Football Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
I don’t watch the NFL Network too often, but I did tune in this morning to check on the draft mania in downtown Nashville. The network’s morning show, “Good Morning Football,” was live from Tootsie’s on Broadway (or rather, an expanded section of Tootsie’s built specifically for the draft), and both Josh Allen and Mark Stoops came on to preview the draft and what it means for Kentucky Football.
First up was Allen, who discussed his career at Kentucky, what makes him such a special player, and Old Spice, one of his sponsors.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 25, 2019
Later on, Mark Stoops came on brag about Allen and how Kentucky Football has turned the corner:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 25, 2019
What a cool weekend for Kentucky Football.
By Nick Roush on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
In the modern NFL Draft era, Kentucky has never had more than four players selected in one draft. That will change this weekend in Nashville.
Kentucky’s 2019 draft class has broken records and achieved many new “firsts,” all while taking the program to heights not reached in decades. They’re a likable group, but not just because of their success. What makes this group of players so incredibly endearing is what they had to overcome to be successful.
“They are a special group,” Mark Stoops said earlier this week. “You guys have never got me to cry up here but I could darn near cry right now. I just appreciate those guys.”
From injuries to homelessness, the special group overcame the unbelievable odds to hear their names called in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Thursday night will be Freddie Maggard’s ultimate, “I told you so,” moment. Few believed in the 2-star recruit. Now Allen will get the last laugh.
A skinny kid who grew up with a stutter, Allen moved in with his aunt and uncle in Alabama to attend high school. “Smooth” would not be a good word to describe the transition. Bullied and beat up, the wide receiver wanted to quit more than once. Fate would not let that happen. After three seasons of football, Allen was an all-state wide receiver. Still, his journey would not get any easier.
Allen moved home to New Jersey to complete his final year of school at Montclair High School. It did not take long for his coach to move him across the line of scrimmage. Playing with his hand in the dirt was new, but he was a natural. By the season’s end, Allen led the state in sacks. That kind of production should lead to something, right? Wrong. Monmouth was the only school willing to offer him a scholarship. His high school coach, John Fiore, was willing to bet his house that Allen would be a success, yet the Rutgers’ coaching staff still wouldn’t offer. Luckily, Kentucky was willing to take a chance, one I think worked out okay.
Four National Defensive Player of the Year awards and a pair of school records later, Allen will be a top ten pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The skinny kid with a stutter transformed into this guy:
— Official Josh Allen Stan Account (@CitrusBowl) April 23, 2019
“If I tell y’all the whole story, you wouldn’t even believe it.”
Lonnie Johnson should not be here. The world class athlete grew up in Gary, Indiana. He learned at a young age how to deal with death and how to stay out of trouble.
“I never went out creating problems, but I didn’t run from any,” Johnson told NFL.com. “I tried to keep my head low and I never got into it with anyone from Glen Park. That’s how bodies drop, when you go in the wrong neighborhood.”
Watching his peers pass away was obviously difficult, but it’s still not the most traumatic experience of his young life. That happened when hard times forced his family out of their home. His mother and father were employed, but could not afford to quickly find a place for their family.
“The toughest thing for me is being homeless with my parents for six months with my grandma. We stayed with 13 other people, so there were 17 total in the house, two bedrooms, just one bathroom. That probably was the toughest thing I dealt with mentally. It just helped me become strong,” Johnson added. “It helped me become humble. Anything can get taken away from you at any moment.”
That’s exactly what happened when he tried to get out of Gary. The four-star wide receiver failed to academically qualify to attend Ohio State. It took three years and two junior colleges (one of which included a two-hour daily commute) before he was academically eligible to sign with the University of Kentucky. The ultimate goal of reaching the NFL motivated Johnson to do things the right way every single day in Lexington.
“Since he has been on campus, I have not had to have one difficult conversation with him. He has handled his business every day that he has been here. He goes to class. He graduated early. He works hard,” Mark Stoops said.
“He spent three years being a corner. He has great upside. I am not saying he is perfect, but he has done everything right since he has been here. I just have great appreciation for him and he has great upside because he is still learning the game.”
Johnson’s upside could potentially make him a first round pick. Scouts left the Senior Bowl amazed by his size and speed. With only three years of experience at cornerback, he’s not the most polished product.
