Sidelines with John Clay

Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s 2019 spring game

Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s annual Blue-White Spring Game at Kroger Field, a 64-10 win for the Blue team made up mostly of starters:

1. The offense did look explosive

First play of the night, UK ran a trick play with wide receiver Lynn Bowden lining up at quarterback in what could have been the wildcat formation, with quarterback Terry Wilson split out wide. Instead, Bowden threw a lateral to Wilson, who returned the favor by throwing a pass for an 8-yard gain to Bowden. It sort of set up the night for things to come.

Not long after, Wilson hit Bowden with a 42-yard touchdown pass. Later, Wilson hit Isaiah Epps with a 60-yard pass. A.J. Rose ripped off a 42-yard run. And fellow running back Kavosiey Smoke scored on an 87-yard run.

True, this came against UK’s second-string defense, but one of the goals of the spring was for the Cats to come up with more explosive plays on offense. After all, running back Benny Snell is no longer around to grind out rushing yards. His heir apparent, Rose, is a shiftier runner. Though the junior from Cleveland can pick up the tough yards, look for him to break more long-gainers.

Meanwhile, the hope is that with a year of being the starting quarterback under his belt, Wilson will be more comfortable with his deep throws. He showed that Friday, hitting several receivers in stride on the way to completing 10 of 12 passes for 191 yards.

“We go together like peanut butter and jelly,” said Bowden, who caught four passes for 66 yards and a score. “I’m the jelly because I’m slippery.”

2. Don’t worry too much right now about the depth

Given the way the White team performed, you could be worried about the depth on this football team. The White team, after all, was comprised mostly of second-teamers. Given the significant personnel losses from last year, especially on defense, you might think there would be some cause for concern.

While admitting the reserves need work, Mark Stoops pretty much shrugged off the issue after the game. Whenever you split up offense and defense you’re going to have depth issues and sloppy play in a spring game. And it’s always unwise to read too much into a spring game, good or bad. The tried-and-true example we use around here is the 1977 spring game under Fran Curci. That game ended in a 0-0 tie. And the ’77 team went on to a 10-1 season.

The major issue with much of Stoops’ depth is youth. You can’t expect the limited amount of practices in spring ball to give the younger players the needed experience. Plus, undoubtedly some true freshmen will step into reserve roles next season. My guess is Stoops is more concerned about next season’s first-time starters right now. He’ll worry about the depth come fall.

3. Chance Poore will be an offensive weapon

One of the best things about last year’s new redshirt rule was that true freshmen could get their feet wet and still not lose their redshirt years. As long as you did not play more than four games, of course. Poore played in three games last season, in which the Anderson, South Carolina, native made two of three field goals.

“I think that helped me a lot,” he said Friday. “I know I made mistakes.”

Friday, the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder was perfect on a 52-yard field goal. True, there was no rush as Stoops opted to not go live on special teams. Still, Poore’s kick would have easily been good from 60 yards. The reputation he had last season of having an extremely strong leg appears right on the mark.

That could be big for a team that next season will probably need to score more points than the 2018 UK offense. Having a kicker who is a weapon from longer distances should help in the close games that can either make or break a college football season.

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