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Kentucky Football season ticket renewals up almost 80 percent

How excited are Kentucky Football fans after last year’s historic ten-win season? This morning, UK announced that 90% of season ticket holders have renewed their season tickets for 2019, up 79% from this time last year. With nearly 3,000 new season tickets sold, overall sales have reached 98% of last year’s total. I’ll remind you that we’re still over four months away from the season opener.

Want to join the movement? Season tickets are still available at UKFootballTix.com starting at $280/each. The Kentucky Football Pocket Pass is also back, which allows you to get into all eight home games for $250, or $31.25 per game. Additionally, a limited number of season parking passes are available to season ticket holders. For more information, click here.

Next year’s home schedule looks mighty fine:

  • August 31: Toledo
  • September 7: Eastern Michigan
  • September 14: Florida
  • October 12: Arkansas
  • October 26: Missouri
  • November 9: Tennessee
  • November 23: UT Martin
  • November 30: Louisville

Tickets to Kentucky’s away games (Mississippi State, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt) are also available at UKFootballTix.com.

Only 130 days until kickoff.


Spring Game Film Review: Offense

Spring Game Film Review: Offense

We’re over a week removed from the 2019 edition of spring practice wrapping at Kroger Field and now all that awaits us is three-plus long months until the toe meets the leather on Labor Day weekend.

With eight home games on the schedule and experience on the line of scrimmage in addition to quarterback, the expectations are pretty high entering the fall.

Kentucky is fresh off a 10-win season and Mark Stoops is telling anyone that will listen that this program is not going to take a step back in year seven. There is still a lot for this team to prove before the season begins at the end of August, but there were also some important takeaway to bring home from the spring game.

After some DVR malfunctions, here at KSR we were finally able to view the tape and see exactly how the cake was baked at Kroger Field. There were a lot of good developments and some specific personnel pieces that went unreported.

The biggest thing to take away from the game was just the comfortability level of junior quarterback Terry Wilson. Going up against against a reserve defense, the Oklahoma City native looked calm and poised. It was easy to tell he was confident in his knowledge of the offense and it seems like his vertical accuracy has come a long way.

For the day, Wilson completed 83.3 percent of his 12 passes and tossed for two touchdowns on a 15.9 yards per attempt average. These are robust numbers, but they are not the most important things to remember. Wilson was on target multiple times to different targets in vertical routes. Being able to challenge opposing secondaries vertically will be vital for this offense to take a step forward in 2019.

In the running game, A.J. Rose enters 2019 at the top of the depth chart and the redshirt junior showed a nice blend of power and speed at Kroger Field. In a reserve role last season, Rose rushed for 442 yards on a 6.2 yards per carry average and had flashed some home run ability shown by 14.1 percent of his runs going for at least 10 yards. In the spring, it was obvious that the big play burst was still there.

The team’s top back put up 86 yards on 11 carries in the scrimmage with three touchdowns. Rose will provide the big runs, but he must prove he can consistently collect positive gains when the big play is not there. In the red zone, he flashed that ability by getting north/south and finding away to get into the endzone. However, he’s going to need some help.

Kavosiey Smoke was a late addition to the class of 2018 and after redshirting this past season we finally caught a glimpse of what the three-star prospect brings to the table. The wrap out of high school was that Smoke was a bowling ball type runner who had a some burst to extend runs into 20-plus yard gains. We definitely saw that.

On his first touch of the day, Smoke showed off some wiggle and burst on his way to an 80-plus yards touchdown sprint. He finished the game with 132 yards on five carries to go along with a reception out of the backfield. It’s no secret that UK will be going to a committee type approach at running back this upcoming season. Expect UK to use their backs in a multitude of ways.

On the broadcast, Matt Stinchcomb mentioned that the staff said that Smoke had the best hands on the team and it appears that the goal is to get the running backs heavily involved in the passing game.

For the first time since 2010, Kentucky will enter the season with a bonafide star at wide receiver. Lynn Bowden, Jr. became one of the best slot receivers in the SEC last season and this year he will have a great chance to receive first-team all-conference honors. We all know how good he is and will be, but the success of UK’s passing game will depend on the other wideouts.

On the outside, we saw some good things in the game. Both Isaiah Epps and Ahmad Wagner made catches in the vertical pass game while Josh Ali served as a good possession option. But it was Bryce Oliver who stole the show. 

The redshirt freshman and high school teammate of UK linebacker Jordan Wright and corner Stanley Garner was the game MVP. The outside receiver played for both the blue and white teams on his way to 105 yards on eight grabs. He consistently got open against UK’s top secondary players and was able to create separation in addition to making multiple contested catches. He was a bright spot and should received plenty of chances to make a splash this fall.

On the line of scrimmage, it went as expected for UK’s starters. Mason Wolfe rotated for Luke Fortner at right guard, but other than that we saw the ones play most of the game. Landon Young looked very good in his first game back at The Kroge while it’s clear that both Drake Jackson and Logan Stenberg will be in position for All-SEC honors. It was a bit of surprise to see Naasir Watkins playing primarily with the twos after playing a good amount as a redshirt freshman. We also got a look at the future of the offensive line.

Quintin Wilson started at center for the white team and it appears that the redshirt freshman from Cincinnati is in line to take over in the middle whenever Drake Jackson leaves. Redshirt sophomore Austin Dotson received work at both right guard and right tackle. The mammoth 6-foot-6 and 331-pound offensive lineman is a guy the staff probably wants to crack the rotation this season. In his first public action, 6-foot-9, 367-pound redshirt freshman Nick Lewis was used at left tackle and he’s a mountain of a man.

It’s hard to fairly evaluate the tight end position because we have yet to see redshirt freshman Keaton Upshaw in action. After being forced to redshirt due to a knee injury last season, Upshaw has gotten plenty of love from the coaches this spring and will be UK’s best receiving option at this spot. However, he was held out of the spring game for precautionary reasons. Justin Rigg continues to be Mr. Reliable and we saw that he can make catches in space in addition to blocking. Brenden Bates is built more in the Rigg role and could be used fairly often in some jumbo packages UK will utilize in short yardage situations. Walk-on Drew Schlegel figures to play the fullback/H-back spot UK often used C.J. Conrad in. The senior is going to be a very important part of the offense.

Overall, it was a very satisfying performance we saw from UK’s offense at the 2019 spring game. Terry Wilson looked improved, the running backs made explosive plays, and the the ones on the offensive line dominated at the point of attack. Kentucky even received some very solid play from their wideouts.

With Benny Snell no longer on the roster, Kentucky is going to have to open up the playbook this fall. In the spring game we saw Eddie Gran use multiple 3-plus wide receiver sets in addition to use many twins (two wideouts to one side) and trips (three wideouts to one side) formations. That could be something we should expect to see more of.

The Wildcats have an experienced quarterback with true dual-threat ability to go with a very efficient playmaker operating out of the slot. That’s combined with an experience offensive line to go along with some explosive players at running back. On, paper this group should put some points on the board and could be the the program’s best big play offense in quite some time.

 


Daniel Jeremiah Places Lonnie Johnson in the First Round in Latest Mock Draft

The lead draft analyst for the NFL Network, Daniel Jeremiah, recently released his Mock Draft 3.0 with the draft set to begin later this week.

The former Eagles scout is in agreement with other draft analysts who believe that Lonnie Johnson Jr’s stock is quickly rising, projecting the former JUCO cornerback to be picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the #20 overall selection.

“This is higher than I have Johnson rated, but he’s catching a lot of buzz right now and the Steelers have a need at the position.”

Jeremiah actually does not have Johnson ranked in his Top 50 list, but projects him to be the 2nd cornerback off the board after LSU’s Greedy Williams.

If this projection were to stay true, Johnson would receive a signing bonus of $7.1 million, with the total value of the contract projected to be $12.5 million. Not too shabby for the Gary, Indiana native who did not have much NFL interest heading into his senior year at Kentucky.

Jeremiah also predicts that Josh Allen will be selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the #5 overall selection. I would be shocked if Allen falls out of the top 5, but you never really know what teams are thinking until draft day.

To see the rest of Jeremiah’s first round mock, head on over to NFL.com.


@EMitchKSR


How SEC Teams Will Fare in the NFL Draft

With the 2019 NFL Draft quickly approaching on Thursday April 25th, dozens of players from the SEC will have their dreams fulfilled. What follows is an analysis of how each team from the conference will fare in a draft that’s loaded with talent. (Teams are placed in alphabetical order)

Alabama

First Round Picks: 3-4

Total Selections: 10-11

No surprise here, folks. The NFL Draft will be dominated by the Crimson Tide as usual. Alabama has had four players selected in the first round in the past two drafts, and the same result could happen once again this year. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive tackle Jonah Williams are locks to hear their names called on Thursday night. There is an extremely good chance that both of these talented athletes will be selected within the first 15 picks.

