Cats know stopping Webb won’t be easy

Linebacker Josh Allen will be chasing Vandy running back Richard Webb Saturday. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

Linebacker Josh Allen (41) will be chasing Vandy running back Ralph Webb Saturday. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even though Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason says he will look at other offensive “options” for Saturday’s game at Kentucky that could involve more passing.

Most of the season, the Vanderbilt offense has been running back Ralph Webb. He’s had his hands on the ball in about 40 percent of Vandy’s offensive plays. But the Commodores have struggled more on offense than even Kentucky has.

Eli Brown still learning how to execute system

By LARRY VAUGHT

Redshirt freshman linebacker Eli Brown had his best game at Alabama last week and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot noticed.

“Eli has really good instincts. I think Eli is very athletic. Eli is a very sure tackler,” Eliot said Wednesday. “Eli, though, is a freshman. Eli was just with our scout team last year and didn’t get any reps within our scheme, so where he needs to work is continuing to understand the scheme and execute the scheme.

“He’s getting better, so that’s why Eli is getting more playing time and I think the better he gets the more playing time he’ll see and the more plays he’ll make.”

UK Football-Keeneland Shuttle Returns Saturday

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Nothing says Lexington like a fall Saturday split between watching horse racing at Keeneland and Kentucky football at Commonwealth Stadium. Once again, Lextran has partnered with UK and Keeneland to offer a shuttle that will allow fans to do exactly that.

The shuttle will make its 2016 debut on Saturday, Oct. 8 as the Wildcats take on Vanderbilt at 4 p.m. Lextran will offer a shuttle to and from Commonwealth and Keeneland for $1 each way so that fans can enjoy the signature Kentucky doubleheader without having to drive back and forth in their own vehicles.

Guest post: Has UK defense improved since Mark Stoops became head coach?

By KEITH PEEL

Perspective is a funny thing. Related to sports perspective seems to come mostly from the “eye test.” at least for me. I watch a fair amount of college football and every UK football game. The eye test for me has provided the only perspective that I have so far in evaluating Mark Stoops’ defense during his tenure at UK.

But since my perspective can always use some calibration, let’s check the facts.

Also in the interest of transparent disclosure let me say that I am not a fan of D.J. Eliot as a defensive coordinator but I did think that Mark Stoops was a great defensive coordinator and a tremendous hire as head coach in 2013.
Now, on to the facts:
UK football currently ranks 92nd in scoring defense out of 128 FBS teams. At the end of the 2015 season UK finished 69th in scoring defense. In the 2014 season UK defense ranked as the 93rd best in scoring defense. And last but not least, in Stoops’ first year as head coach (2013) UK ranked 89th in scoring defense. To finish the perspective Joker Phillips’ team ranked 85th in scoring defense for his last year in 2012.
If Stoops had been able to continue his upward trajectory for his defense into this season (or even hold steady at 69) I might be able to say that his recruiting and coaching schemes were having a positive effect. But since we are currently ranked 92nd in scoring defense after five games it is difficult to find areas of improvement.
The secondary looks better but linebacker and defensive line play have been inconsistent at best. The “eye test” tells me that we don’t look any better against quality teams when it comes to stopping them from scoring points and the facts seem to bear that out. We have given up 44, 45, 42, 10 and 34 points respectively to Southern Miss, Florida, New Mexico State, South Carolina and Alabama. Based on the facts and the “eye test” it doesn’t appear that 3 1/2 years of recruiting and coaching have changed the results very much.
So whether emotion or personal preference or anything else tells us that Mark Stoops is a good defensive coach unless he can get his team to 69th or better in scoring defense by the end of the year it appears that a perspective based on the facts will win the day when evaluating whether or not he has improved UK’s Football situation on the defensive side of the ball.

UK Alumni Association Hosting Homecoming Tailgate Tent Party featuring J.D. Shelburne

J.D. Shelburne

J.D. Shelburne

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The UK Alumni Association invites alumni and fans to a Homecoming tailgate tent party at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 8, before the University of Kentucky football team takes on Vanderbilt University.

The party will be at the Tobacco Research Lawn at the corner of Cooper and University Drives. There will be a barbecue meal from Bradford BBQ along with entertainment, giveaways, appearances by the UK cheerleaders, dance team and pep band and a special performance by UK alumnus and Nashville recording artist J.D. Shelburne. 

Landon Young “won’t flinch or lose confidence”

Landon Young, left, is gaining valuable experience. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

Landon Young, left, is gaining valuable experience. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Freshman offensive tackle Landon  Young had some difficult moments in last week’s loss at Alabama, but coahc Mark Stoops has seen nothing to make him worry about his star freshman.

“There is no doubt that he just saw one of the most difficult situations he’ll ever be in. He’s a true freshman and did some good things and got beat some (at Alabama),” said Stoops. “That’s going to happen. That experience, you can’t replace that. He’s a great kid. The nice kid about him is it won’t faze him, he won’t flinch or lose confidence.”

Dorian Baker looks on schedule to play Saturday

Dorian Baker had three TD catches last year, but not a single reception this season. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Dorian Baker had three TD catches last year, but not a single reception this season. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Five games into the season, Dorian Baker has yet to make a catch. He’s played in only one full game but offensive coordinator Eddie Gran hopes to have him back against Vanderbilt Saturday.

Baker was UK’s leading receiver with 55 catches for 608 yards and three touchdowns last season. He was being counted on for an even bigger year this season.

James Whalen Named Kentucky’s SEC Football Legend

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Former University of Kentucky football tight end James Whalen has been named a 2016 Southeastern Conference Legend for excelling on the gridiron after a true storybook rags-to-riches collegiate career.

Whalen, originally from Portland, Ore., came to Kentucky as a walk-on after playing his freshman season at Shasta College in Redding, Calif. After his family moved to Walton, Ky., because of a job transfer, James decided to transfer. Armed with a highlight tape made by his mother, James visited then-new coach Hal Mumme in the summer of 1997 and asked to tryout as a walk-on. The rest is history.

Epps Named Preseason First Team All-America by CollegeSportsMadness.com

Makayla Epps (Vicky Graff Photo)

Makayla Epps (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky women’s basketball senior guard Makayla Epps continues to earn preseason praise as she has been named to CollegeSportsMadness.com Preseason All-America First Team, the outlet announced Tuesday.

One of two Southeastern Conference players to make the outlet’s first team, Epps has earned several preseason All-America honors in the last month. Athlon Sports named the guard to its Preseason All-America Second Team, while Sporting News tabbed Epps to its Preseason All-America First Team. Last season, the Lebanon, Ky., native was named honorable-mention All-America by the Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

Jordan Jones “just wired very different”

Jordan Jones (34) has a team-high 51 tackles. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

Jordan Jones (34) has a team-high 51 tackles. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones has 51 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries in five games for Kentucky. All are team-high totals going into Saturday’s game with Vanderbilt.

“He’s one of those guys that’s just wired very different. He means so well. He brings unbelievable energy every day,” coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “He loves playing football, loves practicing, loves it all. It’s experience, reps, all those things.