Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky fans even took time to throw up the “3 goggles” in the Alps
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
- ESPN.com’s Jason King seems to have logical rankings going into next season
- Mark Stoops on John Calipari: “I love being around him”
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands that hiring Vince Marrow was a home run for Kentucky
- Video: Larry hears cowbells, makes a chocolate cow and soaks up the culture in Switzerland
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky signee JoJo Kemp did “my research” on the Texas Tech offense under Neal Brown and liked what he saw. He played for three different head coaches in high school and had to learn a variety of offenses.
“The good thing is I did learn a lot by having three different coaches,” Kemp , a power lifter who went to the state meet two straight years, said. “But I think with me being a complete back, I am made for an offense like the one coach Brown uses. I am still learning and want to improve and get better. I know there are things I can learn to make me even better. I feel like Kentucky is on the rise and making a new start. We can only go up.
“I am going in believing we can win. That’s the attitude I will stay with the whole year. I will keep all the negative thoughts out. I will always keep thinking positive.”
That was made easier after 50,000 or more fans came to UK’s spring game. The Florida running back read about that and watched on TV.
“I felt like I was at the game,” Kemp said. “I loved that. Honestly, it just gave me the chills.
“This month has gone by so slow. I have been working out. I am just so ready and excited to be up there and start being around my teammates and pushing each other to get better. I know I am going to be in the right environment to grow as a person on and off the field. I am super excited and can’t wait to get there in early June.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s heard the talk about him being a potential Southeastern Conference freshman of the year candidate, but that doesn’t bother Florida running back JoJo Kemp.
Instead, he’s embracing the lofty ambitions others have him for him as he prepares for his career at the University of Kentucky.
“I set high goals for myself. The only thing I can do is work hard and believe in God and the rest will take care of itself,” said Kemp, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 10 multipurpose back by Rivals.com and No. 28 overall running back by ESPN.com. “I am not worried about the expectations fans have for me. I just have to continue to bust my behind to lift my teammates around me. What happens, happens.”
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he does expect Kemp “to push for playing time early” because of his various skills. However, he doesn’t want the SEC freshman of the year talk to get out of hand.
“I think that is a little much. Let’s get him a carry over two before we start anointing him, but he is a good player,” Brown said. “I thought he was a kid that was a little under recruited. He is a kid when we came here that we knew we needed to sign another running back and he was our No. 1 target from the get-go. For (running backs coach) Chad (Scott) to pull that off was huge. To identify who we wanted in mid-December and go out and get him locked in was huge for our program.”
Kemp believe he is a “complete back” because of all he can do.
“I can catch, run, stay in to block for the quarterback. That is what makes a complete back,” Kemp said.
He rushed for 1,469 yards and 23 touchdowns on 255 carries in 2012 and ran for 1,163 yards and 14 scores on 178 attempts in 2011.
Brian Linder of the Daytona Beach News Journal thinks Kentucky got a special player in Kemp.
“The first time I saw Jojo play was the ESPN2 game against Jacksonville Sandalwood. Sandalwood had a handful of big-time Division 1 guys on its defense — including DeMarcus Walker and Kain Daub — and Kemp rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns. And, I think, he showed that he is a complete back,” Linder said. “He is not a burner, but he has good burst — when he sees the open field he hits another gear — and decent speed.
“He keeps his feet moving and had great balance. He is deceptively strong and does a good job of bouncing off tacklers. He is not afraid to run between the tackles. He just has all the tools to be a very good player at the next level.”
Linder expected Kemp to go to either West Virginia or Pittsburgh.
“I believe he had two SEC offers — Kentucky and Tennessee. I think he is driven by the fact that he feels he was a bit overlooked early. In that case, it makes sense that he would want to prove himself in the SEC,” Lincer said. “He could be an impact player next season. I don’t think there’s any doubt. It won’t be easy in the SEC, but he seems like the type of kid that will keep battling until he earns playing time.”
Kemp actually had interest in Kentucky even before Brown arrived with his productive offense and had been recruited by former UK assistant coach Greg Nord.
“I had an interest in Kentucky because I wanted a chance to go to school out of Florida and make a name for myself,” Kemp said. “That’s what I always wanted to do. When coach (Mark) Stoops got there and then coach Brown and coach Scott came, I really got interested. Coach Scott talked to me about how he did as a freshman (at Kentucky) and I built a good relationship with him.
