All Is Quiet In Lexington

After one of the craziest and most busy weeks in a long time for Kentucky basketball all things have quieted down, for the weekend at least.

UK fans everywhere are waiting to hear from Xavier Henry, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Daniel Orton and where they will be playing next season.

All signs point to Henry attending Kansas in the fall, but for the rest not much is none. Wall in a interview said that at the moment UK was favorite, but you just never know what will happen in the next few weeks.

Kentucky football had their first practice in full pads yesterday and from all accounts the team looked good and Coach Brooks was very pleased with the team.

I will hopefully make it down to practice tomorrow, but I am still not sure if I will be able too.

Tomorrow is also one of the best days of the year, it is opening day and the spirit of baseball is alive. Maybe my Reds can compete for a playoff spot this year. Hopefully Harang will get us off to a good start and bring home a win

I will have a recap of the game and what I saw tomorrow.

In other news my girlfriend and I got engaged last night. No date is set for the wedding yet, but it will be sometime next June.

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A Great Day For US Kentucky Fans

John Calipari

Our new head coach.

I will have a new post up tomorrow on what the hire means for Kentucky and the rest of the nation.

It is time to hang banner #8

The football team also started spring practice today as they prepare for what could be a monumental season for the Wildcats.

I hope to be able to make the practice on Monday so I will hopefully have a full post up on Monday night or Tuesday and what i see at practice.

Have a great night, I know I will

Kentucky Football Looking For More in 2009

With all the talk about basketball lately I thought it would be a good idea to focus on the football team who starts spring practice on Wednesday

The Kentucky Wildcats have won three straight bowl games, defeated top notch programs in LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Clemson, and Florida State, but the 2009 version of the Wildcats want more.

Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson, and Jermey Jarmon all spurned the NFL draft to return to Kentucky for their senior season and will help lead a defense that was key to the Cats successlast season.

For the Cats to have a successful season the offense must improve upon their 2008 output. Mike Hartline comes into the season as the starter, but will be pushed by newcomers Morgan Newton and RyanMossakowski . If the Cats want 8 or more wins the offense has to move the ball up the field better and keep the defense off the field more than they did in 2008.

The 2009 home schedule is a fans dream with Louisville, Florida, Alabama playing in Lexington three straight weeks and Tennessee closing out the home schedule. Those four games are sure to be some of the biggest games Commenwealth has ever seen.

There will be fur highlights to the home schedule for Kentucky football fans:
-The chance to see the Cats beatdown instate rival Louisville
-The chance to see what could be one of the greatest college teams ever in Florida and one of the greatest college players ever in Tim Tebow
-Alabama only comes to town every five years and very rarely do they come to Lexington and the Cats have a chance to win, but the Cats appear to have that chance this year.
-The chance to perhaps see UK end the dreadful 24 year losing streak to Tennessee.

If you take a look at the 2009 schedule for the Cats 5 games will make or break the season for Kentucky and if the Cats can win 2 or 3 of these games the Cats might be looking at playing on New Years Day for the first time in 11 years.

Now let’s take a look at those games.

Louisville – This is a game Kentucky must win if they want to improve upon 2008. Kentucky will have it’s only bye week of the season before this game and with far superior talent there is no reason UK should not win this game. Kentucky has won the past two meetings including last years 27-2 beatdown. Will the Cats be ready for the Cardinals or will they perhaps be looking forward to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators coming to town the following week?

Alabama – Kentucky last year was a fumble away from beating the Crimson Tide on the road and with Alabama losing their starting quarterback, running back and best offensive lineman this could be a game that with a few good bounces Kentucky could win. Kentucky has only beaten Bama one time in 80 years could they perhaps pull the massive upset in Lexington once again?

South Carolina – Kentucky has never beaten a Steve Spurrier coached team and has not beaten South Carolina since 1999. Going into Columbia will not be an easy task, but eventually UK has to get the Spurrier monkey off their back, could this be the year?

Auburn – Kentucky has not beaten Auburn since 1966 and have not won on the Plains since 1961, but if ever there was a year for Kentucky it is 2009. Following a 5-7 campaign Auburn fired Tommy Tubberville and hired Gene Chizik. If Auburn’s offense struggles like it did in 2008 I really like the chances of Kentucky getting the win.

Tennessee – With a 24 year losing streak to the Vols this is the game that all of Kentucky wants more than any other game. Kentucky has had close calls including a triple overtime loss in 2007, but can never get over the hump. With the loud moth Lane Kiffin now at the helm there is nothing UK fans would love more than a season ending victory over the Vols.

This could be an excellent season for the Wildcats, but everything hangs on those five games. win two or three and you ring in 2010 in sunny florida, but win zero or only one and it could be Nashville or Memphis again which would not be bad, but this football team and their fans want more in 2009.

Basketball Fans Should Note Patience With Rich Brooks

On October 14th Kentucky lost to LSU 49-0 and all hell broke loose in Lexington, message boards, water coolers, and talk shows were all calling for his head saying that this old man did not know what he was doing and that he should be fired. Fast Forward to March 23rd 2009 and Lexington Kentucky could not be happier with the football program and the “old man.”

Since the debacle in Baton Rouge Kentucky has gone 20-12 including wins over the eventual national champion LSU, yea the same team that beat UK by 7 touchdowns just one year earlier. UK since then has defeated Georgia, Arkansas twice, Louisville twice, 2 Music City Bowl victories over Clemson and Florida State and a Liberty Bowl victory over East Carolina.

Rich Brooks has the football program in perhaps the best position that it has ever been as the 2009 version of the Cats could be a team that wins 9-10 games this year. The defense returns key players and the offense should be light years better than last year. Rich has also brought in a top 30 recruiting class including two quarterbacks that could have gone to any school in the country.

It is funny how things come full circle as now just two and a half years since the masses wanted Brooks gone those same fans are calling for Billy Gillispie’s head. Rich was in his 4th season when the heat started to turn up on him, but Billy has not even completed his second season yet, but still the majority of fans are calling for his head.

I understand that this is Kentucky and we are supposed to be fighting for NCAA championships and NIT titles, but that still does not change the fact that he not had enough time yet.

I continually hear from people that he does not know how to coach or that UK jumped the gun in hiring Billy, and to that I say that you could not be more wrong. Billy was one of the hottest if not the hottest coaching prospects available in 2007. He had completely turned around programs at Texas A&M and UTEP and had proven that he was an outstanding coach.

Should Billy have had this team in the tournament? The answer to that is without a doubt yes, but as we all know he didn’t and yes that is a major disappointment, but two years is not enough time for anyone. This is still the same exact coach that just one year ago was named the SEC Coach of the year, this man knows what he is doing.

We the fans need to trust in Mitch and his decision making abilities. I have heard countless times that Mitch should be fired and that he has no idea what he is doing, and to that all I can say is that you could not be further from the truth.

Since Mitch came to Lexington in 2002 the football, baseball, and women’s basketball programs have seen huge growth and all programs are in possibly their best shape ever. I know a lot of people around here just laugh when talking about other sports than basketball, but truth be told our athletic department is in as good as shape as it has been in the 21 years that I have been alive.

There are certain things that obviously bug all of us, like Bill’s irregular substitution’s or his inability to connect with the media or worst of all his ability to lose games that we have no business losing, games such as VMI, San Diego, Gardner Webb, and Georgia.

I also want fans to think about the repercussions that would follow if Billy was fired.

You have to believe that Patrick and Jodie would very much consider leaving Lexington for the riches of the NBA, especially if they were leaning towards the NBA than you can guarantee that this would be the final straw in their decision.

Potential recruits could spurn the Wildcats, 2010 Dominique Ferguson has already said his recruitment would open up if Billy was no longer the coach of the Wildcats. The 2009 class is an excellent one, but all would be able to look elsewhere if Gillispie is gone and you would have to believe that at least one of them would sign elsewhere.

I think it would be very hard to find a big name coach that would leave his top notch school to go to Kentucky knowing that if things do not go well that they too could be fired after just two years.

The impact of firing Billy could lead to a season very similar to the situation we have seen from Indiana this year, maybe not as bad, but next year could be very bad if Billy is gone.

On the other hand UK could be a potential top 15 team next year if everyone including Billy returns. Jodie and Patterson would be primed for another huge season. Darius Miller showed us this year that he will be a star for the Cats. A top 15 recruiting class coming in this year including a true center in Daniel Orton that will allow Patterson to move over and play his true position the power forward.

Next year can be very special or it could be a potential disaster and it all depends on Billy and his future.

I obviously understand that the football and basketball programs are held to a different standard, but I want people to look at what the football program has done. Mitch showed patience in keeping Rich and it was the best decision he could have made.

So next time you are calling for Billy’s head I want you to just stop and think about the football program.

A Look At The Running Backs

Heading into the 2008 Kentucky’s backfield was thought to be one of the best in the SEC they returned 4 proven and capable backs in Tony Dixon, Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke, and Moncell Allen. With the depth and experience these 4 brought to the table it was thought that Kentucky would become a smash mouth type of football team, but this never to came to be as the running backs and offense struggled mightily. Part of the struggles can be attributed to the fact that teams last year did not respect our passing game and continually would load seven and eight men in the box. With an improved passing attack this year one would be lead to believe that this could be a huge year for our backs.

The Returning Cats
– Alfonso Smith returns for his senior year for the Wildcats and will look to build on last year. Smith for me was the back that I thought would be the feature back for the Cats last year because of his speed and athleticism and although he showed flashes of brilliance during the season especially in the Arkansas game where he caught a screen pass made one move and proceeded to outrun the entire Razorback defense for a touchdown, for the most part was never much of a factor for the Cats. For the Wildcats to become a factor in the SEC Smith needs to be able to pick 70-80 yards a game for the Cats and catch a pass or two out of the backfield. Smith has the type of speed and burst to hit a homerun on every single play. I look for Smith to have the best year of his career.

