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KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: Recruiting Guests and Offensive Tackles

KSR’s Monday Night Football Notebook: Recruiting Guests and Offensive Tackles

A wave of excitement crashed over the Big Blue Nation this weekend after the UK basketball team completely annihilated the No. 1 team in the country.  The win over Tennessee was nice, and not just for the basketball team.

High-Profile Guests

After focusing on quantity for Junior Day, Vince Marrow emphasized quality while hosting a smaller group of incredibly talented in-state recruits for the Tennessee game.

Four of the state’s top athletes — safety Vito Tisdale, offensive tackle John Young, quarterback Beau Allen and wide receiver Izayah Cummings — spent the day in Lexington with Marrow, Eddie Gran and John Schlarman.  The crew received a standing ovation from UK fans at KSBar when they entered the restaurant.  During one of the timeouts at Rupp Arena, Kash Daniel’s Super Bowl commercial aired on the Jumbotron.

Young described the experience to Justin Rowland as ‘insane.’ “I’ve never seen an arena like that.”

While they toured the facilities, the group stopped to pose in front of the National Championship trophy.  It’s quite an impressive collection of talent.  The top four uncommitted players in the state were joined by Warren Central sophomore tight end Jordan Dingle and Rickey Hyatt Jr.

Unlike the others in the photo above, Hyatt Jr. is not from Kentucky, however, he still has a close connection to UK.  The three-star safety attends Benny Snell’s old high school, Westerville Central. Snell shared a classroom with Hyatt’s sister and has returned to speak with his team multiple times since he found stardom at UK.

Kentucky also hosted four-star all-purpose back Michael Drennen.  A top 250 player in the 2020 class, Drennen attends Dublin Coffman High School, Gunnar Hoak’s alma mater.  Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame are considered his top schools.  He posed in uniform with a few of his underclassmen teammates.

Two 2020 Offers

Young isn’t the only talented tackle in UK’s big board.  This weekend there Cats offered Omari Young, a 6’4″ 300-pound offensive tackle from Memphis that is considered the No. 124 player overall by ESPN.  Young has offers from everybody who’s anybody.  UK also offered Jerrold Pough, a three-star safety from Hollywood, Florida.

Bye, E.J.

Before I explain the significance of E.J. Price’s departure, allow me to use this platform to clap back at all the haters.  Price’s last appearance in a UK uniform ended prematurely because of a sideline altercation at the Citrus Bowl.  When I asked about said altercation in the postgame press conference, I was crucified for being a Debbie Downer.  Now he’s gone and I still want to know what set him off on the sideline.

I digress.

Price performed better than most Blue Chip transfers.  In Landon Young’s absence Price started 11 games at left tackle.  He was no Young, but Kentucky would not have been as successful if he wasn’t there to fill those big shoes.

Without Price, there’s no panic in John Schlarman’s meeting room.  Young is back with Naasir Watkins, who split plenty of snaps with E.J. and was excellent in the Citrus Bowl, prepared to spell him as a reserve.  After taking reps at guard in 2018 as a true freshman, Darian Kinnard is expected to replace Big George at right tackle.  Aside from 2016, Kentucky has typically stuck with a three-offensive tackle rotation and I expect the same in 2019 with this young, talented trio.

New ESPN FPI Rankings

As you saw Friday night, my favorite advanced college football stats are the S&P+.  I might have to flip flop.

Kentucky ranked 37th in the S&P+, while ESPN’s FPI ranks Kentucky 30th entering the 2019 season.  Seven spots better is good, but it’s all relative.  In each projection UK ranks sixth in the SEC East.  The numbers can’t calculate Tennessee, South Carolina and Missouri’s ability to consistently underachieve.

Primetime NYT Treatment

Hand up, I don’t receive the print edition of the New York Times.  If I did, I would have found this picture of Nik Ognenovic and his father, Steve, gracing the sports section cover on National Signing Day.

Feel free to read the online version of the story that includes the 2019 UK tight end signee here.

Spurrier don’t give AAF

You already read Drew’s post, but I couldn’t let the excellent header go to waste. What you may have missed from that game is who Spurrier’s team came back to beat: Logan Woodside.

The Frankfort native led the nation in passing touchdowns in 2016 with 45 as Toledo’s quarterback. Drafted in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals, Woodside was arrested for a DUI before completing his first NFL minicamp. In spite of the off the field hiccup, he remained with the Bengals until the final cut.

