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Last updated: August 11. 2014 10:21AM - 417 Views
Ira D. Combs Tri State Sports Media



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Craziest August I’ve ever experienced. Won’t stop raining and I’m talking across the entire Commonwealth, UK basketball is being played in—of all places—the Bahamas, while being televised worldwide, and after two consecutive two-win seasons the talk as fall camp opens is how good UK football is going to be on the horizon.


Are we in a time warp or is God really a Wildcat fan after all?


Regardless, I’m loving writing about it and covering it, even having to deal with the rain and inconvenience of stadium renovations on going around Cooper Drive.


UK officials, and especially Coach Stoops, got the shock of their life last Saturday when approximately 4,000 Big Blue Faithful fought through some terrible weather conditions and showed their support at the annual UK football fan day festivities inside Nutter Indoor Field House and then over at Commonwealth Stadium for the first open practice.


In past years I’ve learned to temper my enthusiasm for UK football at the beginning of fall practice mainly because of my many years of disappointment from what was really unrealistic expectations on my part. But I’ve also accepted the fact that I’m not as wise as I thought when evaluating football talent, especially the type that plays in the SEC. However, when people like ex-UK quarterbacks Freddie Maggard, Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, and the Mayor of UK football Lonny DeMarree speak, I’ve learned to listen intently and take notes.


So after speaking with and/or following on Twitter all four of the above UK football minds and witnessing one short public practice, I’ll step out on a short weak limb and say I’m cautiously optimistic about Wildcat football for 2014, yet on hold for the future after 2014 until a few games are under this team’s belt.


Granted the team as a whole looks bigger and more physical lineman-wise as well as more athletic and quicker at the skilled positions. As the old saying goes, that’s the look test. Until proven against outside competition followed up by SEC competition I’m tempering my enthusiasm, but I’ll admit it looks as promising as it has since Rich Brooks and Andre Woodson led teams. Which brings me to the big question at the moment:


Are we looking at another lengthy UK quarterback battle, and, if so, why? Stoops and Brown have both said several times in recent media settings that all UK QBs are better, but won’t pull the trigger on a starter.


You have supposedly two highly ranked 4-star quarterbacks in red-shirt sophomore Patrick Towles and true freshman Drew Barker, who did go through a spring practice battling a low ranked red-shirt freshman in 3-star rated Reese Phillips, and standing in the wings is a terribly beat up junior in Maxwell Smith. At the end of spring practice and pretty much all summer long, the talk centered on how consistent Reese Phillips played during the 15 spring practices and how much Patrick Towles had improved leading up to the spring game then out performed everyone during the Blue–White game making him by all accounts including several of the coaches the leader heading into fall practice. Then after only four workouts, Stoops and OC Neal Brown claim it’s a dead heat between all four.


To me, that statement was a head scratcher, but then again college coaches are getting harder to read as each year goes by. At first I thought after Stoops proclamation at media days if these guys can’t separate themselves is there a gap in their physical skills? Then it hit me.


Doesn’t make any difference who wins the starting QB job over the next few weeks or when it is announced. Until somebody proves they can lead the team to the end-zone consistently in game competition it doesn’t really matter who lines up under center in practice.


But make no mistake it’s the most important position on the field, and if one of these guys doesn’t show some extraordinary talent and skills all this optimism and improved recruiting at other positions may play out to be a classic case of fools gold.


If you’re going to win college football games, especially in the SEC, you better have a special talent at QB no matter what offense your running. I sure hope for Big Blue Nation’s sake and mine that UK has one to surface.


Vitale Anoints Cats After 1st Big Blue Bahamas Exhibition Game


Rest easily BBN, the hoops guru of ESPN, Dick Vitale has spoken. Approximately 10 minutes after the conclusion of Kentucky’s first game Sunday afternoon, Vitale posted on his Twitter account the following, “No one can change my mind, this Wildcat team will be the best Kentucky team ever at UK. Relax BBN WINS, LOSSES, SCORES don’t matter in Bahamas just get better.”


With that being said, I’ll add a little pep to Vitale’s gumbo. It became very obvious to me after Sunday’s first exhibition win that no matter how the team will play over the next five games I can see Willie Cauley–Stein being just as important to this team as anyone on the roster, and I doubt he will play any less minutes than his first two years—probably more even with the crowd of players at the four and five positions.


Why, you say?


Because nobody else on this team can defend the lane 10 feet on in to the rim like Cauley–Stein, and that can really create havoc on opponents, not to mention start the break and create early offense for UK on the other end.


More next week after the Big Blue Bahamas tour is completed, and remember the second and third games Monday and Tuesday are at 1 p.m., on ESPNU as well. Then the team takes a two day break from action and resumes play for three games next weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all at 1 p.m., and televised live on the new SEC TV Network.


You can go to CombsBrothersOnKySports.com for more coverage of UK football and basketball, or KHSAA football and basketball plus you can now follow yours truly on Twitter at @combsbrothers5.


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