Skip to content

Mark Stoops pulls in 22 signees in first Kentucky class

Mark Stoops AP

(Below are the bios released by Kentucky on the new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Jeff Badet, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 170, Fr-HS, Orlando, Fla. (Freedom) – Possesses great quickness and a
sudden burst that help him project as an ideal receiver … Has displayed great hands, body control and the awareness
that make him great at making tough catches in traffic … Caught 63 passes for 881 yards, 10 receiving touchdowns and
six rushing scores as a senior … Played for Coach Andy Johnson, helping Freedom HS to a 7-4 record and state playoff
berth as a senior … Junior stats featured 46 catches for 718 yards and 11 TDs … Ranked No. 13 on the Orlando Sentinel
Central Florida “Super 60” … Finished fifth in the long jump at the Florida state track and field championships … Last name
pronounced “bah-DETT.”

Alvonte Bell, Defensive End, 6-5, 255, Fr-HS, Miramar, Fla. (Everglades) – Explosive defensive end at
Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla., where he was coached by Rodney Rumph … The nation’s No. 24 weakside
defensive end by Rivals.com … The No. 34 overall defensive end according to Scout.com … “Bell is a raw athlete with
speed, length, and quickness that attracts attention his way. He has long arms to get into passing lanes, he can move well
in space, and he really pursues the ball well,” according to Scout analyst Chad Simmons … Was timed at 4.88 in the 40
with a 27-inch vertical … Made 40 tackles as a junior, with his 18 total tackles for loss including 11 quarterback sacks …
Helped led the team to the Florida Class 6A regional quarterfinals his freshman and sophomore seasons … Missed much of
his senior season because of injury … Began high school career as a basketball star before making the move to football …
Name is pronounced “al-VON-tay.”

Javess Blue, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 190, Jr-JC, Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler Community College)
Second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American during his sophomore season at Butler Community
College in El Dorado, Kansas … Also was named first-team all-conference … Ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college
player by ESPN.com … Led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65, receiving yards with 1,064 and receiving touchdowns with
12 … Ranked in the top-10 nationally in each category … Averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt
returns … Helped the team to a 11-1 record in 2012, winning the Region VI Championship before falling in the Graphic
Edge National Championship Bowl … Grizzlies were the Region VI Champions, KJCCC Champions and played in the
Citizen’s Bank Bowl his freshman season … Great freshman season with 27 receptions for 586 yards, a 21.7-yard average,
and three touchdowns … Coached by Troy Morrell at Butler Community College … Big-play receiver at Lake Wales (Fla.)
HS … Caught 88 passes for 1,774 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards catch, during his final two seasons at
LWHS… Helped team advance to the Class AAA state semifinals his junior season with an 11-2 record … Clocked at 4.41
seconds in the 40-yard dash … Coached in high school by Rod Shafer … Name is pronounced “JAY-vess.”

Steven Borden, Tight End, 6-3, 250, Jr-JC, Waxahachie, Texas (Waxahachie/Kilgore College) – Enrolled at
UK in January … Second-team all-conference tight end at Kilgore (Texas) College … Caught 11 passes as a sophomore
for 181 yards, a 16.5-yard average, and four touchdowns … Versatile athlete who has the size to play tight end and the
athleticism to play as a slot receiver … Coached at Kilgore by J.J. Eckert … Played defensive end during the 2010 season
at Southwestern Assemblies of God, an NAIA school in Waxahachie, Texas … Made 35 tackles, featuring 7.5 tackles for
loss, including 3.5 quarterback sacks … Played his senior season as a defensive end at Waxahachie High School, helping
team to a 12-1 record and the quarterfinals of the state Class AAAA playoffs … Earned first-team all-district honors …
Coached at Waxahachie by David Ream … Played three seasons at Santa Clarita Christian High School in California as a
quarterback, receiver and linebacker … Coached at Santa Clarita by Garrick Moss … Also played basketball in high school.

