Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Baker bouncing back, RB rotations, creating options at tackle

▪  Baker bouncing back: Kentucky star wide receiver Dorian Baker has missed some time while coming back from his hamstring injury, but the junior spent a lot of extra time after practice on Tuesday night working on the JUGS machine, first catching darts from 10 yards out while on his knees and then from 20 yards out that were positioned well over his head. Until he injured his hamstring, Baker had impressed his offensive coordinator. “He was as good as we got,” Eddie Gran said. “He was practicing fast and physical, competing and doing everything we asked him to do.”

▪  Richardson fighting for time: And while the “OR” on the depth chart between Baker and Tavin Richardson probably had something to do with that injury, Richardson has been trying to claim that top spot, too. “Right now, Tavin’s the guy,” Gran said. “You just got to move forward. You can’t worry about it. You’ve had some competition and those guys get the opportunity. He’s made the most of it. He’s gone out here and competed and so I’m proud for him.”

▪  Running back rotation: Don’t be surprised to see five different running backs get a shot in the game on Saturday. Gran certainly didn’t rule it out. “Right now if they’re fresh and they know what to do, I say ‘Let’s go.’ And in the fourth quarter, let’s hope our legs are fresher than theirs.” The five players in that rotation appear to be Boom Williams, Jojo Kemp (with that magical “OR” between them for the top spot on the depth chart) Mikel Horton, Sihiem King and true freshman Benny Snell. As for Kemp, Gran had big things to say about the senior, who has impressed this camp. “He’s really trying,” Gran said. “He probably has been the most consistent back throughout this camp. He’s doing everything that we’re asking him to do.” (That likely wasn’t a knock on Williams, who has been limited in camp as he comes back from offseason elbow surgery.)

▪  Tackling tackles: At the start of camp, coaches said they needed to find some extra options at tackle, which has meant some mixing and matching with some of the players inside, including sophomore George Asafo-Adjei. He is listed as backup at both right tackle and right guard. Long-time right tackle Kyle Meadows has spent some time at left tackle and Nick Haynes has been outside some, too, Gran said. “So we’ve had about a four-man rotation just in case there was an emergency.”

▪  Preaching team: There has been a lot of talk this offseason about playing for team and not for self and Gran said he believes the offensive players have bought in. Now, what will that mean after a win or after a loss? What will that mean for a player when he gets just two catches? All of those questions are still unanswered. “Saturday night there’s going to be some times when it’s not going to be so fun,” Gran said. “There’s going to be some ups and downs. That’s what I can’t wait for: How are we going to respond to the downs?”

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