Posts from Monday, April 13
Couple of Cal notes
Posted at 5:22 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Still waiting on confirmation about a media opportunity with Kentucky Coach John Calipari later on in the week, but it appears that we’ll likely be able to talk with him before the weekend gets here.
Calipari has been back and forth between Lexington, Memphis and recruiting destinations since taking the job, but he’ll be back in the Bluegrass State this week for a pair of practices, the latter of which we should be able to talk to him.
Calipari is meeting with the top-100 K Fund members Wednesday evening for a meet and greet and an undisclosed location. It’s a chance for the members to personally meet the coach for the first time.
He’ll also be on a few radio stations Tuesday in case you want to tune in. At 10:20 a.m. EDT, Calipari will be on the Dan Patrick Show before dropping in on the Tim Brando Show at 11:25 a.m. EDT on Sporting News Radio. Calipari will then make an appearance on Mad Dog Radio with Chris Russo at 2:05 p.m. EDT.
More ridiculously early projections
Posted at 4:48 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Bracketology? Already? The season just ended last week.
Well, in light of the early 2009-10 college basketball polls I threw up on the blog last week, I thought I would go ahead and pass along Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, which already has projections for next year’s NCAA Tournament.
Lunardi has the Wildcats in, but maybe not as high as some of you would think given the projections some early pollsters offered up last week. Lunardi has UK as a No. 8 seed playing – gasp! – Tubby Smith’s ninth-seeded Minnesota team in the Midwest region.
Hmmm, not sure about that one, Joe, but maybe that’s why you get paid the big bucks.
Not all defensive lines are created equal. Or so that seems to be the case with Kentucky’s defensive line as it enters the midway point of the spring season.
On the left side of the line UK has a one-two tandem as explosive and experienced as anybody in the nation. On the right side, it’s still a work in progress.
Seniors Jeremy Jarmon and Corey Peters will anchor the defensive line in 2009, but that’s about as far as the certainties go for the Wildcats in the trenches. Jarmon will return at the left defensive end position and Peters at the left tackle, but playing time is up for grabs for just about anybody else.
“We’re really working on our depth,” defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys fighting for positions and they’ve looked pretty good so far, but we’ve got to find at least eight starters, not just four, because we’ve got to develop depth.”
If you take out Jarmon and Peters out of the equation, that leaves six spots open that Brown would tab as considerable playing time. So who fits in where?
The most likely candidate to nail down the starting spot at the right tackle position is junior Ricky Lumpkin, who was the team’s top reserve at defensive tackle a season ago. With Myron Pryor gone, Lumpkin, who recorded 17 tackles and one sack in 2008, is the favorite to take over and is No. 1 on the spring depth chart.
But beyond Lumpkin, there is considerable uncertainty. Junior Shane McCord and sophomore Luke McDermott are listed behind Lumpkin at the right tackle spot, but neither has played significant time during their careers at UK.
The wildcard could be junior-college transfer Mark Crawford, who enrolled in January and has been participating in spring practice.
“He’s a guy that has high energy, a high motor,” Brown said. “He’s still working on techniques and reading things and doing things the way we need to have them done. The thing about him is he wants to be good and he practices hard.”
Crawford, a 6-foot-1, 295-pound sophomore, has been getting time during spring practice at both the right and left tackle spots, mainly with the second-team defense.
The picture at right end is just as unclear. A trio of ends, sophomore Chandler Burden and redshirt freshmen Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham, are all in the mix for the starting spot. Burden got the majority of the snaps with the first team in practice Monday and he’s listed at the top of the depth chart, but both Ukwu and Wyndham are quickly developing.
Burden, who used to play on the left end, has the size to slide over to the tackle position, but for now, UK Coach Rich Brooks is keeping him at right end.
“He’s a guy who has a lot strength and good size and it’s more of just learning the position and learning the reactions and repetitions to do that,” Brooks said.
Wyndham had a sack and forced a fumble during the first major scrimmage of the season Saturday. Ukwu arrived at UK as an undersized defensive end. He put on significant weight during the season last year and has topped off this spring right at about 250 pounds.
“We need (Ukwu) to continue to play well and develop because he’s got the size, speed and athletic ability to be a major factor for us,” UK Coach Rich Brooks said. “Now we just have to get him at SEC fundamental levels and speed levels.”
The Wildcats also have help on the way in the form of recruits. UK signed seven defensive linemen in January to play in the fall (Crawford is already in spring ball), and a few, most notably junior-college transfer DeQuin Evans, are expected to compete for immediate playing time.
But Brown is treating this spring as if this is his defensive line for the fall.
“We’ve got guys coming in, but when those guys come in, it’ll be like finding money,” Brown said. “Right now we’ve got to bank on the guys that are here. We’ve got to basically feel like this is our team now and when we get DeQuin in, then it’ll be great because it will add to the depth. But right now, we need to get the best possible team on the field.
UK will only be as good as its veterans are capable of taking them though. While the questions and position battles remain on the right side, the left side is obviously the line’s biggest strength. Jarmon and Peters will start side-by-side for the third year in a row.
“We work so well together,” Jarmon said. “There are a lot of things that Corey and I do in the games that aren’t designed, but we can do it because we can cover for one another and the coaches are comfortable enough with letting us making decisions on the fly because we’ve been doing it for so long.”
Peters spoke of an innate ability to read things with Jarmon non-verbally.
“I feel more comfortable playing with guys that I know they know what they’re doing and know what to expect from them,” Peters said. “I can look at Jarmon and I can figure out what he’s thinking or what he’s going to do.”
Peters and Jarmon bring back a combined 8.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss from a year ago. Jarmon’s numbers slightly dipped in 2008 – his sack total dropped from nine to 4.5 – but a lot of that can be attributed to the double teams Jarmon faced on a weekly basis.
Brooks said Jarmon needs to work on his explosiveness and consistency, and Jarmon said he’s been working on getting faster. He’s lost about seven pounds since the bowl season and said he’s discovered some newfound energy this spring because of a new diet.
“I’m just trying to get into the kind of shape where I could be a linebacker or defensive end where I could cover each side of the field and make plays on both sides,” Jarmon said.
Basketball recruiting information
Posted at 1:30 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Wednesday marks the beginning of the spring signing period for college basketball. Starting Wednesday, recruits will be able send in their letters of intent to play basketball for the University of Kentucky.
Once UK receives the LOI, we’ll be able to start talking about the upcoming 2009 recruiting class. But because this is the official University of Kentucky Web site, NCAA regulations prevent us from talking about a recruit until he is officially signed with the university (for those of you wondering why we haven’t been plastering recruiting rumors on this blog).
Unlike football signing day, recruits don’t necessarily send in their LOI the first day. A kid may have decided he wants to attend a certain university, but hold that LOI until the end of the signing period, which ends on May 20.
That’s not to say UK couldn’t have two, three or even four LOI on Wednesday, but until UK receives the letters, we’ll have to hold off from talking about each player.
Also, Coach John Calipari is expected to talk with the local media later on this week for the first time since his hiring. The date hasn’t been determined yet, but rest assured, Cat Scratches will have more on what Calipari has to say later this week.
Funeral arrangements for Mike Casey
Posted at 12:28 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Funeral arrangement s for former UK basketball great Mike Casey, who passed away on Thursday, have been set.
Spring football notes
Posted at 12:20 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I’ll be breaking down the defensive line later on this afternoon/evening, but before I do, a few spring practice notes to pass along: