Kentucky Football’s annual intrasquad scrimmage started out relatively slow, but finished with a bang, with the Blue coming out on top 31-14.
Here are my five observations from the Blue team’s victory:
Benny Snell did Benny Snell things…
His stat line of three rushes, 22 yards, and a touchdown, along with three receptions and 20 yards through the air don’t jump off the page, but they don’t need to. Snell was only in the game for two drives, but showed exactly what he’s going to bring to the offense this year.
The sophomore sensation thrived when the ball was put in his hands, regardless of how it got there.
Snell only had two receptions last year, but showed off what he’s capable of in terms of catching passes out of the backfield tonight. After the scrimmage, Snell said he will be catching the ball a lot more this season.
“Definitely. This year I will be catching the ball way more,” said Snell. “Coach Gran has been working that in, and I’m very grateful for that because I want to have more receiving yards than I did last year. I want to better my game overall.”
There were questions about how Snell would be taking on the No. 1 role Boom Williams left for him, but those were answered quickly tonight.
On another note, AJ Rose looked better than advertised. On the first drive, Rose had a 26-yard run, where he trucked Darius West and put the White team into scoring territory. He was banged up in the second quarter (Stoops says he’ll be fine), but it was great seeing the team’s No. 2 perform so well in a live setting.
Siheim King finished with 107 yards and two TDs on 19 attempts, proving he is more than capable as the team’s third back.
There’s a lot to look forward to from the running backs this season.
Gunnar Hoak outplayed Stephen Johnson
No, there is no quarterback controversy. This is still Johnson’s team.
That being said, Gunnar Hoak was phenomenal today. He finished the game 16/24 through the air, 174 yards, and 3 total TDs for a QB rating of 146.3 QBR (1st half) and 181.5 (2nd half). Oh, and it was against UK’s first string defense.
Stephen Johnson finished 8/18 passing, 106 yards, and an INT for a total QBR of 82.8.
After the game, Eddie Gran raved about Hoak’s performance, saying “his confidence has gotten better as the spring went on and he played pretty efficiently tonight.”
Stoops added to that sentiment, saying he was impressed with how poised Hoak was in the scrimmage.
“You see he’s effortless at times. And I just like the way he handles himself back there. He throws a very catchable football. He’s very accurate.”
Johnson, though proud of Hoak for his performance, was disappointed in how he played.
“I wish I would have played a lot better than I played tonight,” Johnson said. “I think I got pretty greedy on some of my throws. There were some throws I could’ve easily made but didn’t.”
Johnson will turn it around, but it’s nice to have a capable backup in Hoak pushing him this spring and into fall.
Jamar “Boogie” Watson played out of his mind
Last year, Denzil Ware dominated in the Spring Game with four sacks to lead the Blue defense. This year, it was “Boogie” Watson’s turn to make a statement.
Watson finished with four sacks, three for the White squad and one for the Blue. He had six total tackles on the day, along with a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage.
After the game, Mark Stoops said Watson had a “good feel for the game,” pointing out that the redshirt freshman was one of the team’s standouts this spring.
Other defensive notes:
Freshman Jamin Davis made a massive impact for the White team, recording eight total tackles (five solo) and one tackle for loss.
Kei Beckham recorded an interception against the first string offense.
Kordell Looney was an impressive contributor, recording three tackles, two TFL, and a sack.
Kash Daniel finished with five tackles (three solo.)
Adrian Middleton led the Blue defense with five solo tackles and a sack.
We need to talk about the punting situation…
Sophomore Grant McKinniss had an up and down start to his career, but many blamed his punting woes on lack of experience.
In our first glance at his progress since last season ended, it was much of the same. Inconsistency.
With absolutely no pressure, McKinniss had multiple punts land under 35 yards from scrimmage, with one going just 30 yards. In the fourth quarter, he had one punt sail 50 yards. Spurts of excellence, but far too many head-scratching punts out of the sophomore.
Former Columbia University punter Matthew Panton is coming to Kentucky as a graduate transfer and will arrive on campus after he graduates this spring. Panton, an Australian-style punter, is expected to push McKinniss for the starting job this fall.
For a school that used to be considered “Punter U,” there is a lot of work to be done in that department
There is not as much separation between the first and second team
The 31-14 final score may not be much of an indicator, but UK’s depth is absolutely there. Both sides of the ball made some big plays, but some of the biggest standouts came from the team’s backups.
Backup WR Kayaune Ross led all receivers with five catches, 58 yards, and a touchdown.
Third string RB Siheim King led all backs with 107 yards and two TDs.
Redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak was the leading QB with 174 yards, and 3 total TDs.
Redshirt freshman “Boogie” Watson had four sacks.
True freshman Clevan Thomas had three receptions for 28 yards and caught a touchdown.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Massive blowouts in spring are always fun to see, but they aren’t always the best indicators of top-to-bottom talent on the roster. Today’s game was a great example of how the backups are pushing the starters to be the best versions of themselves.
In past years, starters were able to coast in practice because they knew there wasn’t anyone on the roster that could take their spot, and development suffered. Now, there are second and third string guys chomping at the bit to take reps from the seasoned veterans.
We all know what the stars can do, but it was great seeing the lesser-known guys make a statement.
Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR