Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Who were top players? Where was most progress made? Injury updates

With less than two weeks to go before the Blue-White Spring Game, Mark Stoops seemed optimistic from what he saw in the second spring scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.

“We’re making a lot of progress this spring,” he said after the closed event. “We’ve been fortunate because we haven’t had any major injuries, but we’ve been playing very physical. Good day today.”

Stoops would like to see Kentucky’s defense continue to improve in its run defense, but said he saw signs of progress. And on the other side of that argument is how well UK’s offense is running the ball.

“If you can be a good run defense team against our offense, you know you’re making progress,” Stoops said. “There were some moments where the scrimmage went both ways. I thought the offense was very efficient at times, but I thought the defense stepped up and made some plays and is making some progress. We still have a ways to go.”

As for the offensive side of the ball, Gran liked UK’s efficiency this week and saw fewer penalties overall. “We were a little bit more focused than we were last week, and we looked like we ran the ball a little bit better,” he said.

Short secondary

Senior nickelback Kendall Randolph had surgery on his injured ankle and will miss the rest of spring, Stoops confirmed on Saturday. Randolph had lingering effects of a high ankle sprain, which slowed him much of last season. Doctors decided to do the surgery this spring, get a screw in to stabilize the ankle and have Randolph ready for fall camp.

Junior college transfer Lonnie Johnson didn’t play while battling through a hamstring issue. So the Cats have less depth in the secondary right now. Safety Mike Edwards has been filling in at nickel as well as sophomore cornerback Jordan Griffin.

Barker improving

Bouncing back from back surgery in November, UK quarterback Drew Barker was able to play about 10 plays and led the offense down the field for a touchdown, the coaches said.

Barker seemed comfortable tucking the ball and running with it as well, Gran said. Coaches seemed surprised by the junior’s progress.

“He looked a little more comfortable than I thought he might in a game-like situation,” Stoops said. “I thought he looked good.”

Names to know

On the offensive side of the ball, Gran mentioned that several wide receivers made strong, contested catches like Kayaune Ross, Tavin Richardson “big-time play over on the sideline.” Blake Bone had a long grab. Stoops could only recall one drop from that wide out group. He was pleased with some plays by Garrett Johnson and Charles Walker, but is still looking for someone to step up outside and make explosive plays… Sihiem King caught a touchdown pass and ran for another short one. … A.J. Rose had a long, impressive run, Gran said. “It was good to see him pop through there and see his speed. I was pleased with those young guys, the guys that we've got to get those yards from. I think they're on the right track.” … On defense, Matt House was pleased with Eli Brown, who had a couple tackles for loss, as well as Kengera Daniel. Brown, who plays behind Jordan Jones at the weakside linebacker spot, said he’s doing what he can to get noticed. “Like I tell everybody, I'm not here to be a two. I'm trying to be a one,” he said.

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