Football Season Coverage
By Zack Geoghegan on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 7:00pm
It almost feels odd when Kentucky football is heavily featured on any type of “watch list”, but with the recent success over the past few seasons, it shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl, which takes place on Jan. 25 of 2020, has announced it’s watch list for the most hyped seniors heading into the 2019 season. And five of the veteran Cats made the cut.
Linebacker Kash Daniel, safety Jordan Griffin, offensive guard Logan Stenberg, defensive end Calvin Taylor Jr., and offensive tackle Mason Wolfe were all named to the watch list, which will ultimately be cut down to 110 players. The teams will be divided by North and South regions.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 21, 2019
It’s also important to keep in mind that this is not a finalized list and players can be added throughout the season. So it’s possible we could see another Wildcat or two pop up on this list if they impress during the fall.
Over 120 SEC players made the first list. Highly ranked schools such as Alabama will feature six seniors while Georgia had 10 make the cut. South Carolina touts the third most seniors to make the list of any school in the country with 11.
Ten days away from the start of the 2019 Kentucky football season, we’re counting down the top ten games of the Mark Stoops era.
The first win on the list is Stoops’ first win away from Commonwealth Stadium. This victory snapped a 22-game road losing streak for Kentucky football and set the tone for future Kentucky performances on the road.
No. 10: Kentucky 26, South Carolina 22 – September 12, 2015
Before Kentucky and South Carolina went at it, the Cats were coming off an over-achieving 5-7 season that ended on a sour note. After starting the season 5-1, with a defining victory over the Gamecocks a year ago, the Cats lost the remaining six games on their schedule. But with plenty of returning pieces, it felt like the Kentucky rebuild was way ahead of schedule. Except there was one more monkey to get off their back…
The road losing streak.
Kentucky had lost 22-consecutive times on the road dating back to 2009.
Fresh off a narrow victory to Louisiana-Lafayette to open up the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium, and with Florida on the horizon the following week, this game was crucial to keep Kentucky’s momentum rolling. This season had hopes of not only ending the road losing streak, but a bowl-less streak that had haunted the Cats for five years.
In front of a raucous William-Brice Stadium, the Patrick Towles led Kentucky Wildcats looked to seize the moment.
A First-Half Statement
After throwing an interception from his own three-yard line on the first drive of the game — which led to a South Carolina touchdown on the next play — Patrick Towles needed an answer to silence the South Carolina faithful and his critics.
The ensuing drive, Towles marched the Wildcats 80 yards down field and executed a crucial 4th&4 dart to Garrett Johnson, which was followed by a Mikel Horton touchdown run to tie the game at seven and kill the Gamecocks’ early momentum.
Kentucky would rattle off 17 unanswered points following the Horton touchdown behind a prolific rushing attack (including another JoJo Kemp touchdown) on four straight drives. It was capped off with a barreling run into the end zone by Patrick Towles to give the Cats a 24-7 lead before the half.
Ware’s Scoop for Two
Kentucky was on the ropes after the prolific Shannon Dawson offense (trust me, it’s sarcasm) stalled out in the entire second half. Despite Kentucky’s defense having a stellar game, when your offense isn’t moving the ball, it puts the defense in some bad spots. This gave the Gamecocks an opportunity to mount a comeback.
From down 24-7, the Gamecocks fought all the way back to make it a 24-22 ball game. With 8:09 left in the game, the ole ball coach decided to go for two to tie the game and put the pressure on the stagnant Kentucky offense to win the game.
Steve Spurrier called a Wildcat run with Pharoh Cooper taking the snap. South Carolina’s star wide receiver dropped the ball on the goal line. Denzil Ware scooped it up to take it to the house for a MASSIVE four-point swing to give Kentucky a 26-22 lead.
Ware’s scoop and score ended up being the only points UK scored in the second half.
Looking back on the moment Ware said, “At the end of the game, in their stadium, hearing everybody go quiet…It felt good. I felt like Steph (Curry) when he hit the three in the fourth and silenced the game.”
Welcome, Chris Westry
In his first game in blue and white, Westry corralled a quiet four tackles in the week one victory. In week two, Chris Westry made his name known amongst the Big Blue Nation.
Westry struck on the first play of the second quarter when he sped by the South Carolina right tackle to get his first career sack at the expense of Connor Mitch to force a fourth down after Kentucky grabbed a 14-7 lead.
Then, at the goal line midway through the fourth quarter, Westry broke up a crucial pass in the end zone, which forced South Carolina to settle for a field goal. Considering Kentucky won by four points, trading seven for three here was massive for the Cats.
For the finale, Westry promptly introduced himself to the Kentucky faithful with a crucial interception. South Carolina was driving down the field, for the inevitable go-ahead score that would shatter Kentucky fans’ hearts once again.
After marching into Kentucky’s territory, Perry Orth — who stepped in for the injured Connor Mitch — scrambled to his left and threw across his body. Orth’s passed sailed right into the hands of Chris Westry. It was the first interception of Westry’s career, earning him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Kentucky milked the remaining four minutes to walk out of Columbia, South Carolina with a 26-22 victory to win their first road game since 2009.
In the immediate aftermath, some say that Kentucky’s locker room that night was one of the happiest locker rooms they had ever seen. After the game, Stoops even admitted that it was fun and he was jacked up to get this win for a program that hadn’t yet arrived, but took a massive step forward with the win.
