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Dyshawn Mobley

Kentucky running back Dyshawn Mobley (33) pushes away would-be Tennessee tackler Corey Miller (80) in a run in the first half of their NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

Kentucky running back Dyshawn Mobley (33) pushes away would-be Tennessee tackler Corey Miller (80) in a run in the first half of their NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

By LARRY VAUGHT

He had to make his mark on special teams, and did that so well that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops joked that he might switch Dyshawn Mobley from running back to defense because of the tackles he was making.

But in UK’s final two games, Mobley showed he can definitely have a spot in Neal Brown’s offense even with the expected competition the Cats will have at running back next year.

Mobley scored on a 69-yard run at Georgia and then had a 53-yard run and a career-high 143 yards in the season-ending loss to Tennessee. He finished the year with 300 yards on 43 carries, an average of a team-high 7.0 yards per attempt.

“I told my team at halftime I was going to lay it all on the line. I told them I was going to go out there and have fun,” said Mobley after the Tennessee game.

Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith says there has never been any doubt that the 5-11, 210-pound Mobley, a record-setting back during his prep career in Tennessee, could run the football. He ran for 3,068 yards and 48 scores as a senior and had 5,849 rushing yards and 76 touchdowns in his prep career.

“We all know he can run the ball really hard. He’s got talent, but he has other stuff that he needs to work on and things that he needs to show the coaching staff,” Smith said. “He played great. He ran his butt off (against Tennessee). He ran really tough, and that’s who he is. He goes out every day on special teams and just balls. He is a baller and tonight he showed that he can play.”

Stoops admitted he was “impressed” with the way Mobley finished the season.

“I love the way he’s playing. He’s going all out and it’s good to see. He’s got great passion for the game,” Stoops said after the Tennessee game. “You could see that when he’s going down there and busting his hump on special teams and doing all those good things, so I’ve been pleased with Dyshawn.”

Stoops wished more players had seized the chance to finish the season strong to show him they deserved spots on next year’s team.

“We’ve got to continue to build in all areas of this program and we need guys to step up and take charge.  We need toughness and we need leadership and we need to continue to have guys emerge in that area,” Stoops said.

Mobley said it was hard to patiently wait for a chance to show what he could do the last two years.

“For any kid it would be hard to wait your turn. I just sat back and waited for my turn. I knew I would get my chance and when I did I was going to give it my all. A couple people (were) down and the coaches had enough trust to put me in,” he said. “Once I got out there and started playing, it definitely slowed down.”

Mobley knows he has to work in the offseason to keep improving.

“We have just got to get in there and work hard,” he said.

Brown said it was “encouraging” to see how Mobley finished the season, but now he has to show he can be a more consistent player.

“He’s gotta focus more. He runs the ball really well, OK? His running ability, I’ve never questioned. He’s gotta be more consistent in his pass protection,” Brown said. “He does some things where he loses focus, like I think he had one or maybe two procedure penalties where he just didn’t get set in the backfield; we were going to direct-snap him.

“I think just consistency. He practiced better the last three or four weeks. That’s encouraging. But he’s got raw ability. He’s tough to tackle in space, and I’m real encouraged. I think he’s going to be a big-time factor for us moving forward.”

That’s what Mobley wants to help thank the seniors for what they did for him and his teammates this season.

“The seniors laid down the foundation for our upcoming season. They help push the tradition of UK football forward and now we have to take it and go with it,” he said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown hopes Saturday’s 48-14 win over Alabama State is the start of better things to come for UK’s offense going into the final four games, including Saturday’s matchup at noon with No. 9 Georgia.

“I think anytime you want to get a reward. You work and work and work. You are working for wins, playing time and all those type things,” said Brown after Saturday’s win. “You want to see your work pay off with productions and wins. We can build off this. There were some positives. There were some things we have to get cleaned up and do a lot better with a really, really good Missouri team.”

Here’s what he had to say about quarterback Jalen Whitlow

Question: How did quarterback Jalen Whitlow come out of the game?
Brown: “I think he is probably sore. He got hit pretty good a couple of times. I think he is still sore. He is going to be sore. We are eight games into a tough schedule and he’s not the only one. There are a bunch of guys in the locker room that are sore.”

