Takeaways from Kentucky’s Fall camp open practice


Will Levis (7) throws the ball during the UK football Fan Day open practice on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

It’s finally football time in the bluegrass.

Kentucky held it’s annual Fan Day Saturday morning at Kroger Field, and many questions surrounding the program were answered in the two hours that the Wildcats took to the field.

What did the practice reveal?:

Joey Gatewood ran with the one’s.

The former Auburn transfer took the first snaps at quarterback with the rest of the starters.

He had the most impressive mid-range throwing accuracy of all the quarterbacks. Inside 20 yards, he had quick timing and could get the ball to his receiver on a line.

Gatewood panicked under pressure a couple of times, resorting to lofting the ball into the flats for a running back to catch in harms way of a ball-hawking defender, rather than throwing it away or even taking a sack. He was the only quarterback to throw an interception, which was brought back by sophomore defensive back Carrington Valentine. 

Will Levis looked impressive.

Levis’ first round as quarterback during the 11-on-11 scrimmage didn’t see him throw the football once. The one time he dropped back, he showed off his versatility by stepping up in the pocket and his ability to step up and avoid the sack.

He played mostly under center at first, but looked more comfortable in the shotgun. His release is lightning quick and his tight spiral can thread the needle through the defense and find his receiver, even in tight coverage. 

Levis showed off his deep ball as well, most prominently to junior wide receiver Rashaan Lewis, which nearly went for a 40-50 yard touchdown. Levis to Lewis is the second connection in the video below:

Later in the scrimmage, Levis fumbled a shaky snap, only to pick it up and launch a deep ball toward the end zone for Josh Ali, who made a leaping grab over a defender for a touchdown.

Could we see that duo more often this upcoming season? They seem to have good enough chemistry to create magic on the field, as shown by that highlight play.

Base offensive will feature a 12-personnel scheme.

This particular offensive will feature one running back and two tight ends. Two wide outs will be on either side of the field and the quarterback will be in the shotgun. 

In most occasions, there will be two tight ends featured on the line of scrimmage, or one tight end on the line of scrimmage and the other as a motioning H-back.

There was a lot of motion going on in the backfield, which gives Kentucky a heavy presence of five blockers on one side to compliment a power running game, but leaves the opposite side open for an edge rusher to make the potential play in the backfield. 

With the potential season-ending injury to Keaton Upshaw, who was the projected No. 1 tight end for Kentucky this season, Izayah Cummings has elected to move from wide out to tight end, where he was looking at home during open practice.

The running back room looked strong.

As Chris Rodriguez Jr. said during media day, JuTahn McClain is the man, and he proved that today by breaking free out of the backfield multiple times. Even in this non-tackle scenario, he was out-running the defense and had his sights on the end zone all day long. 

With this new pass-heavy offense Liam Coen implemented for this season, the running backs are doing drills that they’re not use to doing when it comes to catching the football. It seems inevitable this offense will feature many halfback screens and flares this season as the offense gets the running backs more involved in the passing game.

Rodriguez Jr. is the starting running back, but he didn’t have any plays that wowed the fans and stayed rather quiet in front of the spectators. At the end of the day, he’s probably just biding his time until Sept. 4 rolls around.

Wide receivers will be a strength this season.

One of Kentucky’s biggest weaknesses in 2020 was their receiving core. It was a one-man show with Josh Ali last season.

The addition of the versatile former Cornhusker and Kentucky native Wan’Dale Robinson will change the passing game in Lexington, as he is expected to be one of the top receivers in the SEC this upcoming season.

Robinson was able to catch the short passes, deep balls and was able to secure the ball whether he was under or overthrown. He seems to be as sure-handed as they come.

Ali and Lewis had their highlight plays, but another name for BBN to look out for is sophomore receiver DeMarcus Harris, who caught to back-to-back impressive snags over defenders late in the practice.

On the very last play of practice, quarterback Beau Allen hit the speedy four-star freshman wide out Dekel Crowdus on a deep ball. He has high expectations with those within the program and is showing out early as he hopes for some playing time in his first year out of high school.

Other takeaways:

  • Punter Wilson Berry was punting an average of 40-45 yards per kick. He had one that he launched from the opposite 40 yard line and landed within the 10.
  • It was hard to judge the defense, as there were no form tackles allowed during the scrimmage, but no defender penetrated the pocket enough to “sack” the quarterback. There was pretty solid blanket coverage of deep balls, but the middle of the field was open for the most part.
  • Beau Allen was the second quarterback to take snaps during the scrimmage.
  • (To a lesser extent) Junior tight end Brenden Bates can do the worm very well.

Kentucky’s fall camp duration spans from yesterday (Aug. 6) until Sunday Aug. 15. They will open the season at home against Louisiana Monroe on Sept. 4 at noon.