Seminoles and Scrimmages

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer Kentucky QB Patrick Towles fought for a touchdown in the fourth quater versus Mississippi State. Towles made a 4 yard run into the end zone.

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer
Kentucky QB Patrick Towles fought for a touchdown in the fourth quater versus Mississippi State. Towles made a 4 yard run into the end zone.

Tony Vanetti: I think if you want to take a UK football play from Saturday that stands for what UK fans have gone through for decades, it would certainly be the end of the Mississippi State game, with the onside kick.

Matt Jones: Yeah that was sort of a classic UK football play. It was symbolic of Kentucky’s bad luck over the years. Mississippi State fumbled the ball four times, and they recovered it each time. Kentucky played well enough to be competitive, but probably not good enough to win. And the onside kick, was sort of embarrassing. But at the same time, the problem was that they were perpetually one touchdown behind. They just couldn’t get it.

Vanetti: I watched the game at a wedding with nothing but UK fans. And when that play went off on the TV’s, they all shook their heads and said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we do.’ But I will agree with you, you hung with the number one team in the nation. I’m not sure if they look like the number one team in the nation, but they are undefeated and have beaten some really good teams. Patrick Towles is what jumps out at me. Let’s look back to the beginning of the season. When Patrick Towles was announced as the starter, UK fans went ‘ugh, really?’

Jones: I don’t know if I agree with that. I think what’s most surprising, if you go back to Spring practice, he might have been fourth string, honestly. But he found a way to be the starter, and I think he’s an NFL prospect. He’s improved in every form. He runs the ball, he can throw it, he’s 6-foot-5, he has a good arm. He really exploded on the national scene now where everybody knows where he is.

Vanetti: He has been the story for the last couple of weeks. Kentucky has a quarterback, and by the way I agree with you. I think he has an NFL skill set. Obviously in college he can tuck it and run it, he won’t do that in the NFL, but he can stand in there and sling it. Especially when they roll him out and he throws on the run is when I think that offense really gets going.

Jones: Well I think he’s been great. And look, as the whole team goes, that was a case of a game that they just weren’t ready to win yet. But they’re getting so much better. I honestly believe Kentucky football is on the rise and Louisville football is on the decline. At least in the very short term. I do think Petrino is a good coach, but you look and all of Louisville’s best players are upper classmen about to graduate. Their recruiting is not great. Kentucky players are young, and rising. Is it fair to say the two programs are on the path to at some point pass each other, one going up, one going down?

Vanetti: Well I know that’s what you would want to see, and you give some evidence there. But look at your transfers that came in especially in the secondary that have turned out for you guys. And that’s what Louisville has coming in next year. If you include some of those transfers from Texas A&M and around the country, from where they got these players…

Jones: That’s not their issue; their defense is really good all around already. And they’ll be fine on defense next year. Their issues are on the offensive side. They don’t have a quarterback, and they don’t have a quarterback in the future looking like one. Right?

Vanetti: Well I think it’s a little early to predict their demise. But I will agree with you that Kentucky is on the rise. That’s evident.

Jones: Everybody knows that Kentucky is on the rise, but Louisville is on the decline.

Vanetti: No, Louisville is in a transition year; they have a new coach, Matthew.

Jones: Transitioning to what? I want to know what they’re transitioning to. They don’t have any good young players. Who are they transitioning to?

Vanetti: Let them recruit. UofL are not recruiting gurus by a wide stretch of the imagination.

Jones: But you are…

Vanetti: I am not sitting here throwing around facts like I know what I’m talking about.

Jones: I’m looking at, rankings. Kentucky has had two top 30 recruiting classes in a row, and they’re about to have potentially a top 20, definitely a top 25. At Louisville, even Charlie’s last recruiting class wasn’t as good as they had been. And Bobby’s never been a good recruiter. You’re right, it is worth noting that they have a couple of big transfers coming. But their high school recruits… it’s actually pretty terrible, considering where they are as a program, where their recruiting is. The bottom line though is, they need a quarterback. And I just don’t see one on that roster. They’ve got the kid coming in from Florida next year, maybe he’s the one. But what has happened? Why are there no quarterbacks?

Vanetti: That’s a great question, you nailed it right there. I don’t agree with you on all of the recruiting nonsense that you’re spewing out at this point, but I do agree with the quarterback situation. Will Gardner is not the answer I don’t think. And Reggie Bonnafon, I’m not sure can be in the future. I agree with you on that the Miami kid they weren’t even recruiting. That said I want him to be the next Teddy Bridgewater, and he was a nice surprise for their recruiting class. He could be the answer, but he’s going to be a freshman next year. The light at the end of the tunnel for the quarterback position is in the distance, and you’re going to lose your two top running backs after this year and three of your top offensive linemen off an already weak offensive line. Next year, the offense will be worse than it is this year.

Jones: And that’s going to be fun, because they’re already terrible. By the time people read this, the game will be over. But will Louisville have beaten Florida State?

Vanetti: I don’t know if we have the necessary quarterbacking to pull the upset. I also know the home town crowd  on a Thursday night. Florida State seems to be jacking around in the first half, and then in the second half they blow teams away. They haven’t lost in 23 games. Besides the old fashioned, ‘they’re due for a loss on the road,’ Florida State should win the game. I know the spread is only five now, it’s been bet down from 8.5.

Jones: It’s down to three.

Vanetti: Well anything can happen. I don’t know if Louisville can do it, but obviously, if the stars align….

Jones: They’re going to beat you handily; by two touchdowns. They’re going to have to score; you’re not going to convince me that Jameis Winston isn’t going to score. Here’s another interesting tidbit about the game: it’s going to be really cold. And that may actually be very good for UofL. It’s actually supposed to be like high 30’s on Thursday night. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects an FSU team not used to playing in that temperature.

Vanetti: I think that’s legitimate; the only problem is that Louisville is riddled with Florida players all over the roster. So it might be a push. And Tallahassee isn’t the warmest place in the world, but it’s still Florida. I give Louisville a puncher’s chance to win this game on Thursday.

Jones: Yeah, I sort of agree. Let’s talk basketball for a minute. Your coach continues to make the dumbest statements ever. David Levitch is the greatest walk-on in the history of basketball? You know everybody is always great at something in the history of something if you’re Rick Pitino. I watched your red-white game. I think you have three really good players that could play anywhere in the country, in Harrell, Chris Jones, and Rozier. But then, I think you guys are pretty thin after that. Is that a fair reading?

Vanetti: I would say that we have two really good players, we have Terry Rozier, we have Harrell, and then there’s a little bit of a drop off and then Chris Jones is there. He’s a really good college player.

Jones: But Rick Pitino says that no one in the country can guard him.

Vanetti: Stop it. You know he’s trying to  build up the confidence of his team. This team has a lot of big players. I’m not sold on Blackshear’s renewal and rebirth. I’m not sold on that. What I am sold on is that this team is a Sweet 16 team, and if they get lucky on a Sweet 16, they can go farther.

Seven footer Anas Mahmoud guarded Chris Jones during the second Red/White Scrimmage.

Photo by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune
Seven footer Anas Mahmoud guarded Chris Jones during the second Red/White Scrimmage.

Jones: It looks like he recruited 21-feet of suck with all of those 7-footers.

Vanetti: Kentucky’s been there too, it reminds me of the three 7-footers you all had.

Jones: But you went worldwide for yours, scoured the earth for untalented 7-footers.

Vanetti: We look for kids who want to actually go to class, and play basketball.

Jones: So, on the Kentucky side with the blue-white game Monday night. Not a whole lot to learn, we’ve seen Kentucky play so much because of the Bahamas trip. I guess the question Kentucky fans are asking is ‘Will Cal stick to the platooning?’ He says he will, but even watching the blue-white game, there are certain guys that are better than other guys. The twins and Karl Towns and Dakari and Willie, those guys are just better than the rest. Do you think that he’ll stick with playing ten guys essentially equal minutes?

Vanetti: No, I don’t think so. I think he’s going to try to do that. I think that’s the smart thing to do. If you’re looking for a fault on this team, it would be thier potential inability to get five or six guys to really work together as a team. If you’re going to have so many people that are coming in and out… You’ve seen these teams before that go ten, eleven deep and sometimes it doesn’t work out because you don’t get that chemistry. And you know he’s been criticized for only playing a short, limited number of guys.

Jones: Well, I kind of feel bad for him, no matter what he does, he gets criticized. He’s been criticized for a number of years for not playing enough guys, and now he’s criticized for playing too many guys. I mean, what the heck do they want him to do? At the same time, I don’t believe he’ll stick with it all year. I think there’s a couple of guys in the group that are a notch below the top eight, and so I just don’t know that they’ll play the same amount, Plus you’ve got Dakari Johnson; he’s a lot better. Andrew Harrison is a lot better. Karl Towns might be the first or second pick in the draft. I just don’t know how you don’t play those guys more. But you know I will say this, Cal gets committed to something and he’s stubborn about it. He’s going to want to do it just to prove to people he can.

Vanetti: Alright, last question. Do you think this is Cal’s last hoorah after this year?

Jones: It wouldn’t shock me if it was his last year, but I don’t think it will be. I think if he wanted to go, last year would’ve been the year. He’ll never have a better job offer, than to have coached that Cleveland Cavs team this year. There’ll never be a better job offer for him, ever. Because of that, he’s turned that down, and I think in part because he wasn’t ready, and in part because those guys were returning. I think he sort of has made peace with the fact that this is where he’s going to end his career. I do still believe that if they get through this summer, when he finishes this ride, if he comes back the next year, then he’ll be here for the rest of his career. I think Kentucky fans have one more summer to sweat it out.

Vanetti: Yeah, I agree with that. The recruiting class I’m not sure is going to be as high as some he’s already brought in. If he comes back this summer and toughs it out next year, he’s had two super teams in the past six years, you could have him for the next four or five.

Jones: Which would be awesome, because then Rick will continue to lose year after year. Our basketball team’s ahead of you, our football team is about to be ahead of you, things are just great in Big Blue Land, and happy Halloween to all of you.

Vanetti: Big Blue Land or Big Blue Fantasy Land, either one.