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Football Season Coverage

NFL Visits: Wildcats meeting with teams ahead of draft

With the NFL draft right around the corner, several of Kentucky’s NFL hopefuls are bouncing around the country to visit with potential employers.

Josh Allen will spend Monday and Tuesday in Oakland with the Raiders organization, according to Adam Schefter. Many mock drafts have Allen going to Oakland with the fourth overall pick in next week’s draft, so he could be getting a taste of what life will be like in the very near future (until the team moves in 2020).

Mike Edwards spent Monday morning in Cincinnati with the Bengals and then popped up in New Jersey for a meeting with the Giants. Edwards, a third/fourth-round projection, was born and raised in Cincinnati and my guess is he would love to keep living near Skyline Chili.

Edwards’ former teammate in the secondary, Lonnie Johnson, met with the Titans in Nashville on Monday. He too is looking at a third or fourth round pick.

Then there is Bunchy Stallings in Denver with the Broncos. Stallings will likely have to wait until after the draft to sign with a team as a free agent.

The draft begins next Thursday, April 25, in Nashville.


Newly engaged couple explains UK spring game proposal

Newly engaged couple explains UK spring game proposal

One of the most talked about moments from UK’s Blue-White game didn’t come from Lynn Bowden or Terry Wilson or AJ Rose or anyone else in a football uniform. It came from Todd Spurling and Courtney Cox, a couple from Campbellsville, Ky., who got engaged before the start of the fourth quarter.

And it appeared to go really, really, really wrong.

From the stands (and even on television, I’m told) it looked like Courtney wanted no part in Todd’s proposal as she walked away soon after he popped the question. There was a collective gasp from many of the 16,000-plus fans in attendance, myself included, because things looked a little rocky as the newly engaged lovebirds left the field.

Turns out, Courtney was just overwhelmed by the situation and didn’t want to cry in front of everyone at Kroger Field, her first time there. Todd called in to Monday’s show to let us know it all went well and that Courtney even said it was “perfect” and a “dream proposal.”

Listen to Todd explain his big evening:

Later in the show, Courtney called in to confirm it was the happiest moment of her life and those were tears of joy:

Lynn Bowden played a secondary role in the engagement. He presented Courtney with an autographed football that read, “Courtney – will you marry him?”

It’s good to know it all went well and they plan to marry next year.


NFL Draft Talk: Who needs Josh Allen the most?

The first round of the NFL Draft is on April 25, and UK fans shouldn’t have to wait long to hear commissioner Roger Goodell announce a familiar name, as linebacker Josh Allen seems to be a consensus top-five pick.

Recently, ESPN Senior Writer Todd McShay completed his “best-case” mock draft, in which every team drafts the players McShay believes would benefit them the most.

Despite sending Allen to the New York Jets at pick No. 3 in another recent mock, McShay lists the Raiders as the team the 21-year-old’s talents could best serve.

Allen recorded 17 sacks last season in the SEC, so he’d be welcomed to a defense that recorded just 13 as a whole last season.

The Raiders 13 sacks ranked last in the league by a huge margin last season (17 away from 30th-place Giants and Patriots, who both recorded 30). After trading Khalil Mack and not doing anything to compensate for his absence, Oakland badly needs edge rushing. If Allen were to slip past the first three teams and wind up at pick No. 4, it would certainly be hard for Coach Jon Gruden and company to pass up on him.

If this scenario occurs, let’s examine the unit Allen would be joining.

Oakland spent some money in free agency to bring in veteran linebackers Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict, neither of whom have been healthy in past seasons. In 2018, Marshall played in 11 games and recorded only 42 total tackles, none of which were sacks. Due to either suspensions or injuries, Burfict has not played a full season since 2013. In 2018, he played in only 7 games, recording 33 total tackles.

The linebacking core also contains Tahir Whitehead, who led the team in tackles with 126 total last season. Marquel Lee was second on that list, with merely 68. Nicholas Morrow was the only Radiers linebacker to record a sack all season.

Allen tallied 17 sacks for UK last season, along with 88 total tackles and five forced fumbles. He left the university with numerous awards, and has been one of the 23 players invited to attend the NFL Draft.

McShay believes if Allen is still available at pick No. 4, the Raiders would have a chance to inject life and energy into a defensive unit that sorely missed such attributes in 2018.

Last month Allen met with many teams, one of which was the Raiders. The interest is there, as is the need. All that’s left to do is wait and see how things play out in 11 days.

[ESPN+]


Next man up: Kentucky tight end edition

Kentucky may have lost a star in CJ Conrad, but the former Cat’s presence on the team created a bit of a legacy, especially at his own position. Justin Rigg, a 6-foot-6 tight end from Springboro, Ohio, looks to step into Conrad’s spotlight.

