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By LARRY VAUGHT

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive certainly seems like he is anticipating that SEC schools may well vote to add a ninth conference game — a move that would not seem to be in Kentucky’s favor.

Slive told the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast Region Association that he expects SEC presidents and chancellors to vote on whether to add a ninth league game before spring meetings May 27-30 in Destin, Fla.

He said possible scenarios to be considered include eight games or nine games, with or without permanent inter-division opponents. “We’ve shown them that with all the formats every one of them has advantages and disadvantages,” the commissioner said.Maybe nine games would be an advantage for the elite SEC teams, but for many — like Kentucky — it certainly would seem to make the job Mark Stoops faces even more daunting.

By LARRY VAUGHT

For fans wondering if attending Saturday’s Blue-White Game is important, Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow has a simple message.

“Most definitely attendance at the spring game impacts recruiting,” said Marrow. “I think what did it last year was a lot of those guys (recruits) and their parents saw a team come off a 2-10 record and people thinking football is not important … parents saw 50,000 people there and that made my job a lot easier in recruiting.

“I already felt good about recruiting and all those kids whether they were from Ohio or Florida were blown away by attendance (at the spring game). So it is important.”

Because of construction at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky can’t match last year’s attendance figure. Marrow has prepared recruits and their families for that, but he also knows enthusiastic fans — and a lot of them — can impact decisions players might make about UK while they are on unofficial visits to UK this weekend.

“We have told them numbers will be down and the thing is the stadium is being renovated and we can only have 40,000 in there,” Marrow said. “I have told recruits that you may have anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people here. I think as long as they see the crowds, the enthusiasm … and fans are more important. They did a big job last year selling that whole deal for us to recruits and families.”

He says Kentucky will have a lot of “top guys” coming for the Blue-White game. That includes players already signed with UK, players who have given verbal commitments for 2015 and others still undecided about college choices.

Kentucky got a key verbal commitment from linebacker Eli Brown of Bowling Green this week. Marrow expects more commitments next month just like UK had last year.

“Yeah, I assume so. We are a little behind because we started spring ball late. A lot of coaches are out on the road recruiting now. We have not been out yet, but I feel real good with the people we coming in to the spring game that we will get some commits in May,” Marrow said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

There have been times that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has had a few shots for Southeastern Conference football. However, he had no trouble putting on a Kentucky pullover Wednesday while watching his brother’s team at UK practice.

“No, he was cold,” UK coach Mark Stoops told reporters. “They like to support us. He’s proud to wear it. I’m sure he’ll take that home with him.”

His brother, Mike, the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, was also present for practice. The only brother missing was Ron, an assistant coach at Youngstown State.

The UK coach wanted his brothers to offer advice — and they even did during practice. More was expected to follow in the film room.

“That’s what there here for. I mean, they’re not here just for fun. We’ve got to put them to work,” Mark Stoops said. “So, absolutely that’s what we constantly do. We talk about ideas, ways to do things, different change ups, how they may play a certain formation or a certain adjustment.

“So it’s good to have them here. I’m definitely going to utilize them while they’re here to go watch some film of this practice and some previous spring practices and get some work done.”

Stoops’ brothers were not the only coaches at practice. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who knows Bob Stoops, also stopped by.

“He had some time this morning to come out and say hi and see my brothers and stop in and see a little bit of practice,” Mark Stoops said. “It was good to see him out here.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky has lost one receiver — A.J. Legree — to transfer and has another one — Jeff Badet — out for the next two to three months with a broken fibula.

Badet had 22 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown last season as a true freshman.

“He’s gonna be out. He got hurt the other day, Monday. He got hurt in Monday’s practice. He was alone. It was a good play-action pass; he was wide-open. He kind of got underthrown and just a freaky accident,” said UK coach Mark Stoops Wednesday when asked about Badet’s leg. “It looked like on film his own knee came down on his ankle and he broke a bone in his — he broke his fibular.

“So he’s gonna be out another two, three months. Clean break. Nothing — no surgery, anything like that. So he’ll be fine. Just needs to rest up.”

Legree, a junior, caught seven passes for 97 yards last season. Stoops said he had “wrapped it up” after being asked about Twitter mentions that Legree had left the team.

“He’s gonna quit and go play somewhere else and we wish him the best of luck,” Stoops said.

Kentucky was already thin on receivers with Javess Blue out with shoulder surgery and Alex Montgomery still recovering from a torn knee ligament. Ryan Timmons has also been limited by a shoulder injury suffered last week.

Kentucky had just four scholarship wide receivers —Rashad Cunningham, T.V. Williams, Demarco Robinson and Ryan Timmon — go through drills Wednesday and Timmons was not allowed to have any contact.

“We’ll be fine,” Stoops said. “I want the guys who want to be here; I’m not worried about any of that.”

Kentucky has a large number of players either injured or coming back from injuries at other positions as well.

