Friday, September 28, 2007

For fans still scared of Schnellenberger and FAU

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

No opponent should ever be underestimated or overlooked, and I know a lot of UK fans are still concerned about UK- FAU turning into a so-called "trap game" tomorrow.

FAU is a very respectable 3-1. Here is their 2007 record, to date:

  • FAU 27 - Middle Tennessee 14
  • Oklahoma State 42 - FAU 6
  • FAU 42 - Minnesota 39
  • FAU 30 - North Texas 20
I won't diss FAU. Schnellenberger has done a great job.

But if we are going to look at this game realistically, UK fans need to understand a couple of things.

For one thing, Oklahoma State and Minnesota are mediocre D-1 football teams. Oklahoma State is 2-2. Minnesota is 1-3. In view of the fact that Oklahoma State scored 42 points against FAU's defense, and Minnesota scored 39 points, you can just about bet your automobile that UK will score at least 48 points tomorrow. And that, my friends, would translate into a comfortable UK victory, and a fourth quarter with Mike Hartline under center.

Another thing to consider....this game is a glaring physical mismatch. Florida Atlantic has a small, quick team. UK has a big, quick team that is much deeper than Florida Atlantic's smaller team. I can understand why Florida Atlantic gave Minnesota fits, since Minnesota is a slow, lumbering Big Ten team. But when faced with an athletic Big Twelve opponent (i.e., Oklahoma State), FAU got creamed.

Today I took a look at FAU's depth chart. This team is small. Really small. Their starting center weighs 245#. One of their starting guards weighs 260#. Both of their starting DTs weigh less than 265#. Two of their starting LBs are under 205#. Their entire defensive backfield is very small, and their CBs both weigh less than 170#.

Now, I fully understand how speed can erase a lot of shortcomings for a football team. But the SEC is a speed conference, and UK was just as quick as Arkansas last Saturday.

If I was Coach Brooks, I would line up and run the football down Schnellenberger's throat tomorrow until Howard's small defense proves they can stop it. And by the time FAU's defense figures out a way to limit UK's rushing offense, FAU's safeties will be too close to the box in run support....which means Andre can use play action to throw over them. And when UK's receivers match-up against FAU's smaller CBs, I don't think the kids from the Sun Belt Conference will fare any better than Arkansas' DBs fared last week

If I can see this, you can be sure Joker sees it. I'm sure they have looked hard at the FAU-Oklahoma State game film.

UK 49
FAU 17

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Late September Football Recruiting Update

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

This post is the latest in a series. For the time being, I will try to update about every two weeks.

As predicted here throughout the summer, Louisville lineman and UK legacy David Ulinski verballed to Coach Brooks this week. Currently, UK has five firm verbal commitents: Ulinski, Gene McCaskill (ATH, Chester, SC), Randall Cobb (ATH, Alcoa, TN), Chandler Burden (OL, Oxford, OH), and Matthew Smith (OL, Louisville). Several more verbal commitments will be made to UK during the next 2-3 weeks.

It is only a matter of time until instate prospects Winston Guy, Aaron Boyd, and EJ Fields become members of UK's class, whether or not these commitments are announced soon. Fields will probably be the first of the three to commit. Guy may be the slowest, because he still has to work out his business with Houston Nutt. Brooks' staff is also talking with Lexingtonian Terrell Combs (Bryan Station HS) who could play DT at the collegiate level after a redshirt year.

Meanwhile, the upset over Arkansas has gotten the attention of some good prospects around the South. Memphis LB DeAndre Jones could verbal to UK at anytime. Keep an eye on DT Arterio Arnold (Greenville, SC), DT Osaze Idumwonyi (Cedar Hill, TX), DT Jeremy Johnson (Memphis, TN), DE Willie Bohannon (Mobile, AL), DE Donte Rumph (St. Matthews, SC), ATH Matt Roark (Acworth, GA), and safety Robert Lester (Foley, AL).

For those who are curious, Pleasure Ridge Park DT Brandon Newman is still a firm Notre Dame verbal. The one thing that would turn Newman for sure would be if Coach Weis loses his job. Let me say this now, so everyone will understand what UK's staff is up against in trying to re-recruit Newman. Notre Dame will not fire Charlie Weis this year. That isn't going to happen, folks. Weis will be given one or two more recruiting classes to prove himself. Still, compared to the cascading troubles in South Bend, UK's exploding success story probably looks pretty good to Newman right now. But Newman is still enamored with Notre Dame's campus and academic programs. I think UK still has an uphill struggle to change Newman's mind, but it could happen. I'm guessing the chances are 40-60. You can be sure Brooks and Joker will not give up on the big guy.

With that said, UK's February class could end up looking something like this....

1. Gene McCaskill, ATH, Chester, SC

2. Randall Cobb, ATH, Alcoa, TN

3. Chandler Burden, OL, Oxford, OH

4. Matthew Smith, OL, Louisville, KY

5. David Ulinski, OL, Louisville, KY

6. Trevino Woods, OL, Athens, GA , or Ryan Benzick, OL, Fern Creek, KY

7. Aaron Boyd, WR, Lexington, KY

8. EJ Fields, ATH, Frankfort, KY

9. Winston Guy, WR/S, Lexington, KY

10. Matt Roark, ATH, Acworth, GA, Kenny Easterly, WR, Knoxville, TN, or Corey Heard, WR, Atlanta, GA

11. MarQueis Gray, QB, Indianapolis, IN, Brent Burnette, QB, Maryville, TN, Darius Willis, RB, Indianapolis, IN, or Quentin Trotter, RB/LB, Cincinnati, OH

12. Ryan Wallace, TE/DE, Bowling Green, KY, Sam Robey, DE/TE, Louisville, KY, Nathaniel Dials, DE/TE, Paintsville, KY, or Quentin Williams, TE/DE, Pittsburgh, PA

13. Arterio Arnold, DT, Greensville, SC, Jomarcus Savage, DT, Huntsville, AL, or Terrell Combs, DT/LB/FB, Lexington, KY

14. Brandon Newman, DT, Louisville, KY, Osaze Idumwonyi, DT/OG, Cedar Hill, TX, Jeremy Johnson, DT, Memphis, TN, or Brandon Thompson, DT, Thomasville, GA

15. Michael McAdoo, DE, Antioch, TN, Donte Rumph, DE, St. Matthews, SC, Willie Bohannon, DE/LB, Mobile, AL, TL Walker, DE, Maryville, TN , or Chase Thomas, DE, Marietta, GA

16. DeAndre Jones, LB, Memphis, TN, Dexter Heyman, DE/LB, Louisville, KY, Jerrell Harris, LB, Gadsden, AL, Eric Everhardt, LB/DE, Suwanee, GA, or Marcus Nedd, LB/DE, Tucker, GA

17. Xavier Avery, ATH, Ellenwood, GA, or BJ Daniels, ATH, Tallahassee, FL

18. Robert Lester, ATH, Foley, AL, or Reuben Johnson, CB, Atco, NJ

Monday, September 24, 2007

What does the future hold for UK football?

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

With the Wildcats now 4-0 in 2007, with a national ranking and impressive upsets of UL and Arkansas, UK fans are eagerly wondering which bowl game will extend an invitation to the Cats in December. In reality, most of the key events that will shape that issue won't take place until October and November. As I have said previously, I believe this is UK's best football team since 1984, if not longer than that. However, UK's 2007 schedule is tough, and the toughest portion still lies ahead. Currently, UK fans are looking at what the Cats accomplished against UL and Arkansas, and wondering if these great peformances can be built-on against South Carolina, LSU, and Florida next month.

So in some respects, this is an odd time to talk about 2008.

And yet, many UK fans are already mindful that Woodson, Little, Burton, Johnson, Tamme, and Woodyard won't be back next season. They see the remarkable senior leadership coming from these six exceptional seniors, and they already wonder and worry how Coach Brooks and his staff will be able to move UK past their graduations without a dropoff in performance.

On this thread, I want to give you a little glimpse of what lies ahead for UK's football program in 2008. I do not do this to divert anyone's attention away from the formidible challenges still lying ahead this fall. I offer these comments simply because the subject is already on people's minds.

OFFENSE

Obviously, this is where the graduations will hit hardest. Losing Woodson, Little, Burton, Johnson, and Tamme will cut the heart and sole out of UK's powerful, nationally-ranked offensive unit. I think I know how Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders will try to cope with the personnel losses.

Next spring, Joker's top priorities will be to produce incremental improvement in the play of Coach Heggins' unit, and to find a new QB.

