The University of Kentucky football team is entering the home stretch of the spring, with one more practice scheduled for Wednesday before the Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium.
UK had its second full spring scrimmage on Saturday, and there were mixed reviews. Coach Joker Phillips liked the energy and effort but said the concentration and focus left something to be desired.
"The offense had a couple of big plays, but there was a lot of yardage left out there," Phillips said. "The thing we've got to have is total concentration and total focus."
The defense dominated the offense in last week's scrimmage, but Phillips said the first-team offense bounced back with a scoring drive on its first possession on Saturday. But the defense responded by shutting down the offense on the next three series.
"If you look at the whole thing, it came out about even," Phillips said.
Co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter said he didn't think his unit had a great scrimmage.
"I thought the offense played pretty good today, and I thought we were suspect," Minter said. "We're heading into the last two days, so we'll make a list of things we need to emphasize on Wednesday to put us in position to clean it up one more time for the final game."
After spending the entire spring installing different elements to his multiple scheme, Minter scaled back some for the scrimmage.
"It was really not complicated at all today; I kept it simple in order to give them a chance to play hard and play fast," Minter said. "As you get going offense vs. defense, coaches learn how to exploit and hit the soft spots. But the offense is getting better, and a lot of our stuff is getting better. They're going to win some and we're going to win some. But overall I thought today was not one of our better days; too many points on the board."
Minter said he didn't think his unit played physical enough on Saturday.
"You ought to be able to hear a scrimmage, and at times I don't hear our scrimmage," Minter said. "Running plays need to sound like running plays on offense and defense. Contact needs to sound like contact. Are you colliding into people? Are you pushing into people or are you striking people? Those are the things we've got to do. The game is a physical game, and we're playing in the most physical league in the world, so we've got to be ready."
Phillips said he's been pleased with how Morgan Newton has developed in the passing game, but he's not as enthusiastic about his supporting cast right now. Phillips wants more out of La'Rod King, who right now is slated to be the No. 1 receiver.
"Morgan has gotten better throwing the football," Phillips said. "We've got a more efficient passing game. But La'Rod King, this is his time. He's the guy that should be a leader over there and I don't think he's had a great spring for us."
Phillips said Brian Adams has consistently made plays at receiver when he's been able to attend practice (Adams is splitting time this spring between football and baseball), but he wants to see more consistency from Matt Roark and E.J. Fields. At tight end, Nick Melillo and Jordan Aumiller have been solid, but Phillips is looking for more contributions from youngsters Ronnie Shields and Anthony Kendrick. Raymond Sanders has run the ball well but the rest of the running back corps has been uninspiring. Phillips said that means that several freshmen may get snaps with the second team as soon as fall camp begins in August. UK will bring in two freshmen tailbacks, Marcus Caffey and Josh Clemons, and signed six players capable of lining up at receiver (Daryl Collins, Rashad Cunningham, Nile Daniel, Josh Forrest, Demarco Robinson and Bubba Tandy).
"Morgan needs to have a total supporting cast, so some of these young guys are going to have to come ready," he said. "We told our team that these freshmen will be third-teamers coming in, and at some positions they will be second-team. We've got to get them enough reps to see if they can help us, and they might not get enough reps as third-teamers. We haven't had a lot of guys step up and make plays."
Cats to open on first night of season
UK announced this week that its season opener against Western Kentucky will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 9:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU. It's the first night that college football will be played in 2011. Kentucky's archrival, Louisville, is also on the schedule that night, as the Cards will host Murray State. In all, 15 games will be played on Sept. 1, including Mississippi State at Memphis and Austin Peay at Cincinnati.
Trinity RB to walk on
UK has added a late recruit to its 2011 class in Trinity running back Derek Bishop, who will join the team as a preferred walk-on. Bishop has enrolled for summer classes and will begin workouts with the team in June. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Bishop ran for 1,758 yards and 26 touchdowns for the Class 6A state champion Shamrocks and was also extended an invitation to be a preferred walk-on at Louisville.
Radio show Monday
Phillips will have a call-in radio show Monday from 6-7 p.m. EDT. Kentucky play-by-play announcer Tom Leach will be the host for the show, which will be carried on the Big Blue Radio Network.
Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.