Good morning, beautiful KSR readers, and welcome to your Wednesday News and Views on an action-packed morning. Tuesday was an exciting day in the world of Kentucky sports with football prep work, basketball recruiting and strange shenanigans at the Wildcat Coal Lodge taking center stage. We’re getting into prime news season, which means the ridiculous will start to hit a little heavier and more frequently around here. This, of course, is a nice segue into our night post honoree (as chosen by the people), Bob Huggins. Huggy Bear, who holds a special place in my heart, is subjecting himself to his annual charity roast next week with one of the celebrity roasters being our very own Coach Cal. Calipari will be joined by Andy Kennedy, Frank Martin, Tommy Bowden, Lisa Lampanelli, Greg Giraldo and Jeff Ross in honoring and heckling West Virginia’s head coach, who I think is in more need of a domestic violence shelter than a roast after “falling in the bathroom” and getting a black eye and “falling down” and breaking his ribs. I’m sure it will be very similar to our Matt Jones roasts (don’t you have a birthday coming up, Matt?) except the people making the jokes will be more successful and less funny. And, yes, John Clay, I have noticed the relation between those two things. I get it. Anyway, in the meantime, feel free to get your Wednesday morning started with a Bob Huggins roast. Or maybe just a Bloody Mary. Either way, I’m sure Coach Huggins will appreciate it.
Now, onto some UK news…
– Just as you are getting all of your tailgating prep work in, the UK football team is also starting to fine tune their preparation for their September 4 showdown with Louisville. On Tuesday, the Cats held their final scrimmage and their first on the same field turf that they’ll play on at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. As far as the details of the practice, Joker spoke in generalities, saying that it was nice to get a simulation on the field and lightly touching on injuries and some of the position players. He did note that the backup running back position got a boost from the return of Donald Russell and what Phillips called “unbelievable” runs. Not the same unbelievable runs that one has after a night of drinking with Drew Franklin, but still impressive nonetheless, I’m sure.
– Since I didn’t get to include my two cents on the announcement of Mike Hartline as the starter (it’s more like ten or fifteen cents), here’s a brief thought. I think the most interesting part of the decision was Joker Phillips essentially saying that the distance on the depth chart between Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski was much smaller than the distance between Newton and Hartline. Now, given the inability to name a starter for so long, I don’t believe this to be true. Not even a little bit. However, I think this does send a statement that, for better or worse, this is Mike Hartline’s season and Joker knows that for Hartline to have any chance at being successful, he has to know that. This is the third consecutive off-season that the senior from Canton has entered camp battling for the starting job against a quarterback believed to not only possess more talent, but more upside as well. To Hartline’s credit, this is also the third straight year that he’s emerged victorious. In the previous two seasons, though, Hartline’s struggles had far more to do with what was going on inside his helmet than his inability to make an accurate throw or call an audible at the line. By giving him more than just a starting job and actually going out on a limb and saying that he had won it outright and that Newton might even be third on the depth chart, Joker is giving Hartline a chance for the first time to settle into being the starting quarterback without looking over his shoulder. If this is truly the case and this team is ready to live and die with Mike Hartline, then that can only benefit a quarterback who has looked anything but settled and confident over the past two seasons. However, if the race was actually closer than what was communicated to the public and the margin for error that Joker implied is not actually there, then I fear that the Hartline we see will again be over-thinking and lacking in confidence. Given the claim that the quarterback this year should “win” games and not manage them, Mike Hartline has to not only have a death grip on the starting job, he has to know it. And he has to know that every person in that locker room knows it. Joker did a great job by addressing that publicly. We can only hope that’s the message being reinforced in practice.
– On a basketball note, both Scout.com and Rivals released their new 2011 rankings. While there were mini-stories in both sites dropping Michael Gilchrist from their top ranking and Evan Daniels and crew placing Anthony Davis at the top of their list, the prevailing message was that UK’s 2011 class is going to come in with some serious expectations. The Cats have three of the top six players in each list and are, at the very least, rumored to be involved with the other three on some level. We could talk some more, but you already know.
– There could be some good football news on the horizon as Lexington Christian offensive tackle Zach West will choose his college during a press conference Wednesday. West’s final three are reported to be Kentucky, Penn State and Tennessee. According to Larry Vaught, the three-star tackle will pick the Cats. If so, he’d be another nice lineman in what is shaping up to be a very nice first class for Joker Phillips. If not, Larry knows a place where you can get a good meal and a beer to drown your sorrows in while texting your buddies on your Verizon phone.
– Down the I-64, Little Brother is facing a few eligibility concerns in both football and basketball. According to Mike Rutherford of the Card Chronicle, rumors are circulating that Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie did not complete the proper coursework in order to be eligible for the Filthy Cards this season and might not end up ever suiting up for Rick Pitino’s squad. On the football side of things, highly touted safety Demar Dorsey, who came to U of L after being dropped by Michigan and the Florida Department of Corrections, is still awaiting word of his eligibility and will likely not be ready in time for the UK game.
– According to the Courier-Journal’s Jody Demling, Bowling Green star Chane Behanan will visit Louisville on Wednesday. If he’s smart, the five-star forward will skip seeing U of L’s campus and just get one of those little bats with his name on it at the Slugger Museum. And, of course, have lunch at Big Blue Country.
– Finally, in case you missed it, there is more good news on the radio front as the Voice of the Wildcats and all around good guy Tom Leach will host a radio show on 1080AM in Louisville beginning on Monday. The show will air from 9-10 and I’m sure it will be outstanding. However, maybe not as outstanding as it could be if I were the co-host. Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Mr. Leach? Me and you, sharing bagels, talking about sports and how cool our first names are…it’s pretty much pre-destined radio gold. And it’s what the people want. Let’s talk.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout the day as Matt is joined in studio by Mark Krebs and Tom Leach and we make sure we give you your money’s worth all day long. Make sure you stick around. See you in a few…