UK Football

Some observations from Kentucky’s first open practice

Mark Stoops highlights open practice

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about running back Boom Williams, quarterback Drew Barker and some nice catches by the receivers during the team's open practice on Saturday.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about running back Boom Williams, quarterback Drew Barker and some nice catches by the receivers during the team's open practice on Saturday.

Despite soupy, almost swamp-like conditions, hundreds of Kentucky fans flooded the new practice fields for a first glimpse of the team this season.

Some casual observations from the second practice of fall camp:

▪  Despite being 100 percent cleared after offseason elbow surgery, UK running back Boom Williams was in a red no-contact jersey, as were the quarterbacks.

Coach Mark Stoops said the junior was in blue for the first practice on Friday, but the color change is not an indication of any lingering issues.

“He’s good to go,” Stoops said of Williams, who made several explosive runs and catches in the middle of the field. “The object with him with the red is not to bring him to the ground. We’re not supposed to be doing that right now anyway. He’s fine. He’s good to go.

“We will be smart with him. We can’t be silly. He’s had some major injuries. So, we’ll have him ready to play but we do have to be somewhat cautious and let him work his way back.”

▪  Williams wasn’t the only one making big grabs on Saturday. There were several from senior Ryan Timmons (who had just one bad drop) as well as Dorian Baker, Jabari Greenwood, Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet.

“They made some competitive catches,” Stoops said. “I like seeing that. I like seeing good coverage and good catches, because that’s what’s going to happen.”

Always a defensive backs coach, Stoops had to note the competitive plays opposite those receivers. One of them included a pretty pick for Marcus McWilson and another for true freshman Jordan Griffin.

▪  Starting quarterback Drew Barker looked in command of the offense while working with the first team, with Stoops saying later that the sophomore has been “very decisive” early in camp.

But there’s still plenty for him to work on.

“We had some deep balls open again that we’ve got to connect on,” the head coach said. “We’re constantly working on that, fundamentally from receivers to throwing the ball accurately as well. But there’s some things we can do better to connect on some deep balls.”

▪  Sophomore Jared Tucker, listed third string on the depth chart at cornerback going into fall camp, asked for and was granted his release, Stoops announced.

“Jared is going to go play somewhere else,” he said. “Really appreciate Jared. He’s a fine, young man and wish him the very best. There was no animosity on either side. He wants to go somewhere where he can get on the field and play.”

▪  Several players went down during the nearly two-hour practice with cramps, including linebacker De’Niro Laster and wide out Dorian Baker (after making a nice catch).

“That’s par for the course right now across the country,” Stoops said. “There will be some IV bags going up in there, but they’ll be fine.”

▪  There were a couple periods for punt return on Saturday, with Ryan Timmons, Jeff Badet, Garrett Johnson and Charles Walker each getting reps.

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