Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 27, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Is it bowl game or bust for Wildcats?

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — What would you consider a successful season for Kentucky and new head football coach Mark Stoops?

Four and 8? 5-7? Bowl game or bust?

As the Wildcats embark on another fall, it’s important for Cats fans to understand that positive results won’t be immediate. They will likely come, as future recruiting classes indicate, but low expectations and patience may be necessary to truly enjoy this season.

Here are four steps Stoops’s bunch must take for 2013 to be labeled a success:

Step 1: Redemption. The Cats need to start on a high note in Music City. Last year, Kentucky couldn’t topple the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, losing 32-31 at home and setting the tone for a forgettable season.

Step 2: Keep continuity. This holds especially true on the offensive end, where it’s still yet to be determined who will take the snaps. I think you’ll see Jalen Whitlow as the guy at first. Whether he’ll stay there remains unclear, but it’s important for Stoops to steer clear of a QB juggling act so the Cats can establish a clear leader on offense.

Step 3: Avoid Bluegrass embarrassment. Louisville is quickly stepping out of the “Little Brother” shoes, proving itself as a potential giant in college football this season. A Sugar Bowl appearance and several key pieces back could spell disaster for the Wildcats on Sept. 14. Kentucky needs to show that it is in firm control — not of Louisville, but of itself — in the early going and keep its composure. A competitive contest is a must, at least for 2 1/2 quarters.

Step 4: Prove SEC inclusion. As Vanderbilt has annually improved recently, Kentucky has become the safe pick for the cellar dwellar spot in the mighty SEC. The Wildcats played just one conference opponent (Georgia) closely last season. I see two or three opportunities for an upset this season. And if one of those, in particular, comes to fruition, it could be a wonderfully surprising season for Big Blue Nation. A win over a beatable Florida team on Sept. 28 at Commonwealth Stadium might have the Cats at three wins before October.

Coaches on Radio

A special edition of “Cross Section,” the weekly radio show on WLGC 105.7-FM, is slated for this Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Show hosts Chris Pullem, Mike Miller and Bryan Barber will welcome in several area high school football coaches to chat about their teams. Pullem and company hope to have head coaches from Ashland, Boyd County, Greenup County, Raceland, Russell and Fairview inside the WLGC studio.

I may even get a few minutes of mic time myself.

Fans are invited to peek in from outside the window on Winchester Ave. between 15th and 16th Streets. A few will even have the opportunity to ask questions themselves.

Bobby Blaze Book

“Pin Me, Pay Me! Have Boots, Will Travel” by Bobby Blaze Smedley is now available at Amazon.com.

A retired professional wrestler from Ashland, the 50-year-old Blaze put together a 238-page book that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of professional wrestling.

Blaze performed for a number of pro wrestling organizations, including WCW (World Championship Wrestling).

For Baseball Prospects

Dates and locations for the Prep Baseball Report Fall Prospect Program have been released.

Throughout the five-week event, participants’ skills will be on display at college campuses in front of college coaches.

The tour includes the following dates/locations: Sept. 7, St. Catharine College; Sept. 15, Morehead State University; Sept. 22, Western Kentucky University; Sept. 29, Spalding University; Oct. 6, University of Kentucky.

Registration fee for all five college weekends is $550 for position players and $450 for pitchers only. The fee includes a personal online video of performance, an online player profile, a numbered jersey and an opportunity to earn an invitation to future invite-only events.

To register or learn more information, visit www.prepbaseballreport.com/kentucky-store/ and navigate to the upcoming events section. Click on “2013 Kentucky Fall College Prospect Program.”

Carper with KCU

East Carter product Tucker Carper was a late addition to the Kentucky Christian University soccer roster earlier this month.

“It was a late decision but it decided itself,” Carper said. “When I wanted to go to Morehead (State), I was set up financially and I had a full ride to go there. But when I started talking to the guys at KCU, they found me a scholarship to play so it really was a no-brainer.”

Carper helped lead the 62nd District champion Raiders to a 10-5-2 record in 2012.

Carper plans on being a sports management major while also learning to become a youth minister.

5K Race Ahead

The Hands and Feet 5K race is set for this Saturday at 8 a.m. at The Boyd County Courthouse in Catlettsburg, Ky.

Proceeds will go to the Hands and Feet Project, a non-profit organization that strives to provide family-style care for orphaned and abandoned children.

Cost is $20 to participate. For more information, contact ryanzornes@gmail.com.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.