Football Season Coverage
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 11th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Kentucky’s tight ends might actually play a much bigger role in the passing game headed into 2019.
Now I know what you all are probably thinking, “yeah, yeah. Same ole, same old. Copy and paste from the last three seasons”, but I really believe there’s a chance for guys like Justin Rigg and Keaton Upshaw to get much more involved in this year’s passing game.
As fans, we always wanted to see the ball get into the hands of CJ Conrad after seeing how great he was at tight end, but in hindsight, with a generational running back in Benny Snell and Conrad’s ability to block, it makes sense that he wasn’t used in the passing game as much as we hoped.
In a year where AJ Rose can be effective as a receiving back, the coaches believe Terry Wilson will throw the ball 40 times a game, and with Lynn Bowden being the only receiver with significant playing time; there’s going to be no choice but to use the tight ends more often in this year’s offense.
That seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Terry Wilson as well.
After the first scrimmage on Saturday, Stoops had high praise for the involvement of Rigg and Upshaw into the passing game, even expressing how much comfort that brings Terry Wilson going into year two.
“Justin Rigg and Keaton Upshaw, they did some good things,” Stoops said. “We hit them over the middle a few times, they’re big targets. They really make good adjustments to the ball, I think we need to continue to build on that. That’s good for Terry to have that comfort zone for targets like that and to be able to throw some guys and throw them open a little bit.”
Jordan Griffin even had a small comment after yesterday’s scrimmage about the involvement of the tight ends yesterday, saying they were indeed being used a lot more. However, he didn’t say their involvement was a big part of the secondary’s sluggish performance on Saturday, it surely couldn’t have helped.
Justin Rigg has received high praise for his receiving ability, some even say he’s a better pass catcher than Conrad. If Rigg can get vertical, that adds a whole other dimension for the Kentucky offense this season.
Though I wasn’t able to get my phone out in time, I overheard Rigg say he believes he is a part of the best Tight End group in the country. While that may be music to Vince Marrow’s ears, they must be more involved this year in the passing game to prove it.
By Nick Roush on ©August 10th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
Kentucky’s first preseason scrimmage was closed to the general public, but Mark Stoops let the KyWildcatsTV crew inside the stadium. See who turned heads at Kroger Field Saturday morning.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 11, 2019
By Brent Wainscott on ©August 10th, 2019 @ 8:45pm
The offense excelled, while the secondary struggled the first scrimmage of fall camp. Here are ten things we learned from today’s scrimmage.
1. Lynn Bowden is Doing Lynn Bowden Things
Lynn Bowden is the undeniable star on this offense and after the first scrimmage, he is leading the way. To avoid the dreaded injury bug, Stoops only allowed Bowden to take 25 snaps in today’s scrimmage. He made the most of his minutes on the field.
“Lynn did what he did early,” Stoops said. “We did a nice job of getting him the ball and he created some plays.”
2. Wide Receivers are Elevating their play
Lynn Bowden is the clear-cut number one option at wideout this season, but there have been a lot of guys fighting for that number two spot for Terry Wilson. In a scrimmage where the offense excelled, it sounded like the receivers had a big day today.
After facing them on the field, Jordan Griffin was quick to praise a few players individually. “I think Clevan Thomas is doing a good job,” said the junior cornerback. “Ahmad [Wagner] is doing a really good job, of course, Lynn is doing a really good job…Bryce [Oliver] is doing a good job. The whole receiving corps is really stepping up and challenging us.”
3. “Banged Up” at Running back Today
More minor injuries mean more cautionary practices for the Cats, and no group felt that more today than the running backs. Kavosiey Smoke was sidelined after suffering a minor injury in Friday’s practice. He’s expected to return in time for Monday’s practice. Stoops added that Chris Rodriguez got banged up at the end of today’s scrimmage too..
4. A.J. Rose was “Explosive”
While other running backs missed reps, A.J. Rose used the opportunity to assert himself as one of the offense’s top playmakers in today’s scrimmage. “A.J. had some really good runs,” Stoops said. “He made some explosive plays, made some people miss. Again it’s nice to see he has another gear that can take it to another level.”
5. T.J. Carter is having a Great Fall Camp
Multiple players will shine on Kentucky’s front seven this season, but Drake Jackson thinks T.J. Carter is having one of the best fall camps of anyone thus far.
“T.J. Carter is having a great fall camp,” said Jackson. “I noticed from the way he worked out this whole summer, and just his explosiveness off the ball this fall camp. He’s got a motor like I’ve never seen before. He’s more powerful, he’s twitchier, he’s using more moves, so he’s been more disruptive.”
Carter wasn’t the only person Jackson praised. He also pointed out DeAndre Square, Chris Oats, Jared Casey and Xavier Peters.
6. Paschal REALLY wants to play
The best news to come out of fall camp is that Josh Paschal finished up his immunotherapy this week and he really wants to stay on the field. Stoops said Paschal finished up his treatment and was out of practice Thursday. The next day he was ready to go, even though it was a hot, humid afternoon.
