Today was practice No. 5 of Kentucky football training camp, and for the first time since practice began, there were some significant hiccups.
“We had some heads spinning,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said after practice.
It is to be expected. Today was Kentucky’s fifth straight day of playbook installation. New plays have been added everyday, but on the final day, the offense was introduced to new NFL concepts Kentucky has never ran before.
Mistakes were made, but that’s part of the process. In the preseason, Gran likes to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. The good news, the mistakes were minimal and didn’t prevent the team from making incremental progress.
“You worry that you’re going to hit that wall on the fourth and fifth day, but they’ve had a lot of enthusiasm. You can see something different,” Gran said. “They’ve hit the wall, I think, but they’re pushing through it.”
Tomorrow will be the team’s first day of rest since training camp began. On Thursday, install is over. The coaches will see what stuck when Gran calls in plays from the sideline instead of in the huddle.
Darin Hinshaw has already told his guys to be prepared.
“The last ten years I’ve played two quarterbacks, every year. It’s just part of it.” He tells them, “When you get your opportunity, what are you going to do with it? Whenever it is. It may be the first snap of the season, it may be whatever snap of the season, but when you get your opportunity, what are you going to do with it?”
The goal for the quarterbacks, at a minimum, is to complete 65-70 percent of their passes. For what it’s worth, during team periods in spring practice Gunnar Hoak completed 75 percent of his throws, compared to just 66 percent from Terry Wilson. That’s why Hoak brought plenty of buzz into camp.
Elite Incoming Athletes
Gran likes the talent that was recruited into the offense this year. Athletically, keeping up isn’t a problem, but the speed of the game has been a significant hurdle. The freshman learning curve is something Gran has experienced many a time.
Speaking of athletic freshman, A.J. Rose made a revelation today. Instead of telling the freshman running back to, “Pass the Kavosiey,” the Wetumpka native simply goes by, “Smoke.” The reasoning is partially for brevity’s sake, but let’s be honest: “Smoke” is just a badass name for a running back.
Keaton Upshaw Got Up
“Just throw it up,” is going to be a strategy the Kentucky offense can lean on this season. Kentucky can play four wide receiver sets where the smallest guy is 6’5″ C.J. Conrad. The Cats have some big, albeit inexperienced pass-catchers.
Today freshman tight end Keaton Upshaw was the big playmaker in the end zone. “He out-jumped him and made a great catch,” Gran said. “As they get more comfortable with that, if I’m a quarterback and see that, I’m throwing it.”
The next step is consistency. Getting open isn’t easy for the big guys. They must rely on sound technique, something that cannot be mastered overnight.
Walk it Out
Last year, Charles Walker was tasked to help introduce the BBN to UK’s newcomers. This year the torched has been passed to another Walker, quarterback Walker Wood. Today the Lexington Lafayette product talked to wide receiver Ahmad Wagner. You can see the rest on Kentucky Football’s Facebook page.