Mon Jul 15 11:21am EDT
Kentucky middle linebacker Avery Williamson has been named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.
Williamson was second in the SEC and 10th nationally with 135 tackles last season. He was seventh nationally with 11.25 tackles per game. Williamson added 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
He led the conference in tackles for most of the season until Tennessee's A.J. Johnson took the lead in the final game of the season against Kentucky. Johnson is also among 51 players on the watch list.
You can find the full list here.
There are nine total SEC players on the watch list, and a couple other names UK fans should be familiar with. Louisville's Preston Brown, who had 109 tackles last year, is on the watch list. So is WKU's Andrew Jackson, who had 122 tackles in 2012 but is probably better known for his sideline commentary during the 2011 UK-WKU game.
The Butkus Foundation, named for the Pro Football Hall of Famer, gives an award to the top linebacker at the high school, collegiate and pro level every year. Manti Te'o won last year's college award.
The high school list includes a player or two Kentucky is (or was previously) recruiting. Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy are both on the list. You can find that list here.
Fri Jul 12 03:17pm EDT
ESPN's SEC blog has been going through every position group in the conference and ranking them top to bottom this week. We've been keeping track of it all, and we've crunched the numbers to show you who has the top overall unit in the conference.
Below is a table with a full grid of every ranking with the teams in alphabetical order. The average ranking of every unit is after that, followed by offensive and defensive averages (special teams weren't included in offense or defense).
To make things simpler, here are the teams in order of overall average ranking:
1. Alabama (2.875)
2. LSU (5.000)
3. Florida (5.125)
4. Georgia (6.000)
4. Ole Miss (6.000)
6. Texas A&M (6.750)
6. Vanderbilt (6.750)
8. South Carolina (7.125)
9. Mississippi State (7.375)
10. Missouri (9.625)
10. Tennessee (9.625)
12. Auburn (10.125)
13. Arkansas (10.630)
14. Kentucky (12.000)
And if you haven't already, you should go check the series out. Ed Aschoff did a great job putting it together, then ranking the top individual players on top of that.
Wed Jul 10 10:08am EDT
Sophomore punter Landon Foster was named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award on Wednesday. The award is given annually to the nation's top punter.
He's among 25 players on the list. You can see the full watch list here.
Foster averaged 42.9 yards per punt in 2012 after winning the punting job as a true freshman. That was the best mark in school history for a freshman, and would be the second best mark for a career (behind Glenn Pakulak's 44.43-yard average).
Foster dropped 13 of his punts inside the 20 yard line last year and had only three touchbacks. He was voted to the freshman All-SEC team by the coaches.
Guy was one of the best punters in NFL history after a decorated college career at Southern Mississippi. He was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, where he spent his entire career.
A Kentucky player has never won the Ray Guy Award since its inception in 2000. Here's a full list of previous winners.
The full list of candidates will be released Oct. 25. It's cut to 10 semi-finalists on Nov. 3, then to three finalists on Nov. 25. The award is given on Dec. 12.
Mon Jul 08 12:47pm EDT
If you're thinking Kentucky's defensive line might be its strength this coming season, you're not alone. Edward Aschoff, over at ESPN's SEC Blog, ranked the Wildcats' defensive line as eighth best in the conference.
That's the highest Kentucky has been ranked so far as they go through each position group in the conference. They've covered quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and offensive line previously. We'll have a full summary for you looking at the rankings across every position by the end of the week.
UK returns Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph at defensive tackle, and they'll be entering their third year starting together. When injuries slowed Cobble last year, Tristian Johnson stepped in and became a starter down the stretch. He's also a senior.
Defensive ends Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree are newcomers (Smith from JUCO, Dupree from linebacker), but had strong springs and could be UK's best pass rush tandem in years.
There's a good bit of depth as well. Christian Coleman has played a fair amount, and redshirts Thomas Chapman and Patrick Graffree could win playing time. Jason Hatcher could help as a true freshman, and there's no shortage of bodies behind Smith and Dupree at end.
South Carolina, led by Jadeveon Clowney, was ranked No. 1 in the SEC.
I think the defensive line is an easy pick as Kentucky's best unit in preseason because of the returning experience, but I'm not convinced it will be the most productive group this year. The defensive line was a bit disappointing last season, and Rumph is still bouncing back from a shoulder injury. They'll have to stay healthy this year, which was an issue last season.
Wed Jul 03 10:34am EDT
A recruiting pipeline can change the trajectory of a program. When a coaching staff starts to have success recruiting players from one area, others often follow.
Consistently pulling talent from one part of the country to another isn't easy, but it pays dividends for schools that have to look outside their own state for talent. With that in mind, here's a look at the programs with out-of-state pipelines for the class of 2014.
We're not including in-state pipelines. If that were the case, you'd find a lot of schools from Texas and Florida at the top of the list (30 of a combined 35 commits for Texas and Texas A&M are from Texas, and all 19 of Baylor's are from their home state).
This is about looking at programs that have to go out of state to find talent, and do so effectively. We're going to limit it to programs that currently have five or more players committed from one state.
Here's a look at the top out-of-state pipelines in college football for the class of 2014:
Louisville: 9 from Florida. Teddy Bridgewater is the biggest name the Cardinals have pulled from the Sunshine State, but they continue to rake in talent year after year. Louisville's presence in Florida is a primary factor in their rise in recent years.
Kentucky: 8 from Ohio. Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow grew up in Ohio. Now they're cleaning up in the state where they first made their names.
Arizona: 7 from California. More than half of the Wildcats' 12 commitments come from the state with the deepest talent pool on the West Coast.
Boise State: 6 from California. Boise State has made a living for years by picking up overlooked talent from California and developing it within a strong program.
Temple: 6 from New Jersey. The Owls have to compete with Penn State and Pitt in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey is close to home and has plenty of football talent.
Louisville: 5 from Ohio. Charlie Strong's program is the only one to appear on this list twice. With so little top talent in Kentucky, he's looking multiple places to stock his roster.
Mississippi State: 5 from Georgia. Florida is hyped as the most talented state in the southeast, but more schools in the area pull consistent talent from Georgia than anywhere else.
N.C. State: 5 from Georgia. Not an SEC school, but there are lots of programs looking to the Peach State for players.
Oklahoma: 5 from Texas. Bob Stoops has always raided the backyard of his biggest rival for players. Adrian Peterson was from Texas.
Oklahoma State: 5 from Texas. Nearly every Big 12 school has a presence in Texas, but it's the Oklahoma schools that have benefited the most from it.
Nevada: 5 from California. Only seven commits so far in this class, but five are from California.
Pipelines that could still reach the list before 2014 recruiting is done - Ole Miss (4 from Georgia), Rutgers (4 from Florida), North Carolina (4 from Virginia, 4 from Georgia), Western Michigan (4 from Illinois), Washington (4 from California), Iowa State (4 from Texas), Oregon (4 from California), Cincinnati (4 from Florida), Kansas State (4 from Texas), Colorado (4 from California), Marshall (4 from Georgia), Washington State (4 from California), BYU (4 from California),
Unfortunately, this list isn't perfect. It omits a few programs that recruit very well nationally, because they don't focus on one state. Tennessee and Notre Dame are two teams that have to look outside their state for recruits, but don't have a bundle of commitments from a single place. There's also plenty of time before National Signing Day in February, and there will be movement here. West coast schools in particular move slower in recruiting, so expect to see more schools getting into California as the process rolls on. But it's a good place to start, and we'll keep an eye on this as we go through the season and into the home stretch for 2014 recruiting.
Fri Jun 28 09:40am EDT
You're all caught up from last night's NBA draft, right? Nerlens Noel dropped to sixth, Archie Goodwin sneaked into the first round, and then both got traded.
But that was yesterday. Kentucky fans are already looking forward to the 2013-14 season, which could become a launching pad for one of the Wildcats' biggest crops of draft picks ever.
Gary Parrish released his first look at the 2014 NBA draft this morning and even though it's only the lottery, it includes four Wildcats. He has Julius Randle going second (behind Andrew Wiggins), Willie Caulie-Stein going sixth, Andrew Harrison going seventh, and Aaron Harrison going 13th.