“He doesn’t want to be out,” Stoops light-heartedly told the media.”A few days prior to his treatment, I pulled him out and told him to cool off, but we have to do a good job of managing him…he argued with me for about five minutes.”
Paschal confirmed Stoops’ story. “Of course I get upset [about being taken out],” the redshirt sophomore laughed. “I love my brothers, I love playing football, so it’s kind of hard for me to take a step back.”
7. Secondary Struggles Between the Ears
The secondary struggled a little bit today, but fortunately, it wasn’t for lack of talent or athleticism. More or less it’s just getting acclimated to the defense and adjusting, which should come together in time.
“It’s a struggle with a few guys,” Stoops said. “My message to the guys after the scrimmage was to have a high sense of urgency. No wasted time, no wasted reps…What worries me is their football IQ. Understanding down and distance and that’s extremely hard from those positions.”
Jordan Griffin agreed with his coach. The secondary just didn’t have and edge today. Their energy was off. Fittingly, Griffin said next time around they just have to “bring it”.
8. Who is stepping up in the secondary?
It’s no secret the secondary has a long way to go in fall camp. Jordan Griffin has seen quite a few players embrace the challenge. “We got some other guys doing some great things as well,” Griffin said. “Cedrick Dort, Tyrell Ajian, and Yusuf Corker have definitely stepped up and embraced that role [of being a leader].”
9. Brandin Echols is still Out
Junior college cornerback Brandin Echols was expected to start right away. Instead, he’s been on the sideline. According to Stoops, Echols has been dealing with a minor hamstring issue over the last month or two which has slowed him down at the start of training camp. Echols’ absence certainly doesn’t help the struggling secondary.
10. High Praise for the Tight Ends
Kentucky’s tight ends made plays in the first scrimmage. Stoops said Rigg and Upshaw looked really good in the middle of the field. Gran played both of them frequently at the same time in 12 personnel. Rigg believes he is apart of the best tight end group in the country. There will be more on that tomorrow morning on KSR.
Before he was a Kentucky Wildcat, J.J. Weaver was one of the most sought-after recruits in the Commonwealth.
A four-star recruit from Louisville Moore High School, the defensive end/outside linebacker became the second-highest ranked member of UK’s class when he put on a blue hat during a ceremony at his high school. After pledging his allegiance to Kentucky, many fans feared he could potentially flip to UofL when shared his intentions to sign in the spring with his teammates. After talking to Vince Marrow, he put pen to paper in December and left all of the drama in the past.
Before Weaver reported to camp for preseason training, he spent his summer working out regularly. His family resides in Louisville, but his first home was in Broward County, Florida. Weaver gets to receive the best of both worlds at Kentucky. There are more than a dozen Wildcats on the roster from the two recruiting hot beds. He started offseason training in Louisville before returning to Florida to work out alongside Stanley Garner and DayDay Hawkins.
“Everybody said camp’s gonna be hectic,” but Weaver was not too intimidated by the veterans’ advice. “When I first got here, everybody said, ‘You better be ready. Workouts here aren’t like workouts (at home).’ I’ve been tearing the weight room up, been grinding everyday. I just gotta take it day-by-day.”
Since he began hitting the weight room, Weaver has gained ten pounds of muscle. Picking up that part of the game has come easily. Learning the Jack linebacker position, Josh Allen’s former spot, is much easier said than done.
“In high school, it was just a a free for all. Here, you’ve gotta talk to your linemen. You have to tell people what to do. You’ve gotta motivate people. It’s a lot different.”
Developing an understanding of the defense will take time. Weaver is prepared to be patient. When his number is called, the 11-fingered edge rusher is prepared to wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage.
“It feels great to play for the Big Blue Nation.”
By Nick Roush on ©August 10th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
A year ago John Schlarman began a fight with cancer. Throughout his bout the former Wildcat has not changed how he goes about his business one bit. Mark Stoops and offensive linemen have used that line a lot, but what exactly does that look like? We find out in the latest ‘Behind the Grind.’
Wearing a mic, the KyWildcatsTV cameras take you behind the scenes in practice and into the meeting room to show you how Schlarman teaches. The attention to detail from the hips to the hands and the feet is remarkable. See for yourself:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 9, 2019
By Nick Roush on ©August 10th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Josh Paschal has never used cancer as an excuse. In fact, Mark Stoops had to force him to leave the practice field earlier this week.
“He got done with his treatment on Wednesday, sat out Thursday and Friday came right back out there and it was hot. It was one of those days where it was very humid and hot. He got a little sick, but he doesn’t want to be out long,” Stoops said after Saturday’s scrimmage at Kroger Field.
“A few days prior to his treatment I had to pull him out and send him into the showers just to cool off because he just wasn’t feeling great. He doesn’t ever want to come out but we have to make sure we do a good job of managing him. Our staff does a great job. Our trainers do a great job and brought it to my attention. He argued with me for about five minutes and I said, ‘Get in and hit the showers.'”
Even though he got a little sick on a hot Friday afternoon, Paschal returned to the field for Kentucky’s first preseason scrimmage Saturday morning. Live reps have been few and far-between over the last year. Used in a limited capacity, he made the most of his time on the Kroger Field turf.
“He came back and looked good out there today,” Stoops said. “He wants to play. As you know, he’s missed a lot, so the live reps today were important to him. I’ll have to go get a pitch count to see how many reps he did get, but he looked good when he was out there.”
Playing Jack linebacker alongside Jordan Wright and Xavier Peters, Paschal is the most experienced player at Josh Allen’s former position, in spite of his absence through most of the 2018 season. He will play his way back into shape over the next month. In that time Paschal will have to earn a starting spot, but he does not need to earn respect from the people around the Kentucky football program.
“Josh, he’s remarkable,” said Stoops. “We’ve talked about it a lot, but it’s the truth. He’s a real inspiration to a lot of us.”
By Nick Roush on ©August 10th, 2019 @ 2:11pm
After watching his team participate in a live 11-on-11 scrimmage for the first time in the 2019 season, Mark Stoops left Kroger Field without much conviction.
“It was just okay. We have a lot of work to do,” Stoops said. “I was really pleased with the offense. Offensively, I thought we really played and did some good things.”
‘Just okay’ is typically how a defensive coach describes a scrimmage in which his side of the ball plays poorly. Once he started talking about the defense, it was obvious that his unit did not play with the effort and enthusiasm he wanted to see.
“Defensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Stoops. “I was disappointed with the strength of our team. The inexperience — no excuse — but you know you’re going to make some mistakes and some things are going to happen, but the strength of our team needs to be the strength. Today I just didn’t feel like we were up to the challenge defensively and that’s disappointing. Fortunately, we have a lot of time left to get some things rectified.”
Aside: “The strength of our team needs to be the strength” might be the greatest ambiguous coaching line Stoops has used in seven years at Kentucky. What a football guy.
The strength of UK’s defense is in its front seven. Saturday morning they failed to consistently find the right fits in the run defense. While it frustrated the defensive coach, the offense excelled; that is, when they did not shoot themselves in the foot.
“Things that set us back are some typical mistakes, things that have hurt us in the past. We gotta get those corrected. Just getting behind the chains and penalties; we were a little sloppy in that way. We did take care of the football, but anytime we got behind the chains with a sack or any negative yardage plays, it was hard to overcome. But overall, they did some good things.”
Sloppy plays are to be expected in the first preseason scrimmage. Now that the Cats have worked through the kinks, they must keep the mistakes in the past.
“We’ve got to have to have a really high sense of urgency. There’s just no time for wasted time and wasted reps,” UK’s head coach told his team. “There can always be more.”
DeAndre Square has been surprising others since he arrived on Kentucky’s campus in January of 2018.
An early enrollee from Detroit’s Cass Tech, nobody expected to hear much from the inside linebacker in his first spring practice. Injuries to Jordan Jones and Jamin Davis forced Square to spring into action at Will linebacker. The under-sized freshman played big, recording six tackles in the Blue/White Game, only two behind Kash Daniel.
Square carried the momentum from spring into fall camp. He did not beat out a three-year starter, but he earned enough respect from his coaches to play in every single game in the 2018 season. The freshman earned his first start in the Citrus Bowl and the moment was not too big, recording six tackles and his first career sack. Square was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team after recording 35 tackles, 3.5 for loss, three QBHs, one PBU and one forced fumble.
Square’s lengthy list of early accomplishments made him hungry for more. To take his game to the next level, he needed to make some changes. From year one to year two, DeAndre Square looks like a completely different person.
The most obvious change Square made was at the barber shop.
“I had them for four years,” he told KSR. “I felt like I was going through a big change in my life and I just felt like I needed a change in my hair.”
When the linebacker is wearing a helmet, you cannot see the haircut, but you will see him wearing a different jersey number.
“I never wanted 43 when I got here. I knew I was going to change my number, I just didn’t know it was going to be 17, but I like it.”
He reached 17 through his old number. Allow me to use some simple math.
4 – 3 = 1
4 + 3 = 7
If you put the digits together, you get 17. It’s also the amount of pounds he packed on this offseason. Square bulked up and transformed his body, despite a spring illness setback. After experiencing the physicality in small doses as a reserve, adding muscle in the offseason was the only way he could survive as a starting inside linebacker in the SEC.
“I put a lot of work in,” he said. “It was really important. My body was aching everyday. I had to go 100% because if I didn’t I was going to get ran over. It was very important to me to put on at least 10, 15 pounds this offseason.”
He surpassed that goal by gaining 17 pounds of muscle. While changing his approach to the game physically, Square has developed a more acute football IQ in the film room.
“He’s been a really conscientious, mature, kind of a silent assassin type. He’s not the biggest talker, but he goes about his work, he’s very serious and he’s really physically changed,” said inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall.
