Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky fourth No. 1 preseason team to drop totally out of AP top 25
- John Calipari says Cats have to be scrappier, play more physical and share the ball a lot better
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles will work out with QB guru George Whitfield over spring break
- John Calipari says great players make 2-on-1 look simple and UK “makes those look harder”
- John Calipari: “… just keep making that pass. Make it 22 times”
- Kentucky falls 71-70 to Tennessee in SEC championship
- This year John Calipari says the SEC Tournament is important for UK’s mojo
- High school coordinator on UK WR signee Blake Bone: “He doesn’t get caught”
By LARRY VAUGHT
George Whitfield Jr. is known as a “quarterback guru” and has worked with Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, both former No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. He’s been working with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, another potential No. 1 pick, recently.
Soon he’ll be spending a week with Kentucky sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles, too, to help him work on his game before UK starts spring practice March 28. Towles is going to spend his upcoming spring break in California working with Whitfield and renew a relationship that started when Towles, then a quarterback at Highlands High School, met him at an Elite 11 camp in Los Angeles.
“Andrew Luck and Cam Newton swear by him. He is their guy and he’s working with a lot of guys now getting them ready for their Pro Day,” said Terry Towles, Patrick’s father. “He’s agreed to take Patrick on during spring break and Patrick is really excited. They had a good relationship before and Patrick knows it is time to get moving before spring football starts.”
Towles has already been working out some on his own with Donnie Walker, who has worked with current California offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Walker conducts clinics in the same offense that UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown played in and now uses with his own tweaks.
“Patrick just wants to go out with Whitfield and have an extra eye look at him and see if he notices anything or has any suggestions,” Terry Towles said. “It will be good for him to get in a real good workout before spring practice starts. He’s throwing about three days a week now, but there’s not a whole lot the (UK) coaches can do. People don’t realize how little time the coaches are actually allowed to spend with them. The strength coach can be there, but the offensive coaches are there for spring practice and then again Aug. 1.
“If you are not out there working and doing a little extra, it’s hard to improve, and Patrick wants to get better. That’s why he has been doing some extra work with Donnie Walker, too. He (Walker) understands the Kentucky offense and has a really good grasp of it and can just point out things to Patrick.”
Towles was the premier player in UK’s 2012 recruiting class under then coach Joker Phillips. He was Kentucky’s Mr. Football and led Highlands to three straight state titles with a 44-1 record. He threw for 3,820 yards and 42 touchdowns with just one interception as a senior and threw for 7,429 yards and 73 scores in his career while also rushing for 1,718 yards and 38 scores. He was ranked as one of the top-10 pro-style quarterbacks in the country by Rivals.com and 24/7 Sports.
He played in five games in 2012 and completed 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a score. His first appearance against Mississippi State he led UK to a 71-yard scoring drive capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass, but he hurt his ankle in the win and was limited the rest of the season. Last year he was redshirted.
Towles goes into spring practice battling for playing time with Jalen Whitlow, Maxwell Smith, Reese Phillips and Drew Barker.
“The offseason has gone pretty good. He’s done a lot of agility and strength stuff and has done well,” Terry Towles said. “He just wants to be as ready as possible.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
WOODRUFF, S.C. — Offensive coordinator Jonathan Rollins isn’t sure quite how fast Woodruff (S.C.) receiver Blake Bone is, but he knows he’s fast enough.
“He’s been in the 4.5 (second for the 40-yard dash) range,” said Rollins. “But one thing about him — he does not get run down a lot from behind. He doesn’t get caught.”
The 6-5 receiver signed with Kentucky in November and Rollins thinks he could have a big career with the Wildcats.
“He is going to fit into just about any group and I think that is what will make him a special player at Kentucky. Sometimes you get players that will come in and have been the guy and it’s hard for them to adjust when everybody is that guy. But Blake just has that personality that people are drawn to,” Rollins said.
“He is a humble kid, but he works hard. The one thing that I think really makes him good is that when the competition rises, his game comes up. That’s what made him special for us. The bigger the game and you had that defensive back on the other side that was a really good player, he played even better.