Justin Day, Offensive Tackle, 6-8, 305, Fr-HS, Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken) – First-team all-state by SCVarsit.com
… Offensive tackle with a huge upside … Long arms and big frame give him the potential to be an outstanding pass blocker
… Has only played one year in the offensive line … Started his high school career playing defensive end before he moved
to the other side of the ball as a senior … Played at South Aiken High School, coached by Jeremy West … Also first-team
all-state and all-region … Was a standout at the Rivals.com South Carolina Elite 100 Camp in the spring of 2012 … “Day
was the biggest surprise of the week,” Rivals analyst Mike Farrell wrote. “(M)ore often than not his opponents ended up on
the ground with the big man lurking over them when the whistle blew.” … Played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which
pits the best high school players from North Carolina and South Carolina against each other.

Jason Hatcher, Defensive End, 6-3, 250, Fr-HS, Louisville, Ky. (Trinity) – One of the nation’s top prospects
at defensive end … Rated No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com, #10 by Scout.com, #14 by ESPN.com and #16 by
247Sports.com … Helped lead Trinity High School to three-consecutive Class 6A state championships and a three-year
record of 41-2 … First-team all-state as a senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Associated Press … Made 37
tackles as a senior, including 13.5 quarterback sacks and four additional tackles for loss … Played in the U.S. Army All-
American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas following senior campaign … One of the nation’s top-200 prospects by ESPN …
Scout.com’s Scott Kennedy says Hatcher “has the speed to play outside linebacker and the frame to grown into an every
down defense end. He is tremendously quick off the line and fast in pursuit. He relies on speed and quickness rather
than strength.” … Had 40 tackles his junior and sophomore seasons, including 12 sacks his junior year and 11.5 TFL his
sophomore season … Coached by Bob Beatty.

Nick Haynes, Offensive Lineman, 6-3, 305, Fr-HS, Niceville, Fla. (Niceville) – A great athlete with a high
upside after having played football only two years in high school … Ranked as the nation’s No. 40 guard by Rivals.com …
Extremely versatile player who has experience as a tight end, fullback and defensive lineman as a high school player …
Played predominantly as a tackle in high school, but could transition to guard or center at UK … Excels as a run blocker
as he compiled an impressive tally of pancake blocks in high school … Relies on great footwork as he also lettered in
basketball as a prepster … Attended Niceville (Fla.) High School, helping team to a winning record both seasons he played
… Coach by John Hicks.

Jacob Hyde, Defensive Lineman, 6-2, 330, Fr-HS, Manchester, Ky. (Clay County) – Was Kentucky’s first verbal
commitment of the 2013 signing class … One of the nation’s top-50 defensive tackles by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com …
First-team all-state as a senior as chosen by The Associated Press …Comes to Lexington from Clay County High School,
where he played for head coach Evan Napier … Played defensive tackle and offensive guard in high school, but is projected
on the defensive side for Kentucky … Helped Clay County finish 8-4 his sophomore season en route to an appearance in
the Class AAAAA state playoffs … Helped lead Kentucky all-stars to a 29-27 win over Tennessee in the National Guard
Border Bowl … Played for the USA national team in the International Bowl on Feb. 5 in Austin, Tex. … Named All-SEKC by
MaxPreps.com … Also chosen first team on the All-Mountain squad.

Jaleel Hytchye, Cornerback, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Cincinnati, Ohio (La Salle) – Talented athlete who also had a
successful track career at La Salle High School in Cincinnati … One of the nation’s top-25 cornerbacks as evaluated by
ESPN.com, which gives him a positive rating in man coverage, zone coverage, ballhandling and instincts … ESPN.com
ranks him as the 20th-best prospect in Ohio and wrote, “Hytchye has the coverage skills to see early playing time at the
BCS level of competition.” … Has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is considering running track at
Kentucky … Finished the 2012 season with two interceptions – one for a touchdown – and a fumble recovery … Second-
team all-conference in the highly competitive Greater Catholic League …During his junior campaign in 2011, he posted four
interceptions and 14 pass breakups … Helped Lancers to third-place finish in the city in 2010 with a 9-2 record and a 7-3
record his junior season … Coached by Tom Grippa … Name is pronounced “jah-LEEL HI-chee.”