During Friday’s spring game, Rigg served as the team’s fourth-highest receiver, finishing with three catches for 40 yards, including a tricky 24-yard catch that was good for a Blue Team touchdown.

His return to football has been a long time coming, thanks to a combination of Conrad’s success last season and a series of freak injuries. Rigg has suffered from not one, but two internal organ lacerations – his spleen and, in a separate incident, his kidney.

Now, his clean bill of health and upperclassman experience means he should see a substantial jump in playing time this year. He appeared in 11 games last season, starting against Middle Tennessee State and Louisville, but his role with be vastly different without Conrad in the locker room. Regardless, he’ll have Conrad’s support.

The weight of the position will not rest solely on Rigg’s shoulders. He’ll be joined by two other main tight ends: Brenden Bates, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Cincinnati and Keaton Upshaw, 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman out of Lima, Ohio.

Coach Eddie Gran has already spoken highly of Upshaw throughout the spring season. The redshirt freshman suffered a season-ending knee injury last September, but he’s impressed Coach Gran so far this year.

“Keaton kind of showed up a bit,” Gran said after one of the team’s recent scrimmages. “When he had his opportunities, he made them count.”

Unfortunatley, Upshaw did not participate in this year’s Blue/White Spring Game due to a lingering hamstring injury. He’s expected to make a full recovery soon and be ready in plenty of time for the fall. While Rigg will likely serve as the team’s starting TE, having a strong supporting cast (especially made up of three physically-large guys) will definitely help fill the void Conrad’s graduation left behind.

It may take three to replace one, but when that “one” earned over 1,000 career receiving yards, that’s quite alright.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Ranking the Top SEC Prospects in the NFL Draft

With the 2019 NFL Draft quickly approaching on April 25th, dozens of players from the SEC will have their dreams fulfilled. Here the top 10 prospects from the conference, all of which you can expect to see drafted in the first round.

1. Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama

Williams is the best prospect in this draft. Period. I’m dead set on this. We will most likely not be the first pick, however, considering that Arizona seems to be zoned in on Oklahoma Quarterback Kyler Murray. He might not even be the second overall pick as San Francisco is reported to be all in on Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. I actually think Bosa is a top-three prospect in this draft, but there are durability concerns with him. There are none with Williams. Any team that is smart enough to pick him after Murray and Bosa are selected will be getting the steal of the draft.

The reason why I am so high on Williams is because you know exactly what you are getting with him. He has all the makings of a pro bowl defensive tackle due to his combined effort and athleticism he showed in two seasons at Tuscaloosa. He is a top-5 prospect with no question marks. He never takes a play off, is a menace in stopping both the run and the pass, and he should be in the running for the Pro Bowl within the first couple seasons of his career. This shouldn’t be a hard decision, but NFL teams often whiff on the obvious.

Projection: Should be a lock for a Top-3 Pick, will not get past Tampa Bay at No. 5

2. Josh Allen, Edge Rusher Kentucky

After Williams, it’s incredibly obvious that the next best prospect from the SEC is Kentucky’s own Josh Allen. In case you needed a refresher, Allen was the best pass rusher in college football in 2018. He was second in the country in total sacks with 17, and that should have been more considering how often SEC offensive linemen had to hold Allen just to watch after their own quarterback. With that kind of production at 6’5, 262 pounds, its blatantly obvious that he is the best pure edge rusher in this draft.

What’s important to watch out for with Allen is his ability to play in a 4-3 defense. At UK he mainly played in a two-point stance so he would fit perfectly in a 3-4 scheme. Most scouts think he will be versatile enough to shift over into a 4-3, but it is a question mark for teams who run that defense. After Murray and Bosa are selected, all signs are pointing to Allen being a member of the New York Jets with the third pick. The Jets badly need a pass rusher, and the Kentucky star would be a perfect fit in their 3-4 scheme.

If they unwisely go in another direction, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jon Gruden and the Raiders select Allen with the No. 4 pick despite their 4-3 defense. Gruden is just crazy enough to make a comfortable fit for a great edge rusher which they so badly need.

Projection: No. 3 Overall pick to the New York Jets

3. Montez Sweat, Edge Rusher Mississippi State

While I think Sweat is deserving of the third best prospect on this list, he can best be described as a discount version of Josh Allen. That’s not necessarily a slight against Sweat. At 6’6, 260 pounds, he is actually a relatively similar version of Allen. The major difference is that Sweat depends more on his speed and much less on his overall physicality. In fact, those are his big positives and negatives. He is incredibly fast, and he needs more bulk on his body to get through physical offensive tackles at the next level. But wow is this dude fast.

