Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Update on punter competition, names to know in return game, other notes

PRACTICE REPORT

Official depth charts for the opener at Southern Miss come out on Monday, but it sounds like the name for punter is still a blank space. “I’ve got two starters right now,” special teams coordinator Dean Hood said of the battle between last year’s starter Grant McKinniss and graduate transfer Matt Panton. Coaches have put them in a lot of different situations during fall camp to see who performs best in each and they’ve come out even. “They’ve done every situation and those two kids are neck and neck right now.” McKinniss struggled at times last season, finishing No. 12 in the Southeastern Conference in punt average at 39.2 yards, the only regular punter below 40 yards in the league.

• Return game: If Kentucky’s coaches have dramatically narrowed down their lists for punt return and kickoff return, they’re not telling the media. The way the UK kickoff returns are structured, it’s like they have three different players set to receive with the guy in the middle likely to be running back Sihiem King. “King has been our main returner back there and he looks really good and everyone else has been getting reps at the left and right returner and doing well, too,” Hood said. The special teams coach noted that on punt, last year’s regular returner, Charles Walker, has looked “really good,” and Hood mentioned that defensive back Mike Edwards and newcomer Lynn Bowden have put in work at that job, too. “The freshman, Bowden, really wasn’t a punt returner, but he’s got that skill set, so we’re working him some,” Hood said. “He’s no doubt one of that group of guys I was talking about that can be a kick returner. He’s working punt return game, too, and not looking bad.” Other new names mentioned as part of kick returns included running back Benny Snell and redshirt safety Davonte Robinson, a former Henry Clay star.

• Other notes: Defensive coordinator Matt House said they only recorded five missed tackles in Saturday’s scrimmage, which he saw as a significant improvement for his group. … Both offense and defense were running wind sprints after practice. When asked if they were a part of a punishment, House smiled and said: “No preparation.” … Defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna, who has drawn high praise in camp, is still behind nose guards Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam on the depth chart, position coach Derrick LeBlanc said, noting that it was the seniors’ job to play well enough to keep the true freshman on the sidelines this season.

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