LEXINGTON, Ky. – The offensive units put some touchdowns on the board and the defense also made some big plays in the first major scrimmage of Kentucky spring football practice, held Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium.
Quarterbacks Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski, who are contending for the starting role, each directed two touchdown drives. The QBs rotated possessions in directing the first- and second-team offensive units.
“I think it was back and forth,” Coach Joker Phillips said. “Early in the scrimmage the offense went up and down the field. What I was concerned with was the defense’s body language. I don’t think we were flying to the ball. Then it went back the other way.
“The thing that I see with this quarterback situation, I thought Mike Hartline did a really good job of getting us in the end zone, managing the team, making plays. I thought the two young ones (Newton and Mossakowski) did some good things also but they have to protect the football. They had three interceptions between the two young guys. They have to protect the football for us. But I like the way they bounced back and got us in the end zone also.”
The scrimmage format featured the first-, second- and third-team offenses against the first-, second- and third-team defenses, respectively. Each possession began on the offensive team’s own 30-yard line, requiring a 70-yard drive in order to score a touchdown.
Hartline opened the scrimmage by directing the first-team offense to a touchdown, capped by a 27-yard TD pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb. On his next entry, he led the second team to a touchdown. During the march, Hartline connected with a variety of receivers, scrambled 13 yards for a first down and hit paydirt with a 10-yard dart to well-covered wide receiver La’Rod King at the front right corner of the end zone. Hartline finished with 10 completions in 15 attempts for 153 yards and no interceptions.
Newton also had two touchdown passes. He found Cobb over the middle for a 41-yard score with the first team. Later, he directed a 10-play movement of the second unit that included a 19-yard scramble for a first down and a 6-yard scoring pass to wide receiver E.J. Jones. For the day, Newton connected on 8 of 16 passes for 116 yards.
Mossakowski got a couple of touchdowns with the first offense. He hit Brian Adams on a well-thrown sideline route that Adams turned into a 54-yard touchdown. Mossakowski also got points on the board when tailback Jonathan George swept left, then cut back to the middle of the field and raced 73 yards for a touchdown. Mossakowski totaled five completions in 11 attempts, good for 88 yards. He also was victimized by some at least a couple of dropped passes, including one bobble of a well-thrown ball that turned into an interception.
“Mike Hartline’s playing better than the two young ones,” Phillips said. “A lot of that has to do with game-ready snaps. He’s had a lot. He’s played for two years around here. Morgan’s played a lot more than Moss, obviously, but he’s behind Mike right now.”
“I like all of their demeanors in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. I like the way they commanded respect in the huddle. They all seem to think that this is mine and played like that in the huddle. All of them are getting better, a lot better than the first day (of spring). They’re not close enough to what we want them to be to win games in this league yet, (but) if you take from day one until now they have much improved.”
One goal of the spring is developing wide receivers and tight ends to complement established returning wideouts Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. Cobb and Matthews played briefly in the scrimmage, with Cobb grabbing two TD passes. Adams had three catches for 65 yards and a TD. A total of 16 players caught passes, a good sign in the development of diversity among the receivers.
“This was a big scrimmage for guys like E.J. Fields and Aaron Boyd and they were able to make plays,” Phillips said. “Big scrimmage for Brian Adams, he made a couple of plays. All of them are making some plays, Randall (Cobb) made a few plays. I’m pleased with what I’m seeing from Chris Matthews, (he’s a) tenacious blocker on the perimeter. He’ll give us a chance to break some long ones with the way he’s blocking. We have to get the other receivers blocking like him on the perimeter. That’s key in our offense because we feel we have some backs that we can get into the secondary.”
Phillips also is looking for depth at tailback behind Derrick Locke, who is established as the starter at that position. Locke saw limited action in the scrimmage with four carries for 27 yards. Jonathan George and Donald Russell rotated with the first and second teams. George rushed 13 times for 127 yards, including the 73-yard score. Russell toted 18 times for 73 yards. CoShik Williams ran well for the third team, frequently breaking tackles en route to 56 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown.
The first- and second-team defenses did have some moments. Safeties Dakotah Tyler and Josh Gibbs and cornerback Anthony Mosley all had interceptions. The defenses also held on downs twice during the scrimmage, stopping the offense on fourth-down plays.
And, in fairness to the defense, it should be noted that three starting defenders did not play because of various injuries – defensive end DeQuin Evans, cornerback Paul Warford and safety Taiedo Smith. In addition, cornerback Martavious Neloms left early in the scrimmage because of a bruised shin, which is not expected to be serious, but his departure left the secondary even more short-handed.
The third-team offense also played well. Quarterback Tyler Sargent played one series and led a touchdown drive that included a 26-yard pass to wide receiver E.J. Fields and a 32-yard TD to wide receiver Aaron Boyd. QB Ryan Phillippi also guided a touchdown drive, highlighted by a pretty 33-yard pass and catch from Phillippi to wide receiver Nik Brazley, then a five-yard touchdown run by CoShik Williams.
The kickers and punters looked solid during the special-teams portion of practice. Ryan Tydlacka punted six times for a 37.7-yard average, showing excellent placement and hang time. The placekickers made all five field-goal attempts, with Tydlacka hitting from 21, 21 and 43 yards, Craig McIntosh connecting from 23 yards and Patrick Simmons making a 30-yarder.
Kentucky returns to the practice field Monday. The team will have its second major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, April 17. Spring practice concludes with the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 24.
Scrimmage Statistics, April 10, 2010
Rushing: George 13-127, 1 TD; Russell 18-63; Williams 11-56, 1 TD; Locke 4-27; Newton 1-19; Hartline 1-13; Meisner 3-3; Phillippi 1(-1); Mossakowski 3-(-1);
Passing: Hartline 10-15-0, 153 yards, 2 TD; Newton 8-16-1, 116 yards, 2 TD; Mossakowski 5-11-2, 88 yards, 1 TD; Sargent 2-3-0, 58 yards, 1 TD; Phillippi 2-3-0, 35 yards
Receiving: Adams 3-65, 1 TD; King 3-17, 1 TD; Cobb 2-68, 2 TD; Fields 2-63; Boyd 2-40, 1 TD; Kendrick 2-40; Roark 2-24; Matthews 2-22; Jones 2-15, 1 TD; Brazley 1-33; Russell 1-13; Melillo 1-20; Aumiller 1-18; Locke 1-6, George 1-4, Meisner 1-2