LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team had Wednesday off from football activities due to the start of fall semester classes. However, the entire team and coaching staff was back at it Thursday morning as the Wildcats began their preparation for the season opener with Louisville on Sept. 2.
Head coach Joker Phillips said the Wildcats were sharp and practiced fast Thursday. Overall, it was a successful day of preparation.
“I think we were really sharp today,” Phillips said. “We flew around and this was really the first day we had swapped scouts, meaning the down-the-line defensive guys gave the offense a look and the down-the-line offense guys gave the defense a look. I thought we were better organized than we have ever been around here in getting those switches. A lot of that has to do with our guys understanding how we practice. A lot of crisp routes, crisp passes that were caught and our guys competed. I’m pleased with today, on our first day of preparation for Louisville.”
Phillips said the Wildcats just scratched the surface of its game-planning against the Cardinals, doing basic offensive and defensive prep, while also touching on some special teams.
“You start with our base runs and base passes,” Phillips said. “Same thing on defense you start with Louisville’s base runs and base passes and start expanding from there in the special teams areas. We started with our punt team and kickoff return. We got a good start and we have a lot more preparation to go obviously, but we have time. That time is becoming shorter everyday but we do have time to keep expanding on the packages.”
The big news from practice this week has been the announcement that sophomore Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback in UK’s season opener. Phillips said since the announcement, Smith has been, as expected, more comfortable and confident.
“He looks comfortable and you know how that goes,” Phillips said. “Once it’s announced the starting guy gets a little more comfortable, the guys feel a little more comfortable with him and you are able to lead a little bit better. He is a little bit more vocal because now he knows that it is his. The guys around him have responded the same way he has.”
Phillips said senior quarterback Morgan Newton got most of the second-team reps on Thursday with freshmen quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow getting most their reps on scout team. Phillips said the two freshman will get more reps with the second-team offense later this week.
Staying with the skilled positions, Phillips said after practice that senior tailback CoShik Williams practiced and is ready to go after sustaining a minor injury in Saturday’s scrimmage. Phillips said the competition at tailback may have led to Williams “healing quicker.” However, Phillips said based on Williams’ performance at the end of last season and his knowledge of the UK offense, he will be the starting tailback.
“He deserves to be the starter the way he finished last spring,” Phillips said about Williams. “Pound for pound he is probably the strongest guy on our football team. He works as hard as anybody. He deserves to be the starting running back. Plus his knowledge of our offense is probably better than anybody on our football team.”