Special teams talk highlights shortened practice

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team had a shortened practice on the final day of fall camp Tuesday as rain and lightning moved into the Lexington area, ending practice and causing the Wildcats to move into position meetings early.

The abbreviated practice was the last for the Wildcats before school begins Wednesday. Kentucky will have Wednesday off from football activities due to classes beginning before returning to practice fields Thursday.

After practice, UK football head coach Joker Phillips talked briefly with the media mostly about the Wildcat kickers and punters. Although Phillips said he and special team’s coordinator Greg Nord have named a starting punter, he would not elaborate on who it was. Overall, Phillips said they are getting everything they want from that position.

“We are getting what we want out of them (punters) and we have to continue to work on getting it kicked in the right direction," Phillips said. "A lot of people don’t understand that directional punting is now the name of the game. It means a lot as far as for coverage. We only want to try to cover a third of the field. We are getting the height and the proper distance, but the thing we have to do is get the right direction. I feel better than I did in the spring, especially about our depth.”

Phillips talked in the spring about the difficulty of having to replace second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection Ryan Tydlacka, who had handed the punting for UK the last three seasons. UK has several options at the position in junior Joe Mansour, freshman Landon Foster or redshirt freshman Jay Willmott. Phillips said he is using the Tennessee game, in which Kentucky continuously backed up the Vols in the field-position battle as a teaching tool for the team.

Phillips did not need to elaborate on the starting placekicker as senior Craig McIntosh continues to provide a consistent leg for the Wildcats. McIntosh made 12-of-14 field goals last season and owns the second- and third-longest consecutive field-goal streaks in school history with eight and seven, respectively. Phillips said they are determining his longest distance, but his consistency is strong.

“I am really trying to figure out his distance but he is really consistent and one of those guys you don’t worry about," Phillips said. "I have asked him to tell me and he says 55 (yards). We will go out and test him this week.”

As far as kickoffs go, Phillips said the team will rely on Mansour, who handled the role last season. Mansour kicked off in all 12 games last year with 14 touchbacks, helping UK rank fourth in the SEC in net kickoff coverage. Phillips said the team’s depth in the kicking game is what pleases him.

“Joe is handling the kickoffs and Craig is backing him up.,” Phillips said. “I feel really good not only about the starters but the depth behind those guys. We have three quality guys (kickers and punters) and even an fourth that’s a walk-on and been on campus for a year that we feel good about.”

For more information on the Kentucky football team, follow “@UKFootball” on Twitter or visit www.facebook.com/kentuckyfootball.


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