After the road win, Kentucky would go on to lose to Florida the following week. Kentucky finished the season 5-7 and bowl-less after a crippling five-game losing streak midway through the season.
How Kentucky finished the season factored into where this game fell on the list, but we can’t discount its significance. It was the season-defining victory that allowed Kentucky to step forward as a program. This game also opened the door to much bigger road victories down the line, which has given Stoops’ troops a reputation for rising to the occasion on the road.
In some ways, this game shaped the SEC East we see today. It was truly an end of a dynasty as Steve Spurrier stepped down as the ole ball coach exactly one month after the loss. As we know all too well, Kentucky has now defeated South Carolina five straight seasons, a streak that will be put to the test in Columbia September 28.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Mel Kiper Jr. thinks as many as seven wide receivers could go in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft, including Kentucky’s own Lynn Bowden.
During a special guest appearance on “Golic and Wingo” on ESPN Radio earlier today, Kiper Jr. said Bowden is among the many talented offensive players in college football this season.
“Lynn Bowden at Kentucky, Jalen Reagor at TCU are two others that could’ve been on the big board, that are in that 26-30 range,” he said, when breaking down his top prospects.
“Five (wide receivers) in the top 25, maybe seven in the first round come late April.”
Hear Kiper Jr.’s comments below:
You can read Kiper’s entire Big Board here, although there is no mention of Bowden in there.
However, Logan Stenberg earned a mention as Kiper Jr.’s third best senior offensive guard.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Could the Kentucky football team add a current LSU defensive back and former top-50 recruit to their roster?
It certainly looks like a possibility.
LSU sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph, who has been in and out of the transfer portal since May, announced on his Twitter page this morning that he will be considering six schools moving forward as he makes his transfer decision.
The finalists? Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Mississippi State, Grambling State, and Maryland.
No order ?
— Kelvin Joseph || (@bossmanfat1) August 21, 2019
As a freshman last year, Joseph played in 11 games for the Tigers, where he recorded 12 tackles and one pass breakup, including a career-best four tackles in a win over Ole Miss. He also saw action on special teams on LSU’s coverage units.
According to his player profile page on LSU’s official website, Joseph is a “tremendous cover corner with good ball skills and thee ability to make plays on the ball downfield. Has blazing speed. Physical player who is a good tackler. Has a knack for finding the football. Thrives in man coverage. Good hips with the ability to change direction with ease.”
Coming out of high school in 2018, Joseph was ranked No. 42 overall nationally by 247 Sports Composite. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound, who held offers from LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, and Georgia, among others, was also named a U.S. Army All-American.
On his Twitter page last month, he told teams interested in recruiting him that he is comfortable playing all positions in the secondary.
“You can recruit me as a corner/safety/nickel,” he said. “I’m all that.”
Though classes start at Kentucky next week and getting a transfer waiver approved this late in the process would likely be difficult, bringing in elite talent at a position of need would certainly be massive for practice this season and depth moving forward.
Check out his high school highlights below:
Come on down, Mr. Joseph.
By Nick Roush on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 1:00pm
The Big Dog’s big dogs are giving Kentucky different looking options through the air and a more versatile attack on the ground.
Eddie Gran’s base package will likely be 12 personnel in 2019. That means UK’s offense will start with one running back and two tight ends, with Keaton Upshaw lined up behind Justin Rigg as an H-back. In this package, UK can still use all of its zone run plays, but with the addition of a lead blocker that can be used in a variety of ways.
“It’s very easy to run in 12 personnel,” said A.J. Rose. “You’ve got the big fatties in there. They lead it up top. We love them guys. I’d have to say that’s my favorite personnel to run in.”
The lead blocker can plow straight ahead. He could also pull to the other side away from the zone blocking, providing a counter-action that gives Rose and Co. a cut-back lane.
“It’s an extra blocker, an extra read. You’re getting an extra person blocked and getting more one-on-one matchups with safeties or corners. I can’t wait for August 31st for me to be matched-up with one of their safeties or corners, making them miss and taking it the distance,” said Rose.
The H-Back could also simply chip the defender and release down the seam for an easy dump pass out of a play-action. Big, reliable targets, the tight ends’ versatility gives Gran and Terry Wilson a ton of options. Even if they aren’t open, Wilson can get through his progressions to find a running back for another one-on-one opportunity in the open field.
“It’s getting us in one-on-one situations with linebackers in the open-field. I don’t think any of us are easy to tackle in the open field,” said Rose. “Catching the ball in open air is better for us, better for the quarterback and better for our team as well.”
When the Cats go big in 12 personnel, it gives the offense just two other wide receivers. Lynn Bowden will surely fill one spot. Josh Ali or Ahmad Wagner will step into the other. One year removed from the hardwood, Wagner is a completely different wide receiver.
“I’m just a lot more comfortable. Another year of understanding the offense has helped me tremendously. I’m able to play faster,” Wagner told KSR. “I really have to credit the other receivers and my coach. They really helped me get good at a lot of different routes so that teams can’t only play me for the fade. They have to worry about every other route I can run.”
When he’s not running routes, Wagner is attacking defenders with his hands as a blocker. During Tuesday’s practice, he helped spring Lynn Bowden free on an end-around that would have resulted in six points. At 6-7, 235 pounds, Wagner is essentially another tight end on the field, just split out wide.
“You got to want to block. Our receivers, we want to block. We want to help our running backs. We have really talented running backs and blocking on the perimeter is important,” said Wagner.”
Kentucky may have lost its all-time leading rusher, but they added a few different ways to attack opposing defenses on the ground in 2019.
By Nick Roush on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 11:30am
Just hours after Nick Roush walked off the Kentucky football practice field, he hopped on the mic alongside Adam Luckett to record another episode of 11 Personnel. The gang has a much better idea of where the Cats stand before Week Zero of the college football season kicks off Saturday night in Orlando. Highlights:
— Feeling better at corner, but still iffy on nickel.
— Four players that really stood out at open practice.
— Coach Clink is tearing up the recruiting trail in Michigan.
— “That beer is going to be gone by the second quarter.”
— The best college football season win total over/unders.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 10:40pm
Tough news out of Kentucky football practice today.
Following today’s practice, UK head coach Mark Stoops announced freshman quarterback Nik Scalzo’s injury on Saturday was, in fact, a torn ACL.
According to Stoops, Scalzo’s injury came on a non-contact play and was the same knee he injured back in high school.
The Kentucky freshman will have surgery and miss the entire 2019 football season.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
The most popular sport in the state of Kentucky has seen a steady decline in participation over the previous four years.
In an article posted by Lee Howard of WKYT, football is losing high school players in the Bluegrass state, and there are many possible factors that can be attributed to the drop in numbers.
The Kentucky High School Athletics Association reported a loss of more than 1,000 players (from 14,305 in 2015 – an all-time high – to 13,0745 in 2019), which isn’t a massive decrease, but enough to raise concerns.
“For us that’s not that big of a decline, but where we are losing them is the non-varsity level,” Tackett told WKYT. “The problem is if you sit and think about it, that doesn’t bode well for the future.”
The overall number of high school student-athletes competing in the state of Kentucky last season was actually at an all-time high despite the drop in football.
The most attributable factor in the decline would be the controversies surrounding piling evidence of CTE found in NFL players along with high numbers of concussions. Which is a valid criticism regarding what is an obviously more dangerous sport than others, such as basketball, baseball, or soccer. Parents don’t want their child to potentially receive repeated blows to the head at an early age. These numbers shouldn’t be shocking. But some coaches still take the old school route in their explanation.
“I don’t think we live in a society now where maybe toughness is as respected as it was maybe 15 to 20 years ago, and so the badge of courage or the badge of honor you might say, that I had when I grew up playing is kind of gone or washed away,” said East Jessamine coach Mike Bowlin to WKYT.
OR, maybe. Justtttt maybe. Parents actually want to see their children not landing back first on the field after a crushing blindside blow to the cranium. This isn’t a matter of being weak or tough. It’s a matter of seeking out what parents believe is best for their child. Personally, football is not a sport I would want my son to participate in. And I have zero issues with anyone who does, either. It comes down to safety and how safe or unsafe the environment is deemed.
And until there can be concrete evidence which supports the positive health impacts of playing football longterm, these numbers will only likely continue to slide.
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
The countdown to Kentucky’s first game against Toledo will hit 10 days tomorrow and if you’re like all of us here at KSR, those ten days will feel like an eternity.
So over the next ten days, I will help you all pass the time by reliving the best 10 games from the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky.
Now, just so we’re clear, ‘best’ is kind of a loose term in this sense. If we were going off the quality of the game itself we would see games like the EKU overtime victory make the list (oof). That obviously will not be the case.
Some of the factors that will play into the ranking of the 10 games will be the importance of these games, the events following each game the quality of the game, and which games were the biggest in progressing Kentucky’s football program into what it is today.
Starting tomorrow, be on the lookout for the tenth-best game of the Mark Stoops era.
Does anybody have any guesses on what number 10 will be?
Here’s a fun offer for your Kentucky-Toledo game day experience:
UK has partnered up with TailgateGuys.com to provide a unique experience at Kroger Field on opening Saturday. With the new Tailgate & Ticket Special Offer, fans can get a lower-level seat at the game plus two hours of tailgating fun with free Lyles BBQ and more.
For more information or to purchase the package, click here.
It is also available for Kentucky’s second game against Eastern Michigan.
The deal costs $40 per game.
If you were waiting to take advantage of the Pocket Pass, UK’s flexible football season ticket option; sorry, you waited too late.
The ticket office announced it sold completely out of its Pocket Pass options for the upcoming 2019 football season. The passes went on sale back in March and now all 900 have been purchased.
The Pocket Pass allows fans to take in all eight home games with the convenience of mobile ticket delivery. According to the news release, the first 500 Pocket Passes were sold at $225 apiece and the remaining passes sold for $250 apiece.
Last week we learned the Four-Game Flex Packs sold out, so it is clear the 10-win, Citrus Bowl season ignited a lot of excitement across the fan base. There are also five thousand new season ticket holders ready to storm Kroger Field this season.
Season tickets are still available at UKFootballTix.com starting at $280 apiece.
It’s almost here!
By Nick Roush on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Before he was an All-SEC wide receiver, Lynn Bowden was a talented high school quarterback. He’s only thrown a few passes over the last two years, but Bowden can still sling it.
