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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.”
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.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman running back Dyshawn Mobley got a taste of Division I football Sunday against Louisville and is eager for more. The Kentucky freshman from Tennessee played briefly in the second half. He did not get a rushing attempt, but did catch one pass for one yard. Here are thoughts he shared on his first game at Kentucky:
Question: How did it feel to get to play in your first game at Kentucky?
Mobley: “It felt great to get to play. I was just trying to do the best I could do for my team.”
Question: How has the last month been for you?
Mobley: “It was tough in practice and was tough not getting in the game more. But I am still learning and will be ready when I get my chance to play more. Every day I get better at protections, running plays, schemes and stuff like that.”
Question: What has been the hardest thing for you so far?
Mobley: “Really, just picking up pass protection. I am pretty good on it now, though. I am getting better every day at it. I am working hard and trying to learn everything. Running the ball comes naturally to me. The pass protection you have to read all those linebackers, cornerbacks to see who is coming. It’s tough but I am picking it up.”
Question: What did you think of this atmosphere?
Mobley: “It was totally different than what I imagined. There were a lot more people out there going crazy. I like it. I just want to get my chance one day to show all I can do. Our offense did pretty good today. We just have to execute better, take out the penalties and stop the turnovers. We ran the ball well. (Quarterback) Max (Smith) looked comfortable in the pocket finding receivers. I liked the last series we had. It was basically like seven-on-seven where we drove it down the field passing it. I liked that.”
Question: Are you as strong a runner as people are saying?
Mobley: “I run the ball pretty hard. I just like playing football really. When I get my chance, I just make the best out of it.”
Question: How tough was it in a game like that to have to just stand and watch and learn for most of the game?
Mobley: “It is definitely tough, but I know one day I will get my chance. Those guys had chances today. I will just stay back and observe and see what I can get better at and learn from those guys and see what they can do.”
Question: Is there any one player who helps you a lot?
Mobley: “I look up to all of them. They all help me out with the plays and everything. If I need anything, I can ask any one of the running backs and they will give me any advice they can.”
Question: What was it like in the locker room after the game?
Mobley: “Everybody was walking around and trying to get everybody’s confidence back up and saying this is not our last game and keep our heads up.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
One true freshman who will start is punter Landon Foster, who was expected to step into a role Tim Masthay and Ryan Tydlacka successfully filled in past year.
“He can handle the pressure. He’s a different breed. We’ve had two freshmen (Masthay and Tydlacka) out there at that position since we’ve been here. He’s no different than those guys,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. “He’s a relaxed guy. He’s been an athlete in games. So I feel good about him. He’ll do well for us. Need him to be consistent in punting, punting the right direction.”
True freshmen running backs Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor are not on the two-deep chart, but with sophomore Josh Clemons out with a knee injury for at least this game Phillips admitted both should play.
“I’m very confident and comfortable about the running back position. Again, those two young guys give us the ability to have even more depth than we originally thought we’d have before the season,” Phillips said. “Again, there are four guys that have played significant roles since they’ve been here at the tailback position. Just adding those two guys gives us even more depth.”
Freshmen receivers Demarcus Sweat and A.J. Legree are not on the depth chart, either, despite being the talk of preseason camp. Instead, seniors E.J. Fields, Gene McCaskill and LaRod King are listed No. 1. Even sophomore Demarco Robinson, the receiver Phillips has raved about the most during August, is second on the depth chart behind King. Seldom-used senior Aaron Boyd is also No. 2 behind Fields and above Sweat and Legree.
However, Phillips said the freshmen would play.
“You worry about those guys getting big‑eyed right off the bat. But they’ll play. They’ll play a lot,” Phillips said. “But those three guys have done a really good job and deserve to be the guys that run out there first. I’m really proud of Aaron Boyd. He’s done a really good job. Really proud of E.J. Both those guys we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and now I think the time has come for those guys to play big roles for us. They’ve done a really good job of helping the young guys also.
“Then Gene McCaskill, it’s been two years that he’s been battling injuries. Really happy that he’ll have an opportunity to play this season also. I mean, Gene is a guy we had really high hopes for, especially after year two when we thought he would be our number three receiver with Randall (Cobb) and Chris Matthews. He hurt his knee. Hasn’t gotten back to form until this year.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Senior offensive guard Larry Warford, a preseason all-Southeastern Conference pick, shared these insights after Saturday’s scrimmage.
Question: What was it like to be part of that 98-yard, 14-play scoring drive in Saturday’s scrimmage that coach Joker Phillips liked so much?
Warford: “It was great. I thought we were going to pass more. It was pretty good to get that accomplished. It shows that your team is coming together. It was really good. I thought it would be tough coming out from the 2 (yard line) and just to know we accomplished that with basically all of them being run plays shows the toughness of our line and the confidence the coaches have in us to call those run plays. It shows the trust they have in us.”
Question: How are the new guys coming along in the line?
Warford: “They are great. Zach West is doing well. He struggled a little bit early, but he has come along really well in the last few days. Darrian (Miller) is just as good as anybody. He will be an all-SEC guy. I promise you that. He is a smart player, really fast, really strong. Kevin (Mitchell) is hurt right now, but he is doing really well. Trevino (Woods) is picking everything up really well, too.”
Question: Are you confident the play at quarterback will be better this year?
Warford: “Definitely. They have been working hard all camp, and even in the offseason. The competition between each other really got them both (Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton) better. We are throwing it better and catching it better. I am very impressed.”
Question: How much has it helped to have so much continuity in the offensive line during preseason camp?
Warford: “It is always good to have chemistry between us and just getting to know each other helps us out. It makes it a lot better.”
Question: What dimension does freshmen running backs Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor add with their size?
Warford: “They are big guys. They are really big backs. They run hard and they are not scared to hit. I like that about them. I am looking forward to seeing what they can do for our team here soon. I am real excited about that.”
Question: Will they run over you if you don’t open a hole for them?
Warford: “I have been hit in the back a couple of times. Yeah, they will. They are not scared to hit the hole. They are really good backs. I am really glad to have them.”
By MIKE MARSEE, Advocate-Messenger
Freshman Dyshawn Mobley knows he’s running with a faster crowd these days, but he also believes he can keep up. Mobley is finding his place within the stable of running backs at Kentucky, where he is both impressed by the talent that surrounds him and convinced that he belongs among it.
Like many freshman runners, he has gone from being the fastest player on the field to being just another guy who can run. And he said he realized that right away once the Wildcats’ seven-on-seven workouts began earlier this summer.
“That woke me up, because everybody out there — I thought I was fast before I came up here, but now everybody’s fast, and everybody’s big. There’s a bunch of fast athletes and big athletes that can play football,” Mobley said.
Mobley said he’s not just competing against the other talented players at his position, but also learning from them.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity to be able to play with these guys, Jonathan George, CoShik Williams, they’re some great backs. I look up to these guys because I’m a freshman and they’re older than me, so I’m going to take some of their style of running and mix it into mine, see if they can teach me a lesson,” he said.
For starters, he has taken note of the veterans’ work habits.
“They just work hard. I’ve never seen a group of people work as hard as our running back group does,” he said.
While he has gotten to know all of his fellow running backs over the last few weeks, he might be closest to Justin Taylor, the only other back in Kentucky’s most recent recruiting class.
“We definitely hang out a lot,” Mobley said. “Our rooms are right next to each other. I always go over to his room, play around and kid up with him, play games, study film.”
He said it became clear to him early on that he and Taylor and all of the other backs are working toward the same goal, even if not all of them can have it.
“We just really want the best player on the field,” Mobley said. “We just want to win football games. It really doesn’t matter who starts; we just want to win football games.”
He said he also likes to work hard and said he thinks that’s he’s up for the competition that is taking place now in the Wildcats’ preseason camp.
“I like to compete, and anything they can do I’m pretty sure I can do,” he said. “I’ve definitely got to learn the system. Once I learn the system, I hope the coaches trust me enough to get a couple reps on offense.”
Mobley has worked to earn that opportunity by adding weight — mostly in his legs, he said — going from about 205 pounds last summer to 219 when he came to Lexington to 226 last week and becoming a poster child for the benefits of a good breakfast.
