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Live blog: Signing Day 2015

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Live Blog Signing Day 2015
 

First, Mark Stoops asked Kentucky fans to fill Commonwealth Stadium. Next, he posed the question, "Why not?" This year, Stoops wants to know: "Are you with me?"

For the third year in a row, UK football aired a Super Bowl ad in Lexington. In case you missed it, watch it above.

Now that you've watched, head to ukfootballtix.com and buy your season tickets for the first season in The New CWS. Speaking of the new stadium, you can visit TheNewCWS.com for more information about season tickets and updates on construction.

Get excited for Signing Day with this video

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Five days.

After the Green Bay Packers' loss to the Seattle Seahawks in last Sunday's NFC Championship, Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews will be the only former Kentucky Wildcat competing in next month's Super Bowl XLIX. Despite limited playing time since being promoted from the Seattle practice squad, Matthews was able to make the biggest play of his young career in last Sunday's contest, keeping the Seahawks' season alive.

Playoff Spotlight

Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Cobb made seven catches for 62 yards in Green Bay's 28-22 overtime loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. Cobb recorded his first career playoff touchdown reception by way of a 13-yard Aaron Rodgers pass to end the first quarter, but it was not enough to break the historic Seahawks defense. Cobb will miss out on playing in the Super Bowl, but he was named to his first Pro Bowl as a consolation.

Chris Matthews | #13 WR | Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
With the Packers leading 19-7 with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled for a one-yard touchdown to bring the Seahawks within five. As a last-ditch effort for a chance to become the NFL's first back-to-back world champions since the '03-'04 New England Patriots, Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka successfully completed an onside kick that was recovered by the 6-foot-5 Matthews. Matthews' special teams heroism led the way for a come-from-behind overtime victory by Seattle, solidifying a second consecutive NFC Championship. The Seahawks will face the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, February 1 in Glendale, Arizona.


Dawson jumping into offensive coordinator role

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Shannon Dawson doesn't lack confidence.

At his introductory press conference, the Kentucky offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach was asked why he believes he will succeed in his new role in the nation's toughest conference. His answer was as simple as it was quick.

"Because I think I can be successful anywhere," Dawson said.

Elsewhere in the nearly 30 minutes he spent with assembled media, Dawson spoke about his belief in Mark Stoops and the upward trajectory of the UK program, but his instant answer reflects that confidence, which also happens to be justified.

At his previous stop, West Virginia, Dawson joined with head coach Dana Holgorsen to lead offenses that ranked among the nation's best attacks over the last three seasons. Before that, he helped resurrect lagging programs at Stephen F. Austin and Millsaps.

"The last time I checked, everybody can put 11 players on the field, right?" Dawson said. "And it's not like we didn't play anybody in y'all's league the past four years. We did. So, you know, I think you can be successful anywhere if you do it the right way."

Dawson got his break into coaching with Hal Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana, where Mumme was famously hard on Dawson. It was under Mumme, the Air Raid innovator who first popularized the fast-paced, pass-oriented system at Kentucky in the late 1990s, that Dawson developed his concept of what doing it the right way means.

"The problem that a lot coaches make is they change too much," Dawson said. "So our overall way we're going to practice and lay it out has been consistent over the years, and that's one thing that's been consistent from offense from 15 years down, the way we practice and the way we install.

"I just think you gotta program kids a certain way, and you gotta hold them accountable to it. Attention to detail is huge. So the moment you let one little thing slip, then that becomes two."

Dawson might not be one for change, but that doesn't mean he's not willing to adapt.

At Stephen F. Austin, Dawson relied heavily on the pass, with barely a third of the Lumberjacks' plays being runs. By contrast, West Virginia had more rushes (563) than passes (534) in 2014.

"We made a concerted effort to get physical and be able to run the ball more efficient, not that we're sitting there adding 100 more run plays into the offense," Dawson said. "We still have those run plays, but it's simply the fact that we're calling them a little more, just turning and handing it a little more."

If it hadn't been for that tweak in approach, Stoops surely would not have brought Dawson on as Neal Brown's replacement in the rugged Southeastern Conference.

"I think one thing that he was excited about was we were physical, we had to the ability to be physical," Dawson said. "So that evolution fired him up."

Stoops and Dawson discussed that philosophy first over the phone and eventually in a face-to-face meeting that lasted two-plus hours. While Stoops was sold on Dawson's commitment to physicality in his Air Raid attack, Dawson saw the opportunity to run his own offensive show and jumped. Dawson played in an important role in all facets of West Virginia's offensive operation, but Holgorsen maintained final say.