Quarterback Lynn Bowden pic.twitter.com/GTIxe8IIgv
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) August 20, 2019
Bowden was seen throwing passes, instead of catching them, quite often throughout Kentucky’s 15th preseason practice. From receiver drills, to 7-on-7 and even 11-on-11, Lynn was letting it fly.
“I just wanted to show off my arm a little bit, just show them I still got it.” Bowden said he’s not trying to take Terry Wilson’s job, still, Wilson can feel the heat.
“He’s been looking good out there,” said Wilson. “He’s been throwing the ball good, so I’m going to have to beat him up and tell him it’s my position.”
Stoops happily got in on the joke, or is it a joke?
“He can do a lot of things,” said Stoops. “We’ll continue to fool around with him there.”
In his first season as a Wildcat, Bowden completed 3-of-4 passes out of the Wildcat formation for 92 yards. The lone incompletion was an interception. Just like in his first year, when Bowden was throwing the football at Tuesday’s practice, he was throwing it deep. Even if it’s only implemented once every few games, it can do just enough to force the defense to honor the potential pass, giving Bowden more room to operate in the run game.
“It adds more stress to the defense. They probably won’t know he can throw the ball like that,” said Terry Wilson. “They probably think he’s just going to run it. Then he pulls and throws a 60-yard yard bomb or something like that. It catches the defense on their heels. It’s explosive. It’s definitely going to be something for the defense to keep their eyes open to.”
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran knows that for his unit to be successful, Bowden needs as many touches as possible. If that means letting him rip it out of the Wildcat, so be it.
“You wanna try to get a guy that can make plays, you want to get him the ball anyway that you can,” said Gran. “We’re going to have him touches from everywhere, whether it be the X, Y, F, Z position. We’ll have him at quarterback, running back. He’s going to be a lot of different places.”
Lynn Bowden is not putting Terry Wilson’s job in jeopardy anytime soon. In fact, Bowden’s ability to get open will provide Wilson with plenty of job security. Anything to help a friend.
“We’re like peanut butter and jelly,” Bowden said, “I’m the peanut butter. I’m tough, tough to swallow.”
As training camp nears a conclusion, the Kentucky football coaches opened up practice to the media. If consuming practice notes does not float your boat, highlights from the individual drill portion of practice will do just the trick to get you fired up for August 31.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 2:45pm
August 31 will be the first time Toldeo has played Kentucky, and it won’t be the last. According to FB Schedules, the Cats have agreed to a new three-year series with the Rockets beginning in 2025.
Vince Marrow’s alma mater will return to Lexington on August 30, 2025. On September 4, 2027, Kentucky will travel to Toledo, and the next year, the Rockets will return the favor for the 2028 home opener. Here’s an updated look at Kentucky’s future non-conference opponents from FB Schedules in case you really want to plan ahead:
|9/5 – Eastern Michigan||9/4 – Louisiana-Monroe||9/3 – Miami (OH)||9/2 – Ball State||8/31 – Akron||8/30 – Toledo||9/5 – Akron||9/4 – at Toledo||9/2 – Toledo|
|9/19 – Kent State||9/17 – Youngstown State||9/9 – Eastern Kentucky||9/21 – Ohio||9/19 – Youngstown State|
|10/10 – Eastern Illinois||11/20 – New Mexico State||9/24 – Northern Illinois||9/16 – at Akron||11/16 – Murray State||9/26 – South Alabama|
|11/28 – at Louisville||11/27 – Louisville||11/26 – at Louisville|
Odds Kentucky ends up buying out the 2027 game ala Eastern Michigan this year?
Back on January 26th, Tennessee defensive tackle Tre’vonn Rybka received his first Power Five scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky. Following the Wildcats in the next three-plus months with offers were Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Arizona, West Virginia, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, LSU, Arkansas, Boston College, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Nebraska. It’s unclear whether each of them were committable offers, but it’s evident that Mark Stoops and his staff were early to the party.
Derrick LeBlanc was the point man on this recruitment and records his second crootin’ win of the 2020 cycle after reeling in offensive lineman Joshua Jones earlier this summer. In the end, the interior defensive lineman picked the Wildcats over Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Oregon as Kentucky dipped into the Volunteer State for a very intriguing prospect. Tre’vonn Rybka is the sixth highest rate recruit currently in this class, per the 247 Sports composite, and adds to an impressive defensive line haul.
Now it’s time to go into the KSR Film Room to show you what the Dickson County senior will be bringing to Lexington in 2020. It’s taken awhile, but under Derrick LeBlanc this defensive line group is climbing the ladder in the SEC.
In Kentucky’s 3-4 defense this season you are essentially going to see a nose man and two guys lined up on the offensive tackles. In a 3-4 Eagle Front, you essentially have two guys lined up on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackles. In football lingo, this is called a 4i technique while the nose on the center is a zero technique. The 4i fits exactly what Tre’Vonn Rybka does best.
In high school, the 6-foot-4 defensive end is an anchor on the line of scrimmage. In the 3-4 scheme, you are playing a lot of isolation football with the offensive tackles and you need to have some power game. Rybka has a loaded lower body with what appears to be a strong upper core. That allows him create a push at the point of attack and make a play. Here that power results in a quarterback sack.
