After playing a receiver at quarterback for eight games in 2019, it seems almost ludicrous to wonder if the Kentucky offense can be as productive in 2020 when the Cats figure to have a traditional quarterback — hopefully 2018 starter Terry Wilson who led UK to 10 wins before getting hurt in the second game last year.

    "That's a great question to ask at the beginning of year when we get 
started," Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said.
    Wilson tore a knee ligament in the second game of the 2019 season 
and won't be ready to participate in spring practice.
    "He will be there but not able to go through full blown drills," 
Gran said. "So how healthy will he be when we start in August? We 
have to develop other guys. What we did learn with Lynn (Bowden) is 
that we have packages we can use with Terry and Sawyer (Smith) as 
well and do some stuff. We might not be as explosive but there are 
different things we can do."
    Bowden did a lot. He rushed for a SEC best 1,468 yards in just eight 
games and averaged an incredible 7.94 yards per carry, best in the 
SEC. He ran for 13 touchdowns and led the winning touchdown drive in 
the Belk Bowl. As a team, Kentucky ran for 3,624 yards and ranked 
fourth nationally with 278.8 yards per game. The Cats had four 
players rush for over 500 yards.
    Kentucky ran for 517 yards against Louisville, 462 against UT-Martin 
and 401 in their three final regular-season games and got 331 more in 
the Belk Bowl against Virginia Tech.
    "You always want to be great and what was so amazing after Terry got 
hurt and then Sawyer was everybody on offense, both coaches and 
players, bought in to find a way to win," UK co-offensive coordinator 
Darin Hinshaw said. "We were able to do that and it's something we 
will remember forever.
    "We can incorporate a lot of stuff we did next year as we move 
forward. It's exciting knowing that. My job will be to get the 
quarterbacks ready to play. We are going to throw the ball more 
obviously but we also know we have to run the football. You can 
control time and the game that way. Just look at that last drive (in 
the Belk Bowl) that took 18 plays, 8 1/2 minutes. That is what is fun 
and we've got the pieces back to run the football."
    Hinshaw said UK's quarterback, or quarterbacks depending on 
injuries, have to execute the play-action pass as well as the RPO 
(run-pass option)  to make the run game work.
    "I would love to be No. 1 in the SEC in rushing again," Hinshaw said.
    That would require UK's receivers to sacrifice again like they had 
to do after Wilson and then Smith got hurt. Bowden threw 74 passes in 
eight games and only completed 35 — and two came on the final game-
winning TD drive in the Belk Bowl including the winning touchdown pass.
    "I don't know how many passes we even threw the last six or seven 
games but it wasn't many. Our receiver had to stay motivated, run 
routes and be ready but it didn't work out (to pass). We played four 
monsoon rain games with one reason," Gran said. "But they all wanted 
to win. They knew the circumstances and really believed in Lynn. That 
actually says a lot about coach (Mark) Stoops and the culture he's 
built here."
    When Kentucky was shredding defenses with the run late in the 
season, the receivers often made key blocks on big runs by Bowden, 
A.J. Rose and others.
    "I think at the end of the year our perimeter blocking was 
fantastic. They (receivers) knew their role and wanted to win and it 
meant something to them," Gran said. "I bet we had more big runs than 
almost any team in the country because of our perimeter blocking."
    That's just one thing high school coaches and players across the 
country might have noticed. More importantly, Kentucky has won 32 
games the last four years, including 18 the last two seasons that 
both ended with bowl victories.
    "There's no doubt we notice a difference in the perception of UK 
football when we are out recruiting now," Hinshaw said. "It's 
incredible the response we get from different coaches all over the 
country. But we still have to roll up our shirt sleeves and go to 
work every day. You can never take success for granted or know what 
adjustments you may have to make to be successful like we found out 
this past season."
Quickley spends a lot of time in the gym
    John Calipari says it's no accident that Immanuel Quickley has 
become such an effective player this season.
    "He's a confident kid, and what he does, he spends so much time in 
the gym, he expects to make them (3-point shots)," Calipari said. "If 
you know you're not 100 percent, you're not spending the time you 
can, you still look in the mirror.
    "And if you're giving 80 percent and then you get in the game and it 
doesn't play out for you, you know, he's—the kid lives in the gym. 
