Another week of practice is in the books for the Kentucky football program and it was one that was quite busy. From more positive news about Beau Allen and Vito Tisdale, to a boycott on Thursday for a social justice movement, scrimmage on Saturday and a huge recruiting announcement on Sunday. There was plenty meat on the bone for this week and we have a packed Monday Huddle.
It’s time to touch on everything that occurred and get you caught up to speed. We are just a few weeks away from things kicking off down on the Plains come September 26th.
First Down: Team Makes a Stand
Following the NBA’s decision to boycott the playoffs on Wednesday night, the next day came and UK football decided to make a statement of their own. The team held a walkout of practice together to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Afterward, Luke Fortner and Josh Paschal took questions from the media.
They stood together as a family to be a part of effective change.@UKFootball's @JPaschalx speaks about yesterday's practice and the team's decision to walk off the field united. pic.twitter.com/KO47jdAfwe
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) August 28, 2020
“We decided to use this time that we’ve been given today to address something that’s more important than football,” Paschal said Thursday. “As a power five football team, we come from all different backgrounds, but come together to turn awareness into action. In light of recent events involving police brutality, our team stands together in unity, knowing there’s a problem in this country.”
Their head coach backed up this sentiment on Friday morning when went on as a guest of Kentucky Sports Radio and fielded questions about the issue. Earlier this summer, we all remember the players and coaches marching in Lexington with Black Lives Matter t-shirts and Stoops expanded on the issue by talking about the relationship built with a wide receiver in his first recruiting class.
After suffering multiple knee injuries, Alex Montgomery’s playing days were done and Stoops felt that he was likely headed towards the wrong path. The head coach and his wife stepped in to put Montgomery under their wing and treat him like another one of their sons. Stoops took it beyond that to describe some of the other experiences Montgomery has been through in his life.
“To take it further, his girlfriend her family disowned her, why? Because she’s dating a black man,” Stoops said. “These are my kids. I’m quite sure I’ll walk her down the aisle. I don’t put up with this fake stuff, putting things on Twitter just to get a pat on the back. That is so not me. I purposely don’t so stuff because I don’t want to be viewed that way. This is personal. These are my people. These are people that I’m close to, that I love that are like family to me. To not make difference, to not stand with them is wrong.”
The players backed up those statements from their head coach by calling him a “players’ coach” and someone who will stand by them through thick and thin according to Paschal.
“Playing for Coach Stoops means that we have a players’ coach. We have a coach that empathizes and hurts with us, while having our best interest at heart. The administration of the university has been great, with listening and offering any help that they can. Coach Stoops has made it known that he is for us and it gets the issue by protesting and giving us this opportunity”.
Hey true BBN fans I really appreciate the support you have shown our football team. This one of the main reason why I stayed here. Let’s not let negativity destroy what @UKCoachStoops has build here. I love all you guys this is the best fan base I have been around. SEC we coming
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) August 28, 2020
While other head coaches around college football are more than happy to stay quiet and avoid these obvious issues that mean a lot to most of their roster, Stoops makes it know that they are important to him. Vince Marrow backs that up and the team photo posted on Thursday next to the statues of the men who broke the color barrier in the SEC was powerful. This is truly a team and they proved that again this week in their public stance.
Second Down: Quarterbacks Shine
We’ve had just two weeks of camp intel come out, but it is clear at this point that the staff is pretty happy with their quarterback situation. On that same interview with KSR, Stoops gushed pretty openly about QB1 Terry Wilson.
“Fast forward to this year, we put him back out there and he looks more comfortable. He looks good. He doesn’t look at all gimpy on that leg. It looks strong. He looks fast. He looks comfortable with it. Obviously, we’re not hitting him and we’re not going to hit him through camp. He needs to go through that first game and we all know we’re jumping right into it. There’s no warm-ups, so that’ll be new for him. But right now, he looks really comfortable and I’m just very pleased. He’s getting more and more confident everyday. He looks good throwing the ball. He looks good in the pocket. He looks good with his understanding of the offense and when he pulls it down and runs it, he looks just as fast as ever. That’s a great sign for us.”
On Wednesday, Wilson joined substitute co-hosts Peter Burns and Roman Harper on The Paul Finebaum Show and proclaimed “I’ve got my swagger back” in addition to feeling good about his accuracy and that he feels 100 percent with his knee. Things are very good with the starter, but we’re hearing good things about the backups as well.
Stoops believes UK will hear from the NCAA soon regarding Joey Gatewood’s waiver and that the Auburn transfer will excite the BBN when he takes the field. Meanwhile, Beau Allen continues to draw rave reviews both from the head coach and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran who has thrown out the word “special” when talking about the true freshman while Stoops is very happy with his progress.
“You look at Beau, as I mentioned the other day, he’s everything we thought he was — and that’s just a quarterback, a guy that’s very comfortable. He has that vision and the anticipation and accuracy that you’re looking for. He’s just a hard-working guy with a lot of talent. I’m very proud to have Beau.”
Allen backed up those public acknowledgments with a solid performance in the scrimmage on Saturday as he dropped a dime to fellow true freshman Earnest Sanders IV. “Beau was getting hit right in the chin and delivered a 40 or 50-yard bomb”. The Lexington Catholic product and high three-star quarterback’s name keeps coming up.
Third Down: Drake Jackson’s Weight Loss
Last week when he met with the media, Kentucky’s redshirt senior center and Rimington Trophy candidate admitted that he lost 30 pounds during quarantine in order to help improve his play on field as he tries to repeat as first team All-SEC at center.
“You’re always trying to change your body every offseason, eat healthier, work out hard, transform fat into muscle, but in March when we were hit with the quarantine I decided it could go one of two ways: I could get fat and out of shape or lose weight and stay in shape. I chose the latter. I’m glad I did. I think going into your senior year it kind of hits you low. It’s not like I never took it serious before, but now it’s really time to get serious and I had a lot of help doing it,” said Drake Jackson.
On the Behind Kentucky Football podcast this week, offensive line coach John Schlarman joined host Curtis Burch to talk about a multitude of topics and one that came up was regarding Jackson’s weight loss and how it is going to help him on the field this fall.
“Drake is definitely somebody who’s not going to do something on a knee-jerk reaction. It was something that we have discussed previously that he and I have talked about. It might help his game a little bit being a little more mobile and agile,” said Schlarman.
The hope is that this can make the center better in space when facing linebackers, but both recognize weight needs to be added back on and that is what the Woodford County product is working on now. The elite center should be one of the best in football this fall and the hope is we see him make more absurd reach blocks like this to spring explosive runs.
Fourth Down: Jager Burton Joins the Big Blue Wall
On Sunday evening at KSBar, the top player in Kentucky made it official and became a member of UK’s 2021 recruiting class. Jager Burton is listed as the No. 125 player in the country and he chose the Wildcats over Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oregon. This was a big time commitment from a player who could make an impact as a true freshman.
From the mic drop by Mark Stoops, to seeing what Burton does on the field, KSR had you covered after the monster recruiting win. Lexington Frederick Douglass is producing high school football talent at an extremely high rate as Kentucky looks to build a pipeline at the local high school.
The Week Ahead At KSR
The third week of camp begins and we’ll have you covered for everything that breaks and potentially another scrimmage to react to on Saturday. Every Wednesday morning from here moving forward, be prepared for a fresh episode of 11 Personnel to drop into your feed. This week we’ll have plenty to talk about on top of giving out our SEC season total picks. Make sure you are subscribed.
Football is coming.*