Football Season Coverage
It’s been a huge couple of weeks for Kentucky football recruiting, and Xavier Peters’ decision to transfer to UK continues the exciting momentum.
For the most part, Kentucky fans are well aware of Peters’ whirlwind of a recruitment, both while he was in high school and again last December. He spent several months during his senior year of high school as a Kentucky commit, before ultimately flipping to Florida State. At the time, he was listed as a four-star recruit, the No. 12 outside linebacker in the nation and the sixth-best player in the state of Ohio.
After a year in Tallahassee, Peters was back in the news. He entered his name into the transfer portal in December, and speculation began to spread he was heading to Lexington. It didn’t take long for Peters to withdraw his name from the portal and decide to stay at Florida State, where he participated in spring football.
But in the end, Peters felt he was meant to be at the University of Kentucky. He cites his proximity to his family, specifically his young son, as the main reason for making the switch back to the Wildcats. However, there’s also a message there that also speaks to the way Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, and the rest of UK’s staff chooses to recruit players, both while they’re in high school and as transfers.
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 15, 2019
For Peters to decide to re-commit to Kentucky, he must still have a strong, positive relationship with the coaching staff. Otherwise, there are plenty of schools within a similar radius to his hometown of West Chester, Ohio. Kentucky became his original destination of choice during the summer of 2017, but his decision to re-commit shows no bridges were burned throughout a recruiting process that left some with whiplash and hurt feelings.
Fans may have criticized Peters for “flip flopping” while he was a high schooler, but it’s clear the coaches did not participate. If they were upset about Peters’ decision to de-commit (which, logically, they probably were), they kept it to themselves: no one aired grievances publicly, and it’s likely they were cordial toward Peters, too. Otherwise, why would he come back?
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 16, 2019
In the end, Xavier Peters is making a responsible decision that’s the best option for himself and his family. But his future also surely played a role, and Kentucky’s upward trajectory certainly didn’t hurt their chances at finally landing the star player. The Cats finished 10-3 last season and 17-9 over the past two seasons; they’ve had more than a hand full of players find homes in the NFL this year, and the culture is changing before our eyes – and his.
Sure, it took Peters a little bit longer than most recruits to wind up in Lexington. But Kentucky’s recruiting pitch worked in the long run, and a beast of a linebacker will be wearing blue and white in the future because of it.
Xavier Peters is going to end up in the Bluegrass after all. 247 Sports’ Steve Wiltfong is reporting that the former Florida State linebacker is transferring to Kentucky. The one-time Kentucky commit and four-star recruit entered the transfer portal two days ago.
Peters, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of West Chester, Ohio, played in two games as a Seminole last fall, registering one tackle and one pass breakup. After putting his name in the portal back in December, Peters told Wiltfong he finally made the decision to leave Tallahassee to be closer to his one-year-old son at home.
“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said earlier this week. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home. This is a family move. I told Coach Taggart this had nothing to do with his program or Florida State. This is all because of family issues.”
Peters just made the news official on Twitter:
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 15, 2019
Back in December, Jack Pilgrim broke down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky Football program. Check it out below:
Big, big get for Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow.
UPDATE: KSR is hearing Peters will appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, but regardless, will have four years to play in Lexington. Based on this picture a little birdie sent us, Kentucky blue looks good on him.
Daron Blaylock, a former University of Kentucky football player, made it through the first cut on Hannah B’s season of The Bachelorette. (I said spoiler alert!)
Blaylock’s screen time in the season premiere was extremely limited — I don’t remember him saying a word after his brief introduction — but he did enough off camera to earn a rose in the first rose ceremony of the season.
At Kentucky, Blaylock played both safety and linebacker in 23 games for the Wildcats from 2012-15. He and his identical twin brother, Zack Blaylock, were recruited to UK by Joker Phillips and played their freshman seasons under Phillips before Mark Stoops took over in 2013. He finished his career with 46 total tackles and now works as an IT consultant in Buckhead, Georgia, according to his bio on the show.
One other Kentuckian vying for Hannah B’s love on The Bachelorette wasn’t as lucky. Brian Bowles, a high school math teacher in Louisville, was sent home without a rose at the end of Monday night’s premiere.
And yes, I watch The Bachelorette.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
“Two guys hop on the back of a camel” sounds like the premise of a bad joke. “Two enormous Kentucky offensive linemen hop on the back of the camel” is a jaw-dropping, hilarious sight to see.
Over the last week, three Kentucky football players have participated in the program’s annual service trip to Ethiopia. During some down time offensive tackle Landon Young, defensive tackle Calvin Taylor Jr. and outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson had a little fun by taking guided camel rides around town.
This was not a kid hopping on top of a pony for a ride. Calvin Taylor is listed at 6’9″ 310 pounds. Male dromedary camels on average are 6’2″ at the shoulders and weigh about 1,000 pounds. One would assume that would be tough on the camel, but it had no trouble popping into cruise control with Taylor on his back.
The camel looked like he struggled a bit more when the 6’7″ 324-pound offensive tackle hopped on his back.
Do not worry; Young still got to fly down the street atop a salivating dromedary.
Boogie also got to take a turn on the back of the camel, but the logistics did not provide as much slapstick humor.
So who did it better, the UK offensive linemen or John Calipari?
C.J. Conrad’s path to the NFL was not an easy road to traverse.
The Big Blue Nation is quite familiar with Conrad’s story. Once a mid-round selection, a health scare discovered at the NFL Combine nearly derailed his football career. It knocked him out of the draft before he found a home with the New York Giants. Thanks to a profile by North Jersey, a USA Today affiliate, New York fans know Conrad’s story and UK fans know how he ended up in New York.
Conrad first met Giants tight end coach Lunda Wells at the East-West Shrine Game. Once an injury in practice sent him home early, Wells was anxious to formally interview Conrad at the Combine. The day before their planned meeting, Conrad received bad news.
“We were always supposed to meet officially, then I got sent home, and Coach Wells joked that I was avoiding him,” Conrad recalled. “He called me right after I left the Combine, and said a prayer for me, and told me he’d be thinking of me, and they thought a lot of me as a player, and it meant the world to me going through those three weeks. Then, after I got cleared, and he texted me again a couple of days before the draft and said, ‘I’m thinking of you, happy for you, good luck this weekend.’”
The former UK tight end was on the Giants’ board, but he did not get selected in the NFL Draft. As soon as the free agency period began, Wells gave Conrad a call.
“I like Conrad. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn,” Wells said. “He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well. I really like that kid from what we saw over the three-day rookie minicamp.”
Conrad made a good first impression, but cracking the 53-man roster will not be easy. The Giants currently have four tight ends: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson and second-year pro Garrett Dickerson.
Conrad has survived unlikely odds before. This pales in comparison to the challenge he faced just a few months ago.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 10:05am
Chris Westry did not hear his name called in the NFL Draft, but he may have found the perfect landing spot.
The former UK cornerback signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. Westry had other options, but Dallas was calling.
“The first day on my visit, I was like, this has gotta be home,” he told the media after rookie mini-camp practice.
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ amazing facilities were not the selling point for Westry. That would be defensive backs coach Kris Richard. A member of Pete Carrol’s Seattle Seahawks staff for eight years, Richard prefers to work with big, long cornerbacks like Westry. His frame and athleticism caught the eye of one team scout on day one.
Chris Westry is an impressive looking kid when it comes to his height. It’s not often that you see a cornerback that’s over 6-4. The challenge for these coaches will be to work with Westry on his ability to open and turn. His legs are so long that he’s not going to look quick doing it. There were a couple of snaps where he was paired with Mike Jackson, who was able to get turned around much quicker than Westry out of his pedal. Jackson is 3 inches shorter, but like Westry he has long legs too.
There are quite a few cuts in-between rookie mini-camp and the season-opener. Westry has gotten off to a good start, but still has a long way to go to make the 53-man active roster.
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 10:35pm
This offseason Mark Stoops tried something new — he searched for a player in the transfer portal. His first excursion was a success.
With the help of two former Troy staff members, Jon Sumrall and Mark Perry, quarterback Sawyer Smith became Kentucky’s first grad transfer of the Stoops era. Smith is the right fit for Kentucky’s offense over the next two seasons.
1. Terry Wilson Runs Free
When Gunnar Hoak announced three weeks ago his intentions to transfer to Ohio State, the UK coaches knew they needed another quarterback. Not to take anything away from Walker Wood, Nik Scalzo and Amani Gilmore, but without Hoak, UK’s offense was one bad Terry Wilson hit away from being completely flipped upside down. To prevent that from happening, Eddie Gran would surely tighten up the playbook to keep Wilson as safe as possible.
With the addition of Smith, Gran does not need to restrict Wilson’s legs. UK’s most explosive playmaker on the ground in his first season, Wilson gained 6.75 yards per carry on 8.2 attempts per game. Now that Wilson has someone behind him with experience, the offense can naturally progress by giving Wilson up to 12 or 13 carries a game.
