WATSON HIGH ON CARDS' RECEIVERS
University of Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson spoke to the Quarterback Club in Louisville this week, and while noting that his offense didn't come close to being as consistent as he wanted it to be in spring practice, he really likes the talent level.
In addition to calling Teddy Bridgewater the best young quarterback he's coached, he had high praise for the Cards' receiving corps.
"Overall it's one of the better groups I've ever worked with," Watson said. "DeVante Parker, I hope that some day we all see him realize his full potential because he's exceptional. I call him 'ball fetcher' because no matter where the ball is, he finds a way to go get it. He's got great hands. He's faster than what he looks. I think he can be a great player. He'll come into his own.
"Andrell Smith really came through. Damian Copeland had a good spring. He's had injuries a little bit, and he just has been working to realize his talent. He found it this spring, so the challenge will be to put it on film in the fall. Eli Rogers had a good spring. Scott Radcliff, I don't know what I'd do without Scott. He's my security blanket. He's what every coach needs. That group is in good hands."
Among the tight ends, Watson called Nate Nord the most improved of a unit that may have seen as much improvement as any on the team during the spring. Tight end likely will be a key spot for U of L, with the better the play the more flexibility Watson will have in playing with formations.
"The nice thing about Nate, he's really found himself," Watson said. "Ryan Hubbell's been a nice surprise for us and great addition to that room because he's going to be exactly what we hoped when we recruited him. Good run blocker, good pass receiver, embodies the whole profile at tight end. With Chris White, we'll have three really good ones, and that gives us a chance to be multiple with our personnel groups."
CARDINAL COACHES HAVE A MANTRA
In an interview with WDRB.com this week, running backs coach Kenny Carter said of head coach Charlie Strong, "He's an outside the box thinking guy. We're never going to compromise fundamentals or technique, but we're going to try everything we can, because success is not final. If we have a mantra on this staff, that's it. Success is not final. You always want to be better. And (Strong) does a good job of finding ways to push us and stimulate us intellectually."
In interviews for a feature on the stability Strong seems to have built into the staff, linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary said Strong is very much hands-on with each position unit.
"A lot of coaches are kind of overseers -- you can coach your own position and they're not going to step in," Jean-Mary said. "And coach Strong lets you coach, but he doesn't mind coming into the meeting room and saying some things, not in an overbearing way, but he's always looking for that edge and to enhance what you're doing. Offensively and defensively we go to him for advice if things aren't going right, and that's not always the case with every head coach."
UK's LaROD KING SAYS HE 'HATES' LOUISVILLE
While leading a media tour to show off $158,000 in upgrades to the University of Kentucky's Nutter Center football practice facility, Wildcats' wide receiver LaRod King paused a bit in front of a "Beat Louisville" wall to let reporters know just how he feels about UK's in-state rival.
"(Last season's) loss (to U of L) hit deep," King said. "It's real personal for me. It's not just the game, it's not just the team, it's just Louisville. It's either you're Louisville or you're Kentucky. There's no in-between. There's no gray area. . . . Hate, there's no other word I can use but hate. I absolutely hate them. That's all I'm going to say is I hate them. It's that simple."
PHILLIPS ANNOUNCES STATEWIDE TOUR STOPS
UK coach Joker Phillips announced that UK football's annual GameDay Ready Tour will hit four stops around the state beginning June 24 in the coach's hometown of Franklin, Ky.
From UK athletics: Phillips, along with members of the UK coaching staff and UK marketing department, will take interactive tour to Lincoln Park in Franklin, Ky., on Sunday, June 24; Old Mill Park in West Liberty, Ky., on Monday, June 25; Bob Amos Park in Pikeville, Ky., on Tuesday, June 26; and Shawnee Park in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday, July 15. Registration for Franklin and Louisville begins at 1 p.m. local time, while registration for West Liberty and Pikeville will start at 4:30 p.m. local time.
Each Gameday Ready tour stop will feature the same events with football activities beginning an hour after registration begins. Admission is free. The events are open to youth entering their eighth-grade year or below. Youth will get to participate in various football skills and related drills (agility, pass, kick, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, etc.).
Each youth that participates in the event will receive a free Gameday Ready gear pack that includes a shirt, water bottle and other UK items (while supplies last). There will also be a post-event snack for the youth, while Phillips addresses the crowds.
IU's WILSON CALLS WATFORD'S UK BUZZER-BEATER A FOOTBALL BOON
Addressing fans at an IU Tailgate Tour event at Huber Winery, IU football coach Kevin Wilson said he might've been the happiest man in Assembly Hall when Christian Watford hit a buzzer-beater to knock of Kentucky last season.
"Trust me, when Christian Watford made that basket, the first guys on the court were my eight guys on official visits," Wilson said. "They were the first guys on the court, and six of them committed, two of them junior college linebackers we really wanted. So trust me, I was really glad he made that shot. I was more excited than Mr. (Don) Fischer in his announcing. That was a big shot, because we feed off of each other."
Wilson asked fans to create a similar "rockin' atmosphere" in Memorial Stadium for IU games this fall.
"We need to be more proactive as an athletic department and a football program, having a vision," Wilson said. "Because your school is too good at so many things, we have too many things in place not to field a quality football program. It is a challenge, but it's not only a challenge it's a phenomenal opportunity. We're not climbing Mount Everest here. We've got a lot of things in place."
WKU MAKES BIG JUMP IN ONE PRESEASON RANKING
When is being ranked No. 72 in a newspaper's annual countdown of all 120 NCAA Division I-A football teams a big deal? When it's 43 spots higher than you were ranked last season.
WKU was ranked No. 115 in the Orlando Sentinel's preseason list last season and No. 110 the year before.
This year the Hilltoppers must replace all-time leading rusher and two-time Sun Belt offensive player of the year Bobby Rainey, who accounted for 49 percent of the team's offense last season. But they do return nine starters on offense, and add a few key recruits.
WKU had 13 players named to the All-Sun Belt preseason team by Phil Steele's magazine.
WKU coach Willie Taggart is scheduled to appear at a "Toppers on Tour" stop in Elizabethtown Monday at 5:30 at the Elizabethtown Country Club.
WDRB'S College Football Notebook is compiled from staff, wire and school dispatches, including input from UofLSports.com, UKathletics.com, WKUsports.com and IUHoosiers.com.
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