UK football notebook: Pro Day just like old times for Warford, Smith

Herald-Leader Staff WriterMarch 23, 2013 

For a few minutes, it was just like old times for former Kentucky teammates Matt Smith and Larry Warford.

There they were in the Nutter Indoor Facility again running through offensive line drills, but this time the good friends were running them for NFL scouts as a part of UK's annual Pro Day.

"It was just like we never stopped," Smith said afterward. "It would be awesome if we could end up on the same team together again and play together again. You never know what will happen, but it was good to be back out here again."

Smith was limited by a pulled hamstring and only participated in the position drills and bench press. He got in a day's best 28 repetitions, the same number Warford had at the NFL Combine a few weeks before.

"I felt good about it," Smith said. "All I want is a chance to make a team."

Kentucky had 15 seniors there attempting to impress the 27 scouts on campus, representing 25 NFL teams, one CFL team and a scouting agency.

After completing his work at the combine, Warford also opted to only do position drills on Thursday. He will begin doing individual workouts soon. Warford is hoping to become the first UK offensive lineman to be drafted in 20 years.

The former Madison Central standout said he's heard he could go anywhere from the second to fourth round of the draft, which runs April 25-27.

"Being one of the people (drafted) will be a source of pride," Warford said. "I just want to represent my school the best I can. It's not just about me getting drafted. It's about how well you represent yourself after the fact."

Both Smith and Warford said scouts were interested in their ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line.

"You only get seven active linemen in an NFL game, so you have to be able to play in different positions, basically the whole line," Warford said. "Being able to do that here really helped me."

With talk of 35,000-plus fans signed up for spring game tickets and a buzz around the program, both Smith and Warford said they yearn for an extra year of eligibility.

"It's unbelievable," Smith said of the interest in the program. "I love that the excitement is back around here. Getting around this football program and all of the upgrades that will be coming for the stadium and for Nutter that we needed, just put new life into this program and I love it. I'd love to be back here."

Warford said the hype has been fun to see, even from afar.

"You don't understand how happy I am," he said. "I'm so happy for them. I want to see them get the recognition and I want to see this turn into a football school."

Combine craziness

Warford is a tough guy who has played through injury and illness, but nothing could quite prepare the senior for his time at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in late February.

"It was strenuous," Warford said.

And he wasn't even talking about the physical part of it. That was the easy part.

The first day, he spent more than eight hours at a local hospital getting physicals, checkups, past injury evaluations and drug tests. It was more of the same the next day.

"Then you've got psychological testing," he said, making a face. "Oh, my God. I was like, 'I just want to go home now.' When we got to the workouts, it was pretty fun then."

By far the most difficult part was the psychological testing, the former Madison Central standout said.

"You're worn out," he said. "You wake up at like 5 or 5:30 and then you're busy until 11 at night. You've got a lot of tests, psychological tests and it's just hard to concentrate because you're tired. Then they throw you out there to work out. Pretty tough."

At the combine, Warford ran the 40-yard dash in 5.58 seconds, got 28 reps in the bench press and had a vertical jump of 22.5 inches and a broad jump of 96 inches. He did the three-cone drill in 7.78 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 5.1 seconds.

Center of attention

While a depth chart has not been released and positional updates have been scarce, Smith offered a little bit of outside insight into what might happen with his former position: center.

Smith said he watched some film on the offensive linemen from the first couple of UK spring practices and he was impressed.

"Things are looking good," he said. "They're doing a lot of movements up there, moving guys around all over the place."

Smith said he's been fielding lots of questions from redshirt freshmen Jon Toth (6-foot-5, 289 pounds) and Zach Myers (6-3, 289). Guard Zach West also could see some time at center.

They "have come up to me for a little advice on playing center. As I told them, 'It's not as easy as I made it look,'" Smith joked.

The three-year starter at center said Toth and Myers could both be good replacements.

"As long as those two can catch onto things, I think it will be one of them playing there. ... Hopefully everything will fall into place, but they've been out there working hard and love what's going on right now."

Punting prowess

There has been so much talk of changes on offense and defense, little attention has been paid (in interviews at least) to special teams play.

But Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said it's a group getting a lot of work in this spring as well.

"We work on special teams every day," he said after practice on Friday. "We still have two segments today (after regular practice) on special teams. Every day. Just like we will in the fall. We're installing. Coach Bradley Dale Peveto's done a great job with that and we're working hard."

Read into it what you will, but one unit that Stoops is pleased with is UK's punting group, led by Landon Foster, who earned Freshman All-American honors averaging 42.9 yards a punt.

"They were really very effective last year in punt," Stoops said. "Some of the techniques and some of the schemes we're doing in punting are very similar."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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