Questions answered and questions remaining after Kentucky football’s spring scrimmage


Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Cole Lanter (81) scores a touchdown as wide receiver Luke Leeper (37) celebrates in the background during the UK football spring game on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky football held its annual spring game on Saturday, pitting offense against defense in a display of where the program is ahead of the summer dead period.

With every offseason of college athletics posing numerous questions regarding returning players, holes from departing players and how transfers will fit into the roster, the spring scrimmage provided many of those answers.

That said, with every question answered, another question is posed, and this is no different after the blue and white took the field this past weekend. 

Before looking into what is now unknown, here’s what was learned from the spring game:

Questions answered

“How will Kentucky’s offense look without Wan’Dale Robinson?”

Just fine by the looks of it. 

In the absence of the reigning Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year, many onlookers worried his production would be irreplaceable after he declared for the NFL Draft.

This does not appear to be the case, as Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson and freshman Dane Key both stepped up to make athletic catches and evade defenders with flashy moves.

Tayvion Robinson secured three receptions for 42 yards, with an average of 14 yards per reception, bringing in 75% of his targets. 

He also showed a bit of spice, wasting no time spinning and evading defenders in his initial 24-yard reception.

Meanwhile, Key caught two passes for 43 yards, bringing in half of his targets.

“He has a really good feel for the game,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said about Key. “For a guy that could be playing spring sports in high school right now, he’s very mature in his approach. He’s been very consistent.”

While it’s still entirely possible that Wan’Dale Robinson’s loss will still be felt, the offense made it clear that it will not give up on the passing game just because it lost its star receiver and its offensive coordinator.

In fact, based on the small sample size, it might’ve just found a new star or two to replace him and allow the team to rely on the passing game even more.

“How much will Will Levis improve from last season?”

While it’s hard to predict how a quarterback will stand in the world of college football based on a spring scrimmage, one thing is undeniable: Will Levis looked like a star.

Only being given two drives before his day came to an end, Levis made the most of his opportunities, going 7-8 in passing attempts for 98 yards, recording a passing touchdown in both drives.

He finished the day with a quarterback rating of 272.9, by far the highest of any Wildcat who found themselves under center.

Levis even ignored the unwritten rules for a quarterback during a spring scrimmage, sticking to his nature to face his opponents head on and diving for the pylon, in an effort to secure the touchdown in his first drive.

“It’s part of his toughness and the style of player he is, and it’s why he has a bright future,” offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said. “Since the day I walked in the door we talked about it, he’s been really mindful of it in practice, practicing sliding and practicing getting down. He’s thinking about it, he understands what’s at stake.”

Questions unanswered

“How will the offensive line hold up?”

Stoops may have commented that he was happy with how the line held up from where he stood on the field, but from above, it was much harder to notice anything of significance.

While the offensive line ideally wouldn’t draw attention to itself, it also didn’t provide many answers for questions surrounding its sturdiness on Saturday, even when put under a critical lense.

Simply put, the spring scrimmage was a golden opportunity for the offensive skill players to show what they can do, but it didn’t provide much of the same opportunity for the linemen.

The defense wasn’t passive by any means, but it hardly stacks up to a live SEC defense during the regular season with a potential playoff spot on the line.

It’s unlikely the state of the offensive line will be fully known and able to gauge until a few games into the regular season, at earliest after UK’s week two game at Florida.

“How good is the defense?”

If the offensive line wasn’t set up to have a strong showing in the spring scrimmage, the defense was truly thrown to the wolves.

Rather than a traditional scrimmage style, Kentucky opted to instead feature the white team as all-time defense, while the blue team was all-time offense, making much more sense of the 32-0 final score.

If it wasn’t bad enough that the defense was set up to fail from the get-go, defensive coordinator Brad White further admitted he didn’t exactly set his guys up for an easy day.

“I put these guys in a pretty tough situation,” White said. “I wanted to see how they would compete and how they would respond to some of those situations. To say, ‘How was the run defense?’ is probably not fair to the defensive structure as a whole, I put them in some pretty tough situations that allowed some leaky yardage.”

With defense having been one of the biggest question marks for Kentucky last season, being the sore spot at several moments throughout the year, eyes were lasered in on how they would bounce back during this glance into the future. 

Unfortunately, that answer is still unclear.

“What is the new offense going to look like post Liam Coem?”

While it may come as a shock that the offense is still a question mark after all the harping over quarterback and receiver play, Stoops and Scangarello made it known that what was displayed on Saturday was just a fraction of what the final product will be.

“When it’s all said and done we’re very excited about where we’re going,” Stoops said. “We get we were relatively basic today, but there’s quite a bit of carryover; you can see some nuances.”

Levis even went as far as to say what was displayed was merely “25 to 30%” of what will be in the final game plan.

“[Scangarello] didn’t wanna give anything away,” Levis said. “I don’t know if you guys realized or not, but there was one drive where we ran the same play in the red zone three times in a row, he didn’t want to show any other concepts in the red zone.”

With the offense being kept extremely basic, it’s still unknown what this offense will look like by the time the season rolls around, though Levis did clarify that many of what was actually shown will be critical pieces of the Wildcats’ offensive identity.


What is the takeaway?

“Was there any point to the extremely simplistic and watered down ‘scrimmage?’”

While the spring scrimmage certainly didn’t offer as many answers as most would have liked, it’s still incredibly important in looking ahead to the season in the fall.

While the scrimmage wasn’t set up for the defense and line to thrive, it still provided live experience and reps for players who may not have gotten many opportunities prior.

Furthermore, for the upcoming freshmen like Key, who ventured to Lexington for the scrimmage, getting integrated into the offensive scheme, no matter how basic, could be the difference between early success or sitting second or third on the depth chart for two years.

With dead period arriving sooner than coaches may wish, having a scrimmage that exposes potential strengths and weaknesses within the individuals is critical, as it allows the ones who are serious about their craft to hone in on those particular skills before returning to the team after the break.

“There’s a lot of work to still be done, but I like the foundation we layed out,” Scangarello said. “Now we can have a plan going into the summer and into August in the first game where we create our identity with the types of guys we have. I’m excited about what we have as a nucleus and how football smart they are, so we’ll see how far we can take it this year.”