Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Drew Barker, Lamar Jackson take charge in UK, U of L spring games

Fans dug through boxes of jerseys during the UK equipment sale at Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky, on April 16, 2016. The sale opened early to season ticket holders.
Fans dug through boxes of jerseys during the UK equipment sale at Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky, on April 16, 2016. The sale opened early to season ticket holders. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Drew Barker’s time has arrived, says my column from the UK spring game. “This was no real surprise, of course. All spring there wasn’t so much talk of a quarterback competition as there was talk about how the quarterbacks were progressing. All along, there seemed an unannounced pecking order with Barker at No. 1, junior college transfer Stephen Johnson at No. 2, and freshman Gunnar Hoak, transfer Luke Wright and walk-on Davis Mattingly filling in the rest of the spots, though not necessarily in that order.”

Mark Stoops believes his team is much-improved, writes Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “When asked if that meant Kentucky will be strong enough to make it through a difficult Southeastern Conference schedule and come out on the other side better than the 5-7 it’s been each of the past two seasons, Stoops hesitated. ‘To say that you’re ever strong enough, I mean, that’s like being — I can’t be any prettier or have too much money, you know what I mean?’ he said. ‘”

Three Top 100 recruits were among visitors at Blue-White game, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “At one point, UK Coach Mark Stoops introduced Belfry offensive lineman Austin Dotson to Lafayette standouts Landon Young and Jedrick Wills. Stoops then gave Young a big hug. Dotson is committed to UK for the class of 2017, Young has signed with the Cats for next season and Wills is the program’s No. 1 recruiting target for next year. “

Some Blue-White game takeaways from Larry Vaught of Vaught’s Views. “Linebacker Denzil Ware could be the big playmaker the defense needs. He had three sacks and nine tackles by midway of the second quarter. His tenacity and instincts were impressive to watch. He finished with 15 tackles, four sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.”

UK surplus athletic gear sale draws thousands, reports Cheryl Truman of the Herald-Leader. “The checkout line probably lasted longer than the actual University of Kentucky athletics surplus sale. By 10 a.m., the line of those waiting to pay stretched through the Nutter Field House turf — twice. It was chock-full of people with garbage bags full of discounted UK athletics gear, from rain suits to sweat shirts, ball bats to football helmets.”

Offense starts slow, but catches fire, reports Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated. “Kentucky’s annual Spring Game started slow for the Blue team—which consisted of the first team offense and defense—but they got things going in the second quarter to cruise to a 31-20 win over the white team.”

Offense comes through for the Cats, writes Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. “A Blue team made up mostly of UK starters on offense and defense held to script with a 31-20 win in the 2016 spring game, but it was the offense that generally impressed most in the conclusion to spring practice. Quarterbacks Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson each had their moments despite a limited playbook. Positives for the defense were harder to come by.”

Barker doesn’t plan to change his approach, writes Keith Taylor of KyForward. “You just have to flip the page and keep going,” Barker said. “I mean, I was mad at myself for doing that because right when I threw it I knew it was going be a bad pass, but I just flipped the page and I think the two-minute drill helped and so I just tried to build off that. And we ended up with a touchdown, so that’s good.”

Kentucky has options in the run game, writes Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “Jojo Kemp led the Blue squad with 66 yards on nine carries and Mikel Horton added 22 yards on four carries. The two biggest standouts though were Sihiem King, who gashed the first team defense for 84 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and quarterback Stephen Johnson, who scrambled his way to 69 yards, but lost 20 yards on sacks. Johnson showed enough agility that he could be useful in certain packages next season. That doesn’t even include Boom Williams, who watched from the sideline as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery.”

History shows Caliparis can benefit from father-and-son as well as coach-and-player, writes Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. ““Most people, when you’re in your four years of college, you grow more distant from your father,” said Allan Houston, who played for his father Wade at Tennessee. “But we became closer because of getting to see each other, and see each other in intense moments and being together.”

Marques Bolden will not announce his college decision this weekend, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Five-star center Marques Bolden will not announce his college decision Sunday, according to ZagsBlog.com’s Adam Zagoria. Bolden and his father both told Zagoria on Saturday that the top recruit would not be announcing his college choice Sunday, which is his 18th birthday. Bolden said he wanted to make the announcement at his high school.”

Kentucky softball plagued by errors in loss to Missouri, writes Josh Sullivan of the Herald-Leader. “A day after edging the Tigers 7-6 on the strength of a six-run first inning, 12th-ranked UK committed six errors and allowed five unearned runs, falling to Missouri 9-2 in front of the season’s second-largest crowd (1,420) at John Cropp Stadium. “

Lamar Jackson has Louisville armed and awesome, writes Tim Sulliivan of the Courier-Journal. The Cardinals sophomore quarterback put on a dazzling show at U of L’s spring game on Saturday. Jackson threw for eight touchdowns as the first team offense piled up 834 total yards on the second-team defense.

Lamar Jackson’s arm and sizzling offense raise Louisville’s expectations, writes Rick Bozich of WDRB. “It was a day for observers to wonder if 2016 will be the season that Louisville will crowd Florida State and Clemson at the top of the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference especially after quarterback Lamar Jackson threw eight touchdown passes as coach Bobby Petrino matched his first-team offense and defense against his second teamers.”

Vanderbilt rallies to beat Kentucky baseball 3-2, reports VU athletics. “No. 5 Vanderbilt rallied by No. 18 Kentucky Saturday afternoon 3-2 at Hawkins Field to clinch the series on a two-run single from Bryan Reynolds. The Commodores (28-7, 9-5) entered the seventh inning clinging to a one-run lead thanks to Jason Delay’s first home run of the season in the fifth inning. The Wildcats (22-12, 8-6), however, tied the game up in the seventh against Vanderbilt starter Kyle Wright when Dorian Hairston doubled to leadoff the inning, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. The Wildcats scratched out the go-ahead run in the eighth against reliever Matt Ruppenthal on a leadoff single and two VU errors before Ruppenthal could strike out the side to strand the bases loaded.”

Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason impressive at Georgia, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “His third pass in his first scrimmage couldn’t have been any better. Jacob Eason, the five-star phenom of a quarterback, dropped back and lofted a 35-yard pass to fellow freshman early enrollee Riley Ridley. Fans were already on their feet cheering for Eason when he first entered Saturday’s G-Day spring game in the second quarter. They were even louder with their applause and approval following the perfect pass, which those in attendance will hope to see in seasons to come. “

Calipari’s guys in the NBA, a year in review, by Kevin Erpenbeck of CoachCal.com. “It was another fun year in the NBA this season. The single-season wins record was broken, one of the sport’s very best had a last hurrah before retiring, and several of Coach Cal’s former players took major leaps forward in their career trajectories. There were even some rookie players who made a big impact for their teams right away.”

UK baseball at Vanderbilt

When: Sunday, 2 p.m.

Where: Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn.

TV: SEC Network Plus

Radio: UK Network with Neil Price

UK softball vs. Missouri

When: Sunday, noon

Where: John Cropp Stadium in Lexington

TV: ESPNU

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