Kentucky position series stories

For the past nine days, we’ve brought you a series of stories highlighting each of the Cats’ position groups. Here are all of them in one handy dandy place:

  • RUNNING BACKS: All you need to know about Sihiem King is he’s fast. “He talks fast; he walks fast; he’s very fast,” his position coach noted of the true freshman, who will be an impact player.
  • WIDE RECEIVERS: So many potential playmakers means Cats have some “really good problems out there.”
  • OFFENSIVE LINE: Drifting five miles down a lazy river in Gatlinburg helped Cats find their connection.
  • TIGHT ENDS: A redshirt season was just what Darryl Long needed to become a potential Wildcat weapon.
  • QUARTERBACKS: Whether lip syncing Backstreet Boys or facing Florida in The Swamp, Patrick Towles never lacks for confidence.
  • LINEBACKERS: The word “soft” still makes senior Josh Forrest cringe a little bit, but he’s learned from mistakes and become a true leader.
  • DEFENSIVE BACKS: Kentucky’s safeties sit up a little straighter when position coach/head coach Mark Stoops enters the room.
  • DEFENSIVE LINE: Home is far away for defensive tackle Melvin Lewis, but it drives him every day.
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Specialists Landon Foster and Austin MacGinnis have a leg up on mental aspect of the game.

 

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Friday’s practice report

Kentucky practiced at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night, not a full scrimmage, but some situational work.

  • Slow start: Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said the practice started off poorly but the last hour the team showed the ability to push through. Mostly the offense worked on deep balls. “It’s something we’ve struggled with the last couple days, and so it was good,” Dawson said. “We put a big emphasis on that today, so it was good to complete some, which we did, which was good to see.” Quarterback Patrick Towles was asked who some of UK’s biggest threats were on the edges and he mentioned Dorian Baker, Blake Bone and Jeff Badet. Badet specifically caught the junior’s eye (and his passes). Towles noted that Badet went up to him a week ago and said, “Hey, just throw it as far as you can, and I’ll go catch it,” Towles recalled. It was “really comforting to hear. And also I saw that about twice today, which is nice.”
  • Talking the line: UK’s offensive coordinator and line coach John Schlarman both said they were comfortable going about 10 deep on the offensive line with seven or eight guys who will regularly rotate in, with the ninth and 10th players being backup center Zach Myers, who had a great spring and fall camp, the line coach said, as well as red-shirt freshman Bunchy Stalllings. “I feel like we’ve got 10 guys that we can go out there and win ball games with, and that’s a good thing.” Schlarman mentioned that Cole Mosier and Nick Haynes both have cross-trained at tackle and guard. “I’ve kept Nick mostly on the left side, left guard, left tackle positions,” he said. “I’ve kept Cole mostly on the right side, right guard, right tackle. Cole’s played a little left from last year so I know he could go over there and do that if we needed to.”
  • Injury report: Kyle Meadows, who struggled with migraines early in fall camp, has been fine since then, Schlarman said. … Quarterback Reese Phillips, who missed the spring with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, has been in getting third-team reps, Dawson said. He got about eight reps on Friday. “I would say he’s close to 100 (percent),” Dawson said. “He was close enough to 100 in the last week to start giving him some team reps. … We’re slowly putting him in there.”
  • Ticket update: Kentucky officials reported today that as of Thursday student general admission season ticket packages are sold out at Commonwealth Stadium. There are still some other tickets available for students who didn’t get in on the package deal.
  • Daily link: Defensive tackle and team leader Melvin Lewis found himself at Kentucky after a rough upbringing in Compton, Calif.

 

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Q&A with Dawson after Friday’s practice

SHANNON DAWSON
On how practice was: “Started out I think bad, but it ended up — I thought it started out really slow, and then I think the last hour of practice was really good to see our guys push through. I thought we had a really good end of practice, which was good because it’s good finish better than you started obviously.”

On if there will be a sign he looks for early in games to suggest how a game goes: “Not really. Definitely not anything before the game. I think coaches try to analyze that stuff before the game throughout the history of time. There’s no way to tell. I think pre-game — you don’t know. I think that there’s times where you start out really bad and you end up settling in. I mean, there’s been games where we threw a pick-six — I remember two games specifically where we threw a pick-six on the very first play of the game and then we came back and won by 30 or so. I mean, who knows? I can tell you one thing for sure: something bad is going to happen in the game. That’s universal in every game, and typically how you respond to that is how the outcome is going to be. So, I don’t know if it will be at the beginning or middle or end, but at some point you’re going to have peaks and valleys.”

On if he’s having fun in camp: “In camp? We have fun with the players, yeah. There’s times. I mean, every day is different. Today I wasn’t having fun until the end.”

On what he liked about the end of practice: “We’re emphasizing throwing and completing deep balls really. So it’s something we’ve struggled with the last couple days, and so it was good. We put a big emphasis on that today, so it was good to complete some, which we did, which was good to see.”

On how Towles has played recently: “He’s been fine. Playing consistent. I mean, everybody has got their times, but overall he’s been consistent. I’m proud of him.”

On Reese Phillips’ status: “He’s No. 3 right now, but he’s getting some reps.”

On if Phillips is healthy: “I would say he’s close to 100. I mean, he was close enough to 100 in the last week to start giving him some team reps. So obviously he’s missed a spring and an offseason, so we’re slowly putting him in there. But mentally when he gets in there, he took reps today — I think like eight — and he did some good things. When you’re injured, there’s really nothing.”

On if he has finalized his plans for which coaches will be on the field and which will be in the box: “We’ve been working it out for the last month. When we scrimmage or whatever we going to put guys up there and on the field. We have a plan, put it that way. It’s not a very complicated plan. We’re going to have guys in the box that tell me specific things. I do put an emphasis on guys on the field. I think it’s important to have as many full-time coaches on the field as you can because they’re the people that the players come off to and look at, and that’s who communicates with them every day. So we’re definitely going to have people in the box to talk to me and talk to Schlarman about the fronts or whatever, but we’re going to put a huge emphasis on the field, too.”

On how he handles substitutions: “I do it over the headsets. What are you talking about, specific people or formations? (Whether position coaches handle subbing in for their spots, etc.) Well, I mean, leading up to the game, say end of the week or whatever, we’ll have basically a depth chart of every formation that we run. Let’s say, for instance, say two-by-two. And then we’ll say, ‘OK, when I call for Ace, these are the guys I want. And if this guy goes down or is tired or whatever, then this is the guy I want.’ So we’ll have basically a two-deep for every formation. And then the process is basically: If we run a play and then we want another formation, I just say in the headset, ‘I want 20 personnel next play,’ and then I’ll probably huddle and then the specific coaches will send the 20 personnel we talked about into the game. And if something happens outside of that, we’ll talk about it between drives. If so and so is nicked up, this guy’s hurt, we need to make a plan and then we’ll adjust accordingly.”

On his confidence level from when he first arrived to now: “It’s high. It’s high. I think there’s still – whenever you’re new – I do think there’s a honeymoon period and then there’s a process of playing a game together. So there’s still some unknowns. There’s some unknowns with our players and everything that’s going to get ironed out through the course of playing a game. So I told the coaches the other day I’m excited about seeing how our guys are going to compete in the game. Obviously games are different than practice and so I think they’ll respond great, to be honest with you. I have the utmost confidence in them. So my confidence is high, but I’m still eager – eager to see who’s going to rise; who’s going to rise whenever the lights are on.”

On how much they know about Louisiana Lafayette’s defense (new coordinator): “We have a general concept in our mind of what they’re going to do, but to be honest with you, you really don’t know. That’s just what it is. I mean, I could sit here and lie to you and tell you that we did, but we don’t. Whenever you’re dealing with the first game of the season and staff changes and a lot of personnel changes that they’re going through, then we don’t know. But I’ve always been – my belief has always been: do what you do good. I’ve always believed that. And then what helps us in this situation is that our defense is so multiple that it really doesn’t matter to me. There’s really nothing that they can come out in that would schematically change a lot of what they’re doing. Obviously there’s certain things that we would lean to versus this front or that front or that coverage. But ultimately, we’re going to go out and do what we do and execute.”

