Kentucky mailbag: What are the Wildcats’ chances of winning the East?
The football season kicks off Saturday, and there’s never a time to stop talking Kentucky basketball.
This is our chance to hear from you and answer the best questions of the week. This is the first of what will become a weekly mailbag from SEC Country Kentucky writers Kyle Tucker and Joe Mussatto.
We’ll be taking your questions each week on Twitter at: @KyleTucker_SEC, @joe_mussatto and @SECCountryUK. Then every Wednesday you can find the answers here.
Let’s get to it.
Were you all surprised at Stoops’ comments about Barker/playing time? Thoughts on Stephen’s short leash.
— Michael Paul Clark (@UKDad21) Aug. 28, 2017
Is there a quarterback controversy?
— Ran Dae-Ho Lee (@irliteach) Aug. 28, 2017
Joe: No controversy. It might even be a stretch to call it a competition. Kyle’s right, the coaching staff has had a number of chances to say “Stephen’s our guy,” but they haven’t. Stoops said Monday he would love to get Barker in the game on Saturday and that he deserves a chance. I don’t know what to read into this. Maybe Barker has a legitimate shot to play, but I think it’s more likely the staff is trying to keep his head up. Barker has proven that he can start and it’s unfortunate he lost his job the way he did. But at this point, I don’t see any way the coaches could rationalize taking Johnson out of the starting role — not after last season’s results. I think his leash is longer than most suspect.
Thoughts on the bevy of true frosh that will play this year. Both on field and the impact it has on recruiting. Come here, play right away!
— Michael Paul Clark (@UKDad21) Aug. 28, 2017
Joe: The season hasn’t started, but it already seems like Stoops and the staff love this class. Stoops said Monday that up to nine freshmen could play Saturday against Southern Miss. The two I’m most eager to watch are Lynn Bowden and Josh Paschal. I would expect Paschal to play a larger role early on, but Bowden’s versatility gives him the chance to wind up in a number of spots. There are four freshman receivers the coaching staff raves about: Bowden, Clevan Thomas, Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps. I’m interested to see which of them see the most snaps. I don’t think there’s a spot for all of them.
Southern Miss player just stated his team was better conditioned than UK last year and that is why they won – I disagree – but any concerns?
— Carl Marshall (@westkywildcat) Aug. 28, 2017
Joe: I hadn’t really thought about it, but Stoops seemed to reference that in his press conference on Monday.
Here’s what he said: “I talk about it a year ago, we went in there at halftime and there was not a lot of energy left. We have to learn from that. We have to be able to make sure we have more depth, we have to play a lot of guys early in this game and rotate some guys in to have some in our tank to play in the second half.”
Southern Miss outscored Kentucky 27-0 in the second half last season. It’s hard to pinpoint one reason behind Southern Miss’ comeback, but perhaps conditioning played a bigger role than we thought.
Give me the % chance UK has of representing the East in ATL!
— Taylor LeVieux (@LevieuxTaylor) Aug. 30, 2017
Who will be UK’s leading receiver this year? Will Snell get to 1,000?
— ghenson08 (@ghenson08) Aug. 28, 2017
Joe: Garrett Johnson will be the leading reciever, and I don’t think it’ll be close. Johnson, now entering his senior season, has been Kentucky’s most reliable target in the passing game over the past two seasons. He led the team with 694 receiving yards as a sophomore and had 585 yards last season — second only to Jeff Badet. And now with Badet at Oklahoma and fellow top receiver Dorian Baker sidelined for significant time, Johnson will be quarterback Stephen Johnson’s primary target. Even in a run-first offense, Johnson could have a career-high across the board in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
As for the second part, Snell will surpass 1,000 yards (barring an injury). He had 1,091 rushing yards last season, and there are two major reasons that number goes up. First, he’s no longer sharing touches with Boom Williams. I don’t think Sihiem King and A.J. Rose will carry as much as Williams and Kemp did last season. That will lead to a ton of touches for Snell. And second, Snell didn’t record a carry in Kentucky’s first two games last season. If he had, he probably would’ve rushed for more than 1,100 yards as a freshman.
Predictions on road wins/loses for basketball this season.
— Lori Mills! (@lori_mills) Aug. 28, 2017
Kyle: I’ll throw in the big neutral-site games, too.
Wins — UCLA (New Orleans), at LSU, at Tennessee, at South Carolina, at Missouri, at Arkansas, at Florida
Losses — Kansas (Chicago), at West Virginia, at Vanderbilt, at Texas A&M, at Auburn
This team is too young to take out the Jayhawks in November. This also feels like a team that will collapse against a few NCAA Tournament-quality teams on the road early on. Coach John Calipari’s focus will be getting three sophomores and eight freshmen to figure it out by March, and I think they will.
Best basketball player that you have heard of on this team?
— John Perrine (@PerrineStewart) Aug. 30, 2017