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Notebook: Offense makes strides in second scrimmage

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It's an old football cliche, that the first scrimmage of fall camp belongs to the defense, while the second is the one where the offense steps up.

Consider that cliche fulfilled.

Kentucky held its second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, and the offense, after falling victim to the turnover bug last weekend, made a major impact. Joker Phillips reported that La'Rod King scored a pair of touchdowns and CoShik Williams, Demarco Robinson, E.J. Fields and a pair of unnamed freshmen all took turns in the end zone.

Highlighting the offense's solid day was a 14-play, 98-yard drive led by quarterback Max Smith.

"It was very satisfying to see," said offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. "Number one, just to see us go 98 yards without having a 30- or 40-yard play mixed in there means that you had a lot of guys doing the right things a number of plays in a row."

Throughout preparation for the 2012 season, Phillips has hammered home with his team just how difficult it is to sustain a drive. He wants more big plays this season to help avoid having to drive the length of the field, but there will come times when a long, systematic drive has to happen. As for the defense, the task is to avoid them at all costs.

"There wasn't any huge plays in it, but we had some consistency," Phillips said. "There was no penalties and there was no turnovers, no sacks and there was no negative-yard plays. That's a good teaching point for us."

Defensive coordinator would have liked to have seen a performance more like the one of a week ago from his unit, but he could not fault the effort and intensity of the defense.

"Kids are trying hard," Minter said. "I give an 'A' for effort for our kids trying hard. We're in the camp grind. It's, what, practice 18, 19? That's tough on anybody."

Minter also couldn't help but give credit to the offense. Media and public were not allowed at the scrimmage, but there were fewer turnovers according to the coaches and many more 20-plus yard plays in what Phillips called a "very, very competitive scrimmage."

Phillips also continued his habit of avoiding naming any specific players in the freshman class, but he was certainly hinting strongly at one youngster, leaving reporters to surmise to whom he was referring.

"We got us a young receiver, I can tell you that," Phillips said. "He's got a chance to be a special guy. You guys figure out which one. There's only two of them."

Of course, DeMarcus Sweat and A.J. Legree are the choices. Based on Sanders' answer when asked about Sweat, it's fairly safe to assume he's the guy, though he certainly has work ahead.

"I think he's got a great future," Sanders said. "I think he's got a lot of ability. He still doesn't have that timing and distribution down, being where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there all the time. But he's got speed, he's got quickness, he's got really good hands. It's just a matter of how quickly he can learn and progress."

Quarterback announcement coming soon

A good day for the offense doesn't happen without some solid play from the signal callers, and Saturday was no exception. Smith and Morgan Newton once again got the bulk of the snaps, but freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles also saw action.

"For the most part, the ball was coming out to who it should have been coming out to when it should have been coming out of their hand," Sanders said. "That tells me their drops are pretty good, usually their eyes are in the right place."

Above all else, Sanders has noticed accuracy from his quarterbacks, which has to be encouraging considering UK completed just 50.8 percent of its passes a year ago.

"The one thing we are doing, pretty much, as a group is throwing the ball accurately," Sanders said. "Usually they're throwing the ball where they want to, which usually always correlates back to your fundamentals."

The question, of course, is which quarterback is most accurate? Which quarterback will start on opening day vs. Louisville? There's no answer yet, but one could be coming very soon.

Phillips said that the staff will evaluate tape from the scrimmage on Saturday and into Sunday and that a decision could come by the end of the weekend, though no announcement is likely before Phillips next meets with the media on Monday.

Sanders is looking forward to have the choice made.

"The sooner we can do it, the better off we'll be just because the team will kind of know," Sanders said. "We need to sit down and talk. Whenever Joker's ready, I'm ready. He's my boss, so we'll do it when he says, 'Let's do it.' "

Former players invited to scrimmage

Last weekend, Phillips looked around the stands and field at Commonwealth Stadium and noticed a few former Wildcats in attendance. Past football players have always been allowed, but Phillips decided on the spot the information should be more public.

A few days ago, UK advertized the open invitation to former players and they responded. Almost 70 - 67 to be exact - were in attendance in spite of very short notice.

"We got an unbelievable response," Phillips said.

Phillips wants to make sure past and current players know that UK football is a family. He and the team watched Act of Valor, a film about Navy SEALs, and a quote stuck out to him.

"There as a quote there that really hit home with me that says, 'Here's to us and those like us - and there are damn few,' " Phillips said. "That hit home to me and (the current players) need to know that these guys are one of us."

Another relatively injury-free scrimmage

With the exception of Glenn Faulkner, UK has made it through fall camp without much more than bumps and bruises. Once again, the Cats mostly stayed out of injury trouble during the final full scrimmage of camp. A sprained foot to CoShik Williams was the only injury of note on Saturday.

UK will hold two more "training-camp type" practices on Monday and Tuesday before getting down to preparation for Louisville on Thursday. Before the opener on Sept. 2, the Cats will hold just one special teams scrimmage and one "dress rehearsal" mock scrimmage, then it will be time for football in the Bluegrass.

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