UK Football Notebook: Matthews making plays

All three University of Kentucky football scrimmages during fall camp have been closed to the media, and the school doesn't release official statistics from those scrimmages.

A reporter, trying to get a feel for the type of scrimmage that receiver Chris Matthews had on Saturday, asked Matthews to describe a big play he had.

Matthews calmly responded "Which one?"

Matthews, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College, didn't come off as arrogant, but his response shows you what kind of impact he's had thus far in fall camp. He caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Hartline in UK's final scrimmage before taking on Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

Like most coaches, Rich Brooks and head coach for offense Joker Phillips have been careful not to overhype or put too much pressure on Matthews. Phillips was asked whether Matthews had been as good in practice as the grapevine has suggested.

"You hate to jinx a kid and hear all this stuff about some guy who hasn't been in a big-time atmosphere, but yes, he has," Phillips said. "He's made plays, and against a really good corner (All-America candidate Trevard Lindley), too. I just tell him to win his share (of battles), and he's won his share against Trevard, Paul (Warford) and Randall (Burden)."

Brooks said there were plenty of big plays in the scrimmage, which pitted the first-team offense against the second-team defense and vice versa, while the third teamers went at each other. Brooks said he was pleased with Matthews and with the play of running backs Derrick Locke, Alfonso Smith and Moncell Allen. Brooks said the tailback rotation has still not been set for the Miami game.

"All three of them did some good things and broke some runs," he said. "We'll just have to see how it all shakes out next week as to who starts and what the rotation may or may not be."

UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said he was pleased with his first-team unit, which allowed only one first down to the second-team offense. But he cited sloppy tackling among the backups, which helped contribute to the first-team offense's big day.

"Obviously we have to continue to re-evaluate the tackling stuff we're doing, or we just need to know that those certain guys can't tackle," Brown said. "A lot of times tackling in that scenario comes down to desire. I was real pleased with my first-team guys, but I'm not sure the second- and third-team guys had the desire to impress us. We're still in the audition stage, and it was kind of a true indicator of what they can and can't do."

UK practiced on the artificial field-turf surface at the Tim Couch Practice Fields, a surface similar to Paul Brown Stadium's in Cincinnati, where the Cats will play their season opener.

Lanefski back at practice

Sophomore guard Jake Lanefski returned to practice last week after missing two weeks with torn cartilage in his knee. Brooks said Lanefski should be ready to go for the Miami game.

Lanefski, who started the final four games at right guard last season, has joined a crowded competition. Christian Johnson and Stuart Hines were listed No. 1 going into fall camp, but freshman Larry Warford is pushing both starters.

"I was in the meeting every day trying to pick up on the plays so I wouldn't fall too far behind," Lanefski said. "I've been here three years, and this is the most talent we've had on the O-line. The third string's even got talent. If a guy goes down, somebody's ready to step in, fill his place and not skip a beat.

Impact freshmen

Brooks said at the Jefferson County UK Alumni Association kickoff luncheon in Louisville last week that he expects seven or eight true freshmen to see action this year for the Cats. Brooks didn't name names at the luncheon but, over the course of fall camp, he has identified three freshmen who will probably see the field: offensive lineman Larry Warford, wide receiver LaRod King and cornerback Martavious Neloms. One of the two freshman quarterbacks (Morgan Newton, Ryan Mossakowski) could play, with Newton being the more likely of the two at this point. A true freshman running back could see action, but the Cats will try to get by in the Miami opener with the foursome of Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke, Moncell Allen and CoShik Williams. Jonathan George had been the most impressive early on, but he sprained his ankle midway through camp and is out until at least the Louisville game.

Brooks said earlier in camp that defensive tackle Mister Cobble was in limbo. The Cats have a four-player rotation at tackle with Corey Peters, Ricky Lumpkin, Mark Crawford and Shane McCord. Sophomores Antwane Glenn and Luke McDermott would be available if more depth is needed, but Brooks would also consider the 6-foot, 290-pound Cobble, a Louisville Central product who's looked good in practice.

Safety Jarvis Walker, linebacker Ryan Mosby and defensive end Patrick Ligon have also been mentioned.

The final verdict on the true freshmen probably won't come until after the Louisville game. The coaching staff will use the open date before the Louisville game Sept. 19 to further evaluate the depth chart.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader