The last time Kentucky coaches and players were made available for interviews was on Saturday after the Cats’ first scrimmage of the season at Kroger Field.
Their reviews weren’t exactly mixed.
“I expected more out of these guys across the board,” Coach Mark Stoops said that day.
Adding: “Felt like it was just average across the board. I didn’t really see exceptional play from either side. I just felt like it was good enough to be average today. Really not what we’re looking for. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
A lot of that work started to happen in practices on the Monday and Tuesday after the scrimmage with much more positive assessments coming from Cats coaches on the offensive side of the ball Tuesday.
“The last two days, we have gotten better,” co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw said. “They’re understanding sense of urgency. Big thing we’re talking about now on our team is trust. As quarterbacks, we’ve got to trust that the wide-out is going to get open.”
The quarterbacks had their share of misfires, mostly in the form of overthrows, something that plagued the Cats in the first half of the Blue-White Spring Game and even in the open practice two weeks ago.
“That’s one thing that glared when we finally got to the stadium: Blood pressure got up, got a little excited and overthrew some receivers,” Hinshaw said of QB candidates like Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson.
For co-offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, one positive he’s seen from the UK quarterbacks is that they’re learning from some of these early problems.
“I think the learning curve part of it, you saw in the last two days they’re knowing where to go with the ball quicker,” Gran said. “That has been really, really good. Not so good in the scrimmage. Again, we took a step that way, too. I thought today and yesterday they picked up their game.”
This is a huge week for the Kentucky offense, ending in another scrimmage Saturday.
“This is kind of where we make our team,” Gran added. “I liked the way we came out the last two days. We were able to push the ball down the field. Made some plays today. I thought we got a little bit better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we definitely got better from Saturday.”
▪ One “positive” Gran took from Saturday’s scrimmage was the play of freshman running backs Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez, who got a lot of looks with Benny Snell out with a calf strain and A.J. Rose out of town at a funeral.
“I thought those two kids ran really hard,” Gran said of the newcomers. “They’ve got really good vision and they bring a lot of power. They’ve got really good hands. I was pleased with those guys.”
FYI: Snell was back in full uniform and pads practicing on Tuesday.
▪ It doesn’t sound like the multiple-tight end set potential is lip service. As UK tries to solidify its depth at slot receiver spots, the four tight ends — including two veterans in C.J. Conrad and Justin Rigg — offer intriguing possibilities.
“I really like that because you can be in different personnel
groupings and especially formations,” Gran added.
Having high-level players at the running back and tight end positions as well as an advanced offensive line gives Kentucky plenty of options.
“So I think the playbook is open, I really do,” Gran said. “You’ve got a chance to do anything you want and stretch the field down vertically, and you’ve got a chance to be a power run game all at the same time.”
▪ Freshman wide receivers are trying to make plays to get themselves on the field this season. “All of them have shown some flashes when they get their opportunities,” wide receivers coach Michael Smith said, “but their opportunities have been a little bit limited because of the guys they have in front of them right now.” He singled out Allen Dailey as the player who is probably the furthest along of that group. But he’s been limited by a sprain.