Yes, you need to have big and physical defensive line players at the line of scrimmage that can hold up and battle with big and strong offensive centers, guards, and tackles. That’s the most important part of the game, but you also must be able to move and make plays away from your starting point. On film, Tre’Vonn Rybka does that.
Above you see the jumbo defensive end start on the opposite of the play and in pursuit he factors into the tackle yards past the line of scrimmage. Athleticism and motor is a big part of the position and Rybka shows he has both of those traits.
The name of the game is establishing the run and stopping the run. A big reason for UK’s 10-win season in 2018 was their ability to do that on both sides of the football. We’ve seen Tre’vonn Rybka factor in on pass rush and pursuit, but the best part of his game might just be his run stuffing ability.
On this zone read action, Rybka does a great job with read and react defense. The defensive end delivers a strong punch and knocks the left tackle backwards. He quickly diagnoses the handoff and makes a sure tackle for a minimal gain. His presence here was much needed because the center and left guard got some great movement on the defensive tackle.
At the college level, the defensive end is going to have to make plays exactly like this to be a force in the run game. You must win at the point of attack, read and react, and then make a play on the football.
The Nashville metropolitan area native is another big recruiting win for the UK staff. After years of a slow build which included a ton of junior college plug-and-play players, Kentucky finally seems to be in a good spot attracting talented high school defensive line prospects.
In the 2020 class, Tre’vonn Rybka joins two other prospects (Samuel Anaele and Justin Rogers) who are both blue-chip recruits. All of a sudden, this position group is starting to become a team strength and Kentucky will be hopeful that Rybka will have the same impact as the last time they dipped into Tennessee to grab a nose guard (Quinton Bohanna) in 2017.
On the field, the borderline composite four-star prospect brings size, power, and athleticism. With a powerful lower body and room to add strength on top, he’s a schematic fit for UK’s 3-4 defensive end. It’s another solid 2020 recruiting win and quietly Derrick LeBlanc is becoming one of UK’s most valuable assistants.
By Nick Roush on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 12:24pm
Mark Stoops opened the doors of the Joe Craft Football Training Facility to the media for practice No. 15. Enjoy observations from sideline on each position group after watching the Cats in action for an hour.
- The first group in 7-on-7: Cedrick Dort, Jordan Griffin, Yusuf Corker and Jamari Brown.
- Stoops asks Mosley why he is covering grass. The head coach is giving lot of individual attention to the DBs.
- Jamari Brown plays physical in bump coverage vs. Wagner.
- Mosely has some work to do in man coverage. The JUCO transfer is too slow to react when receivers break.
- Brown makes another physical play as the ball arrives. This guy has the potential to bring what Baity and Lonnie brought to the secondary.
- Echols is the only guy who’s come close to covering Bowden.
- Corker breaks up stuff across the middle in zone from safety. He was much more efficient as a safety than a nickel.
- Paschal blowing up running plays while defending the slot. Covering nicely too, giving Rigg nothing on the wheel route.
- Wright getting in work at Sam linebacker. Stoops said he’ll work both spots, likely the No. 2 option at each.
- Weaver and Casey are rolling with the twos; Casey is doing a good job keeping his outside shoulder free and forcing everything inside.
- Peters is way too good to be with the threes, especially in pursuit from the backside, but that’s what they have to do until they receive word from the NCAA.
- Q moves so damn well for his size. He’s an enormous nose guard that’s as agile as an end.
- Calvin Taylor has gotten quicker out of his stance.
- Bohanna is taking up two and sometimes three guys each snap. That’s how you blow up the middle of an offense.
- T.J. Carter practiced sparingly, slightly banged up after a grueling camp.
- Schlarman: “The cameras are on you. Your ass better not look like crap.”
- I really like the counter action they use with the tight end/H-back. It happens fast and gives the RB an extra two yards to get a head full of steam to get to and through the second level of the defense.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
- Bowden makes Griffin look stupid in one-on-ones.
- Wagner is exponentially quicker out of breaks, getting better separation.
- Nobody can guard Lynn Bowden at all.
- Ali gets a 1-on-1 with Dort and makes him pay. Terry delivered the deep ball to him in stride on the fade.
- Marrow absolutely lost his mind when Rigg dropped a pass over the middle. He’s heaped plenty of praise on his guys in the preseason. They can’t let him down when the lights turn on Saturdays.
- B.J. Alexander makes a great catch through solid coverage on a deep out from Smith. He probably won’t play this year, but he’s showing a lot of potential to contribute next year, while still making simple mistakes like carrying the ball in his inside arm.
- Gran refuses to curse. “Do you understand it? Gosh almighty, dang!”
- C-Rod shows patience in Wildcat.
- Smoke is rocking a red jersey, but still participating in 11-on-11.
- Sawyer Smith is hitting guys in stride out of their breaks.
- Bowden is throwing in WR drills and 7-on-7s. Most are under thrown, but they’re good looking spirals.
- Bowden’s favorite ball to throw is the deep ball.
- Smith is making the right reads in 11-on-11, dropping a beautiful ball in Clevan Thomas’ bucket on a wheel route. This guy is a solid back-up for TW3.
- Terry is getting to his third and fourth reads pretty seamlessly. He had a great start to the day but had a few throws he’d like to get back in the second half of practice.