“His ball skills are incredible. Some of the catches he has made here, especially in the red zone, and able to get his feet in unreal. At all these 7-on-7 camps, he made catches we just shook our heads. He is just really good about getting his body in position to make a play, and I think it comes from playing basketball.”
Bone, who is still 17, was a 1,000-point scorer in his basketball career and played various positions.
“He was a good player and played hard,” Rollins said. “But I think another thing that will make him special at UK is that even though we have a good weight program here that will help him, once he gets to Kentucky and is able to eat good and workouts they have and not playing basketball, he will put on a little weight that will make him a phenomenal player. Right now he has good size and has good strength, but as that improves he will be really good player.”
Rollins says he knows how to make plays.
“When he runs curls, digs and things like that, he has that ability to find the open area and get there when the quarterback throws it to that area,” Rollins said. “He has a good knack for being on one page with the quarterback. He did a really good job for us of recognizing what the defense was in and communicating with quarterback to check into another pass play or route.”
Craig Naivar, who has been a defensive coordinator or special teams coordinator for the last 15 seasons, has joined the Kentucky football staff as special teams coordinator and safeties coach, Head Coach Mark Stoops announced Thursday.
“I’ve gotten to visit with Craig the last couple of years and am very impressed with him,” Stoops said. “He has vast knowledge, both as a defensive coordinator and as a special teams coordinator. He’s a high-energy coach with a great reputation as a recruiter.”
Naivar (pronounced “NI-ver”) comes to Kentucky from Texas State, where he was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach the last three seasons, helping the Bobcats transition from independent status (2011) to the Western Athletic Conference in 2012 to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Formerly a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, the Bobcats were bowl eligible in 2013, becoming the second-fastest team in history to become bowl eligible after moving up from the FCS to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Naivar helped produce defensive lineman Michael Ebbitt, the 2011 Independent Defensive Player of the Year, along with two All-Independent Team selections. He had two second-team All-WAC honorees in 2012 and a second-team All-Sun Belt pick last season. Two of his Texas State players are now in the National Football League, linebacker Joplo Bartu with Atlanta and defensive back Darryl Morris with San Francisco.
Naivar also coached at Texas State from 2004-06, where he was defensive coordinator and safeties coach. That term was highlighted by the 2005 season, when the Bobcats posted an 11-3 record and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA FCS (then-Division I-AA) playoffs. The Bobcats ranked in the nation’s top 25 in scoring defense and total defense while generating 33 turnovers.
It was at Texas State where Naivar first became associated with current UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who also was on the Bobcat staff. The duo moved on to Rice in 2007, where Naivar was co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach from 2007-09. Their best season came in 2008 when Rice went 10-3, the Owls’ best record since the 1950s, capped by a share of the Conference USA Western Division championship and a 38-14 rout of Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl.
Individually, Naivar coached safety Andrew Sendejo, currently with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, and safety Travis Bradshaw, who led the nation in solo tackles in 2009.
Naivar moved to special teams coordinator and defensive line coach in 2010, helping guide Rice to some impressive accomplishments. Led by All-America punter Kyle Martens, the Owls were sixth in the nation in net punting. Rice ranked 26th in the nation in punt returns and had the nation’s 10th-best kickoff returner, Charles Ross, who averaged 29 yards per runback.
Born in Austin, Texas, Naivar was a four-year letterman, playing safety and quarterback, and was team captain at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Hardin-Simmons and began his coaching career there, helping lead the Cowboys to the NAIA Division II Playoffs in 1994 and ’95.
Naivar was a graduate assistant at New Mexico and TCU before landing at Southern Illinois as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach. From there he coached at Sam Houston State, serving at various times as defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, safeties coach and defensive line coach. The top campaign there was 2001, when the Bearkats went 10-3, were co-champions of the Southland Conference and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division I-AA playoffs before losing to eventual national champion Montana. Naivar left Sam Houston State for his first stint at Texas State in 2004.
“I’m excited to be part of the Big Blue Nation and such a prestigious university,” Naivar said of his decision to come to Kentucky. “I was attracted by the opportunity to work with Coach Stoops, the energy he brings and the success he’s had everywhere he’s been.