On how many O-linemen UK has that it feels good about playing: “We have 10. We got 10 that we’re going to rep and get ready for the game. And probably, I would legitimately say seven or eight of those guys will rotate.”

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Thursday’s practice report

Mark Stoops was in a fun, playful mood as he met with the media on Thursday, Kentucky’s first day of starting to prep for Louisiana Lafayette.

  •  Flannigan on way back: Weakside linebacker Ryan Flannigan said with much conviction that he will be back for the Cats’ season opener against Louisiana Lafayette on Sept. 5. The senior, who is practicing but in a red, no-contact jersey, said he’s been staying sharp, getting mental reps after injuring his shoulder two weeks ago. Stoops seemed to be feeling better about Flannigan’s eminent return. “He’s got a full range of motion,” Stoops said. “He’s got to get 100 percent strength back in his shoulder before we can let him have contact, so hopefully that’ll happen in the next couple days.” We also finally got word from Flannigan about how the injury actually occurred in practice: in a contact drill with new defensive tackle turned fullback Jacob Hyde. “It was something that just happened out of the blue, but you know it happened,” Flannigan said. “It’s football.” Flannigan noted that you don’t usually see a fullback that weighs in at 320 pounds. “He’s a big boy, definitely a big boy,” Flannigan laughed.
  • Freshman chatter: Stoops went through a laundry list of true freshman that likely will see time on the field this season. They included (but are certainly not limited to): cornerbacks Chris Westry and Derrick Baity, tight end C.J. Conrad, linebackers Jordan Jones, Josh Allen and Eli Brown, offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei and running back Sihiem King. As for freshman wide receivers Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood, Stoops said they were still a maybe. They’re in the mix. They are,” he said. “We feel good about those guys. They could. We’ll wait and see.” Even though he wasn’t mentioned, it’s likely that Kengera Daniel will be on the field this season as well.
  • Walk-on wide out leaves: The Kentucky roster was updated this afternoon and there were a few bits of news. First, walk-on wide receiver Cameron Fogle has left the team, UK confirmed. The 5-foot-11 wide receiver from Conner who played with backup quarterback Drew Barker played in one game last season, the Cats’ opener against Tennessee Martin. That takes UK down to 14 wide receivers on the roster, including 11 who are on scholarship.
  • Digit changes: There were two number changes on a newly posted Kentucky roster as well: Freshman tight end C.J. Conrad will now wear No. 87 and senior wide out Joey Herrick will be No. 19.
  • Daily link: A look at how having the head coach also coach your position (which is the case for the UK safeties) makes things a lot more interesting.
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Walk-on wide out Fogle leaves team

Walk-on wide receiver Cameron Fogle, who played at Conner with Kentucky’s backup quarterback Drew Barker, has left the program, a UK spokesman confirmed on Thursday night. The 5-foot-11 wide receiver played in one game last season, the Cats’ season opener against Tennessee Martin.

His departure leaves UK with 14 wide receivers on the roster, including 11 who are on scholarship.

In his senior season at Conner, Fogle had 55 catches for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. He also rushed 79 times for 865 yards and 16 scores.

 

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A look at true freshmen who will get a look

Mark Stoops went through a laundry list of true freshman that likely will see time on the field this season.

They included (but are certainly not limited to): cornerbacks Chris Westry and Derrick Baity, tight end C.J. Conrad, linebackers Jordan Jones, Josh Allen and Eli Brown, offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei and running back Sihiem King.

As for freshman wide receivers Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood, Stoops said they were still a maybe. “They’re in the mix. They are,” he said. “We feel good about those guys. They could. We’ll wait and see.”

Even though he wasn’t mentioned, it’s likely that defensive end Kengera Daniel will be on the field this season as well.

In last season’s opener versus Tennessee Martin, Stoops played nine true freshmen, 10 red-shirt freshmen and five transfers. By the end of last season, Stoops had played nine true freshmen in running backs Mikel Horton and Stanley “Boom” Williams, wide receivers Blake Bone, Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson, T.V. Williams and Charles Walker. On defense, he played cornerback Kendall Randolph and defensive tackle Matt Elam.

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Q&A with Stoops, Eliot

MARK STOOPS
Good practice. Got some good work in. Our first good physical day on Lafayette, so it was good to get started, good to work on some other opponents. Thought we had good concentration, so off to a good start.”

On saying in the spring that he would challenge Marcus McWilson and if he’s seen him respond: “You know, it’s funny you say that. We were just talking on a break out there, and I told him I wasn’t gonna compliment him. He just looked at me and said, ‘Don’t even say a word until after the season.’ So I’m not gonna talk nice about him.”

On if he’ll talk mean about him: “He knows why. I just got to keep leaning on him. But yeah, he’s doing a good job. Don’t tell him I said that.”

On if they’ve settled on which true freshmen will play: “Some guys it’s pretty clear. Maybe a few we’ll wait and see.”

On who’s clear cut: “Chris (Westry). Chris is gonna play. (Derrick) Baity’s gonna play. C.J. (Conrad), George (Asafo-Adjei), Jordan Jones, Eli (Brown). I don’t know. Come on.”

Sihiem King? “Sihiem, yeah.”

On the freshman wide receivers: “They’re in the mix. They are. We feel good about those guys. They could. We’ll wait and see.”

Josh Allen? “Josh Allen’s gonna play, yeah. Quite a few of them.”

On Ryan Flannigan: “Flannigan’s out there in a red (jersey) again. He’s got a full range of motion. He’s got to get 100 percent strength back in his shoulder before we can let him have contact, so hopefully that’ll happen in the next couple days.”

On if he expects Flannigan to be ready for the opener: “With the injury that he has, nobody can really tell me that. So we have to wait and see. We got to prepare as if he won’t be there, but he is getting some reps and doing some things.”

On if it was a nerve injury: “It was a shoulder. I’d rather just stay away from (specifics).”

On Jordan Jones: “Jordan’s been sick. He tells me he’ll be cleared next week, but we all know he’s not a doctor. So we’ll see.”

On if he’s concerned about linebackers: “Yeah. I mean, a little bit. We’ve got some inexperience at outside linebacker. It’s good to have Josh Forrest back out there healthy and 100 percent. Yeah, we got a little bit of inexperience, but we expect the guys to step up and play well.”

On being hesitant to speak up about attendance the first two years and if the program is at the point now that he wants to implore fans to show up: “I ask for their support, yeah. Absolutely. We want a packed house. We’re proud of the brand-new stadium. We’re proud of the work that these players have done. We’re getting in a position to be as competitive as we want to be. We’re getting to that point where we feel good about our team. It is hard, yeah, the first two years when you’re not very good and you’re sitting there begging people to come to the stadium, and they’re gonna sit there and say, ‘Well, coach, that’s not a very good-looking team.’ So it’s a fine balance there. I certainly know and appreciate the great support we’ve gotten, and people know the work that this coaching staff and the players are doing to put a product on the field that we’re all proud of. And I think we’re much closer to that, and I do ask them to show up and support us and pack that stadium, because we’re proud of the work we’ve done so far. We know we’ve got a ways to go, but it’s fun trying to get there.”

On A.J. Stamps’ camp: “Stamps has done a good job. You know, he goes through his days where he’s relatively quiet at times, but he’s been steady. He and Marcus both have been steady in there. Like I said before, I feel like we’ve got two good players right behind them, so they need to play well or they’ll get pushed.”

On sensing a change in the attitude at practice going into game prep: “Yeah, you do. I think just walking in today and knowing we’re going out there for the first time in full pads with this prep, there was good concentration and I felt like guys were locked in.”

On if ULL presents any unique preparation problems: “Anybody that has a threat with quarterback run game presents and puts some stress on defenses. They like to run the football and they’re not afraid to incorporate some quarterback run game, so that always adds some stress.”

