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First Down Kentucky: Spring Practice Review

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush04/15/24

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Kentucky football spring practice has come and gone. Before the BBN’s attention turns to the transfer portal, which opens officially on Tuesday, let’s review some of the things we learned from the Wildcats over the last two months.

Kentucky Offense is in a Good Place

The Kentucky offense is in the middle of a transformation. The Wildcats spent the spring breaking in a new playbook for the fourth straight offseason. Obviously, they’re far from a polished product, but the unit is moving in the right direction.

Bush Hamdan plays with more tempo than the previous pro-style play-callers. The advent of new helmet radio technology has expedited the progress.

Brock Vandagriff quickly looked the part of an SEC-caliber quarterback. Not only does he have the physique and arm strength to seamlessly step into the starting spot, he’s bringing the run game back to the QB position. Vandagriff has a group of talented wide receivers who have a new leader, Daikiel Shorts. The young former pass-catcher from West Virginia impressed his players and is quickly making his mark on the recruiting trail.

The offensive line also saw new leadership this spring. Adding Gerald Mincey into the fold gives Eric Wolford a solid first five. He believes the Big Blue Wall has more depth now than it ever did in 2021, but it’s still a work in progress without Courtland Ford available to compete for the right tackle position.

The tight ends and running backs were a beacon of consistency for the offense. Entering the spring we were unsure if Kentucky would need to hit the portal for another tailback, but freshman Jason Patterson proved he’s ready for SEC competition.

Defense is Ready for Reinforcements

The Kentucky defense did not have a full stable of players for spring practice. Roughly nine contributors were unable to play in the spring game last Saturday, forcing Stoops to take the tackling out of the scrimmage. The Kentucky head coach expects six to be available when preseason training camp begins this summer.

Stoops is confident the defense will be in good shape once everyone returns, although the pass defense left much to be desired at the end of last season. Former four-star prospect Jantzen Dunn, an Ohio State transfer from Bowling Green, took a step forward this spring. Kentucky is confident he’ll be able to smoothly transition into the nickel role previously held by Dru Phillips. There is still a vacancy at cornerback, one Kentucky may need to fill via the transfer portal.

Kentucky Spring Game Highlights

If you didn’t make your way to Kroger Field for the Blue-White spring game, you missed a spring game. It was sold as a spring practice, but the BBN got to see an hour of scrimmaging that did not include tackling to the ground.

That means we still got to see a couple of impressive catches from Dane Key. RB Jason Patterson and TE Khamari Anderson also got their first taste of the end zone at Kroger Field.

The only significant play Mr. Peake did not capture on camera was the moment Jaremiah Anglin ended the spring game with a Pick 6. Even though he has only been cleared to play for a couple of weeks after undergoing knee surgery over the summer, the former four-star talent flashed, showing plenty of promise as a big-time player down the road.

Significant Kentucky Derby News on the Horizon?

I’m supposed to be the Football Guy, but when my head hit the pillow on Saturday night, I was dreaming about being in the middle of the Churchill Downs infield, roasting in the sun while scarfing down lukewarm $14 beers. All day I’m dreaming about Derby and we’re now just over two weeks away. This week we could get a bombshell.

Bob Baffert and his impressive stable of horses are currently unable to run in Kentucky Derby 150. The current suspension stems from the failed drug test that disqualified Medina Spirit in 2021. Tim Sullivan reports Amr Zedan, the owner of American Pharoah, has filed a temporary injunction that would allow Baffert to return to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

This would be a shocking late shake-up to the field. Zedan’s attorney argued it was not put into consideration until Baffert’s Muth won the Arkansas Derby. Churchill Downs attorneys argued it would drastically change the field too much, knocking out other prospective trainers who thought their Derby ticket was punched. A decision is expected by the end of the week.

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2024-05-23