Some story lines for Saturday’s opener

There are a couple of Tennessee Martin players to keep an eye on in this game, leading with linebacker Tony Bell, who led the Ohio Valley Conference with 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2013.

“An exceptional player,” Mark Stoops said of the defender. “He’s a really good football player. He can play anywhere in the country.”

Stoops added that Bell is similar to UK’s Bud Dupree in that he’s versatile and excels in the pass rush.

“He’s comfortable on his feet, got great instincts, he’s an extremely good pass‑rusher,” Stoops said. “He’s a mismatch for some people on the edge.”

On the right side, Bell will be going up against two red-shirt freshmen offensive lineman playing in their first collegiate games in Kyle Meadows and Ramsey Meyers.

They’re a part of a reconfigured UK offensive line that will be without two-year starter Darrian Miller, who was suspended for the opener. In his absence, Jordan Swindle moves over to left tackle..

“I’ve got faith in Swindle at left tackle and Kyle Meadows has gotten a lot of reps,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “So I feel comfortable.”

UK quarterback Patrick Towles wasn’t concerned.

“I fully trust Kyle Meadows at right tackle,” Towles said. “I think he’s going to do a great job.”

  • Kentucky’s defense will have to contend with not one but two quarterbacks for the Skyhawks, in Dylan Favre, nephew of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, and Jarod Neal. “They’re both good football players,” Stoops said. “So you could certainly see the talent there. Some of those throws and plays (Favre) makes are fun to watch.” Last season, Neal started seven games, throwing for 1,529 yards and nine touchdowns while completing just 57.4 percent of his passes. Favre started five games, passing for 1,081 yards and nine scores (completing 71.1 percent of his passes. He also ran 79 times for 191 yards and a TD. In what should be a familiar story for UK fans, Simpson has caught some heat for not being able to settle in on one guy. “Both of them are playing well,” he said. “I’ve read some things where some people are criticizing me for playing them both, but they’re both good players. They both can win games. … Eventually just like it did last year, it’ll work out based on who’s playing the best and injury free.”
  • UT Martin’s coach can’t stop watching and worrying about UK defensive ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith as he prepares for the opener. “Their defensive ends are outstanding future NFL players,” Simpson said. “That’s where my eyes have been most this pre-season camp, their team speed, the size up front. Those are some things that are not only going to cause us some problems but some other teams as well.”
  • For his part, Dupree sounded more than ready to stop dancing quarterbacks and offensive linemen in no-contact jerseys this preseason camp and hit someone. “It’s horrible having quarterbacks in red jerseys, having to stop on the play, stop before you get to them,” he said. “It’s just – sometimes you want to just go through the lineman and hit him. … Now we can go out this Saturday and just hit those guys.”
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Three former UK players sign contracts overseas

Three former Kentucky players have signed professional contracts overseas, the school announced on Friday.

Guard Kastine Evans will pay for the Leicester Riders (England) while working on her master’s degree in applied finance and banking at Loughborough University. Forward DeNesha Stallworth has signed to play with Universitario de Ferrol in Spain for the upcoming season. Samarie Walker will play for Stadium Casablanca in Zaragoza, Spain. All three players are scheduled to leave this weekend.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

UT Martin will use guarantee money to build stadium

The Cats’ three non-conference home games this season cost more than $2 million according to contracts with Tennessee-Martin, Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio University.

For Saturday’s game, UK will pay the Skyhawks $410,000. The visiting team will receive 800 complimentary tickets and 2,000 tickets to sell to its fans.

A good chunk of that money, and the guarantee game at Mississippi State on Nov. 8, will go toward construction at Tennessee-Martin, Coach Jason Simpson said this week.

“We’re building a new stadium this season, starting new construction on the home side, so it’s important to us,” Simpson said. “For our program, when we play 12 games, it’s imperative that we play two of those guarantee games to help us financially.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Some fan updates for Saturday’s opener

Kentucky took more than 1,700 fan suggestions this season and many of them will be a part of the season opener on Saturday.

Some things to look for this weekend include: a live national anthem performed by Miss Kentucky Ramsey Carpenter on her fiddle, roving pre-game pep bands and a new pre-fourth quarter event unveiled that UK hopes will become a tradition.

Here are a few other new things UK announced on Friday:

  • In partnership with four Lexington radio stations, there will be a weekly music vote for songs to be played during timeouts of home games.
  • Fans asked for new in-game traditions with more former player involvement, a more engaging role for the marching band. Combining those things, UK will unveil what it hopes could become a new tradition at the end of the third quarter.
  • A continuous loop of game scores on the ribbon boards to keep fans updated.
  • A giant cornhole board at the Wildcat Refuge with special activities for families and children outside Gate 9.
  • Fans can get a complimentary 10-ounce cup of water at stadium concession stands this season.
  • The restrooms will have attendants working in them.
  • Each week, fans will be able to critique music selection, video content and various stadium discussions at bbnfirst.ukathletics.com.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Cats hope schedule tweak means faster play

Kentucky has altered its game preparation schedule this season. The Cats go through a light practice on Thursdays now and then a faster, full practice on Fridays.

“There’s plenty of other schools who have done this,” Coach Mark Stoops said. “So we did a little study in the offseason and looked at it and it’s just another part of the plan to play faster.

“Just a little bit of rest and recovery and then not go so long without having the speed of the game.”

Stoops said other programs, he specifically mentioned Oregon and now the Philadelphia Eagles, have done it and had some success.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Stoops talks game prep, what keeps him up at night

MARK STOOPS
“Just excited to get going. Today’s about putting the little details together, putting the finishing touches on things. We’ll also do a good run through tomorrow as well. Just anxious to get going. I think the players are anxious. Just seems like the summer went extremely fast, but this week seems a little bit slow. We’re ready to get out there and tee it up and get playing.”

On if Mike Edwards has been cleared to practice: “No. No. No he’s not. He’s cleared to be here in school and participate in school and all that. We’ll just work with that as we go.”

On if they got out of last heavy practice healthy: “Yeah. We’re actually changing things up this year. We’re going very light and minimal on Thursdays. We’re going to go fast on Fridays. It’s a little different change up.”

On the thinking behind that: “Just a little bit of rest and recovery and then not go so long without having the speed of the game There’s other people that have done it. Oregon has done it — comes to mind — for a while. I think Philly (Eagles) may do it with Coach (Chip) Kelly. There’s plenty of other schools who have done this and so we did a little study in the offseason and looked at it and it’s just another part of the plan to play faster.”

On what keeps a head coach from sleeping before the first game: “Just everything, I’d say. I feel good about things. I feel like we really covered most all the scenarios you can get to. You never say you can’t get anything that can come up on you, but we feel very well prepared. Players have worked hard, coaches have worked hard. I feel good about it. I feel good about where we’re at. Just anxious to get started.”

On if he watches Thursday games or if he’s too locked in on what he’s doing: “No, I enjoy Thursday nights. Thursday night football is fun, I think, for a lot of college coaches. So it’ll be fun to watch a game.”

On the importance of the impression fans have leaving the stadium Saturday: “I think it is important. It’s important for us to go out and show the work we’ve done and show how we’ve improved, and just for our team as well. But certainly for the fans. That’s important to me that we go out and show them a good team.”

On if Austin MacGinnis is handing kickoffs: “Yes. He is, yeah.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

D.J. Eliot after Wednesday practice

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good practice today. Guys were into it, focused. Getting better fundamentally and ready to play.”

On how their health is: “Great. We’re right where thought we’d be. Everybody’s ready to go. Everybody’s geared up and ready for the game, and we won’t miss a beat.”

On if there are one or two things he’s really interested to see on Saturday: “Well, I’m excited to see how fast we’ll play. I think that we know the defense better, and I’m expecting us to play faster — much faster than we did last year.”

