By TJ Walker on ©October 22nd, 2018 @ 11:00pm
Sometimes you get repeated quotes from the Monday luncheon during the Mark Stoops Show later that evening, but that was far from the case tonight.
While talking with Tom Leach, Mark Stoops said that he will play multiple/several quarterbacks against Missouri on Saturday. Terry Wilson will be the starter, but it sounds like we will see Gunnar Hoak get some reps. Maybe even Danny Clark, too.
Leach sounded a bit surprised by the huge news and double checked with Stoops.
“Yeah, we’ll see how it goes,” Stoops said.
It sounded like Stoops was willing to give Wilson a pass for the Texas A&M game but was “disappointed” with how he played against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Stoops said he thinks the two turnovers early in the game impacted his play.
“We still have a lot of confidence in Terry, but he didn’t play a very good game last week.”
Whoa. Wilson has been below average over the last couple games but this is huge news. Will this motivate Wilson? Make him play more timid? Will Hoak or Clark be able to add a spark? Will taking Wilson out hurt or help the rushing attack? This isn’t a throwaway season where you’re playing for the future. Kentucky has a chance to do special things now.
Stoops also had updates that he talked about this morning but went into more detail during the show:
- Stoops said they have kicker Chance Poore ready to go and you’ll likely see him on Saturday
- Kash Daniel had “minor” surgery on his hand and he’s day-to-day. Stoops said he will be out there tomorrow or Wednesday with a club or cast on his hand. He will play on Saturday. “You’d have to cut his hand off (if you didn’t want him to play),” Stoops said.
- Stoops said that Josh Allen is one of the best defensive players in the country. We agree.
- Stoops realizes how big of a game Saturday is, but jokes that every game is his biggest game.
UK Athletics has never been better than it is at this moment. Let that sink in. In the history of a proud athletic program the Cats have never been better across the board, and this doesn’t include the spring sports where UK will be nationally ranked in a couple sports, too.
.@UKAthletics is the only athletic department in the country to have 6?? top 15 teams in these respective sports. The next closest is three.
— Cole Bollinger (@cbollinger24) October 22, 2018
And not to get picky, but I don’t think Kansas is better than UK in men’s basketball (although I get it). Also, UK being at No. 12 given its resume in football seems to be a bit of a slight. The Cats are the only football team to have a road win against a team currently ranked in the top 10.
UK volleyball is undefeated in the SEC (8-0) and Kentucky men’s soccer has lost just one game on the season and has notched top five wins against Louisville and Indiana in the out-of-conference. I don’t know too much about UK’s women’s swimming or rifle, but the rifle team seems to always be competing for titles.
Kentucky women’s soccer is rebuilding and obviously Matthew Mitchell’s women’s basketball program is doing more of the same. Before the strange string of transfers a couple years ago UK women’s basketball was consistently in the top 20 and it seems it’s only a matter of time before the Cats return to being a force in the SEC.
Things are amazing for Barnhart’s athletic program and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as the facilities across the campus improve, the team’s improve, too. Also, no probation is nice, unlike some other schools we know.
And it’s not just athletics, folks. Watch out, country.
Can’t believe we are a football school, basketball school, and a school school. https://t.co/OMAsh5BWlQ
— Ryan (@RyboShirk) October 20, 2018
I got back from the airport just in time to catch the second half of last night’s Blue/White Game, and after watching the first half this morning, I have some thoughts to share. Mainly, that Kentucky is really good at basketball and it’s not even November yet.
1. EJ Montgomery likes the bright lights
Coming into the preseason, we didn’t really have a good grasp on EJ Montgomery because he sat out most of the Bahamas trip; now at 100 percent, the freshman big man is making his presence known. John Calipari said Montgomery came alive in front of the scouts at Pro Day two weeks ago, and last night, he was one of the most impressive players on the court, putting up 21 points and 8 rebounds. Tyler Herro, Reid Travis, and PJ Washington had more points, but given how little we knew about EJ coming in, his play was the story of the game for me. He showed off the versatility we’ve been hearing about for months, scoring from the rim to midrange, hitting all three of his free throws, and using those long arms to block shots and clean up misses. Afterwards, Calipari said he’s happy EJ is playing well when the lights are bright but he needs to bring that same effort in practice.
“E.J. (Montgomery), E.J. told on himself. He told on himself. He didn’t practice that way. If you’re that good, you’re practicing that way now. The team laughed like crazy. Like the combine and this game are the best two days that he’s played since he’s been here. Oh, so when there are people in the seats and there are scouts in the seats you just take up a notch. Really? Well, guess what son, you’re going to take it up a notch or you’re going to be on that treadmill. Because if that’s who you are then you’re going to be that guy every day. He was good.”
2. Tyler Herro continues to make it look effortless
Herro once again led the team in scoring with 34 points off 12-16 from the floor, 4-6 from beyond the arc, and 6-7 from the charity stripe. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Herro is a natural scorer, and if he carries this momentum into the season, he could be college basketball’s darling this season.
How well did Herro play last night? As Kyle Tucker pointed out on Twitter, Kentucky’s stats website StatsBroadcast debuted an analytics feature last night and Herro’s “Game Score,” which measures productivity on a scale of 0-40, was 32.5, which is considered elite in the NBA. The next closest were Nick Richards with 18.9, EJ Montgomery with 18.6, and PJ Washington with 18.1.
If you’re curious, here are all the analytics from last night:
3. PJ and Reid are doing their NBA homework
The NBA told both PJ Washington and Reid Travis to expand their games and work on conditioning before turning pro. So far, it looks like both are doing just that. Noticeably slimmer, PJ was much more fluid going up and down the court than last season, getting to the basket with ease and pulling up for jumpers. Similarly, Reid Travis also moved well, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Both also hit a three.
Travis switched between squads during the game, which allowed fans to see him play with and against PJ. It’s clear that going against each other in practice has been good for both players, and when you add in Sophomore Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, Kentucky’s frontcourt is formidable no matter the lineup.
4. Andy Kennedy was great on broadcast
Last night was the first time we got to see Andy Kennedy in his new role as SEC Network color commentator and he was excellent. At Ole Miss, Kennedy charmed the media with his quippy commentary, which definitely translated to the broadcast. It was refreshing to hear him break down Calipari’s style as only a coach who had played against him for years can, and Cal was clearly happy chatting with him during and after the game. I even liked his plaid coat. More Kennedy, please.
5. I love this team’s attitude
If the Blue-White Game is good for anything, it’s evaluating the chemistry between players, and, as we’ve noticed since the Bahamas, this group loves playing with each other. It may seem silly to take note of stuff like this, but there were way more smiles, laughs, and playful shoves between the players than in years past, a testament to how much fun they’re having and how comfortable they are on the stage. After the game ended, they even turned and applauded the fans for coming. Little stuff like that is huge. Kentucky always has talented players, but having talented players that like each other and are willing to put in the extra work is what makes teams special.
Also, Immanuel Quickley has clearly taken over the role as dance circle hype man:
Check out more of Dr. Mike’s awesome photos from the Blue-White Game below:
Believe it or not, there's a basketball season about ready to begin. Check out Dr. Mike's photos of the basketball Cats in their scrimmage tonight.
By TJ Walker on ©October 22nd, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Happy Monday, folks! I hope you all had a great weekend because today’s Monday Insider Notes may not be the most optimistic we’ve had here at KSR. It’s not overly negative but as crunch time rolls around the Cats are still scratching at options for the frontcourt. Keion Brooks visited over the weekend, so we’ll lead with that, but also info on Oscar Tshiebwe picking West Virginia, James Wiseman visiting Florida State and Vernon Carey checking out Duke.
Let’s get to it.
— Keion Brooks (@keion_brooks) October 21, 2018
Brooks shouldn’t rush:
Hoosier native Keion Brooks Jr. checked out Lexington over the weekend and it went… you guessed it! Well! (drink). There was surprisingly some minor momentum for UK with Brooks heading into the visit as ESPN’s Jeff Borzello thought the Cats had the best chances with Brooks. I’ve said for a few weeks I thought Indiana is the leader and sadly nothing I’ve heard initially from the official visit is making me change my mind. I don’t believe the Cats are the team to beat in this recruitment, but supposedly the family was impressed with UK’s plan to get Brooks to the NBA “sooner and more prepared than other schools”.
That’s one advantage UK has in a lot of recruitments that is pretty tough for nearly any other college to top. If a player really, really cares about the NBA, then UK’s pitch resonates and can be a deciding factor for those kids. Every kid cares about the NBA and they’d be lying if they say otherwise, but some don’t allow their NBA dreams to dictate their recruitments. Some do. I’m unsure just how important that pitch is for Brooks and his family, and hopefully we’ll find out more over time, but if Brooks picks UK it will probably be because of the NBA pitch. UK has also done an underrated job building relationships with Brooks and his family. I still think being a “priority” for nearly every other school on his list will win out, especially the Hoosiers, but if I’m a Kentucky fan I’m rooting for this recruitment to go long. He will officially visit UNC (Nov. 2) and Michigan State (Nov. 16) and it’s unclear if he will rush a decision shortly after those visits or if he will wait until the spring.
As of today I’m not picking the Cats to be the landing spot, but if he waits and watches how the rosters shakeout the Cats may have a better chance in a couple months.
Having a great time at Florida State!! ?? What y’all think about it?? pic.twitter.com/P64jt94Za9
— James Wiseman (@BigTicket_JW) October 20, 2018
Wiseman visits FSU:
James Wiseman finished his official visit to Florida State over the weekend. For a couple weeks I’ve felt that Florida State is third in his recruitment and if he shocked the world and didn’t end up at UK or Memphis it would FSU. Nothing I’ve heard over the weekend is making me change my mind but if I want to listen to one of the my Nike EYBL guys then I should believe that FSU is a very serious contender. I’ve been saying for months and months that it’s between UK and Memphis but there is a serious FSU buzz and it’s been there going back to the in-home visits. I’m stubborn so I’m not backing off my Memphis/UK or bust prediction (sorry EYBL guy). I’ll eat crow if I’m wrong but despite the Seminoles making an impression this weekend I still lean towards UK slightly ahead of Memphis.
We have to remember that Wiseman himself probably doesn’t “know” where he wants to go. I think deep down he probably knows it will be Memphis or UK, but it’s my opinion that he truly believes that every school has a chance and he probably doesn’t like everyone dismissing the other schools on his list. I said in the summer that Wiseman seemed so annoyed with the “he’s going to go to UK or Memphis” narrative that I thought he may purposely try to show other schools more love. I think that’s what he’s been doing on some of his other visits.
He will officially visit Memphis this weekend and that’s it for official visits. The plan is for a November or December decision. Wiseman isn’t planning on signing in the fall, but he wants to get his decision over with sooner than later. The news where he backed off the spring decision definitely favored Memphis, but people I talk with close to UK are still liking their chances so I like the Cats’ chances, too.
And while we may be a month or two away from a decision there will be plenty of drama over the next several weeks.
What y’all think???? (Not committed) pic.twitter.com/TDoZLHvl98
— Vernon Carey Jr. (@vernoncarey22) October 21, 2018
The Duke buzz is back:
Ugh. For a long time in Vernon Carey’s recruitment the Blue Devils had the most buzz. Everyone knew that a decision was a ways away and other schools would rise and fall depending on the momentum, but Duke is back to having most of the buzz according to AAU folks I talk with. The visit went really, really well (drink) and while as of today I’m still leaning towards UK, I don’t feel nearly as confident as I did. The reason I’m not backing off UK right now is because I know how high emotions can run after official visits, but I’m officially nervous about Duke again after things were quiet with the Blue Devils for a few weeks. UK fans are freaking out about the Cats’ 2019 class, but Duke fans are really panicking. Kentucky is running out of options and Duke doesn’t have too many options left on the table, too.
I do think this will be another Duke vs. UK battle, but he also has officials to Miami this weekend and North Carolina the following week. Another area where I’m a little concerned is supposedly Carey is set on a fall decision and this was made clear to me last night while he was fresh off the Duke visit. Connecting the dots can be concerning in that situation, but at least Carey has said even before the Duke visit that he will look at a fall decision.
Supposedly Miami and Michigan State still feel like they have a good chance to land Carey. Carey has said he wants to play with another elite big and mentioned James Wiseman and Isaiah Stewart. If it were Wiseman it’d be UK. If it were Stewart it’d be MSU. It will be wild seeing how all of this plays out, but UK is pitching both Wiseman and Carey playing together. I think Carey is slightly more open to the idea, but Wiseman supposedly isn’t against it.
As for Stewart, I hinted at it last week but it wasn’t a good fit for UK and both parties have moved on. Maybe there’s a change of thought and things pick back up, but I highly doubt it.
UK finished 2nd:
Not that it matters, but UK was the runner-up in Tshiebwe’s recruitment. I know there were some Illinois insiders that said it was between West Virginia and Illinois, but that wasn’t the case. It was truly between UK and WVU and I still believe Tshiebwe himself slightly preferred UK while nearly everyone else around him were strongly pushing the Mountaineers. But, I know that Tshiebwe really liked WVU, so to say he maybe slightly leaned UK doesn’t really mean too much. It was no secret that his host parents were strongly pushing WVU and maybe that’s what won out, but WVU had been recruiting Tshiebwe for years and in a head vs. heart decision, the heart won.
UK did a good job in this recruitment but just weren’t recruiting him long enough to win out. And before we get into a “Cal should offer guys earlier” debate, Tshiebwe blew-up over the summer and UK moved quickly once he showcased himself as a great big.
I think besides the host family, Tshiebwe had some minor concerns about not being the guy on UK’s frontline. There were folks telling him he would come off the bench and maybe not play as much as he would at WVU and I think that mattered to him. I remember someone I spoke with that knew his recruitment better than I do and right after his official visit to UK I asked how things went and he said “Really, really good (drink), but they seem to be in a really good spot with (other centers).” That was a negative for Tshiebwe in my opinion.
Is something going on here:
I have no current or new inside information on Matthew Hurt’s recruitment, but I’ve been covering recruiting in some capacity since 2011 and have witnessed pretty much every type of recruitment. There are some recruitments where it’s clear UK leads the entire time, there’s some where UK swoops in late and lands a kid, but there have been a few rare commitments where there’s not a lot of UK buzz but the Cats win out in the end. It seems like in those recruitments the kid says “I’ve always loved UK” or some quote that would lead us to believe that UK was the team to beat throughout the recruitment and everyone just missed.
