Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Kentucky gets key playmakers back as new ones emerge

▪  Baker’s back: Kentucky is hopeful that wide receiver Dorian Baker’s hamstring issues are behind him. He was able to go 100 percent at practice on Monday and Tuesday and spent a lot of time after practice working with Johnson and fellow wide out Kayaune Ross. “We connected a lot during practice today and obviously getting reps after practice helps a lot too,” Johnson said of Baker, who led UK last season with 55 catches for 608 yards and three touchdowns. “Definitely a really good thing to have him back.” As for how much he’ll play against Vanderbilt and how much rust the junior receiver will have to shake off, those things remain to be seen. “He hasn’t had much game time experience yet,” Gran said. “But what he brings is that physicality, big body, fast, strong and does all the things you want a receiver to do. Now it’s going to be how many reps do we do? Would we put him in there and what he knows. We’ll know that at the end of the week.”

▪  Richardson’s big plays: In Baker’s absence, redshirt freshman wide receiver Tavin Richardson has emerged as a key playmaker, too. He had two big catches on third down at Alabama last week, which pleased his coaches. “Those are big-league catches with a guy on your back and then shakes him and gets a first down,” Gran said. “That’s what you want to see from your wide receivers. That was awesome. That was really good to see.” So far this season, Richardson has six catches for 120 yards.

▪  ‘Not gonna beat a dead horse’: These days Stephen Johnson can’t touch the ball in practice without having someone trying to rip it out of his hands. The Kentucky quarterback is on the blaster machine (which pummels arms to aid in ball protection). Whatever coaches can do to help the junior college transfer avoid the costly fumbles he’s had in recent games, they’re doing it. “I'm not gonna beat a dead horse,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “He knows the deal. He can't do it anymore. It's unacceptable. That's the deal. So we're gonna keep coaching it and coaching it hard and he's gotta handle it. He's gotta take care of the rock.” For his part, Johnson said he’s doing whatever he can to avoid the mistakes and he thinks the more practice he gets the better. “It’s just something you have to work on, me in particular, is ball protection,” he said. “Keeping it high and tight and having it secured in the pocket.”

▪  Mosier returning, too: UK also will be getting starting left tackle Cole Mosier back for the Vanderbilt game, which gives the Cats some more depth at a key position. It’s unclear who will start, but true freshman Landon Young will still see significant action. “Now, you got a fresher Landon, you got a fresher Cole, and so it just helps us in terms of the depth and then the plays that they're gonna get,” Gran said. “Now you don't have to play Landon 60 plays, you don't have to play Cole 60 plays.”▪