There’s just one college football game on the tube Thursday night, so I’ve jumped ahead and included the television schedule for Friday and Saturday, as well. Don’t worry. I’ll repeat the post the next couple of days for a handy reminder.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace have been helping Julius Randle as the former Kentucky star prepares for the 2015-16 NBA campaign after a lost rookie season.
As you recall, Randle suffered a broken leg in the very first game of the regular season last year. This was after Randle was the No. 7 overall pick in the NBA Draft. And that was after Randle helped Kentucky to the 2014 NCAA title game, where the Cats lost to Connecticut.
According to Wojo, Randle has spent his rehab time wisely. Bryant and Peace have helped the ex-Cat with the trials and tribulations. An excerpt:
After losing his entire rookie season to that fractured tibia in his right leg – as well as getting a screw reinserted into his right foot to stabilize an old high school injury – Randle returns with a transformed body and ethic: He’s never eaten so well, never developed his frame so fiercely, never felt stronger and surer starting a basketball season. He’s a hulking 6-foot-9 forward with such possibility, a cornerstone of this Lakers future, the prospect that general manager Mitch Kupchak refused to include in those brief trade talks for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
Kobe Bryant’s education of Julius Randle started on the floor in training camp, and stayed a constant presence once Randle was carried out of the season on a stretcher. It started in one-on-one games and long talks and Randle feeling humbled when he’d get to the arena for a preseason game and Bryant, soaked in sweat, was finishing a hard workout. “He’s a five-time champion and an MVP, and I’m thinking to myself, “What’s my excuse?”
Click here to read the rest of Adrian’s story.
Big Blue Links for Thursday:
Missouri has shown an uncanny to win close games. That’s the lead on my Thursday notes column. The Tigers won six SEC games by 10-or-fewer points last year. The Tigers have two non-conference wins by 10-or-fewer already this year.
Mizzou starts road to repeating this Saturday. The Kentucky game is is the SEC opener for the Tigers, reports Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star. Coach Gary Pinkel’s club is going for a third consecutive SEC East title. “There’s no need to put it up on the board and say, ‘First SEC game,’ ” Pinkel said Monday during his weekly news conference. “… They know what’s out there. They know that. I don’t have to talk to them about that.”
Tod was also nice enough to be a guest on my podcast previewing UK-Mizzou.
UK’s O-line hoping to bounce back. After a tough night against Florida, Kentucky’s line wants a bounce-back game this weekend against Mizzou, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “It was definitely disheartening,” senior left tackle Jordan Swindle said on Tuesday. “We came out today all fired up and wanting to get better. It was definitely a hurtful loss, and we’re angry about it.”
Is Kentucky getting enough Boom in its offense? Jeff Drummond of All Wildcats looks at whether the Cats could get the ball more to Williams, the sophomore running back who rushed for 100 yards in each of the first two games, then 80 yards in 16 carries last Saturday against Florida. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also writes on Williams and is starring role in the Kentucky offesne.
Rising five-star forward visiting UK this weekend. Wenyen Gabriel, the 6-foot-9 power forward from Massachusetts, is scheduled to visit Kentucky’s campus this weekend. Reports Ben Roberts of NextCats, “Gabriel recently narrowed his choices to UK, Duke, Maryland, UConn and Providence. Six months ago, Providence was the only school on that list that had extended a scholarship offer to the South Sudan native, who moved to the United States as a child and grew up in New Hampshire.”
Missouri is leaning on its short-passing game. The Tigers are last in the SEC in total offense, so it wants to get rolling, reports Blake Toppmeyer of the Columbia Daily Tribune. “Only three of Missouri’s 31 passes Saturday went over the middle of the field. Mauk and backup Drew Lock combined to complete 19 of 23 passes that traveled 9 yards or fewer through the air. They were 1 for 8 on passes of 10 yards or more.”
UK linebacker Ryan Flannigan has been cleared to play this Saturday against Missouri. That’s big news. The senior was expected to start the first three games. Instead, he suffered a nerve injury to his shoulder after colliding with the rather large Jacob Hyde, who was playing fullback, in training camp. Flannigan ended up missing the first three games. He is happy to be back. As you can see.
SEC links for Thursday:
Florida’s suspensions: Jim McElwain lowered the boom on quarterback Treon Harris and cornerback Jalen Tabor, suspending the duo for Saturday’s game with visiting Tennessee. “I’m not angry at them at all. It’s a choice,” the first-year Florida coach said. “Disappointed? Yeah, but there again, we all have choices and decisions to make in everything we do. It wasn’t anything we did. The team didn’t do. I feel bad for the team.”
Florida’s defense: Butch Jones says it may be the best the coach has faced in his three years at Tennessee. After last Saturday, Mark Stoops might concur. Florida held Kentucky without a touchdown last week. Two weeks ago, the Gators held East Carolina to negative rushing yards. “We have great confidence in running the football,” Jones said. “But it is also having great patience in running the football. We are playing a very deep and explosive defensive front. Sometimes, a 2-yard gain is a good thing or the dirty yards of getting back to the line of scrimmage is good. The thing you can’t have is negative yardage plays when you run the football. That’s critical.”
Auburn defense changing the culture: That’s what Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp told the media this week after his team gave up 411 rushing yards to LSU last Saturday. Muschamp has another challenge this Saturday when the Dak Prescott Train comes down the tracks to the loveliest village on the plains.
Jeremy Johnson’s crisis of confidence: That’s why the Auburn quarterback was benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White for the MSU game on Saturday. Or at least the confidence factor played a role in Gus Malzahn yanking Johnson after only three games.
South Carolina’s defensive problems: New co-coordinator Jon Hoke has yet to make the difference Steve Spurrier was searching for with the Gamecocks’ defenders. South Carolina is currently No. 124 out of 127 FBS teams in yards allowed per play at 7.3. USC welcomes reeling Central Florida to Columbia on Saturday. Statistically, UCF has the nation’s worst offense.
Arkansas preparations: The Razorbacks meet Texas A&M this Saturday, one week after not faring so well against a similar offense run by Texas Tech. Might Arkansas do better the second time around? “There is no better assimilation of what you are going to see on Saturday than what you see on game days prior,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “In practice you can have scouts simulate it, and we can go [first team against first team] and try to make it as good as we can, but nothing is as good as what a game day is and because A&M and Texas Tech do have close ties, not just philosophywise but with the coaches, it just helps us in general.”
For this week’s podcast, I talked with Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader and Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star about Saturday’s UK-Missouri game.
Click here to find our podcasts on iTunes.
At Tuesday’s post-practice interview session with the Kentucky offense, coordinator Shannon Dawson said there was enough blame to go around for the poor showing in last week’s 14-9 loss to Florida. The offensive line suffered protection problems. Patrick Towles missed some throws. The receivers dropped some passes. And Dawson said he made some bad play calls.
I asked him if there were a couple in particular that kept him awake Saturday night. Yes, he said. He mentioned two in particular.
The first came in the third quarter, when Kentucky was backed up on its own goal line. On first-and-10 from the two-yard line, Boom Williams gained five yards. On second-and-five, UK tried a pass play but Towles was pressured in the end zone by the rolling thunder that was the Gators pass rush and ended up throwing the ball away. That set up third-and-five. Jojo Kemp lost two yards on a run off right tackle, and Kentucky was forced to punt.
Dawson said he wished he hadn’t “taken a shot” on second down. Looking back, he said, he should have played it more conservatively and just run the football to get better field position. Instead, after the punt, Florida took over at the UK 44-yard line.
Big Blue Links for Wednesday:
Missouri working on offensive consistency, reports Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star. The Tigers’ offense has had a rough first three games.
Russell Hansbrough probable for Kentucky game, reports David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune. A 1,000-yard rusher last season, Hansbrough has been sidelined by an ankle sprain suffered in season-opener.
The Tigers are taking a deep look at what’s going wrong, writes Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mizzou managed just nine points last week in win over Connecticut.
Calipari helps create once-in-a-lifetime experience for a Kentucky fan, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. The UK coach helps a high school student with cerebral palsy.
Calipari picks up the pace in recruitment of North Carolina big man, reports Roberts. “Edrice “Bam” Adebayo hosted the UK coach for the second time in eight days Tuesday, and the Wildcats are emerging as a major player in his recruitment.”
Dorian Baker is moving on from his dropped passes, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. The sophomore wide receiver has dropped a pass early in both the South Carolina and Florida games.
Smith has UK football’s Tuesday practice report. Shannon Dawson, Patrick Towles, John Schlarman, Boom Williams and others met with the media to preview Saturday’s game against Missouri.
Tickets are on sale for Calipari’s annual women’s clinic, reports the Herald-Leader.
UK men’s soccer dominates Eastern Illinois, reports Anthony Crawford of the Kentucky Kernel. The Cats rolled 6-0.
SEC links for Wednesday:
Auburn names a new starting quarterback, reports Kevin Price of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Jeremy Johnson is benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White, who will start Saturday against visiting Mississippi State.
Syracuse preps for LSU fans to “drink the town dry,” reports Casey Ardoin of the Shreveport Times. LSU takes on the Orange this Saturday in New York.
South Carolina turns to Lorenzo Nunan to spark offense, reports Josh Kendall of The State. Steve Spurrier announces the true freshman will start at quarterback against Central Florida this Saturday for the Gamecocks, who have dropped two straight.
Georgia linebacker records seven tackles and proposes to girlfriend, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “I was really focused on the game, and I was locked in,” Ganus said. “I think about five minutes left in the fourth, we’re up by (32), and they took me out. So then I’m out of the game, thinking, ‘I really gotta do this.’”
Johnson gave Auburn more than enough reason to make the change, writes Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. Johnson’s datea didn’t live up to Gus Malzahn’s faith.
Malzahn hopes Pan B works better for Tigers, writes Sam Kahn of espn.com.
The quarterback changes at Auburn, but at Mississippi State Dak Prescott is a hot quarterback, writes Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger.
Mississippi State is still wary of Auburn, reports Logan Lowery of the NE Mississippi Daily Journal. Dan Mullen says Auburn is dangerous even after last week’s drubbing by LSU.
Kevin Sumlin is staying out of the Bret Bielema-Kliff Kinsbury feud, reports the Bryan/College Station Eagle. With Texas A&M playing Bielema and Arkansas this Saturday, Sumlin sees no reason to give the Razorbacks bulletin board material.
Texas A&M is eager to get SEC play underway, reports Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are off to a 3-0 start while Arkansas has dropped two straight.
It was interview day for the Kentucky offense on Tuesday, which was probably a good thing. Get it out of the way, right. After Saturday’s 14-9 loss to Florida in which UK managed just 241 yards of total offense, there were plenty of questions about how the Cats would rebound heading into this week’s game against Missouri.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson lamented the missed opportunities. He said he figured last Saturday’s game would be low scoring so each team had to take advantage of every opportunity. Kentucky didn’t. He also took up for wide receiver Dorian Baker, who dropped a touchdown pass on the Cats’ opening possession.