"Working for Coach Stoops, being a defensive head coach, obviously the dynamics of me and his relationship is going to be different than the dynamics of me and Coach Holgorsen's relationship," Dawson said. "So being back on the field -- I wasn't in the press box really until West Virginia -- so being back on the field, having that flow of the game was extremely important to me and really the reason why I took it."

After Stoops and Dawson's in-person meeting, it only took a couple days to seal the deal. And if there was any lingering doubt about his commitment to his new job, witness how Dawson, his wife and his infant daughter handled their move to Lexington.

On Dec. 27, West Virginia lost a 45-37 shootout to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Dawson and his wife flew into Pittsburgh with the team around 11 p.m. and immediately made the drive to Lexington. Arriving in the wee hours of the morning, the Dawsons needed to secure health insurance and find a house in short order.

"Both things we got done within about four hours," Dawson said. "I promise you this: The whole family will be here a couple days after signing day. We'll be ready to go. I'm not messing around with that."

Some kind of hurry-up offense.

When the Detroit Lions lost on Wild Card Weekend, and the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos followed suit the week after, the playoff dreams of former Kentucky players Larry Warford and Jacob Tamme (as well as injured standouts Garry Williams and Danny Trevathan) were vanquished. Though UK alumnus Chris Matthews signed with the Seattle Seahawks late in the regular season, Randall Cobb and Tim Masthay of the Green Bay Packers are the only starting former Wildcats with Super Bowl XLIX hopes still alive. The Packers will travel to Seattle to face the defending champions in Sunday's NFC Championship at 3:05 p.m. ET on Fox.

Playoff Spotlight

Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Cobb caught a game-high eight passes in Green Bay's 26-21 divisional round win over the Dallas Cowboys. The former second round pick finished with 116 yards, including a 31-yard haul late in the first half and a heroic reception off a deflected pass to seal the victory.


Marrow's decision to stay all about relationships

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Vince Marrow signed a contract extension through 2018 to stay at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Vince Marrow signed a contract extension through 2018 to stay at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The offer was tough to pass up.

Jim Harbaugh, one of the most respected coaches in the game, was returning to his alma mater, Michigan, to resurrect the winningest program in college football history. So when Harbaugh called Vince Marrow to offer him a job, Marrow had to listen.

Marrow, however, just couldn't leave what he was helping to build at Kentucky. More importantly, he just couldn't leave the people he was building with.

"Michigan, being a Midwest guy and being from Ohio, it was very tempting," Marrow said on Wednesday, "but it was just my relationship here with the administration and our staff and even the kids that I have coming in this year and the kids that I have recruited the last two years played a big part of that."

On Monday, Marrow signed a contract extension that will keep him at UK through the end of the 2018 season as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. The news ended a week of speculation about whether Marrow would stay or leave.

"The last three days I couldn't really go anywhere without people saying things to me," Marrow said. "We were in church and the guy doing the offering said something, that is how deep it got. Relationships played a big part to just be honest with you guys."

Building relationships is the biggest reason why Marrow has developed a reputation as an ace recruiter, establishing a pipeline to Ohio and reeling in 14 prospects in UK's 2013 and 2014 signing classes. As for the 2015 recruits who have already pledged to come to Kentucky, even they were a little surprised he told Michigan thanks but no thanks after sleepless nights last weekend.

"I know that a lot of our recruits were very fired up because for some reason they just assumed I was gone," Marrow said. "I told people that it wasn't a slam dunk and a lot of people were saying that it was a slam dunk I was going."

Marrow, at the end of the day, had invested too much in Mark Stoops' vision for the future of UK football to leave even for an opportunity like the one he passed up. And with an athletics department so willing to invest in Marrow, as well as in more than $150 million in ongoing facility upgrades, he sees that vision become reality.

"It shows that our athletics director, Mitch (Barnhart), the route he is going, our administration and it shows were the program is going and I believe in that wholeheartedly," Marrow said. "You look at the stadium renovations and just at the type of support that we have been getting over the last two years here. That always plays a big part in it."

His decision made, Marrow's attention goes back to recruiting. He played a crucial role in securing classes ranked 17th and 29th by Rivals.com in the past two seasons, the two best classes in the history of the recruiting service. Marrow expects similar success come signing day in February.

"We are going to finish strong just like we did the last two years," Marrow said. "We have a couple more slots that we have to fill and it is just a situation where I know with me staying here a lot of those guys were very fired up to see that. We will see where we are going to finish, but I feel pretty good about it though. It is going to be pretty good."

Video: Marrow talks contract extension

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