Kentucky coaches are eager to see what a fully healthy Dorian Baker looks like, but they’re going to continue to be cautious with the senior wide receiver.
It was around this time a year ago that Baker suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a preseason scrimmage. A season before that, Baker was slowed by a hamstring injury that held him out of early games in 2016.
“He hasn’t played for a long time. He hasn’t been full-go in a long time,” Coach Mark Stoops said of Baker, who has 88 catches for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns in 24 career starts.
Baker was held out of contact during spring practices and did not play in the Blue-White Spring Game in April out of an abundance of caution.
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So coaches will use camp to get him “game ready,” Stoops said.
That doesn’t mean Baker will be full-go all of the time, either. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran confirmed that the senior probably will have fewer repetitions in practice as he prepares for his final season at UK.
“He wants to go full speed every time and I love that about him,” Gran said of the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “But yes, we are definitely going to have a rep count on him. Make sure he knows what to do and looks great and he is full speed.
“We just got to make sure that he can get into some of the scrimmages and he doesn’t need 35 reps. That doesn’t make sense. Just get him banged up a little bit, hit and make sure that he can hit so he can get into that first game and hopefully have a nice, healthy season.”
Other news and notes
It was unclear a few weeks ago how long it might be before inside linebacker Jordan Jones would be back to full strength for Kentucky, but Stoops said Friday that the senior should be “good to go,” in camp.
Jones, who had shoulder surgery in the offseason, will be partially available for the first two days of practice because UK isn’t permitted to wear shoulder pads and trainers can’t protect his shoulder, but from then on, the senior is cleared to play.
Jones, who has played in 30 games with 21 career starts, was fifth on the team in tackles last season with 64 despite missing four games working through a different shoulder problem. The linebacker also had 7.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries two sacks and a forced fumble last season for the Cats. He led UK in tackles in 2016 with 109, including 15.5 for loss and four sacks to go with nine quarterback hurries.
▪ While other position competitions work themselves out, a top punter emerged from the spring, Stoops said. Max Duffy, a 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer from Australia, probably will be the Cats’ starter for the opener.
“Max was impressive in the spring and did a very good job,” Stoops said of Duffy. “He’s still learning some American football, but he’s got a strong leg and he’s talented as far as the things he can do and rolling and moving, so we like Max. … At this point coming out of spring, Max had won the job.”