Fan Day Productive, Fun for Wildcats
The second day of fall camp was a busy one for the Kentucky football team.
Busyness, in this case, was a good thing.
“It was awesome,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “What a great day.”
The day started with autographs as part of UK’s annual Fan Day. Fans turned out in droves to meet their favorite players and coaches, getting those autographs and taking plenty of pictures. Then it was straight to practice for a session attended by those same fans, as well as media and former players in town as part of an event for football alumni.
“It was great to see a lot of our alumni back,” Stoops said. “I had a chance to visit with a lot of them last night and they’re going to have lunch with our team today. It was awesome to have them and their families here. And the fans to come out and take part in Fan Day and sign some autographs. It was a great turnout.”
The turnout was able to be accommodated thanks to the setup at the new Kentucky Football Training Facility. Past open practices have been hampered by limited space, but that’s an issue no longer.
“I love having them here watching practice – and you guys,” Stoops said. “I have nothing to hide. I’d like you to be able to come in here. We’ve just got to be able to operate, and we have a nice, big place in here now so we can let the fans in here to watch and get the media in here to watch and we still have room to operate. So it was a really good day that way.”
Those who watched it were treated to a competitive practice, even though the Cats are still working without pads. There were big plays on both sides of the ball, including a number of confident throws from quarterback Drew Barker.
“He’s worked really hard,” Stoops said. “He’s been very decisive. We’ve got to connect. We had some deep balls open again that we’ve got to connect on. We’re constantly working on that, fundamentally from receivers to throwing the ball accurately as well. But there’s some things we can do better to connect on some deep balls.”
Barker has plenty of big targets on deep balls now with returners like Dorian Baker and Blake Bone to go with redshirt freshmen Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson and a promising group of newcomers. Those newcomers, however, aren’t being pressed into action as has been the case in Stoops’ first three seasons, and the same can be said at nearly every position.
That’s a development Stoops very much appreciates.
“It's a good feeling,” Stoops said. “It's a lot less frustrating when you walk off the practice field because you're not trying to feed somebody water with a firehose. You're letting them come along the way they can. We have some very talented freshmen and some of them may play, but right now it is nice to see some older guys at the positions that have been around.”
On the injury front, Boom Williams was the only player in a red jersey other than the quarterbacks, but Stoops said he is “good to go.” Baker and linebacker De’Niro Laster both left the field during practice, but due to cramps. With some treatment they should be back at it for UK’s next practice on Sunday.
“I feel like we're getting a lot of work done,” Stoops said. “It's sluggish as you would expect. It's very hot and very humid out here, but I was pleased with our guys' effort, their attitude. They've been on point with meetings and taking care of business. It's a good start, and that's all it is, is a start. We've got a lot of work to go, but I like where we're at physically, mentally, and we're in Day 2.”
Trailblazers Northington, Hackett join in at Fan Day
Nate Northington and Wilbur Hackett – two of the four UK players who will be honored with a statue next month for breaking the Southeastern Conference’s color barrier – had their own table at Fan Day to sign autographs.
“They’re back with all of our ex-alumni, so it’s good to have them,” Stoops said. “I thought it was appropriate because they’re on the poster and we’re recognizing those guys and it was good for our fans to be able to see them, spend some time with them.”