Although UK's key skill position players are seniors, OTOH most of the key players on UK's OL are underclassmen. There is a lot of young, athletic talent in UK's OL rotations. 2007 starters Garry Williams, Zipp Duncan, and Justin Jefferies will be back. If Jefferies continues his rapid, impressive development, UK may have one of the SEC's better OT tandems. They will be backed up by junior James Alexander, true soph Brad Durham, and redshirt freshmen Phil Hibbard and Billy Joe Murphy. That's a big, deep, talented OT cast. On the inside, Jorge Gonzalez and Marcus Davis will fight for the starting center role. Duncan, Christian Johnson, Stuart Hines, Jake Lanefski, Josh Winchell, and Jess Beets will return at OG. This is UK's deepest OL in many years. The young kids will need seasoning, but there is a lot of athletic upside.

Back-up QB Mike Hartline will return for his sophomore season in 2008. Hartline has undergone a lot of critical scrutiny this fall, but fans tend to forget that Woodson himself was indecisive and prone to mental mistakes as a true freshman in 2004. Hartline has a huge frame, a strong arm, and excellent vision of the field. Under Randy Sanders' tutelage, he is making progress by the week. However, no amount of progress by Hartline this fall will save him from having to compete for his 2008 role in April. When spring drills roll around, Hartline is destined to face another formidible contender in redshirt freshman Matt Lentz. Moreover, Curtis Pulley (the man who tentatively won the starting QB job in April, 2006) is also redshirting this fall, and may compete with Hartline and Lentz in April. Any of these three could realistically win the 2008 starting QB job, but I think Lentz will be very hard to beat. I believe Lentz has an opportunity to be a special player for UK.

Whoever wins the QB job, expect him to be handing the football off a lot in 2008. Here's why. With an athletic, improving OL, Joker Phillips will want to exploit his deep, talented stable of RBs. Although Little will be gone, the list of returning RBs is impressive. It includes Tony Dixon, Alfonzo Smith, Derrick Locke, Antoine Brown, Moncell Allen, and Brandon Jackson. All of them are SEC caliber, and Locke and Jackson could turn out to be special.

UK's 2008 passing game is a retooling job that will have to be accomplished in stages. Although starters Burton, Johnson, and Tamme will be gone, the WR rotation will still be pretty good with Rich Lyons, Demoreo Ford, Kyrus Lanxter, and Anthony Mobley. If Pulley eventually joins them (as I fully expect), so much the better. Someone will have to step up at TE, where Ross Bogue and TC Drake will be juniors. This is a spot where a true freshman could have an impact if the right guy can be signed. Also keep an eye on former QB Will Fidler, who is now seeing snaps at TE for the scout team.

In terms of tactics, look for Joker to establish UK's rushing game by exploiting his stable of swift RBs and his big, athletic OL. The passing game will be based primarily on play-action at first, which will give the UK QB a big advantage when UK's rushing game is effective. Joker will also exploit RBs Dixon, Smith, Locke, and Jackson as receivers out of the backfield.

DEFENSE

I believe this is the area of the team where we will see the biggest improvement in 2008. Already, Steve Brown's unit is vastly improved over 2006. By next fall, the players will have had a full season under their belts with Brown as their DC. Current seniors Woodyard, Dominick Lewis, and Roger Williams will be missed. But this is primarily still a young unit with a number of up and coming stars like Myron Pryor, Corey Peters, Ventrell Jenkins, Shane McCord, Jeremy Jarmon, Jamil Paris, Braxton Kelley, Micah Johnson, Johnny Williams, Sam Maxwell, Trevard Lindley, Paul Warford, Ashton Cobb, Calvin Harrison,and Marcus McClinton. If injured players like EJ Adams, Nii Adjei Oninku, and Ricky Lumpkin are able to make it back, so much the better.

I believe the interior of UK's defense is becoming very strong, even by SEC standards. Aside from the stellar CB Lindley, Peters is UK's best defensive player in the current freshman and sophomore classes. Jarmon and McCord would be next on that list, while Micah Johnson is improving steadily. Meanwhile, safety Marcus McClinton has become a real headhunter in run support. As a result, UK's defense is becoming much more effective against the rush. By next season, I think they can be very good. If Adams comes back healthy, UK's pass defense will also be excellent. A stronger pass rush from Jarmon and Paris will only help.

In body type and athleticism, Jarmon reminds me of former Bama All American DE John Copeland, who played a while for the Cincinnati Bengals. Jarmon is only a soph. By 2008, I think he will be special.

Meanwhile, I think Pryor and Peters are becoming the best pair of DTs to play at UK at least since Dewayne Roberston and Jeremy Caudill, if not longer than that. Although neither is as good as Robertson yet, both of them have a chance to become that kind of player eventually. And in the long run, McCord may be just as good.

Even by SEC standards, UK's defensive backfield is impressive. Lindley and McClinton have a legitimate chance to become two of the SEC's best defensive backs, while Cobb could also join them. Current true freshman Randall Burden is another DB to watch.

SPECIAL TEAMS

It should first be mentioned that UK's two current kickers will be back in 2008. So will Ryan Tydlacka. So far, punter Tim Masthay appears to be one of UK's most improved football players in 2007. However, if placekicker Lones Seiber continues to struggle, we might see Tydlacka compete for that job in April. Although star return men Little and Burton will be gone, UK's kick return game will be in good hands with Lyons, Ford, Dixon, Smith, Locke, and Jackson.

2008 SCHEDULE

Aug. 30, Louisville, @ Louisville, KY
Sept. 6, Open
Sept. 13, Akron @ Commonwealth Stadium
Sept. 20, Open
Sept. 27, Temple @ Commonwealth Stadium
Oct. 4, Alabama @ Tuscaloosa, Al
Oct. 11, South Carolina @ Commonwealth Stadium
Oct. 18, Arkansas @ Commonwealth Stadium
Oct. 25, Florida @ Gainesville, FL
Nov. 1, Mississippi State @ Starkville, MS
Nov. 8, Georgia @ Commonwealth Stadium
Nov. 15, Vanderbilt @ Commonwealth Stadium
Nov. 22, Open
Nov. 29, Tennessee @ Knoxville, TN

It should be noted that all teams (i.e., not just UK) lose players every year by graduation and attrition. That said, it is too early to talk in detail about UK's individual 2008 games. UK's current 2008 schedule features six home games, five road games, and three bye weeks. Look for UK Director of Football Operations Steve Hellyer to add a 12th game during one of the September bye weeks. I'm guessing Hellyer will pull out all the stops to schedule a nonconference game in Lexington on September 6. I feel certain Hellyer is working on this, because it makes compelling sense, and because I know his philosophy from my previous discussions of the topic with him. By rule, D-1 teams need six victories to qualify for bowl eligibility. UK would have a much better opportunity to reach this parameter in 2008 by playing 12 games, rather than the 11 games on the current schedule.

That being said, this schedule presents a good opportunity for another bowl season. It's another difficult SEC schedule, but the games will be winnable if UK executes on the gridiron.

SUMMARY

Look for UK's offense to become more of a ball control unit, with 4-5 athletic RBs shuffling regularly in and out of games. With a vastly improved OL in 2008, Joker should be able to get burners Smith and Locke to the edge, while versatile talents like Dixon and Jackson will be other major weapons in the rushing and passing games. With a legitimate SEC rushing attack, Joker and Sanders will bring the young QBs and the passing game along gradually with play-action at times, and liberal use of the backs as receivers at other times. Although they will be inexperienced, all of UK's QBs have the arm strength to throw the football all over the field. And although Burton and Johnson will obviously be missed, UK's WRs will be more than adequate (especially if Pulley moves to WR, as expected). An effective TE will have to be found, but Joker could fill this role by using several players situationally.

Defensively, the 2008 Cats will feature a more effective pass rush and a much stiffer defense against the run. UK DBs like Trevard Lindley, Ashton Cobb, and Marcus McClinton will opportunistically pick off anything that is not thrown on the money. Just as we have seen in 2006 and 2007, the 2008 Cats will be very opportunistic.

This will be facilitated by more effective special teams.

Final two 2008 Recruits for UK Basketball Poll Results

Below is the results of the two basketball recruits that you hope UK would sign. Since the poll was posted Darius Miller(right) committed to UK and was the #1 recruit that everyone voted for UK to sign to go along with Liggins. With list of recruits that is listed, each voter was allowed to vote for 2 recruits.
The top three votes was for Miller who received a total of 175 votes, J'Mison was second with 141 votes, Sampson III was third with 102 votes.

Which two basketball recruits do you hope UK signs to go along with DeAndre Liggins for the 2008 Class?

Darius Miller - SF 175 (53%)
J'Mison Morgan - C 141 (42%)
Ralph Sampson III - C 102 (30%)
Rontei Clarke - PG 98 (29%)
Chris Singleton - PF 86 (26%)
Garrett Stutz - C 21 (6%)
Willie Warren - SG 15 (4%)
Courtney Fortson - PG 11 (3%)
Sylven Landesberg - SF 1 (0%)

Total Vote: 330

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Follow-up to UK - Arkansas

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

Kentucky 42
Arkansas 29

As we have been saying here for more than a month, this is a very mentally-tough Wildcat football team, with great senior leadership. Yesterday, those qualities made the difference between the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" for the Cats.

This was a very physical football game, and a tale of two very different halves. The most outstanding feature of the competition was tremendous team speed and quickness exhibited by both squads. The next most important feature was individual athletic excellence from Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Wesley Woodyard, Andre Woodson, and UK's fine group of WRs.

Let's talk about the particulars. Until this week, both offensive units have been prolific and versatile. So prior to yesterday, I felt the game key for both teams was making the other's offense one-dimensional by implementing a smart, tough, physical defensive game plan. For UK, this meant taking away any hope that Arkansas could move the football through the air, and forcing the Hogs to rely solely on McFadden and Jones. For Arkansas, it meant limiting UK's rushing attack, putting the football game squarely in Andre Woodson's hands, and then placing tremendous pressure on Andre in UK's pocket. Now that it's over, I believe both defensive coordinators actually did a great job in achieving those tactical objectives. Both teams were forced to punt seven times in the game, and the defenses forced numerous turnovers.

Nonetheless, 71 total points were scored, and the two offensive units posted a whopping combined total of 925 yards from scrimmage. This shows that both teams have powerful, prolific offensive units. You can limit them situationally, but you just can't stop them.

In the first half, Arkansas completely outplayed UK. Prior to the intermission, Arkansas posted 370 yards of total offense, with McFadden and Jones each gaining over 100 yards of rushing yardage in the first half alone. Meanwhile, UK (possibly flat after beating UL last week) was able to gain only 136 total yards in the first half.

However, fierce aggressiveness by both defensive units had the two offenses off balance throughout the game. Thus, the true story of the first half was turnovers and injuries. McFadden and Rafael Little both were punished in the second quarter by aggressive defenders. McFadden turned an ankle and began cramping from dehydration. He missed part of the second quarter and most of the third. Little suffered a deep thigh bruise that took him out of the remainder of the game. Arkansas WR London Crawford broke his arm trying to straight-arm Woodyard (hummm...bad idea). The pressure of the game showed in numerous mistakes by both teams. Turnovers and mistakes in the first half were so frequent that you have to watch a replay of the game for a full accounting. That said, two critical UK fumbles stiffled drives that could have put the Wildcats in control, while Michael Smith's crucial fumble late in the second quarter allowed Trevard Lindley to score the TD that surprisingly got UK back within 6 points at the intermission.

The second half belonged to UK. After the intermission, the Cats outscored the Hogs 28-9 and outgained them from scrimmage by 319-113 yards. This continues a trend of fourth quarter UK dominance that has been evident against Georgia, Vandy, Clemson, and UL in UK's current surge.

Here are some other observations from yesterday:

* Syracuse's shocking upset of UL shows that last week's 40-34 UK victory took a lot out of both "I-64 rivals". This was also quite evident in UK's sluggish first half in Fayetteville.

* * Woodson watch. On the season, UK QB Andre Woodson has now thrown 86 pass completions in 134 attempts, for 1008 yards and 11 TDs. Woodson surpassed Trent Dilfer for first place on the NCAA's all time list of most consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception.

* Four UK RBs carried the football against Arkansas. Prior to being injured in the second quarter, Rafael Little had 50 yards and 1 TD on 10 carries. Little did not return after suffering a thigh bruise. He now has 438 yards and 3 TDs on 62 carries for the season. Little also caught 3 passes for 28 yards yesterday. Tony Dixon was UK's leading rusher for the game, with 78 yards on 9 carries. Dixon suffered a bruised shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. Alfonzo Smith carried 4 times for 23 yards. Smith suffered a sprained ankle late in the third quarter, and missed the final quarter of play. True freshman Derrick Locke rushed for 48 yards and 1 TD on 9 carries. In the wake of injuries in this game game, Little and Dixon are thought to be questionable for next week's game. Smith is doubtful. Don't be surprised if Locke sees most of the PT against Florida Atlantic.

* Steve Johnson paced UK receivers with 111 yards on 7 receptions. All SEC receiver Keenan Burton had 65 yards and 2 TDs on 3 catches.

* UK's offensive unit converted only 5 of 13 third down opportunities in the game, but UK's defense dominated by limiting Arkansas' offense to 7 of 18 third down conversions.

* After being penalized only 17 times in the season's first three weeks, UK was penalized 7 times for 60 yards against Arkansas. Several of the penalties came on false starts by UK's OL as th Cats struggled with the quickness of Arkansas' defensive front seven.

* Although virtually unnoticed by ESPN's announcers, UK senior LB Wesley Woodyard had a huge game with 12 solo tackles, five assists, and 1 QB hurry on a blitz. Woodyard was without any doubt the most important indiviadual defensive force for either team throughout this game, and is bound to be a candidate for SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

* LB Johnny Williams and DE Jeremy Jarmon also had perhaps the best football games of their UK careers.

* CB Paul Warford and S Marcus McClinton intercepted passes from Arkansas QB Casey Dick. Both interceptions came at key junctures of the game. That said, Trevard Lindley's 66 yard TD return of Michael Smith's fumble late in the second quarter was the game's defining defensive play.

* Tim Masthay punted seven times for a 43 yard average. Masthay also put most of his kickoffs deep into Arkansas' end zone. Frankly, Masthay's improvement has quietly been one of the most striking developments so far this season.

Is a 9-3 Record Now Achievable?

Lwcat
Wildcats Thunder Executive Moderator

At the start of the season many UK fans felt that a 6-6 or 7-5 record was probable because of the difficulty of the UK schedule.

Now that UK fans have had a chance to see this UK team take down Louisville and Arkansas....does this change your early season prediction? It definitely does for me! I now feel that the Cats should beat Florida Atlantic, Miss St, Vandy and Tenn. That would make an 8-4 record. In addition, I feel that a win at South Carolina or Georgia is definitely more of a possibility now then I imagined before the season started. The fact that Ole Miss played Florida tough losing only 30-24 also makes me think that UK even has a chance against Florida. The only team that I feel UK has no chance against is a tremendous LSU team, which in all probability will play Southern Cal for the National Championship.

So, my best guess now for UK is most likely 8-4, but a 9-3 record is definitely achievable. However, it will be important to avoid and minimize additional injuries to key players. If injuries to key players mount as the season progresses, than all bets are off as to the Cats achieving an 8-4 or 9-3 record.

Whatever happens, this UK team under Coach Brooks and his staff has made us all proud....they are, indeed, a bunch of gutty warriors on the field that never quit playing hard!

WT Top 10 Football Poll 9/23/07

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

1. Southern California
2. LSU
3. Oklahoma
4. Florida
5. West Virginia
6. California
7. Texas
8. Ohio State
9. Wisconsin
10. Rutgers

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Perseverance!

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

I'm not sure how many other words can define what we are witnessing with the 2007 Kentucky football team!

Raffy Little, out. A.Smith, out. Dixon, out. UK gives up 9 points in an 11 second span of the 3rd quarter and losses the lead.

What does this bunch do? They roll off 21 unanswered points to put Arkansas away!

Game balls.....where do you want to go?

Defense: For what seems to be a recurring theme this staff makes GREAT adjustments at the half. I have not see the stats but I can't imagine Ark had 100 yards of offense in the 2nd half. Take away a 50 yard TD run by McFadden and a 73 yard by Jones and UK played the run GREAT.

Woodson: The kid is oozing with confidence as he takes the field at nut cuttin' time. What a big time QB.

Derrick Locke: What a find by the staff to get this kid on campus.

Stevie Johnson: 100 yards receiving and stepped up huge with a hurting KB.

Mr. Burton:
80% of KB is better than 100% of Urritia. You see a kid just suck it up and make huge plays when his team needed him.

Sit back and enjoy the ride fans. We are sitting on something special!

Huge game this evening against Arkansas

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

As you already know, I believe this is UK's best football team since at least 1984. But in the wake of an emotional 40-34 home victory over UL last week, UK fans need to understand that the SEC contests are the most important games on UK's football schedule. The brutal difficulty of the SEC schedule can bring even the most competitive teams to their knees.

UK's 31-14 victory over Ole Miss one year ago on
September 16, 2006, was the Wildcats' first opening SEC victory since the Cats defeated Ole Miss 35-6 on October 10, 1987. Nineteen years between victories in a season's first SEC game illustrates the fierce realities of competion in this conference.

Although UK is currently 3-0 and ranked in the nation's top 25 teams, with a victory over the ninth-ranked team last week, OTOH the Cats are currently 0-0 in the SEC.

Today's game in Fayetteville gives the Cats an opportunity to open their SEC season with a victory on national TV. If they can accomplish this, they will be 4-0 (1-0), and ranked in the nation's top 20 teams.

As an aside, a victory today over Arkansas would almost certainly make Andre Woodson a leading Hesiman Trophy candidate.

But if the Cats cannot win today, then they will return unranked to Lexington for next week's nonconference game against Florida Atlantic, with a 0-1 record in the SEC and a trip to Columbia, SC, coming up the following week, followed by home games against LSU and Florida. Even if the Cats defeat Florida Atlantic, this scenario could easily result in 4-4 overall record and a 0-4 SEC record by October 21.

Thus, today's game is every bit as important as last week's game, if not more so.

Tactically, Arkansas is a very different team than UL. UL featured star QB Brian Brohm and two returning all-Big East WRs. Arkansas features two of the nation's top RBs, but the Hogs do not have a highly-regarded passing attack. Whereas UL was able to pick up huge chunks of yardage with Brohm's arm and the athleticism of their fine receivers, OTOH Arkansas is capable of controlling the clock with long TD drives based on their excellent rushing game with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

UK's defense must make Arkansas' offense one-dimensional today, then force some failed third down conversions and, hopefully, a few turnovers by the Hogs.

Fortunately, Arkansas' defense is not very good, and this is where UK has an opportunity today. Last week in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas' defense gave up 41 points and 450 total yards to Alabama's offensive unit. Bama freshman Terry Grant rushed 20 times for 96 yards, and Bama QB John Parker Wilson played like Tom Brady. Today, Arkansas will face UK offensive skill-position players who are, frankly, better than Bama's.

But this game is in Fayetteville. During the Rich Brooks era, UK's football team has had a very difficult time on the road. To date, Brooks has recorded two SEC road victories in four SEC seasons:

November 12, 2005....UK 48 - Vanderbilt 43 in Nashville
October 28, 2006....UK 34 - Mississippi State 31 in Starkville

Those were good victories for Brooks, but they were not accomplished against elite SEC teams.

In vivid contrast, Arkansas is the reigning SEC West Division Champion. The Hogs lost a competitive game on a neutral field to eventual NCAA Champion Florida in last year's SEC Championship Game, then narrowly lost to seventh-ranked Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl in December. This is a veteran Arkansas team with great weapons.

On the blue side of the field, UK's seniors will face perhaps their greatest challenge to date. If the Cats are up to it, UK may be on its way to its best football season since the 1970s. But if they are not, then the next four weeks could be painful.

So this is a very, very big game for UK.

And on the other side of the coin, an Arkansas loss today means the Hogs' prospects for another SEC West Championship are over before the end of September. So I expect to see the very best from both teams. That's what it will take today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

UK Football: Cats vs Hogs Preview

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

Kentucky beat Clemson last year in a neutral setting. Maybe, it wasn't so neutral with all the Cats fans in Nashville. Kentucky just beat a top 10 team at home in UL.

In order to climb the next rung on the ladder Kentucky has to take their confidence and experience and win a SEC road game in a hostile environment. Arkansas is the first opportunity this season to accomplish that feat.

In my humble opinion I am glad to see the Cats on the road after the big win verse Louisville. Any of us who played sports realize you get "us vs. the world mentality" when playing on the road. I think this will help the team focus.

As discussed on Wildcats Thunder's Message Board many times, Kentucky has too many kids here during the down years to get over confident. They have too much leadership not to go to Fayetteville and be ready to play.

Kentucky has cracked the Top 25 and a win Saturday makes them a Top 20 team and more national recognition. A big win on the road in the SEC on ESPN will only help with the naitonal media! If UK wins on Saturday look for CBS to make the UK-LSU game October 13 it's 3:30 game. At worst, they are the 7P ESPN game.

Arkansas and Darren McFadden present problems in the box for UK. No doubt about it! Woodson, Little, Burton, Lyons, Tamme and Johnson present problems for Arkansas.

The UK defense stepped up last week in the 2nd half. Look for the defense to make plays this week and the offense to continue their role!!

Kentucky 34
Arkansas 28

There could be Something a Brewing with UK Recruiting

Fewfirstchoice
Wildcats Thunder Basketball/Recruiting Analyst

I know you all know that Jennings has reopened recruitment, but do you know what it means for UK. Before TJ committed to Maryland,UK was in his final 3. That was a huge task because UK had only starting recruiting the big guy only a couple months prior. So I say this is huge news for UK.

As soon as I heard the news I got on the horn and made a few calls trying to see what was up.I was told that TJ is very much interested in UK and his interest in UK was a big part of why he reopened his recruitment. There are already things in the works about getting TJ to Lexington. Coach G will try and get him here for BBM, if this happens I say he commits before he leaves that night. But remember the news about his visit happening on BBM is just speculation as of now. While TJ will visit UK it is just the staffs attentions to get him here for BBM. But he may end up here on another weekend. But it would be nice to get the best big man next to Monroe here on a visit that night.

There are also rumors going around that the other big men on UK radar better be making a decision soon if they want to attend UK. With Jennings now open they know he could take the ride quickly. So I think from what I have heard that there will be a new big man commit to UK before or soon after BBM. Morgan is set to visit UK on the 29th and see if UK is for him. But he has already stated he will not commit before his birthday(Nov.2 one day after mine). But I have a feeling that he better not wait that long, if he wants to be a Wildcat. I can't see him and TJ going to the same team. Sampson may wait a bit longer because he may go to the same school as one of those big guys. I could see UK getting 2 of Sampson, Singleton, Morgan, and TJ. But remember Tubby just got a big man commit up at Minn. so that may put UK in the driver seat with Sampson. I mean if you were going to sit at a school for 2 years would you rather sit at Minn. or UK. But if he thinks he can start over Colton(the Minn. commit) he may still go there. But I think(no real info on this matter)Sampson ends up at UK.

Singleton is a name that I keep hearing good things about with UK. I have heard that he really likes UK and likes the PT thats there for him. I haven't heard of a date for a official yet but Im sure thay will be one. If UK can get Singleton in the 08 class with Miller look out guys, those 2 will be awesome together. But I have a feeling the Miller commit along with what I believe is coming via the commit board will push Singleton else where.

I have also heard that Clarke will not end up at UK. This is totally different from what I have been told in the past. I was told that Clarke doesn't want to go far from his home. So I look for Clarke to probably go to Oklahoma. Saying this if Clarke gets to BBM on his visit I still feel he can be persuaded to commit to UK. The bad thing about this is I was told that the visit probably will never take place. So if he visits he could still come to UK and if he backs out look for a Oklahoma commit soon.

So to sum up what I have said above. I think UK chances of landing a quality big man has went up big time with the news of Jennings reopening his recruitment. I feel UK will end up with 2 big men to go with Liggins and Miller in there 2008 class. I don't think Clarke ends up at UK and instead of taking a PG and a big guy it looks like Billy G will take 2 big guys now. TJ from what I have been told this evening loves UK and really wants to visit UK soon. Morgan is probably leaning toward UK with KU a close 2ND right now. UK will not take both big men. Sampson may be the big man project type if you will. While I think that Sampson is better than a project I feel it will do him well to sit behind another quality big guy for a year or 2. Singleton will probably go elsewhere because he will see his PT slipping away. But we can definitely see what Coach G want to do with his final 2 spots to fill out his 08 class. Below is my predictions for the 2008 class. Remember predictions.

Liggins -
PG/PF - Top 20 recruit 5 star
Miller -
SF - Top 30 recruit 4 star could work his way up to 5 star
Jennings -
C/PF - Top 10 recruit 5 star(from what I had heard before his verbal to Maryland and news I heard today)
Sampson -
C - Top 100 4 star

This class is just my prediction from news I have heard on the following recruits in the last week or so. So its just rumor, but rumor from good sources. So take the post how you will knowing it is just rumors right now. So thanks for reading and come back again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Time to talk about Coach Heggins' performance

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

Everyone knows Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Rafael Little, and Jacob Tamme received preseason all-SEC recognition. But none of our stars could have been as successful as they have been through UK's first three games if not for an improving OL.

Last Saturday, UL's defense was only able to sack Woodson twice. In fact, in most of UK's passing scenarios, Woodson had more than enough time to stand in the pocket and locate UK receivers. All day long, UL QB Brian Brohm was under more pressure in the pocket than Woodson. This was quite a dramatic change from recent UK-UL games.

UK began the 2006 season with four seniors and one soph starting on Heggins' OL. Senior Fatu Turituri was injured early and lost for the season, while senior Hayden Lane was unable to hold onto his job. These developments opened the door for younger, more talented players, but their lack of experience was a major challenge for Coach Heggins. Although Heggins produced a noticeable improvement in the play of UK's OL by the end of the 2006 season, it was always the weak link on the offensive unit. Considering that UK then lost all-SEC RT Mike Aitcheson and sixth year senior center Matt McCutchan to graduation following the season, there were serious reasons to be concerned about our 2007 OL.

However, Heggins has overseen a huge improvements in UK's inexperienced OL this month. This unit allowed four sacks of Woodson by Kent State in week #2, but stiffened noticeably against UL. The following improvements have been particularly apparent:

* Senior RG Jason Leger, who never played on the OL before being moved from DT a year ago, has become UK's best offensive lineman. Following UK's recent victory over Kent State, the SEC office cited Leger as the conference's offensive lineman of the week. Leger was quietly dominant against UL again on Saturday.

* If Leger is UK's best offensive lineman, there is no doubt that junior LT Garry Williams is challenging him for that status. LT is the hardest position to play on the OL, but Williams has been more than solid. Williams, who has a great chance to become the first four-year starter at LT for UK since Warren Bryant in the 1970s, has improved his focus and begun to dominate DEs like no other UK OT in a long time.

* Faced with a challenge from soph Jorge Gonzalez, senior center Eric Scott has become a much more aggressive football player in recent weeks.

* Soph RT Justin Jefferies has suddenly become one of the SEC's better young offensive linemen.

* Soph LG Zipp Duncan is continuing to wage a fierce competition with junior 2006 starter Christian Johnson. Heggins has cleverly used the competition to motivate the brutally-strong Johnson and get the best out of both players.

Meanwhile, Little has rushed for an eyepopping 388 yards (7.5 yard average), and Woodson is now being talked about as a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy. In no small part, these things are happening because Coach Heggins has produced a huge improvement in the play of UK's OL.

With the hardest portion of UK's schedule forthcoming in October, Heggins greatest challenges in 2007 still lie ahead. But up to this point, he deserves a large share of the credit for UK's fast start.

It will be very interesting to see how UK's OL plays on the road in Fayetteville this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UK - UL Football Game Recap

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

It was a beautiful day/night for football.

We arrived in Lexington so we could get to the Cat Walk. What an absolutley great turn out by the fans. I saw Coach Brooks walk through with a wry smile and shaking his head. Like, "I can't believe all this, but its what we've been waiting for!"

The fans at Commonwealth NEVER sat down. The only time people took a seat was during the half and TV timeouts. There was not an empty seat...anywhere. I've been hard on fans in the past, but Saturday they truly were a 12th man!!!!

I don't remember Raffy ever getting 27 carries in a game. The kid was amazing. He ran for 151 yards and was a work horse all night long.

I think Andre came out a little too pumped and missed some early throws. He settled in and showed that he is a remarkable QB.

The offensive line gave Andre time to throw and the running backs holes to run through. A huge pat on the back to Coach Heggins and his kids. When I looked at who was playing I saw an awful lot of Christian Johnson. Let's hope the big man has his head where it needs to be!!!

Keenan was not healthy. It was nice to see Jacob Tamme part of the offense as well as Stevie Johnson make big time plays in a big time game!!!!!

UK's much maligend defense allowed the great UL offense ONE TD in the 2nd half!!! Allen was never able to get on track. The defense was able to pressure BB enough.

The goal line stand by the UK defense was AWESOME. Braxton Kelly stood Allen up at the goal line. Then Wesley was able to make a big tackle on Barnidge on the next play.

Coach Brown, his staff and his players stepped it up. I look forward towards their growth as the season progresses.

When UK started their final drive I knew they would get into FG range for Lones. I never doubted their ability to move the ball. The penalty by Scott was big.

As much grief as I gave Joker over the option play he did just as good as job and getting that final play call. He had seen the UL defense shift towards Tamme in the middle of the field leaving Johnson pretty much 1 on 1 with Turrene.

It was a great night to be a Cat fan. The season starts for real with Arkansas. We have a team with great leadership on the sidelines as well as on the field. They are playing with confidence and I sure as fire don't doubt they can't make this a great season in Lexington.

BIG BLUE MADNESS tickets available Sept.29

Once again its that time of the year when the BIG BLUE FANS begin to line up days in advance for their tickets for the BIG BLUE MADNESS to get a glaze of the UK Mens and Womens Basketball teams for the upcoming season.

Tickets for the 2007 Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena will be available Saturday, Sept. 29, at 7 a.m., at the Joe Craft Center ticket office and online at UKathletics.com. Madness, the first practice opportunity for Kentucky’s 2007-08 men’s and women’s basketball teams, is Friday, Oct. 12, at 9 p.m. It is also the first Big Blue Madness for new head coaches Billy Gillispie and Matthew Mitchell.

Tickets are free again this year, however online sales have a service fee attached. There is a limit of four tickets per person. For more detailsclick here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The reason I supported Coach Brooks hire when others didn't

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

I have always taken a lot of crap for backing Brooks, but I felt from the get-go he was the right coach for UK under the circumstances. I will explain, because it is very important to me.

Let me take you back to the fourth quarter of 2002, when Guy Morriss was negotiating with Baylor. UK completed a 7-5 season, including a victory over UL's Ragone team. In 2001, Ragone and UL had a fine season, and easily beat us at Commonwealth Stadium. That Wildcat team was heavily affected by UK's NCAA problems. Then, in 2002, Morriss was lucky enough to have a nice senior class (including Glenn Pakulak, Artose Pinner, Aaron Boone, Ronnie Riley, Otis Grigsby, and Derrick Tatum). He was also lucky enough to have soph Sweet Pea Burns and two great juniors in Derek Abney and Jared Lorenzen. To this day, Lorenzen and Abney remain two of the most prolific offensive players in UK football history. Although Morriss did not recruit any of those players himself, he had a pretty good staff of coaches who were professionally stranded in Lexington after Mumme got into trouble. John Goodner, Brent Pease, and Mark Nelson were still in Lexington with Morriss, and those guys knew what they were doing. They were able to craft a 7-5 season in 2002 with the talent remaining on hand, as Pinner shot way up UK's historical list of single season rushers and Lorenzen moved closer to becoming UK's most prolific career passer. Pakulak's punting also made the difference in a few games. But close losses to Florida, South Carolina, and LSU, plus the NCAA sanctions, kept 2002 from being a truly great season.

Another thing happened in 2002. Lee Todd forced Larry Ivy to resign as UK's AD. President Todd hired Mitch Barnhart, whom I like and respect very much. Barnhart is a bright, courteous, pleasant man, but he is also tough as nails. Barnhart has excellent professional skills and a great network of contacts across the nation. I have always believed Barnhart will restore UK football and basketball to greatness. However, Mitch faces two large obstacles. For one thing, he is a so-called "football AD", since football is his background. For another thing, Mitch is the first AD in UK history who is not beholden to the rich UK boosters in eastern Kentucky. Because of these two factors, I knew Mitch would face a lot of problems with the LHL and the traditional corner of UK boosters who were largely responsible for UK's NCAA troubles over the years. That was inevitable, because making public trouble for Mitch was the only way these folks could try to control him.

And that has turned out to be true....which is why people like me support Mitch with everything we've got. This is the reason why I am on the internet as a UK advocate. Somebody has to tell the truth about Todd, Barnhart, and Brooks. You won't hear it from the LHL. You certainly won't hear it on TCP or Kentucky Sports Radio.

When Guy Morriss negotiated his $million contract with Baylor, he did it behind Barnhart's back. Barnhart knew what was going on, but the news came to Mitch from inside Baylor's athletics department (not from Morriss). Morriss himself never had the common courtesy to ask his AD (i.e., his boss) for permission. Mitch called Morriss in for a meeting, but Morriss would not tell Mitch any specifics. By the time Mitch made his counteroffer to Morriss, Guy had already agreed in principle to Baylor's offer. Mitch was left holding the bag, so to speak. So when you see some UK fans gloating over Morriss' failure in Waco, that's the reason.

With the February signing date less than two months away, Mitch was left to find a replacement for Morriss on short notice. Mitch worked his network, but nobody wanted to face several years of those NCAA recruiting sanctions with a roster of less than 60 scholarship players in the so-called "coaches' graveyard" in Lexington. Who could blame them? Mitch was turned down by a distinguished list of candidates, including Bill Parcels, Jeff Tedford, Walt Harris, Rich Rodriguez, and Norm Chow. In the process, Mitch had been using Rich Brooks as a consultant to UK's coaching search. In the end, when no one else would take the job, Mitch chose Brooks over Grambling Coach Doug Williams.

Rich Brooks is a fine man. He is a gentleman of his word, and he has nerves of steel. Brooks has been a head coach for 24 years. He has also been an NFL coordinator. He understands the game of football, and he does not compromise his principles to please someone of the ilk of John Clay or Antonio Hall.

