Sidelines with John Clay

Mark Stoops and Bret Bielema took wild recruiting road trips together; more Big Blue Links

Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema makes his way through the crowd at the SEC Football Media Days this year at Hoover, Alabama.
Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema makes his way through the crowd at the SEC Football Media Days this year at Hoover, Alabama. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Monday:

Mark Stoops and Bret Bielema reminisce about shared recruiting trips. Kassidy Hill of Girdiron Now reports, “It’s the late 1990s in the Midwest. Two young and single college football assistants zipping across that part of the country, hot on the high school recruiting trail during the day and living life at night. There most likely wasn’t a 1966 Ford Thunderbird involved, but it lends itself to the story, so imagine one there. In one seat sits current Kentucky coach Mark Stoops; alongside him is current Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. At the time, Stoops was Wyoming’s secondary coach and Bielema was the linebacker coach at Iowa.”

DeMarcus Cousins says winning gold medal is best feeling ever. “It’s an incredible feeling,” said the ex-UK center who scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the U.S. win over Serbia. “It’s all worth it in the end. All the B.S., everything we went through, everybody kind of went through their own type of adversity. We all overcame it. This is the best feeling ever. Honestly, it’s the best feeling ever.”

Will Kentucky running backs be subbing themselves? “I never substituted them,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “They did it on their own. Again, it comes down to, ‘If you want to be treated like a pro, act like a pro.’ That’s the bottom line. All these guys want to be treated like grown men. Well, act like it. I’m old school that way.”

UK’s De’Niro Laster has withstood life’s worst. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports, “The first time little De’Niro Laster was hit hard in a football practice, he stayed down on the ground crying. His father, a former player at Grambling State, had encouraged his middle child to take up football because he thought he was a touch soft. So that little boy took that first big hit and tears welled up in his brown eyes mostly obscured by his oversized helmet. “

Freshman tight end Justin Rigg has impressed. “Justin did some good things again,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “He caught a few balls and he looks very comfortable out there. He’s a very natural guy. Greg (Hart) has played well in camp really. He gives us a good maturity out there and has some experience and has done some very good things.”

More tackling troubles for the Cats. Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause reports, “Just behind depth as another pressing concern for the defense? Tackling. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said Saturday’s scrimmage was only the second live tackling opportunity the team’s had in camp, and his unit is not where it needs to be when it comes to bringing guys to a halt. That means more focus on tackling during practice, Eliot said, which can be tricky for an already thin defense to work on without getting guys banged up.”

Ex-UK tight end Darryl Long has transferred to Akron.

No significant injuries for UK on Saturday. Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated reports, “There weren’t any significant injuries from the action, which is always a silver lining. Blake Bone was limited with an injury and Dorian Baker had a bit of a hamstring injury according to Stoops. Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Eli Brown had a stinger and didn’t scrimmage, but Stoops still likes his progress.”

Louisville ranked No. 19 in AP pre-season poll. Mike Lacett of WDRB reports, “For the first time since 2013, the Louisville Cardinals will begin the new year ranked in the AP Top 25. The Cardinals were ranked 19th in the preseason AP Poll, released Sunday. It’s the highest ranking for a Louisville team since the end of that 2013 season.”

SEC not a league full of great quarterbacks. Guerry Clegg of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer writes, “They have won eight of the last 10 national championships and they fell just short the other two times. They’ve produced five of the last nine Heisman winners and annually have more players drafted in the NFL than any other conference. Yes, the dominance of the SEC has been well noted. But there’s a glaring hole on the resume. “

Stakes are on high for openers. Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun writes, “I’m not sure when it happened, when the realization hit the national media like a bagful of hammers soaked in cement. It was sometime early in the summer, about the time the heat was turned up to crispy. We all started pining for college football season and noticed the first weekend and started drooling like wild dogs in a butcher shop.”

South Carolina won’t name starting quarterback before first game. “We are not ready to name a starter before Vanderbilt,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Sunday. “Obviously, that’s going to be to our advantage going into the game, a little bit of the unknown that we have.”

Young talent at tight end brings frustration to Mississippi State coaches. Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger reports, “Scott Sallach dipped into Mississippi State’s video archives last week. The tight ends coach only went as far back as 2014, but for a group where true sophomore Justin Johnson is the most experienced, it might as well have been decades ago.”

Texas A&M linebacker suspended. The Bryan/College Station Eagle reports, “A Texas A&M linebacker who was arrested after he allegedly pushed a woman and prevented her from calling 911 has been suspended indefinitely from the football team. According to College Station police, officers were called to a home in the 1800 block of Woodsman Drive around 1:45 p.m. Friday.”

Luke Maile hits his first major league home run. H-L reports, “Former Covington Catholic and University of Kentucky star Luke Maile hit his first career major league home run in the second inning Saturday for the Tampa Bay Rays. His solo shot gave the Rays a 2-0 lead over the Texas Rangers. “

Kentucky women’s soccer loses to Pepperdine. UK reports, “The Pepperdine Waves scored a goal in the first half and two in the second half, combined with a shutout in net to knock off the Kentucky women’s soccer team, 3-0 in Malibu on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats were much better with the ball in the second half, dictating the pace of play and having much more of the ball and scoring chances in the second 45 minutes.”

AP pre-season college football poll

▪ 1. Alabama

▪ 2. Clemson

▪ 3. Oklahoma

▪ 4. Florida State

▪ 5. LSU

▪ 6. Ohio State

▪ 7. Michigan

▪ 8. Stanford

▪ 9. Tennessee

▪ 10. Notre Dame

▪ 11. Ole Miss

▪ 12. Michigan State

▪ 13. TCU

▪ 14. Washington

▪ 15. Houston

▪ 16. UCLA

▪ 17. Iowa

▪ 18. Georgia

▪ 19. Louisville

▪ 20. USC

▪ 21. Oklahoma State

▪ 22. North Carolina

▪ 23. Baylor

▪ 24. Oregon

▪ 25. Florida

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