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By LARRY VAUGHT
While Kentucky has played a lot of true freshmen this season, coach Mark Stoops says there are also players being redshirted who could have played this season and easily could start next season.
“Some of the linemen (could start). Ramsey’s a guy that jumps out, Ramsey Meyers, right away. He’s got good size to him. I want to say he’s in the 330 (pound) range right now. And again, he plays very hard. He’s nasty and athletic. He’s a guy that can help us inside definitely,” said Stoops. “Kyle Meadows. I like Kyle and all those guys, really.”
On the defensive side, he again mentioned lineman Regie Meant.
“He’s gained probably 20, 30 pounds. He’s probably 290 right now,” Stoops said. “Jacob Hyde has changed his body. He really works hard. I’m really proud of Jacob. I think he’s been a big, strong guy, but he’s actually leaned up a little bit and getting more flexibility and working hard.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown says redshirting certain linemen — even if they could have helped this season — was the right thing to do.
“Here’s the way I look at it: Let’s look at Jordan Swindle; Jordan Swindle is a sophomore right now. Now if he was a redshirt freshman doing what he’s doing, then you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ You know what I mean?” Brown said. “So I just believe that from a wear-and-tear standpoint up front, the right thing is to redshirt those guys.
“They’re going to be so much better as redshirt freshman and have four … they have a chance to have four great years, where this year it would’ve been up and down. Now by this time could they help us? No question. Would they have been a factor Week one, two or three? Probably not.”
Brown said those players being redshirted have taken advantage of the chance to lift more weights to get stronger.
“Like Kyle Meadows is a great example. He’s put on anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds just from preseason camp. And those guys, because those guys are lifting; they’re not traveling and those guys are able to spend more time in the weight room. Not worrying about conditioning right now, but just from a strength standpoint, they would not have gotten as strong as they are right now,” Brown said.
Brown also sees talent on the defensive scout team he faces daily.
“Regie Meant’s the first one who jumps out. Regie Meant, he’s going to be a big factor,” Brown said. “I don’t want to speak for (defensive coordinator) D.J. (Eliot) or Mark (Stoops), but he’s going to be a major factor in what they’re doing. And J.D. (Harmon) unfortunately is over there (because he’s academically ineligible) and he did it to himself, but I mean he’s over there and he’s athletically, and you know, he played a lot of football last year and he’s a guy from an athletic standpoint will definitely help.
“And Melvin Lewis is a kid, who if he continues to get in shape and continues to get stronger and takes coaching, he’s a guy in there who can be a factor, too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was an all-Southeastern Conference defensive tackle at Auburn where he started 44 of 48 games and had 291 tackles and three times made the all-SEC team. He played with the San Francisco 49ers in 2000, but spent most of his pro career in the XFL with the Birmingham Bolts and in arena football with the Georgia Force and Birmingham Steel Dogs.
Brumbaugh was also a member of LSU’s staff during its national championship in 2007 and his most recent BCS stop was a two-year stint at Syracuse University, where he coached the defensive tackles in 2011 and the defensive line in 2010. He coached last year at East Mississippi Community College and helped the team to a top 10 national ranking and 8-2 record.
Brumbaugh shared his thoughts on UK’s defensive front after a recent practice.
Question: How do you feel depth is developing on the defensive front?
Brumbaugh: “Right now we have some guys behind the inside guys (Mister) Cobble and Donte (Rumph) that we are trying to work in there. Mike Douglas and Tristian Johnson have been doing some things well and getting better. That’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to build those second-team guys to get in there and do things.”
Question: How are freshman Jacob Hyde and redshirt freshman Patrick Graffree doing at tackle?
Brumbaugh: “They are really coming along. I have been pleasantly surprised by both of them. Experience is the key to success. I am just trying to put them in good situations. They have been picking it up. They just need more reps.”
Question: Has it helped freshman Jason Hatcher get more reps at end with junior college transfer Za’Darius Smith being out with an ankle injury?
Brumbaugh: “We knew that we were going to bring him along fast, so I don’t think Za’Darius going down or not being here really changed that. We knew we wanted to get him in there because he has some ability. He is strong for his size and has the ability to come off the edge. He does some good things with just having a quick twitch off the edge to give us a pass rusher.”
Question: Has it been frustrating not to have Smith on the field?
Brumbaugh: “No. I know what he can do. We want to make sure he is healthy. If you put them out there too fast and they are not healthy, it can hurt us.”
Question: Would it be tougher if you had not coached him in junior college?
Brumbaugh: “Yeah, it would be. I had him all last year and all spring. I know what he can do and what his strengths and weaknesses are. When he comes back, we will be able to put him in there and work with him.”
Question: What will we see when he is able to play and go full speed?
