LEXINGTON, Ky. – Termed an “assignment day” by Coach Rich Brooks, the Kentucky football team had a two and one-half hour practice Wednesday morning at the Nutter Training Facility.
The Wildcats had long periods of full-team work during the practice, with a lot of upper-body hitting, but no tackling to the ground. The team worked primarily on reviewing and sharpening assignments on offense, defense, and special teams.
After practice, Brooks noted that junior running back Rafael Little is expected to be ready to go in August after undergoing surgery for a dislocated wrist on Tuesday. The coach also said that wide receiver Keenan Burton, who has been sidelined while rehabilitating a foot injury, might begin running routes next week but will not go through the contact portions of practice.
Lewis Growing this Spring: It takes time for plants to take root and the same often can be said of football players. A prime example is Dominic Lewis, who is blossoming this spring at defensive end.
A fullback and linebacker in high school, Lewis began his collegiate career as a tight end, then saw time at fullback and tailback during his first two and one-half years at UK. Blessed with excellent size (6-3, 263) and athleticism, the coaches moved Lewis from position to position in order to try to find a place for his considerable abilities. But the frequent changes also made it tough for him to get accustomed to one spot and he never really found a home.
Eventually, Lewis landed at defensive end in the spring of 2005. He played sparingly last fall, making two tackles in six games. Staying at end this spring, now with a full year at the position, Lewis has been one of the pleasant developments of the spring practice period.
Lewis began receiving notice for his improved play at the beginning of the spring. He built on it with an outstanding performance last Saturday in the team’s first major scrimmage, when he had a quarterback sack, a tackle for loss on a running play, and a fumble recovery.
Coach Rich Brooks has noted the great job that defensive-line coach Rick Petri has done with Lewis, a compliment Petri deals with modestly.
“Dominic deserves the credit because he wanted to do the work to get better. He’s stayed the course and stayed positive,” Petri said. “He has all the ability in the world and I think the chance to play has inspired him. He’s become a more physical player and his reaction time has improved. Defense is reaction and it takes awhile to learn how to react. The only way to learn is through repetition and now he’s been through a year of reps.”
Lewis agrees that having an entire year at defensive end has been an important factor in his progress.
“Having a whole year at the position has given me a new outlook on the game. I’m seeing things that I haven’t seen before,” said Lewis, a rising junior from Radcliff, Ky. “When I first started playing end, I tried to make every play. But defense is a team game. You have to learn to play your gap (assignment), then take advantage of opportunities. I like it more than I did at first. I like the opportunity to be aggressive.”
Lewis’ emergence couldn’t have come at a better time. Kentucky has only two players, senior Durrell White and sophomore Nii Adjei Oninku, with significant experience at defensive end. The team greatly needs additional contributors at the positions and Lewis appears to be growing into the role quite nicely.