I was an admirer of Brooks from his days at the University of Oregon.

If given enough time, I knew Brooks could get the job done in Lexington. But time was the requisite factor, since UK's roster was decimated and the SEC is the nation's best D-1 football conference. When virtually-inevitable problems like Antonio Hall's whining and Ron Hudson's "ticketgate" occurred in Brooks' early years in Lexington, I was certainly not surprised to see the old guard and the Morriss apologists attack Brooks and Barnhart through their contacts and proxies at the LHL and CJ. One should understand that much of the ragging on Brooks one saw on the TCP website came from the old Bassett and Morriss crowd, some of whom still remain involved in management of that website to this day.

But someone has to give the other side of the story.

Throughout Mitch Barnhart's tenure in Lexington, I have been fortunate enough to have occasional communications with Mitch and key members of his staff. Through their courtesy and insights, I have learned enough to understand UK's Athletics Department is headed in the right direction under Barnhart. Thank goodness UK President Lee Todd has stood firmly in Barnhart's corner. Barnhart is the man who has turned UK athletics around, but Todd has made it all possible.

Rich Brooks is a unique man of great courage and perseverence. Brooks has conquered the "Fellowship of the Miserable". Brooks has beaten the "Bear's Curse", and Brooks has risen above the tenants of the "Coaches' Graveyard". Here is Brooks' biographical material from the ukathletics.com site. For those who have not read it, this is a good time to get to know our fine head coach, who may be on the verge of becoming the 2007 SEC Coach of the Year.

As I have said all along, beating UL on the gridiron will become a common occurrence soon. Next year will be tough at Papa John, because UK will be without this year's fine senior class. But this staff will tackle that challenge with vigor. Without writing off the 2008 game, I truly believe UK will win at least 60-70% of our games against Little Brother in the next 10 years, and the gap will widen after that as UK continues to upgrade its SEC recruiting program under Joker. In this prediction, history is firmly on UK's side. No non-SEC opponent has ever prevailed in a "rivalry" series over an SEC football program for a sustained period of time. This is true for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are very powerful alumni, the best media networks in the South, more than enough money to maintain a long term edge, and the benefit of membership in the nation's strongest conference. Eventually, Florida conquered Florida State and Miami. Now, we see Georgia back on top of Georgia Tech, and South Carolina controlling Clemson again. Yesterday, UK's answer to UL's challenge was dramatically stated in Commonwealth Stadium. There will be an ebb and flow as Rich Brooks continues to rebuild UK's roster. But Brooks and heir-apparent Joker Phillips will never again fall under Tom Jurich's thumb.

And as I have always said (to the consternation of many in the I-64 corridor), the SEC games are the most important on UK's schedule. It has always been so, and it will always be so.

And I am perfectly pleased to admit I saw this coming.

It's a great day to be a Wildcat.

To discuss or make comments click here

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Impact of UK's victory over UL in Recruiting

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

In this post, let us hear what you think will be the recruiting impact of UK's victory over UL yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Here is my assessment. I don't think beating UL will specifically have much, if any, impact on UK's February class. But I believe an 8 or 9 win season will have a lot of impact on UK's class.

BTW, many have criticized Rich Brooks for not seeking more early verbals this summer. But I believe Coaches Brooks and Sanders have been wise to save scholarships to offer to prospects with increasing interest as UK's success during the fall explodes in the Southern media.

Here are the instate prospects on UK's current recruiting board:

Matt Smith - He's already a UK verbal.

David Ulinski - He's a UK legacy who has been a UK lean for a long time. A blowout victory by UL yesterday might have given him very brief pause, but I think he has always been headed toward UK (just like his granddaddy). I look for a verbal within the next 4-6 weeks, but I don't think this is a change in his timeframe.

Aaron Boyd - The Lexington press wants you to believe Boyd hates UK. But in reality, Boyd and Joker Phillips are pretty close. Although Boyd was looking at a lot of programs during the spring, my source says he doesn't like Steve Kragthorpe. I think Boyd has been favorable to UK since at least May or June, and I believe he will ultimately become a Cat. But as everyone here already knows, I believed that before we beat UL yesterday.

EJ Fields - Swift Frankfort athlete has been recruited as a WR by Coach Brooks. Fields himself says it is down to UK and Wisconsin. For months, I have been predicting he will be a Cat. Obviously, I still think so.

Ryan Wallace - For more than a month, Wallace has only been considering SEC schools strongly. He doesn't have an offer from UL. It's going to be UK, Ole Miss, or Arkansas, and I believe he has basically been a UK lean since June. I still think so. The question is, will UK's success open up Randy Sanders' recruiting board so much that Wallace gets bypassed?

Ryan Benzick - Big OT from Fern Creek has been angling for a UK scholarship for weeks. If he gets one, he will verbal to UK. That didn't change yesterday.

Dexter Heyman - Male HS star, brother of UL DT Earl Heyman, has always been a strong UL lean. He recently said he is down to UL and UK, but most observers believe he has always been UL's to lose. It will be interesting to see if yesterday's game changes his thinking, but I still think he will sign with Little Brother in February.

DL Moore - Internet posters disagree on whether Moore has received an offer from UK. The truth is, Moore doesn't have a UK offer, and won't get one now that UK's board is opening up.

DL Wilhite - Big Lexington DE doesn't have a UK scholarship offer yet, and probably won't receive one now.

Having said that, here are three instate prospects who could be turned toward UK now....

Brandon Newman - The Commonwealth's #1 prospect is a Notre Dame verbal. His verbal to Weis has been considered solid. After being shellacked by Michigan yestarday, Notre Dame is 0-3, and the butt of many jokes. Newman never seriously considered UL. But if you were a Kentuckian with offers from ND and UK, would you rather go to ND or become a part of UK's exploding success story right now? After yesterday, Newman might reconsider. We will see, but probably not for several months. One thing is for certain. If Brooks thinks he has a realistic shot to sign Newman, he will hold a scholarship for him.

Sam Robey - Trinity HS star whose father played basketball at UK. As I have said before, it has been 55:45 for UL:UK this summer. He might look a little more strongly at UK now, but I'm not sure yet. A collateral issue is whether UK actually needs Robey now. Robey is an undersized HS offensive lineman who is projected as a possible collegiate DE or TE. UK may have better alternatives now. We will see.

Winston Guy - He's an Arkansas verbal, but my sources in Lexington believe his heart has always been at UK. I now believe Guy will be a Cat. He could be the fastest prospect in UK's class.

In closing, I should offer two more observations. With each week of success, UK's opportunity to recruit outstanding out-of-state prospects around the South and Midwest will increase. Also, underclassmen throughout the Commonwealth and the South are taking careful notice of Brooks' dramatic success in Lexington.

Lets us hear your thoughts and opinion here

UK-UL Postgame Observations

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

First, this is a great night for the University of Kentucky football program, and for Coach Rich Brooks. All along, Mitch Barnhart has backed Brooks and expressed confidence in him. Barnhart was right. UK football is back.

Some of you will say "back from what?". If you are not old enough to remember Jerry Claiborne's 1984 team and some of the great UK teams from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, then that is a fair question. But I remember those teams, and this is a night I relish.

Many of you already know this, but some of you don't. I graduated from UK in 1975, then I graduated from UL's Medical School in 1979. Although I could legitimately claim allegiance to either school, I have never wavered in being a UK fan all the way. I grew up a UK fan, and I will die a UK fan.

That said, congratulations are due to Steve Kragthorpe's team. The Cards never gave up in this game, and they are worthy of their national ranking IMO.

However....I have said this for weeks....UK is the better football team. Tonight, the Cats proved it. The Cats established their ground game, the Cats dominated the first quarter like I knew they needed to, the Cats created the big turnovers in the game, and the Cats came up with the big plays when they had to. As we discussed here all week before this game, that is precisely the formula UK needed for victory.

During the first quarter tonight, my wife and I opened a bottle of 1990 Bollinger Grande Annee, which IMO is one of the three greatest champagnes produced in my lifetime. That's how confident I was in a UK victory. I admit I sucked that champagne down hard in the second and third quarters, but I always believed UK would win this game.

In the final analysis, kacat and I were right that UK was the mentally tougher team in this game. That was the difference.

That said, a lot of credit must be given to Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Rafael Little, and Joker Phillips. Although Joker blew the option play call on fourth down in the second quarter, his game plan was otherwise flawless. In competitive sports, you have to work through your mistakes. The Cats did that tonight, because they were the tougher, superior team.

