Football Season Coverage
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 17th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
This afternoon, 2020 four-star offensive lineman and Christian Academy of Louisville product John Young announced he would making his final decision on April 29.
And the Kentucky Wildcats are one of the schools in serious contention.
I will be announcing my commitment on April 29!! ?
— John Young (@the_johnyoung) April 17, 2019
After setting his big announcement date, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive tackle from Louisville talked to KSR about the timing of his decision, the final six schools on his list, and why the Wildcats have a shot.
Check out our Q&A with Rivals’ No. 214 prospect in the class of 2020.
JP: Why April 29?
JY: The date isn’t really anything special, but I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible so I could focus on my senior season coming up.
JP: Are we still at six schools? What are the final schools in contention and why?
JY: Yeah, we’re still at six.
Ohio State, they’re a school that has been heavily involved in my recruitment for a long time. I really like Coach Day, and of course the tradition up there is amazing. So they’ve always been one of my top choices, and they still are as I’m nearing my decision.
Michigan, rival to Ohio State, but another great school. My parents really loved it up there, and so did I when we visited. Amazing academics, great coaching staff up there as well.
Purdue is in the Big 10, as well. One of my best friends, Milton Wright, is headed to Purdue. So it’d be pretty cool to go up there and play with him. I really like Coach Brohm, he’s got ties in Louisville where I’m from. He runs a powerful offense at Purdue.
Kentucky, I grew up a fan of Kentucky, and I really love what they’ve done over the last year with their team. Coach Stoops has really turned that program around. I love all the coaches up there, and I’ve visited there a lot.
Louisville, I really hit it off with the new coaching staff, Coach Satterfield and Coach Ledford are the main guys recruiting me from over there. I think they’re going to turn that program into a winning team, as well, and possibly get to a bowl game this year.
And then the final school Georgia, I visited there really recently, they offered me pretty late in my recruitment. But I decided to visit, and I really loved the campus there. I have a really good relationship with Coach Smart and Coach Pittman down at Georgia.
Those are the six schools and the reasoning for why they’re on my final list.
JP: What will go into your final decision? What will separate your final choice from the pack?
I would say the biggest factor would be where I could see myself being the best fit. I’ve taken visits to every single one of those schools, I’ve been around the campus, I’ve been around the coaches, I’ve talked to the players. So I feel like I’ve got a good feel, it’s just about coming down to the final stretch of where I’d be the best fit in their offense and the university as a whole.
JP: With Kentucky, what is their main pitch to you?
Their main pitch to me is to be a home state hero, just stay home and play for my home state. They’ve got a great track record with in-state offensive linemen with Landon Young and Drake Jackson. Those are the two biggest names I’d say from that group, but there are other (in-state) guys there as well. With those in-state guys, they develop them, take care of them, and get them ready to start. I’d say that’s their main pitch to me, be part of that in-state offensive line tradition.
JP: How much has Kentucky’s recent growth as a program made an impact on your decision?
JY: I’m going on my third year of being recruited by Kentucky, they offered me as a freshman, so I’ve really gotten to see the development there. They develop players and turn them into high-caliber draft picks like they did with Josh Allen and Benny Snell. Those guys weren’t super highly recruited guys out of high school, Josh wasn’t really recruited at all, but they turned those guys into very high caliber guys who are going to make millions of dollars playing football. Just the way they’ve developed players is the most impressive thing for me.
JP: Will you be shutting down your recruitment after this, or do you plan on keeping your options open?
JY: My recruitment will be completely and 100% shut down after I make my decision. I will not be taking visits to other schools, I won’t talk to other schools, my recruitment will be shut down as soon as I make my decision.
JP: What will the school you choose be getting as a player and as a person?
JY: I will be bringing a hard working attitude. I think you’ll be getting a nasty run blocker and a guy who just loves to play football wherever I go, somebody who wants to win and will do everything that it takes to do so.