When Terry Wilson runs the ball, he’s one big play away from a score or one hit away from being sidelined. Sawyer Smith ensures the risk isn’t too great to gamble for the reward.
2. Serenade the Offense
If he isn’t throwing darts, Smith is know for his excellent singing on the sideline (even if he doesn’t know the words).
3. Throw the Deep Ball
The weakest link of UK’s offense over the past two years has been the vertical passing game. The long ball just so happens to be Sawyer Smith’s greatest strength.
Whether he’s in the pocket or on the move, Smith can muscle the ball down the field. In the opening drive of the Dollar General Bowl, he threw a pearl 48 yards in the air that hit his receiver in stride for a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty.
Arm strength aside, Smith’s most important asset is that his game isn’t too different from Terry Wilson’s. If Wilson goes down with an injury, Gran doesn’t have to bring out an entirely new playbook. Smith uses his legs well enough to escape pass rushers or execute a read option. At Nebraska he turned one simple read into an explosive 57-yard run.
4. Experience, Experience, Experience
What sets Smith apart from any UK quarterback not-named Terry Wilson — or any quarterback entering the 2018 season — is the invaluable experience he received as a redshirt sophomore.
Smith played sparingly, primarily as a rushing option, in each of the first five games of the season before Troy starter Kaleb Barker suffered a torn ACL. Thrust into action, Smith was not perfect, but he showed up when the Trojans needed him most.
His best game of the year was at the Dollar General Bowl. Seeking a tenth win, Smith rose to the occasion, completing 70.5% of his 44 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That kind of experience you can’t teach. You can try to simulate a third and seven from the 46-yard line with a four-point lead in a bowl game, but the blitz does not feel as real in practice. In that situation Smith looked off the single safety and remained calm in the pocket before dropping an absolute dime for a touchdown.
Sawyer Smith’s addition gives UK’s quarterback room a pair of 10-win signal callers. If Terry Wilson cannot complete his duties, Smith is perfectly prepared to keep the offense on course.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
After countless rumors, a handful of back-and-forths, and endless speculation over the last several months, we’ve finally found our answer when it comes to former four-star prospect and current Florida State defensive end Xavier Peters.
The former Kentucky commitment is no longer a Seminole and will be transferring from the school.
In an interview with Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports, Peters said that he has put his name in the transfer portal – and keeping it there – so he can move closer to home to be with his one-year old son.
“I just want to be home to support him,” Peters said. “If I was thinking just about me I’d stay at Florida State.”
Peters, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of West Chester, Ohio, played in two games as a Seminole last fall, registering one tackle and one pass breakup.
After putting his name in the portal back in December, Peters says his current family situation is forcing him to finally make this official.
“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home. This is a family move. I told Coach Taggart this had nothing to do with his program or Florida State. This is all because of family issues.”
Back on December 26, KSR’s Matt Jones broke the news that Peters was entering his name in the transfer portal initially, and that Kentucky was one of his top choices.
“KSR has learned that former 4 star Linebacker/Defensive End and ESPN Top 150 recruit Xavier Peters has put his name into the College Football transfer portal,” Jones said. “You may remember that Peters is from Ohio and picked Florida State over Kentucky last year. KSR has learned he is now seeking a transfer and Kentucky, along with two Big Ten schools, are his top choices.
“I suspect Kentucky has a VERY good chance of getting Peters, and for those of you who listen to KSR, he was my #2 transfer possibility I have been talking about for the past 2 weeks.”
At the time, I wrote a post breaking down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky football program, which you can find below:
Now, Peters says, per Wiltfong, that he will be focusing on schools in the SEC and Big Ten when it comes to his transfer decision moving forward.
Is it finally time for Peters to head home to Lexington?
After being drafted as the 36th pick in the third round of the NFL Draft, former Kentucky defensive back Mike Edwards is getting ready to step into his role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On Saturday, Edwards hit the practice field and talked to reporters about adjusting to life as a pro athlete, and how playing in the SEC prepared him for the wear and tear of the pro game.
Video: Bucs rookie safety Mike Edwards talks about how playing in the SEC put him up against talented players to prepare for NFL. pic.twitter.com/u0bOCQDChf
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 10, 2019
Edwards never missed a start during his time for Kentucky, as he managed to play in 51 straight games. New head coach of the Buccaneers Bruce Arians also talked to the press about how Edwards will fit with the team this season. He suggested that Edwards will play the “nickel” position and be on the field in situations where they will need five or six defensive backs on the field.
Last season Tampa Bay finished 31st in the league in points allowed and 26th in passing yards allowed per game. Edwards will get a chance to contribute and make a name for himself very quickly.
