This is the first installment of three NSD Q&A posts. You asked, I tried to answer:
@UKMatt9: “What are players doing/allowed to do right now before spring practice?”
Mostly strength, conditioning and individual developmental work. During this time period, coaches are allowed very little football instruction and are mainly focused on recruiting through National Signing Day. Much like in the summer, group work (offense/defense) is player-organized and led.
@ChrisGraham: “What do you think of Will Jackson? Will make impact at DB or move to WR?”
Loved Will Jackson coming out of St. John’s College High School. Long, rangy football player with his best football ahead. Depending upon good weight gain during a redshirt, Jackson is a versatile defender that can play every defensive position other than the front four. I don’t see him moving to WR. Along with Josh Allen, was the steal of the Class of 2015.
@Jones859: “Who will be vocal leaders of the team?”
Great question, was there one last year? Team leaders need to come from starters and in best case scenario, the team’s best players. Will it be so? Yet to be determined. The best player on the team, Jon Toth, is a quiet-natured person. Toth will lead, but more so by example. As for which players are the “face mask grabbers” on the roster, I can see the younger players doing so but if they’re not regulars on game day, won’t have much impact. Leaders need to surface; more specifically, verbalized accountability enforcers. Mark Stoops has proven leadership development personnel on his staff. Like most issues, I tend to lean toward holding players accountable more so than most. Current and incoming Cats need to listen instead of hearing what the Leadership Team says. With 2015’s situation/circumstance, I’m not convinced a reincarnated George Patton could have motivated a portion of the roster.
@May826May: “Will Landon get his 5th star?”
Highly possible. Word I’m getting from San Antonio is that Young has out-performed all OTs including the position’s 5 stars. Landing a 5th star is not as simple as being the best or highest evaluated player at a certain position. Recruiting services provide excellent information, however, I’d be careful solely relying upon star rankings. Lots of external influences factor in star ratings. This especially applies when dealing with moving a 4 to a 5-star ranking. A select few college head coaches don’t appreciate their commits being demoted if that clarifies the muddy waters I’m navigating in my attempt to answer your question. That’s why on my internal KSR NSD evaluation reports, I assign “Coal Buckets” instead of stars. I’m not worried about losing access nor do I pay attention to pre-assigned rankings prior to turning on the film.
@JakeJones: “How can UK Football fix its Achilles heel of running quarterbacks?”
Easiest question I’ve gotten so far. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A highly skilled quarterback, Stephen Johnson II, is visiting Kentucky on January 14. In addition to the significance of Johnson’s visit, a date to remember is January 15, the last day junior college early enrollees can sign a Letter of Intent. As for defensively, become more athletic within the front four. Penetration stops much of the read-option along with experience at OLB.
@_Jared32: “How good will DBs be?”
Will be strength of the team. Coached by the best teacher on the staff, Derrick Ansley, current and incoming talent will be at an all-time program high. Development and depth chart decisions are in excellent hands. It may be young, but UK will be upper level SEC in secondary talent and coaching.
@draderukfan: “UK’s class is ranked 31st, but 3rd at US Army All American Game. How influential are staff evaluation skills?”
Extremely valuable. Several signees have Kentucky listed as the first program to offer. This includes 4-star OT Landon Young, who committed to Mark Stoops as a 6’7″ 240 lbs. sophomore. Now 300-plus and rated as the nation’s 4th best offensive tackle, that early evaluation seems ingenious. I look at players like Josh Allen, who moved from Alabama to New Jersey between his junior and senior seasons as well as changing positions. Will Jackson didn’t play his junior year and was a 2-star prospect until UK offered. These two are pictures of a coaching staff trusting instincts and not paying attention to external influences. By the way, both will be consistent contributors for the next three years.
Tweet more questions and we’ll do this a couple more times before February 3. Thank you.