UK notebook

UK football notebook: 3 drafted, 8 in camp

Like Cats, most SEC teams not set at quarterback

Herald-Leader Staff WriterMay 2, 2010 

The NFL Draft came and went with three former University of Kentucky players getting their names called: defensive tackle Corey Peters (third round, Atlanta Falcons) cornerback Trevard Lindley (fourth round, Philadelphia Eagles) and fullback John Conner (fifth round, New York Jets).

UK announced that four other Wildcats signed free-agent deals: tight end T.C. Drake (Kansas City Chiefs), offensive tackle Justin Jeffries (San Diego Chargers), offensive lineman Zipp Duncan (Philadelphia Eagles) and tailback Alfonso Smith (Arizona Cardinals).

Peters and Jeffries will report to mini-camp next weekend, while the others reported last week.

One Wildcat who was expected to get drafted but was not was linebacker Micah Johnson. Johnson reported to the New York Giants' mini-camp this weekend with hopes of making the team. Johnson, who's not listed on the roster, didn't officially sign a contract in order to leave his options open in case the Giants don't work out. Johnson didn't return calls.

Here's a look at the eight Wildcats and their prospects with their respective teams.

Peters: The Falcons currently have five tackles ahead of Peters: returning starters Jonathan Babineaux and Thomas Johnson, and reserves Vance Walker, Trey Lewis and Peria Jerry. But Peters will have a chance to move quickly up the depth chart, as none of the tackles outside of Babineaux set the world on fire. Jerry, a first-round pick in 2009, missed his rookie season with a knee injury.

Lindley: The Eagles are known for churning out All-Pro caliber defensive backs, and Lindley will have a chance to settle in as a nickel back behind Pro Bowler Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs.

CONNER: The Jets seem like a perfect fit for Conner. They rely on a physical running game, and Conner figures to be groomed as a replacement for 15-year veteran Tony Richardson.

Drake: Drake would seem to have an uphill battle to make the Chiefs squad considering they return starter Leonard Pope plus backups Brad Cottam, Jake O'Connell and third-round pick Tony Moeaki.

Jeffries: The Chargers definitely need help on the offensive line, as they struggled to open holes in the running game and protect quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers didn't take a lineman in the draft, so Jeffries could stick as a backup tackle.

Smith: The Cardinals have their rotation set with Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Smith may have to beat out veteran Jason Wright for the fourth running back spot, but the Cardinals didn't draft a running back and Smith's special teams prowess will help his cause.

Duncan: Duncan, who started at left tackle during his senior season at UK, will be a guard with the Eagles. One thing that will help Duncan: The Eagles drafted 13 players without taking an offensive lineman.

Johnson: It was no secret that the Giants needed help at linebacker, especially after releasing Antonio Pierce in the off-season. The Giants spent two draft picks on linebackers: Phillip Dillard (Nebraska, fourth round) and Adrian Tracy (William and Mary, seventh round).

Ironically enough, Pierce was an undrafted rookie who went on to have a nine-year career with the Washington Redskins and the Giants.

Quarterback competitions around the SEC

Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips announced after the Blue-White Spring Game that UK's three-man quarterback competition among Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski would extend into summer and fall camp. The Wildcats aren't the only SEC program trying to get its quarterback situation figured out.

Alabama (Greg McElroy), Arkansas (Ryan Mallett), Auburn (Cameron Newton), Florida (John Brantley) and Mississippi (Nathan Stanley) have their quarterback situations squared away, but the rest probably won't be solved until practice resumes in August.

Here's a look at UK's 11 SEC foes and how their quarterbacks stand.

Alabama: Leading the Crimson Tide to a 14-0 record and national title solidified McElroy's status going into 2010.

ARKANSAS: There's no battle going on here. Mallett figures to challenge for SEC Player of the Year and probably will be a high first-round pick in the 2011 Draft.

Auburn: In somewhat of a surprise, Gene Chizik announced that he would be going with junior-college transfer Newton, who didn't arrive on campus until January. But considering Newton's physical gifts (6-foot-7, 247 pounds, strong arm, 4.5 speed), Chizik thinks he can have a big-time play maker once Newton picks up Gus Malzahn's spread offense.

Florida: Brantley, the heir apparent to Tim Tebow, tore it up in the spring game, completing 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards and two TDs. Urban Meyer might experiment with using freshman Trey Burton in a situational role much like Tebow did as a rookie behind Chris Leak, but Brantley is the man.

Georgia: Georgia's three-man race was cut down to two when Zach Mettenberger was kicked off the team last month. Mettenberger had been the most physically impressive quarterback in spring, as receiver A.J. Green compared his arm strength to that of former No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford. Now Coach Mark Richt must decide between Aaron Murray and Logan Gray. Murray held a slight lead at the end of spring.

LSU: Incumbent Jordan Jefferson is still the guy, but Jarrett Lee, who has played significant minutes as a backup the last two seasons, closed the gap in the spring.

MISSISSIPPI: Sophomore Nathan Stanley cemented his status as Jevan Snead's replacement by going 11-for-16 for 165 yards and two TD's in the spring game.

Mississippi State: Chris Relf has a slight edge over highly touted redshirt freshman Tyler Russell. Relf, who ran for 60 yards on just two carries in MSU's 31-24 win over UK last fall, is known more as a running quarterback but has improved his passing.

South Carolina: Junior Stephen Garcia should be the starter, but Coach Steve Spurrier was critical of Garcia's off-season work habits in the spring. You know Spurrier won't hesitate to make a change so keep your eye on early enrollee Connor Shaw.

Tennessee: Louisville transfer Matt Simms was the first-team quarterback in the spring but was inconsistent and got outplayed by freshman Tyler Bray in the spring game. This battle will continue.

Vanderbilt: Incumbent Larry Smith wasn't all that impressive in the spring but held on to the job by default. Watch out for Jordan Rodgers, a junior-college transfer and younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Lyons gets tryout with Broncos

Former UK wide receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. reported to Denver last week for a tryout with the Broncos. Lyons caught passes from Denver first-round pick Tim Tebow on the first day of mini-camp. Lyons, who suffered a knee injury his senior year at UK, signed briefly with the Falcons before being released.

Dennis Johnson Football Camp

The fifth annual Dennis Johnson Football Camp will be held June 28-29 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Nutter Field House. For more info visit the website dennisjohnsonfootball.com.

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