Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: The no hard-feelings edition

New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson watches the celebration after the opening touchdown on the first play from scrimmage during the University of Kentucky-Louisiana-Lafayette football game in the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday 5, 2015.
New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson watches the celebration after the opening touchdown on the first play from scrimmage during the University of Kentucky-Louisiana-Lafayette football game in the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday 5, 2015. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Friday:

John Calipari shows Skal Labissiere some love, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “We’re trying to do a little bit what we did with Josh,” said Calipari, who cautioned fans not to expect instant results. “Doing extra training, it kind of buries you. (Labissiere) will probably take that step back. But just like Josh, he wasn’t at the kind of condition they need to perform at a high level.”

Shannon Dawson says he has no hard feelings, reports Jennifer Smith. The Kentucky offensive coordinator was a one-and-done, out after only one year in Lexington. That means Mark Stoops will have his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons when UK starts play in 2016.

Ohio State ranks high among schools that have caused UK tourney pain, writes Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “On five occasions OSU has ended Kentucky seasons in the NCAA Tournament. Three times in the 1960s, Ohio State beat Kentucky in region finals, meaning one victory short of the Final Four. Two of those round-of-eight defeats (1961 and ’68) came in Memorial Coliseum.”

Are Kentucky’s flaws fatal? asks Matthew Grimes of the Washington Post. “Other scoring concerns are a bit more pressing. Because opponents realize they can defend the Wildcats with one foot inside the three-point line, those teams have begun packing the interior and forcing the trio of UK guards — Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, and Jamal Murray — to navigate tight corners and find their frontcourt teammates amid increased traffic. According to, the team attempts nearly 40 percent of its shots around the rim, and is making 68.2 percent of those field goals — which, again, is an impressive rate, but for a team that was said to thrive on efficiently connecting around the rim, UK needs to finish better.”

Will UK be more grounded with Dawson out? asks Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. “Yet if Dawson was made a sacrificial lamb for more systemic issues – as former UK quarterback Patrick Towles intimated in a series of provocative Twitter posts – Stoops cannot easily escape a significant share of the responsibility. It is the head coach, after all, who makes the strategic decision to emphasize explosiveness or ball-control, who dictates the type of players who get targeted in recruiting, who is paid multiple millions to prevent the kind of late-season collapse Kentucky has experienced in successive 5-7 campaigns.”

Briscoe rising, Skal sliding, according to Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. “It seems strange to say a McDonald’s All-American is better than expected, but Briscoe was viewed as sort of the third wheel in UK’s loaded backcourt, featuring sophomore star Tyler Ulis and freshman Jamal Murray, a projected lottery pick. But Briscoe, known more as a scorer in high school, has bought all the way in on defense and rebounding, leading the team in steals (1.6 per game) and the guards in boards (5.6).”

Tai Wynyard could play against Ohio State, reports Jerry Tipton of the H-L. “Isaac Humphries, a freshman from Australia, said that Wynyard must adapt to a different playing style. The college game in the United States has more quickness and athleticism than what players experience in Australia or New Zealand.”

Ohio State showed some late-game moxy, reports Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch. “Tate led the Buckeyes (5-5) with 17 points and 10 rebounds — all on the defensive end — for his second career double-double. After Ohio State limped into the locker room with a two-point halftime lead, Tate scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds during the second half as the Buckeyes outscored the Huskies (7-2) 34-23 and closed the game on a 23-10 run.”

D.J. Eliot is returning, reports Justin Rowland of Cats Illustrated. There was some talk the UK defensive coordinator might not be back, but apparently Eliot will return for his fourth season with Mark Stoops at Kentucky.

North Carolina trying to get by without Kennedy Meeks, reports Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer. “And now it’s Kennedy Meeks, the junior forward who missed the Tar Heels’ 96-72 victory against Tulane on Wednesday night, and who will miss an undetermined number of games while recovering from a bruised bone in his left knee.”

Tennessee’s Kyle Alexander is improving, reports Grant Ramey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “"When you watch the film, you have to see where you went wrong," Alexander said. "To be honest, I was kind of embarrassed with how I played (against Butler). So talking to my dad, talking to the coaches, I had to make a decision to grow up, to mature, to be disciplined and do what I have to do.”

Adjustments on the way for Florida offense, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “Florida coach Mike White was pleased with his team's resolve last Saturday in taking No. 1 Michigan State down to the wire before losing a close game. But White's goal this week has been to get UF's offense back on track heading into a critical matchup Saturday against Oklahoma State at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise.”

Kyler Murray is leaving Texas A&M, reports Aubrey Bloom of the Bryan/College Station Eagle. Murray is the second quarterback to announce he is transferring from the Aggies. Kyle Allen announced earlier that he is leaving Kevin Sumlin’s program.

Auburn’s Peyton Barber is ready to prove critics wrong again, reports Brandon Marcello of “Peyton Barber is accustomed to misconceptions, playing the underdog role and constantly answering whether he's suited to be Auburn's starting running back. And yet the sophomore continues to prove critics wrong. He's on the verge of becoming the eighth 1,000-yard rusher in seven years at Auburn, which would extend an SEC record.”

Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram says he will stay in school, reports Daniel Pauling of the Clarion-Ledger. “Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram has dreamed of being in the NFL for a long time, but the junior has decided to delay a professional career in favor of playing his senior season.”

Georgia’s defense moving on without Jeremy Pruitt, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. With Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart taking over as Georgia’s head coach, Pruitt is leaving Athens to be the defensive coordinator at Alabama.

Alabama puts a new premium on strength, writes Steve Hummer of the AJC. “Just how good is strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, the man Alabama seemed most intent upon keeping safe from Kirby Smart’s clutches? Well, Cochran put an off-the-field coaching position – once a job that mainly consisted of yelling, ‘One more rep, Sally!’ – on a strict program and bulked it up into a half-a-million-dollar-a-year gig.”

CBS Sports Classic

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

1:00 p.m. - No. 11 North Carolina vs. No. 22 UCLA

3:30 p.m. - No. 4 Kentucky vs. Ohio State

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