On if there was anyone he challenged in camp who stepped up: “Cory Johnson I thought had an average spring and he’s had a good training camp. So I was pleased with his progress through training camp.”

On where Ryan Flannigan is relative to where he expected him to be: “He’s right where I expected him to be. He has transitioned well. He’s picking up the defense. He’s physically right where he needs to be. He’s right on track.”

On if Ryan Flannigan will start: “That’s undetermined yet, but he’s pushing for that position. We’ve got some guys at positions that there’s some competition, and that’s good.”

On if there are other starting jobs still up for grabs: “Coach Stoops makes the decisions. I think when the time is right, he’ll make the decision and go forward with all the initial decisions on who’s going to play and who’s going to start. We’ve already released — we’ve released it already, right? — everybody that’s starting for this game. That one is one that we’re still undecided on. It could go either way. Every week everybody is going to have to re-earn their starting job throughout the season.”

On if the depth chart was a 3-4 lineup with Jason Hatcher at defensive end: “Yes, Jason starts for us at outside linebacker in the 3-4 system.”

On Hatcher being listed as a starting defensive end on the depth chart: “Uh no. He should have been listed — was he not listed as an outside backer?”

(Tony Neely: Bud was. It’s kind of like Bud, can play end and linebacker. We had Bud listed at linebacker and him at end, and it could have been the other way around.)

“Right. Jason and Bud are defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme and they are outside linebackers in our 3-4 scheme. Both of them are. When we have four linebackers on the field, it’s Jason and Bud as the outside linebackers. But when we have four defensive linemen on the field, then only one of them is on the field at defensive end.”

On if the average fan would noticed the difference in what they’re doing: “Does a 4-3 and a 3-4 look the same?  I don’t understand the question, say it again. My son would. He’s nine. I don’t know. Is he average? I don’t know. My son he can tell a 4-3. He knows what a 3-4 and a 4-3 looks like.”

On overall camp impressions: “I think that, like I said, we’re playing faster because we’ve been in the system for two years now, and that’s an emphasis that we made in the offseason. We’re not where we’re 100 percent on every assignment and every technique and every fundamental yet, which you always strive for excellence, but I’m pleased with how much faster we’re playing.”

On Hatcher’s camp: “He’s had a great camp. Jason’s gotten better every day. There’s always a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and we’ve seen it with him. He’s a better athlete. He’s a better player. He understands the game better. And we’re very pleased with his progress.”

On whether Hatcher changed physically: “He hardened up more. His weight is close to the same but it’s more muscle weight now than it was last year.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to kicking off the season this week. Our players and coaches have worked extremely hard this offseason, this camp, to put ourselves in position to win. It’s nice to open at home. This is the first time we’ve opened up at home in some time, so it will be great to play at home in Commonwealth Stadium. So looking forward to kicking it off.”

On the defensive tackle position and the importance of senior Mike Douglas: “I’ve been very pleased with Mike and the way he’s worked. A senior, he’s taken on a leadership role. He’s really done a nice job. So Mike will be starting inside at one of the D-tackle positions along with Melvin Lewis (who) will get the other start. That rotation will go with Cory Johnson, Matt Elam and Regie Meant as well. So we feel pretty good about a five-man rotation in there. We’re beginning to get the depth that we need and we’re also getting some size. So been very pleased with the progress. Mike had a good year a year ago. He’s just a touch undersized but very active and plays extremely hard. And then I’ve been pleased with the progress of Melvin Lewis. He gives us some of that size at the nose tackle position that we need. Definitely over the 300 range. So that’s good to have Melvin. Also have been pleased with progress of Cory Johnson. He’s a guy that’s really improved a bunch this camp. He’s getting very active inside and beginning to create some plays. So happy with that. Matt Elam is a guy that we’ve all talked about, the recruiting. He’s an extremely talented player, working extremely hard to get himself in shape and in position to contribute this year. He will help and he will play this week, but we all know he’s a work in progress as well, so we’ve got to continue to develop Matt, but he’s going to have a bright future. Regie Meant is a guy that red-shirted a year ago, hit the weight room extremely hard, gained a bunch of weight. Again, he’s one of those big guys inside, gives us a good, physical presence. That’s the five-man rotation inside.”

