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Ten Takeaways from Kentucky’s 2018 Spring Football Game

A little more than 36,000 were in the Kroger Field stands to watch Kentucky’s 2018 Spring Game.  Unremarkable at times, the Cats showed a flashes throughout, enough to provide optimism for the future, starting at running back.

1. Batman Found Robin

When Benny Snell and A.J. Rose signed letters with Kentucky in 2016, the KSR scouts believed Rose would be the first to make an impact, with Snell complementing the elite athlete’s complete skill set.  We were terribly wrong, however, last night we finally saw the player that looked like a star in the making.

A big guy with exceptional burst, Rose has always had the physical tools.  Last year he did not get the opportunity to use his talents because he could not consistently make the correct move.  In one game, he missed a block and surrendered a sack.  In another, he had a hole, missed it and was tackled for a loss.

Last night, Rose made all the right moves.  His biggest play of the was a beautiful run between the tackles.  Eddie Gran likes “one-cut” backs.  Rose planted his foot and made four North-South cuts to walk into the end zone.

Rose looked like the running back Kentucky has been missing.  Even when Boom racked up more than 1,000 yards alongside Benny, the changeup he provided was outside of the tackles.  Rose can be a more complete running back — he also caught two passes on top of his 134 rushing yards — if he can build on last night’s performance.

“You never know when somebody is going to put it all together,” Mark Stoops said after the game.  “He’s been showing flashes for a long time, but to put it all together and play winning football all the time, he’s been doing that this spring.”

2. Terry has all the Tools

In his first performance in front of fans at Kroger Field, Terry Touchdown did not get into the end zone, but he showed impressive athleticism we have not seen from a Kentucky quarterback in a long time.

To put it bluntly, Wilson has a cannon.  On a few occasions, his big arm got the best of him.  He admitted after the game that he got a little too excited on a few deep balls, which led to overthrows.  Wilson was at his best on intermediate throws, rifling it to the target through traffic.

It was a great travesty that we did not get to see Wilson’s wheels used to their fullest of capabilities. Unable to tackle the quarterbacks, he was ruled down with a simple tap on plays he otherwise would have escaped for big gains.  We still got to see Terry’s speed.  He has a second gear that caused a few audible gasps from the crowd.  That could be commonplace at Kroger Field this fall.

3. Hoak is Exceptional Underneath

Terry Wilson’s raw talent grabbed fans’ attention, but his efficiency was incomparable to Hoak’s.  Making the easy play is not as sexy, but it has hurt Kentucky’s passing game in recent years.  Gunnar made all of the right throws.  He took what the defense gave him and moved the chains.

When Hoak’s offense scored touchdowns, he was excellent.  In a drive that was capped off by an A.J. Rose touchdown, he was 4-for-4 for 35 yards.  In the second half, Hoak completed 7-of-9 passes for 57 yards.  The 11-play drive, the longest of the night, ended with an 8-yard touchdown to Josh Ali in the middle of the end zone.

Some might say the offense “dinked and dunked” or that Gunnar was just a “game manager,” phrases that come with a negative stigma.  They should not.  More times than not, Hoak stayed in the pocket and delivered difficult passes while under pressure.  Instead of taking a five-yard loss, the offense gained six yards.

Hoak knows he has room to grow, but he did not disappoint in the spotlight.

4. Homegrown Talent Shines

Lynn Bowden was the best wide receiver on the field, but a trio of Kentucky products were not far behind.

Former McCracken County quarterback Zy’Aire Hughes made his first appearance as an outside receiver.  He could not connect on a few deep ball targets, but still caught four passes and a touchdown for a team-high 56 yards.

“He’s getting better.  We’re pleased with Zy’Aire because he has some juice and he has some speed and he can get open,” Stoops said.  “He needs to continue to work. There’s a lot of details that go into playing winning football, and he’s working at it, and I appreciate it.”

Brett Slusher earned praises for his special teams efforts from Dean Hood early in the spring, but last night the Beechwood product showed he’s not a bad receiver either.  Slusher caught three passes for 50 yards.  David Bouvier, a slot receiver from Lexington Catholic, caught four passes for 52 yards, including a 29-yarder, the longest reception of the night.  More on Bouvier later.

5. Benny Snell’s War on Referees Continues

It was unintentional, but still hilarious.

6. Edwards is Everywhere

The Badger did not play much, but Kentucky’s senior star in the secondary still had plenty of time to make plays.  He busted up a pair of screens and picked off a pass in limited minutes.

7. Straight Kash Homie

In his first action as Kentucky’s starting Mike linebacker, the Paintsville product did not disappoint.  Kash Daniel led all defenders with 8 tackles and he forced a fumble.

“Kash has been solid,” said Stoops. “It looked like he lost leverage or maybe missed one or two from what I saw with the naked eye out there today, and it happens. If you’ve got good playmakers on offense, it’s going to happen to a lot of guys in space, but he’s done a really nice job.


8. O-Line Won in the Trenches…

After a few early pre-snap penalties, the offensive line regained their poise and controlled the line of scrimmage at the point of attack in the run game.

“You’ve got to give it to the offensive line. I think they did a really nice job. We had very little movement in there, but some of the movement we had in there they picked up and it created some of the long runs,” Stoops said.  “Our offensive line, you know they do a good job. They can move people, and they pick up a lot of things. They have some experience. They’ve seen a lot of different blitzes, different run pressures, so they’ve done a really nice job.”

Prior to the spring game, Freddie pointed out the interior skill from Drake Jackson, Bunchy Stallings and Logan Stenberg.  They lived up to the hype.  Their push gave Rose holes, and their ability to reach the second level and shield the linebackers paved the way for big runs.

9. …But the Defensive Line has Improved

The defensive line lost a few battles in the run game, but they made up for it by being disruptive behind the line of scrimmage.  Calvin Taylor had 1.5 sacks, a stat-line replicated by Kengera Daniel (who had 4 total tackles), and Josh Paschal showed off his explosiveness with a spectacular pass rush.

“He made us look better.  He made the D-Line look better,” Josh Allen said of Paschal following the game.  Benny Snell said the defensive line made the biggest improvement this spring.  “He’s completely right,” Allen agreed.

10. No Tight Ends Hurt

Judging a spring game performance is always problematic.  When you have zero healthy scholarship tight ends, it’s even more difficult, especially in Eddie Gran’s offense.  The Cats ran more four wide receiver packages in one night than they’ll run all season.

A few walk-ons did get some play.  They caught a few passes, but also dropped one into the hands of Mike Edwards.

Kentucky’s offense struggled to find pass-catching weapons during the spring game.  C.J. Conrad can fix that problem, if the quarterbacks get him the ball early and often.


140 days until the football team returns to Kroger Field to take on Central Michigan.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

21 responses to “Ten Takeaways from Kentucky’s 2018 Spring Football Game”

  1. BBNDan7

    That was not 36,000 people…

    1. cats646

      That’s what I was thinking. It looked like maybe 5,000 on tv. Ha

    2. nellis234

      I was at the stadium and I would say about 60-70% of the lower bowl was filled. Upper decks were closed off.

  2. Smyrna_Cat

    Wasn’t Hoak just 14 for 25? In the SEC, I can’t see that getting us very far, especially with the SEC Ds packing it in because Hoak can’t throw the long ball.

    1. whatwasthat

      He was much better than the other guy, who in the frack says he can’t throw deep, ksr, you. Bunch of mindless parrots. Hoak can throw it deep but unlike the other guy he is on target or not throwing ankle breakers.

    2. Smyrna_Cat

      Thank you for your inspiring wisdom and insite, What. I was actually at the game. Were you?

    3. whatwasthat

      More wisdom than you deserve, you are just parroting what the ksr buffoons have been saying about Hoak for months, can he throw it seventy yards on his knees, no, but that is not what the passing game is about, it’s about getting the ball to your playmakers and Hoak has plenty of arm and accuracy for that. You were probably a big Morgan Newton fan, what a joke of a quarterback, he could throw it a long way too.

    4. cats646

      Terry Wilson was more talented. Mr. Hoak

    5. UK Big Board Update

      “insite” LOL

    6. Smyrna_Cat

      What … I was at the game. Where were you?

    7. callitlikeiseeit

      whatwasthat….I have no idea who will start but I can say in High School Hoak was not a good qb vs good teams. I live in the Columbus area and when they played bad teams he had great stats, is still impressive as you still have to execute. However he had some terrible numbers vs good teams, BAD. Was it he did not have much help around him or was it he is just not that good. That is for Stoops and Gran to figure out. I know I saw him play some really bad football against quality teams and was not thrilled they offered him. That said QB position is tricky and hard to predict, many can’t miss stars have been nothing and many unknowns have been stars.

  3. Rixter

    the ‘KSR scouts’? What?

  4. katmandue2you

    First off, glad to see KSR finally act like Gunnar Hoak exists…guess you finally kind of had to. I went to the game…long time season ticket holder. I dont claim to be an expert but my buddy and I both agreed that Hoak looked more polished and much more accurate than Wilson….not that Wilson looked bad…but there’s no question last night Hoak was the much more accurate passer whether it be short or mid range deep etc. There were several passes that Wilson simply missed. If you don’t like 14 of 25…then how is 10 of 24 better? The obvious thing that is a potential game changer is Wilson’s running ability and its hard to completely gauge that when their blowing it dead when someone touches or even gets close to the QB. All in all I’d say they both looked good but Hoak looked more polished and certainly more accurate and with good timing and poise. I think we will see both of them this fall.

    1. Smyrna_Cat

      I think we see both as well. Wilson has to improve accuracy … hopefully he can. He has only been on campus a short time, so there is hope there. I thought Hoak looked more polished as well (he should, he has been in the system longer), and his short passes worked well. I don’t see Hoak being the runner that Wilson is … and not sure how successful Wilson will be at the long ball, but I think that will be needed against the SEC. Don’t disagree that 10 of 24 won’t cut it … but if I remember correctly, Wilson had more passing yards (take that with a grain of salt on games like this!). It is nice to see Hoak get a serious look. I thought Clark looked pretty good team, but didn’t think he was ready yet. Maybe one day!

    2. callitlikeiseeit

      Hoak also has the advantage of having been in the system and Wilson has not. Also hard to judge when we had so many drops by the WR group. Wood also made a couple nice throws. Bottom line is with the qb position alot depends on how well the coaches develope them. Hopefully we got the right guys in place to make all these guys be good for UK.

    3. KYcats11

      I think Danny Clark looked the best out of the three…

  5. Smyrna_Cat

    or insight … take your pick

  6. BluKudzu

    For me, the biggest question is about our defense.
    In each of our losses last year, we gave up over 200 yards on the ground. Our D gave that much up in the scrimmage. Not a great sign, but, we were playing without some of our best.
    I still think the offense will have to score in the upper 30s and eat clock, to get us to another bowl,
    We have 2 QBs that can play, but we also had young receivers, running the wrong routes all night long, not making the same reads as the QB, so I am not overly concerned on accuracy.
    The other big question is Special teams. We showed zero there.

  7. trumpetguy

    Far western Ky. fans know what Hughes kid can do with the ball in his hands. He played EVERYWHERE for his HS team. He is an ATHLETE and too good not to get some touches. Don’t let a few “details” derail this kids ability as a play-maker! Special teams/bubble screens/reverses/etc.,If he has shown in practice to be fumble prone, then that would be an explanation for lack of PT, but not “details”…..

  8. Jiminy Crickets

    I think we will better this year, but if you don’t watch anything, and just read analysis like this, the take away is we don’t have a consistent QB, we can’t throw effectively down field, and our DLine couldn’t handle our Oline, and got gashed on the run game.

    Hoak supporters need to realize the hype machine has anointed Wilson as our qb. It doesn’t matter this is his 3rd team in 4 years, or the reason he left Oregon was because he couldn’t beat out the SECOND string QB, and was relegated to 3rd string after he redshirted a year which he had time to learn the offense and still didn’t know the playbook.
    Every year since stoops got here we have recruited a QB that was 3-4 stars, competed in elite 11 camps and praised as the future of the program, yet we have started a different qb every year and still don’t have a guy that can throw 15+ yards

  9. CombatMedic_98

    Hoak will start like I said earlier this year. We need receivers to CaTcH and line to block. CONSISTENCY!