I’m starting to wonder if that is what’s going on here with Hurt. UK is running out of big options and Calipari is no dummy. Does Calipari know something about Hurt’s recruitment that we don’t know? Someone close to UK did tell me they’ve been recruiting Hurt as hard as anyone else in the class. UK is still looking at Jaden McDaniels and Brooks as wing options, but it’s really Hurt, Carey and Wiseman left on the frontline. With Bill Self and Kansas dealing with potential major NCAA violations I’m not so sure the Jayhawks are the leader anymore. Hurt seems like a smart kid and I respect the way they’re running their recruitment, there’s just no way you can look at UK’s frontcourt situation and not see the potential to shine.
No inside info, but something seems fishy in that recruitment and I think it may be good news for UK.
- Look for UK to get involved with 2020 five-star guard Kyree Walker, who recently backed off his Arizona State pledge.
- I’m told if UK needs to add another grad-transfer for 2019-2020 they will, but Calipari doesn’t want to take a grad-transfer from a mid-major (reading between the lines I think he would if he had to).
- Zion Harmon is still ineligible to play KHSAA and I don’t think that’s going to change, sadly.
- I still think we have a reclassifcation from the 2020 class. I don’t have any specific names (Dante was mentioned earlier this summer but haven’t heard his name in a bit), but I’m also curious if a guard could potentially jump classes, too. I’ve always just assumed bigs for UK. It could be a guard, or it could be both.
By Nick Roush on ©October 22nd, 2018 @ 1:20pm
One unexpected outcome from Kentucky’s victory over Vanderbilt is a quarterback controversy.
Despite Kentucky’s 6-1 record, UK’s passing game has struggled through the last ten quarters, culminating with an 18-yard passing performance from Terry Wilson last Saturday. Terry is still Mark Stoops’ guy, but Stoops leaving his options open.
“Terry’s our starting quarterback,” Stoops said at today’s press conference. “He’s going to start this week, but we certainly need to look at the other guys and see if they can get an opportunity to get in there and play and help us win. We’ll have a plan and we’ll work Gunnar pretty extensively this week and have him ready to play as well.”
Stoops cannot pinpoint why Wilson has struggled recently. Some of the blame rests on the coaches’ shoulders. From the outside, it looks like a confidence issue. Stoops is not so sure.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I talked to Terry today before this and he doesn’t see it that way.”
Stoops can see on film what Terry must do to improve.
“Getting the quarterback to pull the pin and make accurate throws and to trust himself. He has done that this year. He has been successful. He has put us in a position to get to the spot we’re in right now. But he’s also not played his best in the past couple of games.”
The wind likely played a factor in Wilson’s hesitancy to let the ball fly against Vanderbilt. The gusts all but eliminated the prospects of a vertical passing game, however, the wind does not excuse all of Wilson’s mistakes.
“There were times where he could’ve thrown the ball and didn’t. That needs to be fixed. That I can’t defend,” said Stoops.
Kentucky’s head coach believes Wilson can do what it takes for this team to be successful. He’s seen Wilson do it time and time again through seven games. The line will be drawn in the sand if and when Wilson is a detriment to his team’s success.
“There were set opportunities that we didn’t throw the ball that we need to get fixed and I’m confident we will. Terry has done that. He’s played winning football for us and put us in a position to win a lot of games. We greatly appreciate that and he’ll continue to do that. He will start, but once again, I owe an obligation to the rest of our team to put us in a position to win games so you have to have other guys ready to go.”
Happy Monday, folks! Per usual the weekend went too quickly and here we are on another Monday morning, but the good news is it’s another big sports week. UK looks ahead to its toughest remaining road game (IMO), the basketball team gets to take on an actual opponent for the first time since August and there will be recruiting news throughout the week.
Let’s get after it!
The basketball team put on a successful Blue/White scrimmage on Sunday evening and once again people are raving about Tyler Herro. Obviously folks have been high on him since the Bahamas trip, but he looks even better after an extra two months of practice and it’s worth asking just how good he could be come March.
Herro will likely be UK’s best scorer this season, but I was also impressed with his defense. He had to guard Keldon Johnson a chunk of the game and he held his own against one of the tougher wings in college basketball. When Herro wasn’t guarding Johnson he had tricky matchups against smaller and quicker guards. He wasn’t a liability. Calipari recently said that Herro was defending better than Johnson. I took it as coach speak and Cal was likely just trying to motivate Johnson, but after watching last night it seems Herro isn’t too far off.
The entire defense did solid despite giving up 200 combined points. Players had to play virtually the entire game and you don’t want to be overly aggressive in a scrimmage, but I thought we saw the potential and 11 blocked shots in the game was a pleasant surprise.
Offensively, good luck trying to guard these Cats.
Mark Stoops Monday:
Get ready for your double dose of Mark Stoops today. First, his weekly press conference around noon where Stoops will give his final thoughts on the Vanderbilt game while turning his attention to the Missouri Tigers. FYI, Mizzou opened as a six-point favorite for Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff. Later this evening we have the Mark Stoops Call-In show at 6 p.m., which of course is hosted by Tom Leach.
The majority of the news will come from the press conference around lunch, but if you haven’t listened to Leach and Stoops talk on Monday’s you should listen. It’s a slightly different perspective hearing Stoops talk with fans and interact with their (at times) blunt questions.
