Three Things To Watch During Kentucky’s Spring Practice
As he begins his sixth season in Lexington, Mark Stoops has one of his most experienced teams. Eighteen starters return from last season’s 7-6 squad, which lost in the Music City Bowl. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions concerning the 2018 Wildcats. Let’s take a look at Three Things To Watch During Kentucky’s Spring Practice.
Who Is The Starting Quarterback?
Much has been written already about the quarterback job and will likely continue until September 1st. Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak are competing for the chance to replace Stephen Johnson. Danny Clark is also in the mix but looks to be behind the other two.
Since signing with Kentucky on December 20th, True Blue Fans are anxious to see the junior college transfer play. Wilson threw for 2,113 yards and 26 touchdowns for Garden City Community College in Kansas last season. In addition, he ran for over 500 yards and five scores.
Wilson presents the first true dual-threat quarterback at Kentucky since Shane Boyd more than a decade ago. However, he does need to work on his accuracy completing only 54 percent of his passes with 11 interceptions.
Hoak is a redshirt sophomore who was a four-star recruit out of Cincinnati. Though he has never taken a snap in a game, he was the star of the last year’s spring game. Throwing for 174 yards and three touchdowns, Hoak is ready to show what he can do in game situations.
As it stands right now, Hoak is running with the first team offense. However, that is due mostly to him being in the system for two years. Look for both to get plenty of reps leading up to the April 13th spring game.
This battle more than likely will go up to the season opener against Central Michigan. Either way offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback coach Darrin Hinshaw will start 2018 with a player who has never thrown a pass in an actual game.
Positions Changes On Defense
Kentucky returns almost everyone from a defense which ranked 89th in football in total yards. In 2018, Stoops wants to get the best 11 players on the field in hopes of showing improvement. To that end, sophomore, Joshua Paschal is moving from outside linebacker to defensive end.
As a “baby blitz brother” in 2017, Paschal recorded 3.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Playing behind Josh Allen, the sophomore would not see much playing time, now with the position change, he will. Stoops says the sophomore is “one of our best 11 and a guy who has the ability to be a difference-maker.”
For several years, the Wildcats’ biggest weakness has been on the defensive line. The move of Paschal should pay immediate dividends.
One player that the Cats must replace in 2018 is inside linebacker Courtney Love. His career totals of 168 tackles and four and a half sacks are going to be tough to match. In addition, Eil Brown, who figured to be the starter, announced he is transferring.
To try to fill that void, Alex King has moved from outside to inside linebacker. The six-foot-four Ohio native was considered one of the best pass rushers in the Midwest coming out of high school.
In addition to King, redshirt freshman Jamin Davis is also getting reps at the middle linebacker spot.
Can Anyone Play Tight End?
As we continue looking at Three Things To Watch During Kentucky’s Spring Practice, it is time to look at the tight ends. All-SEC performer C.J. Conrad is recovering from foot surgery and won’t practice until the summer, and Greg Hart graduated. Highly touted freshmen Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw won’t be on campus until summer.
That leaves Justin Rigg as the Cats only returning player at the position. He was injured in an ugly collision with Derrick Baity on the first day of practice injuring his spleen. Rigg will be out for the remainder of spring practice.
Comeback szn starts now 😤 pic.twitter.com/9S4rqWFtXs
— Justin Rigg (@justinrigg83) March 7, 2018
Due to the injuries, tight ends coach Vince Marrow has been forced to use tackle Landon Young among others to simulate the offense. Marrow told reporters “we are thin now but come June we are going to be really good.” Not having the starters out there robs Hoak and Wilson a chance to establish a rhythm with their tight ends until fall camp begins.
Thanks for checking out Three Things To Watch During Kentucky’s Spring Practice here at Last Word On College Football. Stay with Last Word for more updates leading up to the spring game on April 13th.
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