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Posts from Saturday, April 25

Randall Cobb had four catches, including a touchdown, in Saturday's Blue/White Game.

Randall Cobb had four catches, including a touchdown, in Saturday's Blue/White Game.

Blue/White notes and quotes

Posted at 7:33 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

 

A lot of other things we can take out of Saturday’s Blue/White Game. First and foremost, it’s one scrimmage. While it’s extremely important in that it’s the last workout of the spring and can alter the depth chart somewhat, let’s not overdo everything and jump to too many conclusions.

 

Still, there were some things to take out of Saturday and the end of spring football practice (especially from a wide receiver perspective):

  • Don’t count out Will Fidler in the quarterback race. Mike Hartline is the starter for now and two highly touted freshmen are on their way in, but Fidler isn’t as far behind as previously thought. See below for more details.
  • If Fidler was the most impressive/surprising player of the day, it wasn’t by much. Little-known wide receiver Nick Melillo had a spectacular day. I say “little-known” because he literally came out of nowhere. The coaching staff didn’t talk about him all spring, and I can’t recall a moment in spring practice thinking that he could be a threat. After Saturday’s scrimmage, the sophomore has suddenly become the talk of the receiving corps. He caught four balls for 43 yards, including two touchdowns to get the White team back in the game.
  • After hearing relatively nothing about the Louisville native from the coaching staff, they had nothing but great things to say about Melillo. Joker Phillips, the head coach of the offense, compared him to former UK tight end Jacob Tamme, and quite frankly, the listed wide receiver is built a tight end. “He goes 100 miles per hour every play,” Phillips said. “He does everything you ask him. He’s a tough kid and a coach’s dream.”
  • Meanwhile, given the performance of Melillo and the struggles of some of his other wide receivers, Brooks said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wide out is suddenly in the mix for playing time. “He has put himself in a position where he is going to be looked at very hard in the fall,” Brooks said. “He doesn’t drop anything, he is physical, he plays hard (and) he plays fast. I’m encouraged from what I’ve seen from him.”
  • Randall Cobb didn’t run any plays at quarterback in the Wildcat Formation, but he continues to impress at wide receiver. His touchdown grab from Fidler had the look of a veteran receiver. He brings speed and versatility to a position that UK didn’t have last year when Dicky Lyons Jr. went down for the year. Cobb finished with four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
  • Of course, Cobb’s success was of no surprise to Brooks. “Randall looks good everywhere he winds up,” Brooks said. “He’s a good holder, he’s a good punt returner, he’s a good receiver and he was a good quarterback. … He’s just a real talent. He’s a difference maker. He’s a guy we’ve got to be able to get the ball in his hands because he can do special things with it.”
  • Outside of Melillo and Cobb, though, UK’s wide receivers still have plenty of work to do. Still too many dropped balls and not enough players just making plays. Guys like Kyrus Lanxter, Gene McCaskill and Eric Adeyemi are near the top of the depth chart, but that is subject to change. “Guys better start stepping up and making plays,” Brooks said. “One guy that stepped up today that came from nowhere is Melillo. He made plays, so guess what? He’s going to move ahead of some scholarship players right now. He deserves a better look and he deserves to move up the depth chart.”
  • Big day from Chandler Burden at the right end position. The sophomore defensive end had a game-high two sacks on the afternoon at a position that is probably more competitive than any other on the team. Burden is battling Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham for a spot, and junior-college transfer DeQuin Evans is expected to get a significant look in the fall. Even with Burden’s two sacks, the position is as competitive as ever. “I’ve seen great improvement from Chandler Burden, Taylor Wyndham and Collins Ukwu,” Brooks said. “Those three guys have put themselves in a position that is very encouraging to me, that they’re ready to be factors and help us. As the spring went on, those guys got better.”
  • A couple of those guys gave Zipp Duncan fits, who is still learning in his transition to left tackle. “He’s got to get better on the pass-blocking,” Brooks said. “He hasn’t learned to set the edge as well as he needs to. He’s turning and collapsing the pocket too much. He should learn a lot from this spring game.”
  • The consensus is that this is the best spring UK has had since Brooks has been here. All the coaches have raved that they haven’t had a single bad practice, which is the first time that’s happened since they’ve been at UK.
  • Everybody seemed to be excited about the crowd of 20,200, the second largest on record.
  • Brooks was impressed with Danny Trevathan, who was all over the field Saturday. He had 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss, and the linebacker even returned a kickoff 31 yards. “How long has it been since Kentucky has had a linebacker fast enough to return kickoffs?” Brooks said. “That’s the encouraging thing about the speed of our team. We graduated a couple of really good linebackers in Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams, and then you put Sam Maxwell and Danny Trevathan on the field – I promise you, as good as those two guys that graduated were, these two guys have filled it up this spring. They’ve had great springs”
  • The loss of Tim Masthay certainly hurts on kickoffs. Masthay was money in the bank on touchbacks on kickoffs. Without him, Brooks said kickoffs are one of his biggest concerns.
  • And finally, one of the most important things when it comes to spring ball: there were no major injuries during the spring game. A couple of minor bumps and bruises, but everybody appears to be OK.