I’m guessing tonight we’ll have a few knucklehead calls despite the Cats being 6-1. It should be entertaining and frustrating at the same time.
We’ll also get injuries updates today, but Kash Daniel isn’t expecting to miss anytime because of his broken hand.
I’m also guessing that Stoops at some point today (most likely at noon) will be asked about Gunnar Hoak’s parents sounding off on social media (again):
Yikes. Obviously Terry Wilson has had his struggles throwing and securing the ball, but while pointing out Wilson’s negatives it’s easy to forget that he’s UK’s second leading rusher with 395 yards on the ground. While at this point he seems somewhat limited passing the ball, he has made something out of nothing several times, which helps move the chains for the Cats.
It’s a tough spot for Stoops. The offensive is one-dimensional, but UK is 6-1 on the season. I’ll be anxious to hear what he has to say today, but it’s never a great look when a parent sounds off on social media. Hoak’s mom also tweeted on Saturday “It’s better to be lucky than good”, which also seemed like a shot at Wilson.
Up-and-down recruiting day:
The Cats landed a commitment yesterday from Richie Leonard IV, a 2020 offensive tackle from Cocoa, Fla. Yay! Yahtzee! But the bad news is just moments before Leonard IV popped for UK, hometown target Walker Parks from Frederick Douglas committed to Clemson. The four-star lineman was seriously considering Clemson, Notre Dame and UK. It’s not great to lose in-state talent, but especially someone in your backyard. It’s a long way until Parks will sign with anyone, so we can always hope he will reconsider after UK wins the national title this season.
Nick Roush has more info on both players:
Five-star wing Keion Brooks enjoyed an official visit to Kentucky over the weekend. I’ll have more on this in the Monday Insider Notes (it usually comes out around 2 p.m.), but a bit of spoiler- I still don’t think that UK leads for Brooks.
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello thinks the opposite. In his latest “hot board” he said he’s most confident that Brooks ends up at UK, but had James Wiseman and Vernon Carey going elsewhere. You can read that HERE.
Let’s hope Borzello is wrong because with UK missing out on Oscar Tshiebwe on Saturday the Cats are running out of options. Landing at least one of Carey/Wiseman is must, and even then UK will likely be thin on the frontline.
Big Blue in the Bahamas:
After the Blue/White game did you stick around on SEC Network to watch the Big Blue in the Bahamas feature? It was a 30 program that detailed UK’s trip to the Bahamas in August, where the Cats went 4-0 against foreign competition and had a ball doing it. It was a fun behind the scenes look at the vacation and it’s another way of being able to see the personalities of these players. The last couple seasons it’s been tough getting to know the players and by the time we do it’s March. UK made it a point to make the players accessible, open and constantly on camera. Smart move by the Cats because everyone has had a chance to see this group off the court.
OK, FINE. Here's the full breakdown of how ODU beat WKU in the weirdest of circumstances pic.twitter.com/SKkzjaYJqp
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 21, 2018
Did you see the ending to the WKU vs. ODU game on Saturday night? It was truly one of the wildest finishes I’ve ever seen in a college football game. WKU had chance after chance to win the game, or at the worst have it go to overtime, and well, it didn’t happen. I know I’ve never seen a football game in my 27 years where a team lines up to kick the game winning field goal with no time on the clock and ends up losing on a field goal in regulation.
Everyone has noticed Louisville’s struggles but our neighbors in Bowling Green have been even worse. WKU is 1-6 on the season and may not win another game. Hilltopper fans can’t be thrilled with Mike Sanford just 20 games into his WKU coaching career.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 21st, 2018 @ 11:05pm
Kentucky sophomore center Nick Richards will be the first to tell you his first season as a Wildcat did not go as expected. He came in as highly-touted five-star prospect with high expectations, but by the end of the year, he struggled to earn minutes entirely.
In the team’s final ten games, Richards broke ten minutes on the floor just once. And in that span, he never scored more than two points in a single game.
His confidence was shot. He didn’t even flirt with the idea of putting his name in the NBA Draft.
Through four games in the Bahamas and Kentucky’s annual Blue-White scrimmage, however, Richards looks like a completely different player. He’s dominating in the post, scoring from the inside, rebounding the ball, and blocking shots. The sophomore 7-footer isn’t fumbling the ball in the paint or missing alley-oop receptions.
Above all else, after spending time with sports psychologist Bob Rotella this summer, the confidence is back. He’s smiling and having a good time on the floor. He’s blocking shots and staring down the opposition afterward. Richards isn’t just pushing through his freshman slump, he’s breaking through with force.
Richards finished tonight’s Blue-White Game with 16 points (8-12 shooting), 16 rebounds, five blocks, and a steal. He may not have been the most flashy player, nor did he lead the team in points, but he was making a massive impact on both ends of the floor.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said after the game that Richards finally understands what he’s capable of and not worrying about making mistakes.
