Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 26, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Big Blue embraces Yahtzee!

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — Have you heard Kentucky football’s newest buzzword?

Can you actually believe there’s real buzz surrounding Kentucky football?

Well, there is, and well ... Yahtzee! They just landed another big-time recruit.

If you’re an avid follower of everything Big Blue on Twitter, you know the meaning of Yahtzee by now. Otherwise, you might be thinking about five dice, a ridged cup and, if you’re like me, days of your childhood enjoying a fun board game with your grandmother — I think she owned one of the very first ones on the market. I still remember the raggedy yellow box.

In the game, Yahtzee occurs when you produce all five dice alike within three rolls. It’s worth 50 points.

The game was invented in 1956, 11 years before Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was born. That didn’t stop wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord from throwing the term out there to help excite and inform fans.

Mainord — and a slew of others now — uses the word Yahtzee every time the Wildcats reel in a highly touted recruit.

It’s become so regular that Full Houses (worth 25 points in the game) are going to be easy to come by when the September air greets Commonweath Stadium.

Stoops swooped in and immediately changed the complexion of Kentucky football upon his hire in November. Since then, his 2013 recruiting class climbed the chart to No. 29 on the Rivals list.

As for 2014, well, Stoops and company are entering John Calipari territory.

Highlighted by Conner High School quarterback Drew Barker and running back Stanley Williams (George Walton Academy - Bethlehem, Ga.), who are both four-star players, Kentucky is now ranked No. 2 behind only Texas on rivals.com for the Class of 2014. The Wildcats have 18 total commits.

It helps, too, that Stoops has some value across his staff. Not only does he have the marketing mind of Mainord, he’s also got Vince Marrow on his side.

Marrow, from Youngstown, Ohio, has dipped into the Ohio pool with his Buckeye pull. Of the 18 total commits for 2014, eight are from the state directly north.

One, in particular, I must mention because he’s from my alma mater is Jarrett LaRubbio — the 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive lineman is from Lakota East High School in West Chester.

Just across Butler County at Lakota West High School is Mikel Horton, a four-star running back who gave Kentucky a Yahtzee.

With such a quick turnaround in recruiting, expectations will rapidly rise.

The results, though, have already happened on the field when a total of 50,000-plus spectators assumed positions inside Commonweath Stadium — the same place that welcome in a measly 18,000-some fans for the Vanderbilt game last fall.

Kentucky opens the season against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 in Nashville.

How many more Yahtzees will be claimed before then?

Wiltjer May Stay?

While it’s been reported that Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer will transfer, his open letter to the fans actually left some wiggle room. As in, he may be back in Wildcat blue next season.

Doubtful? Yes, considering he’s openly talking about moving on. But, here’s a segment of that letter:

“During this next year, I will be working on my body so that I am able to compete the way I know I can. I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be. Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me.”

Calipari has made it clear that Wiltjer’s body has to change in order for his game to expand. Can he do that at Kentucky? Sure, considering everything he has it his disposal (facilities, trainers, etc.).

The question is what kind of playing time will he receive with the Wildcats as the big dogs roll in from high school. Not much. He’d probably go back to the 3-point specialist that he was for the 2012 title team.

That wouldn’t necessarily be bad for Kentucky, but it’d be a step back for the 6-10 Wiltjer.

The Oregon native will likely land somewhere on the Pacific coast, which makes sense. Gonzaga is a popular name being thrown around as a possible destination.

Cats Climbing

All four of Kentucky’s 2013 MLB Draft selections have inked professional contracts. Three have already made minor league debuts.

Corey Littrell, a fifth-round pick, signed with the Boston Red Sox. Trevor Gott, of Lexington, inked with the San Diego Padres. Jared Grundy, a left-hander, signed with the Oakland Athletics after being selected in the 10th round. Also, J.T. Riddle signed with the Miami Marlins.

Littrell has yet to make his debut.

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