Jojo Kemp, Running Back, 5-10, 190, Fr-HS, DeLand, Fla. (DeLand) – Earned Associated Press all-state
first-team honors his senior season … Rushed 255 times as a senior for 1,469 yards and 23 touchdowns … Equally as
impressive his junior season when he rushed 178 times for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns … Had a great game on the
big stage, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns on a game televised by ESPN2, which featured several Division
I prospects on defense … Rated the nation’s No. 10 multipurpose back by Rivals.com … The No. 28 running back by
ESPN.com … Scout.com’s Mike Bakas says Kemp “has enough size to grow into a potential 210-plus pound running
back who will be able carry to carry the rock 20 times a game and get the tough yards inside.” … Bakas also says Kemp
is “a tremendous athlete who can make a lot of people miss in space … changes directions well … can catch the ball very
well out of the backfield … he’s just a good football player with plus athleticism.” … No. 10-ranked player in the Orlando
Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida “Super60” prospects … Coached by Al Manning.

Austin MacGinnis, Kicker, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Prattville, Ala. (Prattville) – One of the nation’s top three kicker
prospects according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Played his senior season at Prattville (Ala.) High School under
Coach Chad Anderson … Handled punts, field goals and kickoffs for the Lions, making seven of 10 field goals, including
a 50-yarder … 76 percent of kickoffs went for touchbacks … Named to the all-area team … Participated for the winning
National team in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl in Houston following his senior campaign … Played at Randolph
County High School before moving to Prattville his senior season … Converted six of nine field goals and made all of his
extra points as a junior, with 81 percent touchbacks on kickoffs … Participated in the National Underclassmen Challenge
and performed well … According to ChrisSailerKicking.com, MacGinnis “is a tremendous kicker. He has a huge leg …
kickoffs are Division-I ready right now. A great competitor that kicks well under pressure.” … Spent time with One-on-One
Kicking.

Blake McClain, Defensive Back, 5-11, 190, Fr-HS, Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park) – Versatile defensive back
could be either a cornerback or safety on the collegiate level … Considered the nation’s No. 66 safety by ESPN.com, which
says McClain’s strengths are zone coverage, ball skills and run support … The No. 61 cornerback by Rivals.com … Good
senior season at Winter Park (Fla.) HS, gathering 60 tackles and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown …
Ended his high school career with nine picks … Also played wide receiver, with two receiving touchdowns his senior season
… Ranked as the No. 25 prospect on the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 … The Orlando Sentinel wrote
that McClain “has top-notch footwork and an ability to keep his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage to keep quarterbacks
at bay.” … Named a Central Florida All-Star … Coached by Larry Gergley … Has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard
dash … All-around athlete who also played basketball.

Marcus McWilson, Safety, 6-0, 210, Fr-HS, Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney) – Physical, athletic safety
who is ranked as one of the nation’s top-20 safeties by Scout.com and Rivals.com … Ranked No. 18 nationally in the
athlete category by 247Sports.com … The No. 10 player in talent-rich Ohio by Rivals … Played at Cardinal Mooney HS
in Youngstown, Ohio, the alma mater of new UK head coach Mark Stoops and tight ends coach Vince Marrow … Helped
Cardinal Mooney to a Division III state championship his junior and freshman seasons … Team went 15-0 his freshman
season and 11-3 his junior year … First-team All-Ohio in 2012 … Had eight interceptions as a junior, two picks as a
sophomore … Also played running back in high school, including posting 124 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a
single game last fall … Coach P.J. Fecko told the Tribune-Chronicle before the 2012 season that, “Marcus is a tremendous
athlete. He does a lot of different things. He kicks the ball. He returns the ball. He’s a defensive guy. He’s a receiver. He’s a
running back. His ability to want to compete and to do so wherever he’s called upon helps. He’s been successful to do that.”

Kyle Meadows, Offensive Lineman, 6-5, 270, Fr-HS, West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West) — Combines great
footwork with tremendous length and playing strength … No. 38 overall offensive tackle according to Scout.com … The No.
31-ranked player in the 247Sports composite of the talent-rich state of Ohio … Ranked No. 5 among the top 50 players in
the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Greater Cincinnati to watch list of the 2013 … Played for Larry Cox at Lakota West High School
… Helped his team to an 8-2 record as a senior … A former basketball player who exhibits an all-around combination of
quickness, balance and strength … Went to the same high school as former UK fullback John Conner, now a member of the
Cincinnati Bengals.

Regie Meant, Defensive Lineman, 6-4, 275, Fr-HS, Cape Coral, Fla. (Baker) – A speedy defensive line prospect
with a huge frame to go along with quickness … Has been timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a remarkable time
for a defensive lineman … With his great combination of size and speed he could project as a defensive tackle or end …
Second-team all-state in Florida Class AAAAA as a senior … Did not begin playing football until high school … Attended Ida
Baker High School, where he played just three seasons for Coach Brian Conn … Totaled 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, two
sacks, a caused fumble and two quarterback hurries his senior season … Finished junior season with 23 tackles, four sacks
and three caused fumbles … Name pronounced same as “Reggie.”

Ramsey Meyers, Offensive Lineman, 6-4, 290, Fr-HS, Orange Park, Fla. (Ridgeview) – First-team all-state
senior season in Florida Class 6A … A big and athletic offensive line prospect with great run-blocking ability … Physical
attributes could help him project into multiple offensive line positions … The nation’s No. 60 guard prospect by 247Sports
and ranked No. 61 by Scout.com … Played for Coach Tom McPherson and the Ridgeview Panthers in Orange Park, Fla.
… Helped Ridgeview to a 9-2 mark and a spot in the state playoffs his senior year … Senior honors also included All-First
Coast, All-County and the Florida Times-Union “Super 24” … Played in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-
South All-Star Classic following senior campaign … Honorable-mention all-state as a junior … Named the top sleeper at the
Nike Elite Camp last spring … A first-team all-combine performer at the US Army combine in 2012 … The first Southeastern
Conference signee in school history.

Alex Montgomery, Wide Receiver, 6-2, 210, Fr-HS, Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay) – First-team all-state wide
receiver from Cypress Bay High School, where he helped his team to the 8A state championship game his senior season,
regional semifinals his junior year and state semifinals his sophomore season … Ended his high school career in fine
fashion with a tremendous performance in the 8A state championship game … Had nine catches for 199 yards and three
touchdowns in the final, including a nifty one-handed touchdown catch … His 199 receiving yards was a state finals record
… Also played defensive back and had what appeared to be the game-winning interception in the state championship
game before a late penalty nullified the play … In the two playoff games before the state final, Montgomery returned an
interception for a touchdown in each, first for 34 yards and then 56 yards … Had 42 catches for 892 yards and seven
touchdowns his senior year en route to first-team all-state honors by the Miami Herald … Ended his junior campaign with 27
catches for 556 yards and 10 touchdowns … Coached by Mark Guandolo … ESPN.com lists key traits as good hands and
speed … Ranked as the nation’s No. 51 wide receiver by Rivals.com.

Reese Phillips, Quarterback, 6-2, 225, Fr-HS, Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain) – Two-year all-
state quarterback at Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School … Led team to a 7-4 record as a senior and an appearance in the
Tennessee Class AAAA state playoffs … Completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three
interceptions to earn all-state honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … District Player of the Year … Was
named the MVP of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic after going 10-for-10 for 95 yards and a
touchdown … Led the East to a 41-20 win, setting a record for most points in the all-star game … Solid junior season as a
first-year starting quarterback, throwing for 1,895 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions while completing 71 percent of his
passes … Was named a first-team all-state performer in 2011 by Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Started at tightend and defensive back as a freshman and sophomore, including sophomore campaign which saw Signal Mountain win the Class AA state championship with a 14-0 record (SMHS competed in 4A during his junior and senior seasons) … Known for
a strong arm and consistent accuracy … Coached by Bill Price … “Reese is a very intelligent kid with a work ethic that is
tremendous,” Price said. “He has a very strong arm and his accuracy is a big plus.” … A two-year all-district performer in
baseball, playing shortstop and pitching …Junior year pitching stats featured a 7-1 record with an 0.85 earned run average,
striking out 60 in 49 innings of work … Honor-roll student and member of the Beta Club … Reese’s grandfather, Harry, and
great uncle, Dick, were members of the football team at Georgia.

Za’Darius Smith, Defensive End, 6-6, 260, Jr-JC, Greenville, Ala. (Greenville/East Mississippi Community
College) – The nation’s No. 1 junior college strongside defensive end prospect as ranked by JCGridiron.com … The
nation’s No. 10 overall juco prospect, and No. 2 defensive end, by ESPN … Listed No. 15 overall, and the No. 2 weakside
defensive end, by 24/7 Sports … Totaled 47 tackles, including 6.5 quarterback sacks and 11 total tackles for loss, as a
sophomore at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss. … Named second-team All-America by the National
Junior College Athletic Association … Also named to the juco all-region and all-state teams … Helped EMCC to an 8-2
record … Made 19 tackles, featuring 4.5 sacks and seven total TFL, as a freshman … EMCC won the 2011 NJCAA national
championship with a 12-0 mark … Head coach was Buddy Stephens and his defensive line coach was current UK assistant
Jimmy Brumbaugh … A relative latecomer to the game as he grew up playing basketball at Greenville (Ala.) High School
and didn’t begin playing football until his senior year …Coached at Greenville by Ben Blackmon …An older brother, Bob
Meeks, played center at Auburn from 1988-91 and for the NFL’s Denver Broncos … A cousin, Davern Williams, played at
Troy and for the NFL’s New York Giants … A niece, Kristi Mokube, currently plays basketball at Florida State.

Khalid Thomas, RB, 5-10, 170, Fr-HS, Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby) – Skilled athlete who was named
the 2012 Tallahassee Quarterback Club’s Most Valuable Player of the Year after helping Godby High School win the 2012
Class AAAAA state championship … Had 13 carries for 70 yards in the state championship game … Scored the game-
winning touchdown on a 28-yard run, breaking multiple tackles in the process, in Godby’s 21-20 title triumph … Team
posted a 14-1 record under Coach Ronnie Cottrell … Outstanding senior campaign, rushing 184 times for 1,471 yards and
15 touchdowns … Also had 23 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown last fall … Led Godby in rushing and receiving
his junior season … Had 958 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns his junior season, while also posting 421 receiving yards
… Also played some defense in high school, making some interceptions … Named Class 1A-5A all-state second team his
senior season and was a Tallahassee Democrat All-Big Bend Co-Player of the Year … Brother of current UK linebacker
Kadeem “Pancho” Thomas … The nation’s No. 27 all-purpose back by 247Sports.com … 4quartersonline.com said Thomas
is “an elusive multi-purpose back that can give opposition teams nightmares.” … ESPN.com praises Thomas for versatility,
being a playmaker and his ball skills … Name is pronounced “kah-LEED.”

Ryan Timmons, Athlete, 5-10, 185, Fr-HS, Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin County) – Dynamic playmaker who was all
over the field offensively in high school … Played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks … Produced eye-popping
numbers … First-team all-state as a junior and senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal … Also all-state as a senior by
The Associated Press and a member of the Lexington Herald-Leader “Class of the Commonwealth” … Rushed for 1,306
yards and 25 touchdowns his senior season, averaging an amazing 15.7 yards per attempt … Caught 33 passes for 1,004
yards and 16 TDs, averaging more than 30 yards per reception … Opponents kicked off to him only three times and he
returned them all for touchdowns … Had equally incredible numbers his junior season … Rushed 62 times for 1,382 yards,
averaging 22.3 yards per carry, and 20 touchdowns … Also had 38 receptions for 1,100 yards, a 28.9 average, and 18
touchdowns his junior campaign … Versatility makes him difficult to define as he ranks as the nation’s No. 23 running back
by 247Sports.com, the No. 28 athlete by ESPN.com and the No. 46 wide receiver by Scout.com.

