Mark Stoops opened his doors to the public for UK Fan Day 2019. Just the second practice of the season, it was difficult to discern exactly where each player stands, especially in the helmets-only practice. Even so, we learned quite a bit at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility.
1. Lynn Bowden is always open. That’s not a knock on UK’s defensive backs. He’s just that good. If Terry Wilson throws it 35-40 times a game, 20 of those passes should go to Bowden.
2. Bowden catches punts too. Used sparingly in the return game last season, in four attempts he took two to the house. Now playing the role full-time, he looks much more comfortable as a returner. He didn’t even need to use his body to cradle the ball into the bread basket. He just used his hands to catch them like passes. A.J. Rose and freshmen running back Travis Tisdale also got in reps at punt returner.
3. Routine plays are just that. The passing game has a big play problem. Those are easier to make when the offense does not get behind the chains. Whether it was an off throw or bad hands by the receiver, easy plays have not always come easily. That’s changed in year two Terry. In the quick slants and hitches he was proficient, connecting early and often with Bowden, Josh Ali and Co.
4. Dailey and Oliver got a lot of play. Filling in for the injured Isaiah Epps, the two redshirt freshmen were steady. Stoops said Oliver was even better on day one.
5. A freshman will receive reps at safety. M.J. Devonshire was recruited to be a corner, but I saw No. 25 lined up deep a few times. Moses Douglass was in the action quite a bit, but he could not pick off a tipped pass like his freshman counterpart, Mr. Devonshire.
6. Gilmore can sling it. After hearing the freshman QB was a pleasant surprise in summer 7-on-7s, he did not disappoint in his second collegiate practice. The lefty had arguably the best play of the day when he hit Nik Ognenovic in the seam 30 yards down the field for a score.
7. Sawyer Smith likes the long ball. Probably because chicks dig the long ball. The transfer from Troy is never too bashful to let it fly.
8. Your starting offensive line is: from left to right Landon Young, Logan Stenberg, Drake Jackson, Luke Fortner and Darian Kinnard.
9. The starting defensive line is: Calvin Taylor, Quinton Bohanna and T.J. Carter, who had an excellent pass rush during the team period. Jordan Wright got the start at Jack linebacker but Josh Paschal received a lot of first team reps.
10. It’s a “prove it” year for Wright and Thomas. OLB Jordan Wright and WR Clevan Thomas will either step up and become stars, or get left in the dust. It’s their choice to make. I can’t say much about Wright’s performance today, but Clevan flashed. Consistency is the key to keeping him on the field.
11. Cedrick Dort was a pleasant surprise. His reaction time was incredibly quick. The ultimate unanswered question is how the smaller cornerback can handle physicality. With Brandin Echols out during team periods, Jamari Brown made a few nice plays, one of which would have been an impressive interception that fell just off his fingertips.
12. Hello, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A scout from the franchise that drafted Mike Edwards was in Lexington to check out Lynn Bowden. The wide receiver gave him plenty to like. Folks, I cannot overstate how freaking good this man is going to be this year.
13. Freshmen did freshmen things. It’s like watching a baby deer stumble because it hasn’t quite figured out how to walk. The freshmen mean well, but they’re going to mess up. Quarterbacks drop snaps, receivers drop passes, linemen jump offsides. I thoroughly enjoy watching them kick themselves for making the same mistakes every freshman makes.
14. Jared Casey looked good. That’s one freshman who did not mess up a lot. I was especially impressed at how well he moved in pass coverage, something you often overlook with a guy billed to be a pass rusher. Another outside linebacker, Xavier Peters, is another guy that’s fun to just watch run. Guys that big shouldn’t move that fast.
15. I’m buying DeAndre Square stock. The true sophomore linebacker has gained a bunch of muscle, cut his hair and changed his number. No. 17 is going to be a star for many years at UK.
16. The crowd was incredible. There’s never been a UK Fan Day with so much energy and enthusiasm from the fans who weathered the heat to watch their team. The BBN is the best.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 3, 2019