A wintry blast of snow and bone-chilling winds forced the University of Kentucky’s initial spring football practice of 2019 inside the Nutter Fieldhouse on Monday morning.
Afterward, UK Coach Mark Stoops proclaimed himself pleased with what he saw as the Wildcats began work on their encore to last year’s 10-3 season that culminated with a 27-24 win over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl.
“It’s been a really solid off-season for us to this point,” Stoops said in a Monday morning news conference. “Really impressed with the work our strength and conditioning guys have done in the weight room this winter. Guys look bigger and stronger.”
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Among UK football topics Stoops discussed:
▪ After Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House chose to leave for a coaching job with the Kansas City Chiefs, Stoops said continuity played a big role in his decision to promote UK outside linebackers coach Brad White to replace him.
“One of the reasons you look at promoting from within is because you want to continue to build on the good things we’ve done and keep that consistency with defensive staff and defensive players,” Stoops said. “So (it is) a relatively easy transition because our players have so much respect for Brad and what he has done and the way he can coach and how detailed he is.”
▪ Stoops said new UK inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall, a former Wildcats player (2002-2004), should have a positive impact as a recruiter.
“He brings great passion, great energy,” Stoops said of Sumrall, who returned to his alma mater after coaching at Mississippi last season.
▪ Junior-college transfer Marquez Bembry, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker, has undergone knee surgery and will miss all of spring practice, Stoops said.
▪ Senior-to-be wide receiver Ahmad Wagner has a strained hamstring that is likely to sideline him for at least the first week of spring practice, Stoops said.
▪ Sophomore-to-be Clevan Thomas, who was recruited to UK as a wide receiver but was working as a defensive back in the run-up to the Citrus Bowl, has returned to wideout, Stoops said.
▪ Stoops said former Lafayette High School star Landon Young, who was slated to start at left tackle for Kentucky last season until suffering a torn ACL and missing the entire year, went through Monday’s practice in shorts and helmet.
“We will be cautious with him, but he’s out there practicing and looks good,” Stoops said of Young.
▪ Ex-Kentucky star Josh Allen, back in Lexington from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, attended UK’s practice as a spectator.
▪ UK will practice again Tuesday and Thursday of this week, then be off the following week for spring break. The Wildcats will then resume practicing on March 19, the first of 11 practices leading up to the Blue-White Game on Friday, April 12, at 6 p.m. at Kroger Field.