The University of Kentucky football team should know its bowl destination sometime late Sunday afternoon or early evening. But in all honesty, the only thing left is the official announcement. The Cats are widely speculated to be headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on Jan. 8 to face a Big East team, likely South Florida or Pittsburgh.
UK returned to the practice field Saturday for the first time since the regular season-ending loss to Tennessee. The Cats will practice again Sunday, with the coaches going out on the road Monday. Kentucky will practice on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December until time for bowl game preparations.
"We're taking these practices like it's official bowl practices and do what we usually do, which is try to use them to help with player development," Coach Joker Phillips said.
About the only scenario that could leave the Cats out of a bowl is if somehow the SEC doesn't get two teams into the BCS. But even if all of the SEC non-BCS bowl slots get filled up, UK will still likely find a home. There are enough non-SEC bowls looking to fill slots because of their conference affiliation not having enough bowl-eligible teams that the Wildcats would get picked up by somebody.
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Phillips said he wasn't worried about being left out of the bowl mix. "I feel good about it," Phillips said. "We're bowl-eligible, we're in the SEC, so I feel good we'll land someplace."
Phillips said he's not concerned about having to get his team fired up to play the game.
"We've talked about trying to gain another opportunity, and we've guaranteed ourselves another one," he said. "We don't feel like we have to get our team fired up to play another game. We've got a chance to continue the growth of this program, and this game gives us that."
Trevathan, Guy to test NFL stock
Two more Wildcat juniors have joined Randall Cobb in deciding to get their NFL stock evaluated: linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy.
Trevathan has had a first-team All-SEC caliber season and been one of the few bright spots on the Kentucky defense, leading the league and ranking 11th nationally in tackles per game (10.83) with 16 tackles for loss. Guy ranked second on the team in tackles with 98 and also had a team-high three interceptions. UK Coach Joker Phillips said players looking at the NFL Draft early is just a sign of the times.
"That's how far the program has come," Phillips said. "The last time I was here, 10-15 years ago, we didn't have guys that even had a chance to look at the draft as juniors. We'll let those guys go through the process and give them enough information to make an (educated decision), and then after that, it's up to them and their families."
Trevathan was unavailable for comment, but Guy said he'd seriously consider entering the draft if he gets a good evaluation. "I really want to just get evaluated," Guy said. "It's a blessing to be looked at. I'm just going to relax and see how things go. I don't want to be arrogant or think too much about it. But you never know. If I get a high enough grade, I'd have to look at my chances of going to the next level. I'll just have to see how things go."
Phillips said he doesn't know which direction the three juniors are leaning.
"You never know what's on a kid's mind," Phillips said. "We'll just take it day by day and let those guys go through the process."
The Kentucky coaching staff spent last week recruiting before returning for practice Saturday and Sunday, a pattern that will continue throughout December.
It looks as though UK will have a few more scholarships with which to work. BleedBlueKentucky.com and various media outlets in Texas reported that Kentucky pulled its scholarship offer to linebacker Blake Terry last week. Two other prospects who previously committed to Kentucky are no longer listed as commitments: junior-college tight end Terrell Mitchell and Mobile (Ala.) cornerback E.J. May.
UK now goes from 23 commitments for its 2011 recruiting class down to 20. Terry was the only linebacker, but the Cats are in the mix for three highly touted players at the position. One is Lamar Dawson, who just led Boyle County to another state title this weekend. UK is also recruiting two linebackers from Cincinnati: four-star prospect Steven Daniels and three-star prospect Antonio Poole. Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown is the lead recruiter on both Daniels and Poole.
UK might use a scholarship to get some help from the junior-college ranks.
The Cats are hot on the trail of running back John White. White played at Los Angeles Harbor College, which produced current Wildcats Chris Matthews and DeQuin Evans. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound White is listed as the nation's No. 11 JUCO recruit by the Sporting News, and he would be an immediate candidate to fill the void left by the departure of Derrick Locke. White, who visited UK for the Auburn game, took a trip to Purdue last weekend, is visiting Utah this weekend and will go to Cincinnati next weekend.
Defensive line coach David Turner is using his Mississippi junior-college contacts to get Terrance Coleman, a 6-2, 245-pound defensive end from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Coleman, a three-star prospect, has offers from UK, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Memphis and Tulsa. Another junior-college player on the Cats' radar is Clifford Johnson, a 6-0, 190-pound, three-star cornerback prospect from Pierce (Calif.).
Johnson has offers from UK, Iowa State, Kansas State, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and SMU.
Seven Wildcats named to Phil Steele's All-SEC team
Seven Kentucky football players have been named to the All-Southeastern Conference team selected by Phil Steele's College Football. Randall Cobb, the league's leading pass catcher, and linebacker Danny Trevathan, the league's leading tackler, were named to the first team. Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews and sophomore offensive guard Larry Warford were picked to the second team. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline, senior tailback Derrick Locke and junior safety Winston Guy were fourth-team selections.
Brooks also wanted facility upgrades
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said last week it was time to renovate Commonwealth Stadium, including the addition of club seating and more luxury suites, a new scoreboard, and electronic upgrades in the concourse area and outside the stadium. Barnhart also wants to break ground on the construction of a multi-purpose recruiting room.
But that wasn't the first time the need for improved facilities has been brought up. When Rich Brooks was pondering retirement in January, one of the topics under heavy consideration was whether UK was willing to make the necessary commitment to football facilities.
Now that Barnhart has brought it back to the forefront, it will be interesting to see how much progress is made in the next year or so.