After watching a few AAF games, it’s not hard to tell that Woodside is one of the best passers in the league.  Yesterday he completed 20-of-39 passes for 223 yards, a touchdown (which should have been two, if not for an embarrassing drop), an interception and a two-point conversion.  Through two hames Woodside is second in the AAF in passing yards with 478.  His tape should get him another shot at cracking an NFL roster.

In his second week of action, Kayaune Ross made it into a box score.  The former Wildcat receiver caught one pass for seven yards in another Memphis Express loss.  All the blame should fall on Christian Hackenburg’s incapable shoulders.

20 Pounds of Poop

I’ll close this chapter of the MNF Notebook with a clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, inspired by former Wildcat C.J. Johnson.


REPORT: Vince Marrow to be promoted to Associate Head Coach

It was reported around New Year’s day that Vince Marrow had agreed to a three year deal to stay at Kentucky.

FootballScoop is now reporting that the extension will include a promotion for Marrow to become Associate Head Coach. The new deal comes with a starting salary of $650,000 for Kentucky’s lead recruiter.

In addition to his new role as Associate Head Coach, Marrow will continue to serve as the team’s tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. Marrow is now signed through the 2023 season.

It’s hard to overstate the role that Marrow has played in the continuous rise of the Kentucky Football program. The BBN should be very confident with Coach Stoops and Coach Marrow leading the way.


@EMitchKSR


The Schedule is set for SEC Media Days

© Dale Zanine | USATSI

It’s February 14, which means everybody is thinking about one thing: SEC Media Days.

The league announced this afternoon plans for this year’s unofficial kickoff to the 2019 SEC football season.  After one year at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the event returns to its home at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

After a ten-win season, Mark Stoops did not get rewarded with a primetime position.  UK’s head coach will speak on the final day of the event, after many reporters have already departed.  Instead of speaking on the same day as a headliner, Stoops will share the stage with Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, the driest coach in the SEC.  For those who prefer to drink out of half-full glasses, it’s an opportunity for Stoops to be the event’s exclamation point.

2019 SEC Media Days Schedule

MONDAY, July 15
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Barry Odom

TUESDAY, July 16
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

WEDNESDAY, July 17
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp

THURSDAY, July 18
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

As always, KSR will be in the building for updates throughout the week.  We’re only 151 days away.


Understanding Matt House’s departure

Following the 2015 season, it was gut check time for Mark Stoops. The Wildcats were fresh off consecutive 5-7 seasons and it was clear changes were needed on both sides of the ball. Heading into his fourth season, the head coach was feeling heat for the first time in Lexington. He responded by making some major changes.

In that offseason, Stoops brought in four new coaches and promoted Corey Edmond to the head coach of the strength program. The main change from this offseason was naming Eddie Gran the offensive coordinator and we’ve extensively covered how big of an impact the veteran SEC assistant coach has made on the program. However, there was another coach that made a big splash.

After being promoted to defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh by Paul Chryst in 2014, House ran a defense in the ACC that finished 56th per S&P+. It was a solid job, but once Chryst left to become the head coach at Wisconsin, House found himself on the job market. He landed at FIU and ran the defense in 2015 under Ron Turner. Under House’s guidance, the Panthers finished 110th per S&P+ in a 5-7 season. When a power five opportunity to run the special teams and coach linebackers at Kentucky opened up, the Michigan State alum jumped on the first flight to the Bluegrass.

Mark Stoops appeared to like the versatility House brought with a four years of NFL experience from 2008-2011 to go along with two years of FBS defensive coordinator work. He was named UK’s special teams coordinator and he instantly became a major contributor to the coaching staff.

In House’s first season, UK’s special teams were much improved and included multiple game-winning kicks that pushed the Wildcats into bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. Following Mark Stoops moving on from D.J. Eliot at defensive coordinator, the Wildcats named Matt House the man in charge of the defense for the 2017 season. In that season, UK had the second best scoring defense of the Stoops era to that point. Then the big change happened.

You know the story. UK made a slight shift by putting Matt House on the field and placing Dean Hood in the coaching box. The move paid huge dividends with Kentucky finishing 15th in defense per S&P+ on their way to a historical 1o-win season. Behind the development of a bunch of future pros, UK’s defense turned into a stalwart in what seemed like overnight. House was a big reason why.

Now after a week of flirting with the Chiefs, House is off to Kansas City to work for Andy Reid and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Back in 2009, Matt House was hired by Spagnuolo when he was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Now it’s time for UK to join the coaching carousel.

Why the Move?