Brumbaugh: “He was still working around these guys when he got here in the spring and learning how to do things. Now that he is at that point, I think he will go back to what he was, that guy who can really make plays. We need him back and being an impact defensive end for us.”
Question: Have you had anyone along the front emerge as a leader?
Brumbaugh: “I think a couple of guys. I don’t think I have one guy that I can just say he is the dominant leader in the pack. I have a lot of guys that are right there, but no guy that is just that leader. I tell you, I have been surprised and happy with them and their attitudes. They want to work and want to get better.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
A number of former Kentucky players who know far more football than me watched UK’s open practice Friday. Here is how one analyzed the quarterback competition and more in a concise, blunt way that I think you will enjoy:
“Here is what I saw:
“Whitlow. sharp with swagger. Acts like the job is his. MUCH improved passer and just carries himself with confidence
“Towles. great long passer. Looks much better physically. Has trouble getting the ball out of his hands on short passes more so than Whitlow or Phillips BUT he is much more ‘together’ than in the spring.
“Smith. I think he will be third or fourth string. Has trouble getting the ball out on short passes and misses long touch passes. Best on 12-15 yard crossing patterns and out patterns. I guess you would call him a classic intermediate dropback passer. Which does not get it anymore. I hope I am wrong but it looks like the injuries are taking their toll. Hope I am wrong. Great kid.
“Phillips. EASILY the most natural passer. NEVER throws a duck or a bad pass. Kid looks like he really has got it. Wonder what happens when Barker and him and Towles and Whitlow are all around.
“CONCLUSION: Whitlow is the man. Why? The air-raid style offenses have changed. Having a QB that is a run threat makes the defense one player short in coverage. Don’t believe me? Look up RG3 and Johnny Football for further evidence.
“TEAM as a whole. I loved the looks of the new receivers and the new linemen. Ramsey Meyer looks enormous and Jacob Hyde looks like one of those Crimson Tide guys. The drills were crisp. NO wasted time. NO jacking or jiving around. Players were LOCKED on to coaches when they were talking. NO SLOPPY FAT guys, either. Just a whole different style of coaches and coaching.”
While Jason Hatcher waited until Wednesday to make his commitment to Kentucky, Clay County defensive lineman Jacob Hyde was the first member of UK’s recruiting class for then coach Joker Phillips and his staff.
New Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday he was glad to have Hyde in his first recruiting class.
“Absolutely, very important to keep Jacob. Big, strong guy I love his accent,” said Stoops. “Just a great person to be around. Big, strong guy and very excited to have him in our program.
“We worked extremely hard to get some big guys. You need some size, you need girth but you always need size in this program because those guys take a bit of time to develop as well. Some guys come in ready to go and other guys need a couple of years to develop and get bigger and stronger.”
Kentucky’s other in-state signee, Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons — who made his decision Tuesday — was called a “dynamic player” as well as a “high priority” for UK.
“He’s a home‑run threat every time he touches the ball. He’s very versatile, and, again, tremendous family, great person, great student, joy to be around and was very high priority for us,” Stoops said. “I had to play catch‑up on him being that I was on the defensive side of the ball (at Florida State) and it wasn’t my area. I wasn’t familiar with him.”
It didn’t take long for him to realize he was a “big-time important” recruit for UK.
“Ryan was the first school we went into, this new staff, myself, or the assistants. First guy we went to see was Ryan Timmons, so that’s the priority we had on him and, of course, that was on the way to go see Jason Hatcher,” Stoops said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky now officially has in-state products Ryan Timmons and Jacob Hyde on the signee list along with Florida defensive end Alvonte Bell and junior college receiver Javess Blue, who could be the biggest steal in the recruiting class.
Ryan Timmons, Athlete, 5-10, 185, Fr-HS, Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin County) – Dynamic playmaker who was all over the field offensively in high school … Played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks … Produced eye-popping numbers … First-team all-state as a junior and senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal … Also all-state as a senior by The Associated Press and a member of the Lexington Herald-Leader “Class of the Commonwealth” … Rushed for 1,306 yards and 25 touchdowns his senior season, averaging an amazing 15.7 yards per attempt … Caught 33 passes for 1,004 yards and 16 TDs, averaging more than 30 yards per reception … Opponents kicked off to him only three times and he returned them all for touchdowns … Had equally incredible numbers his junior season … Rushed 62 times for 1,382 yards, averaging 22.3 yards per carry, and 20 touchdowns … Also had 38 receptions for 1,100 yards, a 28.9 average, and 18 touchdowns his junior campaign … Versatility makes him difficult to define as he ranks as the nation’s No. 23 running backby 247 Sports.com, the No. 28 athlete by ESPN.com and the No. 46 wide receiver by Scout.com
Alvonte Bell, Defensive End, 6-5, 255, Fr-HS, Miramar, Fla. (Everglades) – Explosive defensive end at Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla., where he was coached by Rodney Rumph … The nation’s No. 24 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com … The No. 34 overall defensive end according to Scout.com … “Bell is a raw athlete with speed, length, and quickness that attracts attention his way. He has long arms to get into passing lanes, he can move well in space, and he really pursues the ball well,” according to Scout analyst Chad Simmons … Was timed at 4.88 in the 40 with a 27-inch vertical … Made 40 tackles as a junior, with his 18 total tackles for loss including 11 quarterback sacks … Helped led the team to the Florida Class 6A regional quarterfinals his freshman and sophomore seasons … Missed much of his senior season because of injury … Began high school career as a basketball star before making the move to football … Name is pronounced “al-VON-tay.”
Jacob Hyde, Defensive Lineman, 6-2, 330, Fr-HS, Manchester, Ky. (Clay County) – Was Kentucky’s first verbal commitment of the 2013 signing class … One of the nation’s top-50 defensive tackles by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … First-team all-state as a senior as chosen by The Associated Press …Comes to Lexington from Clay County High School, where he played for head coach Shannon Arnett … Played defensive tackle and offensive guard in high school, but is projected on the defensive side for Kentucky … Helped Clay County finish 8-4 his sophomore season en route to an appearance in the Class AAAAA state playoffs … Helped lead Kentucky all-stars to a 29-27 win over Tennessee in the National Guard Border Bowl … Played for the USA national team in the International Bowl on Feb. 5 in Austin, Tex. … Named All-SEKC by MaxPreps.com … Also chosen first team on the All-Mountain squad.
Javess Blue, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 190, Jr-JC, Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler Community College) –Second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American during his sophomore season at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas … Also was named first-team all-conference … Ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college player by ESPN.com … Led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65, receiving yards with 1,064 and receiving touchdowns with 12 … Ranked in the top-10 nationally in each category … Averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt returns … Helped the team to a 11-1 record in 2012, winning the Region VI Championship before falling in the Graphic Edge National Championship Bowl … Grizzlies were the Region VI Champions, KJCCC Champions and played in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl his freshman season … Great freshman season with 27 receptions for 586 yards, a 21.7-yard average, and three touchdowns … Coached by Troy Morrell at Butler Community College … Big-play receiver at Lake Wales (Fla.) HS … Caught 88 passes for 1,774 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards catch, during his final two seasons at LWHS… Helped team advance to the Class AAA state semifinals his junior season with an 11-2 record … Clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash … Coached in high school by Rod Shafer … Name is pronounced “JAY-vess.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Clay County defensive lineman Jacob Hyde got a bit worried when Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was named Kentucky’s new coach. Hyde was the first in-state player to verbally commit to Kentucky and didn’t know if his commitment would be honored by Stoops.
“Not knowing what was going to happen with the coach was hard,” said Hyde, who will play in the National Guard Border Bowl Jan. 12 against the Tennessee all-stars. “I did not commit to a coaching staff. I committed to the university. When coach Stoops was hired, I was freaking out. I didn’t know if he would honor my scholarship or not.”
That was quickly taken care of when Stoops called to assure Hyde that he had a future at Kentucky and kept Hyde from having any reason to panic Sunday at Stoops’ introductory press conference when he said only commits that were the “right fit” for his system would have scholarship offers honored.
“It’s all good for me,” Hyde, who talked to Stoops 48 hours after he was hired, said. “Like he said, you have to fit his system to keep the scholarship offer and just knowing he believes so strong in me and will honor my commitment so that I can fulfill my childhood dreams. It is a blessing for me.
“Coach Stoops seems like an upfront guy. He doesn’t beat around a bunch. He is the type of coach Kentucky needs. Someone to grab the bull by the honors and turn the program around. I am excited that he can do that.”
Hyde figures he’ll get to meet new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot when he takes his official visit next month.
“It shocked me that a coaching change had to be made. It hurts seeing coach (Joker) Philllips leave, but I’m glad he got another job (as receivers coach at Florida),” Hyde said. “I have known him since my sophomore year. He was a big reason I wanted to be part of the team. It hurts that he is gone, but you have to go on.
“The fans around here can’t wait to see me in this program and see what coach Stoops does. Everything around here is very positive about UK football right now. I know it will be good playing there. Things have changed, but I’m still excited about playing at Kentucky and excited to have coach Stoops as my coach.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Defensive lineman Jacob Hyde of Clay County, the only in-state commitment for the University of Kentucky in the 2013 recruiting class, was one of 12 players named today to play in the Jan. 5 National Guard Border Bowl in Williamsburg against an all-star team from Tennessee.
