Wildcats Go Full Pads in Steamy Lexington Heat
Aug. 10, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Facing tremendous heat for most of the afternoon, the University of Kentucky football team, clad in full pads, held its first joint practice session of fall camp at the Nutter Training Facility practice fields Tuesday.
“Every coach would say, ‘In my day, we had practice in 2,000 degree weather and we had to walk 100 miles to practice and we didn’t have shoes,’” head coach Joker Phillips said to a laughing media contingent. “It was a hot one, but we had no complaining. The guys practiced hard and there was a lot of enthusiasm.”
The practice was one of many firsts for Kentucky, as the Wildcats held their first joint practice after four days of split-squad workouts and went with full pads on for the first time this fall. With all the changes coming together in one day, Phillips said that the players had to practice smarter in order to make sure that no one got hurt.
“As we practice faster, we have guys that tend to lose their feet and not run through tackles and we are not trying to do that now,” Phillips said. “We are trying to practice smarter and staying off the ground to try to get nobody hurt.”
Phillips was especially pleased Tuesday with the practice intensity of senior wide receiver Chris Matthews. A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Matthews had a good season as a junior-college transfer last year. He was the team’s No. 2 receiver, making 32 receptions for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
“He does all that he is supposed to do in the blocking area, his routes had intensity in them and he attacks the football,” Phillips said.
Kentucky will continue full pads tomorrow with its first two-a-day practice of fall camp. UK will hit the field in the morning for practice and then turn around and have another practice mid-afternoon. The two-a-day practice is one of three the UK coaching staff has scheduled for fall camp.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
On if he has ever had practice in weather this hot …
“Every coach would say, ‘In my day, we had practice in 2,000 degree weather and we had to walk 100 miles to practice and we didn’t have shoes (laughter).’ It was a hot one, but we had no complaining. The guys practiced hard and there was a lot of enthusiasm. We are starting to practice smarter. As we practice faster, we have guys that tend to lose their feet and not run through tackles and we are not trying to do that now. We are trying to practice smarter and staying off the ground to try to get nobody hurt.”
On what the highlights were for him at the first day of full pads …
“Just watching the intensity in which Chris Matthews practices. We have been challenging him and telling him that we need him because we have two dynamic players, but how big would it be to have three. That makes a huge difference when you have another guy come with them. He does all that he is supposed to do in the blocking area, his routes had intensity in them and he attacks the football.”
On some position battles going on other then at quarterback that he is excited about …
“There is a battle at center going on with Jake Lanefski, Matt Smith, Marcus Davis and Sam Simpson. That battle continues and all four of those guys are battling for a starting position. At tight end, they are all kind of lumped together, but coach (Greg) Nord and I are excited about those young freshmen, Tyler Robinson, Alex Smith, Ronnie Shields. We are really excited about all those guys. There is another battle at linebacker, especially mike (middle) linebacker with Qua Huzzie and Ronnie Sneed.”
On the young safeties …
“I really like Dakotah Tyler. Coach (Steve) Brown said that he was the most improved guy right now from spring to fall. He only had 15 practices there (in the spring) but for him to retain what he learned in the spring (is great), especially as fast as he is playing now. We are really excited about him.”
On the young running backs, especially Donald Russell …
“Donald is practicing hard, but we need him to get better in the blitz pickup area and be a better pass receiver for us. That is what we do with our tailbacks. You have to be physical enough to pick up blitz and be nifty enough to run routes and catch the football. Raymond Sanders, I like him. He might be one of the smartest running backs, as far as understanding where he is supposed to be, that we have had around here in a long time. You guys want to talk about Locke naming the quarterback, well he also named who his backup is (laughter from media). Sanders has a chance to be a great back.”
On Moncell Allen moving to fullback …
“Yeah, I like him there. Ask our linebackers. He will put his face on you. I have challenged him. I am asking him, ‘John (Conner) who?’ We should not miss a beat if he continues to progress the way that we think he will. He was our fullback in our goal-line package last year. That tells you a lot of how we feel about him. John was our wing(on goal-line) and he was our fullback and got a lot of things done at the fullback position. We are excited about him (Allen) as a fullback. It isn’t like he is going to get a neck injury because he doesn’t have a neck (laughter from media). He can definitely catch the ball but he is not as big of a target. He is only 5-foot-7. Anytime you are throwing to a fullback or a tight end you have to put it on them, you can’t stretch those guys out. He can catch the football also.”
On UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari coming out to take in a day of practice …
“I love it. I love having coach Cal out and we had a chance to visit before and during practice. He was excited about some of the drills, especially the sumo drill where we call them up and they get after it. He liked that.”
Cobb One of Six Wide Receivers on Biletnikoff Watch List:
Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb was named to the 2010 Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List, given annually to the best receiver in college football.
Cobb is one of six Southeastern Conference selections on the list, including Auburn's Darvin Adams, Arkansas' Greg Childs, Georgia's A.J. Green, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and Alabama's Julio Jones.
From the 51-player list, the Biletnikoff Selection Committee will select 10 semifinalists on Nov. 15 before three finalists are selected on Nov. 22. The Biletnikoff Award winner will be announced on The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Cobb, a native of Alcoa, Tenn., is coming off a successful sophomore season in which he finished second in the SEC in touchdowns. The all-purpose player led the team last season in receiving with 39 catches for 447 yards and four touchdowns on top of averaging 26.5 yards on kickoff returns and 12.8 yards on punt returns. Cobb has gained 889 yards rushing, 644 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns in 23 career games as a Wildcat.