New UK linebacker Flannigan eager to hit the field

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 4, 2014 

If Ryan Flannigan were asked to summarize how he spent his summer, the new Kentucky linebacker likely would use one word: running.

"I'd do long distance; I'd do gassers; then I'd do some speed agility, and I'd just rotate through days," he told a cluster of media after UK's first practice of fall camp Monday morning.

"I didn't want to be out of breath and not conditioned well and stuff like that," he continued. "I knew it was a lot of running in the SEC and I knew I had to get my running right. So I just ran a lot."

The junior college linebacker, who arrived from Texas on Friday, needs to be ready to run on the field right away for UK, which is trying to replace tackles leader Avery Williamson.

Because of school obligations, Flannigan wasn't able to join his new Kentucky teammates for summer workouts. But he didn't want to fall behind, so he kept in regular contact with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot and UK's strength coaches.

"I received the playbook," the 6-foot-2 junior said. "I received the film. ... Workouts. So pretty much everything the players were doing, I was doing too."

After finishing up work at Blinn College, he went back to his high school and worked out to get ready. He didn't always have company and it wasn't always easy, but he stayed focused.

"Just had to grind. I knew I was coming to the SEC, had to grind," he said. "I knew I had to be ready for my teammates to hold my own so we can be better.

"I knew I couldn't just sit down and lay on my butt. That's not what they recruited me for. So I just had to do what I had to do."

He left his hometown outside of Houston a few days ago and drove 15 hours to Lexington on Friday.

By sunrise Monday, Flannigan was in Kentucky blue midway through his first practice.

"Did a good job," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of Flannigan. "He's very athletic, caught on quick. It's what he needed to do, so I was impressed with him on the first day."

He drew praise from other guys in his position group, like middle linebacker TraVaughn Paschal.

"He moved great, for it to be his first day out here with everybody, it didn't seem like he missed a beat," the senior said of the newcomer.

Flannigan, who had 45 tackles in his freshman season at Blinn College and 22 tackles with two interceptions (one for a TD) in three games of his injury-shortened sophomore, spent the morning absorbing as much as he could.

Coach Mark Stoops said the plan for now is to plug in Flannigan at the weakside linebacker spot.

"I'm just trying to learn each position at the linebacker position, take it day by day," Flannigan said. "I felt today I did pretty good learning the new stuff."

Until he learns it all, Flannigan has a plan.

"Right now I'm just trying to stay in coach's pocket and learn everything I can learn quickly," he said. "It's not gonna be easy, but we will get it done."

News, notes

The much-discussed quarterback competition between Drew Barker, Reese Phillips and Patrick Towles was barely discussed after the first practice of fall camp on Monday.

Mark Stoops did say the offense looked a little rusty and that there were several drops in the passing game.

"We need to continue to improve around the quarterback," Stoops said. "Those guys need to step up and make the big catches and we need to function as a unit much better. It's always put on one guy, but I was a little disappointed that we dropped the ball a little bit today and put the ball on the ground when we had an opportunity to make some plays.

"So we've got to continue to push in that area. We'll go back and look at the film and see where we're at, but I noticed some drops today that we can't have."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown will have his turn to meet with the media on Tuesday morning.

Demarco Robinson, who was suspended the final two games last season for an unspecified violation of team rules, was on the practice field Monday morning.

The senior wide receiver has "some obligations to meet," Stoops said. "He's practicing and we'll see where it goes from there."

Stoops said he's planning to stay away from rundowns of bumps and bruises during fall camp, but he did confirm that sophomore receiver Alexander Montgomery was the only player unable to suit up for practice. "So we're in pretty good shape," Stoops said.

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

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