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One Look at this Kentucky Football Team and you will be Sold

Ah, the dog days of preseason football camp.  The time of the year where every ounce of information is dissected to the nth degree.  Some fans are tooting the Cats’ horn, while pessimists point to the logos on UK’s schedule.  Fans analyze every move made by each quarterback, even the ones we can’t see, while national analysts create more bulletin board material.

Believe what you want about the 2018 Kentucky football team, but I’ve been sold since August 4.

On the first Saturday of August the doors to the Kentucky football practice fields were opened to the general public.  It took about ten minutes to realize it’s the best Kentucky football team I’ve seen in six years of covering the program.

You don’t have to have a trained eye to tell the difference.  The Cats are just bigger and stronger at every single position.  You can look at the heights and weights listed on the depth chart and see taller, heavier players, but numbers are not captivating.  To see Marquan McCall, a true freshman nose guard, deliver a thunderous punch to the chest of an All-SEC offensive lineman, it elicits an unfamiliar wide-eyed response.

Mark Stoops can tell you the Cats have more depth at the defensive line, but those are just words.  You must see the difference.  Let me try.

Remember C.J. Johnson?  In 2015 he was Kentucky’s most disruptive defensive lineman, accounting for 67 tackles, 8 for loss and a pair of sacks.  His athleticism made him effective because he didn’t have size on his side.  As you’ll see below, he held his own in the trenches, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors, but he was undersized for an interior lineman at 6’2″ 290ish pounds.

UK Athletics

If Johnson was on the 2018 roster, he would be the last guy to catch your eye.  Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald was a gangly basketball player when he signed with Kentucky.  The redshirt freshman might not see a snap this fall, but he’s a 6’6″ 280-pound behemoth built with solid muscle.  Oh yeah, and he can move too.


At almost every single position, the third guy on the depth chart is bigger, faster and stronger than their predecessors who were stars just a couple years ago.

Guys like Jordan Griffin, Davonte Robinson and Yusuf Corker would have started for Stoops’ 2015 team, one that was a heartbreaking loss away from a bowl appearance.  This year, it will be hard for any of them to find minutes behind a talented group of seniors.  You thought Dorian Baker was big?  Ahmad Wagner makes Baker look tiny.  Kash Daniel is an absolute monster, but all of the underclassmen behind him are lengthy 6’4″ developing talents that move like wide receivers.  On the offensive line, Big George is the strongest man on the team, but the senior right tackle is no longer the biggest man on the offensive line.

6’9″ offensive tackle Nick Lewis dwarfs Qua Mahone, a 6’3″ 310-pound defensive tackle (Jeff Drummond, @JDrumUK)

Size doesn’t equate success.  It’s a lesson the Big Blue Nation learned from Matt Elam.  The big guys must be tacticians that can explode into the right place at the right time to make plays when their number is called.  That’s football.

Like every football team in America, the 2018 Wildcats are far from a finished product.  Fans who got to see the team on August 4 saw an impressively balanced team that has limitless potential.  No matter who is on the schedule or where the game is played, Kentucky has the athletes to match (or dominate) the competition.

Unfortunately, UK will keep the team behind closed doors until September 1.  When you finally see the Wildcats take the field, dreams of a season unlike anything you’ve seen before won’t seem so far-fetched.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

31 Comments for One Look at this Kentucky Football Team and you will be Sold

  1. katfan33
    3:16 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Nice post, Nick! I’m all in on the Cats this season! BBN

    • unbridled
      10:01 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      So what would constitute a successful season?

  2. mothandras
    3:31 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Beat Florida, and win a bowl game and I will be sold.

  3. eyebleedblue
    3:37 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Bingo. The optimism from this reads like someone who has only reported on the team for 6 years. I remember thinking ‘this was the year’ for a few decades and finally saying ‘let’s tailgate until baskerball’.

    • bigbluechesticles
      3:46 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      Exactly, it’s basically just something to help kill time until basketball starts. A nice excuse to drink during the afternoon. It’s a shame they even screwed up the tailgating, it’s better to just stay home and watch.

    • cats646
      4:46 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      You’re both horribly wrong. Football > basketball!! Go cats!!!!!

  4. oruacat2
    3:43 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    I feel like I’ve read this exact same article every year for the last two decades or so.