There are other mock drafts out there, but they've all been posted before. Draftexpress.com has five UK players in the first round, though most of them aren't going quite as high as in Parrish's mock.
NBAdraft.net has four Kentucky players going back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the lottery, then has Alex Poythress dropping to the top of the second round.
Mon Jun 24 10:27pm EDT
John Wall was a pretty clean-cut guy during his one season at Kentucky. Short hair, no tattoos, not even a headband.
Cross one of those off the list. John Wall has some tattoos.
Quite a few, in fact. He posted on his Instagram account about a week ago a picture showing off a lot of new ink on his stomach and chest. The Washington Post looked into it further, talking to Wall's tattoo artist for clarification on what some of his tattoos are.
There's some obvious: an homage to his mother, "Great Wall" in bricks, and a tribute to his hometown of Ralieigh, N.C. Coming up soon is a UK logo to honor his year in college, and a few more.
It doesn't look like he's planning on getting tattoos in someplace where they'd be visible - for now. His current tattoos are only on his stomach and back, concealed by his jersey when he takes the court. But we'll see where he goes from here.
Thu Jun 13 09:45pm EDT
You'd think recruiting is just a game to UK wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord.
Every time the Wildcats land a commitment, he tweets 'Yahtzee.' But usually, it's more like 'YAHTZEE!!!!!' or in the case of last night, when UK landed the pledge from the nation's No. 1 all purpose back, it was like this:
— Tommy Mainord (@CoachMainordUK) June 13, 2013
Complete with photoshopped blue and white dice and everything. It's catching on. Mark Stoops tweets it now. Neal Brown makes reference to the dice-based game. Athletics director Mitch Barnhart even chimed in with a Yahtzee of his own.
But there were plenty of games Mainord could have chosen from. Why did he land on Yahtzee? Here were other candidates:
1. Uno! - Didn't make much sense once UK got its second commitment.
2. Monopoly - Waiting until they sign and deliver the No. 1 class to use this one, presumably.
3. Battleship - UK is leaving this one to the pros at Annapolis.
4. Jenga - If he tweets this, beware. The class might be falling apart.
5. Pictionary - NCAA rules clearly state a recruit may not take photographs or sign autographs for fans while on visits.
6. Hungry Hungry Hippos - Reserved for when offensive line coach John Schlarman lands a big commit.
7. Taboo - For when the Wildcats flip a commit from a rival school.
8. Chutes and ladders - Recruiting rankings fluctuate every day, folks.
9. Candyland - Probably where Mark Stoops imagines he is when reviewing his recruits.
10. Dominoes - This one would fit, actually, given the momentum generated in recruiting lately.
Tue Jun 11 11:02am EDT
I got to talk to Mitch Barnhart briefly this morning after the UK athletics board meeting. We talked about a variety of things, including the $104 million budget for the athletic department this year, but I also asked about the year that archrival Louisville has posted.
The Cardinals won the national championship in men's basketball, were runners up in women's basketball, won the Sugar Bowl, and have their baseball team headed to the College World Series next week. If you missed it yesterday, here's a look at how Kentucky and Louisville did in head-to-head matchups in 2012-13.
Here's what Barnhart said:
What do you make of the year Louisville is having?
"They've had a nice year. At the end of the day, they've done some things in their major sports and they should be congratulated on that. They've had a nice year. What I'm proud of is the depth of our sports program and what we've done. Going into these last three or four sports in the Director's Cup*** where they rank all the sports, our department is 22nd in the country and ranked fourth in the league. I don't know if we can hold that through track and field -- we have some really strong track programs in our league and we might not hold that -- but we'll be good. We'll be solid again.
"At the end of the day, the depth of our program is pretty good. They've had a really nice year in their major sports. The depth of our program though, I think, it outstanding. We've just got to get back. It's not like we didn't win a national championship two years ago. I know everybody remembers it, we won that. Don't forget that our women's basketball team has been to the Elite Eight in three of the last five years. Matthew had a nice year this year, second in our league and second in the tournament, went to the Elite Eight. It wasn't a horrible year for us (laughs).
"We're not going to get into this back-and-forth stuff. Give them credit for what they've done. They had a nice year, and that's good for them. But I'm proud of what we've done. Our kids competed hard and we made significant improvements in a lot of sports and the consistency with which we've done on the field, on the court, those type of things, I'm really pleased with what our coaches are doing. It's across the board. It hasn't wavered much. There have been a couple hiccups, but we'll get back to where we want to be. For the most part, our coaches have been rock solid."
Do you watch them as they advance?
"Yeah, I watch all of it. I watch all those teams. I have friends at most every school. You've been in this thing for 31 years, you've got friends everywhere. I watch everybody. I always watch our league, watch the SEC. I pull for our league. I want our league to do well. We take great pride in that. I think commissioner Slive said going into the spring, we had 85 national championships since 2000 in our league. If you do the math on that, it's roughly six or seven every year. Since then they've added A&M, which won a track and field championship. Alabama won men's golf. Then you have a couple still competing for baseball, so you'll probably get that number up to 86 or 87 national championships in the last 12 or 13 years. That's a heckuva number.
"That's the beauty of going down to Destin for those meetings. The one thing I always walk out of it with is the beauty of being in the SEC. It's hard and it makes it difficult because to come out of our league and be able to host, you have to be really, really good. You could host coming out of other leagues in these things. Because you're fifth or sixth in the league (in the SEC), you'll get in but you won't get to host. You're good enough in your league to host sometimes, but you won't get the national look that you want. The beauty of being in this league is you get to talk about being in the SEC family and I think there's great pride in that. We just announced the new network launching next year and that's a great source of pride for our league. I think it'll be a lot of fun for what we do.
"At the end of the day, I watch college sports. We want to be in that conversation. I watch college sports because I have friends in it and I love what our league does. There isn't a day that goes by that I won't cheer for other teams in this league. I always pull for other teams in the SEC."
***As of May 30, Kentucky ranks 22nd in the NACDA Director's Cup standings. Louisville ranks 33rd. In the Capital One Cup, Louisville is tied for 7th for the men's cup and is 25th for the women's cup. Kentucky is 62nd in the men's standings and 35th in the women's standings.
Mon Jun 10 11:42am EDT
Louisville's tremendous athletic year marched on yesterday as the Cardinals beat Vanderbilt 5-3 in baseball to advance to the College World Series. The trip to Omaha caps a year that included a Sugar Bowl win in football, a national championship and Big East championship in men's basketball, and an NCAA runner-up finish in women's basketball.
They've also topped Kentucky in the in-state rivalry, though they weren't as dominant as you might have expected. Here's a full list of the competitions that included Kentucky and Louisville this year.
Methodology note: We're including golf where the teams played in the same tournament, because you can tell where a team finished there. We're not including some individual tennis head-to-head matchups, because the two teams never played a full match in men's or women's tennis.
Chronologically, here's how the year went:
Aug. 29, 2012, Volleyball: Louisville 3, Kentucky 1
Sept. 2, 2012, Football: Louisville 32, Kentucky 14
Sept. 7, 2012, Women's soccer: Kentucky 2, Louisville 0
Sept. 14, 2012, Men's soccer: Kentucky 1, Louisville 0
Oct. 12-14, Women's golf: Louisville +38 (11th place), Kentucky +46 (12th place)
Oct. 28-30, Women's golf: Kentucky +11 (6th place), Louisville +30 (11th place)
Dec. 2, 2012, Women's basketball: Kentucky 48, Louisville 47
Dec. 29, 2012, Men's basketball: Louisville 80, Kentucky 77
March 3-5, Men's golf: Kentucky +20 (7th place), Louisville +29 (10th place)
Jan. 26, 2013, Men's swim & dive: Louisville 152, Kentucky 148
Jan. 26, 2013, Women's swim & dive: Louisville 168, Kentucky 132
April 2, 2013, baseball: Kentucky 5, Louisville 4
April 16, 2013, baseball: Louisville 12, Kentucky 5
Overall, Louisville went 7-6 against Kentucky. Breaking it down by sport, Louisville won the head-to-head battle 5-4-2, with baseball and women's golf both splitting their pair of meetings. Women's basketball, men's soccer, women's soccer and men's golf were the three sports where Kentucky beat Louisville outright in 2012-13.