Most Recent Posts
- SEC commissioner Mike Slive expects vote on adding 9th SEC football game at spring meetings
- Vince Marrow to UK fans: Blue-White attendance has big impact on recruiting
- Guest post: Fan has his solution for one-and-done dilemma for NBA, NCAA and players
- Dakari Johnson’s mother appreciates opportunities her son had, looks forward to future at UK
- Kentucky center Dakari Johnson to return for sophomore season
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops not only watches Kentucky practice, but puts on UK pullover
- Receiver Jeff Badet has broken fibula, receiver A.J. Legree “gonna quit and go play somewhere else”
- Jojo Kemp: “I’m trying to make this like high school again”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky will also add Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska, into the running back mix with JoJo Kemp, Ryan Timmons, Boom Williams and Mikel Horton next season.
“One thing about Braylon Heard is that he is very fast, but he has experience of playing big-time college football. As experienced as those guys (Horton and Williams) are, they have not played college football yet. Braylon Heard has played two years and knows what it takes and how to prepare. Just having that experience factor gives him a big boost,” Scott said as UK gets set to start spring practice Friday.
Scott also knows that Kemp, who had a productive freshman season, should be a lot better this season.
“The competition will make him better. It will make them all better,” Scott said. “That ultimately gets us to the point where we want to be as a program, which is championship level.”
Scott isn’t worried about having too many talented running backs, either.
“That is what you have to have. When you have competition and somebody behind you just as good, that keeps you on your toes,” Scott said. “It makes you do extra work and continue to do little things to separate yourself. If you don’t have that competition, you are constantly pushing guys to do that on a daily basis. But if they have somebody behind them just as good, you are getting the most out of that kid.”
Kentucky running backs coach Chad Scott likes Georgia star Stanley “Boom” Williams, who will arrive at UK in June.
“Boom is explosive. He is zero to 60 (miles per hour) right now and he has that ability to make something happen. He is the kind of kid that you just have to find the way to get the ball in his hands whether run, pass or return game. He brings the home run ability and kind of speed that defensive coordinators have to look out for,” Scott said.
The 5-9, 190-pound Williams, ranked as the eighth best player in Georgia by Rivals.com and the 16th-best running back in the nation by ESPN.com, rushed for 1,416 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior and 1,948 yards and 24 scores as a junior. He had offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“So many positives are going on at Kentucky,” Williams said. “The offense is real explosive, or will be. There are going to be a lot of great players on campus. I think there will be a lot of playmakers on the team in the class of 2014 that will make the offense more dangerous, more explosive. We will take more shots down the field. I think the overall offense will be very explosive. Once we get all the guys in and start making plays, the offense will get rolling.
“Myself, I don’t want to be the big guy on campus. I just want to be part of the team and help the team win. I want to compete and make everybody better. If I don’t get the starting job, then I want to be in the rotation so I can make plays. We’ll have a lot of options on offense. Coach Brown can move JoJo (Kemp) and Ryan (Timmons) around. Wherever they want to put me, I will look to make plays and put the team in the best position to score. I just want to win.”
Williams has been working on his receiving skills in case he’s needed to play on the perimeter more like Timmons did last season as a true freshman.
“I work on my footwork every day. I work on all aspects of my game, but I really work on catching the ball,” Williams said.
Having a big, strong running back like Mikel Horton is not the description some would use for the ideal back in Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s system. However, for running backs coach Chad Scott, having Horton is perfect.
“It is going to be real fun. People always ask me do you think he fits what you do? Absolutely. You have to have big-play ability. If you are a small guy, you have to have the ability make people miss. If you are a big guy, you have to have the ability to break tackles. Mikel has unbelievable tackle breaking ability along with big play ability,” said Scott.
“He also has deceptive speed and can make people miss and catch balls. He led his team in receiving. That’s a huge plus for our offense and is kind of unusual to see a 215- or 220-pound kid out there leading the team in receiving. He has that kind of skill set, which is very intriguing.”
