Sidelines with John Clay

Sports Illustrated writer picks UK to go 3-9; more Big Blue Links

Kentucky women’s basketball held its annual picture day on Monday.
Kentucky women’s basketball held its annual picture day on Monday. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Tuesday: writer picks Kentucky to go 3-9. Gabriel Baumgaertner writes, “Three seasons ago, Stoops had sparked optimism about the future of Kentucky football with an impressive recruiting class and brought an energy that’s usually reserved for the basketball team. Entering 2016, there is little fanfare surrounding the Wildcats outside of running back Stanley “Boom” Williams. Kentucky is one of the most difficult jobs in the SEC (mostly because the fans are awaiting basketball season), and this year likely won’t be any easier on Stoops. Four of the most difficult games (Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisville) are on the road and its opening game against Southern Miss, a team that finished 9–5 last year, is hardly a guarantee.”

Former UK player and fan develop unlikely friendship. Lyndsey Gough of CN2 reports, “Adversity is something plenty of athletes face. For one UK fan, she faced plenty of her own adversity and developed some unique friendships along the way. Ahead of UK football season, Alex Otte sat down with cn|2 to share her story about how UK football helped her tackle adversity in her own life. ‘When you’re 13 years old, you’re in middle school, which is awkward in itself. You just lost a leg, which makes you even weirder and middle school is just a horrible time for everyone I think,’ Alex, now 19, explained. Alex and Martavius Neloms have an unlikely friendship- one that might not exist had it not been for a terrible accident.”

Quarterback instability a major theme in SEC. David Ching of ESPN writes, “Kentucky coach Mark Stoops actually is in a new situation as he enters his fourth season in Lexington. With Barker -- who started the final two games of last season -- returning as the starter, Kentucky recently opened its first camp since 2011 with a designated starting quarterback.”

Jon Toth has a mother like no other. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports, “About a year ago, Jon Toth was on the phone with his mom grumbling about the difficulties of carrying a full course load in mechanical engineering and balancing it with football. Being the calculating, measured sort, Kentucky’s starting center should’ve known better than to complain to her. ‘Jonathan, really?’ she said with an inflection and tone that only mothers master. “

Bud Dupree is ready to roll. Dan Scifo of the AP reports, “Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree hopes he’s setting himself up for a breakout second season. Dupree, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2015, admittedly hit a wall during his rookie year, but he’s working to change that this season. Not only does Dupree have a better understanding of the Steeler defense, he also dropped some weight and worked on techniques to improve his pass-rushing abilities. “

Rex Burkhead, son of former Clark County star Rick Burkhead, gives a reminder of his ability. Paul Dehner of the Cincinnagi Enquirer reports, “Few positions in the NFL take more pounding than running backs. Across the league last year, teams were forced into second, third and fourth strings. The running back by committee is more the norm than exception. Yet, in Cincinnati, for the last two seasons Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have been stalwarts. One of the two started each of the last 34 games in the backfield. Behind those two, waiting patiently has been Rex Burkhead.”

Is Florida unvalued? Tony Barnhart of Gridiron Now writes, “Everybody knows the story of the 2015 Florida Gators. They won 10 games and reached the SEC championship game in Atlanta, a notable accomplishment for first-year coach Jim McElwain. They were 6-0 and ranked No. 8 when quarterback Will Grier was suspended on October 12 by the NCAA for failing a drug test for PEDs. Grier did not play again and has transferred to West Virginia.”

Bryan Cox, Jr. leads Florida’s talented defensive line. Graham Hall of the Gainesville Sun reports, “Of former coach Will Muschamp’s 2012 signing class, just Bryan Cox Jr. and Marcus Maye remain. The two have seen the highs and lows of the Florida football program, overcome injuries yet returned to the Gators despite the allure of an NFL contract. Now a leader on the defensive line, Cox is a far cry from the former three-star prospect who redshirted his freshman season.”

Gunner Kiel loses Cincinnati quarterback battle. Sam Cooper of Dr. Saturday reports, “When Cincinnati opens its season next Thursday against UT Martin, Hayden Moore will start at quarterback. Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville announced Monday that Moore, a redshirt sophomore, has won the team’s quarterback competition. Moore bested fifth-year senior and two-year starter Gunner Kiel and redshirt freshman Ross Trail.”

The website The Undefeated is defining itself. James Warren of Poynter writes, “Yes, Friday brought extensive Summer Olympics coverage, notably the ad nauseam, 24/7 mini-soap opera of the dissembling U.S swimmers — a sort of one-off Dick Wolf “Law and Order: SLU (Special Lochte Unit) that was exploiting about every platform overseen by Comcast and NBC. But it also brought an anonymously attributed Associated Press story that the National Basketball Association would move its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans from Charlotte due to the North Carolina state law that sharply dilutes protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.”

NCAA men’s soccer may expand season. Steven Goff of Washington Post reports, “Division I men’s soccer coaches have begun a public campaign to revolutionize their sport by stretching the compact fall season across the full academic year. The proposal would reduce the number of fall games, create a winter break, add games in the spring, reduce weekday games and bring both the conference and national tournaments to weather-friendly May and June. “

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