7 UK football players stepping it up

Most coaches will tell you that one of the biggest components of spring practice is the chance to get an early glimpse of any new faces or previous backups who might be able to crack the depth chart in the fall.

Here are seven players who will either be making their debuts or moving from a spot player to a rotation player.

Danny Trevathan, linebacker: Trevathan showed off his athletic ability on special teams as a true freshman last season. He'll be in the thick of the action at linebacker this fall and is at No. 1 on the weak side. UK Coach Rich Brooks said Trevathan will also be heavily involved in UK's nickel packages because of his tremendous speed.

"He's having a very good camp," Brooks said. "He's one of the more impressive young guys and clearly benefited from getting some reps last year."

Winston Guy, safety/cornerback: The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Guy has as much raw athleticism as anyone on the UK roster.

He returned kicks and played primarily on special teams as a true freshman, but expect to see plenty of the Lexington Catholic product in the secondary this fall. Guy played primarily at corner late last year and was listed as the backup to Trevard Lindley in the spring media guide. But with UK facing uncertainty at both safety spots, Guy has been seeing most of his action there so far this spring. UK offensive head coach Joker Phillips said Guy's ability to play corner and safety is a bonus.

"We haven't had a guy who can do that around here in a long time," Phillips said.

Randall Burden, cornerback: Burden started to emerge during the Liberty Bowl practices last December, and he had a breakthrough performance in the win over East Carolina with a tackle and two pass breakups. Burden is starting opposite Trevard Lindley in the spring, although former starter Paul Warford figures to challenge when he returns from a redshirt year and subsequent foot injury in the fall.

Mark Crawford, defensive tackle: The 6-foot-1, 295-pound Crawford was brought in from Coffeyville College to help fill the huge void at tackle created by the departure of Myron Pryor. Crawford has shown the physical skills to be a contributor but, like a lot of junior-college transfers, needs some fundamental work.

"I've just got to get my technique down," Crawford said. "That's the only thing holding me back. My tempo's fine, my motor is running, and I'm playing at full speed. (Defensive line) Coach (Rick) Petri is teaching me a lot of stuff I didn't know before, so that's going to help."

The fact that Crawford was able to enroll in the spring will give him plenty of time to brush up on that technique before the Cats open against Miami (Ohio) in Cincinnati on Sept. 5.

"I've got a better chance of getting on the field being here in the spring," Crawford said.

Crawford has also shown some character qualities the coaching staff has to like. After practice last week, he pulled aside an offensive lineman who had been across from him to let him know that he was leaning on his blocks, a no-no.

"We've all got to make plays," Crawford said. "The little things could decide whether we win the SEC or not, so I'm going to look out for everybody because I know they'll look out for me. I just want to be a team player."

Collins Ukwu, defensive end: Ukwu arrived at UK as a skinny 220-pounder but put on 30 pounds during his redshirt year and now looks like a legitimate Southeastern Conference defensive end. Ukwu is still very raw, but fellow redshirt Taylor Wyndham and sophomore Chandler Burden are all getting pivotal repetitions in the spring.

Junior college transfer DeQuin Evans will be expected to push for the open end slot opposite Jeremy Jarmon when he arrives in the fall, but Ukwu could put himself in position to be, at worst, the third or fourth end with a strong spring.

"We need him to continue to play well and develop because he's got the size, speed and athletic ability to be a major factor for us," Brooks said. "Now we just have to get him at SEC fundamental levels and speed levels."

Stuart Hines, offensive line: Brooks raves about Hines, who's put on 15 pounds to get close to the 300 mark. Hines was a backup last year but enters the spring as the starter at left guard.

Hines will have to fight off former starter Christian Johnson, who redshirted last year. But even if Hines doesn't start, he'll be in the mix and can play on the right side.

E.J. Fields, wide receiver: Fields, who's wearing Keenan Burton's No. 19 jersey, was the only true freshman receiver not to see the field in 2008, but he could quickly get himself some playing time with a strong spring.

He looks good in pads with his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and has some speed. Now he just has to get more acclimated to the receiver position after playing cornerback and quarterback at Frankfort High.