Cats head down stretch with new confidence
Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media
It took a little bit longer than Coach Cal wanted, but it appears his latest group of Wildcat kiddie hoopsters, with the assistance of veterans Mays, Wiltjer, and Polson, have finally bonded and bought into his system and coaching tactics.
As the uniquely eloquent and much quoted famous Yankee Yogi Berra once said when his Bronx Bombers were trying to come out of a tail spin, “we’ve turned it around.”
Two road wins this past week, one against a very hot veteran and somewhat talented Ole Miss team, and the other at a tough Texas A&M venue with pay back in mind. This new turn of events has once again got Big Blue Nation thinking about a solid run into March Madness. UK still has work to do to make up for a couple early home losses to Baylor and Texas A&M, but it does appear this team has hit its stride and the high water mark for its initial preseason goals are more realistic than at any time in the season.
So, for all of you folks who fall in the “oh ye of little faith” category and had jumped ship, you can now crawl back into the boat; just get in the back with me where we belong because the first mate of the ship, John Calipari, who never doubted his troops, is still up front and as in past years has never doubted his team’s abilities.
When will we ever learn that this guy we affectionately call Coach Cal knows today’s elite college hoop stars inside out, and when and how to punch their buttons and stroke their egos. It just takes different times and different approaches with each team, but at the end of the day or season Cal always has them standing on top of the mountain with a select few other teams.
Those roles that every successful team has are slowly but surely being defined as we drift into February. Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Goodwin, even though Goodwin still has his moments in forcing the ball into a crowd, are starting to fill those offensive point production and go-to roles. Alex Poythress is becoming somewhat dependable for a solid third man in the offensive production department, and when Poythress does drift back to his old ways it seems as though that cues up Julius Mays to fill that third offensive player’s role for that game. Nerlens Noel is defending and blocking the paint and three second area, as well as if not better than Anthony Davis did on last year’s championship team. Ryan Harrow had taken a couple steps back at times during January from those solid late December games, but it appears he is back on course.
Even Jarod Polson has, without recognition and fanfare, quietly brought this team out of a funk on several occasions when he entered a couple games recently and steadied the flow of the game with his ball handling and overlooked leadership skills in hotly contested times during second half situations.
The Cats return to the friendly confines of Rupp Arena this week for a Tuesday game against a struggling South Carolina team, and Saturday against an Auburn team that’s finally showing it’s true colors.
The Cats sit at 15-6 overall and 6-2 in the SEC in a three-way tie with Ole Miss and Alabama for second place, and locked into those coveted top four conference seeds that receive an automatic bye for the first round of the conference tournament.
Stoops needs Ryan Timmons to complete his first recruiting class
Mark Stoops is just a couple days away from reeling in his first group of Wildcat football recruits to help rebuild what Rich Brooks built back a few short years ago. All information released in recent days by the much maligned recruiting service gurus point toward Stoops and his staff putting together a pretty decent and respectable group of recruits with the short period of time they’ve had to work with.
It won’t be top 25 level, but again based on recruiting service reports they have upgraded three very important positions with one more player available that could upgrade the rating of the overall class and be a very special addition to the play making positions of WR, punt return, and kickoff return.
The three positions that have already been upgraded based on verbal commitments holding true are DL ZaDarius Smith , Alvante Bell, and Jacob Hyde; WR Jeff Badet, Jayvess Blue, and Alex Montgomery; and DB Marcus McWilson, Nate Willis, and Jaleel Hytchye. All these recruits are either four-star recruits or high ranking three-star recruits.
While this class of recruits may not rival the upper tier SEC schools like Alabama, Florida, LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina, these nine or 10 solid recruits will go a long way in jumpstarting the turnaround process that Stoops has laying in front of him.
The one remaining recruit left on the board is an in-state recruit that Stoops and OC Neal Brown have spent a lot of time working, and they’ve had help from Pikeville to Paducah as well from Big Blue Nation doing their fair share of recruiting on websites and the very popular social media angles of Twitter and Facebook accounts.
That coveted recruit is Ryan Timmons of Franklin County, who is a unique, multi-talented offensive playmaking threat from the positions of wide receiver and all return specialty teams, as well as a prime candidate to fill Randall Cobb’s old role of the ultimate Wildcat position player that he made so famous during the Cats’ gridiron glory years late in the Rich Brooks era.
As in all recruiting battles there are reports coming out of Timmons’ hometown of Frankfort that UK is in good position with him, but then why hasn’t he verbally committed earlier like most in state recruits do?
So, it’s another hand wringing and stressful wait-and-see approach for those die hard Wildcat football fans to deal with. National signing day is Wednesday across college football, but Timmons has been pretty consistent in saying that he will make his announcement on his college choice the day before on Tuesday. Chances are pretty good that you will all know possibly before you read this column this week.
To see bios on all recruits signing with UK Wednesday go to our websitewww.combsbrothersonkysports.com and pull up the UK football link and go to 2013 UK football recruits sometime late Wednesday afternoon.
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