Stoops won’t be at Governor’s Cup luncheon

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops has opted out of attending the annual Governor’s Cup luncheon in Louisville on Wednesday.

The luncheon, a charity and golf event raising money for Dare to Care, was set up to kickoff the season for both schools.

A UK spokesman said attending the summer event, now that the rivalry game has been permanently moved to the end of the season, “didn’t add up” for Stoops, who still will speak to the Rotary Club and a UK Alumni event in Louisville on Friday.

“Why am I going to invest most of the day … to talk about a game that’s now the last game of the season and more than four months away?” UK’s Tony Neely said was Stoops’ feeling.

UK notified the Governor’s Cup officials of Stoops’ plan “several months ago.”

New Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is still expected to attend the event, but there won’t be the regular news conference.

Kentucky officials said they let the Governor’s Cup officials know well in advance of event that Stoops would not be attending.

The website used to preview and promote the event still says “join Governor Beshear and the head coaches for a day of golf.”

The golf event offers a “feature sponsor” ticket that says for $8,500 you can have “four-player entries paired with a head coach, athletic director or special celebrity” as well as signage at the event and eight tickets to the reception the night before.

Steve Feldman, who is listed as the contact for the Governor’s Cup Classic on its web site, referred questions to Randy Witt, who has not yet responded.

The game between Kentucky and Louisville, which started again in 1994 after a 70-year layoff, has been played as both the first and third game of the season in recent years.

But the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences had requested it be moved to the final game of the season for both teams as part of a rivalry weekend.

This season’s game will be played at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 29.

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McCracken County’s Hughes commits to Cats

In what could be a huge year for in-state recruits, Kentucky got its second big pickup of the 2016 class from McCracken County athlete Zy’aire Hughes on Saturday.

Hughes, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder who has played multiple positions including quarterback and wide receiver, is the second commitment for that class behind Lafayette offensive lineman Landon Young, rated No. 271 in ESPN’s new rankings for the 2016 class.

Other top in-state prospects in the 2016 class Drake Jackson, an offensive lineman from Woodford County, and Male wide receiver Keion Wakefield.

In limited time at quarterback at McCracken County last season, Hughes threw for 1,253 yards and 14 touchdowns in five games.

 

 

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When three meats, two sides aren’t enough

Kentucky’s quarterbacks probably needed to get side jobs by the time they were finished taking their offensive linemen out for dinner this summer.

As a thank you to their game-day protectors, UK’s quarterbacks picked up the tab for their linemen at Red State BBQ on Georgetown Road earlier this summer.

“It was awesome,” UK junior lineman Jordan Swindle said this week. And he wasn’t just discussing the food.

“All the offensive linemen went and the quarterbacks were there. It was just a good time to be around each other.”

The quarterbacks were thinking ahead, though, and set a spending limit for each player. Apparently linemen can EAT.

“It would’ve been a little ridiculous if they’d let us buy whatever we want,” Swindle said. “The most we ate was this ‘three meats and two sides’ (dish) or something. I ate it all and I was kind of still hungry and a couple of other guys did, too. But it was really good.”

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The dreaded basketball question

The question Kentucky coaches can’t help but get at Southeastern Conference Media Days is the whole “do UK fans have room in their heart for football” query.

UK’s Mark Stoops smiled at the person asking the question and nodded, noting he gets asked that question a lot.

“Since I’ve arrived at Kentucky, people have been nothing but good to me and passionate about football,” Stoops said. “We know they love their basketball, as they should. That program has been good for a long, long time. So we have deep tradition in basketball. We embrace that. Coach Cal has been nothing but good to me, very supportive in what we do recruiting, and always visible to our team and to our recruits. So we embrace that. It’s been nothing but helpful.

“Our fan base is passionate about a lot of sports. I don’t know how close you follow it, but the Big Blue Nation is very passionate about football.”

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Fan Day, other preseason events not set yet

Commonwealth Stadium construction isn’t likely to cause any problems for the team during fall camp but it’s definitely made pre-season events a little more complicated to plan.

UK officials are still making decisions about how to handle the team’s annual Fan Day, an open practice and autograph session, usually held in early August at the stadium.

There have been some talks about moving it to the indoor practice facility, but for now there’s nothing set in stone.