On what Jabari Johnson brings to the table: “He’s been really steady, just a solid guy. He’s a great guy in the locker room. He’s good for the young players. You know, he’s really come a long way and improved. Even last year, I was proud of the work that he did and proud of the way he played. He’s been improving and he’s been really solid. So I really appreciate him.”

On the kickers and OT Jordan Swindle using the sports psychologist at UK: “Yeah, quite a bit (UK using him). We always have – Ben (Conmy) is available and has done a really nice job. I know our players really feel comfortable with their relationship with him, so I see a lot of positives coming from it.”

On Swindle and false starts: “I don’t know what you’re talking about (grin). This is a new year.”

On wanting to bury that bad habit: “Well, we’ll see how well he does. If things don’t work out, then Ben may be in trouble.”

On naming a starting punt returner before the season starts: “Yeah, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know next week. Yeah, if we know, I’ll let you know.”

On MacGinnis’ goals after setting so many records: “I just want him to make every kick, just continue to be consistent. He’s done a really nice job. You really try not to talk too much to kickers, just let them do their thing. He’s been really steady and really works hard, so we anticipate a good year for him.”

On how he tries to disrupt MacGinnis kicking in practice: “Oh, I just mess with him, put a little pressure on him, throw my hat in front of him and distract him, get some players to mess with him. They do a good job messing with him.”

On if Stoops is cutting himself loose more now: “Just because I’m in a better mood today? (Laughing) We just ask for consistency, and you’re allowed to have fun playing this game. We put a lot of time in, a lot of work, and as long as our players have great energy and are focused and working hard … I’m just myself. I really don’t know, I don’t try to be one way or another. Whatever I’m feeling that day, that’s how I’m going to be.”

On if the stress changed him at all, though, the first two years: “Ah, yeah, we’ll see how the season goes – see how that stress thing goes.”

On if Flannigan losing so much camp is a setback: “He’ll be fine. He just needs to get healthy. He’s getting the mental reps. He’s really been tuned in. He’s really sharp in the meetings. He’s gone through as much as he can non-contact with 7-on-7 and different drills. He’s staying sharp. He’ll be fine. I’d like to get him out there next week if he can get cleared by Monday, but we’ll see.”

On updates with Courtney Love’s last NCAA appeal: “No, I’m supposed to know something next week.”

 

D.J. ELIOT

“Today was a good first day of looking at the other team. We got a lot of reps with that. Got to see our defense against UL’s offense and got to move forward in that direction and start working towards our first game. The players were excited about that. They were flying around and communicating and playing fast, and that’s what I wanted to see today.”

On if he sees a difference from the end of camp to the start of game prep:I do. I think they get tired of going against each other. They get tired of defending the same plays, the offense probably gets tired of blocking the same defenses and so forth, so I think that the fact that they get to prepare and defend a different style or different type of offense is exciting for the players.”

On how he feels about safeties Marcus McWilson and A.J. Stamps:I feel good about them. I think that we’ll have some experience back there. A.J. started every game last year and Marcus started a lot of them. They’ve had a good spring and a good training camp. They have as much experience as anybody else out there, so we have what you consider veterans at safety, and I’m excited about that.”

On the luxury of having Khalid Henderson as Ryan Flannigan’s backup:Exactly. You’re not developing with Khalid. There’s a guy that’s played a lot of football and there’s a guy that you know understands the defense and what his role is and how he’s supposed to fit into it, so that gives you some confidence there.”

On what problems ULL’s offense presents:Well, they have a different quarterback this year, and I’m not sure who that’s gonna be. They’ve talked about a couple kids in that role. But I think that every offense is a little bit different in their own way. They have, in the past, been a very good running offense, so they’ve been able to run the football. So we have to be able to defend the run. They have some talented skill players. Their tailback is, you know, conference player of the year for them last year and a tremendous runner and has a lot of speed and has a lot of game experience, so he’s gonna be a guy that we have to stop and defend.”

On how the outside linebackers can help defend the quarterback run: “The backers are put in a lot of one on one situations, the outside linebackers, and so they have to be able to key the play and be able to react to it quickly when there is a threat of a runner at quarterback.”