“He has a smile and he’s looking up,” said Calipari. “He doesn’t look like he’s shuffling his feet looking down. He’s confident in who he is and what he does.”
And as a result, he’s finally enjoying himself and the game of basketball each time he steps on the floor.
“I’m mostly just trying to have fun playing basketball again,” Richards said after the scrimmage.
The sophomore out of New Jersey added that his only focus now is to help his team out however possible, not worrying about the statistics or making mistakes.
“I just play basketball,” said Richards. “Whatever I’m doing on the court that’s benefitting the team I go out and continue to do that for 40 minutes. I’m just not worrying about the little things. … I’m not worried about anything at all, just a care-free attitude.”
Freshman guard Tyler Herro, who led the team in points with 34 points on just 16 shots, said the success Richards is having to start the year is no surprise. The work he’s putting in after hours is resulting in development on the stat sheet.
“He’s obviously just a whole new player, as you’ve seen in the Bahamas and again tonight,” he said. “It just shows how hard he works, you see him in the gym every night. … He’s always in the gym and working on his game and getting better. And it’s starting to show.”
We have joked about “Sophomore Nick Richards” throughout the offseason here on the site, but the idea of the Kentucky big man having a massive breakout year is starting to look like reality. For a team that already has so much depth in the frontcourt, it’s a scary thought to have Richards reaching his potential with this group.
By TJ Walker on ©October 21st, 2018 @ 9:08pm
The Blue team defeated the White squad in a scrimmage where players switched teams and there was a running clock. The game itself may have been meaningless but there were several takeaways as the Cats can finally look forward to new competition later this week when they host Transylvania on Friday.
Here are five takeaways from the Blue/White scrimmage:
1. UK’s good:
Really, really good. The biggest takeaway from Sunday’s scrimmage is UK has an incredible amount of talent and will be one of the deepest teams in college basketball. We knew that in the summer, it was confirmed during the Bahamas trip and we had another reminder just a handful of days before the season starts. Kentucky will play nine guys and I don’t think there’s a significant drop-off among the nine. We saw UK thrive in nearly every facet of the game. The Cats were sharp in transition, we saw interior scoring, UK was spectacular on the perimeter and there was a healthy blend of attacking the basket and smart pull-up jumpers. UK’s shooting was really impressive tonight. The defense looked sharp at times and I was surprised/impressed with UK’s shot blocking. It’s tough to find too many weaknesses from tonight.
2. Nine deep:
Like I mentioned, Quickley, Hagans, Green, Herro, Johnson, Montgomery, Washington, Travis and Richards are going to play this season. Also, there’s a chance Baker could, too. I think he’s behind the other nine, but that’s not overly fair to say because we’ve seen so little of his game. It was cool to see him on the court finally playing and he has a great looking jumper.
When UK tried the platoon experiment back in 2014-2015, the Cats were deep but it was different than this year. There were a few players that were clearly not as good as some of their teammates, but they weren’t liabilities so they played. Out of those nine players I don’t think there’s a major weakness. Richards may be slightly behind the other three bigs, but he’s the best shot blocker and no slouch offensively. All nine are going to play and all nine can bring something different to this team.
Upsets happen in college basketball but I have a tough time believing that UK won’t be able to find five out of those nine guys that are ready to play on any given night.
I’m not sure how this will all play out because some players will progress differently than others as the season goes, but several UK players had flashes of taking over the scrimmage. They weren’t for the longest periods but Travis, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Montgomery all had stretches where they looked like “the guy”. Other players had nice runs, too.
I’m not sure how opposing teams will defend Kentucky. Tyler Herro’s stretches are the most mesmerizing because he can score from anywhere on the floor, but the other players takeovers were equally as dominant. There is going to be a time (hopefully several) where it all clicks and UK will beat a team by 40+.
UK scored a combine 200 points, but also allowed 200 points. I don’t put much stock in defense in a scrimmage because the players are playing the entire time, there’s no subs and you don’t want to be too aggressive/physical in a meaningless game. So, why it was offensively oriented I still like what I saw from the defense. UK’s shot blocking was impressive and maybe slightly surprising, but the Cats were also good on the perimeter. The guards really couldn’t penetrate on the other guards, the wings had more success attacking other wings/guards, but the guards did a great job defending their opponents. We’ve always labeled Hagans as the elite defender but I was actually more impressed with Quickley’s defense tonight. Both can be really, really good on that end. Hagans will cause more turnovers because he’ll take more gambles, but Quickley is steady and doesn’t get beaten off the dribble.
I said the wings had more success attacking and that could be somewhat concerning. UK won’t defend too many elite wings this season, but their first game against Duke will feature three of the best wings in college basketball. Calipari said not too long ago that Herro was ahead of Johnson defensively. We all took it as coachspeak to try and motivate Johnson, but Cal may not be too far off. That’s good news for Herro but still a little concerning for Johnson, who I thought would be a phenomenal defender.