Question: Did Whitlow prove anything with his play that produced two passing touchdowns and two running touchdowns?
Brown: “He was definitely challenged. He played tough. I thought he threw the ball downfield pretty accurately and made some good throws and plays. I was pleased he made some throws on third and fourth down, which is something he hadn’t done so far this year. That was positive. He still has to have confidence in his underneath throws. Those are the throws he missed and looked bad on. Some screens and stuff like that. Those are the things he throws best in practice. But I think he got some confidence. He had a high rushing total and we didn’t try to run him after it was 28-7. Every game I learn more about how to best use him.”

Question: Why would he struggle with the simpler throws?
Brown: “I have no idea. He throws those really consistent in practice. I think they have got in his head a little bit. I think he thought about it more than he should. He just needs to let it rip.”

Question: Since Whitlow throw 16 passes to eight receivers, is that more how the offense should look?
Brown: “I don’t know how to answer. I will just leave how the offense is supposed to look … we want to get more people involved obviously. I think at Troy and (Texas) Tech we were close to leading the country in most guys catching balls. That is something we pride ourselves in, but we have not done a very good job spreading it around.”

Question: How did you think Dyshawn Mobley played since he had not carried the ball since the Florida game?
Brown: “He did some good things. He got hurt. Nothing serious. Just a little banged up. He adds another dimension. He has really played well on special teams and I thought he deserved to get some time on offense.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops did his best today to explain why freshman running back JoJo Kemp got only three carries — and none after his 11-yard gain on UK’s second play until the fourth quarter  — during Saturday’s loss to Florida.

“The bottom line was we had 10 runs from the running back position.  Part of that was schemed to get some runs on the perimeter, which I actually thought we had some good success, they’re well designed plays and we were getting the ball to the perimeter and getting some yards on that.  I think when you go back and look at the film we certainly could have run the ball more with the running backs inside, because we actually had some decent success.  When you have four yards and five yards against that defense that’s a successful running play,” Stoops said.

“And Jojo with the 10, 11‑yard run and so on, but we only had 50 snaps — or 47 snaps.  So with Jojo, some specialty plays, Raymond’s (Sanders) better.  Some plays doesn’t matter which back is in, it could be a fake and then 10 running plays with the running backs, Jojo got three, Ray got five and Dyshawn (Mobley) got two.  So I think we could all look at the film and wish we had 70 snaps but we didn’t.  So I think that goes to a lot of things we need to do better, we need to coach better, we need to give ‘em the ball a little bit more.

“But I think for a variety of reasons it worked out that way.”

Stoops said Sanders’ “experience” helps him in certain situations.

“Whether sometimes we’re reading things with that guy on who to block on the perimeter, things like that,”  he said about Sanders’ edge.

How can Kemp get better?

“Just experience, just experience,” Stoops said. “They’re both good players, Raymond played very good, played a very good game.  He ran the ball pretty well, he caught it, he had some key blocks that people underestimate that we had some good success with some of those things we were doing.  Both guys need to play, again, in a perfect world we have more snaps and give Jojo the ball more and run it more successfully.  That’s pretty easy to say.”

D.J. Warren

D.J. Warren

By LARRY VAUGHT

D.J. Warren has no problem understanding his role in Kentucky’s offense and has no complaints about it.

“I am strictly a fullback. In certain situations, tight ends and fullbacks kind of have the same assignments,” said Warren, a junior from Alcoa, Tenn. “But I like this offense. One reason is I know my role. My role is to open up holes for the running back and block. I am perfectly fine with that. I am a team guy. I have never been selfish. I just want to do whatever the coaches need me to do to help the team in any way I can.”

He did that at Alcoa — the same school former UK star Randall Cobb and current UK senior tight end Tyler Robinson played for — as the team went 44-1 during his three years as a starter. He was first-team all-state his final two years. He ran for 1,300 yards and 36 touchdowns on 136 carries as a senior and also had 84 tackles, including 26 for loss and 16 quarterback sacks.

He has played in all 24 games the last two years, including six starts. But he’s had just three carries and caught only four passes in those 24 games.

Warren thought he might have a bigger role in last year’s offense based on what coaches told him in the offseason, but it never happened.

