As far as the Football team is concerned, today was the beginning of the regular season, inititating game preparations for Western Kentucky, now only 8 days away. Coach Stoops said after practice, “We had a good practice, we treated today like a Tuesday practice for Western Kentucky. I was very pleased, it was a good day. It was the first time we went through this format, where we go scouts then we go against each other.”
The change in practice type also saw a big change in player personnel. Za’Darius Smith picked an ideal time for his ankle to reach ‘100%’, performing a restricted amount of snaps at a practice attended by a Dallas Cowboy scout, who was seen working with DLine Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh after practice. The DLine didn’t bring all good news, with RS DT Patrick Grafree announcing via Twitter earlier today that he will be transferring to EKU this fall. Coach Stoops was a little surprised, but said that he might not be the only one not with the team after participating in camp, “we had a talk with a lot of guys when we got through camp, he may not have been happy with that and I understand and I wish him the best.” The first of these setbacks was announcing that WR Rashad Cunningham will be academically ineligible to play this season, but will remain practicing with the team.
To shed some positivity on the attrition, Center Max Godby earned himself a scholarship during camp after earning a role at starting center. Coach Stoops is now very comfortable with 6 guys that can all play different roles for the OLine. With an offensive line looking more complete, nearly all of the specialists have found solid starters. The placekicking job was between Fr Austin MacGinnins and Sr Joe Mansour, who has spent most of his career primarily on the kickoff team. Mansour came in as a highly touted kicker, with his skills finally shining on the practice field, kicking two 50+ yarders to ‘win the scrimmage’ on CWS turf. Special Team Coach Bradley Dale Peveto gives Mansour the nod because of his composure during game-winning situations, “Think about this; you’re out there in front of 75-100,000 people on national TV, and everybody is rooting against you. That’s a lot of pressure…it takes a special guy to be able to do that and he’s proved that time and time again.”
Coach Peveto has selected another upperclassman to be a star specialist, choosing Demarco Robinson as the punt returner and primary kickoff returner, along with Javess Blue (Ryan Timmons and Jeff Badet are also in the mix at Kick-Return). Something most people take for granted is how difficult it is to catch the ball as a return man; Coach Peveto doesn’t need to worry when Demarco is in the game, “First of all he catches the ball. Two, he’s got speed and he’s got enough juice to make the first guy miss. He’s a guy that’s proven over and over to us that he’s got good ball security. If we get him to the next level he’s got a chance to GO.” The Cats haven’t been great in the Specialty department since the departure of Randall Cobb, but this team’s speed has the capability of turning the Special Teams’ into a viable threat, week in and week out.
There is still a lot of time for players to move up and down the depth chart, but after a few weeks of uncertainty this team is discovering who it is on all 3 sides of the ball (we love to forget about the Special Teams, but they’re SO important). With the ‘meat and potatoes’ out of the way, the Cats can now focus all of their attention to game-planning for WKU. It may be a little difficult to scout players with new coaching schemes, but with hundreds of hours of footage, they’ll have covered more than enough to be prepared when the ball snaps in 8 days.