“I’m still hungry, determined. I’ve been through a lot just to get to this moment. I still got my best football ahead of me,” Johnson said.
Once he reaches the league, his job is not finished. There’s much more to achieve, but first, he’s taking care of his family.
“I’m buying my mom a house, for sure. I’m buying my mom a house so she doesn’t have to be homeless anymore.” He added, “This is all I ever wanted to do. This is my dream.”
He might not be the only Johnson from Gary drafted. His cousin, Jon’vea Johnson, had more than 2,000 yards receiving at Toledo and is expected to be a late round draft pick.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
Which NFL team will be lucky enough to land Josh Allen? Here’s a roundup of the latest mock drafts, which have the Kentucky star going anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6.
Jon Gruden would be thrilled — he loves playmakers on both sides of the ball. Allen had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. He’s a force off the edge.
All Allen does is pressure opposing quarterbacks, and his 17 sacks last season prove it. Tampa Bay could use a player with closing burst like that coming around the corner of its new 3-4 defense.
I heard there was a push by some coaches to take Ed Oliver, but in the end smarter heads prevailed and they opt to go with a major need player. Allen will be a force in Gregg Williams’ defense.
Gregg Williams would have all kinds of fun creating sack opportunities for Allen off the edge in an ultra-aggressive defense.
The Jets need a pass rusher, but watch for them to potentially trade out of this spot.
The Giants need a pass rusher and a quarterback. I’m hearing they’ll look to get a pass rusher first, and they land one of the best available this year in Allen.
The Giants could go in a number of directions at No. 6 overall—and many fans will want them to select a quarterback—but the most reliable information is that pass-rusher is the priority.
General manager Dave Gettleman will use the first of his two picks Thursday night to get the man who led the SEC with 17.0 sacks in 2018 while notching 21.5 tackles for loss as a do-it-all defender. Allen can play in a 3-4 defense, which is very important under Giants coordinator James Bettcher, and he has the skills to stop the run and drop into coverage.
A quarterback selection wouldn’t be shocking here, but a defensive piece is most likely.
If you’re looking for a storybook ending, root for Josh to go to the Jets or Giants. During an appearance on the NFL Network this morning, Allen said his mother used to work the concession stands at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home of both squads. Now, he’ll be able to buy her an entire suite.
By Bryan the Intern on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 10:30am
Terry Wilson will head into Year 2 as the starting quarterback for Kentucky and while there are lots of question marks about the overall team for 2019, many people are highly confident in Wilson after seeing his last few games in 2018. And typically, Year 2 for a starter normally equates to increased production. And you can really look at a QB’s performance both individually and as a team. Following a 10-3 record last year, it is really hard to imagine the team record getting there again in 2019. So it would be unfair to call Terry’s season a disappointment if they don’t get 10 wins again. But individually, I would be highly disappointed if Terry’s stats don’t improve following a season where he really wasn’t asked to produce much through the air for most of the season.
Take a look at all of the UK QB’s who were given 2 full seasons (or more) as starting QB and how their production changed from Year 1 to Year 2:
Year 1, 1997 (5-6 record): 363-547, 3884 yards, 37 TD, 19 INT
Year 2, 1998 (7-5 record): 400-553, 4275 yards, 36 TD, 15 INT
Year 1, 2000 (2-9 record): 321-559, 3687 yards, 19 TD, 21 INT
Year 2, 2002 (7-5 record): 183-327, 2267 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT
*Lorenzen’s sophomore year (2001) he was only part-time starter
Year 1, 2004 (3-8 record): 146-253, 1644 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT
Year 2, 2005 (8-5 record): 295-452, 3515 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT
Year 1, 2008 (7-6 record): 172-311, 1666 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT
Year 2, 2010 (6-7 record): 268-405, 3178 yards, 23 TD, 9 INT
*Hartline’s junior year (2009) was ended by injury
Year 1, 2014 (5-7 record): 225-393, 2718 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT
Year 2, 2015 (5-7 record): 183-326, 2148 yards, 9 TD, 14 INT
Year 1, 2016 (7-6 record): 145-265, 2037 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT
Year 2, 2017 (7-6 record): 189-316, 2305 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT
Year 1, 2018 (10-3 record): 180-268, 1889 yards, 11 TD, 8 INT
Year 2, 2019: ?????????????
