The Cats treated today like a Tuesday game-week practice, running against a UT-Martin scout team for the first time. It was a Tuesday-type practice, but Stoops dropped roster news like it was a Monday press conference.
– Stoops said during his Media Day press conference the he expects 12-13 freshmen to play right away. After a month of practice, Stoops knows which freshman are ready to go. On offense all five wide receivers will play (Snodgrass, Baker and Bone outside; TV and Johnson inside) and both running backs (powerful Horton and speedy Boom) will see the field. On the other side of the ball, Matt Elam and nickelback Kendall Randolph (a favorite of Stoops) are the only freshman locked in for playing time. It isn’t quite 12-13, but Stoops is anxious to use his new weapons.
– What might be more newsworthy is who isn’t on Stoops’ list. Lloyd Tubman could have cracked onto the list, but an injury caused him to miss about a week during a critical segment of camp. Tubman and many of the other big guys (like Josh Krok) will wear a redshirt with their quarterback Drew Barker.
Stoops is ready to let his young quarterback learn, “I think we would like to (redshirt) if we could. I think that would be in his best interest and our best interest. We’ll see how that goes. He will prepare to play in a backup role, and if we can save him through the season that’s what we’d like to do.”
– Boom Williams walked off the practice field earlier this week hold his left hand in pain. Stoops laughed off the “injury”, “He’s fine, he got a boo-boo on his wrist.”
– Demarco Robinson’s status for next week is uncertain. Robinson has spent the offseason and fall camp making amends with the coaches after several off the field incidents. He’s been doing all of the right things, but Stoops will not make a decision on Demarco until next week.
– Jason Hatcher will start at defensive end in the 3-4. Hatcher hasn’t been mentioned too much this preseason, despite an exceptional freshman year. It’s easy to forget about the guy behind Bud and Za’Darius on the depth chart, but Stoops’ defense needs his energy and attitude on the field, “Very proud of the way he’s playing,” Stoops said. “I really like Jason’s attitude. He’s really matured – he’ll be the first one to tell you – and just really playing well.”
– Neal Brown’s offensive line is set. Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle had secured their spots at tackle going into camp, but Kyle Meadows will see a lot of snaps as their backup. Jon Toth put on an extra 20 pounds to pass the 300-mark and solidify his spot at center. After struggling to keep his spot at left guard last season, Zach West showed maturity this offseason to ensure that no one is stealing his spot. Ramsey Meyers has secured a spot at the opposite guard, where Teven Eatmon-Nared and Cole Mosier will also see some reps.
– The running back position doesn’t need a “starter.” The coaches are going to do their best to spread the ball around, but Neal Brown said today that Chad Scott will ultimately have the decision as to who’s getting the first reps, “We’re going to play the hot hand.”
– Neal Brown has found Steven Borden’s niche. Brown admitted that he didn’t know how to utilize Borden’s versatile skill set that well in his first year. He expects Borden to take a HUGE jump forward after learning more about the game and improving as a wide receiver, “He’s a lot more comfortable in the backfield than he is probably spread out. He can do both, but he’s probably more comfortable in that fullback, h-back type role. He understands in the run game that people are going to move. The movement kind of got him last year when he was playing tight end.”