After the Williams duo comes off the board, expect Josh Jacobs to be picked in somewhere in the mid-20’s (most likely to Oakland) as the first running back off the board. That’s more than likely three guaranteed first-round picks. What will determine rather or not the Crimson Tide matches their quota of the last two seasons is the landing spot of tight end Irv Smith. Smith is rated by most as the third-best tight end in the draft and a borderline first round selection. Keep an eye out for Green Bay at pick No. 30. If Smith gets selected on Thursday night, it will most likely be there.

After that, well-known players like Deiotne Thompson, Mack Wilson, and Christian Miller will all be selected Friday night in either the second or third round. When it comes to Kentucky native Damien Harris, there is a reasonably good chance he will as well. However, don’t be shocked if Harris falls to the fourth round on Saturday.

Arkansas

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 4

The draft will be relatively quiet for the Razorbacks in 2019. While they will most likely have four players drafted, their highest rated prospects Armon Watts and Hjalte Froholdt are day three prospects. This should not come as a huge surprise considering that Arkansas was an embarrassment to the SEC this past season. The Razorbacks only won two games, and they failed to win a single conference matchup. NFL scouts are largely turned off by such a bad year. There is always next season, I guess!

Auburn

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 4

Its true that this a bit of a down year for Auburn in the draft. The Tigers will have zero first rounders, and only four players are projected to draft picks. However, things aren’t all that bad. The trio of Jamel Dean, Darius Slayton, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham will all be picked before the fifth round starts. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if all three hear their names called towards the end of the third round. For what was a pretty disappointing season, three players in the top three rounds would not be a bad haul at all.

Florida

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor is projected to make a big splash early Thursday night for the Gators. While some mock drafts have him going in the 8-10 range, others have him getting selected in the late teens. Besides Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Taylor is the most complete prospect on the offensive line in this draft. Either way, all signs are pointing to a top-20 selection for the 6’5, 312-pound athlete.

Defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will join Taylor in representing Florida in the first two rounds. The Florida native is a ball-hawking safety with elite playmaking skills. He has the athleticism to play as a consistent starter in the league. It would be a shock to see him slip into the third round. After those selections, the Gators are expected to have four more players picked in what will be a respectable draft haul.

Georgia

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 9

With the exception of Alabama, no other team from the SEC will have as good of a draft as the Bulldogs will. This should come as no surprise considering that Georgia was just as good as the Crimson Tide this season and both teams were among the best in the nation. Their draft class is extremely deep as the likes of D’andre Walker, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta, Mecole Hardman, Elijah Holyfield, and Terry Godwin will all be second and third-day selections.

However, the headliner of this class is cornerback Deandre Baker. I’m incredibly high on him as I consider Baker the best all-around defensive back in the 2019 Draft. Not only is he the definition of a shutdown corner, but he is an intimidating tackler in the mold of a young Ed Reed. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL is a bit low on him due to its infatuation with other more problematic prospects. Mark my words, Baker will be looked back upon as one of the steals of this draft.

Kentucky

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

Welcome to national Josh Allen week everyone! In all seriousness, this is going to be possibly one of the biggest drafts in the history of Kentucky football. It seems relatively certain that there will be six Wildcats (Allen, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards, Benny Snell, Chris Westry, Darius West) who hear their names called over all three days. To put this in perspective, this will be the most Kentucky players in the draft since 1979 which saw seven drafted over the course of 12 rounds. Only four players were selected in the first seven that season.

As for the likes of Bunchy Stallings, C.J. Conrad, Derrick Baity, and Jordan Jones, it seems like they will be undrafted free agents. But I think either Stallings or Conrad could potentially sneak into the seventh round where all kinds of chaos happens.

Instead of concentrating on Allen like most will rightfully do throughout this week, I want to talk about Lonnie Johnson and his ascension up draft boards. His rise now finds him squarely as a second-round pick which is just outstanding. The NFL misses on a lot of underrated prospects, but the secret is out on Johnson who is just a prototypical, hard-nosed defensive back.

LSU

First Round Picks: 2

Total Selections: 4         

It will be fireworks for LSU early in the draft as dominant defensive players Devin White and Greedy Williams are poised to become first-round selections. After that, however, only Foster Moreau and Nick Brossette have a reasonable chance at getting drafted.