“He’s sharp, man. He’s a really, really high football IQ kid in that room. Him and Kash both, but for him to be as young as he is and think the game the way he does and communicate the same the way he does, is extremely impressive for a guy who’s in his second training camp.”
Silent assassins can only take you so far on a football field, especially linebackers who make pre-snap calls. Kash Daniel has helped Square come out of his shell as a sophomore.
“I feel like I’m starting to become more like Kash. Kash is really vocal and I’m just trying to embody that,” said Square. “I’m probably not as intense as Kash, but I learned how to communicate.”
Daniel can already see the difference in Square.
“He’s done a really good job stepping up and being a leader on this defense and helping me out in our position room and especially on this defense,” said Kash. “He brings that dog mentality to practice everyday. He gives you his all, so we expect to give our all right back to him. That’s how we operate as brothers on this defense.”
DeAndre Square may have surprised a few fans by his exceptional freshman year. He’s made big changes to surprise the rest of the SEC in 2019.
Earlier today on KSR, our positional preview series continued with the offensive line. The final group of the offense will enter this season as the most important and Kentucky feels very good with what they have on the line of scrimmage. A big reason for this is because of the man in the middle.
Drake Jackson enters his redshirt junior season with 20 starts under his belt and plenty of people starting to take notice of his game.
Kentucky returns a solid interior protector in Drake Jackson. pic.twitter.com/54FJgawIjs
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 5, 2019
MY top 5 SEC centers for 2019:
1) Drake Jackson- Kentucky
2) Lloyd Cushenberry- LSU
3) Daryl Williams- Mississippi State
4) Trystan Colon-Castillo- Mizzou
5) Trey Hill- UGA
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 28, 2019
Since the former top-150 recruit took over the starting role in the middle of 2017, Kentucky has become a dominant rushing offense. Nothing proved that more than the Texas A&M game when the Versailles, Kentucky native tweaked his hamstring.
In the first five games of 2018, Kentucky put up 254.2 rushing yards per outing. While Jackson nursed that injury, Kentucky posted just 120.4 rushing yards per outing in the next five games. Once he got healthy at the end of the season, Kentucky rushed for 239.7 yards per game in the three-game winning streak to end the season. The guy in the middle makes all the difference.
Drake Jackson makes all of the calls for the offensive line and is responsible for all of the communication needed before every play. He was the only player last season in the group that did not rotate in and out of the lineup. Kentucky has to have him in the game to be firing on all cylinders.
This summer, the two-year starter was named to the Rimington Trophy watchlist and that should not be slept on. The prestigious award is given to the best center in college football yearly and Jackson has a great chance to bring the hardware home. He has that chance despite being named third-team preseason All-SEC by the media members in Hoover. He’s the straw that stirs the drink in the middle of UK’s offense and if any player outside of Lynn Bowden, Jr. is going to bring home a national award and potential All-American honors it will be the Woodford County grad.
By Adam Luckett on ©August 09th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
The Davonte Robinson injury caused some major ripples in how Mark Stoops, Brad White, Steve Clinkscale, and Dean Hood are going to field their secondary this season. With fall camp just being a week old, we are starting to see some of the after effects of that loss. Due to the injury bug biting and some lack of options, a big time recruiting win in the class of 2019 is getting a shot at playing time after an underwhelming spring.
Quandre Mosely was an early signing day surprise when the composite three-star prospect picked Kentucky over Oregon. The Brunswick, Georgia native brought the size and length the UK’s staff prefers to have at corner. After enrolling early and playing corner in the spring, it did not take Mosely long to get buried on the depth chart. Entering fall, not many were expecting much.
Then UK lost Davonte Robinson for the year while fellow junior college transfer Brandin Echols has been slowed by injuries to start camp. Therefore, UK’s staff is trying to find a place for the rangy defensive back and they have seemed to carve out a role for the Eastern Arizona Community College transfer.
Brad White confirmed on Thursday that the staff has given a look to Mosely at safety and he’s quickly making an impact. The Wildcats are working the junior at slot corner and that’s the position Davonte Robinson was set to man this season. He recorded an interception in a red zone drill and that should be no surprise after Mosely developed a reputation as a ballhawk in junior college by recording six interceptions last season.
Kentucky is currently fishing for answers in the secondary and there’s some “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” going on. Mosley has the size and athleticism to compete right now. You don’t bring junior college transfers in to sit the bench so you better believe UK is hopeful to find a spot for him. If he can man that nickel/slot corner spot or become the sixth defensive back in dime packages while Jordan Griffin, Yusuf Corker, and Tyrell Ajian man the safety spots that would be a big win for the Kentucky defense.
