Kentucky football held its second and final full-scale scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday so time for our second and final three takeaways, at least where fall scrimmages are concerned.
1. UK finds (again) injuries are an unavoidable fact of camp life
Unfortunately, injuries are an almost unavoidable consequence of any fall football camp — ask the NFL’s Miami Dolphins — and this year Kentucky has proven to be no exception. In last Saturday’s scrimmage, senior offensive tackle Cole Mosier was lost for the season to an ACL tear. In Saturday’s scrimmage, senior wide receiver Dorian Baker suffered an ankle injury whose severity had yet to be determined.
Both Mosier and Baker were/are expected to be regulars, if not full-time starters in Eddie Gran’s offense. Mosier was battling sophomore Landon Young at left tackle. Baker, whose promising career has been hampered by hobbles, spent the summer working toward a standout final campaign. The silver lining is that Coach Mark Stoops believes, perhaps for the first time in his five years, he has sufficient depth to deal with the bad luck.
A five-star prospect coming out of Lafayette High School, Young more than got his feet wet last year as a true freshman. He referred to his collegiate debut at Florida as being “dipped in grease and thrown into the fire.” By season’s end, he was practically splitting time with Mosier. Offensive line coach John Schlarman utilized nine players last year, many at multiple spots. Gran said Saturday the line has taken Mosier’s injury “in stride.”
Baker’s injury, whatever the prognosis, is softened somewhat by the emergence of four fab freshmen — Clevan Thomas, Isaiah Epps, Josh Ali and Javon Richardson. All will travel to Southern Miss for the Sept. 2 season opener, not because of Baker’s injuries, but because they have proved they can play right away.
2. There are first-year players who will be first-game factors
Overall, Stoops said Saturday’s scrimmage at Kroger Field was an improvement over the “OK” one the week before. Gran gave a thumbs-up/thumbs-down review to the offense. He wants more consistency from the quarterbacks, especially on routine plays. He was happy with his running backs. Defensive coordinator Matt House thought his unit took a step forward from the previous week.
What they agree on is that a pair of true freshmen on the defensive side of the ball are worth wowing about. Stoops and House issued the necessary disclaimers. They are freshmen. And freshmen always have a long way to go. Fans should curb their enthusiasm. Still, Josh Paschal and Quinton Bohanna continue to show they can play.
Paschal is a 6-foot-3, 270-pound outside linebacker from Olney, Md. By the coaches’ description, he is big, physical and has excellent “twitch” — a technical term reserved for those who can make quick movements. Paschal is playing behind productive juniors Josh Allen and Denzil Ware, but he’s pushing for playing time.
Bohanna is a 6-4, 320-pound defensive tackle from Cordova, Tenn. From the first day of camp, he has been the subject of spontaneous praise from the coaches. That hasn’t stopped. Not always one to show his enthusiasm, House jumped into the middle of a question Saturday to say Bohanna has improved every practice. Not only will he play right away, he could well start.
3. Maturity matters, and Cats believe they have it
Kentucky won seven games last season. It won at arch-rival Louisville to end the regular season. It played in a bowl game for the first time since 2010. And it was a relatively young team with sophomores and juniors playing key roles.
Naturally, there is the question of whether this team has the maturity level to not only handle success but build upon it?
There’s still so much work daily to do but it’s been fun. The guys have really taken to the coaching.
UK head coach mark Stoops
“I feel like we’re much further ahead in our maturity level,” Stoops said Saturday. “This team has been a lot of fun to coach. I don’t know if it’s different with the structure of it. This is the first time we’ve gone through this structure of training camp without the two-a-days. Starting earlier with the day off and all that.
“I don’t know if that has all to do with it or if the team is just more mature or we’re just further along or the continuity of our staff, but it’s been an enjoyable camp. There’s still so much work daily to do but it’s been fun. The guys have really taken to the coaching. I think it’s very important to them. I feel like we’re further ahead with the details.”
Kentucky 2017 football schedule