5. Moving Forward:
No more scrimmages! Well, kinda. UK still has two more exhibition games but at least it’s against new competition and players that don’t know Kentucky’s plays or tendencies. The next two Friday’s UK will host exhibitions. First is Transylvania this week and then it’s Indiana University of Pennsylvania seven days later (then Duke the following Tuesday!). Kentucky should win both those games by 30+, but it will be a good chance for UK to continue to grow and be as polished as possible when they face Duke.
It’ll likely be nothing but positives again in the exhibitions, so the most important thing over the next two weeks is to stay healthy.
By Adam Luckett on ©October 21st, 2018 @ 3:30pm
Well, that was ugly. In front of 54,269 fans on a fall night that was absolutely dominated by blustering conditions, Kentucky had to turn to survival mode to grind out a 14-7 victory over a pesky Vanderbilt squad. Once again, Kentucky got shaky quarterback play that included two first quarter turnovers. With Vanderbilt eating up clock in the first half and the wind dominating the conditions, another great game by Benny Snell led Kentucky to a victory. Thanks to another great defensive performance, UK is still on track to play Georgia for the SEC East title on November 3rd.
For the game, Kentucky gained 298 yards on 62 plays which was good for a 4.8 yards per play average. For the second game in a row, the Wildcats put up less than five yards per play. They are getting absolutely nothing from pass game. For the night Kentucky ran for 280 yards on 58 carries and this was the biggest reason for the win.
After a sluggish performance in College Station, Benny Snell bounced back just like everyone thought he would with 169 yards on 32 carries. The junior averaged 5.3 yards per attempt and scored the final touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.
On that scoring drive, Snell carried the ball 10 times for 74 yards capped off by the touchdown. He was there for his team when they needed him the most. The junior now leads the SEC in rushing and is second in touchdowns. His All-American campaign continues.
Now on to the quarterback play. Let’s start with the positives. Since the win over Florida, we’ve seen SEC defenses adjust to the quarterback run game. But last night Terry Wilson was able to get loose on the ground with 91 yards on 12 carries. It was his best rushing effort since the wins over Florida and Murray State. This production allowed UK’s ground game to find its mojo. On passing plays, UK’s coaching staff got Wilson on the move and that opened up some running lanes for the UK quarterback.
It’s the passing game that continues to struggle.
For the first time all season, Wilson failed to complete at least 60% of his passes. On Saturday, he threw it a season low nine times with only three of those resulting in receptions. For the year, the junior college transfer is averaging just 5.9 yards per attempt and Kentucky currently has one of the worst passing attacks in the Power Five.
The struggles for the young quarterback began on the first two possessions and a created a scenario where Kentucky needed to go into to survival mode. On the first possession, Kentucky came out in the unbalanced formation we discussed about this week on KSR. He kept it on the zone read and after picking up 13 yards he laid the ball on the turf. Vandy takes over in Kentucky territory and turns it into points. On the next possession, UK brings Lynn Bowden in motion and throws a quick swing pass. However, the pass was off target and backwards resulting in consecutive fumbles.
It was a nightmarish start and for the second year in a row, Kentucky came out of the bye week with a serious amount of rust on offense. Due to Wilson’s shaky confidence, it was important for Kentucky to just find a way to win the game and worry about the passing game later. They did that by hammering the rock on the ground.
Up front, Kentucky was determined to get the platoon rotation involved again on the offensive line. At left tackle, Darian Kinnard alternated possessions with E.J. Price. It was the first significant playing time for the former blue-chipper. At guard, Luke Fortner and Mason Wolfe played a bunch and the duo was in for the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Kentucky is going to lose some pieces after this season but John Schlarman is doing a great job at getting the younger guys prepared for the future.
At receiver, there’s really not much to be talked about when you only throw the ball nine times. C.J. Conrad was targeted once on a bootleg but the play was well defended. UK utilized Tavin Richardson in the slot but his only target of the night was batted down at the line of scrimmage. On their only deep shot, Terry Wilson made a catchable throw but Dorian Baker was unable to pull in the reception.
It was an ugly night for the offense, but they made the drive in fourth quarter when they had to have it. They didn’t do the same thing in College Station. That’s a sign of progress.
Kentucky allowed 284 yards on 68 plays which is good for a 5.3 yards per play. On a yards per play basis, only Florida gained more yards per snap against the Wildcats. The Commodores were very successful through the air. Kyle Shurmur completed 65% of his attempts and averaged nine yards per pass attempt. Both of these were season highs allowed by the Kentucky defense. For the second game in a row, UK’s pass defense is beginning to show a few chinks in the armor. The problem for Vanderbilt was that they tried too hard to get the ground game going.
The ‘Dores ran the ball 31 times compared to just 23 pass attempts for Kyle Shurmur. The Wildcats were able to limit their ground attack to just 68 yards on the night. This was Vandy’s lowest rushing output of the season and the only game in 2018 when Derek Mason’s offense did not score a rushing touchdown. Kentucky’s front seven answered the bell once again.
Before the game-winning touchdown drive led by numerous Benny Snell rumbles, the Wildcats had to create a big stop. Facing a third and short in the red zone, Kentucky stuffed the run. Following a Vanderbilt timeout, the ‘Dores would go for it again.
Quinton Bohanna, for really the first time all season, looks 100% healthy and made a huge play with the game on the line. The sophomore from just outside of Memphis made a great play on fourth and one and was able to recover the fumble he created. At times, Kentucky has struggled in short distance situations this year and the interior line has not always been able to create a push. Having the man they call Big Bo back healthy and making plays should help in that regard.
On that play, it was reported after the game that Kash Daniel fractured his hand. After only playing one half last game, the junior played one of his best games as a Wildcat on Saturday. The Paintsville native recorded double-digit tackles for the third time this season and remains a key cog in the defense. His injury status will be something to keep an eye on closely this week.
We’ll get to Josh Allen in just a moment, but it is important to recognize Boogie Watson for the production he is creating. For the fourth SEC game in a row, the redshirt sophomore recorded a sack. Allen is a monster on the other side but Watson is becoming a very reliable pass rusher in his own right. In the secondary, UK got great play for Lexington native Davonte Robinson. The Henry Clay product had seven tackles and one key pass break-up on a pivotal third down in the fourth quarter.
Now on to the best defensive player in college football. Josh Allen’s run of dominance continued on Saturday night with a stat line of eight tackles, two sacks, a pass break-up, and a fumble forced. For the year, the senior now has eight sacks which ranks seventh in the FBS. He only needs one more forced fumble to be tied for the national lead. He’s been excellent all season.
The edge defender is starting to earn a reputation as a closer and it is well deserved. On Vanderbilt’s last drive, he once again produced a strip sack to put the game on ice.
This is now the third time this season Kentucky has ended an SEC win with a Josh Allen strip sack. That’s just remarkable. The future NFL first rounder has been a force of nature and is putting together one of the best individual seasons in Kentucky football history.
After seven games, Kentucky is 6-1 and the defense is the main reason why. The Wildcats rank second nationally in scoring defense with opponents only putting up 12.6 points per game. Kentucky is allowing 4.7 yards per play which ranks 18th. After a slow start in the turnover department, UK has produced at least two takeaways in three consecutive games. What a job done by Mark Stoops and his defensive coaching staff.
It may be time to explore another option at kicker. Miles Butler, a former walk-on, once again missed a makeable field goal. The Paducah native just does not have a strong leg and now it is clear that his confidence is battered. He’s be excellent on extra points but the coaching staff must give true freshman Chance Poore some looks moving forward.
In the return department, David Bouvier did a great job influencing Vandy’s punt team. This allowed Kentucky to pick up hidden yardage via touchbacks. Lynn Bowden returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown but a questionable holding call negated the play. Max Duffy continues to be very reliable.
Outside of placekicking, the third phase continues to play well.
For the second year in a row, Kentucky played poorly coming out of their bye week. The Wildcats went down to Starkville last year and got thumped by Mississippi State. This year, they got off to a horrific start on offense and were forced to grind out an ugly victory on Saturday night at Kroger Field.
Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky has been very bad as a double-digit favorite so maybe we should’ve seen the letdown performance coming. With the season now seven games deep, there is no question that the defense is the backbone of this football team.
Matt House’s unit has been superb and they are having an historic year on that side of the football. The Wildcats have been a problem for any offense they’ve come up against and that did not change on Saturday night. They are going to give UK a chance to win every week and are one of the top five defenses in the sport right now.
Offensively, things have just gotten way off the tracks for Eddie Gran’s unit in the last 10 quarters. It obviously starts at quarterback but the Wildcats need the positions around Terry Wilson to play better. The lack of passing game is the elephant in the room but Kentucky must stick to its identity. They are a run first football team and if they continue to put up 250 yards or more on the ground that is going to be good enough to beat a lot of teams.
Moving forward, I think you are going to see Kentucky to just try and manufacture a passing game in untraditional ways. Look for passes out of the wildcat formation and screens to be involved more. On Saturday, Kentucky got Terry Wilson on the move quite a bit and that opened up a fair share of running room. But with this defense it is important to remember that there is no reason for UK to get too aggressive on offense. Always play to your strengths.
On to Missouri.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 21st, 2018 @ 2:30pm
The Kentucky Wildcats are going to have to wait another week if they want to find themselves in the top-ten.
The latest AP Poll has been released, and the Cats found themselves back up to No. 12 in the nation, a two-spot jump from last week.
It’s the highest Kentucky has been in the polls since they found themselves ranked No. 8 in October of 2007.
The only SEC teams ranked ahead of Kentucky? Alabama (No. 1), LSU (No. 4), Georgia (No. 7), and Florida (No. 9).
Check out the entire AP Poll here:
In the Coaches Poll, the Cats moved up to No. 14 in the nation, a three-spot jump from the week eight rankings.
You can find those here:
With a victory against Missouri on the road next weekend, the Cats would almost certainly make a jump into the top-ten, setting up a battle for a spot in the SEC Championship against Georgia on November 3.