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Tuesday’s practice report

Kentucky wrapped up camp on Tuesday afternoon and will have a non-practice day on Wednesday as players begin classes. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson chatted with the media afterward:

  • Feeling better? There was a strong emphasis on being a more physical offense this fall camp and his group didn’t disappoint, Dawson said when asked if he had any questions answered that he may have had going into this. “I feel comfortable in the fact that if we have to grind out some wins and grind out some yards, I think we can do it,” he said. “We have the mentality up front. I think we have the guys up front. We definitely have the running backs that can do it.” At all of his other coaching stops, Dawson said he was never completely positive his teams could line up and run the ball when it had to be run. ”We’ve worked it enough (in camp) that I think I feel comfortable with it,” he said. “Now ultimately, we have to do it in a real game, but our kids are playing physical and their effort’s there.”
  • Tight end talk: Kentucky will put a real emphasis on recruiting more to the tight end and full back spots under Dawson. He said that while discussing true freshman tight end C.J. Conrad, whom he called talented. But he doesn’t want to overuse and possibly injure or wear down a true freshman. “Obviously he’s a big part of what we do,” he said. “Tight ends and fullbacks are a huge part of what we do. We’re going to use those guys and we have guys other than him that are capable and that definitely helps.”
  • Big-play Baker: Patrick Towles was asked if there were any offensive players who have been consistently good in camp and like any good quarterback would, he gave a nod to center Jon Toth. But he also had this to say about sophomore wide receiver Dorian Baker: “Dorian’s making plays – he made one today where I almost lost it,” Towles said. “One of those one-handers on his back hip that he makes look like he’s been doing it for 15 years.”
  • ‘It has nothing to do with me’: Dawson made it infinitely clear that his quarterback is a huge factor in his game planning from week to week. If Towles tells Dawson that he’s not comfortable with running a play — even if it’s one of his coordinator’s favorite plays — that it does not go in the game plan. “He’s a lot more important than I am when it comes to that,” he said of his QB. “He has to be comfortable, not me. It has nothing to do with me. If he isn’t comfortable with something, then it’s out.”
  • Injury updates: Dawson doesn’t usually provide a lot of injury updates, leaving it to head coach Mark Stoops, but he did say that running back Stanley “Boom” Williams seems close to 100 percent. “He looks good out there. I don’t know what percent he is, but he looks close to it if not 100,” Dawson said.
  • Daily links: Colleague Mark Story takes a look at Patrick Towles and his confidence … The NCAA denied the hardship waivers for Nebraska transfers Hart and Love, but UK is still appealing.
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Q&A with Dawson after practice

SHANNON DAWSON
On what kind of camp Ryan Timmons is having: “Good. I mean, it’s up and down. He has some good days and he has some days where he needs to do better. But overall, that kid’s had a good camp. I don’t see anything extremely negative about his camp. He just needs to be more consistent. I could say that about everybody really.”

On if Boom Williams looks 100 percent: “I think so. I mean, if not close to it. He looks good out there. I don’t know what percent he is, but he looks close to it if not 100.”

On if there was much rust evident after he missed practice time: “Not really. I mean, we’re not that complicated.”

On if he’s ever practiced in the dark before: “Nope. Have not. First time for everything.”

On if it’s the first time he’s allowed drops to be counted as receptions: “Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was hard to see. Whatever the head coach says (laughter). If he wants to call it a catch, I’m good. Surprised me, but I was like, ‘Hey, we’ll take the completion.’”

On who was the best at catching the ball in the dark: “I’m telling you we didn’t drop many. That was kind of the interesting deal. We caught a few balls, which was good. We didn’t throw it a whole lot, but the ones we threw we did catch it, which I was surprised.”

On the message he wanted the team to receive before classes start: “Well typically today when school starts the practices, there’s a lot more distractions. So, the biggest thing that we were telling them is really to push through. ‘Don’t think it’s over. It’s not. It’s just the beginning of the end, really at the beginning.’ So, now they have to get going to class. Now there’s a lot more distractions in college life now. So now we have to manage that along with everything. It’s easy when you have them all to yourself, but now when you’re dealing with a lot more social factors then it becomes different.”