He's kind of like Tyler (Herro), he's like Shai (Gilgeous-) 
Alexander, those guys. He's just like them.
    "The guy, the energy, he finishes first on every run. He's built his 
own confidence."
    What's not as obvious is that he's building that same confidence on 
defense. He did a terrific job against Louisville's Jordan Nwora and 
has carried that momentum into SEC play.
    "I think the one thing that Cal talks about on the defensive end and 
our staff really tries to hit on is defensive confidence," Kentucky 
assistant coach Joel Justus said. "That's something that travels. It 
should carry over into postseason. It should go from freshman to 
sophomore to junior to senior, and I think that's something we teach 
here a lot is how to do I build my defensive confidence.
    "If I'm not making shots, if I'm not playing extremely well or as 
well as I would think on the offensive end, your defense is based off 
of your effort. It's based off of your preparation, and Immanuel is a 
guy who in his second year has stepped up. He's a guy that has paid 
greater attention to multiple positions in our walkthroughs, and I 
think that's what you want and you need out of these veteran guys."
Young enjoyed Belk Bowl win
    Kentucky signee John Young thought UK's Belk Bowl win over Virginia 
Tech was "awesome" and sets a terrific tone for the 2020 season.
    Young, an offensive lineman from Louisville, was at the Belk Bowl in 
Charlotte along with UK quarterback signee Beau Allen of Lexington. 
The two are now roommates after starting classes at UK last week.
    "It was probably the most fun game I have seen in person. From just 
a football standpoint it was just a good game and the end was great 
obviously," Young said. "It was nasty smash-mouth football. Everybody 
knew Kentucky was going to run and was forcing teams to try and stop 
the run and teams were not able to do it. I really hope this all 
carries over to next season and I am pretty sure it will.
    "Kentucky is really starting to pick up steam as a top tier program. 
We are going to compete for the SEC East next year. To me, it's the 
best time ever to be a Kentucky player."
WNBA takes step
    You might have missed it but the WNBA and its union recently 
announced an eight-year deal through 2027 where players will receive 
an average of $130,000 annual along with guarantees of full salaries 
during maternity leave. Top players can also now earn $500,000 or 
more annually.
    "I just think it's another step forward for the sport, and certainly 
for our players who aspire to be professional," Kentucky coach 
Matthew Mitchell said. "And we have former players right now who are 
all over the globe playing professionally.
    "Anytime you can have something positive like that where there is a 
quality of life increase, a pay raise, a pay increase that is going 
to allow them to earn more money, it's just fantastic development and 
our players were excited to see that. So many of them aspire to be in 
that league one day, so great development for women's basketball."
    One who certainly will be is sophomore Rhyne Howard, who has been on 
a scoring tear all season but still maintains many other ways to also 
help her team win. Texas A&M coach Gary Blair knows she'll be an All-
American this season and is one of maybe three players in the SEC 
that can "create off the bounce and score with contact" like she did 
in a win over his team.
    "We couldn't guard her one-on-one. And there isn't a sportswriter in 
here that could've guarded her one-on-one either," Blair said in his 
postgame press conference.
    Mitchell laughed and agreed with Blair's assessment of the 
sportswriters' defensive ability. He also said she's "really good" 
and just continues to do a lot more than just score.
    Quote of the Week: "It's not hard for me because I talk to my family 
every day. I'm a church-going guy, come from a church-going family so 
it's kind of easy for me just keeping God first," Kentucky freshman 
Kahlil Whitney on balancing basketball with a social life.
    Quote of the Week 2: "She is going to take up for her dad on social 
media. I did not see that side of her in high school. She was more 
like ‘whatever' when it came to her dad, but she has had a good taste 
of that blue liquid up there in Kentucky and now really takes up for 
him," Briarwood Christian Academy (Memphis) coach John Harrington on 
Megan Calipari, a former student worker for him, on taking up for her 
father, John Calipari.
    Quote of the Week 3: "He is a state kid but he is a very good player 
and very good student. He is a 3.8 (grade-point average) and is going 
to study pharmacy This kid can go (on the field) and we were excited 
to get him," UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow on signee 
Octavious Oxendine, a 296-pound defensive lineman from North Hardin 
High School.

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.