Right, Big Blue Nation. It is time to take off the black clothing. Our time of mourning has passed. Lift that creepy veil off your face, grab a bourbon, step outside and enjoy the smell of freshly cut Kentucky Bluegrass on a warm spring afternoon. Depression doesn’t look good on you. For the love of God, at least take a shower and wash those thread-bare pajamas. The body blow we collectively refused to see coming was a gut shot in the form of Wisconsin Badgers. It happened. It wasn’t a dream. It’s time to get back to reality. Life—and Kentucky sports—will go on. In fact, in case you missed it, Kentucky does still have a football team. Allow me a moment to expand on the changing of the Kentucky sports seasons, as we move into football time in the Bluegrass. Missed amidst all the undefeated hubbub and national championship whispers was, by all indications, the best spring practice Mark Stoops has witnessed as the captain of Kentucky football. With Commonwealth Stadium undergoing the biggest facelift this side of Cher, the lack of the annual spring game kept the “buzz” down.
This is a shame, but it isn’t unexpected. Any time Kentucky basketball has a chance to make history, that’s the story everyone cares most about. There’s nothing wrong with that. No one is at fault. I’ll be the first one to admit I didn’t attend any open practices. It’s the nature of being a Kentucky fan. Kentucky is one of the few universities in the country that seems to put more emphasis on its basketball program. That’s not favoritism, nor is that a cheap shot directed at Mitch Barnhart. I am a huge Barnhart fan, and his vision for Kentucky football is more focused and calculated than any athletic director before him. Kentucky’s obsession with basketball is about tradition, the same as Duke (ugh), Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and UCLA. For hundreds of reasons, basketball was the dominant sport for these programs before college football took the country by storm. Guys like John Wooden, Phog Allen, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, and Coach K are transcendent figures in the history of basketball. Their programs became the standards other college basketball programs strive to emulate.
All of my above bloviating has led me to this—basketball is over. Football time in the Bluegrass is upon us. I, for one, can’t friggin’ wait. Stoops Troops Version 3.0 is the year I’ve had circled on my calendar since he took the job. This is the year where most college football programs with new head coaches make “the jump” from mediocrity to good, from good to great, and so on and so forth. Judging by Stoops’ first two seasons, there is palpable reason for all sorts of enthusiasm. Allow me to count the ways:
Patrick Towles: the redshirt junior will be one of the best quarterbacks in the star-studded SEC this season. No one has ever doubted his talent, and boy oh boy, did he display flashes of it last season. Now he is a year older, a year wiser, and a year more fundamentally sound with boat loads of experience. Don’t forget Towles outplayed Dak Prescott last season, who at the time was a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Wide Receivers aplenty: Towles will have more targets to share the wealth with than ever before. Ryan Timmons, Blake Bone, Doran Baker, Garrett Johnson, TV Williams, Joey Herrick, Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery…all highly rated recruits that should start coming into their own this season. Time to step it up, fellas. You got this.
Shannon Dawson: The new offensive coordinator from West Virginia loves to throw the ball downfield. I can actually hear
Patrick Towles smiling right now.
Depth: This is the year Vince Marrow starts seeing the fruits of his recruiting labor in action. Three solid classes in a row has finally given Kentucky quality depth that will pay off has SEC football starts to take its toll towards the end of the season.
Boom Williams: This kid is pretty special, folks. Reminds me of another Kentucky player that wore the number 18. His name sounds like Schmandell Schmobb and he plays in front of a bunch of people with blocks of cheese on his head.
CJ Conrad: The newcomer from Ohio has Jacob Tamme written all over him.