You can check out his junior year highlight tape here:
By Nick Roush on ©April 16th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Weeks after Josh Allen concluded his historic career, Jared Casey enrolled at the University of Kentucky. The highest-ranked prospect in Mark Stoops’ 2019 class came to Kentucky to fill Allen’s massive shoes. That did not happen right away.
“They throw you into the fire. You gotta adjust real quick,” Casey said following the Blue/White Game. “You gotta play fast but not think too much. That’s been the biggest issue, just playing fast and not thinking too much.”
Considered a four-star prospect and a top 20 linebacker in the country, Casey did not disappoint during his first appearance at Kroger Field. Casey led the White Team in tackles with six and recorded a quarterback hurry. That production did not occur overnight. Just a week before, Brad White publicly called out his players.
“We’re young out there. We don’t have a lot of experience other than Boogie, so we’re green. It’s not to the standards we expect from the outside linebacker group right now,” said White.
It took some time, but Casey quickly learned from his mistakes. Since he took those first steps on campus, the Louisville Ballard product has grown exponentially.
“I have a lot more confidence from our first scrimmage to now,” he said. “I’m able to play faster. I’m in a good spot.”
A longtime Louisville recruit and a one-time Oregon commit, Casey is right where he belongs in Lexington.
“I’m really glad I came in early. I got all these reps with the ones and stuff. If I would’ve came in later, I don’t know how things would’ve turned out.”
By Nick Roush on ©April 15th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Emotions could not be contained at The Catspy Awards.
The annual UK Athletics awards show featured a special presentation from ESPN’s Holly Rowe. The cancer survivor was blessed to present another cancer survivor, Josh Paschal, with the “Heart of the Wildcat” honor.
Following her profound introduction, Rowe helped give Josh’s acceptance speech. They wrote it this morning while he underwent further cancer treatments. Wow.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
By Nick Roush on ©April 15th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
Friday night provided a wonderful opportunity to take spectacular pictures, like the significant one above, at Kroger Field. Before explaining the portrait’s significance, allow me to briefly explain why the 2019 Blue/White Game was much more than a photoshoot.
Mark Stoops’ 2019 spring game accomplished every imaginable goal. The team left the turf injury free. Fans saw the offense unleash points with explosive plays down the field. Terry Wilson dropped bombs and his receivers finished the catch.
Some may fear Kentucky’s secondary has been left in shambles by the mass exodus by future pros. Even though that may prove to be true, you cannot discount Wilson’s improvements. He was effortlessly throwing darts. In his first three drives Wilson completed 8-of-8 passes for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 360 and a touchdown at the end of each drive. For those who needed reassurance that Wilson can handle the lofty expectations, he did everything he could possibly do to instill confidence in the fans, coaches and his teammates.
Wilson’s timely performance should help Kentucky on the recruiting front.
Beau Allen is arguably the most important recruit of the Mark Stoops era. When the Drew Barker experiment did not work, Stoops had to scrape by with JUCO products. Each have produced magnificent results to this point, but Stephen Johnson and Terry Wilson can’t be Beau Allen. The four-star pocket passer is from Lexington. His dad played at Kentucky. He has the potential to be “The Guy” that takes Stoops’ program into the stratosphere, and bring a bunch of his talented friends along with him (like Andru Phillips and John Young).
Since Allen’s visit for the game, he’s conducted a couple of interviews, revealing he will finish the recruiting process in a month or so. In each interview he talked about Kentucky’s explosive offense. As Mike Leach and Neal Brown fight for Allen’s services, Eddie Gran’s offensive onslaught might have come at the perfect time.
Before I get to more recruiting, one more thing from the game…
The Depth Chart
Appearing in the press box for the first time, Adam Luckett was feeling froggy after the Blue/White Game. On top of his grades for the offense and defense, he shared a projected two-deep. I can only disagree with the “or” tag on Keaton Upshaw. Obviously, much will change, especially in the secondary, prior to August 31, but it’s a good look where everybody stands as of right now.
It’s a Photoshoot
How do recruits spend their time on unofficial visits? Taking pictures and talking Xs and Os. Instead of simply providing a list, here are some of the photos from Friday afternoon.
Up first, Randall Cobb. Ever heard of him? His nephew is three-star running back Tee Hodge. Could UK steal another talented athlete from beneath the shadows of Neyland Stadium?
The University of Kentucky ?? pic.twitter.com/PjNcIRigKp
— Tee Hodge (@TdotH44) April 12, 2019
Offensive tackle Richie Leonard has received plenty of love from Florida schools recently, but he still remains committed to the Cats.
— ?Prishonda? (@Prishonda) April 12, 2019
Shortly after snapping these photos, four-star wide receiver Kalil Branham de-committed from Michigan. The power of photography.
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 15, 2019
This is the smirk of a man who has offers from Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and every other powerhouse program. Noah Josey is a rising junior from Brentwood, Tennessee who could be an incredible interior offensive lineman at the next level.
— Shannon Finch Josey (@shannonjosey) April 13, 2019
By Drew Franklin on ©April 15th, 2019 @ 5:59pm
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.
By Drew Franklin on ©April 15th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
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.
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.
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.
Give @justinrigg83 SIX.
? 21 – 0 ?? pic.twitter.com/N1fLPAS8JU
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 12, 2019
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.
Let’s goooooo!!!! Love that play https://t.co/0nhxLzsUGx
— CJ Conrad (@cjconrad1) April 12, 2019
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.
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.
Here are all of Quinnen Williams sacks from 2018 (excluding the citadel game, because.. who cares) pic.twitter.com/FL1AnN1ouT
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) April 10, 2019
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.
Quinnen Williams 19.4% pass rush win percentage ranked first in the SEC. pic.twitter.com/3tjEGV1TNT
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 12, 2019
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.
— Rhett Lewis (@RhettNFL) April 4, 2019
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.
The #Jets continue to work through possible options at No. 3 or in preparation for a trade back. To that end, they hosted #Iowa TE Noah Fant yesterday, source said, and have #Kentucky pass-rusher Josh Allen in today.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 13, 2019
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.
Montez Sweat just ran a 4.42u 40-yard dash. If it stands, it'll be the fastest by a DL since '03 ?
?: NFL Network pic.twitter.com/0FPFdWUi5h
— ESPN (@espn) March 3, 2019
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.
— G S (@Muzik2DriveBy) April 12, 2019
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:
Jawaan Taylor’s feet are outstanding. pic.twitter.com/2nM66tXxab
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 1, 2019
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.
Thanks to tearing his ACL, Mississippi State standout DL Jeffery Simmons didn’t do drills or tests at the Combine or Pro Day. But here are videos of Simmons at XPE Sports at around 310 pounds, pre-ACL tear. A look at the prospect teams will be getting ?? pic.twitter.com/HdNMFIFP6D
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 9, 2019
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.
Many have tried, none in the past two years have succeeded. Receivers covered by 18 forget what touchdowns are. The best CB in the country is Deandre Baker and it isn’t close. pic.twitter.com/SzxLTNiWvl
— blakejmorgan (@bIakejmorgan) October 15, 2018
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.
— Snack Time Fantasy (@Snack_TimeFS) March 8, 2019
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.
LT Jonah Williams should definitely start at tackle, but you see why some think he would be a premier guard. He is so quick and smooth when he pulls. Then throws in a little attitude at the end. pic.twitter.com/Ef9XwJhZap
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) April 12, 2019
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.
There is a wide gap in former-Alabama teammates Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris' Yards Created profiles. Overwhelming edge goes to Jacobs: pic.twitter.com/9AtFQRpiYm
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) April 12, 2019
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) April 12, 2019
Projection: Late First Round
Honorable Mention: Drew Lock, DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Jonathan Abram
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 13th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Over the last three seasons, the running back position has not been an issue for the Kentucky Wildcats. When you have the all-time leading rusher in school history in Benny Snell Jr., a player capable of handling any workload you throw at him, you never have to worry about that position.
With Snell off trying to reach his NFL dreams, the Kentucky coaching staff is now hoping they can replicate (or even come close to) his success with their latest stable of running backs.