On if any freshmen have hit a wall: “Yeah. Through camp, I mean yeah. They’re in and out. Just like everything else, those kids, their bodies aren’t used to competing against better guys. They’re going to be days where they’re nicked up. Through camp everybody’s nicked up really. So we had days, especially those young guys there were days where they looked healthy and days that they didn’t. But that’s normal. It’s going to take — those guys really aren’t physically ready to compete until they’re with Ed and those guys for a calendar year. More sometimes.”

On what he wants the offense to know about Lafayette’s defense when they start install: “We break down tendencies just like anybody else. But my message to offenses in general (is), we’re gonna do what we do good. So I really don’t get too overwhelmed or detailed with what they do. We’re gonna tell them the blueprint of what they do defensively, but who knows what they’re gonna do. We really don’t know. They have a whole new defensive staff. We can go back and look at games that those guys have coached at, but I don’t know what their meetings were like all summer. And so we’re gonna focus on the things that we do well. Going against our defense, it’s so multiple, which is a great thing through camp. It kind of covers everything up front, because they throw a lot of things at you, blitz-wise and coverage-wise and front-wise. So we feel like we’re prepared to go against anything based on the fact that we’ve been doing against our defense for the whole camp and the whole spring. Our defense really does change. Their looks change every day, every play. And so if we can change with them, we feel like we’re prepared. I don’t know what they’re gonna do. We’re gonna prepare for a certain look, and if they give us a different one, we’re gonna do what we do good.”

On how valuable it is to have veteran, smart guys in Patrick Towles at QB and Jon Toth at center: “Yeah. I think it’s invaluable. It’s the most valuable thing is experience. You can say what you want to about everything, as far as talent and everything, but experience is the most. So obviously we hope that holds true when we start playing.”

On how sharp Toth is: “He holds it together up front. We demand a lot on him. Up front, protection-wise and everything, he does a lot. So when the real bullets start flying — I’ll tell you Sunday of next week, or whenever, two weeks. But up to this point, extremely satisfied with that guy. I think as far as what we look for in a center — because we do dump a lot of communication on him with the other o-linemen and everybody else — he’s spectacular at all that.”

On if he takes into account what the QB likes to do in building a game plan: “Absolutely. I’m gonna develop a game plan, and obviously my meetings with the quarterbacks are probably twice as much as anybody else. So when we get to Thursdays and Fridays of game week, then we’re gonna sit down and we have a game plan, basically, dissertation deal and we talk about what we feel good about and what we don’t feel good about. Because ultimately it isn’t about what I feel good about, that doesn’t matter at all. It ultimately matters what he feels good about. Inevitably, there’s things they don’t feel comfortable with and they have to be honest with that because you don’t want to be calling that play, so yeah, definitely, the last couple days of the week game plan-wise, that’s a big part of it.”

On if he ever overrules that: “No.”

On not even a bread and butter play for your offense: “Absolutely not. He’s a lot more important than I am when it comes to that. He has to be comfortable, not me. It has nothing to do with me. If he isn’t comfortable with something, then it’s out.”

On if there’s an area where he was concerned going into camp and he’s feeling much better about it now: “One emphasis was we wanted the ability to be physical and I think that throughout camp, the structure of the way we practice and everything, I think we’ve accomplished that. And I feel comfortable in the fact that if we have to grind out some wins and grind out some yards, I think we can do it. I think we have the mentality up front. I think we have the guys up front. We definitely have the running backs that can do it. Throughout the course of my coaching career, that’s the one thing probably that was missing: the ability to line up and run the ball when you needed to. So that was the biggest emphasis since I got here and I think that we’ve stressed it enough and we’ve worked it enough that I think I feel comfortable with it. Now ultimately, we have to do it in a real game, but our kids are playing physical and their effort’s there. So that’s half the battle when you talk about that.”