Of the six QB’s before Wilson, four of them increased their passing yards in Year 2. Lorenzen’s can be explained because of coaching change from Mumme to Morris. Three of the six improved touchdown passes. Only 1 (Hartline) had a worse overall record in Year 2 although the regular season record for both of his seasons was 6-6 and he just won a bowl in Year 1 and lost a bowl in Year 2.
Point being, it’s been a mixed bag. I think Wilson is more talented than Towles, Hartline, or Johnson. I think the fact he is scrambling QB is something none of the other guys really had to his level. But I think throwing 8 INT in just 268 passes needs to improve. I would be surprised if he doesn’t throw at least 300 passes this season, or a little over 25 a game. He’ll have Bowden there and with a deceased running attack, you would think more passes would be thrown. With that said, he should shoot for less interceptions in 2019.
What do you think? Should there be individual statistical improvements from Wilson in 2019 for you to be satisfied?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 10:09am
Today is a very special day for Josh Allen and the Kentucky Football program, so of course, the NFL is trying to rain on the parade.
On Monday, UK debuted an enormous Josh Allen banner on the front of the Moxy Downtown hotel on Broadway in Nashville, but this morning, the Moxy had to take it down. The worst part? It came down minutes before Allen walked down Broadway to see it for himself.
Why did the NFL want the banner down? When it was first put up earlier this week, they complained about the NFL logo in the lower right corner, so the Moxy covered it up:
Still, that wasn’t enough. After the NFL contacted UK about the banner, UK had to call Jamie Daniel, a partner in KSBar whose family is opening the Moxy, and tell him to take the banner down.
Apparently, the NFL isn’t cool with colleges celebrating their stars. Pathetic.
After months of testing, interviews, meetings and mock drafts, the big day is finally here. Tonight the first round of the NFL Draft kicks off in Nashville at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Josh Allen and Mark Stoops will return to the Music City to see the most prolific pass-rusher to ever play at UK walk across football’s biggest stage. A projected top five pick, for months Allen was slotted to go No. 3 overall to the New York Jets. Over the last week that’s slightly shifted, providing plenty of room for drama to unfold.
Allen might not be the only Wildcat to hear his name called. Cornerback Lonnie Johnson’s stock has been volatile, ranging from the fourth all the way up to the first round. A thin cornerback draft, a team that values length and athleticism could make Lonnie Kentucky’s second first round selection. The last time UK had two first round draft picks, Warren Bryant and Randy Burke were selected in the 1977 draft.
The greatest unknown from tonight is Mother Nature. The draft’s massive stage will be setup on the corner of First and Broadway in downtown Nashville. Right now there’s at least a 50% chance of rain throughout the night. The showers should not be more than a drizzle, but if thunderstorms arrive the NFL must evacuate the area.
It’s going to be a crazy night in Nashville and KSR will be there for all of it.
I’ll be reporting on the ground for the KSR crew. Since the NFL likes to keep a tight grip on credentials and the weather is pretty nuts, Mrs. Tyler and Jack Pilgrim will be holding it down from home, Live Blogging until Josh Allen is selected.
You can watch all the action on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes. If you can’t make it to a television, the draft will be broadcast on Westwood One Radio, SiriusXM NFL Radio, TuneIn Radio and ESPN Radio. A breakdown of the rounds over the next three days:
Thursday, April 25: Round 1 (8 p.m. ET)
Friday, April 26: Rounds 2-3 (7 p.m. ET)
Saturday, April 27: Rounds 4-7 (12 p.m. ET)
Before it all starts I’ll have an extensive piece on KSR that should make everyone in the BBN proud.
Where will they go?
The mock drafts vary wildly, but there’s a general range for each Wildcat that will finish the weekend on one of the NFL’s 32 teams.
If this top ten happens tonight, heads will be spinning.
A well-respected NFL individual in the know just gave me this Top 10 night-before best guess:
Quinnen Williams, AZ
Kyler Murray, OAK
Devin White, TB
Josh Allen, DET
Christian Wilkins, ATL
Devin Bush, DEN
See you in the mentions.
— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) April 25, 2019
A Big Night at KSBar
A day after Tyler Herro packed the house, Jonny David and Maci Morris are taking over. The two will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans from 6:00-7:30 leading into the start of the NFL Draft.
Another Win for UK Softball
The Kentucky softball team wrapped up the regular season at John Cropp Stadium with a win. After falling behind by two runs early, Abby Cheek’s 17th home run of the year helped the Wildcats run-rule EKU 10-2 in five innings.
The regular season ends this weekend with a three-game series at No. 3 Alabama, beginning Friday night at 7:30 in Tuscaloosa.
Fresh New Podcasts
KTR listeners awoke to a special second podcast of the week. After breaking down A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, we needed more time to preview the epic Battle at Winterfell. Subscribe on iTunes to hear more than an hour of Game of Thrones predictions.
Aaron Torres has brought in a guest you don’t want to miss. Stuck in the middle of the “he said, she said,” in the Kentucky-Kerry Blackshear Jr. saga, Rivals’ Corey Evans joins the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to tell you the story behind the story of the highly-coveted grad transfer’s recruitment.
Sports Gambling goes to Indiana
The Hoosier state is one governor’s signature away from legalizing sports gambling. At least Kentuckians are used to driving over the Ohio River to make a wager.
That’s Not Right
Somebody made a mistake, huge.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 24th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
On Tuesday morning, Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak announced that he would be putting his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Tonight, it is being reported that the junior quarterback will be meeting with the Ohio State coaching staff.
Former Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak to meet with Ohio State staff I’ve been told. https://t.co/dMMBsoWnaG
— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) April 24, 2019
Hoak, a Dublin, OH native, lives just over 15 miles away from Ohio State’s campus in Columbus. With OSU quarterback Matthew Baldwin entering the transfer portal last week, there is an opening at the backup QB position for the Buckeyes next season.
After Hoak entered the portal on Tuesday, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops told reporters that “it’s not a done deal” that the junior quarterback transfers from the program.
“Gunnar and I had a great talk yesterday. He’s a great kid and as I told him, he really had a good spring. I told you all that after one of the scrimmages that he really played well, as good as I’ve seen him play. I think you understand that because he’s a competitor and he wants to play. It’s not a done deal that he’s going to go somewhere else. I think he’s going to look at it and just check his options and I told him we would have another discussion about it at a later time and we’ll see where that goes. Just want to be supportive of him and his decision but it does put us in a situation where we’re a little thin.”
He will have two years of eligibility remaining and will be eligible to play immediately should he decide to leave.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 24th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Lonnie Johnson’s stock is on the rise ahead of this weekend’s draft, with some analysts predicting he could go as high as the first round. As a result, the talented cornerback has been getting more and more publicity (such as this excellent feature by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread about his upbringing in Gary, Indiana), including this profile by KyWildcatsTV.
Watch below as Johnson talks about his preparations for the draft, which he’ll watch with friends and family at his high school in hopes of inspiring another generation to reach for their dreams.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 24, 2019
Very cool. Go get ’em, Lonnie.
We’ve given a breakdown of how the offense performed in the spring game, but it’s now time to jump over to the other side of the football. Mark Stoops has put together a handful of really good defenses in his coaching career and last year’s version at Kentucky was one of his best. But that is over and entering this season the Wildcats have a ton of questions to answer.
Gone is Matt House and in steps Brad White into the coordinator role. Ole Miss assistant Jon Sumrall was brought back to his alma mater to coach inside linebackers at UK and the Wildcats figure to have a very strong front seven. That’s the good news, but there is also some bad news. With the loss of Josh Allen and five seniors in the secondary, pass rush and pass coverage will be a very substantial worry entering the season. Leaving the spring game, it was clear that those two spots still need quite a bit of polish.
We must always remember that spring games are built for offenses to have success. The defensive fronts are limited in the types of looks and stunts they can run while the secondary usually vanillas down the coverage. There was a reason we saw a ton of points at Kroger Field.
With all that said, there were still some very important takeaways from the spring game to address after watching the game tape.
On the line of scrimmage, we saw Quinton Bohanna, T.J. Carter, and Calvin Taylor, Jr. open the game as the starters but they were not the only players that contributed. Joshua Paschal and Kordell Looney both received a heavy amount of reps with UK’s top defense and the group limited the white team to just 58 yards on 23 carries. That will win you some football games.
