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Saturday’s Top 10 Takeaways from the Blue/White Game

Gunner Hoak is a Spring Game Hero

For the second consecutive spring game, Gunnar Hoak has been the most impressive quarterback on the field.  Elusive under pressure, Hoak completed 16-24 passes for 174 yards a 3 total touchdowns (he rushed in a score from five yards away with time dwindling in the 4th quarter).

Hoak showed showed fans he throws a soft pass that’s easy to catch.  Even though he got away from a few rushing defenders, that’s part of his game he wants to work on.

“I would say that staying in the pocket and getting the ball out is one of my strengths. Something I need to work on that Stephen (Johnson) does well is getting outside of the pocket and hitting that speed,” Hoak said. “I thought I did well. I have to keep getting better through May and come back in June, lift hard, and get ready for camp.”  More of what he said after the game:

What was Wrong with Stephen?

“I was greedy today. The throws that I was trying to make today, I wasn’t trying to do the entire spring,” Johnson said after the game. “I mean, I tried to do a little bit too much.”

After going months without being on the field, he had too much juice on his passes and frequently overthrew his targets.  There’s no need to worry about Johnson, but it’s encouraging to see Hoak apply pressure.

Only One Minor Injury

Regardless of what happens during the spring game, the coaches only have one goal: leave without any major injuries.  They did just that, but running back A.J. Rose was forced to leave the game early.  Stoops said the neck strain was “nothing serious,” but it’s unfortunate his day was cut short.  The injury came at the end of a big play, his second big play in just four touches.

The original plan was to feed Rose the ball for most of the game on the first team.  Eddie Gran said the redshirt freshman was disappointed, but he’ll have his opportunity in the spotlight.

“I felt bad for him because he was very disappointed, but the young man has a chance. He’s come light-years from where he was last year to this year.

Watch the Complete Highlights

Four things to look for:

1. A.J. Rose lowers his shoulder on Darius West, then gets 20+ yards on the first play.

2. On Benny Snell’s touchdown, he was almost stopped by his lineman, Logan Stenberg, but as usual, he kept his feet chopping until he entered the end zone.

3. A Matt Jones sideline cameo.

4. Kayaune Ross’ unbelievable touchdown catch on the fade route.

Recruits at the Game

Normally the east end zone is packed with students.  Last night it looked like it was all recruits and their families.  The early reports from Twitter indicate positive responses from the prospects: “Great day,” and “Great visit,” were trending among the visitors.  Vince Marrow was busy talking to as many people as he could after the game, while Stoops spent some one-on-one time with Trinity’s Rondale Moore.

There were a lot of former and future players at the game.  Future Cats Lynn Bowden and Isaiah Epps made the trip to Lexington.  Danny Trevathan, Jacob Tamme, Boom Williams, Freddie Maggard and Jojo Kemp were just a few former players at Commonwealth Stadium.

How Bout that D-Line?

Stop me if you’ve never heard this before: the first team defense’s leading tackler was a defensive lineman.  Adrian Middleton was a disruptive force in the backfield, finishing the game with 5 solo tackles and a sack. On the White Team, Kengera Daniel had 5 tackles, Kordell Looney and Calvin Taylor each had 3 tackles apiece.

Looney was especially impactful with two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a QB hurry.  After the game, Stoops praised Looney specifically, along with the entire defensive line.  “We needed to get better and fundamentally play better up front on the defensive line and we have improved a great deal there.”

Secondary Playmakers from 2016

Zy’Aire Hughes started the spring as a wide receiver.  About ten days ago Stoops tried him out on defense to help add depth to the secondary.  It hasn’t taken long for the McCracken County product to figure things out.  With the Blue Team threatening in the red zone, Hughes stepped up and forced a fumble.

Hughes was just one of many from the class of 2016 to make an impact in the secondary.  Jordan Griffin stopped a touchdown with a big hit on Clevan Thomas and finished the game with 3 tackles, a sack and a pass break up.  Henry Clay’s Davonte Robinson added 3 tackles to the stat sheet.

Wide Receiver Standouts

Clevan Thomas (18) after his first Commonwealth Stadium touchdown.

Clevan Thomas (18) after his first Commonwealth Stadium touchdown.

The most impressive performances from Lamar Thomas’ receivers:

  • Kayaune Ross: 3 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown
  • Chuck Walker: 2 receptions for 49 yards (a 30-yarder was waved off as a sack)
  • Clevan Thomas: 3 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown
  • Tavin Richardson: 2 catches for 32 yards
  • Justin Rigg: 2 catches for 32 yards

Why is Charles Walker Now Chuck?

When I asked Lamar Thomas earlier this week, he said it’s because Chuck is much shorter than Charles.  I wasn’t buying it, so I had to confirm with Walker.

“I went by ‘Charles in Charge’ when I was young.  Then Charles when I got here.  LT calls me Chuck because it’s one syllable and it’s easier for him to yell at me.  I go by Chuck now to him I guess, I’m not really sure where that came from.  My mom says my name is Charles.  I really could care less.”

If you’re at home thinking, “Aren’t they both only one syllable?” you’re correct.

The Interior Offensive Line is GREAT

If you stopped watching the ball and just stared at Bunchy Stallings and Logan Stenberg, it was like taking a trip to the IHOP.  PANCAKES EVERYWHERE.  They were great at the point of contact, but it was more impressive seeing them making plays downfield at the second level.  This isn’t limited to Stallings and Stenberg; Drake Jackson, Big George and the rest of the crew consistently moved the line of scrimmage on run plays.

Conversely, the speed pass rush worked a little too well on the outside.  Luckily, there’s plenty of time to fix that before Labor Day weekend.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

8 Comments for Saturday’s Top 10 Takeaways from the Blue/White Game

  1. justafish2002
    11:18 am April 15, 2017 Permalink

    Charles is either 1 or 2 syllables depending on how you pronounce it: Charls, or Char-uls

  2. @GoCayts
    11:23 am April 15, 2017 Permalink

    My takes
    – Stephen Johnson is still very unreliable, he was bad more often than good last year and looked the same
    – running game looked good
    – offensive line looked good, but looked more comfortable run blocking than pass blocking
    – would like to have seen more of Rose, looked like a concussion regardless of what the coaches said
    – would like to have seen Hoak have those deep ball chances Johnson had, Hoak looked good at times, but still needs more reps
    – Middleton looked active after trimming some fat

    • Luether
      6:18 pm April 15, 2017 Permalink

      And who cares about your takes…

    • @GoCayts
      10:17 pm April 15, 2017 Permalink

      Probably those who came to the comments section to read opinions … like you

  3. TBW3011
    11:38 am April 15, 2017 Permalink

    No need to worry about Johnson? Lol. Look, the kid did the job stepping in last year, but let’s get real for a second. He was mediocre at best in every game but one. We need much better QB play than we got from him last year. Much better. Yesterday isn’t the end of the world, but it does matter.

  4. gobble gobble
    4:02 pm April 15, 2017 Permalink

    Hoak should be the starter game 1… just by watching these highlights, one can easily tell who the best qb is…

    • Luether
      6:19 pm April 15, 2017 Permalink

      A Blue / White spring game in no way resembles an SEC game in the Fall…

  5. Brian in Franklin
    8:05 pm April 16, 2017 Permalink

    Johnson admitted to getting greedy and going for deep balls where he could’ve completed a shorter attempt. I would say Hoak had the same opportunities, he just opted for the shorter more completable pass. This game isn’t a good read for the intangible run under pressure which sometimes helps a QB get into rythmn. QB in this scenario is hard to judge other than mechanics, which Hoak is a smoother passer. The atmosphere was awesome and Sept can’t get here quick enough.