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October 23rd, 2017

Eric Bledsoe sent home; is a trade finally on the way?

Christian Petersen | Getty Images

Will Eric Bledsoe’s tweet result in him finally getting traded?

Yesterday, Bledsoe tweeted that he doesn’t want to be in Phoenix anymore, a perfectly acceptable sentiment considering how badly things are going for the Suns, who fired their head coach yesterday after an 0-3 start. According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Bledsoe met with the Suns this morning and was sent home. He will not play in tonight’s game vs. the Sacramento Kings.

It’s no secret that Bledsoe has wanted out of Phoenix for a while. This summer, he was mentioned in a possible trade with the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving, who eventually landed in Boston. Some scenarios still have him going to Cleveland for Isaiah Thomas, who will be out until January with an injury, while others have him going back to the Los Angeles Clippers, who traded him to the Suns in 2013. Other potential destinations include New York, Denver, and New Orleans, where he would be reunited with DeMarcus Cousins.

With two years left on his five-year, $70 million contract, there may not be a lot of teams that can afford Bledsoe right now, but it’s clear he and Phoenix are through.


Stoops Sounds Off on Players’ Postgame Social Media Posts

Plenty of people were angry after Saturday’s 45-7 shellacking at Mississippi State.  Many fans and players used social media to vent their frustrations.  Fans can do as they please, but Mark Stoops was not happy to see it from players.

In a ten-second video posted on wide receiver Blake Bone’s Snapchat, the senior said, “I feel like if we threw the rock, we would be un-****ing-stoppable, but we don’t.”

Stoops has already addressed it with his team once.  He will do it again at today’s team meeting.

“Of course we’d rather that stay in house,” Stoops said. “We’ll get it corrected.  It’s a very easy fix.  We had a discussion yesterday, we’ll talk about it as a team today and it will be gone.”

Even though Kentucky had a Bye Week to prepare for Mississippi State, he believes his team mentally took a step back in Starkville.

“Mentally you have to be really, really sharp or you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.  I think our football IQ wasn’t where it needed to be this past week.  That’s our job to get ’em to have the focus that they need.”

Kentucky’s head coach discussed the loss at length during today’s press conference.  He’s anxious to return to his team today to put the ugly loss in the past and move ahead to Tennessee.

“I’m excited, to be honest with you, about today and this week.  I embrace it, I’m ready for it and I certainly wish it was coming off a victory and a better performance but I can’t change the past.” He added, “I have no reason to believe we won’t respond and bounce back.”


Injury Updates on Two Important Players

Saturday’s blowout loss to Mississippi State took a physical toll on the Kentucky football team.  A brutal battle in the trenches, two of Kentucky’s most important players did not finish the game.

Left tackle Landon Young exited the game in the second after “he took an awkward hit,” as Stoops described it.  The injury looked severe at the time, but fortunately that is not the case.  Young is listed as day-to-day.

Safety Mike Edwards is arguably Kentucky’s best defender.  With 41 tackles over the last four games, he’s made an impact all over the field.  Right now, we don’t know if that will be the case moving forward.  Stoops did not have an update on Edwards’ status.

If Edwards is forced to miss an extended amount of time, the Kentucky defense will rely on senior Kendall Randolph to make plays at free safety and nickel.  We’ll likely find out more on Edwards when Stoops meets with the media Thursday.


Kentucky vs. Ole Miss game time announced

Get ready for an afternoon kickoff at Kroger Field.

It was just announced that Kentucky’s game vs. Ole Miss on November 4 will kick off at 4 p.m. on the SEC Network. With fall in full swing, that sounds just about perfect.

The rest of the SEC game times for November 4:


LIVE: Mark Stoops previews Tennessee

It’s Monday at noon, which means it’s time for Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference. Tune in to hear what Stoops has to say about his team’s loss to Mississippi State and Saturday’s game vs. Tennessee.


UK Fans of the Day want to see Kentucky’s Depth Chart vs. Tennessee

The Kentucky football depth chart for Tennessee week is hot off the press.  As usual, the changes in it from last week are few and subtle.

Boogie Watson is back to “Sam” linebacker, replacing the injured Jordan Bonner. Jordan Jones no longer has an “or” next to his name.  Matt Elam is now listed as the third nose guard behind Naquez Pringle and true freshman Quinton Bohanna.

Mike Edwards and Landon Young remain active on the depth chart despite early injury exits from the Mississippi State game.  We’ll receive injury updates from Mark Stoops when his weekly press conference begins at noon.


LOOK: Crowd’s reaction to Tennessee player flipping them off is the best sports picture of the year

Photo by @whmcclary

On Saturday, you probably saw the video of Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden flipping off the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium after the Vols got a pick six, their first touchdown in more than twelve quarters. The clip went viral, but this picture by Athlon Sports’ Harrison McClary is even better. My favorite reactions:

1. Front row Bama fan is not impressed

A Tennessee player acting trashy is no surprise to this fan.

2. Thumbs-up Tennessee fan

When your team is that bad, flipping off Bama fans is all you have.

3. The return gesture

4. Bewildered texting guy

5. Distracted lady

A giant football player is flipping her off, but she is a million miles away. Must be one hell of a daydream.


BBNBA: Cousins and Davis combine for 49 to defeat Randle’s Lakers

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach the end of the first week of the NBA season, we had yet another big performance by former Cats. Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns tied to score the most points for Kentucky players in the NBA. Here are your complete stats:

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOsMins.
Karl-Anthony Towns115-113 W vs. OKC2711-17 (2-7)12101436
Patrick Patterson115-113 L vs. MIN00-2 (0-2)000016
DeMarcus Cousins119-112 W vs. LAL228-17 (1-6)11802636
Anthony Davis119-112 W vs. LAL279-18 (1-5)17333339
Darius Miller119-112 W vs. LAL62-5 (2-5)0010113
Julius Randle119-112 L vs. NO115-6 (0-0)2112224

Highlights


Anthony Davis with the THROW DOWN


Not sure if Boogie or Malik Monk…


So that Karl Towns guy is pretty good…

Tonight in the NBA

  • 76ers at Pistons- 7pm
  • Hawks at Heat (Adebayo)- 7:30pm
  • Grizzlies (An. Harrison) at Rockets- 8pm
  • Hornets (Monk and Kidd-Gilchrist) at Bucks (Liggins) 8pm
  • Warriors at Mavs (Noel) 8:30pm
  • Raptors at Spurs- 8:30pm
  • Wizards (Meeks and Wall) at Nuggets (Lyles and Murray) 9pm
  • Kings (Fox, Labissiere, and Cauley-Stein) at Suns (Bledsoe, Booker, Knight, and Ulis)- 9pm

BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Monday Morning Playcalling Breakdown (Mississippi State)

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Each Monday I will break down the offensive numbers in hopefully a more interesting way that you normally see.  I like to see if there are certain situations where the UK offense excels, based on down and distance.  I will also keep a running count of the stats over the course of the season. Against Mississippi State, certainly the worst offensive performance of the season for the Cats.

1st Down
Pass: 4-10, 41 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack for -2 yards
Run: 13 rushes for 61 yards (4.7 ypc)

Combined Season Statistics
Pass: 48-73, 629 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 6 sacks for -35 yards (1 fumble lost)
Run: 114 rushes for 500 yards (4.4 ypc) (2 fumbles lost)

Breakdown: A completely ineffective pass game and a mediocre run game.  Pretty much the norm this season for the Cats on 1st down.  They have not put themselves in good positions all season long.
—————————————————-
2nd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Pass: 4-8, 32 yards, 1 INT
Run: 5 rushes for 12 yards (2.4 ypc)

Combined Season Statistics
Pass: 28-45, 370 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks for -27 yards
Run: 55 rushes for 212 yards (3.9 ypc)

Breakdown: 13 plays netted just 44 yards.  No analysis needed.

2nd Down and Short (5 yards or fewer)
Pass: 2-3, 7 yards
Run: 4 rushes for 20 yards (5.0 ypc)

Combined Season Statistics
Pass: 7-13, 53 yards
Run: 29 rushes for 76 yards, 2 TD (2.6 ypc)

Breakdown: 7 plays netted just 27 yards.  No analysis needed.
——————————————————
3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Pass: 3-4, 48 yards (converted 3 of 4)
Run: 4 rushes for 36 yards (9.0 ypc), 1 TD (converted 2 of 4)

Combined Season Statistics
Pass: 21-39, 245 yards, 1 TD, 5 sacks for -35 yards (converted 14 of 44)
Run: 14 rushes for 122 yards (8.7 ypc), 2 TD (converted 5 of 14)

Breakdown: The one and only positive from the offensive performance was here.  The only touchdown scored plus a total of 5 conversions in 8 opportunities.

3rd Down and Short (5 yards or more)
Pass: 1-5, 17 yards, 1 sack for -9 yards (converted 1 of 6)
Run: No Plays

Combined Season Statistics
Pass: 9-18, 94 yards, 1 TD, 2 sacks for -13 yards (converted 9 of 20)
Run: 23 rushes for 145 yards, 2 TD (6.3 ypc) (converted 12 of 23)

Breakdown: I have said it all year that UK’s pathetic execution in 3rd and short situations would eventually come back to bite them and you could argue that against MSU it was the key moment.  For the season now they are UNDER 50-PERCENT converting the easiest of short yardage situations.  They can’t do it with the run and they can’t do it with the pass.  It is a serious problem.


Breaking down what went wrong in Starkville (Monday Show Thread)

© Jim Brown | USATSI

Good morning, friends, and welcome to Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, the gang will break down Kentucky’s loss to Mississippi State and look ahead to Tennessee. Tune in for a little group therapy before we burn the tape.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.

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Big Blue Monday: 20% OFF at the KSR Shop

The KSR Shop and Kentucky Branded have the perfect way to get your week started. Today’s Big Blue Monday sale is 20% off your purchase! Head to ShopKSR.com to pick out some great fall game day apparel.

We have a great selection of new KSR pullovers, long sleeve t-shirts, UK jackets, and a great selection of women’s apparel. Hurry this sale is today only. No coupon required.

 

[Big Blue Monday: 20% OFF at the KSR Shop]


Today on KSR, sponsored by Anthem Medicaid: Burn the game tape

Message from today’s sponsor:

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We’ll hear from Mark Stoops at noon

To say Kentucky’s performance in Starkville was disappointing would be an understatement. The Cats got whooped, but it’s time to turn the page and prepare for Tennessee. Mark Stoops will address reporters at noon, so check the site around lunch for a live stream and recap.

If you missed it yesterday, both Blake Bone and Gunnar Hoak’s father raised concerns about Eddie Gran’s conservative playcalling:

Blake Bone had some interesting thoughts following UK’s 45-7 loss to Mississippi State

Gunnar Hoak’s dad is not a fan of Eddie Gran right now…

Something tells me the Mark Stoops call-in show could be interesting tonight.

We’ll find out the Ole Miss game time

Kickoff times for November 4 will be announced later today. Anyone else hoping for a noon kick? Just me?

The UK coaching staff will visit Tyler Herro this week

Buzz has been quietly been building around Kentucky and four-star shooting guard Tyler Herro, who decommitted from Wisconsin last week. Herro’s play at the Team USA minicamp a few weeks back has several major programs interested, including the Cats. Could he be the extra guard Calipari wants to add to the 2018 class? We’ll find out if the coaching staff gives him an offer on a visit later this week.

Karl Towns dunked on Patrick Patterson

There was some vicious Cat on Cat crime in last night’s Timberwolves/Thunder game:

More highlights coming in our BBNBA recap later this morning.

