UK Football

Football Cats itching for practice to start

Reporting date for fall camp doesn't have quite the intrigue it once did because most players and incoming recruits spend most of the summer working out on campus.

But there was still a certain amount of newness at the Nutter Training Facility on Thursday as Joker Phillips prepared for his first season as Kentucky head football coach. There were banners touting Phillips' "Operation Win" theme surrounding the outer fences of the practice fields, and the players got new bags, shoes and gloves after checking in.

The players said little things like that make a big difference in raising their excitement for the upcoming season.

"I'm ready," sophomore defensive end Collins Ukwu said. "It feels like a lot has changed already. We've got a new coaching staff, and even us getting our new gear."

Junior receiver Randall Cobb said now all the players need is black uniforms and cleats, something former coach Rich Brooks wasn't in favor of.

"We're still pushing the black; we want it bad," Cobb said. "Coach Brooks was old-school; he didn't even want to wear black cleats because he thought it would be bad luck after we wore them in the Louisville game and lost. Joker understands, what we wear we feel different when we wear it, so I think he'll be a little more lenient with stuff like that."

Fall semester classes at UK don't begin until Aug. 25, so it will be all about football for the next three weeks. The first official practice takes place on Friday. The entire team will stay in the dorms and will have their car keys taken away. Players were able to keep their cell phones under Brooks but didn't know whether Phillips would take them away or not.

"I hope he doesn't because, if he does, I won't be able to tweet (on Twitter)," Cobb said.

There figures to be plenty of movie-watching and video game-playing going on between practice sessions, which Cobb says is the perfect environment for team building.

"Whenever you stay in the dorms, you gain unity and come together as a team, this is an opportunity for us to get closer and understand what everybody is going through and push each other to succeed," Cobb said.

Sophomore linebacker Ridge Wilson said he's already started preparing for the heat, which was in the upper 90s earlier this week and is expected to be back in the 90s by next week.

"We stopped working out last Thursday and, since then, I've been going to class and then going back to the room and going to sleep," Wilson said. "You've got to save your legs."

All eyes will be on the three-way quarterback competition among Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski. Phillips will make the quarterbacks available to the media on Friday at Media Day, and then they will be off-limits until a starter is announced.

Cobb, viewed as one of the unofficial team spokesmen by the media, knows he will be bombarded with questions about the QBs over the next couple of weeks. And Cobb, also known for his political correctness when answering questions, said he's prepared.

"I know it's coming, and you're going to get the same answer from me," Cobb said. "I'll know when you guys know. We're just going to have to wait and see how things turn out."

■ Incoming recruits were not made available to the media Thursday, and there was no official word on which newcomers reported for camp. Phillips is expected to address that issue and the academic status of redshirt freshman Mister Cobble at Media Day on Friday.

■ Fan Day will take place on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The team will conduct its only open practice of the fall starting at 6 p.m. The open practice will run until 8 and be followed by an introduction of the players and an autograph session. Players and coaches will sign autographs before a fireworks show closes the event at 9:30.

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