LEXINGTON, Ky. — Week 2 of Kentucky’s preseason camp is underway, and top Kentucky freshman Lynn Bowden is getting a crash course after missing the first five days of practice.
Bowden, who played quarterback at Warren G. Harding High School in Youngstown, Ohio, will primarily play as a slot receiver for the Wildcats. The position change from high school to college combined with his late arrival has Bowden “swimming,” according to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
“He is just trying to learn the offense,” Gran said. “He’s athletic, he can catch the ball. Just what we thought. He’s trying to get six practices in one. That’s really hard. We’re going to have to bring him along.”
Kentucky receivers coach Lamar Thomas said Bowden is doing an “awesome job” and has a high football IQ. Charles Walker said Bowden “pretty much knows the offense,” and junior receiver Kayaune Ross has been impressed as well.
“When I first came here, I can picture myself running routes off the ball hard and not really knowing where I’m at,” Ross said. “I see Lynn kind of has a natural edge to him where he’s kind of smooth.”
As for the physical attributes, those have already been on display.
“We were in a drill the other day just catching fade balls and he jumped in the air and it was almost like he was touching the sky,” Walker said.
Here’s what else we learned after practice Tuesday
Stephen Johnson improving, Drew Barker back to normal
Stephen Johnson took most of the first-team reps during the open practice Saturday. Gran was asked where Johnson has made the most strides since last season.
“I would say right now his intermediate passes,” Gran said. “Hitting those better, on stride, not behind them. So I would say that’s the biggest improvement for Stephen.”
Improving Johnson’s accuracy on intermediate passes was a priority for quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw.
“We talked about it after the season and I said, ‘Stephen, shortening your motion, especially with the intermediate routes … don’t drop it down,” Hinshaw said. “The longer the motion, the more inaccuracies you’re going to have.’ And he’s really worked at it. Does he still have issues? Yes, but we’re going to continue to work on it. He’s much more accurate this camp than he was last camp. It’s night and day with him.”
As for Drew Barker, Johnson’s primary challenger for the starting gig, it sounds like his back injury is behind him. Barker exited after the first series in Week 3, had surgery in November, and has been working toward a return ever since. Gran sees no difference between Barker pre-back injury and Barker now.
“I don’t, and that’s been really encouraging,” Gran said. “Coach Hinshaw is doing a great job of doing grasp drills. Some stuff where he’s throwing and twisting and getting on the ground without him getting hit. It’s been really good so far.”
Ball security from his quarterbacks is Hinshaw’s No. 1 concern. So far so good.
“Stephen has thrown two interceptions in eight practices … and Drew’s thrown three now. I’d like it to be zero, but they’re taking care of the football,” Hinshaw said.
Position change possible for Nick Haynes?
Nick Haynes is down to 260 pounds as he fights Type 1 diabetes to keep his weight up. Offensive line coach John Schlarman said the senior right guard is trending in the right direction so far in camp.
“He’s probably the most athletic offensive lineman I’ve ever coached. Now, he knows we’ve got to get a little more pounds on him. Where he gets to before Game 1? We’ll see. He’s doing a good job managing it right now. He’s gaining weight during training camp which is huge, cause a lot of guys have a tendency to lose weight.”
Schlarman said Haynes was light at the end of last season and still managed to do good things. George Asafo-Adjei, who can play several positions on the offensive line, could fill in at right guard if needed. It’s what he did for several reps in Kentucky’s open practice on Saturday.
Would that open the possibility of Haynes possibly playing center — a position more suited to smaller linemen? Schlarman said Haynes could “for sure” play center if needed.
Kayaune Ross pushing for first-team reps
The 6-foot-6 and 225-pound receiver nicknamed “Godzilla” was a camp standout last season, but injuries kept him from playing in the final five games. Ross had a touchdown last season against Southern Miss, and Gran said Tuesday that he’s working with the first team at times.
Ross is listed behind senior Dorian Baker on the depth chart.
Ross, a junior college transfer, said camp this season has felt 100 percent different. As for how that might help him this season?
“I think you’re about to see,” he said.
Godzilla Ross with a terrific TD grab from Barker. pic.twitter.com/oSY4gjNVqB
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) August 5, 2017