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) May 11, 2019
By Maggie Davis on ©May 12th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
While many of us may be relaxing on a relatively-rare weekend without football, college basketball or any French hackers (fingers crossed), three members of the Kentucky football team are doing their part to better the world.
Offensive tackle Landon Young, defensive end Calvin Taylor and outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson are all currently in Ethiopia to participate in UK’s annual mission trip.
The trio obviously hasn’t had time to be active on their own forms of social media, but they have been able to share a few updates with the folks back home. The UK football Twitter account has been detailing their service trip, starting with their daily activities and how they’re contributing.
They began by delivering essential supplies (as well as nutrition, hope and love, according to the players) to families living in a slum named Korah. The area is made up of all the trash accumulated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Thousands of residents live in the dump, and they rely on the waste to survive. The care packages provided by Young, Taylor, Watson and the rest of their group could prevent families from having to dig for up to a month.
The group also visited an orphanage, run by nuns and other volunteers, that houses over 80 children. These kids had never been able to leave their village before, much less see a movie. That changed when the teens were able to see the latest Avengers film with the Wildcats’ group.
Their trip has also produced plenty of other heart-warming moments.
The trio of Wildcats is set to return from the life-changing experience next week. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of stories to share.
By Nick Roush on ©May 11th, 2019 @ 6:30pm
Getting into Kroger Field has gotten pricier for some following Kentucky’s first 10-win season in more than four decades.
For season ticket holders, the changes are slight. An extra home game and the new addition of state sales tax created a slight increase, but the university left the tickets’ face value unchanged. If you’re waiting to buy your tickets on the secondary market, it will cost you more than before.
Jesse Lawrence from Saturday Down South analyzed the prices for UK football games at Kroger Field on the secondary market. Using TicketiQ as the source, from 2018 to 2019, the average ticket price on the secondary market jumped nearly 20% from $108 to $138.
Obviously, ticket prices will fluctuate throughout the season, depending on UK’s early successes and the quality of opponent. If the Cats keep rolling, finding a cheap ticket will not get any easier.
Incoming UK quarterback Nik Scalzo has been on the mend for quite a few months. As he enters his final weeks in Ft. Lauderdale, the gunslinger is ready to get loose in Lexington.
KSR has learned the future Wildcat has been cleared to return to football activities, just before newcomers are set to report for the summer term in June. As you can see, Scalzo is moving around like nothing ever happened.
Knee is feelin ? pic.twitter.com/VIzeMWrf7r
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) May 8, 2019
Something did happen to his right knee less than six months ago.
In search of his school’s first ever state championship, Scalzo caught a pass out of the backfield on a trick-play. He took an awkward hit, felt a pop and immediately knew something was wrong significantly wrong with his knee. After sitting out for three series, he returned to lead his team to a go-ahead scoring drive that put Cardinal Gibbons in the Regional finals.
“I went back in and played through it,” Scalzo told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I had to do most of my stuff with just straight arm strength; I couldn’t use my feet at all. I dropped back like Jay Cutler. You know how he used to do his backpedal steps? I had to do that because I couldn’t cross over.
“But I stayed in the game. I’m glad I did.”
Since he tore the ACL in his right knee last November, future Wildcat Nik Ognenovic helped Cardinal Gibbons win the school’s first ever state championship. All the while, Scalzo has vigorously rehabbed his injured right knee, two-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week.
Scalzo is getting healthy at the right time. Kentucky will need the mobile quarterback prepared to compete this fall. Following Gunnar Hoak’s departure, the only players behind Terry Wilson on the depth chart are Scalzo, Walker Wood and incoming freshman Amani Gilmore.
While many ruled out his ability to compete this fall, it’s business as usual for Scalzo (without all of the backflips).
By Nick Roush on ©May 09th, 2019 @ 9:45pm
Before Cody Parkey made the Chicago Bears the NFL’s modern playoff punchline, there was Blair Walsh and the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears had a chance to sign Austin MacGinnis, not once, but twice. MacGinnis participated in rookie mini-camp and they passed. He was called back following the Parkey double-doink and they let him walk once again. Now the Bears’ NFC North rival has a chance to right that wrong.
Last week Austin MacGinnis tried out for the Minnesota Vikings. If it was anything like his stint with the Memphis Express, he didn’t miss a kick. If the tryout is not enough to convince the Vikings, MacGinnis’ resume speaks for itself:
- Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer with 359 points.
- Made the three-longest kicks in school history: 54 (UT), 53 (MS) and 53 (OH) yards.
