo this year – just as I think there was some team turmoil issues going on. And because of those issues, I think Alex disappeared; something tells me that if everyone is working he’s good, but if they aren’t….

  29. Beverly
    8:55 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    I’m kinda done with the Wiggins thing right now – if he comes, great, if not, oh well. He won’t go ANYWHERE else that has the talent our Cats will have next year. Perhaps we should start focusing on what we do have, which is phenomenal, instead of giving so much attention to a “maybe.” We should be very, very good, if not great, next season. We have guys who want to wash the bad taste of ’12-’13 out of their mouths, and prove themselves. We have a bunch of young, hungry guys – including a couple of long-term players – ready to come in and show their stuff.

  30. Beverly
    8:59 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Guess I’m feeing talkative today :). We were at the spring game on Saturday. Had a great time – very VERY positive atmosphere, and a lot of excitement. There is obviously some work to do, but also have to consider these guys weren’t pushing so hard in a practice (to avoid injuries) it really was much like the football version of Madness. If Stoops manages somehow to get this team to a bowl game (6-6) I’m betting that CWS is completely packed next spring. Personally, I’ll be happy to double last year’s win total – and be competitive otherwise. AND I hope we keep up the schedule like we have this year – show we ARE NOT afraid to play those games, and we can only improve. Just my thoughts.

  31. WKU
    9:01 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Petrino is waiting.

  32. rixter
    9:05 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Petrino is going to drop to 0 – 2 against Kentucky in his last two games.

  33. Bunzz
    9:07 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    12- I was thinking the exact same thing. We need to come up with some better acronyms…

  34. Drew
    9:16 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    “Kentucky is quickly becoming the #2 school in Ohio for recruits (behind Ohio State)…if that continues, watch out.”

    As someone who follows the recruiting world very closely…UK has a long way to go to pass Michigan for Ohio recruits. Go look at their last two classes. UK is battling the Michigan State’s, Illinois’s, Pittsburgh’s, and other B1G schools for second tier Ohio talent not going to Michigan, Ohio State or Notre Dame.

  35. tyson
    9:37 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    I stand corrected about the turnout at the spring game. I thought we would be lucky to get 25,000 there. I went and it was a much better atmosphere for a practice than I could have imagined.

    The football team and coaching staff have to absolutely love the turnout. Hopefully Barnhart noticed it too and will continue to give money to the program where he hasn’t in the past. Can’t wait for the upgrades at Commonwealth to happen. Looking forward to a more competitive season this year and a few more wins next year and the year after.

  36. Bluekzu
    9:40 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    21. Nah, Dieng is gone. It’s looking like the NBA may not want Smith, though, so he may have to come back. Or not. Don’t really care either way. It’s going to be a lot more fun in the Bluegrass next season with what’s coming. Title or not. Lots. of. fun.

  37. fish on
    10:01 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    27- hey I bet kyle at 6-10, 240 lbs is bigger and stronger than any other teams 6th frontcourt player! see what I mean? but yes I hope he comes off the bench and drains 3s. actually we’ll have 2 7-footers and 3 6-9,6-10 guys, not just 2

  38. fish on
    10:05 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    27- hey is that all you got out of my post I was pointing out how huge this team will be. i’m thinking WCS will be a STUD next year

  39. dcKY76
    10:17 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    When is Pitino doing his whistle-stop tour of the state with the trophy? Wait…never mind!

  40. Generic
    10:45 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    UK still has that cheap looking banner they run under while coming onto the field under. High school teams have better entrances.

  41. Huh?
    11:16 am April 15, 2013 Permalink

    Why do you all think Russ Smith is coming back? Hasn’t he announced he’s going? And G Dieng should go this year if he’s smart, his stock will take a major hit with the loaded talent in next years class..

  42. Chicago Chris
    12:47 pm April 15, 2013 Permalink

    After seeing that pic, I went to view DM’s recent game stats. It looks like Darius is in a serious slump, unfortunately.