Nate Willis, Defensive Back, 6-0, 180, Jr-JC, Pahokee, Fla. (Pahokee/Arizona Western College)
Rated as the No. 3 junior college cornerback in the nation by 247Sports.com … Helped Arizona Western College to an 8-
2 record last fall and a victory in the El Toro Bowl – the team’s first bowl game win in more than 40 years … Team finished
the 2011 regular season No. 1 in the nation and hosted the national championship game before suffering its first loss of the
season to finish 11-1 … Solid sophomore season at AWCC, earning 19 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups …
Had 31 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one fumble forced and three interceptions his freshman season … Also returned kicks
in junior college … His freshman season, he return four kickoffs for 133 yards and two punts for 135 yards and a touchdown
… Had three kickoff returns last season for 65 yards … ESPN.com gives Willis praise for his man coverage, zone coverage,
instincts and ball skills … Helped his team win the 2B state championship his freshman and sophomore seasons …
Focused on basketball and did not play football his last two years at Pahokee (Fla.) HS … Did play one season at Glades
Central HS.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Articles, Kentucky Wildcats, Southeastern Conference

Texas LB takes to Twitter to raise money for sick mom

Dalton Santos, Baker Mayfield AP

While one Texas linebacker was cramming both of his feet squarely in his mouth this weekend, another teammate at the same position was trying to raise attention to a cause very near and dear to his heart.

On his personal Twitter account late Sunday afternoon, UT’s Dalton Santos, a projected starter for the Longhorns’ defense, posted a plea for money to help his ailing mother, Vista, a nurse who is apparently in need of open heart surgery.

Here’s Santos’ post:

Following the link contained in the tweet, you get the following information — and the stellar “Vista’s Angry Aortic Aneurysm” headline:

Friends,

Vista has been diagnosed with an AORTIC ANEURYSM. This MUST be repaired SOON by means of OPEN HEART SURGERY. As we all know Vista is a very proud momma to 3 children. Dalton, Wyatt and Gracie. Vista will be unable to work for at least 10 weeks. She is a single mom. She is a nurse and spends her days caring for others. Now she needs to learn how to let others care for her, even if only for a short time.

We need to raise money to help her during this time. Even if you can only donate 5 dollars it will help ease the burden. The stress of finances should not be something our friend worries about during this time.

Please consider donating.

The goal initially was to raise $5,000; it looks as if word of the social media-fueled drive is spreading as that target has now been upped to $10,000. As of this posting, a total of $4,821 — with 25 days left — has been raised.  For those who can’t figure it out, the direct link to donate if you so desire is right HERE.

God bless and good luck to all involved.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Bo knows two-sport success, imparts wisdom on Jameis

Bo Jackson

One of the few people on the planet who can truly understand the athlete portion of the Jameis Winston phenomenon is Bo Jackson.

Jackson was a two-sport star at Auburn before playing both football and baseball professionally.  Winston appears to be headed down that same path, splitting his time this spring between the reigning BCS champ Florida State football team and the top-ranked Seminole baseball team.

Add in the fact that both won Heismans and both were born in Bessemer, Ala., and it’s reasonable for people to connect the dots between the two.  In that vein, Jackson, who was in attendance at the Tigers’ spring game over the weekend, was asked what advice he would give the FSU quarterback regarding the two-sport challenge both have tackled.

“People tried to tell me ‘Well, he shouldn’t do this,’ and it wouldn’t be right for me to say what he should do or shouldn’t do,” Jackson said according to al.com‘s Brandon Marcello. “I think he should follow his heart. He should experience success or failure on his own. I think he’s man enough to do that and admit either way.

“I just wish him luck. He’s from my hometown, so he’s a homeboy. I wish him luck.”

Jackson does, though, offer a word of warning amidst the encouragement.

When Bo was doing his two-sport thing, he was a running back in football and an outfielder in the stick-and-ball game.  Winston, on the other hand, is a quarterback and, along with being  a designated hitter, a relief pitcher.  With so much reliance placed on his arm, Winston may have to look elsewhere position-wise if he wants to try both sports professionally.

“If he thinks he can do it, then so be it — on the college level,” Jackson said. “But trying to take it to the next level, it’s going to be a little difficult because the talent pool on both sides. Plus he’s going to make his living with his arm and I think if I was Jameis I would follow my heart because I did the same thing.”

For his part, Winston has openly acknowledged wanting to tackle both sports professionally.