“It was really tough last year. Again, me personally, I was going through so much but I was trying to continue to stay humble and just help my team out,” Warren said. “Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted and the way the team wanted obviously, but my main thing was to stay positive and work hard and know in the back of mind something good would come out of it.

“At times, I did feel forgotten. But I know my role. The fullback in the spread offense is going to get in sometimes and sometimes he may not get in. That is something I really understand. Once again, that goes back to me being an understanding player and knowing my role. I am just here to help in any way and do anything the coaches ask me to do.”

Warren could get a chance to block for 215-pound sophomore tailback Dyshawn Mobley, UK’s most punishing runner.

“Mobley is one tough running back. He runs hard. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he would run somebody over,” Warren said.

Would he run over Warren if he didn’t clear a hole?

“I don’t know. Yeah, he would,” Warren laughed and said. “That’s why I try my best to open up holes for him. That makes it easier and he doesn’t always have to run over people. He can just run freely. That is my job.  He could be a big surprise and open up a lot of people’s eyes this year. He is a powerful runner, quick and everything you would want in a running back.”

He’s also been impressed with freshman JoJo Kemp.

“I think he is going to be a phenomenal back,” Warren said. “Just from the runs he had in the scrimmage, I was very impressed. I think he is going to be a great back. I can’t wait to open holes for him.”

Warren expects the offense to be a lot more productive this season because of its simplicity compared to the previous two years. However, he’s not sure why defenses have such a hard time stopping coordinator Neal Brown’s offense that is so easy for players to learn.

“That is a good question. It is so simple yet there is a lot going into it at the same time,” Warren said. “We spread out in different things a lot of different ways. I really don’t know why it is hard to stop, but it is. And that is good for us.”

Click the photo above of Chad Scott to view a video of him talking about the backs.

Click the photo above of Chad Scott to view a video of him talking about the backs.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks the aggressive personality of running backs coach Chad Scott is showing with the way UK’s backs are performing in practice.

“I think all those running backs have really competed hard. I think Ray (Sanders) keeps getting better. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at Raymond Sanders this year. I expect big things from him,” Sanders said. “Jon George, kind of a steady Eddie. Then Jojo  (Kemp) and Dyshawn (Mobley), we need those guys. They’re different running styles, but we need those guys to come. And they are. They’re going to play.

“We’re going to have to be able to run the ball guys. We’re not in a position – we’re talking about freshman receivers. All that sounds good in this setting, but at the end of the day they’re still 17, 18 years old, and they’re still going to have to go out there and play. For us to put all of our cards in their deck or all our eggs in their basket, that wouldn’t be real wise. So we’re going to have to run the ball.”

That suits Scott, a former UK running back who coached with Brown at Troy and Texas Tech, as he pushes his backs to get ready for the season-opening game Aug. 31. Scott shared these insights.

Question: How are the running backs doing?
Scott: “They are looking real good. I have been impressed with the guys in terms of pass protection standpoint. They are coming along. (Senior) Ray Sanders is doing really well. He has had a great camp. The goal is just to keep him that way. Jonathan George has really come on and made some plays. He started out sluggishly, but he has picked it back up. Dyshawn Mobley has gotten back. He started out slowly, but he has made some big plays the last few days. And (freshman) JoJo Kemp has made some plays. I am really pleased with those guys, or at least I am right now. We have a long ways to go but we are making progress.”

Question: Is Kemp as good as you thought when you recruited him or maybe even better?
Scott: “He is as good as we thought and we thought he was good. He just has to continue to adjust to the wear and tear on his body from college football. His body has never felt like it feels right now. He just has to keep pressing, but he is as good as we thought.”

Question: Do you like Kemp’s enthusiasm and outgoing personality off the field?
Scott: “I like his toughness. Like his personality, love his toughness.”

Question: So is he a physical player like he claims he is?
Scott: “That is a fair description. He is a kid that will dictate tempo. He is not a follower. He doesn’t need nobody to push him. He is driven. That is one thing that has surprised me about him. He sets tempo. He wants it. He will jump in without somebody telling him. I really like that side of it.”

