LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky is in the middle of preparing for Mississippi State and offensive players and coaches were available to talk after Tuesday evening’s practice.
Kickoff against the Bulldogs is set for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network. Here’s what you need to know from the latest round of interviews.
What we learned
- Junior QB Stephen Johnson hasn’t found success in the air over the last three games, and he said the bye week was a good time to recharge. He sat back like the rest of us as a spectator instead of a player: “Just being able to see the different opponents that we have coming up on our schedule, seeing how they play, and just having the time to relax and sit back and watch some games instead of preparing like we were,” Johnson said.
- Vanderbilt beating Georgia bumped Kentucky into a tie for second place in the SEC East and Johnson noted the parity within the division: “I mean, it was really a shock to me watching all those games this weekend and different teams losing and all that,” Johnson said. “It benefits us, obviously. We just have to go out and execute and win games.”
- Johnson and the Wildcats don’t have a passing touchdown since Week 3 against New Mexico State. The passing game has less than 300 yards combined over the last three weeks and that equals few chances for a talented receiving corps. Receivers coach Lamar Thomas knows what it’s like to play the position and how valued those targets can be: “If the ball isn’t being thrown your way, as a receiver, you are a little… you know,” Thomas said with a laugh. “But, you have to deal with it. Your time will come.”
- “Would they like the ball more? Yeah,” Thomas added. “But that’s just being a receiver. I mean, that’s just the way it is. Whether that’s in elementary school or all the way up to the pros.”
- Part of the reason receiving numbers have dropped might be a result of a dual-threat quarterback. Johnson rushed for 55 yards against Vanderbilt, and while scrambling is a big part of his game, quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw it’s all about picking the right time: “Every team we play is going to have really top defenses and we’ve got to be able to stay in the pocket when we need to but when it is time to run, when the seams do open up, take advantage of that,” Hinshaw said.
- Although Johnson is a junior, he’s made his SEC debut this season after transferring from College of the Desert in Southern California. Hinshaw attributes part of his struggles to an expected learning curve: “The kid has not played for three years in the SEC and this is his third year. You know he’s going on his, what is it, his fourth game at this point? And he’s learning from mistakes,” Hinshaw said. “He’s learning from things that he’s done wrong. He’s also made some good things, that again, you can’t coach some of the things that he’s done where he’s made fourth and ones to help us win.”
Watch: Stephen Johnson interview
- Johnson’s wrist has been bothering him since the Florida game in Week 2 but it sounds like he’s almost past it: “Feeling a lot better,” he said. “A lot better. Got some rehab on it. Just about back to 100 percent now. So been doing pretty well.”
Other news you need to know
- Five key things to watch Saturday in the Kentucky-Mississippi State matchup.
- A group of sophomores has been leading the Wildcats defensive resurgence.
- Mark Stoops’ radio show had another fan calling for a different coach.
- If Stephen Johnson were to go down, Stoops has the blessing to pull Gunnar Hoak’s redshirt.
- It’s looking less and less likely that Drew Barker will return this season.