“It helped a lot knowing coach Scott had played in this offense. He reminded me of my high school coach. We built a connection. He will help me grow and mature and make be a better person outside football. He will push me on and off the field.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Running backs coach Chad Scott, a former Kentucky player, said it was easy for him to recruit for the Wildcats and expects to be part of the same productive offense he was at Texas Tech under offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “Our expectations don’t change,” said Scott. “We want to move the ball and score points and think we are bringing in players that can help do that.”
Scott offers his insights on some UK signees as well as some returning players.
Question: Have you just followed everything receiver Javess Blue has done for the last three or more years?
Scott: “I have been knowing him for four years. I have been recruiting him since the 11th grade in high school. We have a great relationship.”
Question: What was there about him that you knew you wanted to stay in touch and keep a relationship going even when he had to go to junior college?
Scott: “He had phenomenal ability. We genuinely wanted him at Texas Tech. Then toward the end of his senior year, the grades didn’t let him qualify. Since I had recruited him the whole time, I felt like the best thing to do for the kid was to continue to recruit him and we actually signed him and placed him there at (Butler Community College). He is a great kid, great person, great player. I got a chance to meet his mom, who is a great lady. I wanted to take care of him.”
Question: What makes him so good, especially since his coach admitted fundamentally he had things still to learn?
Scott: “He is just a player. That is the thing about hit. Even though he has been as good as he has on the junior college level, when he comes here and gets the coaching coupled with what he does naturally, he ought to be a big hit. He is just an explosive football player. God-given talent.”
Question: How good is Florida running back JoJo Kemp?
Scott: “He has such diverse skill set. He is a guy that can pound it between the tackles. He can make you miss in space and take it to the house. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He is a complete back in my mind with diverse skill set.”
Question: Will Ryan Timmons line up in the backfield?
Scott: “He will. We will motion him back there just to get the ball in his hands. That’s the good thing about this offense. You can be so multiple in a variety of ways to get different guys involved in the offense and get certain guys the ball in space and let them make plays. So he will be in the backfield.”
Question: Is it easy to see Neal Brown’s offense to recruits?
Scott: “No question. Just as easy as coming back here to Kentucky to coach. It’s very easy because I played in it and now I have been it for seven years. I understand position by position what guys are able to do in the offense and what their ability will allow them to do and ways we can get them the ball. That makes their ability even more than what it was coming into the system.”
Question: Did the success at Texas Tech just make recruits immediately recognize that offense even if they didn’t know specifically who was coaching the offense?
Scott: “That is what is exciting because we were down there in west Texas with this offense. But because the offense was so successful, we got TV time on the east coast and now we are going to bring that style of offense over here to our stomping grounds where we are from. That makes it even more exciting. That makes guys want to play in even more.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops isn’t sure if all his signing classes will have such a large percentage of Florida players — 11 of 22 signees were Florida native — but he wants to continue to use his connections in that state all he can.
“There are a lot of great players that come out of Florida. It’s probably the way it fell because of our relationships with some of them. So I don’t know if it would be the exact percentage in the future, but I’m not going to put any limitations on it,” said Stoops. “There is a lot of talent down there but we’re going to work extremely hard to hit everybody we can within a four-, five-, six‑hour drive from Lexington.”
Chris Hays, Orlando Sentinel recruiting coverage coordinator, said he saw a “major push” from Kentucky this season in Florida that only intensified after Stoops, the former Florida State defensive coordinator, took over at UK.
“Stoops has a name to perk up the ears of players,” Hays said. “Kentucky did make a push here early. They got Blake McClain on board early and it was obvious they were trying to come into Florida and get things going like Iowa State has done. Look at Louisville with Charlie Strong’s connections and that roster and what they have done. Coming to Florida is a trend you are seeing more and coaches can be successful here getting great players because there are a lot of them.
“With Stoops, kids here are buying into his rah-rah philosophy of being part of a big turnaround at Kentucky. Pop Warner football is huge here. Kids start paying young and all buy into football.”
Florida high school football consists of eight divisions. There are 76 Class 8-A schools — and UK signees Alex Montgomery, Alvonte Bell, Blake McClain, JoJo Kemp and Jeff Badet all played for 8-A schools. Others played in 5-A or 6-A.
Recruiting analysts indicate 5-A to 8-A schools in Florida is comparable to the play of Louisville Trinity and Highlands, two of Kentucky’s best programs each year. Hays says Kentucky has a variety of playmakers with the Florida signees.