Question: How do you get backs to play with the tenacity you want?
Scott: “I always tell those guys if they lack energy, find it within me. I am always happy. The biggest adjustment from high school to college is pass protection. It is a lot of technique, but a lot is attitude and that’s one thing we stress. Everything we talk about always goes back to pass protection. If you can get those guys to have confidence to pick up the blitz, running the ball is almost second nature to them. ”

Question: Do you agree with coach Mark Stoops about Kemp having a pit bull mentality?
Scott: “He does have that mentality and we love him. Sometimes I have to pull him back. He will want to go up against somebody 90 pounds heavier than him. You can’t tell him he can’t do. He has that kind of mentality.”

Question: How would you describe Mobley in comparison to Kemp being a pit bull?
Scott: “One and the same honestly. Just a little taller and a bigger pit bull. The thing you will see with him is knowing who you are. JoJo is going to be a guy that can make people miss. He can break tackles, but at least for right now not being as big as other guys he’s going to have to specialize in making guys miss. Mobley is going to be a power runner. He’s going to break tackles. He’s going to make this offense exciting because he’s going to stay on his feet and run through people and get yards after contact and make big plays by breaking tackles.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

There was a time when it looked like running back would be the deepest position not only on the Kentucky offense, but perhaps on the entire team. Now that has dramatically changed.

First, Justin Taylor, who orignally committed to Alabama before signing with UK, transferred after his spring practice without ever playing a down at UK. Apparently he felt he would be buried on the loaded depth chart, especially after getting just four carries in the spring game and hearing coach Mark Stoops say he had a “lot of work to do” to get on the field.

Still, that left senior Raymond Sanders, one of UK’s most impressive players in the spring, and Jonathan George returning along with sophomores Dyshawn Mobley, who saw limited action in 2012, and Josh Clemons, who sat out 2012 with a knee injury after a banner start to his freshman season in 2011.

Throw in freshmen JoJo Kemp and Khalid Thomas and UK seemed loaded both in numbers and talent at that spot.

Then news broke Thursday that Thomas had been booted off the team along with his brother, sophomore linebacker Pancho Thomas, for violation of a team rule. But an even bigger blow came Friday when UK confirmed that Clemons had been hurt during workouts and is scheduled to have a MRI.

“One position where we have some quality depth is running back,” said new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown at the Louisville Quarterback Club in June.
He cited Clemons for having a “huge” game in UK’s Blue-White Game to end spring practice and that he showed the form he did in 2011 when he rushed for 279 yards in six games before tearing the meniscus in his knee against South Carolina. He had hoped to play last season, but the knee did not respond and coach Joker Phillips opted to redshirt him.

Clemons had game-changing ability when healthy because of his speed, strength and moves. His first collegiate touchdown was a 14-yard run against Western Kentucky that proved to be the game-winning score. He had an 87-yard touchdown run against Central Michigan, the longest scoring run by a UK player since 1970 and the fourth longest in school history. But perhaps the game where he proved he was for real came when he gained 69 yards against LSU, which had one of the nation’s top defenses in 2011.

He was the Class AAAA offensive player of the year in Georgia as a senior when he ran for 2,000 yards and 25 scores and finished his prep career with 3,585 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns.

Kentucky is not saying Clemons is seriously hurt. But any setback is not good news for him and knowing he’s scheduled for a MRI is not a sign of good things to come, either.

The Wildcats still have backs Brown can use in his offense.

“Raymond (Sanders) had the best spring of any back. He is an all-purpose guy. He makes people miss. He catches balls. He can do a lot of things in our offense,” Brown said.

He’s rushed for 1,078 yards on 233 carries in his three-year career and last year gained 669 yards on 125 attempts. He’s caught 39 passes for 238 yards and can also return punts or kickoffs.

George has rushed for 737 yards and six scores in three years. He’s a bigger, stronger back than Sanders, but also has speed.

“George is kind of a lunch-pail player and just goes about his business, which I like,” Brown said.

Mobley was a rushing machine in Tennessee during his prep career and got 41 carries for 184 yards last season. At 220 pounds, he’s a big back that Brown likes to have available.

“Mobley is young and physical,” Brown said.

Kemp could be the wild card, especially in Brown’s offense. He rushed 255 times as a senior in Florida for 1,469 yards and 23 touchdowns after running 178 times for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns on a game televised by ESPN2, which featured several Division I prospects on defense.

“I think JoJo Kemp could be a factor as well,” Brown said.