    • EK
      4:49 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink


    • CATandMONKEY
      12:30 am August 16, 2018 Permalink

      …Since about 1954

  5. TBW3011
    3:44 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    I’ll be sold when I see results. Heard this type thing for years. And I’ll cheer as much as ever. Not being negative, but games aren’t won on photo day.

  6. Trevathan
    3:48 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    I feel like I’ve read these same lame comments from the fair-weather contingent for the last twenty years. All sides of the equation feel stale.

    If you don’t like football or feel like a few wrong bounces will force you to say something about basketball season, just do us all a favor and don’t cheer for it this year. Don’t go to the games. Don’t comment on the posts. Just sit there and stare at a picture of Herro and I promise you your day will come.

    I promise you you’re not the reason Commonwealth keeps its lights on. I promise you’re not responsible for any amount of money we have for football recruiting. Your absence will simply create a hole that will eventually be filled by someone who is a fan of that team and not just of that school.

    3:58 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    This article has officially gotten me excited for football season. After last season I said wouldn’t get my hopes up again, but here we are!!!! Hopefully with the combination of returning veterans, incoming talent, and a returning core of the coaching staff we finally turn the page and become a true competitor in the SEC!

    • Natureboy42
      4:58 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      I have the same Charlie Brown optimism I have every fall. Yes Lucy may pull the ball away but that’s not gonna stop me from cheering and hoping for the best. History is just that it has no bearing on this year’s team or next year’s or any in the future. We as fans can talk about but I sure as hell hope the players aren’t worried about mistakes they made last year. Keep moving forward and go big blue.

  8. peaches76
    4:10 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Amen Trevathan!!

  9. binarysolo
    4:37 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    You’ve been “sold” since Aug 4, yet you *just* reported over the weekend that Stoops was disappointed in the first pre-season scrimmage. Stoops was quoted:

    “I’m not pleased. I just feel like there’s a lot more with us. It’s a long training camp, but I expect more coming out for the first scrimmage.” He added, “It’s not what we’re looking for.”

    “I expect this group to bounce back and get back at it next week because we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    I mean, you wrote that. But you’ve been sold since Aug 4? Okay, buddy.

    • Booby Petrino
      5:27 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      What does Stoops disappointment with one scrimmage have to do with Roush being sold? They are two different people, bud!

    • unbridled
      9:57 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      Does stoops know how much a disappointment he has been?

    5:41 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    The players I trust, it’s our coaching that will lose us games.

  11. Blue Bill
    6:43 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    I’m one of the most positive UK football fans around, but have heard this exact same spiel every year, “bigger, stronger, better”. Show. Me.

    • jaws2
      7:53 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      BlueBill your logic has no place on KSR’s site! I’m sure you’ll here from DelrayCat, BigBlueBoardem, and every other blueglass wearer regular on here calling you a troll in 3,2,1………

  12. UoKFB PHAN
    7:24 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Say what??? Five paragraphs about the size of the players and then ‘Size doesn’t equate success’. Okay, they are bigger because of better recruiting and off-season conditioning but to say your sold on a team before you even see them play their first few games is crazy. Don’t you think the players on the other teams are also bigger this year?

    I’m cautiously optimistic about the Cats this year (possibly 8-4) but I’m going to take a wait and see approach.

    • unbridled
      10:00 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

      8-4 just ain’t happening. I wish it would….but it’s mostly certainly not going to.

  13. CombatMedic_98
    8:00 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Gents and Lads’ this is the year of both UK Football and Basketball…patience and expectation management please?!

  14. VMI1957
    9:40 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    UK Football will finish 3-9 or perhaps 4-8 but no better than that…..they couldn’t even beat a junior high team filled with waterboys.

    • Greatcatfan
      1:42 am August 16, 2018 Permalink

      You mean Louisville?

  15. kjd
    9:59 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Nope, not allowing myself to climb aboard the hype train this year.
    I will remain cautiously hopeful until September 1st. I’ll be there at Kroger Field, and will see if this is the real deal.

  16. BluKudzu
    10:51 pm August 15, 2018 Permalink

    Beat Louisville. Then you know.

  17. steve simpson
    2:19 am August 16, 2018 Permalink

    Nick I love your enthusiasm, and I pray for our sake you’re correct. I’ve done this many more years than you have and I’ll cheer and drive 5 hours same as always but I don’t set myself up to hurt like I used to.