John Clay

The precious present may bring some pain, but Kentucky’s secondary has bright future

UK football’s Mark Stoops on his team’s young secondary: ‘We’ll see’

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about what he expects from his young secondary when the Wildcats open the season against the Toledo Rockets on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, at Kroger Field.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about what he expects from his young secondary when the Wildcats open the season against the Toledo Rockets on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, at Kroger Field.

Random notes:

Heading into Saturday’s opener against Toledo, Kentucky football fans are worried about the UK secondary, and rightly so given the rampant inexperience on the back end of the Wildcats’ defense.

But spin the clock forward to 2020. Safety Jordan Griffin is the only senior on the two-deep depth chart for the first game. Davonte Robinson should be back from the torn quad muscle that is forcing him to miss this season. And UK will add LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph, who was the No. 42 overall prospect in the class of 2018. James is enrolled at UK but must sit out this season.

So the secondary will undoubtedly experience growing pains over the next three months. But that should pay off next season when the defensive backfield could be one of the strengths of the team.

Here’s something that doesn’t pay: Trying to figure out the NCAA. While Kentucky awaits a decision on Florida State outside linebacker transfer Xavier Peters’ petition to play at Kentucky this season, Tennessee received news Tuesday that Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon had been granted a waiver to play for the Vols this season. Solomon is a defensive lineman.

Defending national champion Clemson opens the season Thursday night against visiting Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. on the ACC Network. It’s a brand spanking new Georgia Tech, minus coach Paul Johnson and the triple option, under new head coach Geoff Collins. FYI: Locally, the ACC Network is Channel 524 on Spectrum.

We get Taylor Zarzour on play-by-play, former Georgia offensive tackle Matt Stinchcomb as the analyst and Alyssa Lang as the sideline reporter for the SEC Network telecast of Kentucky-Toledo at noon on Saturday.

A film crew from Germany was in Lexington on Monday and Tuesday to interview UK Coach Mark Stoops for a documentary on American football. Stoops coached former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Bjorn Werner at Florida State. Werner is a native of Berlin, Germany.

I was one of the six that voted Alabama No. 1 in the AP preseason college football poll. Had star linebacker Dylan Moses torn his ACL prior to the voting, I would have put Clemson in the top spot. Possibly losing Moses for the season is a huge blow for Bama.

Andrew Luck’s retirement is not another nail in football’s coffin. It is, however, another wake-up call concerning the toll the sport can take both physically and mentally. I sincerely doubt the Colts’ quarterback ever plays football again.

The reaction to Luck’s retirement confirmed what we already knew about Dan Dakich and Doug Gottlieb. They’re both, to put it nicely, starved for attention.

Dakich tweeted of Luck, “I have family working in steel mills…cops…teachers making far less and this guy is ‘tired’… backside.” He then, of course, could not take the heat when his ESPN colleagues criticized his tweet.

Meanwhile, Gottlieb tweeted that Luck’s retirement was “the most millennial thing ever.” Gottlieb’s tweet was the most Gottlieb thing ever.

Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky both open their football seasons Thursday night. With what promises to be Coach Mark Elder’s best team, the Colonels play host to Valparaiso at 7 p.m. EDT. New head coach Tyson Helton makes his WKU debut when the Hilltoppers play host to Central Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The real star of Florida’s 24-20 win over Miami last Saturday was Louisville grad transfer Jonathan Greenard, who helped the Gators’ defense record 10 sacks against the Hurricanes. And Florida visits Kroger Field on Sept. 14.

Kentucky volleyball, No. 7 in the AVCA preseason poll, opens the season Friday night against No. 23 Cal Poly in the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. The Cats are hoping to avoid last year’s 0-3 start. And if you missed it, head coach Craig Skinner signed a well-deserved contract extension this week.

If you don’t mind traveling, four Indiana locations are expected to launch sports betting before the kickoff of the NFL season. One is Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg. That’s just 23 miles from Florence. That’s also potentially more money going across the state line into Indiana.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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