Offensive Big Plays Highlight UK's First Spring Scrimmage
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops was enthused following his team's first scrimmage of spring practice Saturday morning at the Tim Couch Practice Fields, a workout that was open to the public and media.
"Got some really good work in today," Stoops said. "Did some good things on both sides of the ball and obviously a lot of things we have to get corrected but I like the direction we're headed. If we go out and compete like that and just continue to fundamentally get better we'll have a chance."
Under the direction of quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, the offense got off to a strong start, scoring touchdowns or moving into field goal range on each of the first four possessions. The defense settled down after that and posted several stops in the remainder of the scrimmage.
There were multiple big plays by the UK offense, particularly by the Wildcat running backs. Stanley "Boom" Williams took a short pass and weaved through the defense for a 64-yard gain that set up a three-yard Jojo Kemp touchdown run. It was one of three Kemp TDs on the day, as he also had scoring runs of 31 and 39 yards.
"You need to see big play capability," Stoops said. "When you get guys in the open field you want to see them make people miss. When you get in there with a lot of space it is very difficult. Guys like Boom and Jojo made them miss in space."
Towles, the returning starter from the 2014 season, threw one touchdown pass. He also showed the running ability he displayed last season, both in buying time to find a receiver and scrambling for key yardage. Barker threw the ball well and had a pair of TD passes. Stoops has been pleased with what he's seen from the UK QBs.
"The last two days they looked more calm and more confident out there," Stoops said. "Certainly yesterday they were as poised as they've been since I've been here, in the pocket sitting there throwing the ball downfield. Even today with the success they had, yesterday we got the ball downfield even better. I think they're doing a better job."
Increasing the team's length at the receiver positions has been a point of emphasis in recruiting since Stoops' arrival and the importance of that showed Saturday. All three touchdown passes were six yards or less and were thrown to receivers who are 6-5 in height. Sophomore wideout Blake Bone caught a pair of the TDs and true freshman tight end C.J. Conrad snagged the other score.
"Very important (to have tall receivers)," Stoops noted. "Blake continues to get better. We need guys like that to make plays, C.J. with the height he has. You have to make plays when you're covered. You're not just going to create all kinds of space. You have to make difficult catches."
Overall, the Wildcat head coach has been pleased with what he's seen this spring from the adjustments made by new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
"Schematically there are some things that are a challenge and that's what we like about this offense," Stoops said. "For the first time, when you put it together in a scrimmage format, mix it all up, that's what we're capable of doing offensively. I really like the direction we're headed. It starts with physical mentality and I like what I see offensively."
Saturday's workout was the sixth of 15 practices during the spring. UK returns to the practice fields Monday. Spring drills conclude April 15.