Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky’s injuries, Western Kentucky’s quarterbacks, SEC notes and more Big Blue Links

Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love and quarterback Drew Barker talk to the media after Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall camp. UK opens the season Sept. 3 against visiting Southern Miss.
Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love and quarterback Drew Barker talk to the media after Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall camp. UK opens the season Sept. 3 against visiting Southern Miss. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Sophomore safety Darius West is out for the season. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports, “West, a 6-footer from Lima, Ohio, injured his patellar tendon. West played in 10 games last season and was a star on special teams. He finished with 17 tackles last season, including seven in the UK victory over Charlotte. It’s been an injury-plagued couple of years for West, who missed all but two games of his senior season at Central Catholic after being hurt. Stoops said this injury was a different leg than his previous injury.”

Davis Mattingly is UK football’s everyday optimist. Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes, “On Dec. 4, 2013, Davis Mattingly was sitting in his car at Male High School before the school day began. For reasons he does not recall, Male’s standout quarterback had a feeling that he was on the verge of an unusually good day. “

Questions and answers after Kentucky’s first fall scrimmage. “It looked like third-down conversions – it looked like we sustained some drives. We had some 12-play drives,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “I like that. That was good. We converted a couple fourth-down situations, which was really good. I think we’ve got to continue to have more urgency in everything that we do. It’s the first scrimmage. It’s the first time we came out and did it like how we’re going to do it here. So, there was some anxiety, but I like where we’re at.”

Western Kentucky quarterback race closer than Jeff Brohm thought. Brad Stephens of the Bowling Green Daily News writes, “Jeff Brohm originally hoped to have a starting quarterback by now. Things haven’t worked out that way for the Western Kentucky coach. Brohm said Aug. 3 at WKU Media Day that he wanted to pick a starter by 7-10 days into the Hilltoppers’ fall camp. Saturday’s scrimmage marked 10 days into that period and Brohm said afterward that the race for the job is still on.”

Alabama’s transfer ordeal is over, in the short run. Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News writes, “For the first time since June, Nick Saban made it through a press conference on Saturday without having to pause, or glare, an entire session in which the Alabama head coach didn’t have to explain his discipline policy or his transfer policy. There was no discussion of any offices, not the one of the SEC Commissioner in Birmingham or the district attorney of Ouachita Parish. Saban was unperturbed by anything except the harsh glare of the press room lights, and he even made a joke about that.”

Justice finally served in Smith saga. Guerry Clegg of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer writes, “The uncomfortable saga of Maurice Smith’s fight to transfer from Alabama to Georgia may be over. But the principle remains the same. The SEC needs to scrap the rule that penalizes players who have earned the right to choose where they want to play. The one statement made by any of the parties that reflected the most reason was made by Smith himself. “

SEC made Nick Saban a villain for no reason. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated writes, “The SEC owes Nick Saban a favor. Had someone in the conference office told the Alabama coach that the league would let recent Alabama grad—and former Crimson Tide defensive back—Maurice Smith transfer to Georgia and play immediately, Saban probably would have released Smith immediately instead of getting painted as a villain for weeks. “

Georgia still undecided at quarterback. Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reports, “Head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t appear any closer to naming a starting quarterback than he was when Georgia’s preseason practice began. Following two weeks of practice and one scrimmage, Smart said all three quarterbacks vying for the starting job are still in the race. “

Social media a double-edged sword for Tennessee. Grant Ramey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports, “One of his overtime blocks against Oklahoma last September was so good, Tennessee offensive lineman Brett Kendrick did the unthinkable. He searched his name on Twitter. ‘I searched my name and found that block,’ Kendrick, a redshirt junior from Knoxville, said on Friday during Tennessee’s media day at Neyland Stadium.”

As always, it’s the year of the running back at LSU. Scott Rabalais of The Advocate writes, “They’re calling this the year of the running back in college football, like the position is Hamlet’s undiscovered country or some such thing. The LSU Tigers have news for the folks from Coral Gables to Puget Sound: It’s always the year of the running back, this year as much or more than any.”

Some crazy things will happen this football season. Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun writes, “What is making this the longest summer is that we know something crazy is going to happen when the season finally gets here. College football may be about bands and mascots and running out of the tunnel or down a hill or through a big ‘T’. Sure, it’s about the sound of pads hitting and fake punts and tailgates that vary from big submarine sandwiches to catered barbecue with real silver and tablecloths.”

Notes from Arkansas’ first football scrimmage. Eric Bolin of the Arkansas News reports, “More shake-ups. Some telling signs at quarterback. No injuries. The first Arkansas football scrimmage of 2016 was quite a bit different than the initial one of 2015. Somethings were better. Some worse. At the very least, if seeking a positive, the Razorbacks didn’t lose anyone for the season on Saturday.”

Long-time New Orleans sports columnist Peter Finney dies at 88. Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune writes, “Pete Finney was my hero. When I was hired at The Times-Picayune in 1999, my first thoughts were, ‘I’m going to get to live in New Orleans. And I’m going to get to work with Pete Finney.’ Pete was to Louisiana sportswriters what Eddie Robinson was to football coaches. He was a titan. The G.O.A.T., as kids say.”

Three improvements Louisville needs to crack the Top 10. Rick Bozich of WDRB writes, “1. BLOCKING 101 . No, I didn’t need to speed-dial Nick Saban to settle on this one. The offensive linemen and their coach, Chris Klenakis will tell you they were overwhelmed by inexperience at the beginning of 2015. Louisville ranked last in the nation in yardage lost via sacks at 311. The Cardinals were also 121st (of 128 teams) in tackles for loss, allowing 97. (All statistics provided by cfbstats.com.) “

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