LEXINGTON, Ky. – The bad news first: Kentucky’s linebackers apparently didn’t look great and the defense in general tackled poorly in Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of preseason camp. That defense also lost another projected starter, this time to season-ending injury.
Now for the good: new coordinator Eddie Gran’s offense looked sharp (we’re taking their word for all of this, because media was not allowed to watch), mounted multiple long drives and got good, quick decisions (and a 2-minute-drill touchdown) from quarterback Drew Barker.
Overall, “I feel like we’re off to a good start,” Stoops said. “There are so many mistakes that we’ve got to get cleaned up, but I do like where we’re at. I feel like we are physically stronger. I feel like, conditioning-wise, I like where we’re at. We pushed them, had some long drives where we taxed them … and it’s good to see them in fairly good condition.”
More notes and quotes from Day 8 of the Wildcats’ camp:
- Gran was pleased with third-down conversions, even a couple of fourth downs, noted some 12-play drives. “It’s the first time we came out and and did it like we’re going to do it here, so there was some anxiety, but I like where we’re at,” Gran said. “There’s some good things to build off here. We’ve got (the whole offense) in right now. Coach said, ‘Put it all in, go, throw it at ‘em. Let’s see where we’re at.’ That’s what we did.”
- True freshman running back Benny Snell was “hitting it up in there, breaking some tackles,” Gran said. He and fellow rookie running back A.J. Rose “stand out” physically among the true freshmen, Stoops said. “They’re good players and ready to go.” Both got extra work with junior Mikel Horton turning an ankle and star Boom Williams being held out of contact Saturday.
- Not many other true freshmen have impressed the staff so far, but “I guess that’s a good sign, because finally the rest of our team looks a little bit better, so you see when those freshmen are in there, just physically, it’s hard matchup.” Building up enough talent to not be relying on a heap of freshmen every fall is definitely a good thing.
- Gran said junior receiver Dorian Baker, a former 4-star recruit and imposing physical specimen whose UK career has been marked by extreme highs and lows, looked mostly sharp Saturday. “Other than one play in the back of the end zone, which I think he’s got to fight and battle and he’s got to scrap and claw for that ball, I thought he had a really good day,” Gran said.
- Barker also noted that in the 2-minute drill, facing third-and-goal from the 5 with 16 seconds left, receiver Jeff Badet was able to work open in the back corner of the end zone for a “winning” touchdown.
- But about that defense … “I would have liked to have tackled a little better,” coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “That’s something we have to harp on. We need to see some improvement from this time to next (scrimmage).” Middle linebacker Courtney Love chalked it up to being UK’s first game-like situation of camp. Most of practice, defenders have avoided taking ball-carriers all the way to the ground. “We’ll do a lot better job.”
- Kicker Austin MacGinnis, who set records as a freshman and struggled last fall with a nagging groin injury, attempted six or seven field goals Saturday and “missed a couple that’s unlike him,” Stoops said. On the bright side, he does appear healthy again and is booming the ball with some power. The punters? “We’ve got to continue to look at (them) and work.”
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