That’s a likely depth chart of Sanders, George, Mobley and Kemp entering preseason practice — and the order might change by Aug. 31 when UK opens the season against Western Kentucky. Brown may also opt to use Franklin County’s Ryan Timmons in the backfield at times and fullback D.J. Warren also impressed Brown during spring practice. The offense may even occasionally have a tight end lined up in the backfield.

But what once seemed like the deepest position on UK’s offense is taking some hits and for a team that struggled to score points last year, that’s not good news even with an offense as successful as what Brown’s offense has been.

By LARRY VAUGHT

LOUISVILLE — Understanding the mission of Neal Brown’s offense at Kentucky is not complicated.

“Fast, hard, physical. That’s our mission. It’s that simple,” said the UK offensive coordinator during a talk to the Louisville Quarterback Club Tuesday at Wildwood Country Club. “We want to play as fast as anybody in the country. Over the last three years (at Texas Tech), we were No. 1 in plays per game. I am a big believer in the more shots you get to score, the better you will be.

“Second thing, we will be a throw-first team. A lot of people run to set up the pass. We believe in the pass to set up the run. Most of the time we are going to talk about throwing. We want to spread people out and get them playing soft and then run the ball. We will probably throw the ball a lot early and then run.

“Last thing, we want to get the ball to playmakers in space and be creative. There are a lot of skilled guys. The hardest thing to find is offensive linemen and defensive linemen. The biggest mismatch in football is defensive ends, who are small forwards or power forwards in basketball, playing against offensive tackles. We want to neutralize the defensive ends by tiring them out.”

Brown offered analysis on a variety of offensive players during his 35-minute talk.

— Senior running back Raymond Sanders is a “good fit for what we will do” and drew praise for his spring practice. He said Jonathan George is a “lunch pail guy who is under the radar and a big, physical guy” that he likes. However, he said his best praise for sophomore Dyshawn Mobley.
“Mobley has as much potential as anybody on our team. The longer he is in our system, the better he will be. He has a chance to be a big-time player.”

— The UK offensive coordinator says seldom-used tight end Anthony Kendrick “has as much potential in the offense as anybody” from what Brown has seen. “He broke his foot, has been academically ineligible. Now he’s back. I’ve heard he’s doing well this summer,” Brown said.
Junior college transfer Steven Borden, who went through spring practice, is “really athletic and will give us some help immediately” at tight end to go with Tyler Robinson and Jordan Aumiller.
Brown also likes Ronnie Shields’ versatility. “We will use him some as a move-around guy and also as a traditional tight end. He has a lot of potential. He was not real productive last  year. He is a guy with talent who has not done it on Saturdays yet that we need,” Brown said.

— He says the offensive line is thin but that guard Darrian Miller “can play in the NFL.” He also says the biggest question mark will be at center where a redshirt freshman (Zach Myers or Jon Toth).

— The UK offensive coordinator says numerous freshman skilled players should play this season, but he was lavish in his praise of former Franklin County standout Ryan Timmons.
“We are very excited to have Ryan, a three-time state champ in track. He was a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver twice,” Brown said. “I feel he can play in our league right away. He is big enough, almost 195 and 5-11. I am expecting a lot from him.”

Brown shied away from any bold predictions about UK’s first season under coach Mark Stoops. However, he did tell club members what they could expect.

“You will see a much improved team that will play hard and play physical,” Brown said. “The kids have been coachable and been with what we call an every day mentality. We would love more wins that losses. The more wins the better. But our focus is coming to work, getting better and the results will build off that.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

He played sparingly in 12 games last year, but did average 4.5 yards per carry on his 41 rushing attempts. Still, those were mediocre numbers for Kentucky running back Dyshawn Mobley based on what he did at Powell (Tenn.) High School. He ran for 3,068 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior — both state records — and led Powell to a 14-1 mark and state finals berth. He finished his career with 5,849 yards rushing and 76 touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per attempt.
Now he’s trying to show new offensive coordinator Neal Brown that he can be a regular contributor.

He is faster, but strong. He lost a little weight but it was good for him. He is much quicker in the hole and much faster exploding. He will help us a lot this year,” sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow said of Mobley.

Here’s what the sophomore running back said after practice Wednesday.