Horton was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in Ohio and No. 12 running back nationally by Rivals.com after finishing his career at Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio. He ran 178 times for 1,203 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per carry, and 13 touchdowns as a senior and led his team with 19 catches for 249 yards and two scores. He competed in the 4×100-meter relay, 200-meter dash and 110-meter hurdles as a junior before picking UK over Florida State, Louisville, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. He enrolled at UK in January.
“It’s huge that he is on campus. Any time a kid comes in during the offseason and actually gets to go through spring ball and see exactly what it will be like during season, it is a big bonus for them,” Scott said as UK prepares to start spring practice Friday. “There is no way you can substitute what it is actually like without going through it.
“It is huge for him and we expect him to bring a physical element to our team. We need a power game and I think one of his biggest assets will be his ability to stick his foot in the ground, run north and south, and break tackles. We expect him to bring that power to the inside game that we lacked last year.”
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.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
If running backs coach Chad Scott is right, senior running back Raymond Sanders could flourish in UK’s new offense.
Question: How has senior Raymond Sanders been as a leader for a newcomer like JoJo Kemp?
Scott: “The biggest thing Raymond has done for him is teaching him how to perform, how to study. We do a walk-through before every practice, so Raymond has done a great job of teaching him how to do just that and about how fast to do it, but also doing it right. When we go live, he knows what is going on. That’s the biggest difference here. They didn’t do walk-throughs in high school, so everything he did was full speed. Ray has been a huge factor for him.”
Question: How much has Sanders’ leadership helped you?
Scott: “It has helped tremendously. All the older guys see that Ray being the player he is taking time to help the younger guys, so all the guys on offense want to do that. Also from a coaching standpoint, it shows you the confidence he has in his ability. He’s a competitor but he wants to help those guys become as talented as he is.”
Question: How well does Neal Brown’s offense fit Sanders’ skills?
Scott: “Perfectly. You will see Ray doing a lot of things with this offense. You will see him in the backfield. We will line him up out wide. You will see him do a lot because it fits him perfectly. I think you will see a whole different Ray Sanders this year.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks the aggressive personality of running backs coach Chad Scott is showing with the way UK’s backs are performing in practice.
“I think all those running backs have really competed hard. I think Ray (Sanders) keeps getting better. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at Raymond Sanders this year. I expect big things from him,” Sanders said. “Jon George, kind of a steady Eddie. Then Jojo (Kemp) and Dyshawn (Mobley), we need those guys. They’re different running styles, but we need those guys to come. And they are. They’re going to play.
“We’re going to have to be able to run the ball guys. We’re not in a position – we’re talking about freshman receivers. All that sounds good in this setting, but at the end of the day they’re still 17, 18 years old, and they’re still going to have to go out there and play. For us to put all of our cards in their deck or all our eggs in their basket, that wouldn’t be real wise. So we’re going to have to run the ball.”
That suits Scott, a former UK running back who coached with Brown at Troy and Texas Tech, as he pushes his backs to get ready for the season-opening game Aug. 31. Scott shared these insights.
Question: How are the running backs doing?
Scott: “They are looking real good. I have been impressed with the guys in terms of pass protection standpoint. They are coming along. (Senior) Ray Sanders is doing really well. He has had a great camp. The goal is just to keep him that way. Jonathan George has really come on and made some plays. He started out sluggishly, but he has picked it back up. Dyshawn Mobley has gotten back. He started out slowly, but he has made some big plays the last few days. And (freshman) JoJo Kemp has made some plays. I am really pleased with those guys, or at least I am right now. We have a long ways to go but we are making progress.”
Question: Is Kemp as good as you thought when you recruited him or maybe even better?
Scott: “He is as good as we thought and we thought he was good. He just has to continue to adjust to the wear and tear on his body from college football. His body has never felt like it feels right now. He just has to keep pressing, but he is as good as we thought.”
Question: Do you like Kemp’s enthusiasm and outgoing personality off the field?
Scott: “I like his toughness. Like his personality, love his toughness.”
Question: So is he a physical player like he claims he is?
