It is an exciting time in the Bluegrass as your Citrus Bowl champion Kentucky Wildcats will soon take the field with hopes of matching (or even exceeding) the fun of a year ago. Each new day of fall camp presents new sound bites and stories out of practice, but on this Friday evening I’ll pass along a few nuggets I’ve heard from people who have been on the inside of some of the closed practices and team scrimmages. They aren’t speaking from the coaches’ meetings or film room, but they have seen things many others have not.
1. Terry Wilson has taken a big step forward.
Wilson still has his detractors (who I call idiots, respectfully), but I continue to hear nothing but good things about the second year QB. A lot has been written and said about Wilson stepping up as leader, and the folks I’ve talked to who have been behind the curtain have told me it is for real: Wilson looks the part. Confident is the word that has been thrown around a lot. He carries himself like it is his team and he is ready to follow up a historic season. As for throwing it 30-40 times a game, we’ll have to wait and see because that’s a lot to ask. But however the offense runs, Wilson can be trusted to run it.
2. The backup QB is also good.
It is Terry Wilson’s offense, but Sawyer Smith is a formidable backup. Ideally we won’t need to see him much, but if things don’t go as planned with Wilson, whether via injury or disappointing performance, Smith is capable of stepping right in. The transfer out of Troy has been a valuable addition to the QB room.
3. The tight end group is stacked.
By now you’ve heard Vince Marrow’s comments about Justin Rigg being better than CJ Conrad was at this point in Conrad’s career. Marrow is being honest in those comments, and Rigg isn’t the only tight end turning heads at that position. Redshirt freshman Keaton Upshaw is also a star in the making, and even the third option, redshirt freshman Brendan Bates, is showing a ton of upside. Will this be the year Kentucky finally utilizes the tight ends in the passing game? Given the past, it’s hard to believe. But I think we see a lot of two tight end sets and (hopefully) they get a lot of looks.
4. Pick a day and you will hear something new about the wide receivers.
Outside of Lynn Bowden and maybe Josh Ali, the door is wide open for a young and inexperienced receiver to step up and become a key contributor. They will all get their opportunities and I’ve heard mixed things as to which we can expect to be one of the guys to step up. Today it was Akeem Hayes and Clevan Thomas making plays; other days it has been someone else. I don’t get the sense that there has been much separation in the non-Lynn Bowden group of receivers.
5. MJ Devonshire is one of the cornerbacks.
The secondary is by far the biggest concern going into the season and I think we can go ahead and expect to see true freshman MJ Devonshire emerge as one of the cornerbacks that will get most of the playing time. The four-star corner has been running with the first team defense in camp and he has been one of the top performers in a group that has to replace a mass exodus of long-time starters to the NFL. Remember, Devonshire didn’t commit to Kentucky until National Signing Day last February, so that last-second addition may end up being much bigger than we realized at the time.
Digest those five bullet points as you wish.