ESPN’s John Saunders passes away

John Saunders, one of ESPN’s most visible and versatile commentators and a founding member of the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, has passed away. He was 61.

ESPN President John Skipper said: “John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades. His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

Kemp still trying to learn Gran’s personality

JoJo Kemp (Vicky Graff Photo)

JoJo Kemp (Vicky Graff Photo)


Senior running back JoJo Kemp wants to be a leader and has been a leader for Kentucky’s football team. But offensive coordinator Eddie Gran still is not sure the two are always on the same page because of Kemp’s playful personality.

“Evolution is interesting with Jojo because he’s got to learn – you’ve got to know when to turn it on and turn it off in terms of when you’re going to have fun. Jojo, as you know, he likes to have fun and laugh,” Gran said.

Gran believes UK will be “OK” at tight end


Losing tight end Daryl Long just two days into preseason practice was an unexpected blow for Kentucky’s offense. However, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran made it clear Tuesday that he still liked what the Cats had at tight end.

“(Freshman) Justin Riggs is pushing Greg Hart and C.J. (Conrad) to get on the field. It’s awesome. When you do that, you’ve got a chance,” Gran said.

He says Rigg has more than just great size.

“Soft hands, listens, loves the game, will stick (his) face in there. All those things I love,” Gran said.

Gran likes what he saw from offense in practice today

By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics
The first full-padded practice of fall camp is full of unknowns, no matter how players perform up to that point.
The game changes when it gets physical, but Kentucky’s offense had issue responding to that on Tuesday.
“Thought they handled it really well,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “I thought they came out with energy after five days of practice and executed really, really well today. I was excited about it.”
Excited, but not surprised.
After a productive spring and a summer in which players took it upon themselves to run mock practices on their own, this is exactly what Gran was asking of his group.
“The first meeting we talked to them about we’ve got high expectations for this offense,” Gran said. “With high expectations, you’ve got to pay a price and we believe they can do it, but now it’s about coming out here. And like Coach talked about the fine strokes and you have the fine strokes. Then with the fine strokes, that’s the detail. What I saw today was the detail.”
At quarterback, detail came in the form of a completion rate approaching 70 percent in live portions of practice for sophomore starter Drew Barker. Those situations aren’t cakewalks either.
“I’m constantly putting pressure on him,” quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said. “I’m constantly heating up the kitchen, trying to cook some eggs and different things in his kitchen, trying to get him to be uncomfortable so that he’s more comfortable when the actual game comes around.”
Barker, meanwhile, is thinking more about the play of those around him than his own. He’s seeing a large group step up.
“Across the board, pretty much everybody’s making plays,” Barker said. “There’s not really one person who’s lagging behind. So it’s good to have that competition, especially in the wide receiver room. We got a ton of talent there.”
Barker went on to say that even third-string receivers are doing good things, which is exactly what the coaching staff is looking for.
“You’ve got to play the best ones, the ones who are producing and that’s what we’re finding out right now,” Gran said. “The one thing we have right now that’s a great thing at the wide receiver position is we’ve got guys who are competing.”
Wide receiver isn’t the only spot where that’s happening. It’s also the case at running back. True freshman Justin Rigg is pushing C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart at wide receiver. Another true freshman, Landon Young, is pressing for playing time in his first college season.
“When you have competition, then that’s what is going to make a better football team,” Gran said. “And I think they’ve done a great job here of recruiting to make it so you do have competition.”
The idea is for that competition to lead to consistency.
“If we can be consistent and do it, we’ve got a chance,” Gran said. “We can’t be up and down as an offense throughout the year or you’ve got no chance. There’s going to be some highs and lows in the game, but you’ve got to be consistent when you’re doing it and recover in that short-term memory.”

EJ Floréal to Join Kentucky Track & Field Team

EJ Floreal, third from left

EJ Floreal, second from left

LEXINGTON, Ky. – EJ Floréal announced Tuesday his intent to compete for the Kentucky track and field program, which is coached by his father Edrick Sr.
Floréal played on the Kentucky men’s basketball team the past three years. An elite athlete with a decorated prep career on the track, Floréal will have two years of eligibility remaining in track and field. He will no longer play on the Kentucky basketball team.