“That’s the way it is. Some of them were through the winter with surgeries and some of them were dinged up in practice. The good news is, I think there’s nothing major — knock on wood — nothing that’s gonna keep guys out for the year. So we should be at 100 percent if we don’t have anything new happen,” Stoops said.

The coach said he likely would send the No. 1 offense and defense against the rest of the squad in Saturday’s Blue-White Game.

“So the only thing it’ll change as far as the fans and things like that — and most people do it — you’re gonna speed up the game somehow. We can’t afford to take a whole boatload of reps. We’re just thin. So we’ll iron out all the details and tell you, but it’ll be very similar to last year. Some type of abbreviated schedule,” Stoops said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has enjoyed the spring practice competition between offensive tackle Jordan Swindle and defensive end Bud Dupree.

“The great thing about those two is they’re really learning how to practice. It’s really important to both of them,” Stoops said. “They both have good energy and are becoming leaders on each side of the ball there, so it’s fun to watch them go at it. I like to tease Swindle because he’s the high-energy, but sometimes at that pace when we get going I don’t hear much from him.”

Being able to hold his own with Dupree shows how good Swindle might be this season because UK is counting on Dupree to be one of the Southeastern Conference’s best defensive linemen.

“I don’t want to use the term that everybody uses: freak. But athletically, he really does things very easy. And that even comes from like putting on weight, cutting weight,” Stoops said. “I don’t want to take anything away from him, because he works his tail off, but he’s blessed to have a lot of athletic ability and things come very natural to him as well.

“So he’s right where he needs to be. He’s very comfortable. He’s playing extremely fast. And again, I’ve said it before: he’s very versatile.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

With so much attention focused on Kentucky’s quarterback battle, there has not been as much buzz over the competition to see who will emerge as the starting running back among JoJo Kemp, Bryalon Heard, Josh Clemons and Mikel Horton.

I think running back, you can be by committee. Now, we’d like a guy to jump up and just be the guy and be able to do everything. But I think you can kind form that running back position around what people do the best. But I know coach (Chad) Scott wants a guy to emerge, and I’d like for that too, but you can — it’s not a negative if we do it by committee,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Monday.

What does he like best about the running backs currently?

“They’re catching the ball really well. They’re actually catching the ball better than our receivers, which I’m not sure is a good thing but they are,” Brown said. “They are doing a nice job. We do a deal where we do a catch percentage, and we want everybody — everybody should have a 90 percent or higher catch percentage. All the running backs do. They’ve had very few drops. We’re doing some things this spring to get them more involved in the pass game because all those guys that are playing can do that. So, I’m pleased with those.

“Pass protection wise, technique wise we’re good. We have a few technique errors, and some of that is because our defense is doing a lot as far as blitz. But I’m pleased overall with them in the pass game, from catching and blocking.”

Kentucky’s football recruiting got another big in-state boost Monday when Warren East linebacker Eli Brown gave his verbal commitment to UK Monday night.

He had offers from Ohio State, Penn State and Southern Cal among others. He originally committed to Vanderbilt but after he de-committed, UK became the leader for Brown, who is ranked among the nation’s top 125 players by Rivals.com.

He is considered the No. 8 junior outside linebacker nationally by Rivals and is a four-star player on ESPN.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com.

The only in-state player ranked ahead of him is Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, who has UK among the final 10 teams on his list after his earlier de-commitment from Michigan. He is scheduled to be at Saturday’s Blue-White Game.

Brown is the second in-state player in UK’s 2015 class following the earlier commitment by Henderson County offensive lineman Mason Wolfe.

Brown is UK’s fifth pledge in the 2015 class, joining four offensive linemen.

By LARRY VAUGHT

With injuries to so many receivers, offensive coordinator Neal Brown spent time after Monday’s practice catching passes from quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips to help give the quarterbacks extra throws.

“The quarterbacks aren’t getting enough work right now, so we’ve gotta build in pre-practice and post-practice stuff to make sure they’re getting enough reps in the stuff that we’re going to run,” said Brown as UK gets ready for the Blue-White Spring Game Saturday.

Brown again talked extensively about the quarterback race, which is down to three players after last week’s decision by returning starter Jalen Whitlow to transfer when the semester ends.

Question: How big a concern is it that he’ll have a quarterback starter who has played no college football or very little?

Brown: “Well, Patrick’s got very little (experience). You can probably count that as none almost. I think it’s a little bit of a concern. I don’t know. I’ll take talent over experience. As long as they’re talented, which the three kids that are practicing right now are talented; the ones that haven’t played, they’re talented. There will be some mistakes. I think you’ve gotta kind of factor that in. There’s going to be some mistakes. I think you gotta take care of them, especially early in the year, get them some confidence. But I feel good about those guys. They know how to prepare and we’ll do a good job putting them in a position where they can be successful.”

Question: Is there more pressure on Barker, Phillips and Towles with Whitlow gone?

Brown: “No, I don’t think so. I think there’s pressure at that position no matter what. At this level, in this conference, I think there’s pressure. Jalen being here or not being here, I don’t think that affects it. Whoever the guy’s going to be, there’s going to be quite a bit of pressure. I don’t think there’s any question. I don’t think we try to hide from that either.”

Question: Will he try to make sure he does all he can, including stacking the lineups, so the quarterbacks have a good spring game?

Brown: “Oh, I don’t know, that’s the head coach’s decision, man. Two-comma question.”

Question: Will all three quarterbacks come out on the first play of the Blue-White Game like he had Towles, Whitlow and Maxwell Smith do last year?

Brown: “No, I can’t. That wouldn’t be funny this year. That wouldn’t be funny. No, I don’t know. I haven’t even gotten to the spring game yet. We’ve got a big practice on Wednesday and then we’re lighter on Friday. So after Wednesday, I’ll probably start thinking more about the spring game.”

Question: Will he pick a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice or let it carry over into summer/fall?

Brown: “I don’t know. Coach (Mark) Stoops and I are going to have some conversations. We want to get it narrowed down. I don’t know if we’ll pick one on Saturday. Something will probably have to happen over the next week or so to make that determinations. But we do plan to hopefully narrow it down. We’ll see how it goes.”

Question: Is it important for players to know who the starter at quarterback is for summer workouts?

Brown: “I don’t think — I think it’s important we give somebody in camp, within a reasonable time toward the start of camp. I don’t think the summer necessarily matters, but I think toward the start of fall camp or during the early parts of fall camp I think that needs to be done.”

Question: Does he have a gut feeling about the quarterback job he’s just not ready to share yet?

Brown: “Not really. I’ve got an idea who’s looked the best in some pressure situations. Nobody has just grabbed it yet. I hope that happens. I’m really interested to see — and I didn’t mean to avoid it — but I’m really interested to see what happens on Saturday.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said today that the Cats are dangerously thin at wide receiver going into Saturday’s Blue-White Spring Game.

“I like where we’re going, just getting some guys nicked up and that’s starting to bother me, nothing major, I don’t think anything major, just guys that are going to be nicked up and maybe this last part of this spring practice. (Receiver) Jeff Badet twisted an ankle pretty good today. Guys like that, we’re starting to get pretty banged up at wide receiver. Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape and getting better,” said Stoops Monday.

Receiver Ryan Timmons said he would play Saturday, but he’s not 100 percent either.

“Timmons is coming along very well. He’s done a very good job this spring. He’s a little banged up as well, so he got a shoulder. He got hit the other day and got a little setback. Nothing that’s going to require any surgery or anything like that, so we’ve just got to get him back, get him healthy. I’ve got to see where he’s at for the spring game. He’s had a good spring,” Stoops said.

He says both receivers Thaddeus Snodgrass and T.V. Williams have both had solid springs.

“T.V. had some big catches and some big runs at times and Thaddeus, we’re just seeing consistent improvement with him. He’s a guy that needs all the reps he can. He’s a little tweaked up as well with a little muscle pull, nothing major. Hopefully he can get out here the rest of the week,” Stoops said.

Stoops said receiver Joey Herrick has ” been banged up as well” this spring.

“He’s a good guy, a quality guy that can get you in and out of some practices and at times possibly work his way into the lineup here in the future,” Stoops said.

Again, he emphasize none of the injuries at receiver were major, just injuries that had impacted spring practice.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said because of the lack of numbers at receivers, injuries this spring have become an even bigger deal.

“We need more scholarship wideouts. We need more walk-on wideouts. I think we’re probably a year away from getting this thing, from a numbers standpoint, where it needs to be,” Brown said. “We were grossly thin getting here, and then we’ve had some injuries this spring that definitely haven’t helped. So hopefully we can get some of those guys back. Jeff Badet got rolled up today, so we’ll have to see what the extent of that is. Hopefully we can get some of these guys back healthy so we can put on a good show on Saturday.”

 

 

 

By LARRY VAUGHT

Freshman running back Mikel Horton has a chance to help the Kentucky offense next season. However, he also says he’s learned that the veteran talent at Kentucky is better than he thought — and much better than he believed when he was talking and hyping the 2014 recruiting class.

“I had no clue. Literally, I was just talking for the hype when I was a recruit,” said Horton. “But it opened my eyes when I got here. There is so much talent here it is ridiculous. There is so much physicality here it is ridiculous.”

What might seem ridiculous then is that UK has gone 2-10 consecutive seasons? That’s why this remark by Horton, a mild-mannered, well-spoken player, caught my attention and showed either the problems coach Mark Stoops faced or the confidence his players have in him — or both.

“So many good players that just needed the right players and right guidance to be great and the coaches here now are doing it,” Horton said. “They are focusing on every detail. They are very disciplined and they didn’t have that when (former coach) Joker (Phillips) was here.

“Joker was a great coach, I will have to give him that, but they just didn’t have the discipline part of it then like we do now and that’s going to make a big difference.”

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