It doesn't matter now, but I thought the officiating in this game was poor. The second quarter personal foul against Braxton Kelley was unmitigated bull. Brian Brohm lowered his helmet to gain an extra yard in anticipation of contact with Braxton. What was Braxton supposed to do? There was nothing flagrant about it. Braxton tackled him. Big deal. I think Brohm should wear a skirt from now on. I'm serious. (Not really.) Anyway, that call essentially gave UL a new life on that drive, which eventually resulted in a UL TD that was a gift from the zebras. Without that call, the game would not have been close. There were some other bad calls, too. All of them went against the Cats, which I guess you can expect when you are playing a ranked team on TV. But the Cats played through them, just like a great team should.

And this is a great UK team. I believe the Cats will prove that in the weeks ahead.

Also, I confess I hate Bill Curry more than ever. If you think that guy was a bad football coach....well, geez, he's even a worse color analyst. Curry spent almost the entire freaking game explaining why UL would win it. I kept wondering when he would look at the scoreboard and understand what was actually happening on the football field. He never did, though. The guy is obviously bitter about having been fired by UK. We should all write ESPN and insist that Curry be banned from broadcasting UK games in the future.

That being said, nothing can upset me tonight. I have been a UK football fan for 50 years. In that time, I have been through a lot of ups and downs. Tonight, we are back. This is the best UK football team I have seen since at least 1984, and probably longer than that. After drinking a bottle of champagne with my wife, I will sleep well.

Oh, did I mention it? My wife is a lifelong Bama fan. She is as happy as we are, because Bama beat Arkansas in a great finish. And BTW, next week's game on the road at Arkansas is going to be another huge challenge. But, hell, we will worry about that on Monday. Right now, I am on top of the world. I hope all of you are, too. This is a very big night for UK football, and this team is going places.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Some UK-UL Pregame comments

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

UK's two opponents are 2-0 in their other games. UL's opponents are 0-2. What does that tell you? UK's schedule is better and tougher....as usual.

Both UK and UL rank among the nation's top 10 college football teams in total scoring, total offense, and opponent turnovers.

I truly believe Andre Woodson and Brian Brohm are both legitimate Heisman Trophy contenders. However, Woodson had the more productive season in 2006 (just look at the numbers), and Woodson also has the better arm.

Both UK and UL were booed last week by their own fans. There was a scattering of boos from UK fans in the first half of the UK-Kent State game. There was considerably more booing by UL fans in the first half of the UL-MTSU game.

The sports media in the Commonwealth is working overtime to declare UL the winner of this game before it actually gets played. In reading the LHL and the CJ, one might gain the conclusion that UK does not have a chance tomorrow. Much is being made of UK's defensive liabilities. However, some sports columnists around the state are actually picking UK this year, which has not been the case in recent years.

Here is my own opinion. Yes, UK's defense faces certain challenges in tomorrow's game. (FWIW, both defenses face big challenges tomorrow.) In recent seasons, UK's defensive unit has obviously given up too much rushing yardage against the Cards. Last year, for example, Mike Archer's defense gave up 363 rushing yards in the game. Then, too, recent injuries to DTs Myron Pryor and Ricky Lumpkin make things even worse. However....and this is the part you don't see in the newspaper....UL's defense has been far worse so far this year. Let's be honest here....Kent State would murder MTSU if they played. Yet, UL's defense gave up 42 points to a bad MTSU team (now 0-2). Moreover, although you don't hear nearly as much in the press about this, UL also has some injury problems. I think the press and most UK fans have been so conditioned by the games of 2003-2006 that they can't see the forest for the trees here. This year, the Cats are the better team. The Cats have excellent senior leadership on their offense and defense, and the Cats have the benefit of continuity on their coaching staff. This year, the Cats have a full roster, and five players who were named to various preseason all-SEC teams. This UK team has been tested and hardened against SEC competition. Tomorrow, the Cats will defeat the Cards IMO.

After it's over, I hope UK fans will not try to rush the field or tear down the goalposts. That would be pretty bush. We should have more class than that. Again, JMO.

UL-UK Let's Get It On!

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst


LOUISVILLE
at KENTUCKY
7:30 p.m. ET • Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium LIVE TV: ESPN Classic



For the past few years the rivalry between UK and UL on the football field has been non-existent. The rivalry only existed between the fan bases. UK has not done their part on the field to make it a rivalry.

There was an uproar Coach Brook’s first season when UK fans thought UL ran the score up by getting a late TD. If UK had not had a costly interception and breakdowns in the kicking game none of that would have mattered.

The next year UK never threatened in a game they lost 28-0.

Two years ago UK tried to dig them selves out of a deep halftime hole. A fumble inside the 5 late in the 4th quarter as well as multiple 2nd quarter turnovers were their undoing.

The game last year was over after UL’s opening reverse play went for 30 yards. This was cemented 2 plays later when they scored their 1st TD.

Kentucky enters Saturday showdown by winning 7 of their last 8 games. How many times has that happened in a UK football fans lifetime? Not many was my guess too!

This is the 1st time since the “Regime of Shame” that was Hal Mumme, Claude Bassett and CM Newton that UK has a full allotment of scholarship kids. Not just scholarship kids, but talented football players.

More importantly UK comes into this game with experience and confidence. Most of the players who will take the field for Kentucky on Saturday were young inexperienced players who remember that loss in 2005. They also remember the embarrassment from last year. Yes, I think embarrassment is the right word.

Since the UL game last year Kentucky has beaten Georgia at home and won a bowl game for Kentucky for the first time since 1984. They have been through the rigors of SEC play and realize they can leave a legacy for Kentucky football much like “The Unforgetables” did with UK basketball.

A lot of Kentucky fans have jumped back on the bandwagon after last years remarkable run. This team deserves for the fan base to come out and support them tomorrow night. That starts with the CatWalk and it continues as soon as they hit the field. Kentucky fans need to be loud not just on 3rd down for Louisville, but 1st and 2nd as well.

UL will score points; they are too talented not too. Our fan base needs to realize this and not get in the mind set of, “here we go again” if UL gets a lead. Get back on your feet and get louder.

There will be a sea of blue at Commonwealth! I will say it is the biggest game I know of in my 39 years. We want Kentucky football to get national acclaim. Posters on the internet have been upset the last few weeks and pre-season, due what they term, “lack of respect.”

Our players who represent our great state and university get a chance tomorrow night to get Kentucky “noticed.” I don’t think they will fail!!! We as a fan base don’t need to fail them and make sure they get every ounce of support we can muster!

Tomorrow night is going to be a special night for 85 players and football coaches, not too mention 70,000 fans! I can’t wait!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

THIS IS NEXT YEAR UK Football Video

THIS IS NEXT YEAR a UK Football Video and with the rivalry game this weekend between Louisville and Kentucky. Wildcats Thunder Blog and Wildcats Thunder thought this would help get the BIG BLUE fans blood to pumping and hopefully the Cats will knock off the Cards who are ranked in the Top 10. GO BIG BLUE!

UK recruit Rotnei Clarke

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

Rotnei Clarke is not slow and has pretty good footspeed, and a quick release on his jump shot. He is an accurate shooter with great range.

Any halfway decent defense can stop one scorer. Tactical problems come when you have to stop several scorers on the same team. A perimeter shooter can be stopped with a match-up perimeter defensive scheme. The problem is, you can't afford to extend your defense if your opponent has a strong baseline game. Ryan Humphries got a lot of open looks because Florida's opponents were forced to drop a defender down to the low block to front Noah and Horford, both of whom were potent baseline scorers and first round NBA draft choices.

That's why Rotnei Clarke would be most effective on a team with a potent baseline game. In addition, I don't see many people addressing Clarke as a defensive liability, but that's what he would be at the SEC level. (BTW, so was Pat Sparks....or have we already forgotten?)

I don't want to beat a dead horse here. Rotnei Clarke has been recruited by UK's staff, and is on Gillispie's board. He has visited Lexington, and he will get an in-home visit from Gillispie this month. It's possible that he could sign with UK in November. But Clarke is still making campus visits, which tells you that he is not completely sold on one school.

It is, however, important to understand that Gillispie's recruiting methodology since April has been a dynamic and vigorous process. Gillispie has been on the job for five months now. In that span, he has hired a staff, and he has talked with a LOT of prospects. More than 40 HS basketball players have visited UK since May on unofficial visits, or to participate in UK's June basketball camp. Seven prospects (Legion, Patterson, Liggins, Miller, Vilarino, Euton, Ross-Miller) have already verballed to UK, but many more have either verballed elsewhere or ruled out UK in the meantime. Therefore, UK's recruiting board has changed a lot in the last five months.

Two verbal commitments to UK have now been announced by 2008 prospects (Liggins and Miller). In the meantime, UK targets Tyler Zeller, Brandon Jennings, Jamychal Green, Olek Czyz, and Greg Monroe have ruled out UK. Tracy Webster has been hired onto UK's staff, and lots of other things are also happening inside the program.

Here's what isn't happening. The widely-predicted exodus of UK players has not occurred, and there is no sign that it will. In fact, every current Cat has announced his intention to stay, and several (e.g., Meeks, Jasper, Harris) have publicly praised Gillispie and his staff.

That does not mean no one will ever leave. All programs suffer occasional attrition. In the present case, Jared Carter's shoulder remains a ripe topic for speculation.

But at the present time, Carter still intends to give it one more try, and scholarships remain at a tight premium.

A look at UK's roster reveals:

  • Alex Legion (Fr., 2-3 swing man)
  • Pat Patterson (Fr., 4-5 baseline player)
  • AJ Stewart (Fr., 3-4 combo forward)
  • Mike Williams (Fr., center)
  • Michael Porter (So., PG)
  • Derrick Jasper (So., PG)
  • Jodie Meeks (So., 2-3 swing man)
  • Perry Stevenson (So., PF)
  • Ramon Harris (So, WF)
  • Jared Carter (So. or jr., center)
  • Joe Crawford (Sr., 2-3 swing man)
  • Ramel Bradley (Sr., 1-2 combo guard)

2008 UK verbals Deandre Liggins (guard) and Darius Miller (WF) are not baseline players.

Now, one does not have to be a genius to see UK needs more baseline players. That does not mean Gillispie can sign more baseline players, but he is sure trying to do that. Watch which 2008 prospects actually show up for Big Blue Madness. All of them are on UK's recruiting board, and most of them will be baseline players. Also, keep an eye on which guard prospects don't show up for BBM, despite having been widely reported on the internet as invitees throughout the summer. That will tell you where the current emphasis is on the recruiting board.

For more info and discussion click here.

WT Top 10 Football Poll 9/13/07

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

1. USC
2. LSU
3. WVA
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Wisconsin
7. Florida
8. Ohio St
9. UL
10.Cal

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ARE YOU READY? Louisville vs Kentucky

Bigbluemist
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

OK…..we can officially say the name LOUISVILLE! Of course I’m not sure why because moving the game from the opening weekend would take all the excitement out of the game, right Tom Jurich?

In a game that features two high octane offenses this game will be decided by which defense can make the most plays. Who makes a play on 3rd and 1? Who makes a goal line stand? Who creates a turnover giving their offense a short field?

Neither defense has done much this early season to show they will put up much resistance verse the other offense. As of right now UK will be without pre-season starter Myron Pryor and 1st game starter at defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin. Being that UL rushed for over 300 yards last year verse the Cats we need all the help we can get on the DL. Can UK slow the UL running attack? You have to think George Stripling and Anthony Allen are foaming at the mouth to run the ball.

Brian Brohm, Mario Urrutia, Harry Douglas and tight end Gary Barnidge are one of the best pitch and catch foursomes in college football. UK was able to make a push last week verse Kent St. but had a hard time containing the quarterback. Brohm won’t beat you with his feet, but it is IMPARITIVE UK get to him and put him on the pretty green grass of Commonwealth Stadium.

Art Carmody is a very steady kicker and if it comes to the end, I hate to admit I like the Cards chances with Carmody kicking the ball.

As scary as the Cards are on offense their fans might be just as scared about the Cards defense. They allowed 42 points to MTSU!! I saw a team constantly out of position and not playing very hard. I think the Cards play hard verse UK, but how much technically can they get better in 9 days?

UK can score! The key will be can UK run the ball verse the Cards. The managed a meager 22 yards last year and were horrific on 3rd down. This allowed UL to pin their ears back and use the #3 on Woodson’s jersey as target practice.

We all know the pretty players but the key to this game is which front four plays better. The Cards group of Brandon Cox, Maurice Mithcell, Adrian Grady and Dexter Heyman. Or the Cats group of Jeremy Jarmon, Corey Peters, Ventrell Jenkins and Dominic Lewis.

UL has dominated this series and UK finally has the roster to compete after the debacle that was Hal Mumme, Claude Bassett and CM Newton. UK has won 7 of 8 and seem to be playing with confidence. Can they exercise the many ghosts of past UK football and win a big game at home?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gillispie names Tracy Webster UK's final Assistant Coach



The University of Kentucky men’s basketball program has added Tracy Webster (Coach Bio) as its third and final assistant coach, head coach Billy Gillispie announced Tuesday. Webster finishes out UK's 2007-08 coaching staff to go along with Jeremy Cox and Glynn Cyprien.


Below are some of Coach Gillispie's comments:

“I’m extremely happy that we were able to hire Tracy Webster,” said Gillispie. “I’ve known him and observed him for a long time. He gets along with everyone. The players he has recruited over the years speak highly of him, because he develops relationships.

“He was a good player, and as an assistant he’s been on the bench during the NCAA championship game, which is the goal we are all working toward.”

Adolph Rupp Video

The man that started the Big Blue Madness and set the Kentucky standards. After you view this video be sure to stop by A Sea of Blue and read this post Who mourns for Adolph Rupp? by Truzenzuzex. The article has a nice interview with Larry Conley talking about Coach Rupp.

Can UK beat UL, what are our chances?

Messenger
Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst


UL has beaten UK four-straight. In 2006, UL out rushed UK by an astounding 363 yards to 22 yards. Time of possession (38:36 - 21:24), first downs (31-8), and the other game stats were equally ugly and lopsided....

Kentucky vs Louisville (Sep 03, 2006)

However, the 2005 game in Lexington was a very competitive 31-24 victory by UL. If not for a fourth quarter fumble by then-sophomore Woodson deep in UL territory, the Cats could have won that game. Almost all of the Wildcats who played key roles in that game are still on UK's roster.

This season, nine offensive starters and eight defensive starters return for the Cats, as well as both kickers. I'm sure UK's seniors have every intention of going out on a winning note. They established a lot of positive momentum in November and December, 2006. They built on it last week against EKU and, hopefully, they will be 2-0 and very confident on September 15.

The lopsided rushing inequity in last year's game kept UK's offense off the field, which accounts for the lopsided UL dominance in time of possession and first downs. In order to put up a fight and wage a competitive effort this year, UK must accomplish two fundamental improvements for sure: (1) limit UL's rushing success and (2) improve on their own rushing success. Accomplishing these two objectives would equalize time of possession and force UL's offensive unit to spend more time on the sideline.

Since last year's game, the Cards have lost two starting defensive linemen, two starting LBs, and two starters from their defensive secondary. They still have a quick, aggressive defensive unit, but I think UK's offensive unit can move the chains this time. Four UK senior offensive skill-position players received preseason all-SEC recognition, so this is a very good UK offensive unit if UK's OL plays well. Against EKU, UK rushed for 288 yards and passed for 280. Three Wildcat RBs rushed for more than 50 yards, while eleven Wildcat receivers caught passes. That kind of balance makes it hard for future opponents to construct a defensive game plan. UK's 2007 RB rotation is the best I have seen in Lexington in 30 years, so UL's DL will not be able to ignore UK's running game and rush Woodson with impunity this year. Still, the play of UK's OL remains a key issue.

At least eight Wildcats are still competing for starting OL assignments, but they must be plugged into the right roles in time to establish some chemistry. And that's really the big question. Jimmy Heggins has two more weeks of practice to get things straightened out up-front. The EKU game seemed to indicate they were on the right track but, as I said earlier, they really didn't have to show us anything against the Colonels.

A big question mark is whether UK's defensive unit can force third down decisions by UL, then stop the Cards and get off the field so Andre Woodson can get the football in his hands. At this time last year, UK's defensive rotations were not as deep as they are now, and many of UK's key defensive players were very green. DT Lamar Mills and MLB Braxton Kelley were recovering from surgical knee reconstructions, while DE Jeremy Jarmon and CB Trevard Lindley were playing in their first collegiate football game. This year, UK's defense against the rush should be helped by a bigger, more athletic DT rotation and the maturations of UK's linebackers and safeties.

I think time of possession will be a lot more competitive this year. Moreover, this game will be played in Lexington. And while home field advantage has meant little historically in this series, I think that may begin to change as the skill level of the UK roster increases.

In the final analysis, I think UK's 2007 offensive unit is at least as good as UL's. While UL's offense has rung up some gaudy stats the last few years, OTOH the mental toughness of UK's offense has been forged against a much stronger schedule. The importance of this showed in the Music City Bowl, when UK was the tougher team by far. I think UK's mental toughness and maturity will show again on September 15.

Special teams could play a significant role in the outcome. UL's kickers are better than UK's kickers. But the new rule requiring kickoffs at the 30 yard line favors UK's stellar kickoff return game, while Rafael Little will be the best punt returner in this game.

Unless I miss my guess, then, mental toughness and ball security may decide this game. I think the game will be very competitive, and I have a feeling this is UK's year to break the losing streak. There is a lot to be said for senior leadership at a time like this.