Three quick takeaways from Kentucky football’s open practice at Fan Day on Saturday at the Joe Craft Football Training Center:
1. Drew Barker is moving well
The junior quarterback is obviously No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Stephen Johnson, but it was good to see Barker moving around well, making throws on the run, doing most of what he was doing before a back injury ended his 2016 season just three games into the campaign.
Barker, who opened as the starter last season before Johnson stepped in and led the Cats to a bowl game, was limited in the spring after his November back surgery. On Media Day last Sunday, he reported that he felt 100 percent and he looked it Saturday -- even if quarterbacks wore the red “no-contact” jerseys during practice.
“He looks very confident and stronger, can make all the throws again,” said head coach Mark Stoops on Saturday. “Last time we saw him in the spring he wasn’t quite 100 percent and he was tentative like you would expect. He had a major surgery that he dealt with a lot of plays. The last time I saw him he wasn’t the same as he is now. It’s really nice to see him out there strong, confident and just going through practice.”
Johnson will take the first snap under center on Sept. 2 at Southern Miss, but look for Barker to push the senior for playing time.
2. Lynn Bowden is here in the flesh
I’ll admit, I had my doubts. When UK announced on Media Day that top freshman recruit Lynn Bowden was not yet with the team, that he had not yet been cleared academically by the NCAA, given the history of Kentucky football, the first inclination was that this was trouble. Would Bowden show at all?
Yet there he was Friday walking through the Football Training Center. And there he was Saturday, in a red “no-contact” No. 1 jersey, catching passes out of the slot, fielding punts and trying to familiarize himself with Eddie Gran’s offense.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Youngstown is behind. He missed five practices before being approved by the NCAA on Friday. And Stoops said Saturday they will be careful not to give Bowden more than he can handle. Still, given his talent and clippings, just being on the practice field is a good sign for an offense that will find ways to utilize his skills.
3. Keep an eye on Josh Paschal
Friday, the 6-3, 270-pound true freshman linebacker from Olney, Md. whom Kentucky secured in a recruiting battle with Penn State, earned high praise from senior offensive tackle Kyle Meadows.
“He’s gonna be the truth,” said Meadows. “He’s going to be real when he gets older, gets stronger; learns new techniques instead of using the same moves, gets stronger with (director of performance Corey Edmond). I’ve never seen a freshman PSI of 4,000 on 350 squat. That’s explosion and you can tell when he uses it in pass rush. So he’s going to be promising when he gets older.”
Saturday, Stoops echoed those thoughts.
“Very good football player,” said the head coach. “What’s great about Josh is, he has a lot of things going for him. He’s physically what you’re looking for, but he’s a great kid, very consciousness. He works hard. He’s a gym rat. He’s one of those guys a lot like Jordan Griffin. He’s in here. Football’s very important to him. He’s in here all the time, he’s taking care of his body, he’s lifting, he’s running, and he’s got instincts. He’s definitely gonna be a guy that plays as well.”