LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky football is in the midst of its 11th day of preseason camp and yet another two-a-day. Mark Stoops and the Wildcats met with the media after their morning session Monday, which apparently started sluggish but finished strong. They also had some fresh insights on the team’s first scrimmage two days earlier.
“We really took care of the football. Quarterbacks made good decisions. We were efficient,” Stoops said after reviewing the film. “Defensively, we only gave up one explosive play, and that was off a play that looked like it was going to be an interception and (receiver Garrett Johnson) ended up making a very difficult catch and making a big play on it.”
He added that the defense is solid on first and second down but needs to “add more in our package” for third-down and 2-minute situations. What really jumps out, though, is all the talk of improved play at wide receiver.
“I’ve seen much more consistency,” Stoops said. “They’ve grown a lot. I like the way they’re going about their business. They’ve been very energetic. They’ve been leaders. They’ve been making plays, and if they’ve made a bad play or a drop, they’ve just moved right along and made the next one.”
Kentucky’s much-hyped secondary is similarly impressed. Senior safety Blake McClain noted that UK now has six receivers who are 6-3 or taller, plus quicker playmakers like Johnson, Jeff Badet and Ryan Timmons.
“We’ve got length and speed now,” McClain said. “It’s a full product.”
Other notes and quotes from the practice field Monday:
- UK’s offense clearly got the better of the defense in that first scrimmage, and sophomore strong safety Mike Edwards was man enough to admit it. “I really applaud them,” he said. “It really showed us what they’re capable of, and I really like that out of our offense.” New coordinator Eddie Gran’s increased tempo was “pretty tiring,” Edwards said, “got us tired a little bit.”
- That secondary suffered a blow when first-team free safety Darius West on Friday suffered his fourth serious leg injury in as many years, dating to high school. “Just not having that dude back there that will come down and smack somebody … it’s a big loss,” McClain said. “One of our key leaders, too.” The Cats now will mix and match McClain, Edwards and senior Marcus McWilson at the two safety spots. “We’re all going to play,” McWilson said. “We’re all going to be needed out there, trust me. Our legs are going to get tired. That’s a lot of running, y’all.”
- If McClain is at safety, Stoops said junior Kendall Randolph, a former 4-star recruit who has been a key backup the last two seasons, can take his place at nickel. True freshman corners Jordan Griffin and Davonte Robinson will stay out there “because both I think have big, big upside at corner,” Stoops said. Senior corner J.D. Harmon is also “very flexible” and played corner, nickel and safety in Saturday’s scrimmage. In other words, that secondary is finally deep enough to have multiple good options.
- Junior running back Mikel Horton suffered what looked like a significant ankle injury Saturday but was back at practice on Monday. Maybe that had something to do with rave reviews for freshman backs A.J. Rose and Bennie Snell, plus veterans Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp already ahead of Horton on the depth chart. “Amazing what happens when you got a lot of depth,” Stoops said. “It’s like that across the board. It’s very good. We’re not taking one step back. We’re gonna push forward and guys are gonna learn to fight through adversity. You’re not meant to feel real good right now.”
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