On wide receiver positions: “Much improved. Definitely you’ve heard me talk a little in the off-season during summer talking season and all that, but we are improved. I feel much better about the receiver position. That was a position a year ago that we were absolutely, uh, just not good enough, not deep enough and it really cost us throughout the season. This year with Javess Blue coming back for a second year — he was a junior-college player a year ago, got into camp after school started. He missed a lot of camp and still came in and was one of our best wide receivers a year ago. So obviously with him having the spring and having the summer and just the second year in the program, feel very good about Javess. I think he can be an impact guy at wide receiver, at the Z position.

“At the other side, starting this game will be Demarco Robinson, another guy that’s an upperclassmen. He’s been around for awhile. Demarco was the one guy at that position that had any significant catches that we inherited since we’ve been here. So he has a little bit of experience, and Demarco has been playing really well.

“The other guy that we need to continue to develop and we need to get the ball in his hands is Ryan Timmons. He was great a year ago as a true freshman with the ball in his hands. He just needed to learn how to play wide receiver and learn to do things, like blocking, just his assignments and being more sharp and being more accountable, just all the natural progression that you would expect. So, really please with him. I think he’s a guy that has the potential to be a big-time guy.

“So, those will be the three starters. Backing those guys up are Blake Bone and Dorian Baker, two true freshmen. Then on the inside, there’s two more true freshmen in T.V. Williams and Garrett Johnson. So, you know how that is, to play with true freshmen and expect to compete at a high level in the SEC will be difficult, but it is what it is. So we’ve got to continue to push these guys and get them better and get them to point where they can help contribute and help us win some big games.”

On how many positions they have with SEC-caliber talent and depth: “Probably just the two positions. I wouldn’t even say on the inside of the D-line. I would say our D-end spot and our running back spot are two areas where I feel pretty good about. Outside of that, we’re not quite there yet.”

On if it’s good to at least have two positions like that: “Yeah. Well, absolutely. It definitely helps. It’s not fun to be thin at any position. It hurts you in so many ways — in just your preparation, the way you practice, how physical you can be, how long you can practice, all those things. It slows the development of your program when you’re not deep enough. And like you’ve heard me say so many times, we’re a work in progress in that area. I feel much better about the talent level at a lot of these positions. It’s just the inexperience. That’s tough and that’s frustrating. Just like I just said, when you’re counting on four true freshmen at wide receiver, obviously it’s very difficult. But it is what it is, and we’ve got to push those guys and develop them. I do feel better about those two positions. I feel like we have some talent at some other positions that we need to just be more consistent and continue to develop those guys.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Stoops’ take on his five-man defensive tackle rotation

On the first of many Southeastern Conference teleconferences, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops broke down his defensive tackle positions, which will have two new full-time starters in Mike Douglas, who played significant snaps last season, as well as Melvin Lewis.

They will start and be part of a likely five-man rotation for the Cats this season at that spot, with Regie Meant, Matt Elam and Cory Johnson. Much of that will depend on the scheme UK’s defense is in. “We feel pretty good about a five-man rotation in there,” the head coach said. “We’re beginning to get the depth that we need and we’re also getting some size.”