Scott: “That is a fair description. He is a kid that will dictate tempo. He is not a follower. He doesn’t need nobody to push him. He is driven. That is one thing that has surprised me about him. He sets tempo. He wants it. He will jump in without somebody telling him. I really like that side of it.”
Question: How do you get backs to play with the tenacity you want?
Scott: “I always tell those guys if they lack energy, find it within me. I am always happy. The biggest adjustment from high school to college is pass protection. It is a lot of technique, but a lot is attitude and that’s one thing we stress. Everything we talk about always goes back to pass protection. If you can get those guys to have confidence to pick up the blitz, running the ball is almost second nature to them. ”
Question: Do you agree with coach Mark Stoops about Kemp having a pit bull mentality?
Scott: “He does have that mentality and we love him. Sometimes I have to pull him back. He will want to go up against somebody 90 pounds heavier than him. You can’t tell him he can’t do. He has that kind of mentality.”
Question: How would you describe Mobley in comparison to Kemp being a pit bull?
Scott: “One and the same honestly. Just a little taller and a bigger pit bull. The thing you will see with him is knowing who you are. JoJo is going to be a guy that can make people miss. He can break tackles, but at least for right now not being as big as other guys he’s going to have to specialize in making guys miss. Mobley is going to be a power runner. He’s going to break tackles. He’s going to make this offense exciting because he’s going to stay on his feet and run through people and get yards after contact and make big plays by breaking tackles.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown doesn’t mince words when it comes to receiver Javess Blue.
“We thought he was, if not the best, one of the top two or three junior college receivers in the country last year. Signed him at Texas Tech, had some grade issues, went to Butler Community College and led them to a National Championship game,” said Brown. “Last year was very productive. And he’s a smart kid.”
Blue had to finish academic work at Butler Community College until just before preseason practice started and Brown has been “taking it slow” with him in practice. But he ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college player by ESPN.com last season and led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65 for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt returns. He had 88 catches for 1,774 yards and 20 scores his final two seasons at Lake Wales (Fla.) High School.
Blue, who had been timed in 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, offered these insights on his play and future.
Question: How relieved are you just to be here and ready to go?
Blue: “It took me a while to get here, but I am ready now. It is going full speed when it comes down to practice. I have been working out over the summer, taking classes while I was at Butler. I am pretty much ready to go. The coaches knew I was going to come in a little later. They kept in touch with me so that everything will go smooth.”
Question: Will it hurt you not being here all summer?
Blue: “It shouldn’t be a problem. I am used to the fast offense that we had at Butler Community College. It is kind of the same thing. I am ready and looking forward to it.”
Question: What did it mean to you that Neal Brown and (running backs coach) Chad Scott didn’t forget you after they recruited you for Texas Tech and you did not qualify academically?
Blue: “It means we have a strong relationship together. We are basically like a family. They are like step-dads to me. I really look up to them. I am going to follow in their footsteps.”
Question: Do you feel pressure from those “step-dads” to produce immediately?
Blue: “It is not too much pressure. I am really comfortable with doing what I do best. I can get a feel for it.”
Question: How would you describe what you do best?
Blue: “Make plays, catching the ball, unbelievable catches, making touchdowns, showing off my speed when needed.”
Question: Did you go to Butler because they played a fast-paced offense?
Blue: “It was a great program really. I was looking forward to being with other D-1 athletes. You have to play and practice against the best. We never really huddled there, so it is pretty much like here.”
Question: How much did the Butler coaches help you this summer to get you ready for UK?
Blue: “They put on a lot of work. They had me working out with the team that came in this summer. I was up to speed with them. I was teaching the younger guys the fundamentals of what they are looking for them to do. That’s why I can step in and be ready. I want to make plays and be that guy that comes out here to make plays and win games. They expect me to be that playmaker, so I expect myself to live up to it.”
Question: What do you even know about the other receivers here?
Blue: “Just come in and work for my spot is what I plan on doing. You have to earn time.”
Question: Will you get a chance to return punts and kickoffs?
Blue: “For sure. I want to do that. I am real relaxed doing that. Most likely I am going to go catch the ball and get good field position for my team.”
Question: When someone describes you as fearless, is that accurate?
Blue: “I don’t care how big you are, I will take on the challenge.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Speedy receiver Garrett Johnson of Florida considers himself a “playmaker” who is convinced he can continue to make plays at Kentucky.
“I like to get the ball on a 5-yard hitch (pass) and turn it into an even bigger gain. I am an electric player,” said Johnson, who verbally committed last week to sign with UK in February. “I like to make people miss, but I can take a hit, too.
“I used to play running back, so I know how to find holes in defenses. I can get yards on my own. I think all that comes with playing. I have always been able to catch the ball pretty good, but I am far from perfect. I still work to get better and better. But I can make plays.”
The 5-10, 170-pound Johnson, a three-star player, had other scholarship offers from Arizona, Boston College, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Marshall, Northwestern, South Florida and Vanderbilt. Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, North Carolina State and UCF also were recruiting him.
As a sophomore, he caught 58 passes for 1,014 yards (17.5 yards per catch) and 11 scores. He played both receiver and cornerback as a junior when he caught 49 passes for 685 yards and seven scores. He also ran for about 200 yards and two scores on 21 carries.
Johnson turned head when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the Florida State camp in June, but did not have a scholarship offer from the Seminoles or Florida when he committed to Kentucky.
“It feels a lot better to me knowing I am committed to Kentucky,” Johnson said. “When I came up there and got to see the practice field, indoor facility and stadium, and meet the whole coaching staff, I was sold.”
He was particularly impressed, and has been, with UK running backs coach Chad Scott.
“Seeing him in person again and kind of checking out the way they do things was good. Also getting to talk to the head coach (Mark Stoops) was really good,” Johnson said. “I know Coach (Stoops) is about defense, but he noticed me and after camp he said he thought I could play both inside and outside receiver. He had a lot of recruits at camp, but he told me I was definitely one that impressed him.”
Because of his relationship with Scott, he had planned to visit UK. Plus, freshman receiver Jeff Badet is a long-time friend and has spent the last two months on campus getting ready for his freshman season.
“I think I will fit in the offense very well. My high school team runs the spread, an open attack,” Johnson said. “I knew about Kentucky before they started recruiting me, but not much in depth about the team. That’s why I wanted to check out everything.
“I talked to a lot of schools, but when I talked to Kentucky they just stood out the most mainly because of the offense and my bond with coach Scott. That is why Kentucky won me over.”
He says “just talking” to Scott was refreshing during the recruiting process.
“We always had good things to talk about whether it was football or life or what I was doing,” Johnson said. “Just things like that he cared about. I could connect and bond with him. It seems like I have been talking to him a lot longer than I have. He is a cool guy. He was telling me what it is like to play in that offense and what it is like to play at Kentucky since he played there. That gave me more insight into what goes on at Kentucky.”
He felt much the same way about many of UK’s other 2014 verbal commitments he met during the July camp at UK.
“I could kind of see what those other players brought to the table. I got to meet quarterback Drew Barker and throw with him. I think he is a great player. He can really sling it. We have the pieces for a good offense in our class that really intrigued me,” Johnson, who may run track in the spring to help his speed, said.
* * *
Johnson will join us on WLAP (WLAP.com) Sunday at 9:30 a.m. to talk about his recruitment.
Kentucky picked up another verbal commit today when West Orange (Fla.) receiver Garrett Johnson picked the Wildcats over Arizona, Boston College and South Florida. He had recently narrowed his list of 11 schools to those four.
The 5-9, 162-pound Johnson recently told Chris Hayes, the Orlando Sentinel’s recruiting coverage coordinator, what he liked best about UK.
“Just me talking to Coach [Chad] Scott [running backs coach] a lot really helped me out and the bond has grown between me and him. Also, me knowing a few of their players like Jeff [Badet], and Jojo [Kemp] and Blake [McClain], that’s helping let me know a lot about what’s going on at Kentucky right now … they always give me honest feedback.”