That is my dream,” Winston said back in February when asked about twin futures in the NFL and MLB, “whether it’s me being a closer or me being a hitter. But I know I want to be an NFL quarterback.

“Obviously, it would be a tremendous honor to follow in the footsteps of the Bo Jacksons and the Deion Sanders to play both sports professionally. That’s just something that I have to worry about when it comes.”

Jackson says Winston should follow his heart; Winston, though, may want to follow his wallet to find the path of least resistance, at least on his body.

(Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

Colorado v USC Getty Images

For the better part of the eight weeks or so since Max Wittek announced his transfer out of USC. all — or at least most — of the signs have pointed to Texas being the frontrunner for the quarterback’s services.

Saturday, there was yet another sign pointing in the general direction of Austin.

Late last night, ESPN.com reported that Wittek visited UT earlier in the day and was in attendance for the Longhorns’ spring game.  It was the third time since late January that the quarterback has visited the campus, leading some to believe that Wittek-to-UT is all but a done deal.

In addition to Texas, Wittek has visited Hawaii as well.  Louisville is also thought to be a potential destination.

As Wittek will graduate this spring, he will be eligible to play immediately at any FBS program and maintain two years of eligibility.  There’s no word yet on when Wittek will pull the trigger on a decision on his next collegiate destination, although that could happen as early as this coming week.

Wittek was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.  Late last month, Wittek announced he would be transferring from USC in search of a better shot at playing time.

Should Wittek land at UT, he would immediately join a competition that includes the incumbent David Ash, who recently underwent surgery on an injured foot but is expected to be available for the start of summer camp, and Tyrone Swoopes, who struggled for the most part leading the first-team offense in the spring finale yesterday.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Texas LB calls Baylor ‘trash,’ says ‘they still suck to me’

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptuznze2nwezmtyzyjm2ytnlmtu3otlhnwm1zmjlndi1 AP

Other than Tyrone Swoopes‘ struggles, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of news coming out of Charlie Strong’s first spring game at Texas.

Well, that and a Longhorn giving a conference rival some serious bulletin board material.

Following the spring game, Steve Edmond was one of several UT players to make an appearance in front of the media.  When asked about how Strong can improve the Longhorns’ fortunes from the last couple of years, the linebacker decided to go off on a tangent and aim some rather sharp words directly at the reigning Big 12 champs, Baylor.

“We could have won the conference. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don’t like Baylor. I still think they’re trash. …

“I’m mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. And then … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game.

“I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Oklahoma earlier in the day, the Texas-Baylor game Dec. 7 turned into a de facto Big 12 championship game. After playing to a 3-3 tie through the first two quarters of play, the Bears outscored the Longhorns 27-7 the rest of the way to claim the conference title and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl.

In fact, Baylor has come out on top of Texas in three of the last four meetings, with the only loss in that span coming by six points in Austin in 2012. Perhaps that’s why Edmonds, who missed last year’s loss due to a lacerated liver, reiterated his stance with an “I don’t like Baylor” to conclude his remarks.

Regardless, current and former members of the Baylor football program had a chuckle at Edmond’s bombast.

Oh, and for those wondering, Baylor and Texas will next meet again Oct. 4 in Austin.  Go ahead and grab yourselves some popcorn now as that one’s going to be some fun.

Permalink 13 Comments Back to top

Potential secondary starter for UK out up to four months with sports hernia

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

The good news is a potential starter for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball will be laid up for quite a bit of time.  The good news?  It shouldn’t impact the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming season.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, cornerback Nate Willis will be sidelined for the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in the near future for a sports hernia.  Such a timeline would have Willis out of action no longer than the middle of August, which means the defensive back could be sidelined for the beginning of the Wildcats’ second summer camp under head coach Mark Stoops.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you’ve got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said according to the Herald-Leader. “That frustration sets in, but you’ve always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Willis, who transferred to UK from the JUCO ranks, started seven of the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Despite the missed playing time, Willis still led the team with five pass breakups.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

Permalink 19 Comments Back to top

Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

Permalink 6 Comments Back to top

Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

Permalink 16 Comments Back to top

Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

Permalink 13 Comments Back to top