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Spring Game Position Grades

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The Blue Team won 31-20. Drew Barker was named the starting quarterback. There were no significant injuries. I got to say it was a good day.

On Saturday, Mark Stoops trotted out his most talented and deepest roster to date. As players intermixed between the Blue and White Team, collective results varied. As we discussed last night, individual achievement within the framework of a team environment was the major means for evaluation. But to make it fun, let’s dive into both sides of the football and assign position group grades.

OFFENSE

Other than a second half reverse, Eddie Gran called an ultra-conservative and simplistic game. However, it didn’t take long to recognize his emphasis on the power run. Kentucky is considerably improved on this side of the football.

Quarterback: B

Drew Barker (12-18 156 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) was steady, comfortable, confident, and in command of the offense. Minus the off-target back shoulder fade interception, the sophomore was steady. Stephen Johnson (6-13 135 yards, 1 TD) showcased his elusiveness on the run and extended drives through the air. True freshman Gunnar Hoak finished 4-5 with a touchdown. The kid’s a gamer.

Barker’s holistic resurgence is to be commended. Overall, QB Coach Darrin Hinshaw’s imprint was obvious. UK passers were poised in the pocket while utilizing upgraded mechanics.

Running Back: A-

Just as Darrin Hinshaw influenced quarterback performance, Eddie Gran has revived a talented, but at times mystifying collection of running backs. Sihiem King’s development was noticeable as the sophomore had eleven carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. The ever-reliable JoJo Kemp averaged nearly ten yards per carry. Mikel Horton will have a role. Add Boom Williams who did not participate along with two highly touted freshmen and you have a position group that is reminiscent of the Jerry Claiborne teams that annually produced NFL rushers.

Sihiem King was arguably the offense's greatest surprise of the Spring Game. (UK Athletics).

Sihiem King was arguably the offense’s greatest surprise of the Spring Game (via UK Athletics).

Offensive Line: B-

I should have broken this group into two segments: Interior and exterior offensive linemen. For both the Blue and White Team, guards and centers dominated the line of scrimmage. Center Jon Toth did Jon Toth things. The senior is the best center in the Southeastern Conference. Ramsey Meyers and Nick Haynes were consistent, but the story was the white team big fellas. George Asafo-Adjei was excellent, as were Logan Stenberg, Bunchy Stallings, and Drake Jackson. At times, the first team defensive line was no match for the second teamers.

Kentucky measures as the second largest offensive line in the Southeastern Conference. Cole Mosier and that big body more than held his ground at left tackle. Senior Kyle Meadows surrendered an early sack, but recovered to post a better finish. Tate Leavitt and Mason Wolfe played their first “game” in Commonwealth Stadium. It showed. While both will improve, finding the third offensive tackle is highly imperative. Landon Young enrolls in June. Possibly, Logan Stenberg moves outside. Regardless of how or who, tackle depth is an offseason priority.

Receiver: B

Dorian Baker and Blake Bone did not participate. Dakota Holtzclaw played with an injured wrist and Charles Walker caught passes with a cast on his arm. Ryan Timmons validated coaches’ claims that he’s rediscovered his signing day reputation by snagging three passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Badet flew; three catches 107 yards with a touchdown. Garrett Johnson will take off in September. Walk-ons David Bouvier and Kynan Smith registered receptions. Redshirt freshmen Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson showed flashes. Unfortunately, drops continued, but given the injured limbs of the pass catchers, I gave them a miniscule break. No pun intended.

Tight End: A

Wearing a semi-cast on his hand, Greg Hart caught a pass and physically blocked. Hart’s a tough guy; I like tough guys. CJ Conrad reminded the BBN why they are excited about his talents by catching three passes, including a crowded touchdown. With Eddie Gran playing his cards close to the vest, it’s unknown if multiple TE sets will be featured. With the addition of Darryl Long, the TE position is deep and skilled.

C.J. Conrad's flip after a late second half score. (@ben_gulley13)

C.J. Conrad’s flip after a late second half score. (@ben_gulley13)

DEFENSE

Cornerbacks are elite and provide a safety net for defensive deficiencies. Safeties are physical and forceful tacklers. Linebackers pleasantly surprised. But, as expected the defensive line needs work and improvement. Collectively, DJ Eliot’s defense is more athletic than in 2015.

Defensive Line: C

On the first White Team offensive play, Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei double-teamed Matt Elam and moved the NT three yards out of his run-lane responsibility. Regie Meant factored, but at times was consumed by backup offensive linemen. Courtney Miggins appeared more comfortable than in the past but did not register on the stat sheet. Kengera Daniel impressed and actively pursued the quarterback. While limited defensive scheme can inhibit production, one-on-one matchups mostly favored the offense. Defensive line is the top area of concern going into the 2016 season.

Linebacker: B-

A low grade was assigned for the inside linebacker’s first portion of the scrimmage performance. However, Jordan Jones and Courtney Love progressively improved with each series. With 15 tackles, four quarterback sacks and five tackles for loss, Denzil Ware was the star of the game. Josh Allen battled through an early-spring practice shoulder injury. I expect him to be another pass rush specialist that can also play in space. Di’Niro Laster played three linebacker positions. Kobie Walker registered a sack. Like Jordan Jones, Eli Brown improved with every snap. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Defensive Back: A

Chris Westry and Derrick Baity are special. Both toyed with receivers and will be difficult matchups. In the post-game show, Mark Stoops said that Mike Edwards is possibly the best player on his football team. Edwards did not participate. Freshman Marcus Walker was welcomed to the SEC by JoJo Kemp but is promising. Darius West and Marcus McWilson are physical tacklers while Nickel’s Blake McClain and Kendall Randolph can play multiple positions. Steve Clinkscale’s group is the most talented collection of defensive backs I’ve seen in Lexington in many years. To compensate for the lack of defensive line pass rush, UK has the talent to lock up receivers in man-to-man coverage. This will allow pass rushers additional time to influence quarterbacks.