– Derrick Locke still remains a mystery after going down in the Arkansas game with a torn ACL that sidelined him for the rest of last season and spring ball. Before he went down Locke was the only back that went for over 40 yards a game, and the Cats will look for a lot more from him this year. Locke who is a fan favorite ever since he came in the epic win over LSU in 2007 in which he gave a spark to the Cats that they desperately needed. It will be very interesting to see how he comes back from the injury and to see if he has lost any of his speed or shiftiness. If all is well with Locke this year than you would expect him to be able to provide a spark for the offense that the Cats so desperately need. I look for Locke to post very similar numbers to what he put up last year with 2-3 games where he will be used as the feature back and will go for over 100 yards. Locke very well could be the key to a successful season

– Moncell Allen missed the Liberty Bowl last season due to academic reasons, but all accounts point to Allen being able to participate in spring practice and be ready for the 2009 season. Allen is very different type of runner than Smith and Locke as he is a third down back who you can bring in to pound the ball inside and pick up the tough yards. Just like last season I see it being difficult for Allen to see significant playing time besides in short yard situations. While he is more of a bruiser than and a speedster he can bust the ball outside and pick up long gains which I look for him to do on more than one occasion this year.

The Newcomers

Donald Russell, Jonathan George, and Dakotah Tyler will all come and fight for what ever playing time is to be left from the above mentioned players. Russell held offers from home state Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pittsburgh and was a top 50 running back in the 2009 class. George was a surprise signee and not much was known about him, but I am very excited about him as he was described as a clone to Warrick Dunn. Tyler picked the Cats over Purdue, Cincinnati, and Indiana. Tyler looks to be a very quick and athletic back that runs a 4.4 forty and looks faster in the open field. Hopefully they will be able to come in and learn the system quickly and be able to provide some depth for the Cats in 2009.

Outlook – For the Cats to have a successful season they have to have consistent play out of the running backs every single game. Last year the Cats gained less than 130 yards a game on the ground and to win in the defensive led SEC you have to be able to run the football. I look for the Cats to improve their running game to around 150 yards a game this year and to force teams to try and stop the run first before the pass which ultimately will allow Hartline and co more time to find the open man. An improved rushing attack makes me believe that this team will ultimately be able to improve their SEC record and and their overall record.

Spring Look At The Offense. Part 1

Last year Kentucky managed to win 7 games on the strength of their defense and with a stronger offense this team very well could have won 9-10 games. It was not just one unit that struggled it was all of them: QB play, Rb’s, wide receivers and the offensive line all left much to be desired on the offensive side of the ball. The offense did see some bright spots last year especially in freshmen sensation Randall Cobb who did a bit of everything last year including starting 4 games at QB and making some huge catches at wide receiver. mike Hartline was average at best last year, but played his best game of the year in the Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina.

Quarterback – Mike Hartline heads into Spring camp as the starter and it should stay that way heading into fall camp, but come fall all bets are off as stud QB prospects Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton both look to come in and make an immediate impact on the offensive side of the ball. Mike Hartline barring injury in my opinion will see the majority of the snaps early on in the season, but most likely will be on a very short leash with Moss and Newton both setting their sights on the starters role. In order for Kentucky to take the next step in the success of this program they need solid QB play this season that can lead them to an 8-9 win season, that doesn’t mean you have to be a heisman trophy contender it just means that you need to be able to make the smart decisions every single game. While the talent level at UK is growing rapidly it is still not at the same level as the Florida’s, Georgia’s, and Alabama’s of the league and it is not good enough to overcome bad decisions and being on the wrong side of the turnover margin.

Prediction- Mike Hartline will start all 12 games this season barring injury. It is nearly impossible for an 18 year old kid to come and start right away especially in the SEC. The season starts off in a brutal fashion with Louisville, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Auburn in 5 straight weeks and while Hartline does not exactly set the world on fire there is one thing that he does do and that is he keeps you in the ball game. He is a very smart quarterback who knows what plays to get into for the offense and makes the smart play 9out of 10 times. Look for either Newton or Mossakowski to redshirt and the other to be the primary backup and by the end of the season seeing significant playing time. These 2 are the future of the program and will be outstanding players, but one can not expect them to come right in and be the starter and lead this team to where they want to be. It is necessary for them to get playing time, but the main playing time should be seen for one of these guys sometime around the Mississippi St game.

I will have another post tomorrow taking a look at the running back core

Ready For Football

Spring practice is a little over 3 weeks away and I am more than ready especially with how this basketball team has played lately. I will begin my spring preview of the 2009 Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow so check back for a full update on the offense with an update on the defense coming some time later this week