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Cincinnati Bengals: How to get Marvin Lewis excited about something in an interview

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 2:40 PM

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis leans back in his chair Wednesday at interviews at Paul Brown Stadium.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis leans back in his chair Wednesday at interviews at Paul Brown Stadium.

At the midway point of the Cincinnati Bengals season, we finally found something Marvin Lewis will get fired up about. 

A question mischaracterizing a fake punt from three weeks ago*. 

Special teams have been an issue at times recently for Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, and he got a little animated talking about how to fix them.

Well, it’s a start. 

Once he got rolling, the generally low-key Lewis also put his punt team on blast for allowing what was essentially a game-clinching touchdown return in the loss at Jacksonville last week. 

“We were down in position and have to make the play,” Lewis said. “We have to get the returner on the ground and punt where we want to punt. It all has to fit together. It comes back to execution and doing it correctly...

“When we need a punt, we need it up in the air and where we want it. We can’t jack the ball down the middle like we did. Then, we put pressure on the coverage group. That’s the thing we have to have. We forced (Jacksonville’s punter) to re-kick to us the other day, and then we get a penalty and move ball back to the 10-yard line — we can’t have that stuff. And again, it was a guy that’s been a stalwart for us on special teams. It’s not a lack of effort or lack of understanding, we just have to do it right all the time and keep doing it.”

When he was done, he came back to the theme he began pushing Monday: To get out of the 3-5 hole the Bengals are in, they have to, you know, do what they’re coached to do. 

SPORTS TODAY: Lewis’ prescription for a turnaround predictably uninspiring

This might be nothing, but from a coach who is great at keeping the media at arm’s length any real concerns he might have behind the curtains, it felt like something. 

There’s something to be said for calm, collected leadership. It has served Lewis well often during his 14-plus years at the helm of the Bengals.

But this is football. A little emotion is necessary sometimes, too. 

Who knows how much effect Lewis’ letting his guard down for a minute might have on how the Bengals play this weekend at Tennessee — probably none. 

But if it’s a reflection of some more urgency being applied behind the scenes, it will be interesting to see if Cincinnati brings a little more fire to the fight (aside from A.J. Green of course) against the Titans rather than trudge, trance-like, to 3-6. 

*The play in question occurred in Pittsburgh on Oct. 22. The Steelers converted a third down when their punt to team checked to a pass to one of the gunners split out wide because the Bengals hadn’t covered him. 

North Carolina recruiting: 4-star linebacker decommits from the Tar Heels

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 4:10 PM

Payton Wilson, North Carolina’s second-highest rated recruit in the class of 2018 per 247 Sports, has decommited from the Tar Heels, per his Twitter account.

Here’s what Wilson had to say:

Wilson was committed to North Carolina, but he recently took visits to Notre Dame and N.C. State. He’s a 4-star linebacker and the No. 49 player in the country.

Wide receiver Jordyn Adams was the only UNC 2018 commit with a higher grade than Wilson. This is a tough blow for head coach Larry Fedora, whose time in Chapel Hill could be coming to an end.

Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats will rebound (and play) much better when Jarred Vanderbilt returns

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 4:06 PM

We tackle the best question asked by Kentucky fans every day. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet to Kyle Tucker  here and Joe Mussatto  here. Look for the Question of the Day every Monday through Friday. 

Anonymous asks: Ultimately will [Jarred] Vanderbilt play this year?

I think he will. The last update from John Calipari was that he expected Vanderbilt to begin practicing at the end of November. We’ve seen Vanderbilt come out before home games and do some flat-footed shooting drills. And now I’ve been told that he recently resumed actual jump shooting — meaning lifting off the floor and landing on his foot, which is a good sign.

And that leads us to Austin Walker’s related question: When Jarred Vanderbilt is back, will we finally dominate in rebounding like we should?

To be fair, UK is coming off its best rebounding game of the season — the Cats clobbered Troy 53-30 on the glass — and I think they’re going to be fine rebounding. But I do think Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-9, muscled-up McDonald’s All-American, would give them a huge boost on the boards.

Vanderbilt averaged 28.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists as a senior in high school. He grabbed 10 rebounds in 19 minutes at the Nike Hoops Summit, after which there was buzz about him as a potential lottery pick.

I’ve said all along that if Kentucky is to become a legitimate Final Four contender, it will need Vanderbilt’s versatility to get there. He’s a lot more than a rebounder — he is a Swiss Army knife offensively — but that would be one area he can make an immediate impact.  

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Kentucky football: Senior WR Garrett Johnson quietly making history

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 4:06 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Garrett Johnson’s career has had a quiet success about it. So quiet, yet so successful, that even he’s surprised about his rise in the Kentucky receiving record books.

“It’s kind of just hitting me in silence, just kinda catching me off guard,” Johnson said after a recent practice.

The senior receiver from Winter Garden, Fla., is fourth on Kentucky’s all-time receiving yards list behind Craig Yeast, Keenan Burton and Derek Abney. Johnson has 46 catches for 500 receiving yards this season, his third consecutive season with more than 500 yards.

For his career, he has 153 catches, 2,050 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

“He’s reliable,” coach Mark Stoops said. “A lot of his catches throughout this year are critical third downs. He still could make explosive plays. He’s been steady. He’s really taken a lot of steps to be a leader in the wide receiver room. I’ve just been impressed with him and I really appreciate him. He does fly under the radar sometimes because he’s a very good football player.”

