Mark Stoops embarks on the second season of his UK Wildcat football era this Monday at the Nutter Training Center and by week’s end on Friday we should have some answers on several different topics concerning the present state of the program when the statewide media contingent will meet with Stoops at 10 a.m. in the Wildcat Den at Commonwealth Stadium.
One item of interest that Stoops may not discuss Friday that I strongly believe will play out as we go through the season is that UK football may still be a year or two away from a true Air Raid offense similar to the one Tim Couch ran for Hal Mumme. Actually, even though UK OC Neal Brown came from the Hal Mumme coaching tree his offense has much more of a running game emphasis than Mumme’s original version did, so come to grips with yourself BBN. It’s highly doubtful we will ever see the true Hal Mumme Air Raid again because none of us will ever see Mumme on the sidelines or a Tim Couch wearing the blue and white.
Based on what we saw in the Blue–White spring game, my guess is Stoops has informed Neal Brown to spend a lot of time this summer tweaking the Air Raid play book into an offense that uses the pass in a reverse manner to set up the run, especially on second down situations (Cal isn’t the only coach on campus that can tweak a team you know).
I will admit, as bad as the past three years have been, I am cautiously optimistic for 2014 (see my pre-season predictions online at CombsBrothersOnKySports.com).
Part of the optimism is because of the running game possibilities starting with the new personnel for 2014. There is talent, speed, and even SEC-type size, but several of the backs have issues to overcome from their recent past.
Jr. Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska, was a 4-star RB recruited by the Cornhuskers, but he struggled his freshman and sophomore years to the point of transferring for a fresh start. Josh Clemons came highly recruited from Georgia and was supposedly going to be the next great back for UK along the lines of George Adams, Mark Higgs, Mark Logan, etc., only to suffer three major injuries resulting in surgery in his first two years now he is a RS junior just hoping to play a clean 12 game season without injury. Jo Jo Kemp last years freshman phenom is no surprise for the SEC defenses anymore, he will be focused on and although he has worked hard in the weight room can he take the pounding a lead back takes in the SEC. This year Stoops’ recent recruiting success will start to have more of an impact on the roster. Two 4-star freshmen, Mikel Horton and Stanley “Boom” Williams, are expected to have an immediate impact on the running back position. Horton is more of a true power back that runs between the tackles, something UK hasn’t had in recent years. “Boom” is more of an all purpose back that flourishes when you can get him the ball in space. But remember, they’re both true freshman that will be thrown to the SEC wolves.
Sr. fullback D. J. Warren has weathered three seasons worth of those tough SEC wars and should hold his own opening holes for the above mentioned backs and provide pass blocking for the UK quarterbacks.
There is also one other very important reason you may see the Cats tote the pigskin by land instead of by air this fall. Stoops and Brown may want to send a special weekly message each Saturday when they line up to play over to Madison Southern High School, and a certain special running back that there will be plenty of touches for running backs in the UK Air Raid offense.
UK Football Fan Day, Saturday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m.
The ole UK sports calendar has finally come full circle again and it’s football time in the Bluegrass. All UK players had checked into camp and were in their respective dorm rooms by late Sunday afternoon ready to report to practice Monday morning for the first full week of workouts. Saturday, Aug. 9, from approximately 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., the Big Blue Nation will get their annual meet and greet opportunity at the Nutter Indoor Fieldhouse which is adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium. Afterward from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m., the public will be offered the first of four opportunities to watch the Wildcats workout before the first game. The second and third opportunities to watch the Wildcats practice will come on Monday, Aug. 11, at 10:15 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 3:30 p.m. The fourth and final day for the fans and media to witness a pre season practice will be Monday, Aug. 18, at 10:15 a.m.
Only the Aug. 9, open practice will be held at Commonwealth Stadium, the remaining three practices open to the public will all be held at the Tim Couch practice fields next to the Nutter Training Center unless otherwise notified by UK officials.
Big Blue Bahamas Trip Coming Up
It may be August and you may be hearing the helmets and pads popping across the Commonwealth with football season days away, but that favorite basketball team of all Kentuckians will be playing their first set of pre-season games down in the fun and sun of the Bahamas. Our friends at the NCAA headquarters allow all NCAA Division 1 basketball teams to take an off-season trip outside the USA every four years if they choose to, and John Calipari will take any perk the boys in Indianapolis will offer.
It will be a six-game, 10-day trip all together with a two day break in games midway through the trip. The first three games will be played on Aug. 10, 11, and 12, then the Cats will do some sightseeing and hit the beach for a couple days and the remaining three games will be played on August 15, 16, and 17. All six games will tipoff at 1 p.m., with the first three being televised live on ESPNU and the last three games being televised live on the new SEC TV Network.
The opponents UK will be facing will be a group of South American national Olympic style teams with several of the teams having active NBA players on their rosters.
You can go online to CombsBrothersOnKySports.com for more coverage of the UK football and basketball teams as well as KHSAA football and basketball. You can also follow me on Twitter now at @combsbrothers5.