“Badet wants the ball and when he does get it, he gets the job done and is a big-play receiver,” Hays said. “I watched Kemp a lot. He’s a terrific running back. He can do a lot of things with the football. He has a tremendous upside. It will be fun to see him in the spread offense. He’s very athletic, has tremendous balance and does a good job after taking hits. He’s very determined and strong because he played linebacker the early part of his career.
“Montgomery, I am a huge fan of his. The show he put on in the state title game (nine catches for 199 yards and three scores) was something. He’s a very good kid, too. He is a tremendous athlete and the plays he makes are plays other guys can’t make. He just makes plays out of something that is not there. Javess Blue was highly recruited out of high school and then did well at junior college. I would think he can be terrific.
“McClain is surprisingly athletic for a defensive back. He played wide receiver on offense. He does a lot of different things. He can pick the ball and do a lot of things athletically to get the ball back to the end zone. He’s also a good kick returner. He will be a good locker room type of guy for Kentucky.”
Stoops called Kemp a “home run hitter” and a player that UK “targeted as a high priority” immediately. Badet was another player Stoops said his staff targeted immediately because of his “home run speed.”
The UK coach already knew plenty about Montgomery.
“He comes from a tremendous program, big‑time wide receiver that I knew about and had my eye on him for a good bit. Anybody that goes into the state championship game and has— what did he have 9 catches for 190 yards or something like that, you know he’s a heck of a football player. I’ve known Alex for a while. It was a great get for us, a guy that’s a strong receiver who can make plays,” Stoops said.
Another player he knew plenty about was running back Khalid Thomas and the Tallahassee high school where he played. “He is a solid player that’s going to give us some depth and have a punch to our class,” Stoops said.
Another player Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot knew they wanted to keep committed to UK was defensive linemen Alvonte Bell “We offered him at Florida State. Alvonte has great size range and great upside, and very excited to see him committed when I arrived here on campus. We worked hard at keeping that relationship with Alvonte with us because we think an awful lot of him,” Stoops said.
Offensive lineman Ramsey Myers was another early UK commit that Stoops says offensive coordinator Neal Brown and offensive line coach John Schlarman wanted to keep.
Offensive lineman Nick Haynes signed after being recruited for only about two weeks by Stoops and his staff. “Nick Haynes is a guy we just started working a couple of weeks ago and just had a chance to watch him and get caught up with him on film. Extremely impressed with his athletic ability. Again, great size, a guy that’s very versatile. We feel that he could play some center as well as guard. Excited about him,” Stoops said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky is up to 21 signees now and waiting only on Florida running back JoJo Kemp to get his paper work in to have every player who verbally committed to the Cats going into today now signed.
Athlete Khalid Thomas and receiver Alex Montgomery, both of Florida, are the latest signees and UK now has nine players signed from the state of Florida, an all-time high.
Khalid Thomas, Athlete • 5-10, 170 • Fr-HS, Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby)
Skilled athlete who was named the 2012 Tallahassee Quarterback Club’s Most Valuable Player of the Year after helping Godby High School win the 2012 Class AAAAA state championship … Had 13 carries for 70 yards in the state championship game … Scored the game-winning touchdown on a 28-yard run, breaking multiple tackles in the process, in Godby’s 21-20 title triumph … Team posted a 14-1 record under Coach Ronnie Cottrell … Outstanding senior campaign, rushing 184 times for 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns … Also had 23 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown last fall … Led Godby in rushing and receiving his junior season … Had 958 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns his junior season, while also posting 421 receiving yards … Also played some defense in high school, making some interceptions … Named Class 1A-5A all-state second team his senior season and was a Tallahassee Democrat All-Big Bend Co-Player of the Year … Brother of current UK linebacker Kadeem “Pancho” Thomas … The nation’s No. 27 all-purpose back by 247Sports.com … 4quartersonline.com said Thomas is “an elusive multi-purpose back that can give opposition teams nightmares.” … ESPN.com praises Thomas for versatility, being a playmaker and his ball skills … Name is pronounced “kah-LEED.”
