The Kentucky Wildcats had their first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, and head coach Mark Stoops, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, and defensive coordinator DJ Eliot were available to the press to provide some insights into how the team did.
Below are the five biggest takeaways from what each coach had to say.
1) Darius West Will Miss the 2016 Season: Injury news has been light thus far during the first week of camp until now. Safety Darius West, who missed the majority of his senior season in high school with an injury, caught the bug again at a time when he was "running with the ones" in the words of Stoops. West injured the patella tendon in his knee, and the injury is "most likely season ending".
2) Stoops Thought ‘It Was A Good First Scrimmage’: By no means is this Kentucky team a finished product but so far Coach Stoops likes what he has seen out of the team thus far, especially the team’s conditioning at this point of camp.
"We pushed them. We had some long drives where we taxed them, forced them to go 12- or 16-play drives, and it’s good to see them in fairly good condition at this point in camp. Again, that’s a testament to what we did in the offseason, through the summer."
With depth an issue, especially on the defensive end, Stoops that believes that it is important for his many experienced players to get as many snaps as possible
"That’s why it’s so important to get out there and play the game and put them in that situation, because we have some guys that haven’t played much in this system. And we need to continue to get out there and get as many game-like situations as we can. We did get quite a few snaps today, and hopefully, we’ll learn a bunch from this."
3) Regie Meant’s Spot is Still Open: Before Darius West went down, the biggest hole in Kentucky’s defense was at defensive tackle due to the projected start Regie Meant’s indefinite hiatus from the team for personal reasons.
So far, no one has stepped up to seize the position, but the scrimmage will go a long way to established the front runners, Stoops said.
"Today will be a big indicator. Have to look in there today and see. That’s where the technique and effort and all that inside, we’ll get in there and dissect that film all this afternoon and see who really stepped up."
4) The Linebackers Didn’t Stand Out: Coach Stoops was brief and blunt about the performance of the young men tasked with shoring up the middle of the field.
"I wasn’t real pleased. We need some work. We definitely do. So we’ve got to get some things cleaned up", he said.
5) Coach Stoops Think the Install on Offense is Going Well: Despite a few "hiccups" during the scrimmage, Coach Stoops likes what he sees with how the offense is reacting to the new content in their playbook, something that will be important if the Wildcats run into a tricky defense.
"You’ve heard me talk about other teams we play, if we’re stopping one thing, they go to a different package. And just having more in your arsenal."
Stoops also added, "It’s good to be able to have that much offense."
1) The Offensive Sustained Long Drives: The biggest takeaway from Eddie Gran’s media briefing, is that the offensive refused to sputter out.
"We had some 12-play drives. I like that. That was good. We converted a couple of fourth-down situations, which was really good. I think we’ve got to continue to have more urgency in everything that we do."
The unit converted well on fourth down, and the first team ran the two-minute drill successfully.
"The ones, we had a chance to go down with 1:50 and we scored," Gran said.
2) Barker and Johnson Each Brought Something Different: Top QBs Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson are night and day in regards to skill sets, something that Coach Gran elaborated on.
For Barker it was his decision making.
"I thought Drew (Barker) really made some good decisions. He was making them quick."
Johnson struggled with throwing the ball too high but Gran added that "he can get after you with other ways and weapons that really you go, ‘Wow, this kid is pretty darn good.’
3) The Receivers Have A Brand New Attitude: Gran acknowledged that he and new receivers coach Lamar Thomas had to work to change the unit’s overall attitude, but that was to be expected.
"I’m different than the last guy. Lamar (Thomas) is different than the last guy, so everybody’s attitude has got to change", he said.
Gran said he was pleased with how the receivers handled adversity during the scrimmage.
"You know, really they’ve got a really good attitude, and they’re making some plays. We talked about that. There’s going to be some drops once in awhile, but I think our kids made some plays today, some contested plays. That was huge. That’s what I’m excited about. And I don’t see anybody pouting."
4) Scrimmage Standouts: Two players stood out to Grand during today’s scrimmage: running back Benny Snell and wide receiver Dorian Baker.
On what Snell did well: "It looked like Benny Snell – looked like running the ball he was hitting it up in there, breaking some tackles."
Gran praised Baker’s effort but also said he needs to show a little more fight.
"I thought Dorian other than one play back in the end zone which I think he’s got to fight and battle and he’s got to scrap and claw for that ball; I thought he had a really good day too."
5) Gran is Pleased with Progress of Install: Mark Stoops had one directive for Gran this week in regards to the offense learning their new system.
Coach said, ‘Put it all, go, throw it at ‘em, let’s see where they’re at.’ That’s what we did. We put it all in", Gran said."
How did the offense do?
"It wasn’t bad. We’ve got it all in right now", Gran said.
Gran also said that since most of the offense is finally installed, he is going to start to scale back how much the team will go through before the opening game against Southern Miss.
1) The Defense Tackled Poorly: The biggest disappointment for Coach Eliot was how poorly the defense wrapped the opposing ball carrier...
"On the first scrimmage I would have liked to have tackled a little better. That’s something we have to harp on...We need to see improvement from this time to the next time", he said.
Over the next week of practice, Eliot said that the defense would go through extra live tackling drills.
"As many opportunities as we get like this before our first game is good," he added.
2) The Loss of Darius West: Eliot sounded disappointed that West will miss the season.
"It is extremely tough for the kid. You really feel for him with the injuries he’s had already in his career and how hard he’s fought through to bounce back, how much better of a player he had become even from last year to this year and the effort and enthusiasm and tenacity that Darius put into the game and practice. It’s disappointing that he’s not going to be able to reap the rewards this year."
So who does he think will step up to replace West at safety?
"Marcus McWilson, Blake McClain, we’ve got some guys -- Mike’s (Edwards) obviously in that spot so we have some guys to work with."
3) Matt Elam: Projected starting nose tackle Matt Elam has high expectations to meet this season, and so far Coach Eliot thinks he is performing on par with the rest of the starters.
"For the most part, he got all of the one reps. He didn’t get subbed anymore than the rest of the defensive linemen today."
4) The Battle for Regie Meant’s Spot: Eliot’s update didn’t sound much different from what he said earlier in the week about who will replace Meant.
"We’ve been working Adrian Middleton into that spot. I’ve seen some good play from our freshmen defensive tackles as well. T.J. Carter, Kordell Looney and Ja’Quize Cross have done some good things too. I think those guys have talent. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out."
5) Eli Brown Still Running with Ones: Earlier in the week, Mark Stoops revealed that redshirt outside linebacker Eli Brown was receiving reps as a starter.
Coach Eliot revealed that still is the case but that Brown is one of many.
"We have a rotation going there now. He is one of the guys who is rotating in that spot."