“It’s also exciting to reunite with Coach Eliot. He is one of the really sharp minds in college football, a great coach and recruiter.”
Naivar and his wife, Michelle, have a daughter, Jordan, and a son, Gunner.
Naivar Coaching File
1994-95 Hardin-Simmons Special Teams Coordinator
1996-97 New Mexico Graduate Assistant
1998 (spring) TCU
1998-99 Southern Illinois Special Teams Coordinator, Defensive Line
2000-01 Sam Houston State Special Teams Coordinator, Defensive Line
2002-03 Sam Houston State Defensive Coordinator, Safeties
2004-06 Texas State Defensive Coordinator, Safeties
2011-13 Texas State Defensive Coordinator, Safeties
2014-present Kentucky Special Teams Coordinator, Safeties
DALLAS (AP) — Heisman Trophy winning running backs Rashaan Salaam of Colorado and Ricky Williams of Texas are among the stars making their first appearance on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot this year.
Some of the other notable first-timers on the ballot released Thursday are Iowa State running back Troy Davis, a two-time Heisman finalist, Miami linebacker Ray Lewis, Southern California receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch, a former No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas and Nebraska Heisman winner Eric Crouch are among the holdovers on the 75-player major college ballot. There are also six coaches up for selection, including Mike Bellotti of Oregon.
More than 12,000 National Football Foundation members receive ballots. Their votes are tabulated and then given to the NFF’s 17-member honors court, which selects a class of about 14 players and two coaches.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Here’s more from my recent visit with talented receiver Blake Bone of Woodruff, S.C.:
Question: Do you fully appreciate how excited Kentucky football fans were to have you pick UK over other schools and give Neal Brown’s offense a big receiver?
South Carolina WR Blake Bone: “It is a great feeling to have thousands of fans behind you 100 percent. When Kentucky started recruiting me, the BBN was all over me. They are non-stop people and great fans. Whether the football team is doing good or bad, they are supporting them — which is kind of like Woodruff here. We have great fans. That fan base was important. Football has not always been good and it is known more as a basketball school, and when I committed people were telling me it was a basketball school, but I think we have enough people to turn it around and make it more football based. And we definitely have the fans and coaches and everything around it to be solid.”
Question: What’s the biggest reason you came to Kentucky — Drew Barker, Neal Brown’s offense, coach Mark Stoops?
Bone: “You could probably put all those together. It was a no-brainer as a receiver to come in and play in that offense they have. The coaches know what they are doing and get the ball to receivers to make plays, kind of like our offense at Woodruff. It was more of a welcome home feeling knowing they would air it out, which was perfect for me.
“Second, Drew was icing on the cake. Having a guy coming in with his composure and four-star guy that played in the (U.S.) Army All-American Bowl and he’s a great quarterback. Knowing we have somebody get me the ball was great. And the coaching staff, I mean they really did their job well in recruiting. The first year didn’t go as well as Stoops would like, but you can tell his hard work and ambition is paying off by landing a top 25 recruiting class. With the schedule we have, it’s not easy. Knowing guys want to get to Kentucky and make a difference was important to me, so I committed early in August.”
The annual Kentucky Football Blue/White Spring Game, set for Saturday, April 26, at 3:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium, will be a ticketed event again this year. Seating in the lower level will be reserved, and seating in the north upper level will be general admission.
A special availability for season ticket holders for the free tickets will begin Monday, Mar. 10, at 9 a.m. Current season ticket holders will receive an e-mail this week detailing how they may obtain up to six tickets:
* Online at Ticketmaster.com
* By calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000
* In person at Ticketmaster outlets in Kentucky
* NOTE: Tickets are free but there is a small service charge per ticket
UK students may obtain their free tickets beginning Monday, Mar. 10, at 9 a.m. at the Joe Craft Center ticket office. Students may pick up two tickets per ID.
Remaining tickets will be available to the general public through the same Ticketmaster channels beginning Wednesday, March 19 at 9 a.m.
Tickets still available on game day (April 26) may be picked up free of charge at the stadium, based on availability. Due to construction at Commonwealth Stadium, seating in the south lower and south upper level sidelines will not be available. Capacity for the Blue/White Spring Game will be approximately 42,500.
Steve Habel of the American-Statesman Correspondent in Austin, Texas, has reported that UK will name Texas State defensive coordinator Craig Naivar special teams coach to replace Bradley Dale Peveto, who left for LSU.
Naivar has been defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Texas State since 2011. Texas State coach Dennis Franchione postponed the start of spring drills last week because of Naivar’s departure even though there has been no news from UK on his hiring.
The Bobcats ranked 58th in total defense in 2013 and allowed 27.3 points and 396.7 yards per game and 5.41 yards per play during a 6-6 campaign. The year before they allowed 33.5 points and 484.8 yards per game.
Naivar returned to Texas State and Franchione’s staff in 2011 after four seasons at Rice, including three as the Owls’ co-defensive coordinator.
Twenty-four University of Kentucky student-athletes will be inducted into the Frank G. Ham Society of Character on Thursday at a ceremony to be held at UK’s Center for Academic and Tutorial Services. The student-athletes will be introduced at Rupp Arena during the men’s basketball game vs. Arkansas.
The Society of Character annually honors Wildcats who have shown an extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, athletic participation, personal development, career preparation and serving as a role model. The SOC was founded during the 1998-99 school year and is named for Ham, a long-time UK administrator.
Football players Avery Williamson and Max Godby are among the inductees this year.
Avery Williamson, Football
From his post at middle linebacker, Williamson made over 100 tackles each of the last two seasons, earning All-Southeastern Conference honors both years. Known for his leadership, he was named captain for every game of his senior season. He has been a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and plans to complete his degree in Integrated Strategic Communications in May. He has been involved in numerous service activities and was named to the SEC Community Service Team.
Max Godby, Football
Originally a walk-on with the Kentucky football team, Godby’s perseverance and contributions to the team prompted Coach Mark Stoops to reward him with a scholarship. In the classroom, he is a two-year member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. He has been a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for UK and for the Southeastern Conference. He has participated in countless community service activities.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Running back Mikel Horton was one of 11 Ohio players to sign with Kentucky and knows most of the Ohio signees. “Can’t say it is an Ohio movement, but if one commits, all commit,” Horton said. “Ohio is a small state, so we know each other and talk about going to school together.”
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, like coach Mark Stoops, is an Ohio native who had connections to many of the players, including Horton.
“He is a crazy guy. He is the type guy that showed up when he was allowed to come to the house and chilled with my grandmother, chilled with my family, talked, played board games. He is very interactive. He tried to be part of the family as much as possible. He’s the main reason I picked Kentucky. He’s an amazing person. (Running backs coach) Chad Scott and Neal Brown, that whole group is special and influenced me to come here.”
Marrow joked that Horton is a guy that don’t shut up” ever when asked if he let Horton beat him in any board games.
“But that’s why we kept most of the class (together). He’s a strong, opinionated young man. I just think … he said he’s going to beat me at basketball, which he probably could right now. No, I didn’t let him win anything I could sit down and compete with. I beat him. I won,” Marrow said. “We played cards, we played Monopoly. He’s a competitive young man. He’ll try to beat you in everything. But you know what? Our whole staff was like that. Our whole team is like that. We want guys who try to compete and want to compete.”
He said a long home visit like he had with Horton was the norm with this recruiting class.
“Some of these visits went for three hours. Like, honestly, coach Stoops said you think you’re in there for an hour, and it’s just the type of families we’re recruiting. I mean, (former assistant) coach Bradley Dale Peveto will tell you. We’ll go in there thinking we’ll be in there for an hour and 20 minutes, we end up being there three hours. Just the type of kids we recruited,” Marrow said. “We was chilling with his grandmother. Very, very nice lady. But you know, Mikel. He’s probably out there talking right now. It’s just how he is, but we love we got that young man here.”
Horton wouldn’t quit talking about his expectations for what lies ahead at UK, either.
“The legacy of this class is why not be here, why not go to the NFL, why not win a national championship,” Horton said. “Nobody is holding us back. We are going to put in the work for the fans of Kentucky and ourselves and become something special.”