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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Race Heats Up For Carter

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxLorenzo Carter’s recruitment is close to being wide open.

The defensive end from Norcross (Ga.) High School said so during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week following his official visit to LSU.

“With the changes going on right now and the visits I’m taking, I’ve just got to sit back and just let it all happen,” Carter said.

A lot will happen for Carter in the next week and a half leading up to signing day on Feb. 5. He’ll hear from coaches at Florida, Georgia, LSU and Florida State. He maintains all four schools still have a shot at landing him.

LSU improved its standing with Carter during his visit to Baton Rouge.

“Going into the visit they were a little behind,” Carter said. “That was just because how late they came in but I think they did a pretty good job.”

Carter, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 4 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com, will take an official visit to Florida State on Sunday. The Seminoles have plenty to offer.

“Like LSU, they send defensive linemen to the NFL,” Carter said. “And they’re national champs.”

Georgia was fortunate to hire defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from the national champs. Pruitt, who joined Georgia’s staff on Jan. 14, has made Carter a priority for Georgia’s 2014 class.

“He reassured that I’m still the No. 1 guy on his board,” Carter said.

Georgia will receive Carter’s final official visit before signing day. He told the AJC people still tell him to “stay in state and represent Georgia.” It’s difficult to tell if that pressure will influence Carter’s decision.

“I’ve still got to look at other options,” he said.

A report from 247Sports cited multiple sources calling Georgia a slight leader ahead of Florida with LSU and Florida State both trying to make up ground in Carter’s recruitment. His father, Leo Carter, was asked by the website if those sources were correct.

“To be honest, the way you stated it, I would say it is probably exactly accurate at this point,” Carter said.

 

Kentucky lands defensive back Randolph

Defensive back Kendall Randolph from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., committed to Kentucky on Tuesday.

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SEC Headlines 1/17/2013

headlines-friSEC Coaching News

1. Looks like Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason will be the next head coach at Vanderbilt.  Reportedly had second interview this morning.

2. Georgia won’t have a single assistant coach on defense returning next season – first time that’s happened in half a century. Defensive line coach Chris Wilson apparently had some second thoughts, but is leaving for USC.

3. Turnover is the norm on almost every coaching staff in the SEC – except Missouri.

4. “Did anybody really expect (James) Franklin to keep his hands off all of Vanderbilt’s commitments? That’s naïve.”

5. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier will be 73 when his current deal expires – he has the option to become a “special advisor” at the school when he does decide to retire.

SEC Football

6. Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will miss the first three games of next season - part of the same suspension that forced him to sit out the Gator Bowl.

7. Here’s a list of SEC players to keep your eye on during the 2014 season. And some  potential Heisman candidates from the conference.

8. Who will replace Jay Prosch in the Auburn backfield?

9. And quarterback AJ McCarron at Alabama? “The race is as wide open as Megatron in a middle-school secondary.”

SEC/NFL Draft

10. Juniors have three days to rescind their NFL draft decision and retain college eligibility.  That’s apparently what Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is pondering.

11. Alabama senior cornerback Deion Blue projects as an NFL talent but dealt with turf toe all season.

12. Perspective on AJ McCarron missing the Senior Bowl: “This is the biggest name from Mobile turning down his one opportunity to participate in Mobile’s biggest annual sporting event.”

SEC Basketball

13. Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison  threw a ball into the scoreboard at the end of their overtime loss at Bud Walton arena this week.  Arkansas plans to keep it there.

14. South Carolina guard Tyrone Johnson fractured his foot against Texas A&M Wednesday night – will require surgery.

15. Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson says he can’t remain calm.  ”I can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry. I’m going back to me, because we need it.”

16. Florida much better at close games this year - Gators 0-6 in games decided by single digits a year ago.

17. Is Tennessee a “desperate” team this weekend as it travels to Kentucky? UK knows it will need to stop Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon.

18. John Calipari is already thinking ahead to next year’s Christmas break and including UK fans in “Camp Cal.”

19. Suspended for Saturday’s game against Auburn, Missouri forward Tony Criswell returned to action last night.  Scored five points in losing effort.

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Louisville’s Ware Says Cards/Cats Rivalry With Kentucky Is “Just Another Game”

gfx - they said itLouisville’s Kevin Ware is already tired of the build-up to this year’s Kentucky/Louisville clash on December 28th.  The junior who broke his leg during last season’s NCAA Tournament says the guys on his team put no extra stock into the game:

 

“It gets old; it’s boring.  It’s just another game.  Nobody’s from here except a couple guys on the team.  We really don’t get into the whole UK-Louisville rivalry.  It’s just another game for us.  A lot of people take it to that further extent, all the UK and U of L bashing each other.  And even with a lot of stuff that they put on us this year, we really don’t care that Kentucky exists.  We just look at them as another school.”

 

What Ware says is true.  This year’s Kentucky/Louisville matchup isn’t going to be played between 10 natives of the Bluegrass State.  Hell, the Wildcats’ one-and-doners don’t even get the chance to build a hatred for the Cardinals.

With the way the two programs build their teams, it’s no wonder the rivalry means more to fans than it does to players.  The fans are from Kentucky and will likely still be in the Commonwealth a year from now.  The same can’t be said for the kids representing them on the hardwood.

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Kentucky To Strip 6,000 Seats From Commonwealth Stadium In A First-Class Renovation Project

File this one under perfect timing.

Last week, we wrote the following: “How long before and SEC school decides to replace 10,000 to 20,000 seats with larger, more opulent skyboxes?”

Well, it ain’t 10- to 20-thousand, but the University of Kentucky will be dropping the seating capacity at Commonwealth Stadium from 67,000 to 61,000 in time for the 2015 season.  According to The Lexington Herald-Leader, officials discussing the refurbishing of the stadium yesterday said that “the goal is to create better seats, not more seats.”

Architect Gerardo Prado says Wildcat AD Mitch Barnhart wants the 40-year-old stadium to be a one-of-a-kind venue:

 

“Classy and cool were the exact words used by Mitch and that’s what we’re trying to strive for here.  We don’t want this to look like any other stadium in the Southeastern Conference.”

 

So far so good:

 

after_interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The $110 million renovation project should “change the personality of the stadium,” Barnhart said.  “It’s hopefully more intimate, hopefully, it is more fan friendly.”

“We’ve got to create an environment that’s fun for people to want to come to,” the AD added.  “And I think this is the right size for us.”

In addition to going smaller, the number of tickets offered to students will decline.  The student section will surround a new glass-front recruiting room — long a UK need — with a capacity of 200 people.  That recruiting room will also have its own patio, which is unique to Commonwealth Stadium.

The south side of the stadium will feature a new pressbox sitting on top of 28 suites.  Below the suites will be club seats and loge/VIP seating.  Alcohol will be available to those buying premium seats.

Additional notes:

 

*  UK will reticket the entire stadium and it will have a new seating plan.

*  About 25,000 seats will be available with a donation of $100 or less to the UK athletic program.

*  There will be wider concourses, new concession stands and new restrooms for everyone, not just the folks in the suites, club seats and loge/VIP areas.

*  In a fantastic touch, areas of the stadium will feature reclaimed Kentucky barn wood and Kentucky limestone to add a “little bit of Kentucky flavor.”  Love that idea.

 

You can expect schools to continue to move in this direction as an increasing number of fans choose to stay home with their HD sets rather than drive to the ol’ ballyard.  Kentucky is moving in the right direction and the school’s plans look like a major, major upgrade for a stadium that currently has very little personality.

But rest assured some school down the line will take a more drastic dive into the newer-but-smaller stadium pool.  Six-thousand seats today?  It’ll be 10- to 20-thousand at some point.

Mark it down.  (Or — since this is a Kentucky story — Maker’s Mark it down.)

 

 

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Kentucky’s Calipari Not Talking About 40-0 Season With His Wildcats

john-calipari-would-you-trust-this-man-faceKentucky basketball coach John Calipari has made no bones about his desire to coach an undefeated basketball team.  Most pundits — and Wildcat fans — have looked at this year’s Wildcat roster and said, “This could be the year.”

Just don’t expect Calipari to talk 40-0 records with his latest stash of blue chip newcomers:

 

“I’ve said before I retire, I would love to coach a team that goes 40-0.  I’ve said it for 8-10 years.  Will that happen?  I don’t know… We don’t talk about it as a team.  It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re going 40-0.’  We don’t.”

 

Ah, but as Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde points out today, as recently as May the Cats’ coach said, “We’re chasing perfection.”

So let’s all just face facts:

 

1.  Kentucky’s ability to go undefeated will likely be the top story in college basketball this season.

2.  The players and coaches will be asked about the possiblity ad nauseum.

3.  Eventually Calipari will reach the conclusion — and maybe he already has — that all the 40-0 talk isn’t good for his youthful squad.

4.  When that happens, Calipari will — as any coach would — blame the media for trying to create a story that he himself created.

 

UK fans, enjoy all the pressure that comes with talk of “undefeated” seasons.  Fans of everyone else, better run out an buy some earplugs if you’re not interested in hearing this discussion from now until April… or whenever Kentucky’s first loss comes.

 

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Kentucky’s Stoops: SEC Officials Admit Mistake In Carolina Game

homer-doh-squaregreenWith 2:15 to play in Saturday night’s Kentucky/South Carolina game, the Wildcats were flagged for an illegal substitution coming out of a timeout.  Trailing 35-28, UK was attempting to stop Carolina and get the ball back for one last drive.  The penalty gave the Gamecocks a 1st-and-5 that they eventually converted to clinch the game.

One problem.

Kentucky didn’t have 12 men on the field and didn’t illegally substitute anyone.  And the SEC has admitted as much to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops:

 

“Just got off the phone with (SEC coordinator of officials) Steve Shaw and they made a mistake.  They were wrong…

I couldn’t understand, I didn’t understand the call.  I thought it was on them.  The guy on our sideline thought it was on them.  I said, ‘We didn’t substitute anybody.’  We didn’t take anybody out after that.  So, I don’t understand.  They said there was 12 guys.  I said, ‘Well, we played with the same guys that were out there, so evidently we played the last three plays, four plays with 12.’”

 

Stoops added: “Steve does an outstanding job.  We have great officials in this league, very high integrity, and I have a lot of confidence in Steve Shaw.”

Credit UK’s first-year head coach for handling this matter perfectly.  There were 122 plays run on Saturday and Kentucky could have improved on any one of them, which might have made a difference in the game’s outcome.

Readers of this site know that we tend to believe teams have to be better than the officials.  Bad calls will be made in every single game because the guys in the black-and-white shirts are human.  Don’t want a blown call to cost your team, then pull for your team to score more touchdowns.

The SEC works hard to hire, train and grade the best officials in college football.  Due to the fact that no one’s team ever deserves to be flagged for anything, those refs are hated by 90% of SEC fans.  Having lived in ACC and Big Ten country, I can tell you that the officials in those conferences are despised as well.  Everyone has “the worst officials in the country.”  Or so they’d tell you.

But at the end of the day, teams have 100+ chances per game to take matters out of the officials’ hands.  Unfortunately for UK, they didn’t get the right call on Saturday.  Whether they would have stopped Carolina on 1st-and-10 rather than 1st-and-5 is anyone’s guess.  But credit Stoops for not whining and not fueling the fires already lit by conspiracy theories.

There’s not a team in the league that won’t be a victim and a beneficiary of a blown call at some point this season.  It happens.

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South Carolina 35 – Kentucky 28 (Video)

Watch video highlights of the South Carolina 35-28 win over Kentucky Saturday.  Gamecocks now 4-1 & 2-1 in SEC.  UK drops to 1-4 and 0-2.

 

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Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops: “With That Attitude, We’re Going To Get Rolled”

Mark StoopsMark Stoops is not a happy man.  The Kentucky football coach “had steam coming out of his ears” when addressing the team Wednesday, according to running back Raymond Sanders.  After addressing the team, Stoops let loose with media members present.

 

“Very unacceptable practice today. Preparation wasn’t good enough, effort wasn’t good enough, attitude wasn’t good enough. Not good enough. Very frustrated. Some guys are looking for a rock to hide under. It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game, and I don’t know if we’re ready for it.

“With that attitude, we’re going to get rolled. And I believe that happened the last time we went down there, right? When guys are looking for a rock, it means that it’s always ‘I just missed it.’ … It’s whatever. Finger pointing. Losing attitude. Looking to hide.

“They don’t know what it takes. We’re going to get it out of them. When, I don’t know. But it’s not OK. It’s not all right.”

 

Kentucky plays South Carolina Saturday.  UK lost 54-3 two years ago in Columbia.

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What Do Attendance Figures Tell Us About The SEC?

empty-stadium-seatsThe ever-excellent Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has done some digging and found that overall attendance at college football games is down year-to-year.  The first five weeks of the 2013 season were compared to the first five weeks of the 2012 and 2011 seasons.  Attendance is off by 3% from last year and 6% from two years ago.

None of this should surprise anyone.  The decline in attendance has been covered many time in many places, including here at MrSEC.com.  The quality of high definition broadcasts, the sheer number of games that are televised, new and different outlets for watching games (computers, phones), lack of quality WiFi and/or cell coverage at stadiums, rising costs of attendance (tickets, concessions, parking), and three to four games a year that feature cupcake opponents have all been cited as reasons for falling attendance figures.

Below are the September numbers for all 14 of the Southeastern Conference’s programs.  Keep in mind that these are tickets-sold figures, not actual turnstile numbers (which would no doubt be lower).  The schools are listed according to the percentage change from 2012′s first five weeks.

 

  School   2013 Avg. Attendance   2012 Avg. Attendance   Change   Home Games to Date
  Kentucky   60,789   50,712   +19.9%   Miami (OH), Florida, Louisville
  Ole Miss   60,815   55,158   +10.3%   SE Missouri St.
  S. Carolina   81,472   78,602   +3.7%   N. Carolina, Vanderbilt
  Florida   86,839   85,903   +1.1%   Toledo, Tennessee
  Texas A&M   86,906   86,777   +0.1%   Rice, Sam Houston St., Alabama, SMU
  Georgia   92,746   92,671   +0.1%   S. Carolina, N. Texas, LSU
  Alabama   101,821   101,821   +0.0%   Colorado St. Ole Miss
  Tennessee   90,406   90,665   -0.3%   Austin Peay, W. Kentucky, S. Alabama
  Miss. State   55,091   55,460   -0.7%   Alcorn St., Troy
  Auburn   84,719   85,968   -1.5%   Washington St., Arkansas St. Mississippi St.
  LSU   90,596   92,299   -1.8%   TCU, UAB, Kent St., Auburn
  Vanderbilt   35,326   36,942   -4.4%   Ole Miss, Austin Peay, UAB
  Arkansas   63,210   67,828   -6.8%   UL-Lafayette, Samford, S. Miss, Texas A&M
  Missouri   59,097   68,060   -13.2%   Murray St., Toledo, Arkansas St.

 

Observations:

*  Kudos to Mark Stoops for exciting the Kentucky fanbase with his staff hires, his message, and his recruiting.  However, it must be pointed out that UK attendance fell to laughable levels as Joker Phillips’ tenure neared its end in 2012.

*  South Carolina fans — one of the most loyal if not the most loyal fanbase in the SEC — continue to increase their school’s ticket sales.  After many years of filling Williams-Brice Stadium to witness losing football teams, it’s good to see Cock fans finally rewarded with a product that equals their support.

*  As for Alabama… it’s good to be the king.  Tide fans continue to sell out Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*  Mississippi State hasn’t had the best of home games so far in 2013.  With stadium expansion on the way, MSU’s attendance is on to watch now that Dan Mullen’s halo has been tarnished a bit.

*  Traditional football powers Auburn and Arkansas have new coaches.  LSU has a coach who seems to win 10 games every single season.  Yet all three schools have seen a decline in attendance through September.  Welcome to the new college football reality — fans are more finicky.

*  Vanderbilt fans who hope to keep James Franklin in Nashville at year’s end had better start snapping up tickets to Dudley Field.  Franklin has campaigned long and hard for better attendance in what is the SEC’s smallest venue.  Should VU’s coach depart for greener pastures, expect fan support to be a motivating factor.

*  Anyone wondering about the temperature of Gary Pinkel’s seat at Missouri need only look at the Tigers’ attendance figures to arrive at the answer.  His seat is hot and he needs to win.  To date, he has.  He’ll need to keep that up now that the SEC portion of Mizzou’s schedule has arrived.  With massive expansion projects coming to the MU campus, the school can’t afford to see a revenue drop in its football program.

 

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Is This The Year Kentucky Beats Florida? Some Think It Might Be

kentucky-florida-1986Kentucky’s last football victory over Florida came in 1986.  President Ronald Reagan was in office.  Americans weren’t talking on cell phones.  They weren’t surfing the internet, either.  The average new car cost $9,255.  A gallon of gas could be had for 89 cents.  Halley’s Comet, Chernobyl and the Iran-Contra affair were all hot topics.

Since then, Florida has whipped the Wildcats in 26 consecutive games.  That’s the longest current uninterrupted string of victories by one school over another in Division I.

On Saturday the two teams will meet at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.  Florida — a preseason top 10 team — comes in with a 2-1 record.  Kentucky enters the contest at 1-2 and looks to be the worst team in the Southeastern Conference.

But that’s not stopping a pair of UK players and a Florida-based pot-stirring columnist from talking about how beatable the Gators are.

Wildcat defensive end Za’Darius Smith — a juco transfer who’ll be playing in his first SEC game — said Florida is “an OK team.”  He added, “I’m not just going to say they’re all that.  Hey, it’s the SEC.”  when asked if the Gators looked bigger and better than the teams Kentucky has already faced this year, Smith said: “No they didn’t, they actually looked smaller that people we already played.”

For the record, Kentucky has played Western Kentucky (loss), Miami of Ohio (win) and Louisville (loss) to date.

Meanwhile, senior Cat linebacker Avery Williamson said the players are using the 26-game losing streak as a “chip on the shoulder” this week in practice.  “I think it’s a very beatable game… I know it is.  You have to go in with that attitude and come out with a win.”

Down in the Sunshine State, Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel writes that without quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken leg versus Tennessee) and star D-lineman Dominique Easley (an ACL tear in practice this week), “a loss to Kentucky Saturday for the first time since 1986 is not out of the question.”

Bianchi correctly points out that injuries — less than a full-month into the season — are already taking a serious toll on the Gators.  In addition to Driskel and Easley, offensive tackles Chaz Green and returner/receiver Andre DeBose are also on the shelf.

Toss in the fact that Will Muschamp has won with defense and very little offense since arriving in Gainesville and you do have the recipe for close game after close game after close game.  And should new quarterback Tyler Murphy and his teammates turn the ball over three times — as they did last Saturday against a Tennessee squad that gave it away six times — yes, Kentucky could snap Florida’s streak.

Also keep in mind that new coach Mark Stoops is quite familiar with the Gators from his days as Florida State’s defensive coordinator.

So is it possible Kentucky can snap the nation’s longest head-to-head losing streak Saturday night?  Sure it is.  But until the scoreboard clock hits zeroes and the Wildcats have more points, we’re going to remain skeptical of a UK victory over Florida.

 

SIDENOTE — For those wondering, that’s Kentucky quarterback Bill Ransdell leading the Wildcats to their 10-3 win over Florida back in ’86.

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