Most Recent Posts
- 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”
- Kentucky big man Julius Randle: “We don’t know what we’ve got to do but we’ve got to get going”
- UK coach John Calipari: “I didn’t think we had any kind of fight” to start the game
- Miami Heat sign former UK standout DeAndre Liggins to 2nd 10-day contract
- 2014 SEC Tournament Bracket: Cats to play 7 p.m. Friday
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.
By LARRY VAUGHT
On my way to Columbia, S.C., for the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game, I stopped in Woodruff, S.C., to see UK football signee Blake Bone — a skilled 6-5 receiver.
I have a lot coming with him and his coaches in the days ahead, but I thought you would appreciate what he had to say about offensive coordinator Neal Brown:
Question: Do you remember the first time you met offensive coordinator Neal Brown?
Bone: “Yes I do. I met him in Lexington in his football office. I thought he was a player at first because he looked so young. But he’s a good guy. You can tell he knows what he is doing when he talks to you about everything — routes, route running, getting behind the defense, looking off. You could tell he has been doing this for a while. Don’t let that youthful face fool you because he is the brains of the offense. He has what we need right now.”
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 Warren East linebacker Eli Brown had to make his college choice today, the four-star prospect said “it would be UK” but he doesn’t plan to make his final decision until the end of his senior season.
“Right now I am just trying to stay low key and not get that much into recruiting,” said Brown. “A lot of coaches are calling, but I am not too big on that.”
The 6-2, 192-pound Brown decommitted from Vanderbilt in October after giving the Commodores a verbal pledge in June. He also has scholarship offers from Ohio State and Western Kentucky. He had 50 tackles and 1,186 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns in 2013 for Warren East before tearing his ACL in the final game of the regular season.
“I want to wait to summer and take my visits. I don’t want to get behind in school,” Brown, who attended UK’s junior day earlier this month, said. “I am a pretty decent student, but this year has been kind of rocky. I went through surgery, missed some school and now I want to make sure my grades stay up.
“I have my strength back in my quad now. I got past the painful part of the rehab and in about two months I can start getting my running stuff down. I am moving along pretty fast in my recovery.”
Brown admits he “went way too early” when he made his verbal commitment to Vanderbilt and then changed his mind even before coach James Franklin left for Penn State after the season.
“At first all was great and I was excited. I was young (when I committed). It was more pressure by family than anybody. I was not ready. I just decided to lay back and de-committed. Penn State got a great coach, but that’s too far from home for me,” Brown said. “I have a lot of interest in Kentucky. It is not far from where I live. My whole family is UK fans.”
His primary recruiter at Kentucky has been offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
“He is a real cool dude. I have a real good connection with him. He comes down to see me as often as possible,” Brown said.
The Warren East star knows his college future is on defense, not offense.
“All the offers I have got are at linebacker,” he said. “They all like my versatility and love that I can play both sides of the ball. They do tell me how good I look on offense, but they all say I am great on defense.
“I am not the kind of guy that wants a spot given to me. I like to compete. I have talked to coach Brown and coach (Mark) Stoops a little bit about my size for being a linebacker in the SEC. I am not opposed to redshirting my first year. If they think redshirting is best for me, I am fine with that at any school. I have a dad that sets me straight and tells me stuff to make sure I don’t get a big head about anything.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He only turned 18 last month, but Ohio running back Mike Horton was already wise enough to realize how much he had to learn after he got to Kentucky in January.
“I have just been adjusting to everything. Being a young Cat with older guys is different,” said Horton. “People better than me are teaching me and that’s totally different. It’s a very humbling experience. But I am having a great time and the time of my life.”
The freshman says the older players are helping him most with the “mental aspect” of football.
“I have college body, so I am not worried about lifting and speed. But the mental aspect, the mental toughness, pushing through when hard when you think you can’t. I never had to do that in high school.
He said he’s watched players like JoJo Kemp, Alex Montgomery Jeff Badet and Braylon Heard closely.
“They came in the same way I came in not knowing and they are animals and became something very special,” Horton said.
The 6-1, 225-pound Horton, a four-star prospect, rushed for 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns on 178 carries for Lakota West High School last season. He also led the team with 19 catches for 249 yards and two scores.
Horton, who also wrestled and ran track in high school, had a chance to go to national champion Florida State but stuck with his commitment to Kentucky.
“He’s a bruiser, a third-down running back, a big, powerful running back,” UK freshman receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass said. “I think he is already ready for the SEC.”
Horton also considered Louisville and Michigan State but it was Florida State that “knocked on the door” the hardest even after he committed to UK.
“I wasn’t changing my mind,” Horton said. “Coach (Mark) Stoops is one of the most uplifting guys. He is a father figure to all of us. We show great respect to him. My bond in the 2014 class is the same as the coaching staff. We are pretty much equal. It felt right (at Kentucky). It’s not home, but it felt like home. Being in this class made my decision very easy.”
He cited the chance for playing time as one reason he came to UK.
“We got a lot of running backs,” Horton said. “Playing time, I am not even thinking about that right now. I am thinking about adjusting to the college game. My main focus is school, learning the playbook, pushing my body to the limit to play in the SEC three or four years. Playing time will come if I do the right things.”
He also said the “brotherhood” of the UK recruiting class was a major reason he never faltered on playing for Kentucky.
“We came in early together and made our choice early together,” Horton said. “We plan to stay all four years unless someone is a first-round draft pick. Our class is strong, our bond is strong. It has been a very smooth process coming in early.”
Horton even said he had no second thoughts about turning down Florida State even when he watched the Seminoles beat Auburn in the national title game.
“I was happy for Florida State. It was a hard choice to make and I loved both of them, but I chose here,” Horton said.
Even the balmy winter weather in Florida compared to the recent snow, ice and cold hasn’t given Horton any second thoughts about not picking Florida State.
“This (weather) is way better than Ohio. Ohio is Alaska. It is ver snowy. I am used to it, so it is not bad,” Horton said.
What he was not used to was a SEC playbook like the one offensive coordinator Neal Brown has.
“It is not a child’s book. It is a lot of pages,” Horton said. “But if you take your time and focus on your job it is very easy. I got the playbook locked down a little bit. Hopefully by spring I will be doing very good.”
He said his high school team probably ran four plays — with three of them going to him.
“Here it is a lot different. Lot of motion and stuff to adjust to,” Horton said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh will have some of the most unique personalities on coach Mark Stoops’ team playing for him next year, including recent signees Matt Elam and C.J. Johnson.
Question: With the personality that junior college transfer CJ Johnson has, is that good or bad from a coaching perspective?
Brumbaugh: “He really is personable. He is a great guy who is from South Carolina, ended up going to Pennsylvania and finished at junior college. We brought him in for depth because we lost those guys inside. What he brings is another dimension. He has got athleticism, he is a quick twitch off the ball. He is versatile enough and strong enough that he can hold the point and with a guy like that in your program who has a good personalty and that wants to work every day, he is going to end up pushing everyone.”
Question: Since Elam also has a unique personality, will that create challenges for you?
Brumbaugh: “It will take a while to gel together, but it will be fine. At the end of the day everybody has one goal. They know up front everybody has to play well and the guys behind them do, too. We had injuries last year. Bud (Dupree) lost time due to injuries. Those kind of situations, those guys know I better step up and get ready and I better have the guy behind me because he may play the opposite side of me and if he doesn’t play well that is where they will run the football.”