Those 153 catches are the fifth-most by a Kentucky player. Johnson is one spot ahead of Randall Cobb in that category and ahead of other former stars like Dicky Lyons Jr. and Jacob Tamme.

Johnson has 30 more catches than any of his teammates this season and he’s Kentucky’s leading receiver by a large margin.

“I feel like my season has been pretty consistent with whatever is coming at me,” Johnson said. “I know my stats, they’re not terrific, but they’re doable. They’re good enough for us to win. I guess that’s all I’m really worried about now, continuing to win.”

Kentucky is 7-4, and with a win over Louisville on Saturday, the Wildcats would reach eight regular-season wins for the first time since 1984. Saturday is both a rivalry game and Senior Day for Johnson.

“All the ups and downs, just like the different experiences that I’ve come across being here — senior day — that’ll be a lot of reflecting,” Johnson said.

Garrett Johnson’s year-by-year numbers

2017: 46 catches, 500 yards, 10.87 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns

2016: 39 catches, 585 yards, 15 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns

2015: 46 catches, 694 yards, 15 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns

2014: 22 catches, 271 yards, 12 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns

Kentucky career receiving yardage leaders

1. Craig Yeast: 2,899

2. Keenan Burton: 2,376

3. Derek Abney: 2,339

4. Garrett Johnson: 2,050

5. Dicky Lyons, Jr.: 1,752

6. Quentin McCord: 1,743

7. La’Rod King: 1,706

8. Randall Cobb: 1,661

9. Anthony White: 1,520

10. Felix Wilson: 1,508

Tennessee football recruiting mailbag: Keeping Georgia commits, Cade Mays and coaching search

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 4:06 PM

Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between readers and Tennessee team and recruiting reporter Blake Morgan.  In this edition, we discuss the latest in some Georgia commits recruitments, the chances the team lands Cade Mays and the coaching search.

To submit a question for Blake, send a message to @BlakeMorganSEC on Twitter or email it to .

Will Vols be able to hold onto big Time Georgia commits? (Dean, Horn, Chatman) (@AG4UT – Twitter)

Holding on to defensive backs Trey Dean and Jaycee Horn is paramount for the new coach.

It is a positive that neither have de-committed and a really good sign for the Vols. Tennessee athletic director John Currie has talked with both. Currie has done a good job  calming the nerves of the recruiting class from what I can gather.

Being able to hold on to either recruit will come down to who is hired. If Dean and Horn believe it is a good hire who can bring the Vols to the top of the SEC, then I believe they will stay.

Horn has better offers and is more likely to flip than Dean is at this point. I think either would jump at a chance to join Alabama’s class, but I don’t expect the Crimson Tide to jump in on either.

Defensive end Jamarcus Chatman is a much different story. He told SEC Country after Butch Jones’ firing he didn’t know what to think.

Chatman attended the LSU game last weekend and appears like he’s going to remain solidly committed.

I think all three will end up on the Vols’ roster next season, unless Tennessee struggles to find a coach and the search goes deep into December, causing the commits to panic. I wouldn’t worry about that happening for another two weeks, though.

What’s our chance of getting Mays to sign with Tennessee (Johnny Smith – Facebook)

I detailed where Tennessee stands with de-commit Cade Mays here.

Mays and Tennessee aren’t done by any means. He seems to really like Clemson, and Georgia made a great pitch to him. He’s from Tennessee and was a commit for over two years. He knows many of the players and has too many connections to Knoxville to count.

All this is to say, if the Vols nail the coaching hire, then I believe Tennessee is right back in the middle of the hunt for Mays.

There won’t be much time for convincing, though. Mays plans to use the early signing period beginning on Dec. 20. This is why I think it would be best for Currie to have a coach in place as close to the Monday after the Vanderbilt game as possible. The new coach will need as much time as possible to build a relationship with Mays.

2-part question. In your opinion, who is Tennessee’s #1 candidate right now to be the next head coach? Which candidate is most likely to salvage the 2018 recruiting class? (Harrison Smith – Facebook)

Honestly, I’m not sure who they have targeted as their top candidate. My partner Mike Griffith has heard names ranging from Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher to Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

Of course, there are all the Jon Gruden grumors, as well.

I don’t think Gruden will be the next coach of Tennessee, and it seems like the rumblings have died down a bit on that front.

The best coach to salvage the class would be Fisher, but I don’t think he’ll be coming to Rocky Top either. Fisher is a great recruiter with a solid staff who would follow. He’s a national championship-winning coach, which is extremely persuasive to recruits.

Memphis’ Mike Norvell is another name I think could salvage the class, too. His name continues to be thrown around. While I don’t think he’s a top candidate, he’s certainly not out of the running.

Norvell is an avid recruiter who embraces the day-to-day grind. I think this is a necessary trait for the new coach and Norvell fits that idea.

Sorry, Jake, I don’t think Gruden is going to end up at Tennessee. Never say never and all that, but I’m not sure it’ll happen.

I did break down Gruden’s quotes over the summer about his thoughts on the rules in the NCAA here.

Miss a previous edition? Find all your SEC Country Tennessee Vols recruiting news  here .