The Big Takeaways
1. “Quarterback Lynn Bowden”
Kentucky’s top wide receiver is also QB3. This year the Wildcat quarterback will not just be a running threat. If Bowden shows anything in the passing game, opposing defenses must honor the deep threat every time he takes a snap. He’s thrown a few balls before, but the former high school quarterback failed to deliver right away. He has enough arm power and accuracy. As training camp nears a conclusion, they’re working him into the action more often in practice to improve his timing, and more importantly, keep him from receiving too much contact from the defense.
2. Brandin Echols HAS to play
The JUCO cornerback simply doesn’t let the opposing wide receivers do what they want. Nobody can cover Bowden, except Echols. Wagner is at least six inches taller than Echols, but it did not matter. Echols knocked him off his route and took him out of the play. He will be the closest thing Kentucky has to a “lock down” corner. Coming off a summer hamstring injury, UK’s coaches need to do whatever they can to make sure Echols receives as many snaps as possible.
3. Finding a Nickel will be Difficult
The Cats are really going to miss Mike Edwards. UK’s secondary has a few different candidates who can provide competent run support, but Corker, Ajian and Griffin struggled to cover slots in man coverage. To be fair, they’re usually covering Lynn Bowden. Davonte Robinson’s absence will be felt until one player rises to the occasion.
4. Ahmad Wagner will Contribute
The former basketball player’s greatest advantage is also a disadvantage. Corners can’t match up with his size, but it also slows him down. You can tell Wagner’s anticipation at the position has exponentially improved. He wasn’t just catching jump balls, he was beating corners cutting out of breaks. When he’s not catching passes, he’ll be a valuable asset blocking on the outside.
5. Leaning on 12 Personnel
Kentucky’s base offense will feature Josh Ali, Lynn Bowden, Justin Rigg and Keaton Upshaw as the H-back. The big guys make the Cats more dynamic in the run game and they’re big targets in the middle of the field. There’s a ton of potential out of this personnel grouping, but the inexperienced bigs must grow up fast to become consistent weapons.
After previewing the entire offense (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line) we are finally wrapping up the defense after touching on the defensive line, edge, and inside linebackers. This year, Mark Stoops and his secondary coaches have a ton to replace. Just how much?
161 starts. 853 tackles. 38 tackles for loss. 4.5 sacks. 24 interceptions. 79 pass break-ups. 8 forced fumbles. 3 blocked kicks.
That’s a lot.
Then you add in the loss of redshirt junior Davonte Robinson for the season before training camp started and there are a lot of unanswered questions entering the fall. After being one of college football’s best secondary units last year, the Wildcats must now try to reload in 2019.
When Mark Stoops was hired, many were excited about what he would bring to the defensive side of the football. For years, the Wildcats had put points on the board, but have struggled to stop people. Under Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips, Kentucky only recorded one top-40 defense (2008) per S&P+. The hope was that Stoops could quickly build on that side of the ball.
It was a slow start for the former Arizona and Florida State defensive coordinator with Kentucky only finishing in the top-60 (2014) once in his first five seasons on campus. That all changed this past season.
Behind the best defensive player in college football and five seniors in the secondary, the Wildcats ranked first in the SEC in scoring defense and finished 15th overall per S&P+. It was a dominant unit for most of the season and the secondary was a big reason why.
After a slow climb that began in 2015 with Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards, and Chris Westry all breaking into starting roles as freshmen, the Wildcats slowly started to improve. Edwards became an All-SEC player and was drafted. Lonnie Johnson, a junior college prospect, rode a strong senior season into a draft selection. Both Derrick Baity and Chris Westry seem set to make rosters for the Cowboys and Texans. This isn’t even including Darius West who collected 171 tackles and four interceptions the last two seasons.
Mark Stoops, Steve Clinkscale, and Dean Hood have proven they can build a good secondary when give the right pieces and time. Now Kentucky must start the rebuild with six former high three-star/four-star recruits and two junior college transfers.
The Secondary Room
At Kentucky, the Wildcats split up the secondary between two position coaches. Steve Clinkscale handles the corners while former Wake Forest defensive coordinator and Eastern Kentucky head coach Dean Hood guides the safeties. Both have their hands full this season, but there is one very important upperclassmen.
Jordan Griffin is entering senior season and the former high three-star recruit, per the 247 Sports composite, needs to be good for Kentucky this season. The defensive back has moved all over the secondary, but appears set to have one of the starting safety spots locked up in 2019. The Atlanta area native has made one career start, has played in 33 games, and has 41 tackles with one career interception. Those numbers have to improve this season.
Next to Griffin at safety figures to be either Tyrell Ajian or Yusuf Corker. Both are former blue-chip recruits and Ajian played in all 13 games last season while being the sixth defensive back used in UK’s dime packages. Corker, meanwhile, also played in all 13 games but mainly in a special teams role. Kentucky needs one to emerge and take control of that starting spot. True freshman Moses Douglass also figures to factor into this battle.
Now it’s time to switch to corner where Kentucky has zero experience returning. At the defense’s boundary corner spot, redshirt sophomore Cedrick Dort, Jr. is the expected starter. The South Florida native was redshirted due to a high ankle sprain injury last season after playing in nine games as a true freshman. At just 5-foot-11, Dort will be giving up some size at the position but was a physical and solid tackler coming out of high school.
At the field corner spot, junior college transfer Brandin Echols was the heavy favorite to start at this spot after recording six interceptions and 12 pass break-ups at Northwest Mississippi Community College last fall. However, he’s been hampered in fall camp by a hamstring injury. That has meant two freshmen being thrown into the fire.