For what it’s worth, it’s all just scuttlebutt right now. We’ll learn more tomorrow after UK wraps up their first scrimmage of fall camp. KSR will be on the scene to give you all the news, quotes, and updates. Stay tuned this weekend for the details and check the 11 Personnel podcast next week where Nick Roush and I will go all in on the limited information provided from the scrimmage to tell you what it all means.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 09th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Football is right around the corner, so prognosticators across the interwebs are releasing their final predictions for the 2019 season. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm even put out some bowl projections, and he had your University of Kentucky Wildcats bowling for the fourth straight year.
Palm has the Cats playing Syracuse in the Belk Bowl on December 31 in Charlotte, North Carolina. New Year’s Eve in the Queen City? The basketball team hosts Louisville on December 28, so why not. It’s a very clean town.
Other SEC teams on the list:
- Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal): Alabama vs. Georgia
- Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Texas
- Gator Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Mississippi State
- Citrus Bowl: Nebraska vs. Florida
- Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas A&M
- Liberty Bowl: Baylor vs. South Carolina
- Music City Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Missouri (pending bowl ban appeal)
- Texas Bowl: TCU vs. Auburn
Palm has Clemson and Oklahoma in the other CFP Semifinal. Check out the rest of the projections at the link below.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 09th, 2019 @ 2:25pm
Missouri has approved beer and wine sales in Memorial Stadium for this coming season.
This afternoon, the school released a statement on its decision to approve alcohol sales, citing the anticipated drop in incidents associated with binge drinking on game days as a key factor.
“Since the SEC staff established its working group to study this issue in 2018, our staff has been working with campus leadership, including MU Chief of Police Doug Schwandt, and our Wellness Center team, to develop a detailed and thoughtful alcoholic beverage sales plan for Mizzou in the event that the SEC position on this issue were to change,” said Mizzou Director of Athletics Jim Sterk. “Based on the experiences of other institutions, we expect Mizzou football fans will appreciate this new option. We also expect alcoholic beverage sales at Memorial Stadium will help reduce the incidents associated with binge drinking that can occur on game day. We consider that a win-win for our fans.
“As part of this move, fans can also expect an increase in game-day messaging and education with regard to responsible consumption and sober driving, as part of our partnership with the campus Wellness Center,” he added.
Their release specifically mentioned the drop in alcohol-related incidents West Virginia and Ohio State has seen since making their respective decisions to approve alcohol sales.
“West Virginia was a pioneer in selling alcohol at collegiate sporting events, and reports that its number of in-stadium incidents continues to fall because of its availability on game day, and Ohio State saw total incidents drop to 61 in the first year of alcoholic beverage sales in 2016 compared to 175 in 2015 and 269 in 2014, according to media reports,” the report said.
NEWS | #Mizzou Athletics Announces Alcoholic Beverage Sales Policy
— Mizzou Athletics (@MizzouAthletics) August 9, 2019
Missouri joins LSU and Texas A&M as other SEC programs to approve alcohol sales, along with other schools nationwide such as Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, Kansas, Colorado, Ohio State, and West Virginia, among others.
Kentucky joined Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State last week as SEC schools to turn down alcohol sales.
For most of the offseason, we’ve heard Mark Stoops talk about how his program has no intent on taking a step back in 2019. After a 10-win season and losing two generational talents in Josh Allen and Benny Snell, most expect the Wildcats to fall back down to earth. However, no one at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility agrees with that sentiment. A big reason for that is what Kentucky returns on the line of scrimmage.
We’ve covered the entire offense to this point (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends) but have saved the best for last. John Schlarman returns to coach the trenches for the seventh season and in 2019 he has his best offensive line to date. Lynn Bowden, Jr. and Terry Wilson get most of the fanfare, but UK has a chance to be very good offensively because of who they have setting the tone at the point of attack.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, the offensive line has long been a weakness for the Kentucky football program. Outside of Larry Warford, Kentucky hasn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 1993. Until Jon Toth in 2016, Kentucky had only one first-team All-SEC selection since 2003. The play on the line wasn’t getting the job done and John Schlarman has done his best to change that.
Mark Stoops realized quickly to win in the SEC you needed size combined with tough, physical play in the trenches. For Kentucky, it was always going to be hard to go out and find blue-chips that you could plug-and-play. Therefore, development was going to be a huge part of the program. On the offensive line, redshirting has been a key tool for the program with only three offensive linemen (George Asafo-Adjei, Landon Young, and Darian Kinnard) playing in their first seasons on campus. But at the same time, getting some blue-chips has helped build this current crop.
Drake Jackson, Darian Kinnard, and Landon Young were each top-200 recruits in the 247 Sports rankings and sometimes that makes life much easier. Since Eddie Gran arrived in 2016, this group has become one of college football’s best run blocking units and they show no signs of slowing down this fall.
One thing John Schlarman has done very well since 2016 is establish a rotation. Logan Stenberg and Landon Young each received reps during their rookie seasons in 2016. Luke Fortner, Mason Wolfe, Darian Kinnard, and Naasir Watkins received rotation snaps last year. This over most anything else has allowed the Wildcats to have continual success.
