Kentucky football preseason practice continued on Tuesday, the fifth total practice and third in pads to date. It marks a significant milestone, one Eddie Gran’s offense has never reached so quickly.
“Since I’ve been here this is the fastest we’ve installed (the offensive playbook),” said Kentucky’s offensive coordinator. “We’ve just finished five practices and we didn’t slow down. We went through all five installs. That’s never happened here. They have been unbelievable. They picked it up. It’s not perfect but I sure do like where they’re going.”
Even though the season started late and the format is not like a typical training camp, one would assume the Cats would be lagging behind. It’s quite the opposite, thanks to the dozen or so walk-throughs (what they called “OTAs) the team was able to perform with players and coaches in late July.
“That really allowed us to pick up the practices that we lost in the spring, in terms of the mental part,” he said.
The speed at which UK has been able to install the playbook gives Gran more options. Right now he is throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. Over the next two weeks they’ll have seen enough on film to narrow the playbook for the first live scrimmage.
As of today there have only been a few 11-on-11 team periods over the last three practices. Gran was pleased with what he saw from the passing game on Saturday.
“I was just excited to see Terry in the pocket,” said Gran. “I thought we executed pretty well for the third day. The quarterbacks sat in there and did a nice job. We caught the ball and we competed. That’s what I’m most happy about right now. We’re competing — we’re straining and we’re competing on every play. We’re not perfect. We got a long way to go, but if we can do that and play fast, we’ll have a chance to be a good football team.”
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A few other eye-opening statements from Tuesday’s post-practice media session…
The Defensive Line is doing WHAT?!?!?!
Josh Ali made two incredible statements in a hurry. The rough transcription:
“I feel like out of all four years, this is the best (defensive back) group that I’ve had competition with. Brandin Echols, Fats — I don’t know his real name, we just call him Fats — Kelvin Joseph from LSU. He’s doing really great, he’s really physical. Vito (Tisdale) is doing really good right now, he’s really physical. Even the front four is crazy. Sometimes we don’t get off pace because of those guys. I feel like the defense all around is doing a great job.”
The first thing you should note is that Josh Ali believes this secondary is more difficult to catch passes against than the one that featured Mike Edwards, Lonnie Johnson, Derrick Baity, Chris Westry and Darius West. That says a lot about the competition he’s facing but that’s not what stopped me in my tracks.
Kentucky’s offensive line, the Big Blue Wall, is arguably the best offensive line in America. Four out of the five players are All-SEC caliber and will get a shot at the NFL. THOSE PLAYERS ARE HAVING TROUBLE WITH KENTUCKY’S DEFENSIVE LINE!!!!
That’s all I needed to hear to be confident that iron has in fact sharpened iron and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better team in the trenches in the Southeastern Conference.
Left Guard Alert
Speaking of the Big Blue Wall, Freddie Maggard said on the most recent edition of the KSR Football Podcast that the competition at left guard is the most significant battle in preseason camp. Today Eddie Gran was asked about who’s stood out in the interior. He responded by rattling off a list of guys that many expected to play tackle — Jeremy Flax, John Young and Deondre Buford. “Those guys right now are looking very good. It’s a good young group.”
Even if Gran was just confused by the question, there’s one other thing to consider: Darian Kinnard said today that even though he’s still the starting right tackle, he’s gotten in reps at left and right guard.
Regardless of who is getting what reps where, John Schlarman operates under the same methodology Gran uses early in camp: throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. We’ll have a better picture of where things stand at left guard a week from now.
Names Consistently Receiving Praise
- Bryce Oliver, redshirt sophomore wide receiver
- Vito Tisdale, freshman defensive back
- Mike Drennen, freshman wide receiver
- Izayah Cummings, freshman wide receiver
The freshmen that receive the most praise are the ones Kentucky needs the most, maybe with the exception of Vito Tisdale. Kentucky’s secondary is deep and Stoops doesn’t need him to play on day one. However, if his physicality is making that much of a difference early on, he might leap frog a few players to earn early PT.
Catching Passes is Fun
You’ll never believe this — the pass-catchers are excited to once again catch passes. Even the tight ends!
“We all love blocking in that room, we all love the physicality we have to bring with it,” said Justin Rigg, “but being able to catch the ball is always a great perk to have. Having Terry (Wilson) back we’re obviously doing it a lot more and it feels pretty great.”
I’ll talk more at length about that in the very near future. Until then, enjoy the following from Rigg and smash subscribe on 11 Personnel to hear a dynamite podcast coming to you very soon.