On C.J. Conrad being a true freshman and how Dawson handles him and if Conrad looks ready: “Yeah. I think he’s definitely ready. The kid’s talented. We have to be careful with that kid as far as how much we dump on him. I think there needs to be a certain percentage of the game plan that fits him perfectly and that we use him. But we’ve got to be careful with using him like 90 percent of the time and everybody needs breaks. We have certain personnel groupings designed to give that guy a rest. Then obviously he’s a big part of what we do. Tight ends and fullbacks are a huge part of what we do. We’re going to use those guys and we have guys other than him that are capable and that definitely helps. As years go, we’re going to keep recruiting guys to build those positions, which is obviously going to help.”

On saying Timmons needs to be more consistent:If you wanna go back to what I really said, I said that everybody needs to play more consistent. Not just him.”

On if there’s anything particular Timmons can do to be more consistent:Well, I mean, he needs to have more attention to detail to his route running, just like every other receiver needs to have more attention to detail to his route running. And just attention to detail overall. We’re missing some signals from the quarterback that needs to be cleared up. But, I mean, he asked a question about Timmons. I didn’t bring it up about him. Everybody needs to do better. Not just him. He’s doing fine.”

On if there’s anything new or unexpected he’s learned about his players since the start of camp:Not really. I mean, overall, just pleased. Pleased with the effort. We have physical practices, so we’ve gotta continue to build depth because this league’s a physical league. So, we have good players, I think we have good depth, but to sit here and think those players are gonna be able to play a hundred percent of the time, all the time — we gotta get guys ready. So that’s the biggest thing is getting young guys ready. And they’re really all young, so getting everybody ready.”

On if there has been a guy that has played at a high level consistently throughout camp:Has there been a guy that’s brought it… I think there’s been a few guys that’s brought it consistently all camp. I think that you talk about Toth the other day. That guy is extremely consistent, you know? His level of work has been consistent since day one. He’s definitely a guy that goes out and performs. But throughout camp, everybody has got their moments. You know that as well as I do.”

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Monday’s practice report

With just one more full day of practice before Kentucky turns its attention to Louisiana Lafayette, Coach Mark Stoops had a few bits of news.

  • Hardship waiver denied: Nebraska transfers tight end Greg Hart and linebacker Courtney Love likely won’t see the field this season with Stoops announcing that the NCAA had denied their hardship waivers to play immediately. “Right now it was denied,” he said. “So we have one more appeal going with Courtney, but I feel like Greg’s will be denied.” Hart missed spring practices with an injury after playing last season for the Cornhuskers, mostly on special teams. He red-shirted his freshman season there. Love played in 12 games at Nebraska last season with six tackles, including one for a loss.
  • Veteran linebackers back: Senior middle linebacker Josh Forrest, whom Stoops said had missed a few days of camp “sick as a dog” returned. Senior weakside linebacker Ryan Flannigan, who has missed more than a week with a shoulder injury, was back on the field today in a red, no-contact jersey. “Trying to protect his shoulder a little bit, but it was good to see him out there taking some reps and doing some seven-on-seven and doing drill work and just getting out there conditioning and running some plays,” Stoops said. “So it was good to see him out there.” As for the linebacker depth all around (departure of Dorian Hendrix comes to mind), Stoops called it “a little bit of concern. If we can get Flannigan and Josh back completely healthy, that’ll obviously help with the experience inside.”
  • Still on the rebound: Kentucky managed to string together two good practices following the poor scrimmage on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. First, at the much discussed after dark practice on Saturday night and then on Monday as well. “Guys had good energy, good focus, did some good things on both sides of the ball, worked some more situations,” Stoops said. “One more day left before school starts, so we got to get a few more things cleaned up, but better work today.”
  • Position notes: Stoops said UK had not yet made any decisions on punt and kick return spots. Punt return coach Derrick Ansley said Ryan Timmons and T.V. Williams “have really shown some flashes” and Garrett Johnson was mentioned as someone who has made people miss in practice at that spot.
  • Livingston still not at UK: Three-star offensive lineman Levon Livingston, whom Stoops said he hoped would arrive at UK after “working through some things,” is still not on campus, the coach confirmed.
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