Williams is viewed by many as the best cornerback in the draft, but I really think that’s Georgia’s Dandre Baker. White, on the other hand, is the unquestioned best true linebacker coming out of college this year. He is a consummate leader and a player that has the speed to play sideline to sideline. If White falls past the top ten, it will be a national travesty. Expect greatness from him throughout his career.

Mississippi State

First Round Picks: 2-3

Total Selections: 7

After a very impressive year defensively in the SEC, the Bulldogs will see at least five of their defensive players all selected over the weekend. The headliners are defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons. Both are guarantees to go in the first round, and both are heavily favored to go in the top 15. I think Sweat is the better overall prospect due to all the many issues that come along with Simmons. Look out for defensive back Jonathan Abram as well. Many have him slotted to go at the very end of first round which would give Miss. State an impressive three first-rounders.

After that, a few of their offensive linemen will join the other defensive players as day two and day three selections. In case you were wondering, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will not be drafted. While he will get picked up as a free agent, do not be expecting to hear his name called this weekend. It may be surprising that the Bulldogs will have such a good draft, but it makes sense considering its mostly all defensive prospects.

Missouri

First Round Picks: 1

Total Selections: 6

The headline of Missouri’s draft class is obviously quarterback Drew Lock. In a relatively average draft class for quarterbacks, Lock is easily the most divisive of the bunch. While he has a prototypical NFL arm, he is wildly inconsistent and often inaccurate as a passer. His ceiling is reasonably high, but he is most assuredly a prospect. Lock needs to wait a season behind an experienced passer and learn the ropes of the league like Patrick Mahomes did. For his sake, Denver at No. 10 would be the best spot as he learns behind Joe Flacco.

After Lock, Wide receiver Emanuel Hall is the Tigers’ next best prospect. Hall has good hands and great speed. He is most likely an early day three prospect who will later be followed by a few of his fellow teammates.

Ole Miss

First Round Picks: 1-2

Total Selections: 5

Three of Mississippi’s five draft selections will be wide receivers. The Rebels’ receiving core was easily the best of the conference so it makes sense that their top three pass-catchers will all be drafted. Their two best – D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown – have a great chance at being first rounders.

Its important to note that the NFL has a very high opinion of Metcalf due to his freakish athleticism. He is a for sure first rounder. What’s crazy is that Brown is the better overall receiver, and he might be regulated to the second round. I really do think he has the best hands in the draft. I’m in the minority on this, but I guarantee Brown will have a better career than Metcalf.

South Carolina

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 3

This is the part of the column where I praise Deebo Samuel for an entire paragraph. While offensive linemen Dennis Daley and Zack Bailey will most likely be day 3 three selections, Samuel is a lock for the second round. Personally, I think he is one of the more underrated players coming out of college this season. Samuel has excellent speed, strength, and most importantly great hands for a receiver. His one knock is that he has had several injuries throughout his career. While this is true, I still think scouts are way too low on Samuel. Remember the name because he will be a dependable NFL receiver throughout his career.

Tennessee

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 0

Yes. You read that right. The Volunteers will have no players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, let alone any in the first round. NFL.com has two Tennessee players (Micha Abernathy, Kyle Phillips) projected as undrafted free agents who will probably be invited to training camps. Unless one of them luck up and get drafted, this will be the only team from the conference who will not be represented at the draft this year. You hate to see it.

Texas A&M

First Round Picks: Maybe 1

Total Selections: 9

This is going to sneak up on people, but the Aggies are about to have an impressive NFL Draft. First, center Erik McCoy has seen his name fly up draft boards after having a dominant NFL Combine. Despite weighing in at over 300 pounds, McCoy shocked scouts as he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash which is just silly for an athlete of his size. He also possesses the strength to push around NFL lineman which is why many have going in the first round.

After McCoy’s selection, the Aggies are slated to have another eight players selected. While most of these players will be day three picks, guys like tight end Jace Sternberger and running back Trayveon Williams might be called on day two. The sheer number of players does make a little bit of sense. Texas A&M did finish second in the SEC West (people forget that) and Jimbo Fisher is a great developer of talent. Things will start to get really scary once Fisher starts to get his top-rated recruits in Aggieland.

Vanderbilt

First Round Picks: 0

Total Selections: 2

It will be a mostly quiet draft for the Commodores in 2019. However, Vanderbilt will actually make a splash pretty early. Cornerback Joejuan Williams has impressed scouts with his combination of size (6’4) and length which is very desirable at his position. There is a slight chance that Williams will be selected in the second round. If not, then he will be a guaranteed third round pick. Usually Vanderbilt doesn’t make much head way in the draft so its pretty cool to see a Commodore selected relatively quickly. Oh yea, quarterback Kyle Shurmur is a lock to be picked in the last few rounds. He has huge family ties in the league which means it would be a shock if his name is not called at all.