The main group? Junior back AJ Rose leading the way, followed by redshirt freshmen Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez.
While it’d be silly to think we can replace arguably the best running back in school history, last night proved that the next crop of talent is still capable of doing some damage in 2019.
Between the three of them, the Kentucky running backs combined for a total of 33 carries for 289 yards and six touchdowns in Kentucky’s annual Spring Game. Smoke led the way with 132 yards and two scores on five carries, followed by Rose with 86 yards and three scores on 11 carries.
Rose was the finesse back, Rodriguez was the bruiser, and Smoke was an interesting mix of both.
After the game, Rose said that replacing Snell will be difficult, but he feels he can make a name for himself leading the way, as well.
“You know he’s going to be hard to replace, but I’m going to go out there and do me,” he said. “I’m going to try to bring as much to the table as I can and you know, hopefully break his record.”
Overall, Rose feels that their group of backs has the opportunity to provide a solid mix of quickness, power, and pass-catching out of the backfield.
“It’s pretty deep, we’ve got good backs with Kavosiey Smoke, Christopher Rodriguez and me,” he said. “Our running backs do a good job, we get that ball and we go. If we get a good push at the line and get past the second level, it’s curtains. I think you’ll see more of us catching the ball in the backfield too. We all have great hands and when Terry (Wilson) doesn’t see anything downfield he has to depend on us.”
On the night, Rose, Smoke, and Rodriguez combined for 28 yards on four receptions out of the backfield. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said he wants that to continue to be a point of emphasis going forward.
“I think we want to continue with (getting Smoke and Rodriguez receptions) and along with A.J. (Rose),” Stoops said. “A.J. is also very good, can catch the ball out of the backfield all those guys can do that and we want to continue to work on that and get the ball to them.”
When they utilize the running backs in passing situations, it opens the door home run opportunities down the field, and vice versa. They play off of each other and keeps the defense off-balance.
“And as we create shots in getting the ball down the field, you know, as we start seeking out under things, there’s going to be outlets there that we need to get the ball to them when we can,” Stoops continued. “The quarterback’s gotta be on time and deliver that football and those checkdowns and we can get good yardage on that.”
For Smoke, he wanted to show that he’s not just a bruising back. He’s certainly got strength and power, but as we saw on his 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, he’s capable of outrunning defenders, as well.
“I had to show them I had speed, instead of just power,” he said. “I feel like we were more explosive than the past, so everyone is just trying to work on their quickness. That’s the biggest thing this year.”
Kavosiey Smoke. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/eEbrw6wLji
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) April 12, 2019
Smoke said that he cut some weight during his redshirt season, allowing him to build speed and stamina.
“My biggest improvement is that I got leaner,” he said. “I lost a lot of weight, so it brings a lot more speed than where I was in the past. I think I got faster once I lost weight. I got awareness and a little more stamina.”
When asked about the competition in the backfield, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said that having talent like Smoke and Rodriguez nipping at Rose’s heels forces the junior back to give it his all every day in practice.
If he lets up even a little bit, Gran said the two backs behind Rose will snatch his playing time right away.
“Those two guys right there are guys that can help us win,” he said. “I’m really excited about them because it pushes AJ, makes him better every day. AJ needs to come to work every day or he’s going to get beat out, that’s the bottom line. Competition creates a wonderful atmosphere in the room.”
Four-star Kentucky running back signee Travis Tisdale will also be arriving this summer and is also expected to compete for playing time right away.
While Gran is confident in his current running back group, he’s always open to letting young talent come in and earn reps.
“Yeah, let them go, you know?” he said. “He’s going to be a little different, he’s a 10.6 (second) 100-meter guy. He’s going to give you that, I don’t know, the Boom Williams if you will. But he’s going to have that speed, and it’ll definitely be a change-up. I’m always going to let my freshmen come in and compete.”
For now, though, Smoke is pretty pleased with what his offense is working with in the backfield.
