Last night several thousand diehards appeared for University of Kentucky Football Fan Day. In addition to the autographs and fireworks, this event gives fans a unique opportunity to observe a regular season practice. The team was in helmets and shorts (no pads) so certain things were difficult to get a read on. For example, it is hard to judge the running game, since most plays were blown dead on contact. Still, several things were evident at the practice.
First, there were a lot of positives. The first string defense looked excellent. It is hard to get a read on the front 3 (or 4) but the guys shined in 7 on 7. Predictably, the first unit linebacking corp was comprised of Danny Trevathan, Ridge Wilson, Ronnie Sneed and Winston Guy. Randall Burden(CB), Anthony Mosley(CB), Taiedo Smith(SS) and Martavius Neloms (FS) manned the starting secondary. My guess is the linebacking crew is set in stone, while there will be a lot of jostling for playing time among nine or ten DBs. Freshman Glenn Faulkner spent some time at corner and safety in drills and ran with both the second and third units. Though he was beat by La'rod King on the play of the day (a 50 yard bomb from Morgan Newton), there is certainly no shame in that and he look otherwise very good and comfortable.
On offense, the team played mostly without a fullback in 3 Wide Receiver sets. King, Brian Adams and Matt Roark, the most experienced guys at the position, ran first string. Adams looked very good, running crisp routes and catching the ball with his hands. King had the aforementioned big play. The news of the day, however, was the emergence of two freshman wideouts, who appears ready to challenge for playing time right now. Hear more about them and other notes from practice after the jump.DeMarco Robinson and Daryl Collins have me excited. Both have great hands and did not look the least intimidated by the setting. Robinson is listed at 5'10" 159lbs., but looked much more substantial. He set a Georgia record for receiving yardage last year, catching 73 ball for 1655 yards and a whopping 27 TDs. Robinson put a great move on Burden (probably the team's best cover guy) for a deep pass last night. Collins was an Alabama recruit who was asked to greyshirt and decided instead to come to Kentucky. If one of them could transcend the usual pecking order and become an instant contributor a la Randall Cobb, it could go a long way to getting the Cats where they want to be. That looked like a distinct possibility from my seat in Commonwealth last night.
As far as negatives, there were a couple. Roark again had trouble holding on to passes and unfortunately looks like a marvelous athlete who is never going to quite get over the hump to be a big contributor. On a related note, I don't believe Gene McCaskill participated. Given that his ACL tear was a year ago, I'm concerned he is still being held out.
I'm going to avoid putting too much stock in it right now, but Morgan Newton did not look particularly sharp. He was intercepted several times and once again didn't show great touch. Though he made a number of plays, the day was a mixed bag. I didn't see the signs of a transformation I was hoping for. On the other hand, I'm reserving judgment. Again, the first unit defense looked very good. Kentucky would beat upon on a lot of offenses in 7 on 7. In the organized chaos that is a college football practice, I think the DB's got away with more physicality than they will in a game situation. Plus, Newton was working with a lot of different receivers and hey, its only the second practice. Maxwell Smith ran the second offense and Bookie Cobbins the third. Both had good moments.
A few others random notes:
- Ryan Tydlacka appears to be the first string holder.
- As good as Tydlacka has been as a punter, Joe Mansour had to turn some heads yesterday and he absolutely nailed some punts.
- EKU transfer Jacob Russell ran the fourth string offense in drills.
- There were too many people working out as punt returners to name. Nearly every skill position starter and most of the secondary will have a shot at it.
- The Cats will need some time to work out the kinks, there were several botched handoffs and muffs of kicks during drills.
- Brian Adams provided a moment of levity for the crowd when he lost his shorts diving for a ball.
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