Chris Trapasso on Josh Allen: “I just don’t think he’s polished enough to live up to the lofty expectations”

We are just a few days away from the NFL Draft, and that means Josh Allen and other prospects will once again be the focus of the sports world for about a solid week. With all that attention, some analysts are bound to make some hot takes or at least over-critique. One of these analysts maybe CBS Sports Draft expert Chris Trapasso.

On Friday Trapasso put out a ‘buyers beware’ article which basically gives you the downsides of a few first-round prospects. In this article, Trapasso only selected four players to heed a warning to NFL teams, and one of the four players he chose was Josh Allen.

In the buyer beware article, Trapasso said Allen’s biggest downside is his over-reliance on his athleticism to get to the quarterback.

Trapasso writes:


If you’ve followed me for, say, even a little more than a week, you know I believe most good players are good athletes. But to be an elite-level player at the edge rusher position, more is needed than a lightning-quick first step. I repeatedly mention “hand work” or pass-rushing moves because they’re vital at the pro level. On the field, in the SEC, Allen proved to be a rare mover for his size — nearly 6-feet-5 and 262 pounds. The speed at which he flew around the edge — with decent bend — helped him accumulate 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his senior season. 

His film doesn’t feature a wide-ranging collection of pass-rushing moves. Occasionally, Allen swiped offensive tackles’ hands away en route to the quarterback. Beyond that, Allen won with a good old-fashioned speed rush around the corner. NFL tackles are significantly better than SEC tackles. They’ll sit on that speed rush and take it away. Also, as the combine showed, for his size, Allen isn’t highly athletic. His three-cone time of 7.15 seconds placed him in just the 63rd percentile among players at his position over the past 20 years. It represents good, not otherworldly bendiness. 

Because he’s so physically imposing, with top-level burst and a high motor, I think Allen will be a good pro. He’s inside the top 25 of my prospect rankings. But he’s seemingly destined for the top five. Maybe even the top three. I just don’t think he’s polished enough to live up to the lofty expectations that align with being selected that high. If he can learn to use his hands as a counter to his relentlessness around the corner, he can be an All-Pro. In most cases, it’s very difficult for edge rushers to effectively execute newly learned pass-rushing moves at the NFL level. 


While Trapasso may be right about his lack of pass rushing moves, Allen has proved to be one of the most dominant athletes in SEC history and I believe his comments on Allen are nitpicky at best.

To have the athleticism to do what Josh Allen can do makes him a freak of nature, and if Allen didn’t have to rely on pass rush moves in the SEC, why would he use them? I’m a firm believer Allen will continue to develop and continue his reign of terror over quarterbacks once he gets to the league.

Besides, if I were Josh Allen, I too would try to use my speed to get to the quarterback and not even deal with making contact with the offensive lineman, considering the stupid amount of missed hold calls on Allen last season.

I believe, like many others, that Josh Allen will be just fine in the NFL, and I fully expect Allen to have a huge impact when he hits the league this fall.

One more person Josh Allen has to prove wrong? I’m all for it.

It still baffles me Bosa and Murray are ahead of him, but last year no one was talking about Baker Mayfield going number one until the day of the draft. So maybe, just maybe.


Go Cats. @BrentW_KSR


Dateline Profiles the Trent DiGiuro Murder

NBC News via Mike DiGiuro

One of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Kentucky football program has been profiled by NBC’s Dateline.

Caught up in the March Madness mayhem, last month Dateline produced “The Motive.” The program detailed the 1994 murder of Kentucky football player Trent DiGiuro.

DiGiuro was killed on the front porch of his house near UK’s campus after celebrating his 21st birthday. Antonio O’Ferral, the Cats’ quarterback and DiGiuro’s roommate, shared his experience from the night of the crime with Dateline.

“You started to hear the chaos outside,” he recalled later. “The screaming, the yelling, the crying.”

The cloud of the tragedy hung over the program. For more than five years the investigation proved fruitless. Dateline describes exactly how a lead turned into a complicated fight in the court system that ultimately resulted in a conviction.

A story that captivated the Commonwealth for almost a decade, Dateline fills in all of the details I could not comprehend at a young age. You can watch the entire 40-minute program online or on the NBC app. If you don’t have the time to sit through the program, read all the details here.