SportsBlogs Nation is home to a growing number of weblogs devoted to intercollegiate athletics (with the Oregon State blog Building the Dam being the latest addition) and half of the S.E.C. East is represented in the S.B. Nation family.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, that my fellow Southeastern Conference webloggers and I keep in contact with one another and A Sea of Blue, despite having certain misgivings about Kentucky's forthcoming football fortunes, agreed to be interviewed by Dawg Sports and to interview me in return.
Here are the responses I received to my questions. The words are his; the pictures and captions are mine, based on my own quirky sense of humor and the demands of my readers for utterly gratuitous pictures of beautiful intelligent women, for neither of which A Sea of Blue ought to be held responsible.
My replies to his interrogatories will be published at his weblog and my thanks go out to A Sea of Blue for being willing to take part in this exercise. I will be happy to return the favor next basketball season, when our roles will be reversed.
Question No. 1: Is Jared Lorenzen, in fact, the single ugliest human being ever born?
Dawg Sports: Many S.E.C. fans---including me---were surprised when Mitch Barnhart decided to retain Rich Brooks for another season. Do you think the Kentucky A.D. believes Coach Brooks is on the verge of making the Wildcats competitive again or is he just keeping the chair warm until a better option becomes available? Was the decision to keep Coach Brooks the right call?
A Sea of Blue: Without inside knowledge of the process, I think that Kentucky's AD made the decision (with help, no doubt) that disrupting the continuity of the program by going through yet another coaching change -- a third in five years -- would not benefit the program as a whole. Unlike a basketball changeover, where in a year or two the new coach can fill key slots with his players, a football coaching switch can take several years to truly install a new system and new players. This is not to mention the length of time it takes to make inroads on high school recruits.
As for whether Rich Brooks is the long-term face of the Kentucky football team, purely as a fan I'd have to think not. While Brooks did manage a few good seasons in Oregon, he is not a young coach. However, it's hard to imagine someone taking a job as tough as the UK job with the intention of passing the reins once a few wins start coming.
Despite the fact that Brooks has not fielded a winner, I think effectively blaming him for other coaches' mistakes (probation) would be unfair and sends a "win now" message that a traditional SEC also-ran like UK cannot really justify. If no improvement is shown this season -- another 3- or 4-win season -- then perhaps talk of Brooks' ouster would be more realistic.
Because a picture of Jared Lorenzen appeared earlier in this posting, it is necessary to include a photograph of Kristin Davis, in order to balance out the extremes of human attractiveness.
Dawg Sports: Although U.K. has fallen short on the gridiron recently, this is a program that played in a New Year's Day bowl game as recently as the 1998 season, beat Alabama in 1997 and L.S.U. in 1998 and 1999, defeated Georgia three times between 1988 and 1996, once had Bear Bryant as a coach, and should be ready to shake off the lingering effects of N.C.A.A. sanctions. How close is Kentucky to reasserting itself as a player in Southeastern Conference football?
A Sea of Blue: Quick fix solutions in Hal Mumme and his high-scoring offense actually may have set the program back considerably. While Tim Couch and "Pillsbury Throwboy" Jared Lorenzen put up big numbers, the roots were not laid deeply enough in recruiting to really reap any benefits. Once the probation and scholarship limits hit, a three-year lull had to be expected.
Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips is considered the architect of Kentucky's recent recruiting successes (top 30 2006 class via Rivals), and a .500 season could set up Kentucky nicely for some future recruiting coups. Also helping build the program is the fact that the state of Kentucky -- once purely basketball country -- has become fecund ground for football recruits. Tennessee, Notre Dame and, more recently, Louisville have benefited from local recruits the past few years. If Kentucky can begin to keep these kids at home, a rise could be in the offing.
Still, it's been years since the Wildcats fielded a truly competitive team, not one that simply willed itself to a few upset wins. And any true parity with the SEC's elites seems distant just yet given the program's recent struggles.
In the 2006 Georgia-Kentucky game, the Wildcats' front seven will make a priority of shutting down the running game of Gordon Ely-Kelso.
Dawg Sports: What new recruits from the Wildcats' 2006 signing class do you expect to make an impact this fall? Last season, all I could think about going into the Georgia-Kentucky game was, "Whatever you do, keep the ball away from Rafael Little!" What Wildcat who is not yet a household name nationwide is poised to make his presence felt in the S.E.C. this season?
A Sea of Blue: Of the Wildcats' current crop of freshmen, defensive end Micah Johnson is the biggest name. A Rivals four-star from Ft. Campbell, Ky., Johnson could have immediate impact. Others to watch are Corey Peters, a huge defensive tackle from Louisville Central High School, who was persuaded to spurn his hometown Big East power with help from Johnson, and Georgia two-sport star LaShun Watson. Watson is brash and athletic, and could also play hoops while at UK. Demetrius Goode, a 5'9" speedster from Lagrange, Ga., is the Wildcats' other four-star player. He'll bide his time behind Rafael Little and Tony Dixon in the backfield.
Other than Little, Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson came to campus with a big rep, having spent time at the prestigious "Elite 11" Quarterback Camp, and at 6'5" and 230 pounds he has the size and strength to be a player. He's been up and down in two years, but could be poised for a breakout.
Sorry, Coach, but you knew your name had to come up sooner or later.
Dawg Sports: If I was in a position to offer you a straight-up trade, Dennis Felton for Tubby Smith, would you take it? Why or why not?
A Sea of Blue: Not a chance. However much SEC fans hear about Big Blue Nation's discontent with Smith, rest assured it's discontent at losing, not specifically at Tubby. No one was calling for his job three years ago when they won 26 games in a row, nor two years ago when they were the overall #1 seed before getting knocked off by UAB.
I actually like Felton, and think he'll build a winner there. Besides, you already had Tubby once ... you don't get a second chance.
It's a posting about Kentucky. I pretty much had to work in a picture of Ashley Judd, didn't I?
Dawg Sports: What's your projected order of finish in the Eastern Division next fall? Of the "Big Three"---Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee---which one does Kentucky have the best chance of upsetting this season?
A Sea of Blue: My best guess at an order of finish would be:
Unless Tennessee is not much improved from last year's debacle, I'd be hard pressed to pick Kentucky over any of those three. Perhaps if they can catch Florida napping, the Cats will luck out. But Kentucky should focus on winning the winnable games on its schedule first, and avoiding losses to the also-rans.