Alex Montgomery, Wide Receiver • 6-2, 210 • Fr-HS, Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay)
First-team all-state wide receiver from Cypress Bay High School, where he helped his team to the 8A state championship game his senior season, regional semifinals his junior year and state semifinals his sophomore season … Ended his high school career in fine fashion with a tremendous performance in the 8A state championship game … Had nine catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the final, including a nifty one-handed touchdown catch … His 199 receiving yards was a state finals record … Also played defensive back and had what appeared to be the game-winning interception in the state championship game before a late penalty nullified the play … In the two playoff games before the state final, Montgomery returned an interception for a touchdown in each, first for 34 yards and then 56 yards … Had 42 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year en route to first-team all-state honors by the Miami Herald … Ended his junior campaign with 27 catches for 556 yards and 10 touchdowns … Coached by Mark Guandolo … ESPN.com lists key traits as good hands and speed … Ranked as the nation’s No. 51 wide receiver by Rivals.com.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky got commitments from two players with the playmaking ability that offensive coordinator Neal Brown wants in his offense in a 30-minute period Friday night when receiver Jeff Badet and running back JoJo Kemp, both of Florida, both verbally committed to sign with the Wildcats on Wednesday during the first day of the national signing period.
Both were expected to pick UK over a host of other schools, but Kemp said he wasn’t convinced what he would do until Brown and running backs coach Chad Scott made a visit to him Thursday after coaches from West Virginia, South Florida and Pittsburgh had stopped by in the previous 24 hours.
The 5-10, 210-pound Kemp is ranked as the nation’s 10th best multipurpose back by Rivals.com. He rushed 255 times for 1,459 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012 for DeLand High School.
“They said they were not going to spend their time negative recruiting against the other programs,” Kemp told the Daytona Beach News Journal.. “They said they were going to spend their time explaining Kentucky’s program. And I just thought, ‘Those are the type of guys that I want to play for … positive, respectful guys like that.’”
Kemp had verbally committed to South Florida last summer, but changed his mind midway of his senior football season.
Several national recruiting analysts project that his versatility as a runner and receiver will be a perfect fit in Brown’s spread offense.
Badet, who played for Orlando Freedom High School, had narrowed his college list to Kentucky, Wake Forest and Iowa State. He turned down late scholarship offers from UCLA and Wisconsin.
The 5-11, 190-pound Badet, who also originally committed to South Florida, , had 63 catches for 881 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. He also ran 28 time for 326 yards and six more scores and had 319 yards in kickoff returns.
“Jeff has always impressed me with his speed after the catch. He’ll catch a ball on a slant pattern across the middle and then turn it on. Rarely have I seen defenders be able to collapse fast enough to contain him if he has any kind of space,” Chris Hays, recruiting coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel, said. “In three years of watching him, I can only remember one time that he dropped a ball, and that time he came right back and caught a long TD pass on the next play. He’s pretty sure-handed.
“Badet is a spread guy, with the speed and skills to fit right into an Air Raid sort of attack and thrive in it. It’s not unlike what he saw at his own high school.”
Hays thought for the last week or more that Badet would pick Kentucky despite the late push from UCLA and Wisconsin.
“Badet should be on the field with the first-teamers early, with his only drawback possibly being his confidence, or should I say, over confidence,” Hays said. “If he brings the right attitude and backs up any cockiness with his play, he will be in the rotation.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Friday could be a big day for Kentucky football recruiting again as two Florida prep standouts — running back JoJo Kemp and receiver Jeff Badet — both will make their college choices and it looks like both could pick Kentucky.
Here is what Scout.com’s evaluation of Kemp says: “At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he has enough size already to grow into a potential 210+ pound running back who will be able to carry the rock 20 times a game and get the tough yards inside. He’s a tremendous athlete who can make a lot of people miss in short space, too. He changes directions well. He can catch the ball very well out of the backfield. He’s just a good football player with plus athleticism.”
Kemp seems down to Kentucky, Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia. He made his official visit to Pittsburgh in early December and has been to UK and South Florida in recent weeks. One interesting note here is that Jaleel Hytchye and Blake McClain both visited Pitt the same weekend as Kemp and both have now committed to Kentucky.
The 5-11, 190-pound Kemp rushed for over 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
The 5-11, 170-pound Badet also has 4.5 speed. He has received late interest from UCLA and Wisconsin, but turned down a chance to visit UCLA this weekend.
Here is the Scout.com evaluation of Badet: “Badet has good speed but is quicker than fast. He’s elusive and displays good change of direction. Badet can sneak behind a secondary, will go over the middle and catch a short pass and make something happen. He really does a nice job of creating separation and getting open. Badet has good hands and concentration. He can go up and get the ball and can make the acrobatic grab. Look for him to play in the slot at the next level.”
Badet would give new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown another potential go-to receiver to go along with recent commit Alex Montgomery, another Florida prep standout.