Coach thinks signee Brown can be special player at UK – Bowling Green Daily News

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A few clouds. Low 36F. Winds W at 15 to 25 mph. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.
Updated: January 19, 2023 @ 3:51 pm
College basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb says John Calipari no longer has the SEC’s best talent at Kentucky.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen believes transfer quarterback Devin Leary can throw the football as well as any player in the country.
Kentucky junior Maddie Scherr (left) had the first two 20-point scoring games of her collegiate career in consecutive games this month.
Coach Maurice Douglass, a former UK defensive back, says receiver Anthony Brown has “toughness that is God-given.”

College basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb says John Calipari no longer has the SEC’s best talent at Kentucky.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen believes transfer quarterback Devin Leary can throw the football as well as any player in the country.
Kentucky junior Maddie Scherr (left) had the first two 20-point scoring games of her collegiate career in consecutive games this month.
Coach Maurice Douglass, a former UK defensive back, says receiver Anthony Brown has “toughness that is God-given.”
Just how good is recent Kentucky football signee Anthony Brown of Springfield, Ohio?
ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals all rank the 5-foot-10, 170-pound receiver as a four-star prospect, but his high school coach, former UK defensive back Maurice “Moe” Douglass, is not sure that does him justice. Instead, he compares him to former Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama receiver Davonta Smith, who had more than 1,800 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns his senior season and has over 150 catches already in two NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Anthony is tough with the ball and gets in and out of his cuts so well. He has great hands,” Douglass said. “His routes are so good. That’s why I say he’s similar to Smith. I am really excited about what he can do at Kentucky. I know he’s eager to learn the system. It’s going to be a little different for him, but if he gets it together, he can be a special player.”
He had 83 catches for 1,626 yards – 19.6 yards per catch – and 20 touchdowns in 2022 when his team went 13-2 and reached the state title game, where he had six catches for 106 yards and one score. He averaged 26.9 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown and 16.6 yards per punt return.
“He was as good as I thought he would be this season, and I knew when I saw him in elementary school that he could be special,” Douglass said. “He had put in so much work during high school. This year, we also had a new quarterback who was more prone to shuffle and find windows to throw and give other players a chance to make plays rather than take off running. He threw for over 4,700 yards, and we had another kid who caught over 90 passes. But Anthony definitely stood out.”
That’s why Tennessee, Penn State, Michigan, Cincinnati and Oklahoma were among the other offers for Brown, who enrolled at UK for the spring semester.
“Our short pass game was like our run game – to get playmakers in space – and Anthony did a tremendous job,” Douglass said. “He got so much better with his eye control this season. He may have dropped a pass or two in the past worrying about making a play before he caught the ball. This year he didn’t do that, and when he got the ball, he would make something happen.
“He might have gotten antsy at times last year because he knew he had about a three-second window to get open and then the quarterback was running. This year, he could complete the route and the quarterback would get him the ball.”
Brown is not a big receiver like UK freshman Dane Key, but he’s what Douglass calls a “tough” receiver. He has a brother playing football at Minnesota and a brother who ran track at Oklahoma.
“His toughness is God-given. From my understanding, his dad was a crazy athlete physically and into boxing and stuff like that,” Douglass said. “All his boys are great athletes, and to have three boys participating in Division I sports is crazy. But Anthony is the best of all three. His older brothers were good teachers.”
Douglass said Brown did “so many impressive things” last season, but the coach will always remember what he did against Fairmont High School, one of Springfield’s rivals.
“We had driven the ball and they got a stop. We kicked a field goal and they blocked it and ran for the TD,” Douglass said. “The kickoff after the blocked field, he picks it up at the 10-yard line and takes it to the house (end zone). That was one of the most exciting and important plays he made for us. We went from the outhouse to the penthouse on the next play. That’s what he can do.
“He’s an explosive player who has the potential to make a home run play on special teams or from the slot or the backfield. He can play anywhere.”
Brown played basketball as a freshman and also ran track. He even played in the defensive secondary as a sophomore for Douglass along with receiver.
“He’s just an extraordinary athlete, but he’s also a great human being,” Douglass said.
“He has a great support staff at home. He’s a tremendous kid and a polished receiver. He has some fine-tuning to do, but I think he’s going to do just fine at Kentucky.”
•••
Fox Sports college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb says there is one easy explanation for why Kentucky was not dominating the SEC.
“Arkansas and Bama have better players,” Gottlieb said on Twitter. “Part of it is UK with some bad evals (evaluations), part is that they can’t shoot. Also, their transition defense.”
Gottlieb is not on the “John Calipari cannot coach” bandwagon like some are. Instead, he says it is just a matter of talent.
“They have had better dudes than everyone most years, that has changed their margin for error dramatically. Keep in mind Overtime, Ignite and all the SEC comp has chipped away at the talent he used to always get,” Gottlieb posted.
ESPN/SEC Network analyst Jimmy Dykes made that point clear during two recent UK games he worked.
“You talk to coaches in this league and they say Kentucky cannot guard at the level they used to,” Dykes said. “Kentucky is no longer feared in the SEC. Even South Carolina was confident it could take down Kentucky.”
Another ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas, is not quite ready to write off Kentucky, especially after the win over Tennessee.
“Kentucky’s defensive problems are all fixable. They kept Tennessee from getting to the rim,” Bilas said. “They were more connected on the defensive end and fighting harder.”
Former UK All-American Jack Givens, the 1978 Final Four MVP, liked what Kentucky did at Tennessee and sees that as a turning point for the season.
“They did it by taking on the physical pressure and most of the game and welcoming it,” Givens said. “I can’t tell you how big that is for Kentucky with what they have to face the rest of the season and what they have to do.