Once the search develops, we’ll delve more into who will be next for the Wildcats when some candidates emerge. Now is the time to recognize what UK is losing in Matt House.

During his three-year run, the assistant coach oversaw major improvement in both special teams and on defense in addition to becoming a very excellent recruiter. House turned into this staff’s point man in Georgia and that paid off big time in the class of 2019 with Kentucky reeling six recruits from the Peach State. 

For a guy that seems to have it rolling as a college assistant, making the move to NFL to be a linebackers coach now seems like strange timing. House is likely to take a decrease in pay from the $650,000 per year salary he is currently making that was likely to be bumped up in 2019. If the defenses continues to produce in Lexington, he could be setup to land a defensive coordinator job at a blue blood program or become a Group of Five head coach (he was linked to the Central Michigan opening earlier this offseason).

Why make the move? Well, it’s for a multitude of reasons.

First off, whoever is given the defensive coordinator role at Kentucky is in a unique spot perception wise. Mark Stoops is always going to get either too much credit or too much blame for how the defense performs. It is no secret that he is heavily involved with the play-calling and since taking over for D.J. Eliot in 2016, Stoops has emerged as the face of the defense.

It could be tough for House to get seen for potential gigs. In today’s college football world, three years is a lengthy amount of time for any assistant to stay on one staff. Coming off the best year of his coaching career, House could’ve felt it was time to strike while the iron was hot. After lasting through most of the coaching season with no sniffs, it looked like he was set to stay in Lexington for a fourth consecutive season. Then the Chiefs made a defensive coordinator change.

After working a combined three years at Fresno State and Buffalo, House got on with the Panthers for one season before making the jump to St. Louis. He would be there for three seasons before Steve Spagnuolo was fired following the 2011 season. That forced House out of the NFL and he then was in college ball for the next seven seasons.

Timing is everything in life. House’s only real connection in the NFL gets hired to be a defensive coordinator on a Super Bowl contender after House’s best season in coaching. It feels like the stars aligning. With a chance to coach a perennial AFC power, House may feel that he is just a few strong years in Kansas City away from becoming an NFL defensive coordinator.

There is also the lifestyle that the NFL provides opposed to college. As Mark Stoops mentioned on KSR yesterday, “This job will absolutely consume people. We have no downtime.”

When you add up all of these factors and it feels like everything connected for Matt House to make a move right now.

What’s Next?

Due to the timing of the move, Kentucky is a bit behind the eight-ball. The majority of staffs have already filled out the lion’s share of their opening positions. Coaches UK would’ve had a chance at are now settled into their new roles. Now Mark Stoops could have to work a little faster than he has for previous hires in the past.

When forced to make recent defensive hires, Stoops has shown a tendency to lean heavily on X’s and O’s. Derrick LeBlanc was a former LSU grad assistant who had never served a full-time role on a Power Five staff. He was known more for his development of defensive lines. Dean Hood was a former FCS head coach and Wake Forest defensive coordinator who was a current assistant at a C-USA school when Stoops hired him. He’s turned into a steady hand and an excellent special teams coach. Finally, Brad White had only two seasons of FBS experience at Air Force. He spent the six prior seasons with the Indianapolis Colts working his way from an off-field role to full-time member of the coaching staff. He put in instant work developing edge players Josh Allen and Boogie Watson.

It’s easy to see that the hires have paid off with the individual development of the defense over the last couple seasons. Now UK needs help on the recruiting trail. In the last two classes, Matt House emerged into the best recruiter on the defensive side with corners coach Steven Clinkscale being a close second. Replacing that void will play a huge part in who the new coach is.

No matter what Mark Stoops decides to do at coordinator, recruiting must be addressed with the new hire. On the offensive side, UK has two ace recruiters in Eddie Gran and Vince Marrow. The defense needs someone to come in and make an immediate impact on the trail.

Moving Forward

Staff departures are just a major part of FBS college football. In the last three years, the Wildcats have done a great job at keeping continuity in the football facility. Having to replace just one full-time member of the coaching group is a good thing. It just stings that it is so late in the process and that it is your defensive coordinator off one of the best seasons in program history.

Entering spring ball, Kentucky is in very good shape right now. Eddie Gran turned down Kirby Smart and the entire offensive staff returns. The defensive staff worked very well together last season and the head coach will play a major role in the day-to-day operations of that unit. Now it is time to find the next coach who can come in and make an immediate impact. With a lot for the program to sell heading into the fall, this should be a very attractive opening.