Due to the absence of Marquan McCall, we got to see redshirt freshman Jerquavion Mahone in action and the Georgia native looks like someone who could potentially crack the rotation at nose. Phil Hoskins figures to add depth at tackle while there are plenty of young players waiting in the wings.
At the next level, we were unable to see Kash Daniel with the senior being limited during the entire spring session due to precautionary reasons. The wrestling loving middle linebacker is the unquestioned leader of the group and has played a lot of football. We know what we’re getting from him, but we got to see how the development is going with UK’s trio of sophomore inside linebackers.
With Daniel out, sophomore Chris Oats got the start at Mike and the former four-star recruit collected seven tackles in the game. Oats, who in a limited sample size, recorded 27 tackles last season looks the part of a big-time SEC linebacker. On film, the sophomore looked bigger and showed more comfortability within the structure of the defense. After the game, Oats confirmed that he is working at both Mike and Will spots. With Daniel’s return to the lineup it wouldn’t be a surprise if Oats gets the start at the Will spot to begin the season.
DeAndre Square remains a reliable option at Will after recording 35 tackles with a start in the Citrus Bowl last season. Jamin Davis played both the Mike and the Will for the ones and in his third spring the redshirt sophomore looks poised to make an impact this fall.
On the edges is where the questions are. Kentucky should feel pretty good at what they have at Sam linebacker. Boogie Watson was solid in the spring game and is UK’s top returning pass rusher with seven career sacks. Backing him up appears to be Jared Casey and the highest ranked recruit in the class of 2019 will likely play this season. The true freshman was one of the white team’s most productive players recording seven tackles and a QB hurry. However, this position group will be graded on how well they fill the hole at Jack.
The Jack spot is a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid role that this defense relies on to make a ton of plays. Yes, this spot needs to create a consistent pass rush, but they also need to make run stuffs and have the ability to occasionally drop back in coverage to make a play. We saw the latter in the spring game.
Jordan Wright was a big recruiting win late in the class of 2017 and after two years of development, it is time for the former high school basketball star to make an impact. Wright has the size and frame (6-foot-5, 242 pounds) to be a big time edge player in the SEC. He’s shown the athletic ability and has the raw skills (25 sacks recorded during his senior year of high school). Now he just has to put it together.
On tape, Wright was all over the field for the first-team defense. The South Florida native collected four tackles, an interception, and a pass break-up in addition to creating some edge pressure with a speed rush. Brad White, who has been really hard on this position group, mentioned that the spring game was the best Wright has played all spring. Maybe that’s a good sign. Kentucky is going to need this guy to produce and play to that recruiting ranking.
On the final level, Kentucky has some holes but they have one for sure reliable option at safety. Davonte Robinson started three games last fall and recorded 42 tackles on his way to becoming one of the defense’s top slot corners. Now everyone from last year’s secondary is gone except Robinson. UK is going to need the redshirt junior to be a rock steady player this season. In the spring game, Robinson led all defenders with eight tackles and don’t be surprised if he leads the team in stops this season. Expect Mark Stoops to use his versatile safety close to the line scrimmage as much as possible.
At the other safety spot, senior Jordan Griffin got the start for UK’s base defense. The senior has played all over the secondary during his career and will bring much needed experience to the table. He also appears to be Robinson’s top backup at nickel. When UK went to a subpackage defense, Yusuf Corker was the third safety they brought in with the ones. After playing mostly just special teams last season, the redshirt sophomore looks ready for a bigger role. Right now redshirt sophomore Tyrell Ajian appears to be the fourth safety and that’s a good option to have. The Mansfield, Ohio native was a starter for UK’s dime defense last season and recorded that huge fourth quarter interception in the win over Mississippi State.
Kentucky should feel really good about their safety position. Safeties coach Dean Hood has a nice blend of talent and experience to deal with in his position group and that’s not even mentioning blue-chip true freshman Moses Douglass. This group is in very good shape. That cannot be said for the cornerback position.
Gone are Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson, and Chris Westry to the NFL. Now, in his fourth season on the staff, cornerbacks coach Steve Clinkscale has his work cut out for him rebuilding this position. One good thing moving forward is that UK appears to have a building block in junior college transfer Brandin Echols.
