1. Ryan Timmons is the offense’s difference maker. When watching the wide receivers work, there’s two distinct groups: guys that WOW you with talented plays but make many mental mistakes, and guys that don’t blow you away with talent but make fewer mistakes. Blake Bone is a highlight reel waiting to happen, but that comes at the cost of mental errors by the freshman. Demarco Robinson does all of the right things, but is out-physicaled too often.
Where they meet in the middle is Ryan Timmons. Timmons has been limited in contact drills, but today he was nothing short of spectacular. When the Cats need a completion, Timmons is Mr. Reliable. He can make nothing out of something on short passes, in traffic across the middle of the field, or on deep routes. The offense just doesn’t have the firepower without Timmons on the field. By the time the season starts there will be more guys that ‘meet in the middle,’ like Bone, Dorian Baker, Rashad Cunningham and Demarco Robinson.
2. Boom will be a great asset out of the backfield in the shotgun. We’ve praised Boom plenty on this site, but today I saw where Boom will likely get most of his snaps, out of the shotgun. He’s a great screen pass option and he runs routes well, catching little dump-off passes or turning upfield for an over-the-shoulder grab. In a couple scenarios, Boom was in the backfield alongside Braylon Heard. Even in obvious passing situations, the defense must be accountable for the possible run from either running back. If Boom can learn pass protection early, expect to see him a lot in critical situations.
3. Patrick Towles will be a fine starting Quarterback. After being named the starter, you might expect some jitters with errant throws from time to time, but Pat went about his business as usual. When things didn’t go his way, he responded well. The practice started with a lot of dropped passes from the wet football. The offense struggled in 3rd and long situations during the third down period with the defense head-hunting. Following a rough 20 minutes, Towles drove the offense down the field without a play for a loss of yards. After starting with a completion, the defense struggled against the increased tempo and gave us a peek into how good they can be in the Air Raid.
4. Bud has become a vocal leader for the loud “Bad Boys” of the defense. Bud sat out of practice this morning, but it didn’t stop him from being involved. He was in the middle of the huddle, prepping the defense for a team period. On the sidelines, he was keeping his unit behind the chains and encouraging cheers (my favorite is the defense’s ‘Baaaaaaaaaad Boys’ chant). Bud was always a quiet guy, but his increased chatter has become contagious. The communication on defense is constant, with guys enthusiastically flying all over the field. Stoops’ defenses historically take a huge jump in Year 2. The way this defense communicates as a cohesive unit will be the biggest reason they’re more successful in 2014.
5. There’s still a lot to learn. With less than two weeks til kickoff, there’s still plenty of mistakes from the young Kentucky team. They aren’t the most crippling mistakes, but the coaches expect nothing less than flawless execution. We’ve focused a lot of attention on the quarterback compeition, but there are still tons of other positions (OG, DT, LB) that must be decided before UT-Martin. The fastest learners will be the fastest to make the field. It’ll be tough for the newcomers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 of them make the field for the first game.
BONUS: During open practices, they forbid the media from shooting periods where they call in signals. I won’t give away any secrets, but there’s one signal I must share: the coach waves his arm behind his butt like he ate too many Waffle Tacos before practice. I can only assume it was inspired by C.J. Johnson.