Here is what Stoops said about each player in that rotation:

  • On Douglas: “I’ve been very pleased with Mike and the way he’s worked. A senior, he’s taken on a leadership role. He’s really done a nice job. … Mike had a good year a year ago. He’s just a touch undersized but very active and plays extremely hard.”
  • On Lewis: “He gives us some of that size at the nose tackle position that we need. Definitely over the 300 range. So that’s good to have Melvin.”
  • On Johnson: “He’s a guy that’s really improved a bunch this camp. He’s getting very active inside and beginning to create some plays. So happy with that.”
  • On Elam: “Matt Elam is a guy that we’ve all talked about, the recruiting. He’s an extremely talented player, working extremely hard to get himself in shape and in position to contribute this year. He will help and he will play this week, but we all know he’s a work in progress as well, so we’ve got to continue to develop Matt, but he’s going to have a bright future.”
  • On Meant: “Regie Meant is a guy that red-shirted a year ago, hit the weight room extremely hard, gained a bunch of weight. Again, he’s one of those big guys inside, gives us a good, physical presence.”
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Neal Brown discusses offense

NEAL BROWN
“Getting these pups ready to go. We had a good practice today. Gave them some time off. Guys got some good energy. School’s starting tomorrow. I think we’re in a good place. I think we’re in a good place. Simple game plan. Go out and try to play fast, execute. I’m excited to see how some of these guys – especially the guys that are going to make their first showing in Commonwealth, how they’re going to perform.”

On if his ideal tempo is 100 mph, how fast UK could go Week 1 last year and how fast Week 1 now: “I’m trying to forget all of it, man. You keep asking. I’m trying to forget. (Grinning) We did not play with very good tempo at Western. We tried to early and we just didn’t do a very good job of it at all. We’ll pick our spots in this game. We’ll pick our spots. I want to make sure that we’re not playing so fast that we’re hurting ourselves, you know? But we’re in a position now, going into our second fall, that we’re able to play really fast when we need to. And there’s going to be some times in this game where we’ll play at a really quick pace – faster than we ever executed last year.”

On Towles saying even as UK’s defense is used to it, the pace wears them down late in practices: “It does. It does. It showed in our first big scrimmage we had. I think Coach Stoops talked to y’all about it: We were able to get some big plays toward the second half. And that’s one of the reasons why you do tempo. Even today, we had some nice plays in the team (period). They (defense) had some negative plays against us, too – I don’t want to make like it was one-sided – but we had some big plays where we were trying to play at a good tempo, where we had success.”

On Jojo Kemp playing without bone spurs he had late last year: “He’s a lot better, and here’s the biggest difference: OK, if you go back and you watch him last year after the Louisville game, he really had to use two feet to make a cut. So if he was moving left and he wanted to make a dynamic cut, he had to chop-chop. Now, with two healthy feet, he’s able to put one foot in the ground and change direction. That’s the biggest difference.”

On having to call plays around the injury: “Well, here’s what we did: Inside zone was one of our main plays last year. So the inside zone, you take the ball, you go attack where the double-team is, and then you’ve got to make that single-foot cut – and he just wasn’t able to do it. So we did things where we could get him outside, where he could just run and he didn’t have to make that dynamic, one-foot cut and change directions. So, yes. I guess  that’s a long answer for yes.”

On whether Jordan Swindle made the switch (for this week) to left tackle easily: “Yeah, we’ve been practicing him. He’s got a bunch of reps. He’s always been our backup left tackle, so even last fall, we always did that. He got reps there. In the spring he got reps there. And then in fall camp, we’ve gotten him several reps there. And he’ll get all left-tackle reps this week.”

On getting QB Patrick Towles off to a fast start: “Yeah, I think it’s important to get Patrick and everybody. Y’all looked at our depth chart. We’ve got a bunch of young guys in that two-deep, especially at the skill positions. So I think we’ve got to be simple. It’s important to get Patrick off to a good start, but it’s also important to get Kyle Meadows off to a good start. It’s also important to get Stanley, when he gets in the game, off to a good start. All those freshmen wideouts that are going to play. So I think you’ve got to not only take Patrick into (account), but you’ve got to take everybody.”