What does all this mean?

Not a whole heck of a lot. I’ve watched eight spring games. All were plain, a little boring, and not indicative of pending fall performance. Simply stated, Kentucky is better. Two concerns remain: identifying the third offensive tackle and interior defensive line play. I left Commonwealth Stadium encouraged.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

13 Comments for Spring Game Position Grades



  1. blueballs80
    2:58 pm April 17, 2016 Permalink

    Hi Freddie,

    I am encouraged by the secondary but the Dline worries me. Matt Elam is getting pushed around and still hasn’t figured out how to play the position. It seems like there are no leaders on the Dline front.

    Is Logan Stenberg playing at guard or tackle?



  2. WeareBBN
    3:34 pm April 17, 2016 Permalink

    Is the Oline that good or is it they looked good because of our poor Dline? Is hard to judge when we play vs ourself. Also at QB our D made every QB look good last year. Did like how well Drew threw the ball and we do have WR and RB talent so if the Oline is good we should be very good on offense with a couple good QB’s in the mix that can offer different looks. I said couple to exclude Gunner only cause he is a FR, think he may be a good one but will he get the chance id Drew is solid then we have Mac coming in, hopefully, next year.



  3. shelby
    8:39 pm April 17, 2016 Permalink

    Absolutely awesome breakdown Freddie.



  4. BluKudzu
    12:16 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

    Great breakdown. Sure.
    Let me tell you what it means:
    Tackles can’t stop DEs or LBs, again. TEs staying in to block, again.
    DBs making the stops our inept DL and LBs can’t. By that time, when our DBs make a tackle, they have already gained 6 yards. We may never see an opposing punter from any team we play in the BCS.
    No line dominance, on either side of the ball, = long season full of lousy coaching and stupid excuses.
    Stoops was hired by ADMB, for defense. This year, his 4th, could be his worst ever and so bad, the opponents will get pinball numbers against us.
    Millions wasted. Time wasted.
    Face it. As long as Stoops is head coach, we will be playing for 3rd of 4th best in Kentucky. Forget about anywhere else, but the bottom, of the SEC east.
    I am waiting to see what Mitch’s commitment to “Winning” football after this year.
    Next time, hire somebody that can turn a progr around, and has done so, with a proven record.
    Mitch, this is the SEC.
    We should have a team that would DOMINATE an OVC team, not come from behind in the last second to win. 4th year. Your guys. Your much better recruits.
    Will the lady game at home be as empty as Jokers, who had no support from our AD, As you have had?



    • Angelo
      1:31 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Get real!! Stoops could be the next Bear Bryant!



    • Patrick_Wren
      7:45 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Well aren’t you just a big blue ray of sunshine. I’m guessing no season tickets for you?



    • Kat 308
      8:05 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Well bye



    • CatFanDu
      10:14 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Did Coach Stoops date your girlfriend in college? Or turn you down for a date?
      A whole lot of rejection reflection in your posts. Go root for Louisville.



    • theWilkman
      10:18 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Great analysis like that is why you make the big bucks talking football.



    • DACats86
      11:23 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      Man, I was upset when IU beat the Cats too!



    • whatwasthat
      11:38 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

      There are some great football fans on here at times, but about as many trolls or basketball fans only that take the time to bash the football team, I get the trolls but not the basketball fans only. The football team is vital to revenue for the university and the results have not been good, but it is coming from a dark place following the joke’s leadership and sadly basketball fans equate basketball to football, you can turn around a basketball team around quickly with great recruits ( see BCG), but football takes much more time. Good write up Freddie, D-line is critical for any success this year and that worries me.



    • scorpiocard
      8:46 pm April 18, 2016 Permalink

      “Go root for Louisville.”

      Well at least he would get to enjoy going to a bowl game.



  5. FBtimeintheBG
    6:00 am April 18, 2016 Permalink

    Had a GREAT time watching our young WR’s. Tavin Richardson looked like an absolute beast out there. Loved seeing Jabari get physical — looking up field for a DB to punish — especially on the Timmons TD.

    Two Quick Questions that I would love Freddie or whomever to address if you all are able and willing:

    1) TV Williams departure doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but of course hate to see him go. Wish him the best! Is there any insight or predictions regarding that scholarship that freed up with his transfer? OFF THE RECORD — Could it be awarded to a redshirt that gives significant playing time (charles Walker comes to mind?)? OR can we now sign one more in what is still going to be a smaller 2017 class (think coach said 14-17ish)?

    2) Freddie, I don’t remember if it was Coach Gran, Hinshaw, or Thomas, but I read that this offensive scheme gives the WR’s a lot more responsibility and freedom with their routes. After seeing 2-3 practices now, it would be great to see/read a more in depth description of what that exactly means (possibly from Cincy or something?). I don’t know, it makes sense on paper, but then we see these guys running 6-20 yard routes and just completely stopping. The 2nd-3rd down Barker scramble in the 2 minute drill before Blue-White halftime comes to mind, if you go look at the WR’s on that play. Gran said he wAnted to keep it simple Saturday. Chalk it up to youth? Or just an over excited fan who can’t wait for the fall?

    Thanks!!!