“That’s one of the things we’re discussing,” UK’s Nathan Schwake told the Herald-Leader. “That place can get somewhat hot during the day. On an unseasonably even warm day, like if it’s 100, what can we do to make sure everybody is safe? Do we pass out water? Do we bring fans in there?”

The marketing staff has discussed moving it to another venue in town but could run into compliance issues and would like to stay with someplace on campus.

The Kentucky women’s clinic, which is scheduled for July 26, opted to move away from the stadium this season and into the indoor practice facility already.

There are still spots open for the event, which costs $75 per person, by calling (859) 257-3611 or online at ukathletics.com.

UK also is discussing an open house, possibly to coincide with the women’s clinic, to give guided tours to look at construction progress.

“We’re trying to be as accommodating as we can be to people who want to check it out,” he said.

Kentucky expects to make announcements on all events soon, Schwake said.

For his part, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops did not seem to think the stadium construction was going to affect his practice schedule with the team, that generally has a couple of scrimmages there in the preseason.

“I don’t anticipate any change,” he said on Thursday. “When we need to get in there, we’re going to be in the stadium.”

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Stadium will move to synthetic surface in 2015

Coach Mark Stoops confirmed on Thursday Kentucky’s plan to move to a synthetic surface at Commonwealth Stadium when the renovations are completed for the 2015 season.

“It looks like we will go to turf after this season,” he told a group of local media before running the Southeastern Conference Media Days gauntlet on Thursday.

“They’ve got to come in and put a bunch of cranes on there and tear up the field anyway, and we’ve been thinking about it. Our field, it’s been disappointing to me — our grounds crew does a phenomenal job, they work their tails off, they do an incredible job, but the fact of the matter is we can’t get on that field very much.”

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart hinted at the move away from grass while discussing the new football practice facility a few months ago.

He argued that it might be best for UK to install turf at the renovated stadium after a discussion with Stoops, who would like to start using that facility more to better prepare his teams to play there. Turf is less maintenance and suffers less wear and tear with the extra use.

“It might be in our best interest to be turf in the stadium, indoor turf and two grass practice fields,” Barnhart said. “It gives us lots of options in terms of practice.”

According to the UK athletics website, UK installed the stadium’s current Bermuda grass playing surface in 2005. It’s had several upgrades since the stadium opened.

If Kentucky were to move to a turf surface, it would be one of just five Southeastern Conference programs to do so. Other schools with synthetic surfaces include Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

The field at Florida State, where Stoops coached most recently, was Bermuda grass.

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Updates on turf at stadium

Coach Mark Stoops’ announcement about turf at Commonwealth Stadium and the new practice facility was discussed early in the stadium renovation discussions … Here’s that blog post with a look at other schools, etc.

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One of hundreds of things that Kentucky will be pondering as it moves forward with a new $45 million practice facility is whether or not to change the playing surface at Commonwealth Stadium.

It was something brought up unsolicited by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as he discussed how the new facility will impact some of UK’s current ones.

“We’ll have to make the decision: Do we go to turf in the stadium, in the game-day stadium, in Commonwealth or do we stay at grass?” Barnhart asked aloud.

He argued that it might be in UK’s “best interest” to install turf at the stadium, per a discussion with Coach Mark Stoops, who would like to start using that facility more to better prepare his teams to play there. Turf is less maintenance and suffers less wear and tear with the extra use.

“I think it might be in our best interest to be turf in the stadium, indoor turf and two grass practice fields,” Barnhart continued. “It gives us lots of options in terms of practice.”

According to the UK athletics website, UK installed the stadium’s current Bermuda grass playing surface in 2005. It’s had several upgrades since the stadium opened.

If Kentucky were to move to a turf surface, it would be one of just five Southeastern Conference programs to do so. Other schools with synthetic surfaces include Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri.

The field at Florida State, where Stoops coached most recently, was Bermuda grass.

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Media picks are in; UK picked last

The Southeastern Conference Media* picks are out. Here is the order of finish:

SEC champion (number of votes): Alabama (154), Auburn (75), South Carolina (32), Georgia (19), Louisiana State (9), Ole Miss (2), Arkansas (1), Mississippi State (1)

Eastern Division: South Carolina (1,895), Georgia (1,777), Florida (1,362), Missouri (1,263), Tennessee (893), Vanderbilt (619), Kentucky (395)

Western Division: Alabama (1,915), Auburn (1,735), LSU (1,453), Ole Miss (1,069), Mississippi State (890), Texas A&M (791), Arkansas (351) *- SEC Media has correctly picked SEC champion only four times in the past 22 years.

