LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky football team held its first major scrimmage of 2009 spring practice Saturday morning at Commonwealth Stadium, with the defense strong early in the scrimmage and the offense rallying in the latter stages.
The Wildcats worked out for a total of two hours, including 30 minutes of warmup drills followed by the scrimmage. The format featured the first-, second-, and third-team offenses against their first-, second-, and third-team defensive counterparts.
The first-team defense stopped the No. 1 offense on the first eight possessions. Included in the defensive stops were three turnovers: a fumble caused by a jolting hit from sophomore safety Winston Guy, recovered by senior linebacker Micah Johnson; an interception by All-America cornerback Trevard Lindley, which he returned 36 yards for a touchdown; and another pickoff by redshirt freshman cornerback Cartier Rice.
The offense heated up on its last two series. Junior quarterback Mike Hartline led the Wildcats on an 11-play drive that eventually stalled because of a dropped pass. Senior kicker Lones Seiber salvaged the effort with a 38-yard field goal. On the last possession, Hartline completed six passes, including a 15-yard inside screen that junior wide receiver Kyrus Lanxter took in for a touchdown.
“There were some very good things out there today. There’s a lot to learn from and build on from this scrimmage,” Coach Rich Brooks said. “Obviously, for a first scrimmage, the defense had the upper hand. There were some very good things by the first defensive unit. Before we took Trevard out, he intercepted one and scored. Jarmon (senior defensive end Jeremy Jarmon) got a sack before we took him out.
“Our first defense did finally get scored on. I might say that was without Micah Johnson, Jeremy Jarmon and Trevard Lindley on the defensive side of the ball when Hartline threw the ball and moved us down the field to score. I was glad to see that drive, that execution for the offense, to put it together at the end.”
Hartline completed 17 of 30 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown during the scrimmage. Brooks noted after practice that Hartline is playing with tendinitis in his throwing elbow and will be held out of at least Monday’s practice in order to give the quarterback some rest.
Lanxter was the leading receiver with five catches for 20 yards, including the touchdown. Sophomore wide receivers Aaron Boyd and Matt Roark reflected the improvement they have shown in practice, catching four and three balls, respectively.
One area that did concern Brooks was dropped passes. The Wildcat receivers had at least three drops of very catchable balls.
“I was not happy, after seeing great progress by our receivers (in practice), we had a lot of balls on the ground today that should have been caught,” Brooks said. Asked if playing at game speed in the first scrimmage could have accounted for some of the muffs, the coach agreed.
“I think so … first full scrimmage, contact, nerves, worrying about maybe getting hit instead of focusing on the ball,” Brooks said. “As I told the receivers, they’ve not always going to be perfect passes. You’re going to have to make body adjustments and catch the ball.”
Brooks also gave credit to the play of some of the young Wildcat defensive backs.
“Cartier Rice is doing good,” the coach said. “(Sophomore cornerback) Randall Burden had a very good day. (Sophomore) Taiedo Smith, playing a nickel corner and safety, did some good things. Winston Guy made some hits at safety. I think he’s going to be a big-time playmaker for us on defense.”
The second-team defense also showed well, stopping the No. 2 offense on 10 of 11 possessions. The second defense got two turnovers: a fumble caused on a quarterback sack by sophomore defensive end Greg Meisner, recovered by sophomore defensive tackle Antwane Glenn; and an interception by junior linebacker Jacob Dufrene. The second offense broke through on an 18-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Will Fidler to sophomore wide receiver Gene McCaskill.
There were solid good moments in the running game. Playing for the first team, tailback Alfonso Smith rushed five times for 22 yards and tailback Moncell Allen picked up 29 yards on nine carries. The top rusher on the day was redshirt freshman Coshik Williams (pronounced co-SHEEK), who gained 91 yards on 16 attempts for the second team.