Tate Leavitt: “I just have to get better”


Tate Leavitt came to Kentucky hailed as the solution for UK’s left tackle dilemma. However, the junior college transfer came out of spring practice No. 2 behind former walk-on Cole Mosier and is still in that spot — with true freshman Landon Young No. 3 — in preseason camp.

“I would not say it was harder than I thought. It was what I expected. I just have to get better. I have high expectations for myself and I just have one way to go,” he said. “I have more technique work to do. Little things with my footwork, little things not opening my hips to let the defensive man get to the edge.”

Landon Young gives mom passing grade on radio interview

Angie Young and Landon Young

Angie Young and Landon Young


A few days after she attended the Kentucky Football Women’s Clinic, Angie Young joined me on The Leach Report to talk about that and her son, UK freshman offensive lineman Landon Young.

She insisted not only was she nervous, but she did not want to embarrass her son.

So how did she do?

“I thought she did really good. I was proud of her. She didn’t stumble too much and I didn’t think she was as nervous as she thought she would be,” said Landon Young.

UK’s defensive line now even bigger question mark

Mark Stoops won't have fun replacing Regie Meant. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Mark Stoops won’t have fun replacing Regie Meant. (Vicky Graff Photo)


Perhaps the biggest question mark on the Kentucky football team going into this season would be the defensive line. Even coach Mark Stoops knows that.

“We need certain groups to step up, in particular the defensive line,” Stoops said Monday.

Then he had to announce why that suddenly is harder — defensive lineman Regie Meant is out indefinitely for personal reasons and Stoops has no idea if he will rejoin the team this year or not.

Regie Meant out indefinitely for personal reasons

By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics

The Kentucky football team reported for fall camp only four days ago, but the Wildcats aren’t wasting any time getting their feet under them.
“It’s been good,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “Been good work. Things are moving fast. We have a lot in on both sides of the ball. It just goes to show you that we did a lot of work in the summer. Not as many mental mistakes, the ball is not on the ground as much, we’re learning how to practice. Still being super competitive and physical, but practicing very smart.”
That continued into Monday, when UK turned in yet another solid morning practice.
“I liked the practice,” Stoops said. “It was a good, competitive practice. Both sides did some good things. Both sides were sloppy at times. In general we’re competing. Guys are flying around. Good physical day.”
Early returns in fall camp are good, but Stoops isn’t about to stop challenging his team. With the season opener now less than four weeks away, there’s too much still to do for the Cats to let up.
“We got a lot of work in the past couple of days and I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Stoops said. “Have a lot more to go. Have to continue to build some depth in certain areas. There’s no getting around that. We need certain groups to step up, in particular the defensive line.”
It was no accident that Stoops named the defensive line, as the unit has taken a hit with news announced Monday. Senior defensive tackle Regie Meant will be out indefinitely for personal reasons. Stoops was unsure whether Meant – who had 31 tackles and a sack last season – will return to the team, leaving it to those previously behind him on the depth chart to step up.
“Alvonte (Bell) is a big guy, Courtney Miggins as we talked about,” Stoops said. “We’ll bring some guys along. Kengera (Daniel) needs to really develop. He’s a guy that needs to step up and improve.”
UK also has a talented group of first-year defensive linemen – Ja’Quize Cross, Kordell Looney and T.J. Carter – who will be called on to contribute.
“They’re going to have to,” Stoops said. “They’re good players. They’re a long ways off right now but they’re good players. They’re what you want and what you look for. We needed a good solid d-line class. We have one in this group. We have to bring them along a little bit. How much they can help us — I don’t know yet.”
Long to transfer
Stoops announced on Monday that tight end Darryl Long will transfer. With developing depth at his position, Long is leaving to pursue more playing time. Stoops announced on Saturday that cornerback Jared Tucker was doing the same.

Stoops knows Drew Barker has ability to make plays

Drew Barker at Fan Day Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Drew Barker at Fan Day Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)


While Mark Stoops likes what he has seen from backup quarterback Stephen Johnson — “He brings a little different skill set at times” — there is no doubt he is sold on Drew Barker as his starter going into his sophomore season.

“You saw flashes in Drew from day one. I was there in high school and watched him play. The game I was there, it was a back-and-forth game. You just saw him have that ability to create plays. Those are things that I was talking about earlier that you have to have some special players with instincts, that make things happen,” Stoops said.