 

Softball makes history

Posted at 6:22 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

 

The hype surrounding Kentucky today was the football team and the Blue/White Game, but nobody had a more important day than the UK softball team.

 

Thanks to a two-run walk-off home run from Brittany Cervantes, the Wildcats swept Mississippi State 8-7  at the UK Softball Complex on Saturday. Coupled with South Carolina's loss Saturday, UK has clinched a berth in the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2001.

 

As Coach Rachel Lawson told me the other day, making the tournament is an important step in the evolution of the budding program. The Wildcats have shown improvement the last few years, but progress is measured in postseason play, a place UK hasn't visited very frequently.

 

With Saturday's victory, UK is now assured of at least a game in the postseason, and quite possibly more. Given UK's RPI and strength of schedule, the Wildcats are on the cusp of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

 

For now, though, Lawson and her club will celebrate the historic sweep. UK has bigger goals that still lie ahead, but as Lawson said Thursday, a postseason berth is a mark of validation.

 

Congratulations, Wildcats.

 

Fidler sparkles at spring game, puts himself back in quarterback race

Posted at 5:29 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Mike Hartline might be the leader in the clubhouse, but Will Fidler appears to be making a late Sunday run on the back nine.

Fidler has certainly made a case to be in the mix for the starting quarterback position as Fidler's Blue team defeated Hartline's White team 28-23 Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium.

"He clearly closed the gap," UK Coach Rich Brooks said following the Blue/White Game. "There was a gap. I feel much, much better about Will Fidler after this scrimmage. Obviously he got the win, so he's the cock of the walk after today."

As Brooks said, there was a considerable gap heading into Saturday's annual scrimmage. The incumbent, Mike Hartline, hasn't looked like Brett Favre this spring, but given his AutoZone Liberty Bowl win and his experience as the starter, he looked like the odds-on favorite to battle two highly touted freshmen coming in this fall.

Move over, Hartline - you've got company.

On Filder's first drive of the afternoon, he marched the Blue team straight through the White defense and into the end zone. Fidler's 26-yard pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb completed a 12-play, 93-yard drive, mainly off the 6-of-8 passing from Filder.

"It felt really good," said Fidler, a junior from Henderson, Ky. "It was kind of a breakout scrimmage I hadn't had the rest of spring. It felt good to get in there and get some productivity on offense."

Between the hype of the incoming freshmen and the supposed security of Hartline, Fidler has been an afterthought. To come out and toss two touchdowns and pass for 110 yards must have felt a little more than good.

"There's no question (he's in the mix)," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.

Fidler said he's going to treat the summer the same as he did entering the spring. He said he's going to continue to compete and not really think about the other players.

But clearly, there was something different. Fidler said so himself.

"To be honest with you, I just wanted it really bad," Fidler said. "I turned my cell phone off all day yesterday and this morning and just concentrated on the scrimmage and watched some extra film. The defense played really well too and everybody around me played really well too."

True. In terms of experience and talent, it seemed like the Blue squad got the better end of the deal. Veterans Micah Johnson, Jeremy Jarmon and Trevard Lindley joined do-everything sophomore Randall Cobb on the Blue team, but that shouldn't overshadow Fidler's day.

But let's not get carried away here. After a strong start, Fidler did cool off. He was 6-of-8 to start the game, but he completed just four of his last 16 passes. And Hartline didn't play all that bad.

After a shaky start, Hartline finished the game 17-of-32 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.  One was his fault on a poorly thrown deep ball - Brooks said his long passes continue to be his biggest problem - but the other came off a tipped pass.

"I thought Mike did some great things (and) I thought he did a couple of things that you kind of just look and say `Wow.' He did a few things I was disappointed in," Sanders said.

They both were the quintessential examples of what a spring game is all about. Mixed with first-, second- and third-team players, there were some good things at times, and downright ugly at others.

To be honest, other than Fidler's hot start, he didn't wow either, but he did close the gap. That's good news, folks. Competition fosters better play, and that's something this Kentucky football program didn't always have.

Fidler proved he can throw the pigskin as well and brought some excitement to what was already a record day (20,200 showed up for the game, the second largest on record).

Now both quarterbacks will enter the spring a little bit closer, but a little bit better. Once the fall comes around, two more highly touted quarterbacks will join the race to become the top signal caller for the Wildcats.

That makes four quarterbacks who could potentially lead this team (need I throw in a fifth in Randall Cobb?). When was the last time UK had that type of talent and depth?

Uh, never.

The only shame is that with the end of this game comes a four-month wait to see what will materialize in the fall.

Full game story from Jeremy Strachan will be on the homepage shortly ...


 

 

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