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The day ahead for UK at SEC Media Days

The Southeastern Conference has saved Kentucky for last (and right behind Alabama’s Nick Saban) in this the final day of the conference Media Days here in Hoover, Ala.

Remember to follow along on Twitter (@jenheraldleader) for updates on UK Coach Mark Stoops and players Bud Dupree, Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Swindle as they make their way through Media Days.

Stoops will be in the main media room from 1:40 p.m.-2:10 p.m. and Dupree, Swindle and Smith will be there from 2:30-2:50.

Wondering what Stoops’ day will be like? Here’s his schedule of stops (all times Central):

  • 12:20-12:30 – SiriusXM
  • 12:30-12:40 – CBS.com
  • 12:40-12:50 – CBS
  • 12:50-1:10 – ESPN
  • 1:10-1:20 – ESPN.com
  • 1:20-1:40 – SEC Network
  • 1:40-2:10 – Main room
  • 2:10-2:20 – FSS
  • 2:20-2:30 – Radio/Internet
  • 2:30-2:50 – TV room
  • 2:50-3:00 – SEC Video
  • 3:00-3:10 – SEC Radio

 

 

 

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Will Maxwell Smith be part of QB competition?

The only remaining Kentucky quarterback with any true career starts is still a question mark going into fall camp.

Junior Maxwell Smith, who missed spring practice while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, has been cleared to throw, but it’s unclear if he’ll be one of UK quarterback contenders in early August.

“Here’s what I’m doing with Max: I’m just kind of playing it where it goes,” UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown told the Herald-Leader on Monday. “He’s back throwing; he’s not throwing the ball 100 percent.”

If Smith, who has played in 21 games, starting 11 in his Kentucky career, is healthy, then he could be in the quarterback competition between sophomore Patrick Towles and freshmen Reese Phillips and Drew Barker.

“He’s started to throw,” Brown said of Smith. “He hasn’t really uncorked the ball yet with everything he has. I’m kind of waiting to see where he’s at. If he’s ready, we’ll throw him in the mix. If he’s not, then we’re not. We’re not going to put him in a situation that he’s not ready for.”

Brown said Smith had “extensive surgery” on his throwing shoulder in the off-season. Doctors have Smith on a “pitch count” each time he throws as well.

Smith has been a part-time starter over the past three seasons as he’s struggled with various injuries, including an ankle that he had surgically repaired as well.

In his career, the 6-foot-4 quarterback from Granada Hills, Calif., has thrown for 3,070 yards and 21 touchdowns.

But more than any numbers show, Brown said he was impressed with how Smith handled adversity last season.

“If you look at Maxwell, I really thought he played two really good games (last year),” Brown said. “He got in there at that game at Georgia … did some really good things that game and he played really well against Tennessee. We didn’t make some plays around him, but he played really well and he was playing with that injured shoulder.

“So he stepped up and said, ‘Hey, I want to go. I want to do this,’ which really showed me something. So if he’s healthy, we’ll put him in the mix. If he’s not, then we won’t.”

Regardless of whether he’s on the field for UK this season or next, Brown said he has no doubt that Smith could be on the field one day with a headset and clipboard.

“He’s going to be a really good coach at some point if that’s what he decides he wants to do,” Brown said. “He’s got a good understanding of the game.”

For his part of that discussion, in the newly released Kentucky media guide, Smith lists his dream job as being a head coach in the Southeastern Conference.

As for the UK quarterback query, Brown said he was comfortable leaving the position competition open after the spring because of the huge leap he saw each player make from January through the end of spring.

“Now I want to see how much from the end of spring ball and spring game to the first week of practice, how much improvement they’ve made,” Brown said. “I’m excited about those three guys. They have an opportunity to be really good quarterbacks. It’s my wish that somebody will take the reigns and run with it.”

Coaches aren’t going to put any artificial timelines on the decision, but Brown said the plan is to name a starter “sooner rather than later.”

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