LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the first time this spring, the University of Kentucky football team “put the ball down,” as head coach Joker Phillips would say, to scrimmage and see how well the Wildcats are retaining what has been installed so far this spring. UK went through individual workouts and kicking periods for a majority of practice, before scrimmaging for approximately 40 minutes to end the session.
The scrimmage featured the first-team offense vs. the first-team defense and the second-team units against each other. Guiding the first offense, sophomore-to-be quarterback Maxwell Smith threw two touchdown passes, a 20-yarder to senior wide receiver La’Rod King and a 70-yard bomb to redshirt freshman wideout Rashad Cunningham. Second-team QB Jacob Russell also had a pair of TD passes, a 7-yard toss to sophomore wide receiver Demarco Robinson and a 4-yard play to redshirt freshman Bookie Cobbins, who made a magnificent one-handed catch on the sideline of the end zone.
“We got some good fundamental work in and then we got some good live work in,” Phillips said. “We got about 40-50 plays of live stuff. We are still understanding how to play, but we have some good film to show our kids and correct.”
Phillips continued the message that he and the coaching staff are trying to find out who the playmakers will be both offensively and defensively. The head coach said there were several big-time plays made in the scrimmage, but he still wants to see more plays made when the chance arises.
“We are trying to find out who our playmakers are and we have to understand when we get a chance to make a play, whether it’s on defense when a tipped deflection falls in the air and we have a chance to make the pick for six, we have to go make a play,” Phillips said. “The same thing on a ball down the field to a wide-open receiver, you have to make the play. We are trying to find out who are playmakers are, but our kids have to understand when they have a chance to make a play, they have to make it.”
Phillips mentioned several players specifically that did make some plays in the short scrimmage. Offensively, Phillips was impressed with Smith and King, while linebackers Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Avery Williamson caught the head coach’s eye defensively.
“Max Smith played fast today and made some plays with his arm,” Phillips said. “La’Rod King made some big plays for us. Defensively, Bud Dupree is just flying around and is a guy that has improved and made himself bigger and faster. That gives him the ability to play a little bit more in the pass rush. Last year, he was a little light and tried to use his speed as a pass rusher but now he is using some counter moves along with his speed. He can bull-rush people, he can beat people off the edge, and he also has enough athleticism to play out in coverage. Avery Williamson continues to try to lead the defense, too. I am pleased with him.”
Phillips said after the practice/scrimmage that the Wildcats did not have any significant injuries. The head coach said one of the main reasons for that is how his team is learning how to practice. Phillips said the key to practicing without injuries is to proper tackling technique and staying off the ground.
“No injuries today and the thing that is helping us is that we are learning how to practice,” Phillips said. “That means staying up off the ground and facing up ball carriers. When you get injuries is when guys are reaching for ballcarriers or falling on the ground. When you are reaching for ballcarriers, you are getting swung around and missing tackles and that is when you get injured. Or, you end up falling into someone else’s leg and get them injured. We have to face up those ball carriers.”
During the kicking period, junior Joe Mansour averaged 42.7 yards per punt and redshirt freshman Jay Willmott punted for a 42-yard average. Mansour and senior kicker Craig McIntosh made all of their field-goal attempts during that session.
Kentucky will have spring practice No. 7 Wednesday. The Wildcats will hold their first full scrimmage next Saturday.
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Spring Practice Schedule and Notes: Kentucky spring football practice started Wednesday, March 21 and will continue for 14 practices before the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 21.
--Wed. April 4 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m. (individual periods TBA)
--Fri. April 6 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m.
--Sat. April 7 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m. at Commonwealth Stadium
--Wed. April 11 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m.
--Fri. April 13 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m.
--Sat. April 14 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m. at Commonwealth Stadium
--Wed. April 18 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m.
--Fri. April 20 Practice 9 – 11:30 a.m.
--Sat. April 21 Blue/White Spring Game, 6 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium