UK Football

UK-Florida notes: Punt team learned its lesson well

Recalling last year's 63-5 loss at Florida, Kentucky has spent extra time working on punt protection this week.

Two blocked punts early in that game put the Cats in a quick 14-0 hole from which they never recovered.

Special teams coach Steve Ortmayer said one of the blocked punts was the result of a blown assignment. But Ortmayer and head coach Rich Brooks said the Gators committed two penalties on the other block.

Ortmayer said that on punts, defenders are not allowed to hit the center until he has completed the snap and lifted his head. He said a Florida defensive end ran over the center before he completed his snap. Ortmayer also said a Florida player grabbed Nii Adjei Oninku, who was playing guard, and pulled him out of the play, another violation.

Ortmayer said the UK punt team has been preparing as if it will see the same things on Saturday.

"We've definitely made the players aware of it," he said. "If they call it, they call it. If they don't, he (Florida Coach Urban Meyer) wins."

That's only half the battle for the punt team, though. Florida has one of the nation's top return men in Brandon James.

"You not only have to worry about getting the punt off, you've also got to get down there and cover one of the best in the business," Ortmayer said.

Recruiting going 'fine'

UK added two more commitments for 2010 this week — Christian County linebacker Malcolm McDuffen and Alabama safety Davin Hawkins — bringing their total to 10.

While that number is behind last year's pace, UK head coach for offense Joker Phillips said he isn't worried about recruiting.

"We're doing fine," Phillips said.

He said that in past years, UK racked up so many early commitments because it took chances on players who were borderline academically and who weren't 100 percent solid commitments. He said the staff doesn't feel the need to go that route anymore.

"How many times did we take commitments and then the guy either doesn't qualify or de-commits?" Phillips said. "We don't have to take as many chances on guys. Maybe later in the game, but not right now."

Horsemen coach picks Cats

One person who isn't afraid to go on the record and predict a UK win is new Kentucky Horsemen coach Tommy Johnson.

He says the Cats might be able to capitalize on an injury-depleted group of Florida receivers who still are trying to adjust to life without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy after both moved on to the NFL. Johnson played his college ball at Alabama.

"People think I'm crazy, but I think Kentucky's going to win," said Johnson, a defensive back on Alabama's 1992 national championship team who was introduced as the new coach of the Horsemen on Thursday. "I'm not just saying that because I'm in Lexington. I've been watching Florida play, and I don't think their receiving corps is up to par. All Kentucky has to do is stop the run. Make Tebow throw the football. Their receiving corps isn't that phenomenal. Their receiving corps doesn't scare anybody."

Johnson had one last request after he made his prediction.

"Please don't send this to Urban Meyer," he said with a laugh.

The Florida flu bug

A flu bug that hit the Florida team last week has garnered a lot of press.

Six players were held from Tuesday's practice, and Meyer said later in the week that it was still a concern.

Most of those who became ill are expected to play Saturday, but the flu could become a bigger issue for UK moving forward if some of their players catch the bug from the Gators.

The Cats face No. 3 Alabama next Saturday, but UK head coach Rich Brooks, at least publicly, isn't making a big deal about it.

"We could have those kinds of problems, too," Brooks said. "Whatever happens, happens. We're doing everything we can to prevent it. At some point, we're going to have our share of it."

Newton update

Freshman quarterback Morgan Newton is still No. 3 on the depth chart behind Mike Hartline and Will Fidler, and the likelihood that Newton is redshirted in 2009 increases with each passing week.

"The longer we get into the season, the less chance he's going to play," Phillips said. "There's no point in burning a redshirt for five or six games."

Phillips said he didn't get the sense that Newton was frustrated over not playing.

"He hasn't shown any signs," Phillips said. "He seems to be doing fine. You always try to watch body language, to see if he's taking advantage of the reps when he does get in. He's going to be a great player, no question about that. I'm a guy that tries to look into the future and project, and his projection is as good as anybody we've had here at the same age."

Newton, who strongly considered playing at Florida and ran a spread offense in high school, wasn't on the scout team playing the role of Tim Tebow this week. Instead, he received reps with the regular offense.

Freshman Ryan Mossakowski and sophomore safety Greg Wilson shared the honor of playing Tebow.

Big Blue Meter

This is the first game of a brutal four-game stretch for the Cats, who welcome No. 3 Alabama next week before traveling to South Carolina and Auburn.

Kentucky could go a long way toward building momentum for those games by proving it can play with the Gators.

A win would be perhaps the biggest in school history, and Commonwealth Stadium should be buzzing.

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