Breaking down UK’s 2019 Blue-White game


Kentucky Wildcats defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins (55) runs out with safety Davonte Robinson (9) and wide receiver Brett Slusher (25). University of Kentucky’s football team played their annual spring game on Friday, April 12, 2019 at Kroger Field. The Blue team won 64-10. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

It’s finally time to start talking football in the Bluegrass again. 

Friday evening, UK football played its Blue-White Spring game to kick off the 2019 season and left its audience with plenty to break down. The game was split into “first team” offense/defense (Blue) vs. “second team” offense/defense (White), although a few players switched jerseys and played for both teams. The Blue team emerged victorious, winning the match-up 64-10. 

“In the spring, you get a little bit thin. You’re thin in general. Your roster is low. Then when you split the teams up like that, you could leave one team shorthanded. And I think you saw that tonight,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “But still I saw some good explosive offensive plays. I was pleased to see that. We’ve been working hard all offseason at trying to improve and converting opportunities and shot plays.”

Since there’s a lot to unpack and matchups in spring games are always inconsistent and, to be frank, lopsided, let’s break things down by positions:


Last season’s QB1 Terry Wilson showed consistency throwing down the field Friday evening, something we weren’t used to seeing in the junior last year. Wilson went 10-of-12 for 191 yards and two touchdowns, no fumbles and no interceptions. He, his coaches and his teammates all noted that Wilson’s arm has improved over the off-season and that he’s much more comfortable in the pocket. 

“I’m fast, I got faster than last year and just him being able to throw me the ball in stride. Me, Isaiah (Epps), Josh Ali, that’s a huge impact,” UK wide receiver Lynn Bowden said. 

The Wildcats showed us a more explosive offense than we saw last season and Stoops said part of that is the QB’s ability to get the ball down the field. 

“We’ve been working hard and getting the ball down the field and we’ve been converting on quite a few,” Stoops said. 

Next, we have Gunnar Hoak. The soon-to-be graduate had an impressive showing in his last spring game at Kentucky, going 14-of-15 for 174 yards and two TDs while playing with the Blue squad and completing nine passes good for 88 yards while sporting the White jersey. Wilson and Hoak combined for 453 passing yards on the game. 

Also in at quarterback were Walker Wood and Kolbe Langhi, who went 3-for-5 and 0-for-2, respectively. 

Running backs

Although the No. 1 UK rushing leader in Benny Snell is no longer at UK, the running back position for the Cats seems to be managing. Redshirt-freshman Kavosiey Smoke, whom we saw glimpses of in Kentucky’s blowout win over Louisville, led UK in rushing yards Friday evening with 132 on five attempts, averaging 26.4 yards per carry. It helps, though, when one of those carries went for 87 yards for one of his two touchdowns. 

Returner A.J. Rose ran for 86 yards on 11 carries, his longest being 42 yards. The junior is the likely starter in UK’s backfield next season, and agrees with Stoops by saying the team is cooking up a lot of explosiveness. 

“As you can see, our running backs are doing a good job. We get that ball and we go. If we get a good push at the line and get past second level, it’s curtains,” Rose said. 

Chris Rodriguez, a redshirt-freshman, added 71 yards on the ground for the Cats. 


There’s some names you’ll recognize from last season, and from the looks of it, some names you’ll quickly learn at the receiver spot. 

Of course, there’s Lynn Bowden, UK’s starting wideout. The junior showed his impressive connections with Wilson, something that was foreshadowed in UK’s historic 10-win season. Friday evening, Bowden caught four passes for 66 yards and added one touchdown for the Cats. Bowden said that over the off-season, the receiving core/quarterbacks have really worked on connecting on more long shots. 

“We had a great season last year but it’d probably enhance our chances of going to the SEC Championship when we played Georgia. We missed a couple big deep balls there, I missed one myself and I still kick myself in the foot for that,” Bowden said. “We’re just working on actually connecting with the deep balls and we did that a little bit today.”

Bryce Oliver, a 6-foot-1, 211-pound freshman, turned heads during his performance in the spring game, catching eight total passes for 105 yards.

“Yeah, Bryce has showed up all spring. He’s been solid. I’ve mentioned him. He’s one of the young guys that can emerge as a playmaker,” Stoops said. “He’s a big, strong guy that can run and catch.”

Also in the mix were returners Isaiah Epps, Akeem Hayes, Justin Rigg, Josh Ali and Ahmad Wagner. 


UK’s defense is possibly one of the most interesting storylines with Wildcat football moving forward, with most of the unit moving on to the NFL. However, several names stood out Friday. 

Returner Davonte Robinson led the Blue squad and came up with eight big tackles, five of them solo. Chris Oats was right behind him with seven, and Jordan Wright totaled four with one interception and one pass break-up. Freshman Jared Casey caught everyone’s attention with his six tackles and one quarterback hurry. The linebacker graduated early to start spring season with UK. 

“You got to adjust quick because they throw you in the fire. You have to adjust real quick,” Casey said.

Defensive coordinator Brad White said there’s still a lot to be done on the defensive side of the ball, and almost no position is set in stone yet.

The next time the Cats officially step out on the field will be August 31, when they play Toledo at home.