Archive for September, 2011

swopshire_and_cousins

This article was written by Kelly Patrick, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

After starting 20 games as a sophomore Jared Swopshire missed all of last season due to a groin injury that took much more time to heal than was originally expected. According to both The Cardinal Connect and the U of L official website Swopshire is now listed as a red-shirt Junior and will be able to play for the Cards for two more full seasons.

During his sophomore season Swopshire proved to have a very valuable and unique skill set while averaging 6.1 rebounds a game (in 25.0 MPG) but also ranking 6th in the BIG EAST at 84% from the free throw line. The only concern is that the Cards seem to be loaded with talent at the PF position with Rakeem Buckles, Chane Behanan, Stephan Van Treese and now two more years of Swopshire. How will the minutes be divided among these four proven contributors? Over the course of a long season in the grueling BIG EAST, having such depth at any position can only be viewed as a positive for the Cards but will undoubtedly result in one of the three starting PFs (Swop,Buckles and Behanan) having less playing time than they might deserve. Having Sophomore Gorgui Dieng and freshman Zach Price as the only two options at the Center position this may mean that Pitino utilizes a smaller lineup depending on the opponent at certain times during the upcoming season, with any of the four power forward options sliding over to play some center.

I think this decision by Rick Pitino is a good sign for the Cards program as a whole as it signifies Rick is convinced Swopshire’s injury is healed enough so that he will contribute over his final two seasons and also it rewards a guy who has stuck with the program during a very frustrating year of sitting on the bench. Jared can provide leadership and also contribute on the floor for two more years in a complex offensive and defensive system which only Kyle Kuric and Swopshire are entering their fourth year of being familiar with.

victor_anderson_in_black_jersey

This article was written by Kelly Patrick, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

Sorry about the delay in posting my #1 ranked player, I planned on having it finished before the start of the regular season but I will now discuss Victor Anderson who is one of the more popular homegrown stars for the Cards in recent memory.

Victor is a 5-9 188 lb Senior RB who attended St. Xavier high school in Louisville. Victor was rated as a 4 star prospect by scout.com coming out of St. X before he committed to the Cards and Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe on 1/28/2007 He is entering his fifth year as a member of the Cardinal football program and is projected to be the #1 option at running back while Sophomore Jeremy Wright is expected to split the carries as more of an inside, physical presence to compliment Anderson who is more of a shifty multi-faceted offensive threat.

“Vic” still stands as the all-time leading rusher and scorer in the history of St. X football with 4,008 yards and 75 touchdowns. He was namvic_anderson_holding_two_horsesed to numerous prestigious “teams” including the Athlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Top 100- All-Southern team” and the Orlando Sentinel’s “All-Southern team”. Victor originally committed to West Virginia but backed out of that commitment to attend his home town school.

After his red-shirt season Victor went on to win the 2008 BIG EAST freshman of the year after rushing for 1,047 yards and scoring 8 touchdowns. Here is a clip of him taking a Hunter Cantwell pass to the house against Uconn on ESPN during his prolific freshman season. He ranked 5th in the conference in rushing overall and appeared to be poised to be the Cards #1 RB for years to come before suffering a shoulder-injury which limited him to 8 games during the 2009 season . The emergence of Bilal Powell as the team’s offensive workhorse in 2010 resulted in Victor being the Cards third leading rusher (behind Powell and Freshman RB Jeremy Wright) with only a total of 286 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving on the season.

Victor has become quite the popular personality within the city of Louisville after an interview with Drew Deener and an article by ESPN BIG EAST blogger Andrea Adelson about his summer job at Longfield farm where he helps to take care of Horses and do other farming related activities. Anderson says he plans on owning a horse farm once his football playing days are behind him and enjoys all the time he was able to spend around the horses over the summer. “I love being around horses,” said Victor Anderson. “They are such beautiful animals. Being able to watch them at my job has been a great experience.”

Louisville fans everywhere are looking forward to Victor bookending his Cardinal career with a strong senior season. After leading the Cards in all purpose yards with 84 yards (61 rushing and 23 receiving) and a rushing TD during the Cards opening day victory over Murray State University, Victor appears to be well on his way to completing his stay in the City as one of the greatest homegrown players of all-time to stay at home and star for the Cards.

DT

This article was written by Tyler Bloyd, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

 

We are finally at the end to what has been a fun and interesting countdown, this one of course being the Top Ten Kentucky players according to NCAA Football 2012 and we sit with one player left to profile. This guy came to Kentucky from Leesburg, FL, or Gator Country, the #1 rated guy on the roster, #22 Danny Trevathan. He has been one of the better defensive players to come through Lexington over the years, following in the foot steps of Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson and Braxton Kelly to name a few as he has helped his Wildcats each season. But before he could star for UK, he helped his high school team to the Florida state playoffs three straight seasons, playing both sides of the ball as the quarterback and running back on offense, and of course his best position of linebacker. He totaled 117 tackles, 17 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries and one of those returned for a touchdown. He was named to the 3rd Team All-State by the Florida Sportswriters Association and named as the areas defensive player of the year according to the Leesburg Daily Commercial.

Moving into Lexington and his freshman season, Trevathan was able to see the field during all 13 games, mainly on Special Teams, bringing in five tackles and a big blocked kicked against Georgia to set up a touchdown. His sophomore year brought on a much larger roll for UK, again playing in all 13 games, but this time starting 6 of them. He ended the season with 82 tackles, second on the team, and 14 of those coming against Auburn and eight against Clemson in the Music City Bowl, along with a forced fumble. DT2

2010 came along, Trevathans’ third year on campus where he started every game for the Wildcats earning First Team All-America Honors from CollegeFootballNews.com, as well as first team All-SEC according to multiple outlets. He finished the season leading the conference and team in tackles with 144, an average of 11.1 per game, also forced four fumbles which was 2nd in the SEC. He set a career high in tackles against Auburn once again when bringing down 17 tigers.

Go Cats!!!

hakeem_smith_with_pink_bandana

This article was written by Kelly Patrick, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

Hakeem Smith is a Sophomore Safety out of Riverdale High School in Jonesboro, Georgia which is about half an hour South of Atlanta. Hakeem wears jersey #29 is 6 ft 1 and weights 185 lbs. Hakeem played both Wide Receiver and Safety for Riverdale High School and was rated as a two star prospect by Rivals.com and also earned the Scholar-Athlete Award.

Smith was recruited by former Cardinals defensive coordinator Ron English and described his decision to become a Cardinal back in 2008: “It was the visit that did it,” Hakeem Smith said. “I explored the campus and stadium. We took a tour around to see the dorms and the weight-room. We talked with the academic advisors. It’s really a great campus. I love Louisville.”

After red-shirting the 2009 season Ha keem went on to truly shine during his freshman season which happened to be Charlie Strong’s first season with the Cards. Smith was named the BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Year while also earning a second team All-BIG EAST   Selection. Smith started 1 2 of 13 games (including the Bowl victory) and led the team in tackles with 88 while also recording 1 sack, 6 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.

After Head Coach Charlie Strong has came out and said “The strength of our football team should be our defense”, it is obvious he is expecting a big season from Smith who is the star of the defense. Smith’s presence will be especially valuable in a defensive secondary that will be starting two un-proven cornerbacks in Senior Anthony Conner (missed last season due to an ACL injury) and redshirt freshman Jordan Paschal. The other safety hakeem_smith_smilingspot will be filled by fellow sophomore Shenard Holton.

 

The strength of the defense is projected by most to be the defensive line with impact players such as Marcus Smith, BJ Dubose, William Savoy, Roy Philon and Greg Scruggs. When asked if the lack of experience in the defensive secondary will reduce how aggressive the defensive scheme will be Strong said “We’re a pressure defense. And we’re not going to back down and we’re not going to back away. We’re going to always play man coverage and we’re going to pressure people. Now it’s just how good can we be outside”. Strong obviously agrees with the uncertainty of the CB position and feels it’s a large determining factor as to how good this defense can be.

One thing Strong doesn’t have to worry about (barring any injuries) is either of the starting safety spots with both Hakeem Smith and Shenard Holton returning after very impressive red-shirt freshman campaigns there will be stability and production from the middle of the defensive backfield.

wgjr3

This article was written by Tyler Bloyd, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

This time we get away from the special teams unit which seemed to be a hot topic, and move to the #2 guy on the list and Lexington product, #21 Winston Guy Jr. Guy stands at 6’1, 216lbs and has been apart of the roster his entire career, but before he could suit up for the Wildcats he was helping his Lexington Catholic HS squad to the AAAA State Championship. He played both sides of the ball, where he was named First Team All-State Defensive Back by the Associated Press & the Courier-Journal after accumulating 75 tackles, 18.5 of those for a loss and 7.5 of them coming as a quarterback sack.

His first season with UK(2008), Guy saw the field in all 13 games, becoming the team’s primary kickoff returner after former running back Derrick Locke went down to injury. He averaged 29.1 yards out of his 10 returns, one of them coming as a school record for the longest return in history with a non-scoring result, he took that for 96 yards against Georgia and he also totalled up 11 tackles during special team assignments. WGjr

Sophomore season came along and it was again the same result, seeing the field in all 13 games, this time starting 11 of those games. He set a career high in tackles, 11 coming in the win against Louisville and totalled 60 for the season, along with a 14.5 yard average per return.

Moving into his Junior year, Guy was awarded the full-time starting roll and proving on the field thar he deserved it. Came in second on the team in total tackles with 106, which also placed him third in tackles per game in the SEC out of all defensive backs. He also led the Cats in interceptions withs three and set new tackling career highs in back-to-back games against Charleston Southern with 16 and then filling up the stat sheet with 18 against Vanderbilt and later being named to the 2nd Team All-SEC according to CollegeFootballNews.com and made PhilSteele’s College Football 4th Team SEC.

