UK Football

Cats beat the heat on first practice in full pads

If you wanted to know what it was like for Kentucky's first full-pads practice Tuesday, all you had to do was look at the long line surrounding the ice water tubs at Nutter Training Center after the workout.

The Cats went out in the middle of the afternoon in full gear with temperatures in the 90s and the heat index over 100. Several players said it was the hottest football practice they had ever taken part in.

"By far," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "I think it was hotter than the Louisville game when we played down there a couple of years ago. I've never practiced in this kind of heat in my entire life."

Senior running back Derrick Locke, an Oklahoma native, is no stranger to hot weather. But Tuesday's practice pushed even him to his limits.

"It was burning up out here, I'm not going to lie," Locke said. "It was starting to get the best of a lot of people here."

The good news, though, is that despite the heat, the UK players pushed through and made it through practice without any incidents, which pleased Coach Joker Phillips.

"It was a hot one, but there was no complaining," Phillips said. "Guys practiced hard with a lot of enthusiasm."

As a senior leader, Locke said it was particularly important for him not to cave in to the elements.

"It's rough; I'm talking to myself saying, 'I gotta suck it up, I gotta go, I don't want Coach saying anything to me,'" he said. "I'm a leader, so what would it look like if I'm out there not going hard? The young players would be like, 'Well, if Locke ain't doing it, I ain't doing it, and I'm not going to have that."

Tuesday's practice should help acclimate the Cats for the season opener at Louisville. Considering the game will be played at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, the conditions could be similar.

"There's no telling how hot it will be for the Louisville game," Lumpkin said. "This was actually good for us. If it's that hot, what are you going to say during the game? You can't quit. You've just got to keep going. If you get used to it now you'll be even better in the game."

Scorching hot practices are considerably tougher for 300-pound tackles like Lumpkin and freshman Donte Rumph, but the players said they drank plenty of liquids before they hit the field and were given numerous water breaks during practice.

It was Rumph's first practice in full pads in nearly two years, and he said he held up better than he expected.

"I'm kind of glad it was this hot; it will help me get in shape faster," he said. "Being able to go so hard and get through a practice like this, you feel great."

Phillips praised the intensity level of senior receiver Chris Matthews after practice.

"We've challenged him," Phillips said. "We need him. We've got two dynamic players (Randall Cobb and Locke) and how big is it if you have three? That makes a huge difference when another one comes with them. He did everything he was supposed to do in the blocking area, his routes had intensity, and he attacked the football. That was music to my ears."

Cal visits practice

UK basketball coach John Calipari braved the heat to visit Tuesday's practice.

"I loved having Coach Cal out," Phillips said. "He and I got to visit during practice, and he was excited about some of the drills, the sumo drill, where we call them up and get after it."

Phillips was asked if he invited Calipari to take part in the sumo drill, in which two players fire out on a coach's cadence and attempt to drive- block each other from the circle. The drill does not end until one player has been driven either to the ground or out of the circle.

"Nah, we don't have that kind of insurance," he said.

Receivers shave heads

Several UK receivers shaved their heads this week as a sign of team unity, including Cobb, Matthews, Brian Adams, E.J. Fields, LaRod King, Matt Roark and Ed Berry. One receiver who didn't go bald was Gene McCaskill. Cobb initially said McCaskill declined because he was a "pretty boy" but then went into further detail about McCaskill's reasoning.

"He said his head was too big and he's got these lumps on the side of his head and didn't want anybody to see it," Cobb said.