Don’t expect to hear much more on Kentucky’s quarterback situation before the ball is kicked off Saturday night at Kroger Field.
On this week’s SEC Teleconference, Bob Holt, a legendary sports journalist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, asked Kentucky’s head coach how Sawyer Smith has progressed in practice this week.
“I’m not getting into that Bob,” Stoops said. “I’m leaving that alone the rest of the week. All quarterbacks were out there Monday and Tuesday; (they) will be out there today. I’m not going to get into much more detail than that.”
Stoops did not divulge any more details on Smith’s status, but when discussing UK’s recent struggles, the injuries at quarterback arose.
“A big piece of it, it is what it is with our quarterback situation. We’re banged up. We got three guys hurt. The rest of our team understands that and we have to pick up the slack anyway necessary.”
Even though Stoops may be done talking about it, Smith typically speaks with the media following Wednesday practices. If he is available, we’ll let you know everything he has to say. Until then, a few more notes from the SEC Teleconference…
The King of Punting
In a recent ESPN article Bill Connelly highlighted position players from the around the country that casual fans should be paying attention to. He saved the best for last.
Punter: Max Duffy (Kentucky): No, I didn’t intend to have Kentucky represented in more than one unit. But it’s not my fault; Duffy is averaging 51.2 yards per punt, with a 49.3 net average. We are living in a golden age of punting, friends, and Duffy is our new king.
Stoops attributed Duffy’s success to more than just leg strength. His versatility and play designs by Dean Hood have given Duffy an edge.
“Max is very talented with placing the ball as well,” Stoops said. “Not only is he getting good distance, but I think one of the big reasons is Coach Hood, our special teams coordinator, does a fantastic job of staying ahead on that and what style of punts he decides to work on that day. Fortunately for us, Max has the ability to do quite a few things with the football. He’s good in the pocket, he can certainly roll and rugby the traditional style to the right, but we also have the ability to roll him to the left. That’s how talented the kid is. Or he can roll to the right and punt it left. He can do a lot of things with the football and that’s why we’ve gotten so many yards. Dean does such a good job and is so creative. I think it’s difficult to put two returners down there because you know Dean has the ability to run quite a few fakes as well. I think it’s keeping people off-balance and also Max being very talented punting the football.”
Duffy wasn’t the only Wildcat to receive a compliment from ESPN’s guru of football analytics.
Offensive line: Kentucky’s interior (Luke Fortner, Drake Jackson, Logan Stenberg): Quarterback injuries have rendered Kentucky’s passing game limited, and the defense has regressed. But the hosses on the inside are doing their job. They’re the main reason UK still has a solid, physical run game to lean on.
Low Man Wins
When Arkansas’ Chad Morris was on the phone, the primary topic of conversation centered around UK’s defensive line. The right side of the Razorbacks’s offensive line is occupied by a sophomore and a freshman, giving the Cats a mismatch.
“We gotta do a good job of getting hats on heads up front,” said Morris. “You better be ready to play with low pad level. All three of those guys (on UK’s d-line) are back and some of the guys behind them got quality playing time last year. That’s their strength defensively, those three returning starters there. They’re big, they’re physical, they play with their hands and do a great job separating and coming off blocks. We just work on pad level and understand it’s gonna be a battle of the line of scrimmage as it is every week in this league.”