Sweat is talented enough to where he could develop into a player that’s potentially better than Allen, but I don’t see it. He still needs to work on his overall move set. Right now, he only has like one or two effective moves on defenders. That comes with the right coaching staff, and hopefully he finds his way onto the right team. He is one of the rawest prospects in this draft. Its boom or bust for this guy. I see him being a dependable pass rusher who will make a few pro bowls.

Projection: Top 10 Pick

4. Devin White, Linebacker LSU

White is one of my personal favorite players in this draft. There are several really talented linebackers coming out of college this year, but I think White is the best of the bunch. During his time in Baton Rouge he compiled almost 300 total tackles. He is incredibly quick as he uses his 4.4 40-yard dash to be a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He can cover the entire field while being incredibly hard-nosed. They may not be a tougher player in this draft than White.

White may honestly be the defensive rookie of the year because he is going to be highly productive right away. The only reason why I have him at #4 is because I think he can get a little too aggressive sometimes. This leads to some bad tackling angles and big misreads on play-action passes. However, being too aggressive as a linebacker is not always such a bad problem to have. As far as where he might land, I honestly have no good guess here. Some mock drafts have him going in the top 10, several others have him falling to Pittsburgh at #20. White will be another candidate for the steal of the draft when he falls. Just watch.

Projection: Top 20 Pick

5. Jawaan Taylor, Offensive Tackle Florida

I’ll admit, I may be a little high on Taylor and a little low Alabama tackle Jonah Williams who you will hear more about later. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Taylor is the best tackle in this draft. The reason being is that he has some of the best feet I’ve seen on an offensive lineman of his size. Human beings should not be this light and quick on their feet at 6’5, 313 pounds:

He isn’t a perfect tackle prospect as he is still a bit raw, but he is very close to being a complete offensive tackle heading into the league. He is good against the pass and the run. His draft position is a moving target much like White’s. I’ve seen him as high as 6 or 7 and as low as 18. If I had to call it, I would say Taylor will have his name called relatively early.

Projection: Top 15 Pick

6. Jeffrey Simmons, Defensive Tackle Mississippi State

Simmons is this draft’s “problematic player.” He absolutely has the talent of a top-ten pick. However, he recently tore his ACL, and he was arrested on an assault charge in 2016 after a video showcased him hitting a woman multiple times. With all the problems the NFL has had with its players committing violence against women, this is a terrible look to say the least for Simmons. He is an incredibly talented player, but things aren’t looking great for him right now. It will be up to a team to gamble on his injury and his history.

Projection: Middle of the First Round

7. DeAndre Baker, Cornerback Georgia

This is a baaaaaaaad man. I’m incredibly high on Baker even if most scouts have him as the second or third best corner in this draft. I think he is the best one overall. Baker is a great tackler who has the capability to put opposing players in the ground Ed Reed-style. He hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown on his watch since 2016 for crying out loud. I don’t understand what the NFL is missing with Baker. Guys like Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams are rated higher on many draft boards. I think that’s lunacy. Despite being a little short at 5’11, it doesn’t get much better than Baker at corner.

Projection: Top 25 Pick

8. Greedy Williams, Cornerback LSU

Williams will be one of the players selected in the first round due to his “high ceiling.” He is an amazing coverage corner. Standing at 6’2, he has prototypical size for the position in the league. Couple that in with his 4.37 40 and you have on paper the best corner prospect in the draft. However, Williams has huge holes in his game. He gives very little effort in stopping the run game due to the fact that he can’t tackle. Any team that picks him is selecting an elite coverage corner. However, they better have players elsewhere on the field that can shutdown the run game because Williams is not that type of player.

Projection: Top 15 Pick

9. Jonah Williams, Offensive Tackle Alabama

Williams is the second-best offensive lineman in this class and the second best from the SEC. He is a dependable pass protector and he is even better in the run game. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more of a run-dominant team select Williams and move him around the line. This is because he doesn’t have prototypical size or length at a position that demands it. While he is a good pass blocker, I think a team would be wise to draft him and play him at guard. I see a team picking Williams within the top 10 due to his versatility.

Projection: Top 10 Pick

10. Josh Jacobs, Running Back Alabama

Jacobs is a very curious prospect at running back. At Alabama he split a lot of reps with Damian and Najee Harris until late in the season when Head Coach Nick Saban realized just how good Jacobs was. He possesses elite strength at the position and he runs furiously. He is an immediate three-down back in the league who has a great nose for the end zone. In a class that’s relatively weak at this position, I think Jacobs is the best overall prospect. He is a much, much better player than Damien Harris and I think that’s saying something. His leadership mentality and toughness guarantee him a first-round selection to a team that is willing to select a running back that high. Watch out for the Raiders at pick No. 24 or 27 to take a swing at Jacobs.

Projection: Late First Round

Honorable Mention: Drew Lock, DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Jonathan Abram


Spring Grades: Defense

In the 64-10 blowout spring game it could be hard to find some defensive highlights. However, when you look at when UK’s first-team defense was the field the Wildcats did some very good things. Without their leader in the middle at Mike, there were some obvious holes but the Wildcats did a great job in plugging them up.

It was Brad White’s first spring game in the coordinator role and we found out after the game that the plan moving forward will be for him to be on the field when the Wildcats open up the season in August. But right now the Wildcats have an obvious strength and an obvious weakness.

Defensive Line: B

It’s hard to evaluate when you can’t rush the passer due to specific game rules and the twos were at an obvious disadvantage going against Kentucky’s starting offensive line. With that said, it’s clear that the three-down defensive line is going to be a strength of the team.

UK’s white team was limited to just 52 yards on 21 carries and most of this was due to UK’s front. Quinton Bohanna is a monster of a man in the middle while senior T.J. Carter is very solid at defensive end and he is rotating with former blue-chip recruit Joshua Paschal. Calvin Taylor, Jr. continues to be a consistent threat in run defense and the Wildcats should be about eight deep on the defensive line this year.

It took a very long time, but Kentucky has finally built a defensive line that can consistently go out and help you win multiple SEC games. Due to the spring game’s structure, it was hard for them to do everything they wanted but this is an experienced group who knows how important they are to the team. That’s big entering this fall.

Inside Linebackers: B

With no Kash Daniel in the lineup, Chris Oats got the start at Mike with DeAndre Square right next to him. Redshirt sophomore Jamin Davis also cracked the rotation with the ones and made a great play in the first half with a strip of Boogie Watson. These three with Kash Daniel will provide UK’s defense with an excellent two-deep this fall.

There still is depth questions behind that, but we saw walk-on Harold Lacy on the white team come out and really make some nice plays downhill. New assistant coach Jon Sumrall has some quality tools to play with in his return to Lexington.

Outside Linebackers: C

Similar to the defensive line, we don’t really get to see much in the ways of pass rush and that’s one of the most important parts of this position. Boogie Watson is the obvious leader and the redshirt junior finished with three tackles and a fumble recovery. However, the biggest takeaway from the night will be the young guns.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Wright got the start at Jack and flashed some big time ability as an edge rusher. He even recorded an interception in the fourth quarter and certainly looks the part. Jared Casey is a true freshman who enrolled early and played the Sam spot for the second-team defense. He finished with seven tackles and has so much potential. The future is bright, but this group is set to have a lot of growing pains.

All spring we heard Brad White talk about how far this group had to come and it’s clear they still have a long road to travel. There’s no hiding from the fact that this is going to be a young position all season and a ton of pressure will be on Boogie Watson to perform at a high level. In his first year in the coordinator role, Brad White has his work cut out for him.

Secondary: C

At safety, UK should feel really confident. Davonte Robinson has a legit chance to turn into one of the SEC’s top safeties and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make plays near the line of scrimmage with him being UK’s primary nickel corner. Jordan Griffin is a senior who has played all over the secondary and should be a very reliable piece. Reserves Tyrell Ajian and Yusuf Corker were two huge recruiting wins who have high ceilings in a backup role. True freshman Moses Douglass has all the tools needed to be an impact player.

Safety is great, but corner play ain’t.

Junior college transfer Brandin Echols was brought in to start and he’s going to do exactly that. It’s clear that he is UK’s best corner and this defense will be heavily dependent on him. Quandre Mosely was also another JuCo player brought in to play immediately and it’s clear he has a very long way to go.

At the corner opposite of Echols, redshirt sophomore Cedrick Dort, Jr. got the start but UK also played a lot of other guys. It appears that freshmen Jamari Brown Taj Dodson, and Stanley Garner are all in the mix for playing time. It currently doesn’t feel like any of them are ready to be an SEC starter at corner.

Don’t be surprised if UK starts multiple corners this season and they could be in trouble when they go up against some good passing offenses this fall.

Overall: B

This season it is clear that strength of this group is right up the middle. The Wildcats are excellent on the line of scrimmage and at the inside backer spots. They should be solid in run defense and will be able to cause a bunch of havoc in the interior of the line. However, the edges are a different story.

Last season, UK had the best defensive player in the country on the edge and three corners with a ton of size and experience. This year they will be facing the opposite. That’s just how quickly things can change in college football and how the staff is able to hide their biggest weaknesses will be the biggest key to this upcoming season.