Redshirt freshman Jamari Brown figured to be the next guy up at this spot, but one of the stars at camp appears to be true freshman M.J. Devonshire. The high three-star recruit has been lauded by Vince Marrow and could be the day one starter if Brandin Echols isn’t able to run with the ones during game prep. The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native had eight interceptions as a senior in high school in addition to being an explosive playmaker on offense. Don’t be surprised if he’s the team’s starting kick returner.
At nickel, UK lost Mike Edwards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and that won’t be an easy spot to fill. The slot corner is essentially a starter for the defense and the staff asks this position to do a lot. The defensive back must constantly guard slot receivers in man coverage in addition to being an effective blitzer and run defender in the box. At this point, we really don’t know what UK will do here. It will likely be a spot where they try to get either Tyrell Ajian, Yusuf Corker, or junior college transfer Quandre Mosely on the field. Brandin Echols’ man coverage ability could be effective there. M.J. Devonshire could be plugged in to get the best 11 on the field. We likely won’t know who it will be until the defense takes the field against Toledo’s spread offense.
Kentucky was gutted in the secondary following last season and the unexpected loss of Davonte Robinson was a huge blow to this position group. Now the Wildcats are heavily dependent on junior college transfers, a handful of underclassmen, and a senior who has been a reserve for three seasons. There are a ton of unanswered questions.
At corner, Cedrick Dort, Jr. has one spot locked down but is giving up a lot of size at the position. Kentucky has had large boundary corners the last four seasons and only time will tell if Dort can hold up. We are not sure who will be the backup there. On the other side, Brandin Echols is the best cover man on the team, but a hamstring injury has hampered his progress. That could mean Kentucky could be starting a freshman at corner for the first time since 2015.
At safety, it is essential for the Wildcats to get really good play from senior Jordan Griffin. He is by far the most experienced player in the back end and must be a rock for the young players surrounding him. Next to Griffin will be three former blue-chippers and UK should feel good about at least one of them becoming a very solid contributor in 2019. Quandre Mosely figures to be a wild card and the staff appears to be determined to find him a role this season.
At nickel, your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully we will get some type of answer on Monday when UK’s first depth chart of the season is released. Mark Stoops is going to have to show off those secondary coaching chops this fall.
By Nick Roush on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Friends, the long summer is almost over. That is why tonight will be the last Monday night football notebook of 2019. This time one week from now we’ll have a Mark Stoops press conference under our belt as we prepare for the season-opener against Toledo. It’s been a fun ride during a summer that has flown by. Now, let’s quit wasting time and get to the football.
Two Epic Weekends
Whatever Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are doing during official visits, it’s working. Following Deondre Buford’s announcement that he has been committed to Kentucky, UK pulled off a clean sweep on a weekend that was filled with highly-ranked recruits.
- DT Justin Rogers
- QB Beau Allen
- OL John Young
- CB Dru Phillips
- OT Deondre Buford
UK followed up the final weekend in April with an epic weekend in June, going four-for-four starting on June 22.
- OL Joshua Jones
- WR Jordan Watkins
- WR Izayah Cummings
- WR Earnest Sanders
Only those that attended the visits know exactly how the events transpired. We simply have to tip our caps to the Cats’ coaches from afar for successfully closing each deal.
There are only so many things you can factor into one’s recruiting ranking. Their 247 or Rivals profile cannot accurately capture the complete picture. Knowing how to operate within a successful program is an immeasurable intangible, one that every single future UK offensive lineman knows all to well. Last year Deondre Buford, John Young and Joshua Jones were state champions in Michigan, Kentucky and Alabama respectively.
Another Potential Addition
While some may be on their way out, another may be on his way in. Tre’Vonn Rybka, a 6-5 270-pound four-star recruit ranked by Rivals as the No. 18 strong-side defensive end in the country, is announcing his college decision tomorrow. Choosing between Kentucky and Tennessee, most believe the Dickson, Tn. native will rock Kentucky blue before the day is done.
Look Ma! One Hand
I can’t decide what’s more impressive, Josh Ali’s reception or Jamin Davis’ six-pack.
Trimming the Depth Chart
Saturday’s second UK football scrimmage of the preseason served as a final tryout for underclassmen who are trying to crack into the rotation.
“We have to get dialed in here this week starting Monday, make some decisions today or tomorrow. Not that it’s a final decision, but have some good idea of who is in the two-deep,” Stoops said Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got to work hard and concentrate on putting one great unit out there on each side of the ball and have some guys who can go out there and play winning football as well.”
At this point, players have been informed where they stand. We will not receive a two-deep until just before Stoops’ press conference next Monday morning. As an average cryptic-Tweet reader, it looks like J.J. Weaver is starting the season on the outside looking in.
Keep fighting ??? my time will come….
— JJ Weaver (@jjtimeee) August 18, 2019
Prepare for an Exodus
Over the last two Sundays, KyWildcatsTV has released features on a pair of their talented stars, Lynn Bowden and Quinton Bohanna. Is it a coincidence they are both juniors? I think not. While some fans may already have their sights set on an outstanding 2020 season, don’t put the horse before the cart. Bohanna and Bowden are just a few of the juniors that could play their way into the NFL Draft, along with offensive tackle Landon Young, outside linebacker Boogie Watson and running back A.J. Rose.