“This is a huge honor,” said Hyde. “I know how big this game has become, especially in eastern Kentucky. I am honored to be chosen already and very proud to be playing in this game.”
Lexington Catholic quarterback Kyle Bolin, a Louisville commit, was also named to the team. So was versatile athlete Ryan Timmons of Franklin County, who has numerous offers, including one from Kentucky but seems to be favoring Ohio State.
Other players named to the team this morning during a press conference at the Kentucky National Guard headquarters were Logan Woodside of Franklin County, Jeffrey Canady of Knox Central, Boston Bryant of Whitley County, Michael Jones of Danville, Kentayvus Hopkins of Bourbon County, Joey Bloomfield of Ballard, Tony Messer of Belfry, Jake Middleton of Harlan County and Domonick Brown of John Hardin.
Being picked for the game had special significance for Jones, a lineman, because his father is a former Marine who was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, during the Vietnam war.
“I was really hoping to be invited to the game, but never thought about it coming this early,” Jones said. “I thought maybe it would be at the end of the season if I had a good year. I am just honored to think I will be part of this game and am already looking forward to it. The military’s commitment to this game just makes it even more special for me to be in it with my dad being a former Marine. And representing the state of Kentucky in a game like this is big, too.”
This is the first year the Border Bowl has named an early list of players to participate in the game. Coach Tom Larkey of Harlan County and his staff will work with the Border Bowl committee to complete the roster after the season ends.
By LARRY VAUGHT
During his 18 days practicing and playing with Team USA in the Under 19 World Championships in Austin, Texas, University of Kentucky commit Jacob Hyde of Clay County did his best to share all the good news he could about the Wildcats.
“We had a lot of good players on our team. It was surprising how much talent there was surrounding me,” said Hyde, a defensive lineman and UK’s only in-state commitment in the 2013 recruiting class. “I talked all I could about the university. Most guys were interested in what I had to say about UK. I was trying to do all the recruiting I could.”
Team USA beat Samoa 27-6 in its first game and routed Austria 70-7 in the semifinals before falling 23-17 to Canada in the championship game.
“Jacob had his best game and totally controlled the middle of the defensive line. It was a great honor for him to represent Team USA and the quality of coaching was outstanding,” family friend Jeff Garrison said. “All of their daily meetings were in the suites of the UT (University of Texas) football stadium. He will be a much better player and person for the 18 days he spent in Austin. Meeting all these teammates from all over the U.S. and the other players from all over the world has given him a new perspective.”
Hyde said he met a lot of new friends and created new, family-type relationships, including some with players bound for other SEC schools.
“I just told them all I would see them in the years ahead and to look out for Kentucky,” Hyde, who roomed with Notre Dame commit Hunter Bivin of Owensboro Apollo, said.
Hyde was one of the players picked for the team who did not have to try out. He was so impressive during a ESPN camp in Charlotte that all he had to do was pass an interview with the Team USA coaching staff to secure his spot on the team.
“I guess I was just one of the lucky ones to get picked,” Hyde said Sunday night after returning to Manchester in time to start preseason practice Monday. “Hopefully being on the team will get me more respect than anything. I am not worried about recognition, just respect. I am satisified with where I am going to school, but it was a great honor to be on this team and be just one of two players from Kentucky on the team.”
There were also teams from France, Sweden and Japan playing in Texas.
“I learned a lot about how other countries play ball and their style,” Hyde said. “The other teams were a little bit slower than mosst American teams, but they get the concepts of the game. I had good games. I learned a little bit from each of our coaches. Just being part of this will make me a better player in the long run and also a better person because of all the people I was exposed to.”
Hyde is active at Manchester Baptist Church and helps with God’s Closet, a clothing ministry.
“I just love helping the community and helping people in need. I guess I am just a kind-hearted guy,” Hyde said. “I have always been active in the church like that. I have got to give a little back of what the good Lord gave me. Doing that kind of stuff helps keep you level headed. You see some people come through there and that lets you know you are blessed with what you have got every day.”
Hyde knows he’ll have to show he’s “blessed” on the field this season after making his early verbal commitment to coach Joker Phillips and Kentucky.
“I know I have to be a better leader on and off the field and be a better player,” Hyde said. “I know more is expected of me, but that does not bother me too much. If anything, I kind of like it.”
He also feels confident that his future team is going to have a better 2012 season than many expect.
“I keep up with other recurits and it looks like we are going to be okay,” Hyde said. “I really think Kentucky is going to shock a lot of people this year. I am going to be there a lot to watch them play and I think they are really going to suprise people with how good they are.”