First scrimmage a draw for UK football

Offense, defense see positives in scrimmage

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 14, 2011 

Rick Minter, new co-defensive coordinator for UK football during a press conference before the Mississippi Valley State at Kentucky men's basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday Dec. 18, 2010. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

Kentucky held its first fall scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.

Call it a draw.

Or more precisely, a chance for both the offense and the defense to draw on some positives and fix some negatives.

That's what the coaches and players were saying afterward.

"The guys are competing their tails off," Coach Joker Phillips said shortly after the closed scrimmage. "We're not always executing the way we want them to execute, but we're playing fast and I like seeing that."

When pressed, the UK head coach said that his first-team defense under the new system of co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter won the day, but Minter would probably say otherwise since the Cats were unable to force their offensive counterparts into any turnovers.

"We didn't take the ball away very well, but we have to just keep working," Minter said. "There were some balls on the ground, but the offense scrambled to get them. We didn't get any picks."

Takeaways have been an emphasis in the off-season, with UK finishing near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in that statistical category with 16 forced turnovers last year.

But as much as Minter can fret over the lack of recovered fumbles or interceptions — especially with three veteran offensive linemen sitting out with injuries, leaving the offense without its protectors — offensive coordinator Randy Sanders can see that as a positive.

"It was good to get through the first scrimmage with no interceptions and no balls that were even close to being intercepted," Sanders noted.

But every coach can find flaws.

"I'd like more completions, but when you're a perfectionist, you have to remind yourself it's hard to be perfect at this point (in the season)," he said.

Both Phillips and Sanders were pleased with the direction of the Cats' passing game led by junior quarterback Morgan Newton.

"It's definitely a lot better," Phillips said. "We're not always completing all the passes ... (Newton's) not there yet, but his eyes, his reads, the checks, protecting himself, all those things, he's been right on point."

Sanders said he saw plenty to work on.

"The timing and non-verbal communication and things like that aren't there in the passing game yet," Sanders said. "But you don't expect it necessarily to be."

The quarterback was upbeat after the scrimmage.

"I threw it pretty good," he said. "I felt good. I saw things well. Obviously, there are still some things I need to work on."

He said he was excited about the potential weapons on the team, especially some of the younger, unproven players.

Senior safety Winston Guy, who faced the UK offense, mentioned that the veteran players shined.

"Morgan Newton did a lot of good things as far as passing it," Guy said. "A lot of the older guys like La'Rod King made a lot of catches and Brian Adams and Aaron Boyd scored a touchdown."

Defensively, Guy was pleased with his own unit and its ability to halt the run, something that plagued UK much of last season.

"The thing we were the most aggressive on was the run," Guy said of UK's defensive unit. "We minimized the run today for the offense."

But even the running backs like sophomore Raymond Sanders and freshmen Josh Clemons and Marcus Caffey (who sat out much of last week with a strained hamstring) got some compliments, too.

"It was good to see us be able to run the ball with some consistency," Sanders said. "It was good to see some of the backs be able to stick it in there a couple of times."

Call it a draw.

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