On how far in advance he knew they wouldn’t have LT Darrian Miller for the opener: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure exactly. I knew – the game plan that I put in during the summer, that I got in my head and put down on paper, we tweaked a little bit depending on what we were good at and what we weren’t as good at during fall camp. But we started practicing it toward the end of last week. And I knew by then. We didn’t change anything. I’ve got faith in Swindle at left tackle and Kyle Meadows has gotten a lot of reps. So I feel comfortable. I stayed with it. I didn’t know when I built (the game plan) that he wasn’t going to play, but I stayed with most of it, because I’ve got confidence in those guys.”

On if you have to pay special attention to a young quarterback starting for the first time to make sure he doesn’t let nerves get to him: “Well, I think it’s understood that he’s going to be nervous. That’s just part of it. You just go out and play through it. You try to talk to him a little bit, but the good thing is he’s played a little bit. This is going to be the first time I guess he’s truly been the man, but it is what it is. He’s going to be nervous. If he was starting for his fourth straight year he’d be nervous game one two. You assume that, so you take that into the equation your opening few plays. You know he’s going to be juiced up.”

On if the offense looks different with Javess Blue out there: “Yeah, that helps. It helps. Yeah, it does. He’s a really good player. He’s really dynamic. He’s got fresh legs right now, so he looks really good. We’ve got to be careful with him early in the season because he doesn’t have all the conditioning that the other guys have. I think he’ll probably be in that 30 to 35 play range, where in a normal he might be closer to 50.”

On how much input Towles has in the offensive game plan: “Any quarterback that’s going to start for us — I always go through, he can trump me. If he doesn’t like a play, we’ll take it out. There’s no sense — if we’ve got any pass play that he doesn’t feel comfortable with or he doesn’t see, I just ask him. Like today we met a little bit earlier, and I said, ‘Hey, look up here on my board. This is our game plan. What do you don’t like?’ If he says, ‘I don’t like that, I don’t feel comfortable with it,’ I say, ‘OK, let’s take it out.’ There’s no sense in repping — if he doesn’t have confidence in it, let’s get it out.”

On if he is more able to run the four wide receiver sets even without three scholarship receivers out this week: “Yeah, we can. We can. We’re down some guys, but we’ve got more depth. It’s young depth, but we’ve got more depth. It’s young depth, but we’ve got more depth. And you will, you’ll see some four receiver sets. I don’t know how much, just because some of the guys that are just coming back, their conditioning level, but you will see those for sure.”

On if you factor Stanley “Boom” Williams in in those situations since you can split him out wide: “We can. Yeah, probably won’t do that early. We’re just starting to introduce some of that stuff as he gets more comfortable with the true running back. I think you’ve got to be careful with those freshmen, putting too much on them. So will he be a guy later in his career, even maybe later this year, that we can put out in the slot and things? Yes, for sure. Right now, I think he’s got to get all the running back stuff down.”

On Stoops saying he might go crazy if he had as many young guys playing on defense as the offense has and how he deals with it: “Yeah, I’ve got a lot more gray hairs. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got two girls or because all these young guys. This is basically year number two of it. It is what it is. It’s — deal with it and make the most of it. The one thing is they have good energy. We don’t lack energy coming out for practice. We don’t lack energy going into games. So that part of it’s fun. The teaching aspect of it is fun, because you’re really painting from a blank canvas a lot. But there are some frustrating times, no doubt about it.”

On if he thinks about how valuable those guys will be down the road with experience on the bad days: “Oh yeah. There’s some times when you look ahead. There’s no question. But at least we have some guys with experience this year. It’s encouraging we’ve got Demarco (Robinson) back. He’s played some football here. Ryan Timmons, Javess Blue, those guys will make plays. Now all their backups are true freshmen. You’ve got to take in — I know going in we’re going to make some mistakes. Our philosophy really for the last week and a half or so has been next play. I got to preach that to myself more than them, really. Next play, this is the next play, let’s go.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off