USF: “The new coaching staff, I love them. I’ve always been a big fan of USF even with the previous coaching staff, and I’ve kept a good bond and everything so the feel for USF for me hasn’t changed.”
Johnson is a slot-type receiver who Hayes says “has a strong upper body and can fill any of the wide-receiver roles.” He runs a 4.47 40-yard dash. He is ranked among the top 100 players in Florida and caught 104 passes for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior years.
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s really not sure exactly where the nickname “Boom” came from other than one of his high school coaches started calling him that. However, recent Kentucky commit Stanley Williams has embraced the nickname and all it stands for.
“Every time I score, everybody just goes, ‘Boom’ when I score. The whole stadium does it,” said the Georgia standout who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back. “I have fun with it. I love the nickname. Everybody calls me that now and I am fine with Boom or Stanley. I’m looking forward to bringing that name to UK, and when I score touchdowns in the stadium, having the whole stadium going ‘Boom’ when I score.”
He admits it would be “cool” to have his name listed on the roster as Boom.
“I think fans would really like that,” Williams said.
Williams wasn’t expecting to commit to UK when he did last week. However, he said his visit was “so great” he felt there was no need to wait any longer.
“I can’t wait to get back up here. I can’t wait until they have home games this year I can watch,” Williams said. “The whole atmosphere when I came up for my visit was great. Just the love everybody showed me. It was unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere where the connection with all the coaches is like that. I just felt like it was a great home for me. Everything was great. Academics, athletics, football. They expect a lot out of players on the field and academically. It’s just a great school where I can get a great education.
“Me and my family felt that would be my home. My mom felt comfortable. My dad did. My sister did. That is was also helped trigger my commitment. We all felt like it was the right place for me.
“The coaches talk about the most loyal fans and the family atmosphere on campus. All those things they said were true. You don’t get many people to talk straight up with you about things, but the Kentucky staff was that way. Me and my mom were both really impressed. She loves Kentucky and can’t wait to get me rolling up there and I can’t wait to make Kentucky a big school in the SEC again.”
Williams, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds as a 175-pound freshman when he verbally committed to Georgia, had not heard from Kentucky before the new staff arrived. He knew about head coach Mark Stoops from his reputation at Florida State and UK running backs coach Chad Scott had recruited him for Texas Tech.
“I hadn’t even received any mail from Kentucky before. Hearing from Kentucky was something totally new to me and my family. Once they started recruiting me, they were really impressed with my film. I was definitely interested in trying to help Kentucky be one of the top schools in the SEC,” Williams said.
“I watched film of the offense and how they use their running backs. They spread guys out over the whole field so that defenses can’t have many guys in the box. That will let me operate in the middle behind my offensive linemen. The offense allows me to get in space and make plays. The coaches are looking for me to make plays and will put the ball in my hands to make plays. I’ll get to make plays one on one against linebackers and hopefully send out a lot of booms in the Kentucky stadium. Just looking at what (offensive coordinator Neal Brown and staff) ran at Texas Tech, they’ll let me set up my blocks and then it will be up to me to do some work and score.
“We will have a lot of mismatches. (Quarterback) Drew Barker will have so many weapons. I’ll do most of my work making plays and catching balls. I started trying to expand my game in spring practice so defenses could not get a feel for me at one position. Expect me to be all over the field making plays at Kentucky.”
He said he “clicked” with UK secondary coach Bradley Dale Peveto, his main recruiter. That was another reason he picked UK over Mississippi State, West Virginia, Arizona and Wisconsin, his other finalists after he de-committed from Georgia.
“I just wanted to be part of something great with coach Stoops,” Williams said. “It’s just an honor to be recruited by Kentucky. This is going to be the best recruiting class Kentucky has ever had. We have got a lot of great people. There are a lot of things going on, and more guys are going to come, too. Kentucky recruiting is just going crazy. To be honest, I’ve never seen a fan base like Kentucky. The fans are incredible and stick with the team. I can’t wait to play in front of those crazy fans.”