Question: How has spring practice been for you?
Mobley: “I am starting to pick everything up better now, so everything is pretty much fun. Overall, it has been good.”

Question: How does a bigger, stronger back fit into Neal Brown’s offense?
Mobley: “When he first got here, he said he used a bigger back at Texas Tech. They had a guy who was 220 (pounds) and he ran good. I can play it, too.”

Question: Did you worry how you might fit into this offense when Brown was hired as offensive coordinator?
Mobley: “It didn’t worry me at all. I am a ballplayer. I am just going to learn whatever they want me to learn and play wherever.”

Question: How frustrated were you last year not to play more?
Mobley: “No, I was okay for the most part. I know I have to play my role with the team and do whatever it takes to help my team get some wins. So I was fine waiting my turn. I did do a lot in high school, but those opportunities for me will come. I just have to play my role. I know my time is coming.”

Question: How have you improved since you got to Kentucky?
Mobley: “I have dropped weight. I was too big. I was like 230 when I first got here. I have dropped down to 215. I am quicker, faster. That helps a lot in this offense. I am a lot faster and I can still put my helmet on people and run over them. I can do that, too, but I can make them miss.”

Question: How are your receiving and blocking skills?
Mobley: “We catch the ball quite a bit in this offense and I can do that. We have to pick up blocks. (Running backs) Coach (Chad) Scott helps us a lot with our techniques. Once we get our technique down, we can pick up any defensive end that comes through there.”

Question: What has you the most excited about this offense?
Mobley: “Basically just the spread. We spread everybody out and gash them with the run. That’s all it is. Coach Brown runs the ball. We ran the spread at my high school, so it helps a lot for me to learn this. It is similar to high school and we ran a lot.”

Question: How has your first year in Lexington been overall?
Mobley: “I am loving it. I love my teammates. Those are the people I hang out with on campus. I don’t hang out with no outsiders. Just my teammates. They are my brothers, my family.”

Question: Are family and friends back in Tennessee okay with you being at Kentucky?
Mobley: “They accept me. They are all with me and all with Kentucky. Basically, they just come with me.”

Question: Are you excited for Saturday night’s Blue-White Game?
Mobley: “Definitely excited. I can’t wait.”

Question: What will you work on this summer to get ready for preseason camp?
Mobley: “I am going to try to get even faster and work on my lateral movement and quickness.”

Question: How many running backs do you think will play each game?
Mobley: “I am not sure. I hope he plays all of us. We all look good out there, so I hope we all play.”

Question: How is coach Scott to play for?
Mobley: “Coach Scott is hilarious. He has got a lot of energy about him. He brings a lot of energy to practice every single day.”

Question: What did you think when you found out he slept in his car for seven months as a North Carolina graduate assistant coach so he could devote extra time to his job?
Mobley: “I read about that and it was crazy. I have to talk to him about that. It’s amazing and shows how dedicated he is. He is definitely dedicated to his job.”

Question: Is he hard on you or move loving, caring?
Mobley: “He’s both. When it is time to work, we get to it. When it is time to joke around in the film room, he jokes with us sometimes. But when it is time to work, we are working.”

Question: Is the perception that the atmosphere around the program and team chemistry is a lot better this year accurate?
Mobley: “It is definitely that way. Everybody is excited about this season and can’t wait until fall camp and get better and be physical and play. We can’t wait for the season to get here.”

Click on the Neal Brown photo above to view a video of his comments after practice Friday.

Click on the Neal Brown photo above to view a video of his comments after practice Friday.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown both agree that UK’s defense is ahead of the offense based on what they saw in Friday’s spring practice scrimmage, the first of the Stoops’ era.

“I think the defense, just like you would expect, is further along because if the defense just gets lined up right and makes them execute the offense is always a little bit harder to get started,” said Stoops.

Yet Brown was not discouraged, or at least said he found positives.

“More positive than negative. We obviously have a lot of work to do. Defense is ahead, which it should be probably,” Brown, who is installing his pass-oriented offense that was so successful at Troy and Texas Tech, said.  “I was really pleased with our tempo. I thought we moved around pretty fast. Our operations were good. We had very few penalties.

“Ball security is not where it needed to be. It was the first time we have tackled, so not surprised by that. We are still not catching the ball. That obviously is an issue. We have to do better catching the football. But more positives than negatives overall. We still have some work to do.”

Stoops said dropped passes were “definitely” an issue and impacted how Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles looked at quarterback.

“They looked good at times and looked bad at times,” Stoops said of the quarterbacks. “Again, that comes down to the players around them as well. Players have to make plays and the other 10 guys around the quarterback need to be in position and doing the right things and making plays so as far as individually for each quarterback it’s hard to pick it out because we’re so far off at certain positions.”

Brown said each of the quarterback “did some positives” and shared equally in the scrimmage reps — Stoops said the Cats got in about 140 plays — with the top two units while true freshman Reese Phillips got reps with the other backups.

“I am not going to talk about those quarterbacks until after the spring game and how they are doing,” Brown said.

Brown said “pad level” was the major culprit in fumbles the offense had in UK’s first scrimmage and live tackling.

“There were more fumbles than anything, and it’s pad level. We play high right now. We are running high with the ball and the defender comes low and the low man wins and the ball pops out,” Brown said. “Part of it, and I am not making excuses because we are not an excuse operation, is that this is the first time they have been tackled. Not shocked, but one thing we have to clean up.”

While the receivers had dropped too many balls in practice, Brown said the tight ends “have caught the ball better” in UK’s seven practices.

“They are playing well. Jordan Aumiller has a little life about him. Tyler Robinson moves better than really I expected him to. Ronnie Shields has got to be more consistent, but he has talent to help us,” Brown said. “(Junior college transfer) Stephen Borden played a lot of snaps today. Athletically, he can do it. He is a real versatile kid. He just has to learn what to do.

“We are moving Borden around. He is playing a little bit of tight end, a little bit of slot. He plays in the backfield, too. What we are trying to do with that is trying in the same personnel group to line up in different formations and play fast and that is tough on the defense.”

Brown did single out sophomore running back Dyshawn Mobley for his play.

“Dyshawn Mobley is a kid that ran the ball super hard today. I was really pleased with him. He had a turnover, but was really pleased with how he ran the ball,” Brown said. “Josh Clemons went full tackle today. He’s rusty (coming off knee surgery), but he showed some signs.”

Other than some missed assignments, Stoops said overall he was pleased with what he saw from UK’s returning players Friday, but didn’t mince words about what the offense still needs.

“The tempo of the offense and the execution, you know, they do some good things and it comes down to playmakers. We need some more playmakers. It’s hard for them to sustain a long drive of 70, 80 yards without making some big plays and then the minute we get something going (then) a critical turnover would stall it,” Stoops said.

“I feel like we’re getting a better sense of urgency each and every day. I think offensively, I like the position the coaches are putting them in, I like the tempo which we’re doing the things. Defensively, the same thing. We’re coaching them hard. I like what we’re doing. We look good at times but like was mentioned, a dropped pass here or there, a turnover, the mental toughness is not where we need it to be. We step on the field with a top 10 team right now and we’ve got a long way to go. Just being tough, mentally and physically tough, and pushing your way through situations when bad things happen. Having a meanness and toughness about you and we just don’t have it right now.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

To perhaps get your mind off Kentucky’s disappointing loss at Tennessee Saturday in basketball, take a look at what UK running backs coach Chad Scott has to say about some returning UK players.

Question: Have you had a chance to evaluate the returning running backs yet?
Scott: “I have. Last year the two guys they used for the most part were Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George. Those guys played really well. Even though it is a spread offense, the run game is downhill. Sanders has the ability where we can use him as a running back and slot receiver and find ways to get him the ball in space. George, we will play more with him in the pistol because he is more of a downhill runner and will be very effective in short yardage and goal-line situations. So those two kids coming back with experience they have in the SEC is huge for us.”

Question: What about Josh Clemons, who redshirted last year because of his knee, and Dyshawn Mobley, who played sparingly as a true freshman?
Scott: “Mobley not play as much, so it is kind of hard to give him a fair assessment. We have to wait and see in spring ball and see how he does. With (Justin) Taylor being redshirted, we will have to wait and see what he does. Clemons, his freshman year he showed a lot of promise and what he can do. We are confident he has that ability. It’s just whether or not his injury lets him come back and do it again.”

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