LEXINGTON – College football notes from this past week ...
Clearly, it’s so far, so good for Franklin County High School graduate Ryan Timmons in preseason football practice at the University of Kentucky.
On at least two occasions during the first week of practice, head coach Mark Stoops has singled out Timmons for praise in the media, indicating the freshman is making big plays and looking like he belongs.
With any luck Timmons will not only see game action, but he could see a lot, both as a wide receiver and kick returner, and maybe here and there on reverses and other running plays.
Stoops isn’t naming a lot of names in his brief, post-practice media sessions, so while he hasn’t elaborated much in his praise of Timmons, the fact that Timmons is being mentioned at all speaks volumes.
In Friday night’s otherwise lackluster practice — the only such session that has dissatisfied Stoops in the first week — Timmons looked good. He caught most of the balls thrown his way, and made good moves in his route running.
Obviously there’s a lot to learn for any freshman at the major college level, but maybe the less publicized adjustment is accepting the fact that he’s not the big fish in the small pond that he was in high school, relatively speaking.
I’ve never had the impression this would be a problem for Timmons at the college level, and his words and actions so far back that up.
The other two freshmen Stoops mentioned a lot during the first week of practice are wide receiver Alex Montgomery from Weston, Fla., and defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville Trinity.
Ironically, when I asked Timmons last Monday about his best friends among his freshmen teammates, Timmons mentioned Montgomery in particular.
Act like you’ve been there
Speaking of Friday’s lackluster Fan Day practice, I was struck by a comment that UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown made early-on, when interviewed by host Brian Milam.
Milam asked Brown if we would hear the air raid sirens after first downs and/or touchdowns in home games at Commonwealth Stadium.
“Touchdowns,” Brown said emphatically. And he quickly, tellingly, added: “I would hope that will become the norm around here.”
That resonated with me because it’s always bothered me a bit when the Wildcats would make a first down and Carl Nathe, the public address announcer at Commonwealth Stadium, would respond with an excited: “FIRST DOOOOOOWWN, Kentucky!!!”
I’d like to believe Kentucky football could advance to the point where first downs can be expected, and not treated like a Powerball winning ticket.
In other words, act like you’ve been there before.
Save the over-the-top-TOUCHDOWN-KENTUCKY-type excitement for touchdowns as UK radio announcer Tom Leach does. I’m fine with that.
Having said all that, I understand that first downs had become something to be celebrated since Rich Brooks left three years ago. And there appears to be reason for at least cautious optimism that first downs will, in fact, become the norm under Stoops and Brown.
Maybe not this season, but in the not too-distant future.
NCAA gets some deserved abuse
The NCAA has taken a lot of well-deserved abuse this past week, primarily when the great commentator Jay Bilas called the organization out for selling the merchandise of current college stars on the NCAA website, with the athletes receiving no compensation in return.
The NCAA promptly stopped selling such merchandise the day after Bilas made those comments.
And all that came after the story broke that a couple of autograph brokers told ESPN reporters that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had taken money for signing autographs, which is big-time against NCAA rules.
All of this raised anew the chorus of people suggesting that college athletes should be compensated for sales of their merchandise, and even for their signature (autograph).
I’m all for that in principle, but the problem comes in regulating such compensation. For example, if college athletes can gain financially for their autograph, what’s to stop a massive amount of abuse, like, “Hey, if you come to Georgia, we’ll get you $10,000 for a signature.”
How much could Nike mogul Phil Knight get for Oregon athletes or T. Boone Pickens for athletes at Oklahoma State?
Would schools simply sponsor autograph sessions, and the money that changes hands?
Could merchandise shops give a percentage of their sales to the athletes being currently used for profit? But then, how would such shops decide which athletes they will use in such fashion through merchandise sales?
And will such decisions cause dissension on the teams involved ... like Running Back A having his jersey sold in stores, leaving Running back B to wonder why his stuff isn’t for sale?
The funny/sad part, depending on your perspective, about the Manziel case is that apparently the autograph brokers who spoke to ESPN, do not want to speak to the NCAA. And the NCAA officials have no subpoena power.
Of course, the NCAA could choose to offer money for such sources to talk, which is apparently what happened in the investigation of University of Miami football, which has pretty well sapped what little credibility the NCAA has left.
It’s all a mess, isn’t it?
And there are very few practical answers.