UK notebook

UK football notebook: Defense looking for a leader

Herald-Leader Staff WriterApril 11, 2010 

Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown was his usual personable self after the Wildcats' first spring scrimmage, but that shouldn't have been mistaken for happiness.

The UK offense dominated the early part of the scrimmage Saturday, and while the defense was more stout in the latter stages, the final numbers didn't look good. Quarterbacks Mike Hartline and Morgan Newton each threw a pair of TD passes, and Ryan Mossakowski added another. Tailback Jonathan George ran for 127 yards on 13 carries, including a 73-yard TD jaunt. Randall Cobb took the rest of the afternoon off after catching TDs on the first two drives, and Derrick Locke sat for the majority of the scrimmage after carrying four times for 27 yards.

When asked if he took anything positive from the scrimmage, Brown paused, smiled, and said, "No."

"The only reason I say that is I want to stop them every time. So they didn't score in an hour. Yeah, but by then the score was 40-0. It was a first scrimmage and we had a lot of new guys out there and it was good competition, but we came out on the bad end of the deal."

Brown and head coach Joker Phillips both lamented the lack of leadership on defense. UK is trying to replace five starters.

"The thing that was most disturbing was that when things weren't going right, nobody did much about it," Brown said. "You heard the coaches screaming and hollering more than you heard the leaders. What we've got to find is who the leaders are. Things are going to happen negatively, but we've got to have someone right the ship."

"The concern I had is with the defense's body language," Phillips said. "We weren't flying to the ball. We were trying to find out who was going to be the leader to get the defense rallied and get them going."

Phillips said that George might have gotten a leg up on the No. 2 spot behind Locke with his performance, as Donald Russell has missed practice time with injuries. Russell played in the scrimmage, rushing 18 times for 63 yards.

Safeties step up

One positive development defensively could be the safety position. UK knows what it has in junior Winston Guy, but a couple of others are stepping up as the Cats look to replace Guy's sidekick, Calvin Harrison.

Junior-college transfer Josh Gibbs and redshirt freshman Dakotah Tyler, a converted running back, both had interceptions

"I really like seeing Josh Gibbs come up and make plays, and Dakotah Tyler made some big hits," Phillips said. "I keep telling our safeties the difference between a good and great defense in this league is safety play, because those are the guys who are usually unblocked," Phillips said. "Those guys have to be great tacklers, great cover guys, be able to play over the top and play in the box."

Young receivers shine

The Wildcats got big contributions from several receivers Saturday. E.J. Fields and Aaron Boyd made their biggest impact as Wildcats. Fields caught two passes for 63 yards, including a diving catch on a throw from Hartline for a long gain. Boyd added two receptions for 40 yards.

Freshman Brian Adams made up for an early drop that led to a Mossakowski interception by hauling in a TD from Mossakowski on a fade pass. He finished with three catches for 65 yards.

"I'm pleased with those guys," Phillips said. "This was a big scrimmage for guys like E.J. Fields and Aaron Boyd, and they were able to make plays. Brian Adams made a couple of big plays. They're all making some plays."

With Locke, Cobb and the makings of what could be a deep stable of receivers, Hartline said the quarterbacks have plenty of weapons.

"I couldn't ask for more," Hartline said. "We've got big, tall, strong receivers, and I don't think any other quarterback in the country could want more. With the weapons we have, we can stretch our offense into something we've never seen before.

Another receiver, Chris Matthews, had two catches for 22 yards and drew praise from Phillips for his downfield and perimeter blocking.

"He'll give us a chance to break some long runs with the way he's blocking."

Injuries

The Cats suffered a trio of minor injuries Saturday. Guard Dave Ulinski suffered a concussion but should be OK. Defensive tackle Mister Cobble bruised a shoulder, and cornerback Martavious Neloms bruised a shin.

Tydlacka kicking well

UK struggled a bit with its punt return game, as it muffed three early punts in the special teams period before the scrimmage. The Cats also had a punt blocked, but kicker Ryan Tydlacka was a bright spot. He didn't let the blocked punt affect him, booming the rest of his kicks. And he made all his field goals and extra points.

"We've got some new guys we've got to get honed up on assignments," Phillips said. "But I liked the way the punter punted the ball high enough and deep enough and got the ball to the sideline. That's what we're going to need to do. If we do that, I think our coverage teams will be fine."

Couch's fathersuffers stroke

Best wishes to Elbert Couch, the father of ex-UK star quarterback Tim Couch. The elder Couch suffered a major stroke last week and is recovering at the family's home in Hyden.

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