The Northwest Mississippi Community College transfer is a smaller corner than what we’ve seen recently from Kentucky (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) but it’s clear he is CB1 heading into the summer. Despite his short stature, we saw his ability to hold his own in man coverage against a bigger receiver.
Echols looked the part in coverage and made a nice, physical tackle against bruising tailback Christopher Rodriguez, Jr. in run support. UK played him at both field and boundary corner, but it appears he is now a lock to open up the season a starter on the outside. After that there are a lot of unknowns.
Cedrick Dort, Jr. was the other starting corner and he had some rocky moments. Jamari Brown got some reps with the ones while everyone else was mostly with the white team. Junior college transfer Quandre Mosely was burned by Isaiah Epps on a deep post, Stanley Garner did not appear to make an impact, and Taj Dodson looked like a true freshman.
Going into the summer, UK probably feels good about Echols but after that it’s wide open. There are three more corners enrolling in the summer and each should get a good, hard look in fall camp. The fact of the matter is that this group has a long way to go and this could be a season where a bunch of players get a shot to play big snaps at corner.
This is a defense with obvious strengths and weaknesses. Up the middle, this is set to be the best defense of the Mark Stoops era. The Wildcats have talent, experience, and depth on the defensive line. At linebacker, Kash Daniel sets the tone while Chris Oats and Boogie Watson look like future draft picks. Davonte Robinson is another pro at safety and senior Jordan Griffin brings a good amount of experience to the table. Where the worry lies is on the edges.
Right now it’s fair to say that this defense’s two most important players this season will be Brandin Echols and Jordan Wright. The Wildcats need the junior college corner to be good right away so they have a dependable piece to lean on while they figure what to do at the other corner spot. At the very important Jack linebacker spot, Jordan Wright has to fill the monstrous shoes of Josh Allen and that’s going to be an uphill climb to say the least. However, the position is tailor-made to make a lot of plays. Wright has all the tools needed to succeed at the position.
If the Wildcats are able to keep the momentum from last season and play at a top 30 or 4o level, both Echols and Wright will probably be the main reason why.
By Nick Roush on ©April 24th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
If Gunnar Hoak does not wear Kentucky blue in 2019, Eddie Gran will not be able to completely unleash every offensive weapon at his disposal.
Tuesday morning Hoak announced he has entered his name into the transfer portal. A sign many saw coming, Mark Stoops confirmed the Dublin, Ohio native is leaving the door open to possibly return to UK for another season.
“It is not a done deal that he goes somewhere else, I think he is going to look at it and check his options and I told him we would have another discussion about it at another time,” said Stoops. “We will see where that goes. I just want to be supportive of him and that decision.”
If Hoak does leave Lexington, as Drew informed you last night, Terry Wilson’s supporting cast has zero college football experience. Wilson will be one injury away from putting UK’s offense behind the eight-ball. That’s obviously the greatest concern, but it’s not the only potential limitation to Gran’s offense in 2019.
QB Running Game
Life after Benny Snell will make Gran and Darin Hinshaw’s life more difficult. They need every potential playmaker at their disposal. Not used as much near the end of the 2018 season, people forget just how well Terry Wilson runs the football.
In his first season as UK’s starter, Wilson rushed for 547 yards and four touchdowns. If you take away the negative yards from the 28 times he was sacked, Wilson gained 6.75 yards per carry on 8.2 attempts per game. That’s better than any other Wildcat runner, 1.5 more yards per carry than Benny Snell.
If Wilson was able to get almost seven yards per carry in his first year in the offense, the natural next step to take, especially without Benny Snell, is to increase Wilson’s workload on the ground. With Hoak in the picture, Wilson would easily get 11-15 attempts per game. Without Hoak, Gran will try to conserve his passer by dialing up fewer plays like this:
Too Much Thinking
Terry Touchdown’s greatest weakness manifested at Kyle Field. At various points in the year, he was a poor decision-maker. Equipped with an abundance of knowledge, he got inside his own head. At Texas A&M he thought too much and it was obvious.
When asked this spring what was the biggest difference in Wilson’s game, the phrase, “more comfortable” always came to light. His understanding of the scheme improved dramatically. It helped him get rid of his nervous habits, like stepping up in the pocket, and got the ball out of his hand faster.
