Faster tempo, undefeated talk highlight spring opener


The UK football team plays Mississippi State at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

It’s a new season, a new head coach and a new pace on the field for the UK football team.

With the head coaching reins now in the hands of Joker Phillips, the Cats took the field Wednesday morning for their first spring practice of the year.

“It’s a lot more intense,” said junior-to-be wide receiver Randall Cobb. “He picked up the energy, he brought in some coaches who are real high-energy.”

The Cats said they aren’t doing conditioning sprints at the end of each practice as they had done in the past, but instead are getting their conditioning in by sprinting from drill to drill.

Cobb said he liked the move because it made them play and move faster and have a greater sense of urgency on the field.

That urgency and speed will be necessary if the Cats hope to accomplish what Cobb and fellow wide receiver Chris Matthews hope to accomplish in 2010: an undefeated season.

“I feel that we can really do it,” Matthews said. “We lost a couple games last year, we could have had 10 wins, easily … Now we have to come back, learn from our mistakes and we have to get back after it. Those little mistakes we had last year, we’re not going to have this year.”

Matthews said knowing how close the Cats were last year serves as a motivation for them going into this season. He said the close losses last season ate him alive.

Three of UK’s five regular season losses last season came by a touchdown or less, including a six-point loss at home to Tennessee in overtime.

Matthews, who transferred from junior college in Los Angeles following his sophomore season, said he was itching to go out for his first spring practice. He said he didn’t want to divulge any of his personal goals, but said he had them written down in his room and feels they will not only help himself, but his teammates around him to produce a good season.

That itch to get back on the field after a long, cold winter was shared by Cobb, who joked after practice Wednesday that he was starting to get tired of new strength coach Rock Oliver working them so hard. Cobb said he excited to get back on the field finally after the conditioning program.

“It feels great just to be in the football atmosphere,” Cobb said. “Being able to catch balls, being able to run routes … I’m really looking forward to spring ball.”

Lentz gives up football

UK head coach Joker Phillips announced after practice Wednesday that junior-to-be safety Matt Lentz would be giving up football because of concussions.

Phillips said all the tests run on Lentz came back negative, but Lentz and his family decided to file for a medical scholarship. Lentz will be a student coach for the Cats this season and was seen at practice in a sweatshirt and shorts.

“It breaks my heart because I had a huge part in getting Matt here,” Phillips said. “Knowing how much this program means to him and his family and him to have to give up football.”

Lentz finished the 2009 season with 19 solo tackles and 3.5 assisted tackles. He broke one pass up and intercepted a pass against Louisiana-Monroe.

Lentz was projected to move from free safety this season to strongside linebacker. Phillips said the move was to add some experience and depth at the position.

“The game goes on, and Matt understands that,” Phillips said. “Life goes on for him and we’re just excited about getting him to be a part of our staff.”