Training camp has begun, and updates are beginning to flow.
On Friday and Saturday, KSR made the trip to Kroger Field for the start of college football season. After speaking with players and coaches, Kentucky’s second practice of the season took place at Kroger Field with fans and media in attendance. Much was learned from these 48 hours.
This week on the Monday Huddle, KSR will address what developed over the weekend in Lexington. We have quarterback battles, creative personnel usage, and defensive structure takeaways all to address. Plus, Mark Stoops and both his coordinators will be available for a Q&A with reporters this week.
The football season is quickly approaching, and KSR will be here to provide updates every step of the way.
First Down: QBs take center stage
At media day and fan day, all eyes were glued on the quarterbacks. Each scholarship player fielded questions from reporters on Friday, and on Saturday, we got to see each participant in practice. Joey Gatewood is currently running with the ones, but Will Levis is not far behind.
The Penn State transfer showed off a big arm and quick decision-making skills in practice on Friday afternoon. While struggling with some accuracy, Levis flashed some lasers in the intermediate passing game to go along with a couple of completions on vertical shots. Gatewood struggled to make decisions in the passing game, was inaccurate when going deep, and had the ball sail on him in the intermediate game. The Auburn transfer had the only turnover of the day when cornerback Carrington Valentine made a splendid play in the full team period.
Carrington Valentine intercepts a pass from Joey Gatewood. My favorite part of the play was Valentine’s finger wag after snagging the pass. pic.twitter.com/k7EHieI2C5
— Chris Leach (@ChrisLeach__) August 7, 2021
Redshirt freshman Beau Allen showed a good grasp of the offense and was accurate and quick with passes short and intermediate. The Lexington (Ky.) Catholic product completed a few throws down the field, but most were underthrows as the young quarterback struggles to create velocity when asked to push the ball.
It was just one practice, but the clubhouse leader for this starting position should be Levis at the moment. New to the offense, the redshirt junior was able to push the ball vertically, was excellent in the intermediate game, and can make plays off-platform while also bringing the most game experience to the position.
Second Down: Offensive creativity on display
The name of the game is scoring points. Last year, Kentucky’s offense just did not do that enough and that led to a 5-6 overall record. Liam Coen has been brought in from the NFL to help fix the unit. One of the draws was the creative ways the new play-caller could get the football to multiple skill talent players. That was shown on Saturday.
Chris Rodriguez Jr. was heavily involved in the passing game, while Wan’Dale Robinson was used in both the short to the intermediate game at Z receiver. Josh Ali was efficient out of the slot, and 12 personnel was used often in practice. However, two unique position changes are already starting to stand out.
JuTahn McClain was used at running back and slot receiver as the Wildcats looked to get the young tailback the ball in multiple ways. Izayah Cummings has moved to tight end, and the redshirt freshman may have led the team in targets at practice. Both players bring more athleticism to the offense and could provide value when building out formations to attack defenses.
With the lack of a proven third receiver, Kentucky must get other players involved for the passing game to take a major step forward. That creativity was on full display over the weekend as Coen showed that this offense will have a level of creativity that hasn’t been seen in recent years.
Third Down: Feel good about cornerback
Overall, the depth in the program feels to be in great shape. Thanks to the super seniors and added scholarships that should not be surprising. However, cornerback was a spot of concern heading into 2021. The Wildcats lost starters Brandin Echols and Kelvin Joseph to the NFL while position coach Steve Clinkscale bolted for Michigan after spring practice. The team has just six scholarship cornerbacks on the roster. Depth is a concern, but Kentucky appears to be in good hands with their two new starters.
At field cornerback, Cedrick Dort Jr. claimed a starting spot. The redshirt senior from South Florida looked comfortable and confident at the position throughout Saturday’s practice. However, one of the biggest stars at practice was at boundary cornerback.
Carrington Valentine played in 10 games last season as a true freshman and recorded a start in the Gator Bowl win over NC State. Overall, the Cincinnati Moeller product recorded 10 tackles while also making the Dean’s List. In the open scrimmage, the second-year player looked the part constantly looking smooth in coverage and being in the right spots. This could be the breakout performer of the defense in 2021.
The Kentucky secondary could be the strength of the team this fall. Expect plenty of 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 looks from Brad White’s unit this season.
The week ahead at KSR
This will be a jam-packed week of practice for Kentucky football, and KSR will be here to cover everything. On Tuesday, Liam Coen will speak with reporters followed by Brad White on Thursday and Mark Stoops on Saturday. Nick Roush will make the voyage to the Joe Craft Football Training Facility to provide updates.
On the website, KSR’s position preview series will begin this week as each unit of the team is broken down. Stay tuned for the daily feature with a video series to go along with it on the KSR YouTube channel. Go smash that subscribe button. Meanwhile, fresh episodes of 11 Personnel and The Depth Chart Podcast will be dropping soon. If you missed it, the KSR Football Podcast dropped an episode on Saturday afternoon recapping everything that happened over the weekend at Kroger Field.
Football is coming.