The Secondary’s Greatest Menace
Stoops’ staff has been hesitant to single out any individual in the secondary. UK’s coaches are trying to temper expectations as much as possible by keeping things tight-lipped. However, you can’t keep everyone quiet. When Terry Wilson was asked who has caused him the most problems in the secondary, he replied, “Jordan Griffin.”
“He’s been doing really good,” said Wilson. “He’s a veteran back there for those guys. From what I’ve seen, he’s done a good job of leading those guys, making the correct calls. He’s been making some big plays too.”
Before the depth chart is released next week, we should receive more clarity on where each player stands when Stoops opens practice to the media.
Joe Moorhead’s SEC Media Days Wish is Granted
Mississippi State’s head coach used the platform of the SEC Media Days’ podium to address his childhood hero, Dan Marino. The former quarterback from Pittsburgh attended the same high school as the NFL legend. Moorhead’s request was simple. All he wanted was a follow-back from Marino. One month later, Marino finally fulfilled Moorhead’s request. You can cross one off your bucket list, Joe.
— Coach Joe Moorhead (@BallCoachJoeMo) August 18, 2019
Shout Out to Somerset
The Briarjumpers might have the most beautiful football field in the Commonwealth.
On a completely unrelated note, Trinity destroyed Frederick Douglass in a scrimmage last Friday and I still can’t figure out how. Douglass has a lot of work to do or Brian Landis won’t have much to show for all of that blue chip talent.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
If you’re driving down to Starkville this year for Kentucky football’s road matchup against Mississippi State, first off, I apologize.
But if you’re forced against your will, be sure to pack as much blue and/or white as you can.
This afternoon, the Mississippi State program released their
gimmicks promotions for this upcoming season in Starkville, and the Bulldogs have planned a blackout for when Kentucky comes to town on September 21st.
In case you haven’t heard, Mississippi State fans are being asked to wear black as the Bulldogs look to black out Kentucky on September 21st.
— Steve Robertson (@ScoutSteveR) August 19, 2019
Plan accordingly, BBN.
Kentucky added another member to its 2020 recruiting class and this time they got John Schlarman an impressive player to work with on the offensive line. Deondre Buford is a tackle prospect out of Detroit who was wanted by a ton of schools. In the end, UK beat out Purdue, Pittsburgh, Mizzou, and Arizona. Meanwhile, LSU, Penn State, Louisville, Miami, and West Virginia all have listed offers. He is a heavily sought after tackle and Steve Clinkscale scored another crootin’ victory in the state of Michigan.
Now it is time to take you into the KSR film room to tell you what kind of player Kentucky is getting. The Wildcats still need to find out who will take over for Landon Young once he leaves Lexington and Deondre Buford might just have the skillset required to man that spot.
On tape, Deondre Buford looks like your prototypical left tackle. At 6-foot-4, he has very good positional athleticism and that shows up in his pass protection. Here in the five-step drop out of the shotgun formation, Buford does a great job staying balanced and getting his hands on the pass rusher. He uses a nice jump back move to stay square and that creates a very easy throwing window for his quarterback to launch the deep ball.
The high school senior has some major tools in pass protection.
He can also get stuff done in the run game. On a designed counter that is meant go to the right, the play is blown up by the playside defensive tackle. Despite that disruption, Deondre Buford flashes some nice down blocking ability. The left tackle quickly turns the defensive end inside and with nice leg drive, he drives him from one end of the line to the other. This is where hand placement and sled work come into actuality and this type of blocking is much needed in Kentucky’s offensive scheme.
We saw what happened when the left tackle locks in right away, but there are going to be times when the opposing defender beats you off the ball. On this run play, the defensive end beats Deondre Buford at the snap and wins the early battle. Inside hands usually wins the fight at the line of scrimmage, but some good recovery technique and power allow Buford to takeover. Improvisation is needed in isolation situations.
To wrap up the combination of what he does best in one clip, check out this camp highlight.
— Joe Tramble (@TrambleJoe) January 27, 2019
Deondre Buford is the third player from Michigan to join this class and the fifth recruit Steve Clinkscale has reeled to Lexington since 2018. All have been rated at least a high three-star and Kentucky is currently building a nice pipeline in The Great Lakes State. The latest addition is very substantial because it is at a position of need.
This season, Landon Young is entering his redshirt junior season and after him there are some questions about the left tackle spot. Naasir Watkins is guy that played both tackle positions last season, but we’re not sure which spot is the redshirt sophomore’s best yet. Redshirt freshman Nick Lewis and true freshman Jake Pope are both set to play the position, but each seem to be projects at this point. The chance for early playing time at left tackle could be there.
The high three-star recruit, per the 247 Sports composite, will most likely need a redshirt year because he needs to put on some weight. It appears right now he’s somewhere between 260-275 pounds and that is not going to cut it in the SEC. Other than the weight, there are some things to really be excited about.
Deondre Buford is excellent in pass protection and has all the tools you want in a left tackle. It would help if he were an inch or two taller, but he seems to have very long arms to go with good hands and feet on top of positional athleticism. His takeoff at the line of scrimmage needs some sharpening, but he has shown the power required to succeed in run blocking. He is one of the my favorite prospects in the class of 2020.