“I never ate breakfast before, now I eat breakfast, and that really put the weight on,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to put that much weight on, but eating breakfast is definitely a part of growing.”
Of course, he increased his work in the weight room as well as his caloric intake.
“Just working out, lifting weight that I know I can’t lift, but just having somebody spot me, that gets me stronger,” he said. “It’s definitely good to be a bigger back in the SEC. Everybody that I’ve seen play college ball, they’ve got some big backs that can run the ball.”
Mobley, who calls himself “a power back” who says he prefers to run between the tackles but can also go outside, comes to Kentucky with impressive high school credentials. He set Tennessee single-season rushing records with 3,068 yards and 44 touchdowns in his senior season and leading his Powell High School team to the state finals. He finished his prep career with 5,849 yards and 76 touchdowns, then signed with Kentucky last winter.
“Family is a big part of this Kentucky team, and that’s what I like about it,” he said. “(The coaches) really told me it was just a family thing, and that’s what I’m really big on is family. They told me, ‘You come down here and you’ll love it, and that’s why I’m here now.”
He came to Kentucky from the long shadow of Tennessee — his hometown is just 10 miles or so north of downtown Knoxville and the Volunteers’ Neyland Stadium — and he said many of his friends are Tennessee fans.
“Oh, yeah,” he said before adding that he has managed to win some of them over. “A lot of them are Kentucky fans now, though.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is counting on freshman running backs Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor, who both weigh about 220 pounds, to give UK a new dimension this season.
“They are both, big physical guys. From what I saw today (in Saturday’s scrimmage), usually when they hit in there, the pile falls back,” said Sanders. “You didn’t see them getting knocked back.
“It will be interesting to see how much better they are in the next scrimmage from what they were this scrimmage. The first scrimmage it is always a case with me that running backs you work on their footwork and everything else and they get out here and start running and they usually just take off. They are not executing their reads. They are just running like they always have.
“Once they get disciplined and really executing their footwork, they get better. And these two guys have the talent and strength to really do some different things for our offense.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s brightest offensive performer early last season was freshman running back Josh Clemons — and then he tore his meniscus in game six at South Carolina and had the knee injury end his season.
He was leading the team with 279 yards rushing and both of his touchdowns were game-winning plays, a 14-yard run against Western Kentucky and 87-yarder against Central Michigan. That 87-yard run was the longest by a UK player since 1979.
Clemons established himself as a legitimate threat when he ran for 69 yards against LSU, which used its defense to reach the national title game.
“(Trainer) Jim (Madeleno) thinks he will be ready for training camp. He will be one of those guys that goes two days, off a day, then goes two more days, then off,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said during the Southeastern Conference Media Days. “We are just hoping that everything that goes well for him because he is such a good kid and such a good player for us. He is one of the leaders of this football team and we need him on the field for us.”
If Clemons is not 100 percent early in the season, Phillips says the coaching staff might have to at least consider redshirting him rather than having him available for only part of the year.
“That is in the back of our mind that we will have to consider if he is not ready, but we and Jim think he will have a chance to be ready for us,” Phillips said.
One reason Phillips might even be able to consider a redshirt for Clemons if he’s not ready early is the depth the Cats have at running back.
Junior Raymond Sanders is healthy and has rushed for 409 yards. Senior CoShik Williams led the team with 486 yards and three scores last season after injuries to Clemons and Sanders gave him a chance to play.
“We have four running backs (Clemons, Raymond Sanders, CoShik Williams, Jonathan George) who have already played and are bringing in two quality backs (Dyshawn Mobley, Justin Taylor),” Phillips said. “Now we are going to have two 220-pound running backs (Mobley, Taylor) in the program.
“This is a grown man’s league. If you have 185-, 190-pound backs, it takes five or six of them to get through a season. Now we have bigger backs. That gives us a chance to have guys who can play every down. Dyshawn Mobley dead lifted 630 pounds three times. That is pretty dang good for a freshman coming in who has not been in the program but for a few weeks.
“Again, the quarterback position and the running back position I think will be the two positions that will have the most competition. Mobley and Taylor add quality depth to a position that already has some experience.”