As promised, I attended fan day at Commonwealth Stadium last night and got a chance to watch Kentucky Wildcats Football's first practice. After some disastrous early predictions, the weather was perfect. Attendance was on par with this year's spring game, which came to me as a pleasant surprise. The entire practice was conducted in helmets and shorts (no pads) so it was hard to glean a whole lot from the action. Still, based on the things I was looking for, I have some observations.
*Morgan Newton won the day in the quarterback battle. During drills, each of the four QBs said to be competing for playing time put some zip on the ball and while not perfect, were reasonably accurate. Patrick Towles obviously ran different sets in high school. He did look a little mechanical in the running game, but it was his first practice and it's no reason for concern.
Once 11 on 11 drills started, things changed. Maxwell Smith and Towles both threw multiple picks, and Jalen Whitlow (who looked like he'd been around forever in the drills) was in slightly over his head. Almost by sheer attrition, Newton looked by far the best. He showed no ill effects from shoulder surgery, connecting on a couple of long passes, and ran the ball decisively. Newton was far from perfect, but let's just put it this way, this is a practice Smith and Towles would just as soon forget.
*Since offense relies more heavily on timing and teamwork, it is not surprising that the defense would look better in the first practice. I'm going to keep an open mind.
*The work was spread out among receivers, but Daryl Collins, La'Rod King and E.J. Fields comprised the first unit. Ronnie Shields ran as the first string tight end.
* As was the case last year, the Cats were working in a number of people returning punts. In addition to Colins and King, DeMarco Robinson and true frosh DeMarcus Sweat appear to be in the mix.* The talk of the evening was about the body of true freshman RB Dyshawn Mobley. Seeing him reminded me of when I met a Micah Johnson and many other players after the Liberty Bowl in early 2009. Sure, most of the guys were big and strong. But Johnson just looked different, like he was put on this earth to play football. That's Mobley.
*Hybrid LB-S Miles Simpson looks like he took advantage of the offseason workout program. A converted RB, he looks every bit the part now.
* The defensive coaches are fired up. When their players made good plays in 11 on 11, Minter and Co. flew all over the field celebrating like it was a real game. Great to see.
*As has often been the case when I've seen a practice recently, there were a number of dropped passes. And, as is always the case, this seems to bother Joker like nothing else.
*It may not mean anything, but unsung redshirt freshman punter Jay Willmott booted the everliving heck out of the ball.
*CoShik Williams ran with the first-string offense, with Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George also getting several carries. Josh Clemons was held out of drills, as was WR Gene McCaskill.
*True freshman CB Fred Tiller got into a number of 11 on 11 plays and looks like he'll be in the rotation at one of the Wildcats' thinnest positions.
*After the drills, we stuck around long enough to get autographs from the defensive backs, tight ends, running backs and offensive coaches. Everyone was very gracious, attentive and appreciative. Tyler Robinson, Jordan Aumiller and Zach Blalock were particularly nice to my kids.
*My son will have RB coach Steve Pardue's wife as a teacher next year. When we told him he looked for her and asked her to come over, and we all chatted for a minute. Nice people.