All that improvement could go to the wayside if Wilson is worried about not getting hurt. When the going gets tough, good habits fall by the wayside and thinking overtakes instinct. Instead of using his instincts to fight for a first down in overtime, Wilson made the “smart” play and slid. Could that situation occur again if Gran and Hinshaw are reminding him not to get hurt? Certainly.
We will see the best version of Terry Wilson if Gunnar Hoak decides to return to the sideline. Without Hoak, the immense pressure on Wilson’s shoulders will only become heavier.
With Gunnar Hoak’s departure from the Kentucky football program, the quarterback room is quite thin behind Terry Wilson, the returning starter from last year’s 10-win season. Wilson is the guy again in 2019; after him, though, it is a very inexperienced bunch.
The three backup QB options combine for exactly zero minutes of real college football action. They’ve taken the same amount of snaps as you and me in the SEC. Two of them aren’t even on campus yet; the other, Lexington’s own Walker Wood, will be in his third season on the roster but hasn’t seen the field since joining the team as an early enrollee in January of 2017.
Here is a little bit more about each of the three options behind Wilson:
The Veteran With No Game Experience
Walker Wood | So. (RS) | 6-0 | 189 | Lexington, Ky.
Wood has been in UK’s QB room longer than anyone, but he has yet to take an actual snap on the field. He finally worked his way back into playing shape after multiple injuries, but he would be hard to trust if thrown into action against the defenses of the Southeastern Conference.
In this month’s Blue-White spring game, Wood went 3-for-5 with one very ugly interception, thrown directly into the hands of linebacker Jordan Wright.
The True Freshmen
Amani Gilmore | Fr.| 6-2 | 180 | Amite, La.
Gilmore is a three-star dual-threat quarterback out of Louisiana, who also dabbles in a little baseball as a left-handed pitcher. In fact, he intends to play baseball at Kentucky and already has Mark Stoops’ blessing to do so.
But on the football field, Gilmore is a playmaker and a winner, having led his high school to a 14-1 record and a state title in his senior season. He recorded six touchdowns and took home MVP honors in Louisiana’s 2A championship game.
The 247 Sports Composite ranked Gilmore as the No. 39 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class and the 42nd best prospect out of the Bayou State. The scouting report on him says raw and undeveloped, in part because of his time spent playing baseball.
Nik Scalzo | Fr.| 6-0 | 175 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Nik Scalzo sees himself as a young Baker Mayfield: a little undersized for his position; overlooked by several schools for being a couple inches too short; creative with the ball in his hands; and eager to prove everyone wrong at the next level. He told KSR, “(Mayfield) is my favorite player ever. I would consider myself the same play-style as him. I’m not as cocky as him, but we have the same mentality because we’re both short quarterbacks. We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it.”
Scalzo put up Mayfield-like numbers at Cardinal Gibbons. He led his high school team to a combined 32-6 record in his three seasons as the starting quarterback, before tearing his ACL in a state playoff game this past December. Recovery has gone better than expected and he is cleared to join the team this summer.
The 247 Sports Composite ranked Scalzo as the No. 28 dual-threat QB.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 23rd, 2019 @ 6:00pm
There’s no shortage of Josh Allen profiles leading up to Thursday night’s draft, and as expected, KyWildcatsTV’s does not disappoint. Watch below as Allen opens up to the crew about his journey from a two-star recruit to a projected top five draft pick, including Mark Stoops’ reaction when Josh told him he wanted to be the best player he’s ever coached.
Josh is officially on his way to Nashville and has taken over Bose’s Instagram account for the day to document his journey. Follow along on Bose’s Instagram story here.
By Nick Roush on ©April 23rd, 2019 @ 3:30pm
When recruits walk into Mark Stoops’ office, the first thing they see is a portrait of his former first round NFL Draft picks. This weekend Josh Allen will be the next person added to the poster that overlooks his desk.
“He’ll be on the board, probably front and center,” Stoops said Tuesday. “He ranks right up there as one of the great players I had an opportunity to coach, there’s no question about that. There’s no doubt that he will be a successful pro, just because of the way he lives his life, the way he is driven to be great.”