- School record for most career field goals made: 72.
- School record for most consecutive field goals made: 11 (twice)
- Two single-season school records for most field goals: 22 (17), 21 (14).
- Third in all-time field goal percentage: .791
- Two of nine game-winning field goals made in school history.
Old Man Dan Bailey was great for the Cowboys, but his time has past. Make the right decision, Minnesota, and sign the man who eats game-winners for breakfast.
The game-winners are better with Tom Leach on the call.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 08th, 2019 @ 7:48pm
Kentucky is officially in the mix for one of the top-10 football players in the nation. Justin Rogers, a five-star prospect, is listed as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2020 recruiting class, and he just included the University of Kentucky in his final top-5 list. The other four? Georgia, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee.
I will be committing May 20 at Oak Park High School let me know who trying to come DM me y’all have to see this be there at 4:00 pm????? pic.twitter.com/hGJSRkyCAT
— Justin Rogers (@AllAmerican52JR) May 8, 2019
Prior to the announcement, Rivals had Kentucky listed as the favorite at 44 percent (Georgia was the runner-up with 33 percent, followed by Tennessee and Ohio State). 24/7 Sports had a similar breakdown: UK at 33 percent, followed by Tennessee at 22 percent, Ohio State at 17 percent, undecided at 17 percent and Georgia at 11 percent. The inclusion of LSU and Michigan could shake things up a bit, while Ohio State is now apparently out of the running.
Rogers, a native of Oak Park, Michigan, is listed at 6-foot-2.5 and 311 pounds. Kentucky was the first school to extend an offer all the way back in 2016 – a fact that’s not lost on Rogers.
Kentucky was the first to offer ? pic.twitter.com/fZMa0S6mco
— Justin Rogers (@AllAmerican52JR) January 27, 2019
Although there are four other schools still competing for Rogers’ talents, the Cats seem to have the recent advantage. Rivals’ Justin Rowland submitted a prediction in favor of the Wildcats on the evening of April 28. Since then, 24/7 Sports’ Allen Trieu – who has gotten 93.75 percent of his 2020 picks correct so far – predicted Kentucky last Monday. 24/7 Sports’ Director of Football Recruiting, Steve Wiltfong, also lists Kentucky as Rogers’ top choice. Wiltfong has a 90.48 percent success rate so far with the 2020 recruiting class.
Rogers took an official visit to Lexington back on April 26, and he’ll visit the University of Georgia on May 17. His decision date is set for May 20.
Until then, the UK coaching staff will be all over Rogers – and they won’t be alone. DeAndre Square, a current linebacker for Kentucky, and John Young, a recent UK commit, are also working their magic.
???? we came a long way bro all that hard work paying off https://t.co/K719LZIKzw
— DeAndre Square (@d_square10) May 8, 2019
— John Young (@the_johnyoung) May 8, 2019
T-minus 11 days until Rogers makes his announcement. Let’s do this thing.
CBS Sports ranked all Power 5 football coaches and it is laugh out loud funny because Will Muschamp is ahead of Mark Stoops
By Drew Franklin on ©May 07th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
The college football crew over at CBSSports.com ranked all 65 head coaches in the Power 5 conferences and released the first batch of the rankings on Tuesday. Coaches 1-25 will be released another time, but it doesn’t really matter to us because we already know Mark Stoops’ spot as it is outside the top 25.
Stoops came in at lucky No. 39 in this year’s rankings, up seven spots from his No. 46 ranking prior to last season. Apparently 10 wins, a Citrus Bowl trophy and a record number of draft picks weren’t enough to earn Stoops more than a seven-spot bump. Hell, the historic 2018 season didn’t even move Stoops ahead of Scott Satterfield at Louisville (37) or Will Muschamp at South Carolina (35) in the rankings, and Stoops has beaten Muschamp three straight years plus a close-call at Florida when Muschamp needed the play-clock operator to cheat for the Gators to escape an upset 27 years in the making. Buncha bullcrap if you ask me.
CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli admitted he had Stoops higher on his list in the site’s explanation of the ranking:
Mark Stoops: I was fully expecting Stoops to take a significant step forward in these rankings after winning 10 games at Kentucky last season. It was the first time the Wildcats won at least 10 games in a single season since 1977. I had him at No. 34 on my ballot, but I guess my fellow voters weren’t as impressed as I. Still, climbing seven spots isn’t insignificant. 2018 rank: 46 (+7)
Muschamp over Stoops is a fireable offense. Stoops has won three of five (four of five in my eyes) against Muschamp and all three of the last three since Muschamp left Florida.