Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football facility upgrades, plus more Big Blue Links

Wall size projections and logos on the ceiling in the UK locker room at the new UK Football Training Facility on Friday July 22, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.
Wall size projections and logos on the ceiling in the UK locker room at the new UK Football Training Facility on Friday July 22, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Who is in those luxury suites at Commonwealth Stadium? Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader has the answers. “According to records released to the Herald-Leader by UK Athletics, the 67 suites along with the new premium seating sections such as the ones found on the loge and mezzanine levels generated more than $7.3 million last season. All the luxury suites are occupied for the upcoming football season, and there is a waiting list for them, school officials said.”

Kentucky’s new football training facility is the price you pay to compete. I write, “Not when your competitors are busy adding pieces. In 2013, Alabama opened a $9 million 37,000-square foot weight room, that includes a juice bar. It may be sunny year-round in Florida, but the Gators just built a $15 million indoor practice facility. Last August, Georgia broke ground on its “indoor athletic facility.” Texas A&M spent $20.8 million renovating its 36,000 square-football Bright Football Complex, which includes a water wall and a barber shop. Tennessee spent $45 million on its new football facility, the Anderson Training Center. It includes a 22,000-square-foot football strength and conditioning facility.”

Kentucky men’s basketball schedule pleases constituencies. Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader in his Sunday notebook writes, “With the announcement of the non-conference schedule for next season, Kentucky Deputy Athletics Director Dewayne Peevy can take a bow. Peevy, who works with UK Coach John Calipari on scheduling, seemingly checked every box with the 2016-17 schedule.”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist borrows from Jim Valvano. Tipton writes, “Back in Lexington to work a Kentucky youth basketball camp, ex-Cat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might best help campers by citing his own example of persistence. MKG, as he is known, has persevered through multiple injuries, poor shooting in an age when the NBA has trended toward spreading the court, a stutter and the death of his father and an uncle. When asked at a news conference Saturday why he never gave up, Kidd-Gilchrist cited several factors.”

Returning players should boost Southern Miss backfield. Patrick Magee of the Biloxi Sun Herald reports, “While much of the talk about Southern Miss football this summer has surrounded Nick Mullens and his emergence as one of the nation’s top senior quarterbacks entering the 2016 season, there’s also reason for buzz about the Golden Eagles’ ground game. Junior running back Ito Smith joins Mullens on the Maxwell Award watch list and the Mobile native has a shot to be the best among a talented group of running backs in Conference USA.”

Courtney Love set to fill hole at Kentucky. David Ching of ESPN reports. “He’s a guy that had an impact on our team while he was redshirting, and to come in and do it in an unassuming way,” Stoops said. “The way he lives his life, the way he goes about his work, the way he does things has a positive effect on anybody he comes in contact with. It’s more about those things than it is about what he did on the field for me because I see the way he affects our football team in a positive way.”

Kendra Harrison plans to chase another world record. H-L reports, “Former University of Kentucky track and field star Kendra Harrison, fresh off her world record-breaking performance in the 100 hurdles on Friday in London, plans to target the other women’s hurdles event next season. The 23-year-old Harrison, who ran the 100 hurdles in 12.20 seconds to surpass the 12.21 that Bulgaria’s Yordanka Donkova achieved in 1988, said Friday evening at a news conference that she’ll likely add the 400 hurdles to her schedule.”

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is growing up fast. Eric Crawford of WDRB writes, “Usually, when a director of football operations hears his cell phone ring at 4:30 in the morning, it’s a bad thing. When it happened to University of Louisville director of football ops Andy Wagner on Friday, it was a sophomore quarterback thing. Lamar Jackson was on the other end of the line. He wanted to know if he should wear his Manuel Couture media day suit on the plane, or if he’d get to change at the Charlotte hotel.”

Twenty experts predict Will Muschamp’s first season at South Carolina. Josh Kendall of The State reports, “Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated - The circumstances can’t be much worse than they were at the end of last season. They’ll have new life, but they are still not going to have the roster they need to compete with some of the teams they have to play. I will be interested to see how Kurt Roper’s offense works there. Will has said he felt like he would still be the head coach at Florida had he hired a guy like Kurt Roper his first year at Florida. So I want to see what the difference is when Roper comes in with Muschamp. I don’t think Will is wrong about that.”

New Tennessee defensive coordinator wants disruption. Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel writes, “Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has volunteered to help his boss Butch Jones find some of those missing 25 points. You’ve heard Jones’ pitch: Tennessee is 13-5 in the past 18 football games. Another 25 points, either scored or prevented, would have produced an 18-0 record, not to mention the spoils that go with it. Tennessee’s defense in 2015 accounted for only one score, the last one. Evan Berry’s 100-yard interception return with eight seconds to play capped a rout of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.”

Who are the best and worst celebrity fans in the SEC? Shehan Jeyarajah of SEC Country says, “Worst: Drake, Kentucky. Much has been made of Drake’s bandwagon fandom, and it is perhaps no more evident than in his Wildcats support. Just a few days ago, Drake visited the University of Texas while wearing Kentucky gear. There’s perhaps no better representation of Drake’s sports fandom than Big Blue Madness in 2014.”

North Carolina confident in its firepower versus Georgia. Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald writes, “North Carolina coach Larry Fedora also returns four starting offensive linemen. Hood rushed for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and Logan averaged 6.1 yards per carry and rushed for five touchdowns. The Tar Heels bring back seven starters in all from a unit that ranked ninth in the nation in scoring last season at 40.6 points per game and 18th in total offense, amassing 486.9 yards per game.”

Can Georgia avoid the unexpected loss? So asks Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph. “The final few seasons of the Mark Richt era at Georgia always came with a caveat when predicting a record. Which game will Georgia lose that it’s not supposed to? It was a fair question, since it happened far too often under Richt. Last season, it was the Florida game. Sure, the Gators might have been better than the Bulldogs. But Richt didn’t give his team a chance by starting the third-string quarterback. That decision cost Richt his job. Since Richt shouldn’t have started Faton Bauta, you can say Georgia should not have lost to Florida.”

Ex-LSU basketball player Jordy Hultberg booked with domestic abuse. Jim Kleinpeter of the Times-Picayune reports, “Jordy Hultberg, the radio host and former LSU basketball player, was arrested early Saturday on charges of domestic abuse and simple battery, according to East Baton Rouge Parish jail records. The arrest occurred after an encounter at this home between Hultberg and his estranged wife, Shannon Hultberg. The couple has been married 15 years but are going through a divorce, according to the arrest report.”

Alabama has to find ways to keep rolling. Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News writes, “So when people ask, as they frequently do, about how Alabama will resolve its quarterback situation, or whether a running back (or a committee of running backs) can replace Derrick Henry, the consistent answer is that the offense will evolve with time, and the main question is the defensive front. The issue isn’t just replacing the highly-drafted, recognizable names -- Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland -- but the wave of quality depth that played as well, players like D.J. Pettway, Darren Lake and Dillon Lee.”

Barry Odom trying to sell Missouri. Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports, “The lights were still taking effect on Faurot Field on a steamy Saturday night as dozens of high school football prospects from as far away as Michigan to the north and Louisiana and Texas to the south alternated running 40-yard dashes across the artificial surface as hip-hop music blared from the speakers underneath the videoboard. Parked at the finish line, stopwatch in hand, was Missouri Coach Barry Odom, waiting to have his head turned.”

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