Not every prospective recruit is privy to see that picture in Stoops’ office. The best of the best will likely spend some time there while officially visiting this weekend. Those who are not yet at the top of the recruiting big board will see another Josh Allen poster when they watch the NFL Draft.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” Stoops said. “Our university and our guys did that for him, and really for the program to get us some more exposure.”
The face of the Kentucky football program over the last year, Allen and his teammates have given Kentucky name recognition in new places around the country.
“Without a doubt, it just helps us. With what Josh is doing, the way he represented us, the national awards that he won, all that exposure, it does nothing but help us. Of course all of the other players — Benny, Lonnie, Mike, Darius, Derrick Baity, you can go on and on — I’m just proud of all of them,” said Stoops.
You can go on and on and on, unlike any other time in the history of the Kentucky football program. Anywhere between six and nine former Wildcats are expected to be picked in the NFL Draft. Kentucky has not had more than four players picked in one draft since 1979. There were eight players picked in 1979, but the draft had almost twice as many rounds 40 years ago. Since the draft changed to a seven-round format in 1994, Kentucky’s four picks in 2008 are the high watermark.
Before UK’s prospects make history, many have spent their time working out at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. Throughout the spring, recruits have been in and out of the facility. During their tours, high school athletes and their parents have been able to meet many of UK’s future pros. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but it could be a huge deal to a 15-year old from the Bluegrass or a four-star All-American currently committed to Miami.
— Michael Tunsil (@coachtunsil) March 18, 2019
Kentucky’s historic draft class is moving on to bigger and better things. As they transition into professional careers, the leaders are leaving the program better than they found it.
“I’ll never forget what they’ve done for us,” Stoops said. “They had great leadership and that’s why we were successful. That’s the foundation we gotta continue to build on. We’re worried about a program, not just a team, but a program, building a program.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 23rd, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Everyone’s jumping on the Josh Allen bandwagon ahead of Thursday’s NFL Draft, including…the Citrus Bowl Twitter account?
With Allen expected to go in the top five, the folks behind the Citrus Bowl’s social media have dedicated their Twitter account to the Kentucky star, renaming it the “Official Josh Allen Stan Account”:
— Official Josh Allen Stan Account (@CitrusBowl) April 23, 2019
For those not versed in “kids these days,” the term “stan” refers to someone who is overly obsessed with a celebrity, ala the fan in Eminem’s song “Stan” from 2000. Thankfully, I don’t think the Citrus Bowl’s affection for Josh Allen is quite that over the top, but it has resulted in some excellent tweets thus far:
— Official Josh Allen Stan Account (@CitrusBowl) April 23, 2019
Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out! Don’t freak out! DON’T FREAK OUT! pic.twitter.com/FLMaleUlPt
— Official Josh Allen Stan Account (@CitrusBowl) April 23, 2019
— Official Josh Allen Stan Account (@CitrusBowl) April 23, 2019
If you haven’t already, make sure you follow @CitrusBowl this week. Go Josh Allen.
We will never see another game like Kentucky’s seven overtime thriller vs. Arkansas in 2003.
This morning the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel voted to approve a few college football rule changes. They made a minor tweak to kickoff formations and added a 15-yard blind-side block penalty. The most dramatic change is for overtime.
Once the game reaches a fifth overtime, instead of returning to the 25-yard line to switch possession, teams will simply alternate two-point conversion attempts. The reason behind the rule change: player safety. Directly from the NCAA:
Panel members approved a tweak to the overtime rules. If a game reaches a fifth overtime, teams will run alternating two-point plays, instead of starting another drive at the opponent’s 25-yard line. This rules change was made to limit the number of plays from scrimmage and to bring the game to a conclusion. Additionally, there will be a two-minute rest period after the second and fourth overtimes. The rules for the first four overtimes remain unchanged.
Playing more than four overtimes is rare, but when it does happen it is an instant classic, like last year’s LSU-Texas A&M game.
Was this change necessary? Not at all. Since the adoption of overtime in 1996, only five games have resulted a seven overtime endurance test.
There was also a change to the targeting rule. On some occasions the call on the field would simply “stand” after further review. Now there’s no gray area. Replay officials must either confirm the rule on the field or overturn the targeting penalty.
Read all of the changes here.