LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team completed its final two-a-day practice of fall camp on Monday, with second-year head coach Joker Phillips saying after practice that several position battles are starting to take shape.
Phillips insisted last week that last Saturday’s scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium would play a significant role in helping determine several position battles and if the some of the underclassmen will make their way up the depth chart. After reviewing the film, it appears both happened.
“There were some guys getting after it and there was some separation at some positions,” Phillips said when asked what his conclusions were after watching the film from Saturday’s scrimmage.
One position that has seen the most competition this fall is at tight end, where Kentucky is six deep on the preseason depth chart. Last year’s starter, Jordan Aumiller, saw the most action making 18 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown en route to being named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team. Phillips said Monday that the native of Danville, Ky., has started to separate himself from the pack in hopes of locking down the starting spot for the second consecutive season.
“Jordan Aumiller has been as consistent a player that we have had, not only at the tight end position, but on the football team,” Phillips said about the on-going depth chart battle at tight end. “After him, Tyler Robinson has been out and the rest of them have been hit or miss. I think Nick Melillo has moved himself to the second team today. After watching the film, that is how it has been. After Jordan, every other day, somebody moves up and somebody moves down.”
Phillips believes another deep position for the Wildcats is at tailback, where Kentucky returns sophomores Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George and junior CoShik Williams. Sanders is the top returner for UK after rushing 68 times last season for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Although those three returning players seem to create good depth, Phillips said Monday that there could be a freshman thrown in the mix.
“We have a solid group at running back,” Phillips said. “There is a lot of depth there. Raymond Sanders has done a really good job, but after him one of the freshmen is in the mix along with some of the older guys. CoShik Williams has been as solid as we have had around here and is a guy that practices at a different speed than everybody else. He has a chance to help us here also.”
One of the biggest positives from Monday’s practice was seeing the core of the UK offensive line back on the field, practicing together, Phillips said. After the injury bug has sidelined several UK big guys the last few weeks, all were back on the practice field Monday, except for senior Stuart Hines, who is battling a knee sprain.
“Stuart is still a little banged up, but we think he will be ready to go on game day,” Phillips said. “It is good seeing those guys (offensive line) and I know Morgan (Newton) likes seeing those big guys back out there. We like seeing them out there so they can start getting all the calls and playing beside each other. Billy Joe (Murphy) has been playing beside a different guard every day. Morgan has been taking snaps with a different center than he is used to. All of those things work well if we can get those guys back.”
Phillips said the Wildcats turned their attention on Monday to Western Kentucky University, starting to begin the preparation for the season opener with the Hilltoppers on Sept. 1 at LP Field in Nashville.
“Today, we got started on Western Kentucky,” Phillips said. “We went this morning against the Western Kentucky (scout team) and it was a little bit sloppy this morning and a little cleaner this afternoon. A lot of that has to with seeing some new looks. Our guys on offense are going to be ready for whatever, especially with what they have been seeing on defense. Same thing on defense, we are getting more of a downhill running game, which is what Western Kentucky does on offense. It was a good practice this afternoon.”
Phillips also announced after practice that senior cornerback Randall Burden will be the No. 1 punt returner for Kentucky. But, Phillips said an unnamed freshman could see time as the returner along with junior wide receiver Gene McCaskill.