Offensive Line Room
When discussing Kentucky’s offensive line, it must start with the guy in the middle. After having a snapping fiasco in the first month of the 2017 season, Drake Jackson was inserted into the lineup and has now started in 20 consecutive games. If you remember back to that season, the Wildcats were having all kinds of problems with their ground game. Jackson finally got into the lineup and Benny Snell rushed for over 100 yards in five of the next seven games. After averaging 254.2 team rushing yards in their first five games of 2018, Kentucky posted just 120.4 yards per game in the next five as Jackson nursed a groin injury suffered against Texas A&M. UK desperately needs him healthy and he is the engine that drives this unit.
Surrounding the center at guard will be a pair of upperclassmen. Logan Stenberg has started 26 consecutive games at left guard after becoming part of the rotation his redshirt freshman year. The redshirt senior brings a nastiness to the position and he’ll certainly hear his named called in the next NFL Draft. After playing 19 games the last two seasons, Luke Fortner will finally get a chance to start as a redshirt junior. The 6-foot-6 guard has been moved all over the place and may even emerge as the team’s primary backup center this season. Rotating in with these two will be redshirt senior Mason Wolfe who brings experience (25 games played) to the position. It will be imperative that either redshirt sophomore Austin Dotson or redshirt freshman Kenneth Horsey crack the rotation for the future of the position.
On the outside, Kentucky has pair of former top-200 recruits starting the season for them. UK gets redshirt junior Landon Young back from injury this fall and his presence should certainly help an offense that ranked 109th in sack rate last season. After cracking the rotation as a true freshman, Young started six games as a sophomore in 2017, and then the injury bug bit last fall camp. He could be due for a big season.
On the right side, Darian Kinnard will take over a starting role after getting two starts at the end of last season. Kinnard was only the third offensive line player to play as a true freshman and it appears Kentucky has a future star in the Cleveland St. Ignatius product. Naasir Watkins will be the primary backup at tackle in his redshirt sophomore season while mountain man Nick Lewis (6-foot-9, 367 pounds) looks to get involved after a redshirt season.
Kentucky has size, experience, and depth on the offensive line entering the season. The starting rotation owns an average weight of 316.8 pounds while Mason Wolfe bring beef (6-foot-6, 323 pounds) and Naasir Watkins provides length (6-foot-5 with long arms) off the bench. Among their first five, the Wildcats have a combined 54 starts while Drake Jackson and Logan Stenberg figure to be in the running for All-SEC honors. Expectations are high for this group and there’s a reason why.
Pass protection is something they all must work on, but there’s no doubt that this will be one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the FBS as long as Drake Jackson is in the lineup and healthy. It’s likely safe to say that John Schlarman’s offensive line room has four future draft picks with some others looming. The position coach has been excellent at creating depth and has his most talented offensive line set to take the field in 2018. Eddie Gran stated at this week’s media session that ““Up front, we’re further along than we ever have been.” That should perk your ears up.
Mark Stoops has talked nonstop about how the program has no plans on taking a step back in 2019. Once doing some digging, it’s easy to understand why. The Wildcats return experience at quarterback and have the best offensive line this program has seen in quite some time. If the starting five stays healthy, this group is going to surprise some people and will be in contention for the Joe Moore Award if they can clean up that pass protection.
By Nick Roush on ©August 08th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Josh Paschal’s fight against cancer has inspired many. One in particular cannot be more grateful for the lessons he learned about life and football from his friend.
A day after the outside linebacker completed his final cancer treatment, Paschal did not practice, thanks to lingering side effects from the immunotherapy. His coaches and teammates certainly understand. After all the fighting he’s been through, Paschal has earned a little break, even though he did not want to take one the day before his final cancer treatment.
“This is a testament to what kind of worker Josh is,” Kash Daniel began his story. “The other day I was in there working out. We got done working out earlier and it was only a 30-minute lift, so I felt like I needed to do something more. I was in there and low and behold, here comes JP. He starts doing some flies with me and here comes Coach White, pretty pissed off at Josh. I was like, ‘Why in the hell is he pissed off at Josh for?’ He (White) said, ‘You’ve got treatment tomorrow.’
“You didn’t tell me that,” Kash exclaimed. “All you said was, ‘Hey, can I do some work with you?’ You didn’t tell me you had effing cancer treatment tomorrow. That just shows what kind of guy he is and what kind of heart he’s had throughout the whole process.”
A melanoma diagnosis is scary. Everyone would have understood if it put him down in the dumps. That was never the case with Josh. He fought cancer tooth and nail and never complained. His mentality inspired his teammates, especially Kash Daniel.
The defensive captain told Paschal after his final treatment: “How you’ve handled this has been remarkable because every table was turned against you. You had every reason to quit and nobody would’ve said a thing to you because, knowing the situation, that’s a lot of shit for a young kid, especially trying to be on a college football team, with everything trying to figure out life and how you’re gonna go about things.
“The way he handled it and how he came to work everyday knowing that he was going to beat it, knowing that his brothers had his back and knowing that he always had a smile on his face. He never complained, never once was in a bad mood. I told him it’s helped me, keeping me with a positive mindset and a positive attitude, no matter what’s going on.”
How Paschal handled adversity isn’t just lesson for his teammates to use on the football field. He’s shown the entire Kentucky football program that no matter how many punches life throws, you can take them to the chin before delivering a knockout.
“For Josh to go through what he did and be back out here with us, it’s unreal,” Kash said. “He’s an unbelievable human being, an unbelievable teammate and I’m just honored to have him as a friend, first and foremost. Football is great, being a part of a team is great and I’m really thankful that this football team has helped me form a friendship with Josh that ain’t going to be broken.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 08th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Kentucky freshman quarterback Nik Scalzo is about to be a Netflix star.
Next week, the 6-foot-0, 182-pound dual-threat gunslinger will be one of three players featured in “QB1: Beyond the Lights,” a show dedicated to following star high school quarterbacks from different backgrounds in the time leading up to their college careers.
The trailer for season three – set to come out on August 16 – was released on Wednesday afternoon, featuring the newest Wildcat.
“Nik Scalzo, he may be a little undersized, but he’s a playmaker,” the trailer said, which also featured several other scenes of the Kentucky quarterback both on and off the football field.
As expected, Scalzo also couldn’t help but sport a Kentucky hat in just about every scene he is featured in.
Check it out below:
Scalzo took to Twitter to share the trailer and express his excitement in the show’s upcoming release:
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) August 7, 2019
Get ready, BBN. “QB1: Beyond the Lights” featuring one of your own is set to release next week.
Kentucky freshman running back Travis Tisdale brings plenty of accolades with him from the state of Georgia. Ranked by ESPN as the No. 18 running back in America, the first team all-state selection led class 7A with 1,903 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Even so, he’s as humble as they come.
“I’m just trying to learn the plays and learn the playbook to get a shot out there,” Tisdale told KSR at UK Football Fan Day.
His humility stems from his background. The son of an Air Force man, Tisdale lived in North Dakota and New Mexico before moving to Valdosta for his high school years.
“When I got there, I knew this is the South. There’s going to be a lot of good competition. New Mexico really didn’t have that. It was a very big difference. Being in Valdosta, Georgia, it really brought me out, I guess, as a recruit. It was a big jump from New Mexico.”
He learned a lot from the interstate moves and even more from his Father. The first lesson: “Be Humble.”
Hear who the 4.2 40-yard dash sprinter models his game after in the NFL, why he chose to play for Eddie Gran and more in the conversation with Kentucky Sports Radio.
After losing more than a dozen senior contributors, many of which started for multiple seasons, Mark Stoops is replenishing his coffers with players you may not know well. If you don’t, you will after reading this preseason training camp series on KSR. First up, cornerback Cedrick Dort.
After fielding enormous cornerbacks for three years, Stoops is working with something a little different on the boundary when No. 27 enters the starting lineup. Standing at 5-11, redshirt sophomore Cedrick Dort does not believe he needs size to have an advantage on the competition.
“Guys my height, the hips and feet are more dominant than those taller guys. With quicker receivers it helps me be more patient because I’ve got good feet and good hips,” Dort said. “A lot of tall guys just don’t have that. It’s one of the keys to my game. I really appreciate my size.”
A former three-star recruit from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Dort was the next cornerback up in 2018 as the Cats’ dime. Instead of receiving his first significant reps, a nagging high ankle sprain forced him to redshirt. Even though he was stuck on the sideline, his predecessors made sure he knew what it would take to be a leader in the secondary.
“They prepared me since my freshman year by taking me under their wing. Anytime they saw me down, they cheered me up. Anytime they saw me frustrated, they let me know what they were seeing. They always kept my hopes up, they always kept my confidence up. I really appreciate Chris (Westry), Derrick (Baity), Lonnie, Mike (Edwards) and D-West because they really prepared me for a moment like this. I always knew a time like this was going to come…it’s going smooth right now.”
The greatest challenge so far for Dort is being a more vocal leader. Typically, that’s not a problem for SoFlo kids. Dort and Josh Ali, the wide receiver he battles daily, are two South Florida kids that are exceptions to that norm.
“Me and Josh Ali go at it. We’ve been going at it since we were freshman though. Now we’re on the big stage, getting opportunities to really show people what we’ve got.”
Each year the football team gets one month to get away and do whatever they want. This year, Dort and Ali stayed on campus in the month of May. Dort packed on 15 pounds of muscle in that month. He plans on putting it to good use in the first scrimmage of the preseason.
“I really want to work on my tackling. I want to be a better tackler this Saturday. I want to be a more vocal leader. That’s my main focus. I want to keep the defense uplifted when we hit adversity because you’re always going to need that throughout the season.”
Handling adversity will be the most difficult challenge for the cornerback who is not battle-tested. In a long game, even the best corners get beat from time to time. How a corner responds separates the best from the rest. Many believe UK’s secondary will suffer this season. Dort begs to differ.
“I’ve always been the type of person to accept challenges. It’s just a chance to prove yourself, to prove everybody wrong.”
Mark Stoops’ players received their first day off from training camp Wednesday. They did not suit up on the field, but they did spend quite a bit of time in the film room.
“I thought we were a little loose on Tuesday,” said defensive coordinator Brad White. “Yesterday I thought all the assistant coaches did a good job in their position rooms getting all those mistakes we’ve seen occur over and over again, getting them cleaned up. We didn’t see nearly as many today.”
During their recovery time, the players also got a chance to dance in the locker room. Nobody has better moves than redshirt freshman defensive lineman Davoan “DayDay” Hawkins.
How I’m feeling this good morning ? 4??? pic.twitter.com/zzc2FruOwT
— DayDay Hawkins? (@mbk_55era) August 7, 2019
Kash and Childers — UK’s middle linebacker wants a day off and it’s not because he’s trying to skate one past his coach. He’s asked Stoops if it’s okay to take a “personal day” to see Tyler Childers this Sunday at Keeneland’s Railbird Festival. He was representing Eastern Kentucky’s finest following today’s action on the field.
Rookies Adjust to Physicality — UK’s DC liked what he saw from the Cats’ practice Thursday morning. “Overall, I’ve been pleased with the effort. I thought we had a solid practice today. Obviously, there’s some things to clean up,” White said.
Some of that is simply learning on the fly, especially for the young players who are getting popped by the big guys for the first time.
“You can tell there was some inexperience and indecisiveness at first, trying to dissect too much instead of going and playing ball. But that’s every young kid. It happened to me, it happened to everybody that’s out here on this field when they first got here,” said Kash Daniel.
“You can definitely tell they’ve changed in how they approach practice. Now they know practice is going to be very physical. They know that a high school game is going to feel like they just got out of a college practice.”
Scrimmage Looming — The team has taken a few lumps in practice, but they aren’t tackling players all the way to the ground. The first time the players are truly tested in a game-like setting will be Saturday morning. White is anxious to see how the young team responds to the atmosphere.
“It’s one thing to get to the point of contact. We want to see who can finish it all the way to the ground. All the tagging off on the hips, all the glove-hand placement, who can make the pick, who can make the tackle, who can pin a guy to the ground when the offense is going full-speed? That’s going to be the real test.”
Move for Mosely — One of the highest-ranked JUCO safeties in America was recruited to play cornerback at UK. After learning the position in the spring, Davonte Robinson’s injury forced the coaching staff to move him back to safety for training camp. It should come more naturally for Mosely, but if they’re not careful, the moving and shaking could get him lost in the wash.
Paschal Helps Inside — After celebrating his successful final cancer treatment, White explained how JP’s experience as a defensive end helps him as a Jack linebacker.
“Anytime you play multiple positions, it gives you an appreciation for the whole picture. He understands the strain those guys go through. If you play loose on the edge, what kind of strain that puts on the guys inside. He has a tendency — which is great, which is sort of my philosophy — he’ll play tighter on the edge than most guys. Now, he believes in his power and his strength. He’s bigger than most so he can, but he also does it out of respect for those guys inside of him.”
On August 3, 2018, a teary-eyed Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops took the air out of the room at UK Media Day when he announced that Josh Paschal had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
A little over a year later, the redshirt sophomore is officially cancer-free.
This afternoon, Paschal announced on his Twitter page that he underwent his final immunotherapy treatment for his melanoma.
“I’m excited to announce that today was my last immunotherapy treatment for melanoma!” he said. “I have a lot of people to thank. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior for guiding me through this difficult time. My faith has only become stronger. I want to thank my family and girlfriend for being there every step of the way and never missing a treatment.
“I would like to thank my family and brothers from back home for continually supporting me. I want to thank the surgeons, doctors, and nurses at [the UK Markey Cancer Center] for taking good care of me. Lastly, to the athletic trainers, my teammates, my coaches, and everyone in the [Big Blue Nation], thank you for supporting me, praying for me, and getting me back to [100%]. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next. See you this fall.”
Here was the announcement:
— Joshua Paschal (@JPaschalx) August 7, 2019
After three surgeries and continued monthly treatments, Paschal finally started his very first game of the season against Middle Tennessee in November. He was named SEC co-Defensive Player of the Week on November 19 following his season debut. The Wildcat defensive lineman was also named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
As a true freshman, Paschal played in all 13 games, including one start. He totaled 17 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, three QB hits, and one blocked kick on the year.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 08th, 2019 @ 10:30am
Want to see the Cats take on the Commodores in Nashville on November 16? You’re in luck because Vanderbilt’s single-game tickets just went on sale, and sideline seats for the Kentucky game are only $55. End zone seats are $42. A quick scan of the seating map shows there are plenty of tickets for the taking.
To order yours, click here or call 615.322.4653. Let’s turn that sad horseshoe blue.