“I really liked the way Kentucky won the game with defense because they had been struggling. Winning 98-94 would have been great, but I like this win that came because of the defense and that is how you keep winning games.”
•••
New Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen had a potent offense when he was at UK in 2021 behind the running-passing of Will Levis, big-play receiving by Wan’Dale Robinson and dominating running by Chris Rodriguez.
He’s back at UK with the same job – and a three-year contract worth $1.8 million per year – after spending the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams.
Coen knows he needs to “help fix” the offensive woes UK had last season, but says it may not look exactly like it did in 2021. He said it’s about using his best 11 players. If that happens to mean two or more tight ends, he’ll do that.
“We are going to utilize personnel in different ways than last time. It will not be the same offense,” Coen said. “It will be done differently because of how the roster is. The core foundation and beliefs are the same, but the way we attack might be different just because of the personnel we have.”
North Carolina State transfer Devin Leary likely will be the starting quarterback. Levis transferred to UK from Penn State to play for Coen and is on the verge now of being a NFL first-round draft pick after barely playing at Penn State. Leary has been a starter at North Carolina State and had some big games before an injury ended his season in 2022.
“Devin is a player from south Jersey that has that ‘it’ factor. He can play the game, a true natural thrower of the football,” Coen said. “He’s coming off an injury and we feel he can do good things.
“He’s different from Will, a different style player. We might have to do some things differently from last time, but I am excited to have somebody who can throw at a high level. He can also lead and that’s important at the quarterback position.”
Leary threw for 6,807 yards and 62 touchdowns with 16 interceptions at North Carolina State and ran for five scores.
“I believe this guy can throw the football as good as anyone in the country,” Coen said.
Coen said Leary obviously wants to win games and compete for a SEC championship, but also develop his skills for a NFL career.
“He knows that he needs to jump under center a little more and do some of the things that he hasn’t done in his career yet up to this point – in order to have some more comfort going in to play at the highest level of football,” Coen said. “I think we’re all on the same page in terms of that dialogue.
“A lot of this is going to be about Devin and what he’s comfortable with, it’s his last year of football. And I’d be crazy to walk in there and say, ‘This is what you’re doing. This is how you’re doing it,’ when maybe he’s completely uncomfortable doing some of those things.
“It’s going to be a collaboration – some of the things that he was successful with in his past, but also some of the things that we know we need to do in order to operate in the SEC.”
•••
Kentucky’s struggles may or may not be the reason that coach John Calipari is doing fewer media appearances this season.
Calipari has done a postgame news conference after every game, but he’s been at very few pregame media sessions this season. It’s a trend that started a few years ago, but this season he has been at only three pregame media opportunities – Michigan State, UCLA and Louisville. Instead, he’s sent out either two players to talk to the media or an assistant coach.
Assistants Bruiser Flint and Orlando Antigua each have done two pregame news conferences, while assistants Chin Coleman and KT Turner have done one each. All the others have been done by players.
Calipari has no contractual obligation to do the pregame media conferences. His contract with JMI involves his weekly radio show and pregame and postgame radio shows for each game, even though he’s occasionally had an assistant coach do the postgame radio show for various reasons.
However, Calipari was all smiles and had plenty to say Saturday after UK beat then No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday, including a message to his critics.
“Look, I told you I haven’t lost any faith in these guys. I’ve done this a long time. All you that are shooting arrows and bullets, I’ve got bazooka holes in my body. They go right through. So it is what it is,” Calipari said.
“You could be mad, happy, sad. I’ve got a good team. I’m not making excuses.”
•••
Kentucky’s season has not gone nearly the way it wanted, but Oregon transfer Maddie Scherr has started what made her a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonald’s All-American and state champion at Ryle High School.
She had a career-high 22 points against LSU and then broke that with 25 points the next game against unbeaten No. 1 South Carolina when she went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Those were her first two 20-point games in college after she had scored 2,300 points in high school.
She also had a steal in eight straight games and has had at least three assists in 15 games.
“She and I had a conversation – it’s funny – I wanted to free her up. She was pressing and I was like, ‘Maddie, don’t worry about scoring.’ I was like, ‘Facilitate, get us in an offense, play hard. If it feels good, take the shot. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. We don’t need you to score,’” UK coach Kyra Elzy said after the South Carolina game.
“That was right before Georgia, and she’s been scoring ever since. I need to keep telling her, ‘Don’t worry about scoring!’ ”
Scherr was stuffing the stat sheet earlier, but just not making shots she normally does. She had to remind herself to keep shooting.
“I know that they’re going to fall eventually. That’s what happens you know, just keep shooting it. I had all the encouragement from my coaches and teammates to keep shooting the ball. So that’s what really got me there,” Scherr, a junior, said.
Kentucky has 10 new players this season and Scherr admits it has been a “hard journey” for the team, especially with shots not falling. She said the way UK played for three quarters in the loss to No. 1 South Carolina is what the team is capable of doing.
“So just sticking together remembering things like, ‘Hey, stay with it, short memory and keep going after these teams no matter if it’s the number one team in the country,’ ” Scherr said.
•••
Quote of the Week: “I do think it’s going to be much tougher. And I do think we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves next year because you can’t just stay the same. We have a lot of guys, in my opinion, that are going to come back and it’s easy to get comfortable. And comfortable does not win,” Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, on trying to win a third straight national championship.
Quote of the Week 2: “He could go any damn place in America, and he’s a northeastern guy largely, he could go anywhere and set up shop and in one season be in the tournament and be a threat to win the tournament,” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, on Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Quote of the Week 3: “He signed a lifetime contact. Kentucky has been going through a rough patch. It has been a tough year, but I just don’t see him leaving anytime soon. I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas during the UK-Tennessee game, on rumors UK coach John Calipari might leave for Texas.
Bowling Green Daily News Sports Editor
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