I can’t stop watching the video of this volleyball play

I don’t often share clips of high school volleyball games, but when I do, they look like this:

Radio in an hour…


October 22nd, 2017

Cats Get Rolled in Starkville

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

What could have gone wrong did go wrong for Kentucky in Starkville. Saturday’s performance surprisingly came after a bye week which meant an extra week of preparation. The Cats were dominated in all three phases. Kentucky played its poorest game of the season when a victory could have clinched bowl eligibility and made a statement of belonging in the SEC East. Instead, it must now claw its way back after getting beaten up by Mississippi State 45-7.

It’s not that the Cats lost on the road. Kentucky was defeated by a good football team that was favored by nearly two touchdowns. Prior to the game I didn’t understand the point spread. Afterwards, I got it. Miss State may end up being the second or third best team in the West. It’s the manner in which UK was smacked around along both lines of scrimmage that signaled alarms. On October 21st 2017, the Bulldogs were just plain faster, stronger, smarter, more physical, better coached, and well; you get the picture.

OFFENSE

59 plays, 260-yards, 14 first downs produced just 7 points. It also gave up 7 tackles for loss and 3 quarterback sacks. Time of possession: Miss St 34:49, Kentucky 25:11.

UK was whipped up front, dropped passes, had very little running back generated rushing attack, and threw two picks. Mississippi State should be credited for an accurate game plan, physical demeanor, and timely execution. But in my opinion, Saturday was more telling about UK’s deficits. The Cats beat this team 40-38 a year ago and defeated its defensive coordinator in last year’s Governor’s Cup. Miss State was just plain meaner and exhibited a much higher desire to win this time around. Hat tip to Dan Mullen and that cow bell toting home crowd atmosphere.

The Wildcats cannot expect to win another game this season if it doesn’t somehow, some way establish a run game. It’s not done so on a consistent basis through seven games. Perplexing given 2016 results and with a running back like Benny Snell in the backfield. Quarterback Stephen Johnson’s 54-yards led the team. The offensive line rotated personnel but has yet to establish a solidified foundation to provide satisfactory running lanes or adequately protect the quarterback. This trend was blatantly obvious on Saturday against a physical, disruptive front seven. Opposing defenses will continue to be highly talented throughout the rest of the season. Things will not get easier. UK continued to struggle on first down which led to several 3rd and unmanageable situations (6/14-42.85%). That’s not exactly a recipe for victory in the Southeastern Conference or any college football league for that matter.

DEFENSE

Totally whipped up front. Miss State ran 75 plays for 441-yards, 25 first downs, and 45 points. The Wildcats didn’t tackle, cover receivers, maintain gap integrity, or counter physical play with a great deal of fight. Mississippi State ran for 282-yards off 48 carries. The vast majority of these yards came after initial contact which was as distressing as the loss itself. Credit MSU’s state of mind for fighting through arm tackles and being mentally and physically tougher for sixty minutes.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday. Against Kentucky, the junior signal caller completed 70% of his throws for 155-yards with a group of receivers that were not known for their pass catching prowess. Again, credit Miss State. This is majorly concerning considering that UK has to face teams with elite throwing quarterbacks and pass catchers like Ole Miss, Louisville, and Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

As badly as the Cats were beaten up on the line of scrimmage, special teams really didn’t factor.

 WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

The back half of the schedule is difficult. Been saying that since Media Days. How Kentucky bounces back from Saturday’s embarrassing performance against a wobbly Tennessee team will define the 2017 season. It’s a simple as that. Tennessee played Alabama close (in context) for a half. The Tide led the Vols 21-0 after two quarters.

Listen, every team has an off day. But, Miss State’s complete line of scrimmage domination coupled with Kentucky’s continuing problems in both phases of the run game present a new perspective for Cat’s final five games. UT RB John Kelly will test the UK run defense. Kelly is one of the conference’s leaders in yards after contact and one of the best overall running backs the Cats will go against. There are also some very talented defenders along the Volunteer front seven that will provide similar challenges that were present against MSU. Plus, no outcomes can be taken for granted after this Miss State performance. Plus, the UK-UT game was once considered a rivalry. The two teams used to play for a trophy. Heated emotional games can lead to strange results. Tennessee historically is at its best against Kentucky. Or so it seems.

There were very few positives that can be construed from the 45-7 humiliation. The bigger and more telling question is what’s the ceiling for this football team? There are no sure wins in the back half of the schedule. Never has been.

An embarrassing loss can be answered in two ways. First, give up or simply throw in the towel. Second; learn from prior mistakes, circle the wagons, and become better from the experience. While future opposing teams may not have favorable win/loss records, there are still several competent individual players that are talented enough to take over a ballgame much like Nick Fitzgerald did in Starkville.

Kentucky cannot afford to lose to Mississippi State twice. Cliché and coach speak but applicable. Media and fans alike will decipher, complain about, and debate Saturday’s loss for at least a week. Mark Stoops and team will not be afforded that same luxury. Kentucky has no other choice than to go back to work and move on to Tennessee. For many and varying reasons, Saturday’s pending matchup is pivotal for both teams. Seven decisive days await the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers. Somebody’s season is about to change…….


Kentucky’s bye week lasted two weeks

Oct 21, 2017; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill (8) is tackled by Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Jones (34) during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Your Kentucky Wildcats just pulled off the first-ever double-bye in program history.

After tying the game at seven apiece early in the second quarter, the Cats did just about nothing to put up a fight on the road against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The opposition managed more rushing yards than UK’s total yardage, finished +2 in the turnover margin, and destroyed the time of possession. Absolutely nothing finished in favor of the Wildcats, and it’s best if we just move on and pretend it never happened.

But my job is to write about it. So let’s break down… whatever that was.

Kentucky had two weeks to prepare for this game

Two. Weeks.

Throughout the afternoon, many fans and media personalities made Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald out to be the most dominant force the college football world had ever seen and Kentucky had no shot at even attempting to stop this man. He dominated both through the air and on the ground, throwing for 155 yards and a touchdown, along with rushing for 115 yards and two scores. The defense looked like a deer in headlights with the 6’5, 230 lbs. quarterback lined up behind center.

A lot of people seem to forget, however, that Fitzgerald was Mississippi State’s quarterback last year. The same Mississippi State team the Wildcats took down at home.

This wasn’t some revolutionary talent that the Wildcats had no answer for. This was a player and team UK beat last year, and would have been in convincing fashion if you take away a few costly fumbles by Stephen Johnson to put the Bulldogs right back in the game.

The Wildcats had two weeks to prepare for Fitzgerald and the Bulldog offense. They didn’t attempt any trickery to throw the Kentucky defense off, they ran the same offense they had all season long. The same offense the Wildcats had six games worth of film on. And they bought into the media hype and played scared.

Stoops is now 2-3 following a bye week in his career at Kentucky, proving that the week off isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Another score before the half

When the Wildcats went three-and-out following the controversial deep throw on third and one with 3:08 remaining in the first half, Kentucky fans knew exactly what was coming.

Like clockwork, Fitzgerald led the MSU offense down the field, eventually rushing for a 40-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one where three defenders had the opportunity to bring him down in the backfield. The score pushed the Bulldog lead to 17-7, and they received the opening kickoff in the second half. At that point, we knew things could get ugly in a hurry.

And they did.

KSR friend and Depth Chart podcaster Andrew Eaton found this statistic highlighting Kentucky’s struggles before the half in recent years.

In the Mark Stoops era, Kentucky has surrendered 20 total touchdowns in the final 3:00 of the first half. In the final minute of the first half, the Wildcats have given up 13 touchdowns and 106 total points in the last five years.

To break that down even further, in 56 games, roughly one of every four teams sees the Wildcats surrender a touchdown within the final minute before halftime.

I would say that’s unbelievable, but at this point, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Eddie Gran called his worst game of the season

So. Many. Missed. Opportunities.

I think a lot of it had to do with the pressure of “playing not to lose” critics. Fans have been on Gran for conservative offensive play calls for the past several weeks. Last night he wasn’t “conservative” by any means, but he overcompensated at the wrong times.

Mark Stoops threw in a subtle jab in his post-game presser, saying he and the Wildcat offense “played to win” yesterday afternoon on the controversial third-and-one play call.

That being said, there’s a difference between playing “not to lose” and playing smart.

Why not try out that play on first or second down? Why wait for multiple third-and-short opportunities to throw the ball 30+ yards down the field? Especially when Stephen Johnson had been underthrowing his deep balls throughout the first half, and that continued throughout the game.

The run game hasn’t been working, but that doesn’t mean you have to take deep shots downfield when you only have to go 36 inches to move the chains.

Guys like CJ Conrad, Charles Walker, Juice Johnson, and Lynn Bowden could absolutely dominate in the dink and dunk game. This doesn’t have to be a boom or bust offense, nor is that what it’s designed to be. You have a talented finesse quarterback, use him as a finesse quarterback.

Eddie Gran is an unbelievable football mind and he has done a phenomenal job in his time at Kentucky. That being said, his stubbornness is a kick in the gut sometimes.

Benny Snell has to be Benny Snell again

Seven rushes for 18 yards, with a long of five yards is unacceptable for Kentucky’s premier back. There’s no other way to put it. Snell is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, but he has yet to prove that this season against a legitimate defense.

Could it be opponents zeroing in on him, knowing he’s a power back without the speed of Boom Williams tiring the defense to start the game? (Yes.)

Could UK’s use of only two backs be finally coming back to haunt them? (Yes.)

The opposition is stacking the box with eight or nine defenders, just daring the UK offense to run the ball up the middle on them. And sadly enough, they do.

The Wildcats’ inability to convert via run on third and short is absolutely killing this offense. If the passing game struggles like it did yesterday, we’re getting zero production with the ball in our hands.

I’m no Kirk Herbstreit, but you won’t win many football games like that.


For the sake of all that is good, let’s move on to Tennessee.


Where in the World is CJ Conrad?

At the beginning of the season, tight end CJ Conrad was expected to be an explosive component of Kentucky’s offense. Last season, he finished as the Wildcats’ fourth leading receiver with 19 catches, 262 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he entered this season on the preseason John Mackey Award Watch List, an award that honors the country’s best tight end. A reliable teammate, a top-level blocker in the SEC and a likable guy, Conrad was poised to become an even bigger fan favorite this season.

And he started out strong. The junior came out fighting against Southern Miss in the season opener, finishing with three receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. Over the course of the first four games of the season, Conrad was averaging over 48 yards per game on minimal touches – Conrad only had nine catches throughout these early games, but eight catches were longer than 20 yards and three were touchdowns. Moral of the story: he wasn’t getting a lot of catches, but they tended to be big grabs at the right moments, like this touchdown against Florida, for example.

Well, if he’s having so much success, you may wonder, why isn’t he getting more chances? Great question.

According to Coach Vince Marrow after the Florida game, the staff originally planned to get him three to four touches per game. But as he improved, he expected this number to rise.

“I know this, the kid makes plays when the ball is thrown to him,” Marrow said. “He will be more a part of the offense, trust me.” 

But that was weeks ago. Since then, Conrad’s stats column has been freakishly empty. Zero yards; zero touchdowns.

He did get a touch at the very beginning of yesterday’s matchup. On the second play of the game, Stephen Johnson threw an incomplete pass to Conrad. He dropped the ball, and the tight end did not get another look the rest of the night.

So what gives? Listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Conrad is incredibly athletic. Remember his touchdown against Southern Miss? Remember how he ran nearly 22 miles per hour in his 59-yard catch? Remind yourself with the replay:

“People after his first four games, you know, there’s eyeballs all over him,” Gran said after the Mississippi State loss. “So now your [run/pass options] to him and stuff like that to him are a little bit less. We had another couple called to him, but the read took him somewhere else because of the coverage.”

Gran went on to say that the tight coverage on Conrad should free up other receivers.

Even when playing against a strong defense, Gran, Conrad, and the rest of Kentucky’s offense must find a way to get Conrad at least a few open looks per game. When he is so well covered, other receivers need to step up and make the plays Conrad is capable of making. And they better do it quickly – Tennessee is coming.


@MaggieDavisKSR