Three things we learned this spring

With the annual Blue/White scrimmage come and gone, the UK football team will shift back into offseason mode before players return again for training camp in August. Now that spring practice has concluded, let’s reflect on what we learned over the last month.

  1. Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders are trying to open up the offense for 2012. In the scrimmage, both offenses operated almost exclusively out of the no-huddle and shotgun formation. Quarterback Maxwell Smith told me coaches have said they would like to throw the ball up to 70-percent of the time during the upcoming season. This is a drastic shift from the safe, screen-heavy offense the Cats featured in 2011, placing them near the bottom nationally in many statistical categories. With explosive targets like wide receivers Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins, three capable tight ends with different skill sets, a healthy offensive line (for now) and depth at running back, Smith should have the tools around him and the experience to put more points on the board this season.
  2. The secondary is still UK’s biggest question mark heading into the summer. Defensive back Marcus Caffey had a good spring season and made an impact on Phillips, but defensive coordinator Rick Minter says the position is still an open competition. Caffey made some plays in the scrimmage, but the secondary was beat down the field multiple times by Robinson and fellow wide receiver E.J. Fields, and was torn apart over the middle by UK’s tight ends. Aside from Cartier Rice, the team’s special package cornerback (mostly saw the field when team’s opened up into three or four-wide receiver sets) there is not a wealth of experience at a position that was a weakness for the Cats in 2011. With a strong front seven in front of them, the secondary is far from hopeless. But it absolutely remains one of UK’s biggest areas of concern heading into the summer.
  3. UK’s punter is not on campus right now. Well, maybe he is. Phillips said he hasn’t been able to check all the fraternities and other student organizations to see if any unknowns have a leg. But for now, the position seems up for grabs. Whoever assumes the punting duties will have big shoes to fill, with Ryan Tydlacka departing as one of the Cats’ most reliable performers in 2011. The punter before him, Tim Masthay, is now the punter for the Green Bay Packers and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. “Punter U,” as UK has been referred as in the past, will be looking for its next in line, or at least for someone who can consistently benefit UK in the field position battle, something Tydlacka excelled at during his career.