“Oh yeah, we’re a three-headed monster for sure,” Smoke said. “We’re coming. We’re going to bring it every game, every play. We’re going to bring it.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 13th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
Following the Blue team’s explosive 64-10 victory over the White team in Kentucky’s annual Spring Game on Friday night, several players and coaches spoke to the media about their thoughts on the evening.
Check out the 13 different interviews we got from the coaches and some of the biggest performers on both sides of the ball.
Head coach Mark Stoops discussed what he liked, didn’t like, and what needs to improve following Kentucky’s annual Spring Game:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 12, 2019
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talked about Terry Wilson’s improvement at quarterback, what he likes about the running backs, and his offense’s home run ability:
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw also broke down Wilson’s improvements and why he thinks backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak needs to stay at Kentucky:
Defensive coordinator Brad White talked about the first-team defense’s solid showing and what needs to improve with the backups:
Junior quarterback Terry Wilson discussed his growing confidence as the team’s starter and how much the receivers have improved:
Junior receiver Lynn Bowden discussed his growth as a pass-catcher, the offense’s ability to make big plays, and his new haircut:
Junior running back AJ Rose talked about his big three-touchdown performance and how the running back group will replace Benny Snell:
Junior outside linebacker Boogie Watson talked about the team’s growth in the front seven and how important it is that they’re mostly juniors and seniors:
Junior receiver Isaiah Epps discussed how much the wide receivers have improved and how they performed against the Kentucky secondary:
Sophomore linebacker Chris Oats discussed his defense’s performance and how he improved as a pass-rusher throughout spring:
Redshirt freshman receiver Bryce Oliver discussed his big day and why he’s so confident in his abilities:
Freshman linebacker Jared Casey discussed his development and how he’s adjusting to life in Lexington:
Redshirt freshman kicker Chance Poore discussed his 52-yard field goal and his growing confidence as the team’s starting kicker:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 13th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
COACH STOOPS: Obviously good for one side of the ball, I don’t know what I put myself through. In the spring, you get a little bit thin. You’re thin in general. Your roster is low. Then when you split the teams up like that, you could leave one team shorthanded. And I think you saw that tonight. But still I saw some good explosive offensive plays. I was pleased to see that. We’ve been working hard all offseason at trying to improve and converting opportunities and shot plays.
You saw us convert some of those today. That’s good to see no matter who is out there and what you’re playing against. So that was good.
Our overall offensively I thought we were obviously very good with the Blue team. White team, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And the same with the defense. I thought the Blue defense looked very good. Depth is an issue but it’s an issue with everybody this time of year.
So you kind of — that’s kind of what you are putting yourself up against when you try to split up the teams. You could get a little bit thin. That’s why we all try to get a little bit unique in the scoring system for offense versus defense and so on. So trying to split it up, you get a little bit thin and I think that’s, as a result, you saw some sloppy play at times out there today.
Q. Have those explosive plays been there throughout the spring?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we’ve been hitting them. We’ve been working hard and getting the ball down the field and we’ve been converting on quite a few.
Q. Was there anything particular defensively that you saw that you like whether it was scheme or activity level?
COACH STOOPS: Scheme-wise we knew what we were doing going into it and we were very base and very vanilla. But I was not pleased with just the competitive nature of some of our players and that needs to change. I don’t care who you are, what team you are, what you’re doing, when you go out on that field you better have a competitive spirit about you and a competitive nature. And I didn’t see some guys competing at the level that we expect.
Q. You credit some of that to being, in their minds, an exhibition?
COACH STOOPS: No. I mean, I talked all week and I talked to them before the game, I talked to them at halftime about respecting the game. And every time you put the pads on you’re to play it one way. And there’s never an excuse to fundamentally not play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
Q. Is it a case where you’re looking for an emotional guy out there or somebody to kind of take charge of the game?
COACH STOOPS: No, I think it’s individually they need to take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own outcome. And there’s no cheerleaders out there. When you’re working like we work and grind it through the spring and out there in practice they need to take it upon themselves to individually play the game the way it’s meant to be played. And if you can’t do it, then you can’t play at this level.
Q. Question regarding Bryce Oliver …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Bryce has showed up all spring. He’s been solid. I’ve mentioned him. He’s one of the young guys that can emerge as a playmaker. He’s a big, strong guy that can run and catch. So he’s got to continue to work really hard and put it all together.
Q. Question regarding the biggest area he has seen Terry Wilson improve in this offseason …
COACH STOOPS: Just fundamentally continuing to work on a few things that we watched and really studied in the offseason. He and Coach Hinshaw have worked hard to fundamentally be in better position to deliver the football. And I think he and Gunnar Hoak have both worked hard and improved.
Q. Chance’s kick probably would have been good from 62 yards. How is that going to change the way you approach that?
COACH STOOPS: That was nice to see. Obviously no pressure. I didn’t think we got good pressure on that, did we? (Laughter).
But it was good to see. He hit it, he hit it, put a good thump on it. I was standing right behind it. You could hear it come right off his foot. It was good to see.
Q. Looked like Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez caught the ball a little bit out of the backfield. How much more will that change this year compared to last year?
COACH STOOPS: I think we want to continue with that and along with A.J. (Rose). A.J. is also very good, can catch the ball out of the backfield all those guys can do that and we want to continue to work on that and get the ball to them.
And as we create shots in getting the ball down the field, you know, as we start seeking out under things, there’s going to be outlets there that we need to get the ball to them when we can. The quarterback’s gotta be on time and deliver that football and those checkdowns and we can get good yardage on that.
Q. Question regarding Davonte Robinson’s physical play.
COACH STOOPS: Davonte did? The game is what it is. So it’s a physical game. And as long as it’s clean and you take the head out of it, sure, you want to be as physical as you can.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 13th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
Set to graduate in May, quarterback Gunnar Hoak has a decision to make when it comes to his final years of eligibility. He could stay and compete for the starting job with Terry Wilson, or he could transfer and be eligible to play elsewhere immediately.
When asked about Hoak last week, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was brutally honest when it came to the quarterback’s future with the program.
While he’d love him to stay, he understands the reality of the situation that it might now work out that way in the end.
“I’m not sure (what he’s going to do),” Stoops said. “I going to sit down with Gunnar next week and we will talk about his plans and what he has planned. I don’t know. … Of course I want Gunnar here but I’ll be very supportive of him whatever he decides to do.”
Following his combined 262-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Spring Game on Friday night, Hoak said that his focus right now is to finish out the semester strong academically.
From there, he’ll sit down with his family and make the best decision for his future.
“My main goal right now is to focus on these last two weeks of finals, of course,” he said. “I came here to graduate. That’s the biggest goal in life, to get through college and get a degree, so right now I have to focus on finals, these final papers. We’ll see what happens from there.”
Kentucky co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said after the game that every conversation he has had with Hoak has been about returning to UK and letting the process ride out.
“The only times I’ve talked to Gunnar, I’ve laid the path of him being here at Kentucky,” he said. “Getting a Master’s degree, which he will be able to get 30 hours done in three semesters, no problem. He can stay here, get his Master’s degree, and go compete to be the starting quarterback. And you can see he’s doing it.”
While Hinshaw understands that Hoak does have a tough decision to make and he will support him in whatever he decides to do, he thinks it’s in his best interest to return to Kentucky.
“Terry and him have an unbelievable relationship,” he said. “Sometimes the grass looks greener somewhere else, but the bottom line is that he’s put in his time, gotten better, and he can win for us. I’m very excited about him and staying here and being a part of our program. We want him to be here at Kentucky.”
In Hinshaw’s eyes, competition helps the entire roster get better, and he’s hoping that will continue with Hoak still with the program throughout the summer and into the 2019 season.
“I’m proud of all the quarterbacks, especially Gunnar,” he said. “He really came out and competed every scrimmage. He’s really gotten better, and he’s pushing Terry. What makes us better is when we have competition, so we need to continue to do that and continue to push ourselves throughout the summer.”
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.
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.
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.