Jen Smith on UK Football

What new wide receivers are standing out for Kentucky? And the quickest QB update ever.

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Kentucky’s size, especially in certain situations, could be a big factor this season. Photo by Matt Goins
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Kentucky’s size, especially in certain situations, could be a big factor this season. Photo by Matt Goins

Kentucky football has been practicing for five straight days and the offensive installation is mostly complete, coaches said on Tuesday after practice.

“In the spring we slowed it down,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said, mostly because the Cats are breaking in new quarterbacks. “Now we’re kind of throwing it up all against the wall and saying ‘OK, what do we know, what can we do, what are we going to be good at.’ We had some heads spinning.”

But mostly coaches seemed pleased that when players hit the proverbial wall, they didn’t get down.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and you can see something different,” Gran said. “That’s exciting. They’ve hit the wall, I think, but they’re pushing through it.”

As of Tuesday, UK has red zone and third-down packages in place, Gran said. Then the Cats will start deciding what they run well and what will be best when the season begins in 25 days from now.

“We’ll do situational stuff at night with our walk throughs,” Gran said. “Two-minute, last plays of the game. We’ll continue to get all of that situational stuff put in. Now we’ve got to see what they do best.

“We’ll start taking that stuff when we have time in between, watching the cut-ups. What do we need to run more of? Less of? And we’ll just kind of see now and then. The next two weeks, really, keep force feeding them and then seeing what we’re good at.”

Three different coaches were asked about how Kentucky’s four freshman wide receivers have been playing and if anyone has stood out and no answer was the same.

Gran pointed to Akeem Hayes and Marvin Alexander as players who have stood out at times.

Wide out coach Michael Smith mentioned he was pleased with Allen Dailey, but had good things to say about each of them.

I really like Allen Dailey,” the new coach said. “I think Akeem Hayes has show that he has the quickness we thought he had to separate. Bryce Oliver is back and doing some good things.

“And Marvin Alexander has shown that he can be explosive. So really all four of them are doing some good things. They’re light years away, but that’s expected.”

Co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw has been “impressed with this freshman group” in general.

They’re working their butts off,” he said. “They’re coming in with a great attitude. You don’t hear any (mouthing off) they’re just learning and sucking things in and they’re going out and making plays. So yeah, I’m really excited about all of them. They’re all making plays.”

Speaking of wide receivers, there’s been much talk around camp about the size and length of UK’s offensive skill players. UK has several potential weapons taller than 6-foot-3 in Dorian Baker, Ahmad Wagner, Tavin Richardson, Justin Rigg and C.J. Conrad as well as new tight ends Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw.

On Tuesday, there was a contested play in the corner of the end zone and Upshaw came down with it over one of UK’s taller defenders.

“He outjumped him and made a great catch,” Gran said of Upshaw. “As they get more comfortable with that, if I’m a quarterback and I’m seeing those big bodies, I’m throwing it. You have to. You can’t be afraid; you can’t be fearful. Coach (Stoops) talked to us about that yesterday, just let that thing rip.”

As for the quarterbacks, Gran wasn’t offering much. He started his post-practice media meeting with an opening statement: “They’re both battling. The other two are battling. Next.”

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