We’re almost there, BBN.
We’re so close to fall practice, I can almost taste it. Can you hear that? Is that the marching band practicing or the sound of helmets banging against each other, as veterans and newcomers battle for first string? Can you smell that? If I were a betting man, I’d say that is barbeque, and the smell sure makes my nose all tingly and happy. Can you feel that in the air? Sure feels like anxious anticipation with a side of excitement brewing in the air. I am ready for the fall; this humidity is for the birds, and while I can’t speak for the birds, I assume they’re sick and tired of it, too. I am ready for college football; there’s nothing better than a day spent with friends and family, eating a gazillion calories and pounding beers, watching the ol’ pigskin get thrown around all across the country.
I am more than ready for the third edition of the Mark Stoops regime. Central Kentucky’s favorite ginger leads the Wildcats once more into a new year of fisticuffs against the heavyweights of the Southeastern Conference. The artist formerly known as The Old Commonwealth Stadium got a facelift, some botox, and one hell of a chemical peel. Kentucky will have eight home games in The New Commonwealth Stadium, including the likes of Florida, Tennessee (they low down, they dirty, they some snitches), and a Thursday night nationally televised ESPN game against the Auburn Tigers/War Eagles/Tiger Eagles/War Tigers/whatever the hell their mascot is this year. If you can’t get excited about what is ahead, pick up a new hobby. I hear scrapbooking is therapeutic.
The tone is set for a lot of fun and, God willing, more wins than the 5-7 record our boys in blue finished at last year. Let’s get familiar with some names of those to watch:
Patrick Towles: If I haven’t made my love known for the junior out of Northern Kentucky, I don’t know what else I can do. Experience, arm strength, NFL body, a deep wide receiver corps, everything is in place for Towles to have a big year. Will he continue to mature and learn from last season’s losing streak?
Shannon Dawson: The new offensive coordinator from West (by God) Virginia likes to throw the ball deep. Very deep. A lot. That sound you’re hearing from the west is my smile. If Towles plays to his abilities, we could be in for a treat, BBN.
Garrett Johnson: The rising sophomore from Florida dominated his home team in the almost-upset against the Gators in The Swamp last year. He has the size and the speed to be a threat every time he touches the ball.
Boom Williams: Speaking of touching the ball, Boom more than earns that nickname. Every time he gets past the initial line, he’s a threat for a touchdown. He’ll get plenty of touches to build off his strong freshman campaign.
CJ Conrad: Circle this name, Wildcat fans. The true freshman from Ohio is already listed #1 on depth chart going into fall practice. All indications are he will be the best tight end since Jacob Tamme ran wild for Rich Brooks in the late 2000s. Kentucky hasn’t had a physical, pass-catching tight end since Tamme got drafted. Conrad could be the weapon the offense has needed.
Josh Forrest: The senior middle linebacker was one of the SEC’s leading tacklers last season. He’s starting to get some preseason love on watch lists. A talented, returning middle linebacker is perhaps the most important thing a defense can have. UK has one.
Ryan Flanigan: The junior college transfer took a while to catch up with the rest of the Wildcats last year due to transcript problems. All reports about him scream athleticism, physicality, and he’s playing fast. He and Forrest make a nice linebacker duo.
Denzil Ware/Jason Hatcher: Look, no one is going to replace new Pittsburgh Steeler Bud Dupree or new Baltimore Rave Zadarious West. Ware and Hatcher are excellent athletes who just need to produce at their positions.
Jon Toth: The man in the middle for the offensive line has been named to the Rimington Trophy Spring Watch List, given to the nation’s best center. So that means he is pretty good.
Ryan Timmons: Kentucky’s #1 receiver had ups and downs last year. Finally healthy, will he step up and be the peanut butter to Patrick Towles’ jelly?