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Football signing week

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By Bob Watkins

When fans statewide crank up computers this week to review which four and five star football prospects signed with Kentucky, Louisville, Western or Eastern Kentucky, take pause, sit back and apply the DAT.

Derek Abney Test.

Beyond the constellation where height, weight and speed in the 40 are Biblical to those who do prep.com(s), there’s a more cerebral measure. A world where walk-ons are discovered and DAT qualifiers often rise to be college football’s best stories.

DAT’s principal measure? What’s between a kid’s ears? How big is hiss heart? What’s his pain tolerance and fourth quarter stamina level in a sport becoming more and more violent.

In 2000 Derek Abney put on the pads at Kentucky to no Cat Walk fanfare. After a red-shirt year the 5-10, 170-pounder took his lumps and, by 2003, bulldogged his way to SEC stardom. Last week Abney was named to the SEC All-Decade Team, by ESPN.com.

So, review your dot.com star ratings, but DAT types are ones to watch.

HIGH ROAD TO

RICHMOND

Typical February football signing week scenario – high school all-stater with gaudy numbers receives scholarship offer from a good school, if not his dream one, makes his visit, feels comfortable and signs.

Caleb Watkins scored 32 touchdowns for Corbin last autumn, rushed for 1,600 yards plus. He will study and play football at Eastern Kentucky University.

Passed over by his dream school, Kentucky, Watkins takes the high road to Richmond. Focus on his parents not burdened by thousands in debt and no student loan repayment plan, and he continues to play a game. Reflecting maturity and an eye on future often clouded for 18-year-old stars accustomed to pamper and praise by pie-eyed fans, Watkins told his hometown newspaper he’s ready to play wherever Dean Hood chooses, then some day, “if I want to, I can go to graduate school at UK.”

Young man takes the high road as if he knows the ball will stop bouncing one day. Refreshing.

HORN TAKES A BOW

South Carolina coach and Lexington native Darrin Horn prepared a pedestrian and shorthanded team (12-8 then, 14-8 now) for Kentucky last week with a pre-game speech that resulted in John Calipari confessing he “was out-coached.” Indeed.

Carolina’s was an inspired performance that catapulted Devan Downey to Sports Center, cost the university $25,000 for fan celebration, and reset the summit of college hoops.

This week, a few guesses on things Horn told his team before the game.

“Guys, No. 1 is in our house tonight and Number One telephoned their team this afternoon and said he was rooting for the Wildcats, So, what say we spin (South Carolina) Senator Jim DeMint’s plan for Mr. Obama and make this ... “Kentucky’s Waterloo.”?

Then, turning to Downey, Horn must have said,

“Let me remind you, Devan, your photo has been on no national magazine cover and your name is not on the national player of the year list. But John Wall is here tonight to show you how to play.”

Then Horn opened the locker room door, the rooster crowed and the Gamecocks flogged Kentucky.

Thus, Horn becomes the only native Kentuckian to coach three straight wins over his home town school.

When it was over Horn went recruiting, John Calipari went home and somebody changed the subject back to ... “well, a loss can be good.”

The generals, save one, would think a loss-is-good to be tantamount to Uncle Billy Sherman saying, “boys, let’s take pressure off and let the Rebs win one.”

Bob Knight, who coached the last unbeaten college team, must have snickered, “South Carolina! Excuse me? SOUTH Carolina?”

The other generals, Patraeus to Patton would brand a-loss-is-good, as liberal nonsense.

MEANWHILE, MURRAY

Hard to hear a stampede from the Jackson Purchase, but here come the Racers.

Billy Kennedy’s Murray was the state’s first D-1 team to reach 20 wins, 11-0 in OVC play. The Racers are led by, well every starter. Junior Isacc Miles and sophomore Ivan Aska average 10.7 points, but six players score 9.5 or better a game.

If Kennedy’s team wins the OVC Tournament and gets the Big Dance bid, we may well see these two things.

1. Racers matched with Kansas or another No. 1 seed.

2. Kennedy’s name will pop up when coach-job carousel begins to turn.

Footnote. Murray’s Racers have a candidate for the All-Name team alongside Siena’s Just-in-Love Smith. Reserve guard Picasso Simmons is a junior.

LOUISVILLE CARDS

The ship is listing hard to starboard. Alarming to see a Rick Pitino team give away wins at Pitt, then West Virginia, and its principal media cover opts to blame men wearing whistles and stripes.

The Panthers and Mountaineers are renown for rough play and Louisville had both beaten on the road. Oops, the Cardinals couldn’t close it at the free throw line, nor get settle down floor play from seniors Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith.

Truth is, if UofL had executed, the game officials work would have gone unnoticed.

Turning to February, the question becomes, can Pitino bring back his old magic, rally a dispirited team facing more Big East baddies, and avoid the NIT.

DIS ‘N DATA

• DeMarcus Cousins. Unless Kentucky’s impetuous big kid learns tolerance for push and pain and picky calls and skips the whine and plea, his two options are clear. 1. Grow up. Commit to another year in college to do it. Or, 2. Move on to the NBA next spring, become candidate to replace Rasheed Wallace.

• Jacob Tamme will be the 25th Kentucky Wildcat to play in a Super Bowl this weekend. The All-SEC tight end is in his second season with the Indianapolis Colts. 

• Football recruiting tool. Western Kentucky will play at Hawaii December 1, 2012. Regular season finale, it will mark first time WKU will play 13 regular season games.

• Siena routed archrival Marist on the road Saturday night, 79-60. The Saints’ record is 19-4. Senior guard Just-in’love Smith did not play.

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across the Commonwealth. You can reach bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com