Although I wasn’t actively posting during a segment of spring practice, I did pay attention to the happenings surrounding the Kentucky football program. Listed are five topics that have jumped out as being the most impactful:
Following the Governor’s Cup, I wrote an extremely unpleasant article, which was difficult to write and hurtful to read. Objectivity is a goal, but, is at times, difficult to achieve. However, program changes were required. Give Mark Stoops complete credit: issues were addressed and alterations were made. The new coaches are the primary spring practice story.
Safe to say that the Shannon Dawson hire didn’t work out. Enter Eddie Gran. Gran has definitely won the press conference circuit and judging by one scrimmage, on-the-field results have followed suit. Offensively, Kentucky has a purpose, identity, and plan. Using a worldly description, law and order have been restored.
A non-primary play calling quarterback coach was and remains to be the principal new occurrence at the Nutter Center. As harped on many times on this site, the Wildcat QBs were fundamentally unsound prior to the Hinshaw hire. Hinshaw is preaching and teaching technique. Results are noticeable.
In a room full of personalities, the new receivers coach has the biggest ego in the room. That’s a good thing. Receivers are divas. Receivers have to be divas. Controlling the meeting room was as necessary as teaching a post-corner route. Due to bravado and depth, expect to see this position to be significantly improved.
Derrick Ansley moved on or back to Tuscaloosa, leaving the cupboard full of talent and fundamentally sound defensive backs. Clinkscale brings Youngstown familiarity, a unique approach, and a stellar resume to Lexington. Stoops can never have too many former coordinators on his staff. Months ago I really liked this hire. Months later, I really like this hire.
The OL has been a precarious group. In 2015, sacks, first-down disasters, and tackles for loss were abound. Going into spring practice, the term improvement would be grossly understating expectation. By all accounts, the big fellas have answered the bell.
A fantastic young man, Nick Haynes has solidified his position at guard. While most OL attention has focused on the newcomers, Haynes continued to work. As Tate Leavitt transitions to the SEC, Cole Mosier has locked down the left tackle spot. Eddie Gran’s recent remarks about true freshmen OL playing if physically and mentally ready could possibly be directly aimed at Landon Young. Kyle Meadows has increased his weight to 302 pounds and has played well at right tackle. George Asafo-Adjei’s move to guard is the most positive spring practice personnel move.
New offensive focus leans on a physical run game. Contrary to 2015 when tackles were faultily asked to hold blocks for three or more seconds, in 2016 the inside linemen will be more critical to accomplish Gran’s intent. Wash and repeat, center Jon Toth is special.
Jones’ meteoric recruiting service rise continues to attract media and competing football programs’ interest. On his recent visit, Jones solidified his Kentucky commitment. Currently a 4-star prospect, Jones could possibly rise to the 5-star level by the end of his high school career. Locking up the future face of the program is significant.
Chris Westry and Derrick Baity have the potential to develop into the Stoops era’s best boundary defenders. While Westry has received accolades, Baity was described by Steve Clinkscale as a technician. Both measure 6’3 or taller. Scary proposition for opposing receivers. Abbreviated stays in Lexington are possible. Enjoy these two while you can.
JUCOs: OT Tate Leavitt, NT Naquez Pringle, QB Stephen Johnson
As of today, none of the trio have cracked the starting lineup, most surprisingly, Tate Leavitt. Eddie Gran described his struggles as being technique related, not athletic. Translation, he’s learning and will be just fine. Pringle has slimmed down to 320 and will likely factor. Johnson is pushing Drew Barker and provides Gran a viable change-of-pace option.
Linebackers: Kash Daniel, Eli Brown
Questions if Daniel will play or not have been answered. Brown’s ability to play in space was never in question. His between the tackle tendencies are a work in progress. Both have taken strides and will greatly benefit from the summer off-season program.
Receivers: Jabari Greenwood, Tavin Richardson
Greenwood and Richardson are both playing the outside receiver position. Both could have played in 2015, but redshirted. Possessing big-play ability, the duo will push returning players. Don’t be surprised to see Greenwood and Richardson become go-to playmakers in the red-zone.
Spring game is April 16 at 12 noon. See you at the Yard.