Now with only a week away from football, Guy has been moved to a hybrid safety/linebacker position where he quickly adapted to the new role and showcased his athletic ability and skills on the field and will be returning the kicks again as well, so let’s all hope for multiple kick return touchdowns and unlimited interceptions from our man!

mario_benavides_on_the_practice_field

This article was written by Kelly Patrick, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

 

Mario Benavides is a 6-4 300 lb Junior Center out of Los Fresnos High School in Los Fresnos Texas. Mario wears jersey #55 and has started 24 out of 25 games and despite missing a start this past season against Arkansas State has continued the legacy of very dependable and productive Cardinal centers from Travis Leffew (2002-2005) to Eric Wood (2005-2008). Mario will also most likely end up in the NFL like both Leffew and Wood did.

Coming out of Los Fresnos Mario was rated as the #31 offensive tackle nationally and a three star prospect according to Scout.com. After being named first team all-state in Texas as a Junior which is nothing to sneeze at, Mario committed to Ole Miss the summer before his senior season but changed his mind and ended up being the 8th player to commit to Louisville from the class of 2008. Benavides described his decision to switch from Ole Miss to Louisville “Not to say that Ole Miss wasn’t great and they weren’t nice to me it’s just kind of something I feel in my heart. I just felt more comfortable with Louisville. My Dad came with me on my visit and he could tell that I was more excited when I came back from Louisville than I was from Mississippi.”

mario_benavides_close_up

Along with offers from Louisville and Ole Miss, Mario also had offers on the table from Texas Tech, Iowa State, Arizona and Houston after coming out of the very talent rich state of Texas. Although Mario played tackle in high school the Cards staff knew from the beginning that he projected as more of a Guard or Center at the college level due to his physical stature. That combined with the opportunity for Mario to learn behind Senior Center Eric Wood for a season (which was Mario’s red-shirt season) and immediately took over the starting Center position as a red-shirt freshman in 2009 created the perfect opportunity for the Cards to maintain continuity at one of the more underrated positions on the field.

In 2009 Mario started all 12 games and had a very solid season despite the Cards’ offense being inept for the most part. He started alongside Abdul Kuyateh and Mark Wetterer at the guard positions and a combination of Jeff Adams, Greg Tomczyk, Byron Stingily and Hector Hernandez at the tackle positions. Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein all got starts at the QB position and the team was considered a big disappointment after finishing the season 4-8 before Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe was fired. The offensive line was a unit that was inconsistent as a whole in 2009 but laid the foundation for a very solid season in 2010 with good experience up front during Head Coach Charlie Strong’s first season in Louisville. Going into the 2011 season the O-Line is a big question mark and outside of Benavides there is very limited returning experience.

Earlier in the year Mario was 1 of 43 players selected to the 2011 pre-season Rimington Trophy Watch List which is given annually to the most Outstanding Center in Division 1-A College Football. Despite being projected to have a big Junior season Mario has struggled with a foot injury and his status heading into the season opener on September 1st VS Murray State in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is uncertain. Mario providing stability in the middle of the O-Line may very well be the most vital piece to the Mike Sanford’s offensive unit in 2011.

CraigMcintosh

Continuing with our list of the Top Ten Kentucky players according to NCAA Football 2012, we will be sticking with the special teams unit after punter Ryan Tydlacka dropped at the #4 spot with a ranking of 85 overall. This time we will go to kicker for the Wildcats and the #3 ranked guy on the roster, #93 Craig McIntosh. Craig is a hometown kid,  raised in Lexington where he played just one season for Lexington Christian Academy where he played both sides of the ball, taking care of the kicking/punting duties, as well as laying running backs out as a linebacker on the defensive side. He helped his team to a 11-4 record his senior year, kicking a long 48 yard file;d goal and made the State A championship game(lost), coached by Paul Rains.

Heading into his first season at UK, McIntosh only enrolled to school through the ROTC program, with no intentions of playing football, but come his sophomore season he decided to try out for the Cats, which turned out to be a good decision. He made the roster as a red-shirt freshman, kicking off the last 10 games of the year, ranking 4th in the SEC in touch backs and was named the National Kickoff Specialist of the Week for his performance against Vanderbilt. Worth noting, he made one tackle!

Last season for McIntosh, his third year in Lexington, he earned the starting spot as the field goal man. Totalling 67 points through the season, second on the team while making 11-15 attempts with 34-35 extra points sailing through the uprights. His career long came against Ole Miss when he nailed a 50-yarder, tying that same distance against Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. He also took over the kickoff duties later in the year after proving his accuracy was the right foot for the job and again, he made two tackles!!

McIntosh is now heading into his third season with the Wildcats where he will most likely start in both kicking roles with his experience and proven ability, allowing UK to have another productive special teams unit heading into the 2011 campaign.