John Clay: Tidbits gleaned behind UK's closed gate

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 18, 2012 

The only thing possibly more deceiving than seeing a pre-season football scrimmage with your own two eyes is not seeing a pre-season football scrimmage.

With that in mind, after two closed football scrimmages, the second of which took place Saturday morning, here are 10 things we think we know about this UK football team.

1. Maxwell Smith will be the starting quarterback.

We don't know this for sure, but all signs seem to point to the sophomore winning the job.

And Saturday, Smith directed a 98-yard touchdown drive that was the highlight of the scrimmage.

2. The offense is much further along than a year ago.

We base this not just on the 98-yard drive the offense put together (we were told) in Saturday's scrimmage. We base this on the fact that last fall the word we kept hearing was "playmakers" in that the staff was looking for "playmakers." This year, we have not heard that word. Or not as much.

3. Demarco Robinson can handle the hype.

There were camp whispers about Demarco Robinson last year when he was a true freshman wide receiver/kick returner of some natural ability. Alas, the transition from high school to college was not a smooth one for Robinson, who showed nothing more than flashes.

This fall, those whispers have grown into statements of naked optimism. Head coach Joker Phillips mentions Robinson and his abilities at nearly every press gathering. Can the sophomore handle it? Phillips thinks Robinson has proven he can with his work ethic and signs of maturity. Now, Robinson just has to do it on the field.

4. The fact that Louisville is now ranked can work to UK's advantage.

The pre-season AP poll was released on Saturday and Louisville sneaked in the Top 25 at No. 25, which means that for the fifth time in the series Kentucky will be playing a ranked U of L.

In the previous four meetings, the teams split.

In 2002, Louisville was ranked No. 17, yet UK won 22-17. In 2005, a 12th-ranked Louisville beat UK 31-24. In 2006, a 13th-ranked U of L whipped Kentucky 59-28. In 2007, a ninth-ranked Louisville lost to host Kentucky 40-34 in the Stevie Johnson touchdown game.

5. Avery Williamson is the captain of the defensive ship.

We know this because defensive coordinator Rick Minter has talked about the middle linebacker's "leadership." We know this because Phillips says Williamson has taken "ownership" of the defense.

6. The secondary is dangerously thin.

We think this by the simple process of elimination, or attrition. Marcus Caffey, who was to start at cornerback, turned up ineligible. Glenn Faulkner, who was supposed to provide depth at safety, is out with a high ankle sprain.

7. Josh Clemons could redshirt.

We think this because the sophomore, coming off ACL surgery from last season, has gotten very little practice work and is now dealing with a swelling issue in regard to his surgically repaired knee.

Phillips says that it is far too early to determine if Clemons needs a redshirt year, but given UK's improved depth at the position, we think it has to be a consideration.

8. Randy Sanders is tired of answering questions about the quarterback competition.

This we know and don't blame him.

9. We think that Joker Phillips is not bothered by the hot seat talk.

If his job is on the line, the Kentucky coach is not behaving as if his job is on the line.

This fall, Joker has been Joker, good with the media, kidding around, but dead serious about the task of getting the program back to where it was a few years ago and improving it from there.

10. We think this team will be a little better than people think.

It is extremely young and there are plenty of questions, more than a few holes, and a killer schedule. Yet there is enough positive energy to make you think these Cats could surprise a few people.

Or maybe that's just what I think.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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