Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s first weekend of 2019, including Media Day on Friday and the Fan Day open practice on Saturday:
1. Interest in UK football is up
That’s to be expected for a team that went 10-3 and won a New Year’s Bowl game last season. Ticket sales are up. There were long lines for autographs at Fan Day on Saturday morning and a long line to get into that morning’s practice which was open to the public and media.
“That was a fantastic turnout for Fan Day,” said head coach Mark Stoops on Saturday. “It’s great to see them all out there, good for our players to see that.”
The lines were so long not all were able to get autographs.
“I feel bad because I know we’ve got to get to practice,” said Stoops. “You have to put some kind of a time limit on it, but you do want to accommodate everybody. We really appreciate that support and it’s fun to spend some time with them.”
Even with the significant personnel losses from a year ago, there’s plenty of curiosity about those next-in-line, players we’ve perhaps seen on a limited basis who will now have more important roles.
2. There are job candidates in the secondary
A huge training camp storyline involves the defensive backs. Gone are cornerbacks Lonnie Johnson, Derrick Baity and Chris Westry, as well as safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West. Gone for the season is Davonte Robinson, the safety and former Henry Clay High School star who tore a quad muscle before the start of camp.
Judging by Saturday’s practice, the receivers are ahead of the secondary, but there are plenty of candidates among the defensive backs. If one young player isn’t quite ready or working out, Stoops along with corners coach Steve Clinkscale and safeties coach Dean Hood have options.
“We’re much better at certain areas,” said Stoops when asked to compare this group to when the departed seniors first entered the program. “That’s where we’re not interested in going backwards and taking a drop. We’re just inexperienced at certain positions. That’s just the way it is. Hopefully, our front and linebackers and things like that can help us.”
As Josh Moore mentioned on our video Saturday, one DB who stuck out Saturday was Cedrick Dort. In fact, the 5-11 sophomore from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida earned a shout-out from wide receiver Lynn Bowden at SEC Football Media Days last month.
3. Yes, this is going to be a young team
There is no way getting around that the 2019 Wildcats will be made up of young Wildcats. There is talent on this team, but most of it is young, inexperienced talent. Consider:
The secondary is filled with sophomores, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen. Inside linebackers Chris Oats an Deandre Square both sophomores. One will start alongside senior Kash Daniel. Jared Casey, a true freshman, was running at second-team outside linebacker.
Sophomore Darian Kinnard could be the starter at right offensive tackle. Sophomore Naasir Watkins is in the mix there, as well. Redshirt freshmen Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke are right behind A.J. Rose at running back. Keep an eye on true freshman running back Travis Tisdale. Redshirt freshman Keaton Upshaw and Brenden Bates are right behind Justin Rigg at tight end. Redshirt freshman Bryce Oliver could be a major factor at wide receiver.
I’m sure I’m leaving out others. This week, we’ll have interviews with offensive players and coaches on Tuesday; defensive players and coaches on Thursday.
▪ For my Sunday column, I asked the question what’s a realistic goal for Kentucky football in 2019? To me, a bowl game should be the goal. That would mark four straight postseason appearances and keep the momentum going from last season, even if it’s not another 10-3 season.
▪ Josh Moore has notes from Saturday’s open practice, including some news on the injury front. There are already bumps, bruises and worrisome hamstrings.
▪ Ben Roberts reports on UK basketball’s newest commitment. Cam’Ron Fletcher joins B.J. Boston as class of 2020 pledges for John Calipari’s club.
▪ Jerry Tipton’s Sunday notebook led with a UK basketball fan unhappy with the team’s home schedule to the point where he’s seriously considering not renewing his season tickets.