UK Football’s first scrimmage has officially come and gone, and we have all of the practice notes you need to get you through your Saturday night.
Here’s all of the good, bad, and ugly to come out of today’s media session with Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, D.J. Eliot, Drew Barker, and Courtney Love.
Both Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran started out of the gates by praising Drew Barker’s decision-making and leadership in today’s scrimmage. Gran said Barker was pivotal in converting drives, found the open targets, and connected on some “really competitive, contested” plays. Third and fourth down conversions were consistent, and quite impressive, with some drives upwards of 12-plus plays.
Barker said himself that he has developed great relationships with his receivers, has spent a great deal of time working with each of them, running routes throughout the summer, working out, etc., which has in turn developed great chemistry as an entire offensive unit. For a locker room that was reportedly divided last season and filled with turmoil surrounding the receivers and QBs, this should be music to fans’ ears.
It’s so nice not having a quarterback controversy heading into the season for a change.
Receivers and lack of drops
The coaches made a point of emphasizing positive production out of the receiving unit, especially in the “drop” category we all came to love last season.
Gran said that in limited touches today, Ryan Timmons did great things and didn’t let the ball hit the ground once, and Dorian Baker also had a huge day, with no drops of substance. Considering both Timmons and Baker were major culprits of the dropsies, it’s great to hear that the entire unit made the simple catches that are the difference makers in stalled-out drives and drives that put points on the board.
Mark Stoops almost brushed off the running back unit as a whole, almost in a “they’re good to go, let’s focus on the other guys” manner, which really stood out to me.
Eddie Gran said freshman Benny Snell looked the part on the offensive unit and packed quite the punch out of the backfield.
Drew Barker said it was really nice to have some of the pressure lifted off of his shoulders to go through the air, and that he’s confident the running back unit will allow for the offensive unit to have a more balanced attack. Barker said, “A running back is a quarterback’s best friend. If you have a great running game, it opens up the passing game so much more.” Needless to say, QB1 likes his offense.
When asked about how many guys have the opportunity to get touches out of the backfield, both Stoops and Gran seemed extremely satisfied with an “I guess we’ll have to see” answer, obviously indicating they have a lot to work with in that department.
This seems to be a go-to for all coaches across America- depth has to get better on the defensive side of the ball. The starters continue to impress, but when injury or fatigue take the main guys out, that’s when problems start to pile up. Ideally, Stoops wants minimal drop-off from one guy to the next on the depth chart should something significant happen, but the team just isn’t there yet.
With more live scrimmaging and reps, we should be able to get a better look at this as practice continues.
Stoops, Eliot, and Courtney Love all commented on the team’s rough day in the tackling department. Love made a point of saying that even though it was the team’s first live-game situation since the Blue-White scrimmage, there are no excuses for “not wrapping up” and making the fundamental tackles.
Stoops says despite tackling issues, there’s a ton of time and opportunities to learn from this, and as the reps progress, improvements will be made. So there’s that.
This one isn’t a big deal, at least for now, but Stoops said Austin MacGinnis missed a few fundamental kicks out of “seven or eight” tries in live-game situations. Stoops says the ball came off of MacGinnis’ foot nicely, and they all sounded great, but a few just failed to go through the uprights.
Stoops says MacGinnis is 100% healthy, no problem in that department, and didn’t seem too upset about his kicker’s day.
Mark Stoops looked like he had just gotten punched in the gut when breaking the news of Darius West’s season-ending patellar tendon injury. This one hurts, guys. West was on pace to earn his spot as the team’s starting free safety alongside Mike Edwards, the kid he came to Kentucky with as a package deal to start up a “No Fly Zone” in the secondary. Those dreams will have to wait, at least for this season.
Aside from West, Stoops said RB Mikel Horton suffered a “pretty significant” ankle injury, and will miss some time rehabbing from that.
Blake Bone is nursing a hamstring injury, but Stoops says it should be nothing to worry about going forward.
Boom Williams is reportedly 100% recovered from offseason surgery, but sat out today’s scrimmage for precautionary measures. No word yet on how long he’ll be held out from scrimmaging and some of the more physical drills, but we’ll keep you updated.
With Regie Meant out at defensive tackle, DJ Eliot says Adrian Middleton, along with the freshman trio of TJ Carter, Kordell Looney, and Ja’Quize Cross have stepped in and competed.
With Darius West out, Stoops says Blake McClain and Marcus McWilson will battle it out for reps alongside Mike Edwards.
Receivers Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood will likely be competing for reps as practice progresses. Both showed sparks of greatness, but at other times their youth showed.
Overall, it was a very positive day at the office for Mark Stoops and company, with the offensive unit seemingly winning the scrimmage.
There’s a lot to work on, but plenty to be optimistic for as September 3rd inches closer and closer.