“We were a little sloppy in some of our run stuff,” Brooks said. “I thought Alfonso and Moncell ran hard. Obviously the fan favorite, and the guy that caught our eye earlier, was Coshik Williams, but Coshik has to learn that this is the SEC and he has to run downhill rather than try to make everything a long run. He has to get a little more comfortable running inside between the tackles.”
The third-team defense stopped the third-team offense on all three of its possessions. Junior tailback Trey Bowland paced the third unit with five rushes for 25 yards.
Part of the struggles for the offense can be attributed to injuries. Two starters in the offensive line did not play in the scrimmage, senior tackle Justin Jeffries and sophomore guard Jake Lanefski. In addition, wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb was held out of the scrimmage while he continues to recover from his knee injury.
The kicking game had some live action before the scrimmage started. During that part of the practice, kicker Lones Seiber made all three of his field goal attempts. Sophomore punter Ryan Tydlacka punted four times for a 39-yard average, and none of his punts were returned.
Brooks reported that there were two non-football injuries on Friday. Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Trevino Woods sustained a separated shoulder in a bicycle accident and senior linebacker Mikhail Mabry incurred a pulled quadriceps muscle in track class. Both players will miss the remainder of the spring.
Scrimmage statistics; first team vs. first team
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): Allen 9-29, A. Smith 5-22, Hartline 4-18, Conner 2-4.
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Hartline 17-30-2-102-1; Fidler 0-1-0-0-0.
Receiving (no-yds): Lanxter 5-20, 1 TD; Boyd 4-21, Roark 3-32, A. Smith 2-9, Conner 1-9, McCaskill 1-6, Allen 1-5.
Scrimmage statistics; second team vs. second team
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): Williams 16-91, Fidler 8-11.
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Fidler 3-14-1-47-1.
Receiving (no-yds): Harper 2-29, McCaskill 1-18, 1 TD.
Scrimmage statistics; third team vs. third team
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): Bowland 5-25, Br. Murphy 2-13, Denham 2-8, Sargent 5-8.
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Sargent 2-5-0-9-0.
Receiving (no-yds): Br. Murphy 1-5, Mason 1-4.
Brooks Misses First Practice in 45 Years: When Rich Brooks missed Friday’s practice, the coach said it was the first time in 45 years that he had missed one of his team’s workouts.
Brooks spent the day at Keeneland Race Course, signing the special edition Maker’s Mark bottles that feature his photograph. Proceeds from the charitable edition bottles benefit the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra’s traveling program that takes the orchestra to schoolchildren in the Commonwealth.
“I told my team I missed my first practice in 45 years of coaching to sign the Maker’s Mark bottles,” Brooks said. “That couldn’t have happened without what they’ve done (in winning three consecutive bowl games). It’s the first Maker’s Mark collectible bottle that’s honored anything football and the fact that they’ve gone out and won these games and brought pride back to Kentucky football is the only reason my mug happened to be on those bottles.”
Brooks estimated that he signed approximately 700 bottles at a private event on Thursday, followed by more than 2,000 during the public signing at Keeneland on Friday. Brooks reported that Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels said that the 18,000 Brooks-edition bottles sold out in record time. The sale is projected to raise approximately $200,000 for the UK Symphony, with matching grants possibly pushing the total amount over $1 million.
Phillips to Throw First Pitch at UK Baseball: Joker Phillips, head coach of the UK offense, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Kentucky baseball game vs. Georgia on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Spring Practice Calendar: Practices are open to media and fans. Practices are held at the Nutter Training Facility unless noted otherwise. Practices might be moved indoors to the Nutter Field House in case of bad weather.
Mon. April 13 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Tues. April 14 2 p.m., Rich Brooks news conference at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati
Wed. April 15 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Fri. April 17 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Sat. April 18 10 to 11:40 a.m., Commonwealth Stadium (tentative)
Mon. April 20 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Wed. April 22 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Fri. April 24 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Sat. April 25 Blue/White Spring Game, 1:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium