On the final day of preseason training camp, the Kentucky football team opened its doors to the media. I was only able to see the first 30-45 minutes that primarily featured drills in individual groups, but there were still a few enlightening moments worth sharing.
1. Tons of Teaching on the Defensive Line
The individual portion of practice is focused on fundamentals. It’s usually not as entertaining as the scheme you see in group/team period. Working on fundamentals is detail-oriented. That can be mundane for a veteran or an observer, but not for young players.
To help bring along his young defensive line faster, Derrick LeBlanc split up every defensive line position during individuals. LeBlanc worked with the nose guards, while the tackles and ends each had their own graduate assistant. Instead of working in a large group and waiting around to receive individual attention, there were no more than five players per coach. The players received more reps and more feedback (especially freshman nose Quinton Bohanna).
Things move fast on the D-line. If your hands and feet aren’t where they need to be, you’ll get crushed. These extremely small group sessions will reward Kentucky’s young players with improvements throughout the season.
2. A Completed Hitch
I’ve seen the Kentucky offense make big plays. They’re exciting. I love that s*it as much as Stephen Johnson. Unfortunately, you can’t throw a deep post on every down (unless you’re a ten-year old playing Madden).
In order to grow, the Kentucky offense must prove they can consistently make routine plays. UK has jokingly been “2nd and 10 U” because they drop easy, short passes that would normally get them 5-7 yards. They aren’t third down highlight-makers, but they play an integral role in expanding the offense. Today I saw that when Johnson completed a hitch to Tavin Richardson who was defended tightly by Derrick Baity.
“Keep it simple stupid,” is an idiom for a reason: it works.
3. Naasir Watkins is an Incredible Athlete
The freshman left tackle is fits the role “offensive lineman of the future.” The best offensive linemen aren’t built like traditional offensive lineman. It’s difficult to describe, so I’ll make a comparison. Charles Barkley’s do not play in the NBA. Now when players quit growing, they bulk up and become offensive linemen.
Watkins has the traits of basketball players I used to gawk at on the AAU circuit. He has incredibly long arms, broad shoulders and a thick trunk. Even though he tips the scale at 300-pounds, he doesn’t look that heavy because of his explosiveness and lateral mobility. A player that’s drawn comparisons to Landon Young, Watkins is an elite athlete that’s going to be an absolute stud.
4. The Cats Didn’t Lose all Their Leaders
While many dwell on the recent injuries to senior leaders, there’s still plenty of veterans keeping the underclassmen in check. Nick Haynes can be heard giving praise and criticism, almost as much as a coach. Juice is the man all of the receivers look to for advice. On defense Courtney Love is there for the linebackers to lean on, while Derrick Baity provides similar aid to the defensive backs. The injuries stink, but Mark Stoops has enough weapons and leaders in his arsenal to continue moving forward.
5. Wildcat Quarterback
Benny Snell is happy to add some new trickery to the Wildcat package, but that could not be revealed to the public, just like I’m not supposed to reveal who else received reps as the Wildcat quarterback. I have a feeling you know who it is. I can neither confirm nor deny.