Fall practice heats up for Cats

Temperatures hit the 90s as kentucky players hit the field

Herald-Leader Staff WriterAugust 9, 2009 

Hot weather arrived in Lexington just in time for the start of the University of Kentucky's fall camp, as temperatures approached the 90-degree mark on Saturday for the first time since June. But the heat might be short-lived. The forecast calls for a high of 91 on Sunday before the rain rolls in Monday, which should keep the temperatures in the low 80s for most of next week.

Because of NCAA rules, the Wildcats practiced in helmets and shorts Friday and Saturday and will go to helmets and shoulder pads Sunday and Monday. They'll have their first full-pad workout on Tuesday, but until then Coach Rich Brooks said he looks for things like athletic ability, focus and concentration, particularly in the freshmen.

"If (the freshmen) fall behind now, they're really going to be in trouble when we get in full gear," Brooks said. "In a couple of days when we get in shoulder pads you can tell a little bit more, but a lot of people look good in shorts.

"Before you win, you have to learn how to practice to win rather than just get through it," Brooks said. "And some guys just practice to get through it. And those are the ones I want to find out now instead of finding out in a game."

Evans injures hamstring

Brooks said defensive end DeQuin Evans will be held from practice until Monday or Tuesday with a hamstring pull. Brooks said the injury isn't serious and Evans is being held out for precautionary measures.

"The thing about hamstring pulls, if you keep coming back too early, you never get it well," Brooks said.

Kendrick sweats it out, gets test score

It's been a stressful past few weeks for freshman tight end/receiver Anthony Kendrick, who didn't find out until Wednesday that he received a high enough standardized test score to qualify for freshman eligibility at UK.

"It was a sigh of relief," Kendrick said. "I just had to keep faith and stick with it. I was up until 5 every morning just worrying about it. Finally I got the score, and the first thing I did was scream and then call Coach (Chris) Thurmond (who recruited him). Now it's time to work. I had to work hard just to get here, now I'm going to have to work hard to get a spot."

Kendrick is sitting behind three seniors on the depth chart: T.C. Drake, Ross Bogue and Maurice Grinter, but hopes he can work his onto the field this fall.

"I would like to play," Kendrick said. "I know we've got three seniors, but I just to have work hard and fight to see if I get some plays."

Special teams

Kentucky had the nation's No. 8 special teams unit last year according to Phil Steele's College Football Preview, but its now faced with replacing dynamic kickoff man/punter Tim Masthay. Brooks said at Media Day this week that sophomore Ryan Tydlacka would likely replace Masthay on kickoffs as well as punting.

"The major question mark to me is the kickoffs," Brooks said.

Brooks said the hip problems that have plagued Lones Seiber since he arrived on campus as a freshman have calmed down, and Brooks is hoping for more consistency from Seiber as a senior.

Position switches

A pair of incoming freshmen have been moved for the start of fall camp. Incoming freshman linebacker Jordan Aumiller will start out at strong side linebacker. Aumiller played tight end, quarterback, linebacker, safety and punter at Boyle County High School. Freshman Tristian Johnson, who played linebacker at LaGrange (Ga.) High, will start out at defensive end.

Top high school junior out for season with injury

Seneca quarterback DaMarcus Smith, regarded as one of the top juniors in the state of Kentucky, will miss the upcoming season after suffering a knee injury while playing pickup basketball.

Smith had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus and cartilage on Wednesday and will undergo reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL in September. Smith's recovery time is estimated at six months, which would mean he could possibly start running again by March and be ready for the summer camp circuit in 2010.

The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Smith passed for 3,227 yards and 32 TDs last year for the Redhawks. He has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Ball State, Western Kentucky, Illinois and Purdue. Smith's mother, Daytonya Ward, said that her son has been bothered by the knee since December 2007.

"All he's accomplished the past couple of seasons he's done it with a bum knee," Ward said. "We're looking at it as rebirth, the start of a new career, because he really doesn't know what he can do at 100 percent. He'll take some time, work on his grades and test scores, and watch and learn the game from a coach's perspective and then hopefully come back stronger than ever. I've told him that things happen for a reason. This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise."

Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. He can be reached by e-mail at ccosby@herald-leader.com.

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