UK football team is using spring to grow a young offense


UK head coach Mark Stoops calls a timeout during the game against Ole Miss on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.

Mohammad Ahmad

UK football head coach Mark Stoops and several of his players spoke at a press conference Saturday afternoon following an early spring practice. The team participated in its first outdoor scrimmage this spring at Kroger Field.

CJ Conrad, Benny Snell Jr., Adrian Middleton and Josh Paschal were the players present at the press conference. Each of them, along with Stoops, talked about practice performance, injury updates, and an outlook on this upcoming season.

Coach Stoops

Overall, Stoops said it was a “good practice.” He said the defense is ahead right now. The line of scrimmage was described as a high point from today’s practice.

One player that Stoops is pleased with is Paschal. Paschal recently moved up to the defensive line as a pass rusher.

“Our defense has a lot of players who have played for a long time,” Stoops said. “I saw a lot of stout plays and tackles, so across the board we’re improving.”

On the other hand, he said he felt like the offense has a “ways to go.” To him, a big key for the Wildcats’ offense is staying in sync. For Stoops, sophomore receiver Lynn Bowden provided an example of that with several catches in practice.

CJ Conrad

With a look of optimism and confidence, Conrad said his foot was feeling 100-percent recovered. Despite not playing in practice, he provided a leadership role by watching film with other players.

“I’m not only learning about my position, but I’m studying the receiver and quarterback positions to understand even more to better myself,” Conrad said.

Conrad told reporters that the tight end position has been thin in the spring due to injuries with himself, Will Roden and Justin Rigg. He assured reporters though, saying that “the role would be filled in the fall.” 

Benny Snell Jr.

Snell did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage. However, he provided a player-coach role on the sidelines.

“A lot of guys put in work today, and I was glad I got to see that,” Snell said. “While I was watching, I saw a lot of things that needed to be corrected, so it gave me an output on what to work on as a team.”

Snell said that quarterback Terry Wilson is growing, and he had equal praise for quarterback Gunnar Hoak. When asked about the running backs, he said that A.J. Rose was showing signs of improvement.

“If I’m not on the field, I’m getting better of the field,” Snell said.

Adrian Middleton

When asked about his training progress, Middleton said he has added on several pounds of muscle. He described the intensity of the competition for roster spots on defense.

“Coach wants everyone to keep playing well because it’s spring time,” the defensive tackle said.

Middleton said that defensively, he saw a lot of strength on the defensive line, echoing what Stoops said. He also said he saw “a lot of gaps filled” by linebackers on several plays.

Freshman defensive tackle Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald impressed Middleton. Middleton mentioned that he and several other freshman players have been performing well this spring.

Josh Paschal

Talking about his transition to the defensive line, Paschal said he needs to learn a lot of points about the techniques of a pass rusher. He has also been trying to adjust his weight for the position, something that is not very difficult, he said. 

“We feel confident as a team, but we have some things to work on,” Paschal said. “I believe I can help the line by bringing a competitive attitude.”

He went to talk about how seeing more faces on the defensive line makes the team more competitive. Paschal said he believes the team needs to make the best of its time this spring to be successful for next season.