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By: ASHLEY SCOBY
Some of football’s fiercest battles will probably always remain in the trenches, but for Kentucky, it’s been a “dog fight” slightly closer to the sidelines this spring.
Answering their coaches’ call to be more physical, Kentucky’s wide receiver corps has gotten bigger, stronger and maybe a little meaner during the offseason.
“It’s like a dog fight every time you go out there with the DBs,” said receiver Jeff Badet, who is coming off a 22-catch, 285-yard freshman campaign. “We do a lot of one-on-one drills and blocking drills. It’s a lot of physicality out here between us and the DBs.”
Cornerback Cody Quinn said the intensity has picked up tremendously in practice, and that Badet was one of three receivers that really stood out to him in terms of chippiness.
Demarco Robinson, who is fighting for his spot back on the team after being indefinitely suspended last season, and Rashad Cunningham, who was ineligible for all of the 2013 season, were the other two players Quinn mentioned.
“We go at it every day,” Cunningham said. “It’s an ongoing thing, kind of like a cornerback/wide receiver type of beef.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said that at this time last year, Kentucky’s receiving corps was as “behind” as any unit in the country. Although the team is still a year or so away from achieving the depth it wants, according to Brown, the guys this year are “more coachable” and more willing to study the game. Once players better understand where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do, physicality can reign supreme.
This year’s wideouts are also more willing to step into the weight room. Of all the wide receivers, sophomore-to-be Ryan Timmons was the one with the biggest jump in weight, going from 185 last season to being listed at 193 for spring practice.
Erik Korem’s “High Performance” program prides itself on helping players lose the “bad” weight and gain the muscle necessary to play in the Southeastern Conference.
“His body looks a lot better,” Brown said of Timmons. “Where he played three sports in high school, which is a good thing, he just wasn’t in the weight room a ton, and he had that shoulder surgery about this time last year so he didn’t get to go through any of our offseason stuff.”
For Timmons, the increased intensity in practice is one thing that has motivated him to get in the weight room.
“I want to try and dominate whoever is in front of me so lifting is one of the main things that I’m trying to focus on,” he said.
The competition in practice is not limited to offense/defense, though. There has even been a little friendly rivalry among the receivers.
Freshman TV Williams came into Kentucky with the reputation of having lightning speed, at 5-10 and 160 pounds. At the same height, Timmons has always had that reputation, too, especially as a two-time Kentucky state champion in the 100-meter dash (and one-time champ in the 200). So obviously, there had to be a race between the two.
“I didn’t kill him,” Timmons said with a smile. “He’s fast, but I beat him. We settled that.”
That kind of competition is what Kentucky’s coaches like to see, especially when last year’s receiving corps was lacking in depth and production. The 2013 season saw Kentucky finish 10th in the SEC in passing offense, and 11th in yards-per-catch.
This time around, coaches are preaching physicality not just as receivers try to get open, but in their blocking schemes, too. From top to bottom, this year’s wideouts are bringing more muscle to their duties.
“We’ve incorporated some drills and half line, things like that where maybe the defense knows screens are coming and so we’re just flying to the ball, making them put their face on the defender and learn how to block and how to be tough,” said head coach Mark Stoops. “We’re getting better.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Who does offensive coordinator Neal Brown feel is UK’s offensive MVP going into Saturday night’s game with Tennessee that will end the season?
“Well, I think the two guys who’ve played at the highest level all year are (offensive linemen) Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle. Those are the two guys that have performed at the highest level. Really excited about Jordan Swindle. I know the right tackle position doesn’t get a whole lot of thoughts in the media, but he’s really played well. He even played well last week (at Georgia),” Brown said.
And has there been a player who has surprised him the most — in a postive way — this season?
“Jordan Swindle. He’s a true sophomore that played very, very little last year and really struggled, to be honest, early in the year. So his growth as the year’s gone on has been a surprise. He’s one,” Brown said. “Jeff Badet, we didn’t get him the ball as much the other night, but he won a lot. I think Georgia’s cover guys are pretty good. And he won a lot against Vanderbilt; they’ve got one corner that he was going against a lot that’s been All-SEC. So Jeff Badet, Jordan Swindle, those two guys, those are the first guys that jump out to me.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks having young players from winning programs has helped them withstand the rigors of UK’s 2-8 season going into Saturday night’s game at Georgia. However, he also knows guidance from veteran players has helped, too.
“They’re not necessarily beat down. But I think the best thing those other (older) guys have done is whatever happens, when they get to work on Monday, when they get to this building, it’s over with — whatever happened on Saturday — is over with and they’re focused on the next opponent,” said Brown. “And we talk about having a ‘next’ attitude all the time, whether it’s next play, next series, next game and I think those guys have done a good job of leading the way, teaching our younger guys.”
He cited several seniors for “showing guys how to persevere” this season.
“I think (tight end) Jordan Aumiller comes to my mind right away as a guy that’s come to work every day with the right mindset. (Lineman) Kevin Mitchell is a guy that really works hard every day and is playing through … he’s banged up, and he’s playing through a lot of injuries,” Brown said. “(Tight end) Tyler Robinson has a great attitude, somebody that’s really kind of really been hampered this year with a back injury, but he’s got a good demeanor every day.
“I think those type of guys, it shows our younger guys, ‘Regardless of what happens, you don’t lose the same game twice, so whatever happens on Saturday, you come to work on Monday and you get better.’ I think those guys have kind of led the way.”
He says there is no doubt that senior Avery Williamson is “the leader on the entire team.” However, he has seen younger players trying to be leaders on offense, too.
“You’re seeing some guys, like (Jordan) Swindle’s a guy that didn’t redshirt, but he’s taken a leadership role,” Brown said. “I think as they get older, Jojo (Kemp) and some of those other, Jeff Badet and Ryan (Timmons) and some of those other guys that are playing early in their career and kind of going through some down times, I think they can lead us, lead us to some better times.”
Brown is hoping players like Timmons, a receiver, and Kemp, a back, can learn to sustain explosive plays instead of occasionally making them as they have this season.
“There’s two types of explosive plays. There’s ones that I can create through a game plan and maybe schematically, and then there’s ones that the guys create by making people miss in space,” Browns said. “Those two guys both have the ability to do that, and I think those are the type that other people feed off of. If you can get into the secondary and make a safety miss, it gives us energy, it’s momentum on our side, plus it makes those guys second-guess themselves. So the next time they’re in that one-on-one situation, that safety’s a little less confident.
“There’s a bunch of things we track, and I think we talked about those earlier in the year: explosive plays and winning the turnover battle. If you can win the number of explosive plays, and you can win the turnover, all right? You’re going to win most of those games. I think we only lost one of those at (Texas) Tech in three years where we did both of those. We just need to have more.”
The good news for Brown and UK is that Georgia’s defense is on pace to set new program marks for most points allowed and most yards allowed. The 2009 team surrendered 337 points, which is a program high for a season of 12-plus games. This year’s team, which is surrendering 30.2 points per game, has already allowed 302 points with three games to play. The Bulldogs are also on pace to surrender 5,029 — potentially just the second time in school history that Georgia allowed 5,000-plus yards after last season’s team gave up 5,009 in 14 games.
Of course, Kentucky ranks 104th nationally with 349.2 yards of total offense per game. Georgia slipped to 82nd nationally in scoring defense (30.2 points per game) and 53rd in total defense (386.9 yards per game) by surrendering 43 points and 566 yards in last week’s loss to Auburn.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said “it doesn’t look good” for freshman receiver Ryan Timmons playing Saturday against No. 9 Missouri.
“ Looks like he’s got an ankle sprain. Unless he makes a drastic improvement here in the next day or so it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to go,” said Stoops Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “It definitely changes us. He’s a guy that we’ve featured and tried to find ways to give him the football. We have to have some other guys step up.”
Timmons is UK’s second leading receiver and one of Kentucky’s fastest players. He hurt his ankle in last week’s 48-14 win over Alabama State in the second half just a few plays before he was going to come out of the game.
Stoops did confirm that receiver Javess Blue — who didn’t play last week after getting hit in the eye with a football during pregame warmups — “should be fine” for Saturday.
“(Blue) is fresh with sitting out last week. So Javess is good,” Stoops said.
Freshman receiver Alex Montgomery is out for the season after injuring his knee celebrating a touchdown catch last week. But Stoops said junior Demarco Robinson is improving as is sophomore A.J. Legree.
“Jeff Badet had a very good game last week with another freshman stepping up and improving. Our other guys are starting to come along. Demarco is as healthy as he’s been in a while. So it’s good to get him out there and get him going. A. J. is starting to improve. So we just need some other guys to step up (at receiver),” Stoops said.
The coach said junior Daryl Collins, who has played sparingly, is also “working a little bit” more at receiver this week.
Kentucky will face another top 10 team in Missouri, one that Stoops says has no glaring weakness.
“Missouri’s a very good football team, very well-coached. Good in all areas of the game. Their offense has been outstanding and very balanced with the run and the passing,” Stoops said. “I think they’re a very physical team. Their o-line is playing extremely well, and of course we know about the quarterbacks and their big wide receivers, so we’ll have our hands full. Defensively, they’ve been extremely aggressive playing very good football. The thing that jumps out at me is how hard they’ve been playing and how passionate they seem to be playing and flying to the football.”
Stoops again said it didn’t change preparation if quarterback James Franklin, out three games with a shoulder injury, came back this week or if redshirt freshman Maty Mauk continued to play quarterback.
“It’s a great testament to their team and the depth that coach has built there. You see these guys, and you see their maturity. I think you look at them last year and look at them this year and you see the maturity and really the health of their offensive line,” Stoops said. “Their wide receivers are big and strong.
“I don’t think it really matters what quarterback’s in there. You watch both of them, and they’re both very impressive. Maty Mauk’s done a very good job in leading their offense, and you really don’t see much drop off. I think earlier in the year when you watched James, you see a very talented quarterback and a guy that’s very comfortable back there and the poise the he has, just the experience. But with getting all these games under his belt for Maty Mauk, I think I’m sure he’s getting more and more comfortable each time he’s back there.”
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said the Missouri “offense doesn’t change” no matter who plays quarterback.
“They still run the same offense. Both the quarterbacks are very good players. I look at both of those guys as guys that could be starters on just about any SEC team,” Eliot said.
He’s also impressed with the Missouri offensive line.
“Those guys are very, very good blockers and most of the guys who played last year are young guys and now they’ve developed into good veteran players. It’s going to be quite a challenge for our guys,” Eliot said.
Stoops hopes Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow is feeling more comfortable, too, after throwing for two scores and running for two last week.
“He seems to be rolling along pretty good,” Stoops said.
The coach knows UK has to start well because of the way Missouri plays.
“They come out firing. That tempo with the great execution that they’ve shown in just about all their games early, it’s hard. But we’ve got to make some stops. That’s just it. Like I’ve said over and over, there’s no — you’ve got to go out there and make plays against a good football team,” Stoops said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Neal Brown knows there is no “one thing” that Kentucky’s offense must do better in the second half of the season since the Wildcats rank 13th in total offense in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.
“I think we’ve got to make plays in crucial situations. Third downs, in the red zone, we’ve got to make key blocks, key passes, key catches. I think that’s been our Achilles heel is,” said Brown. “We have not made plays in those crucial situations.When we’ve given up a score, we come out, and we’ve got to make plays to continue a drive.
“Or we get a couple first downs and now we’re in a third and medium situation, maybe we’ve made a poor throw. In those crucial situations, we’ve got to make plays.”
Brown hopes his players are remaining confident.
“I think with our quarterbacks, they’re confident and they’ve got to do a better job of trusting our young guys,” Brown said. “I think there’s maybe a lack of trust there sometimes, just because the guys are so new. They’ve got to give those guys blind trust and fully expect that our guys are going to be in the spots they’re supposed to be in.”
Freshman receiver Jeff Badet, who did not play against Alabama after missing practice with an injury, is available for Thursday night’s game at Mississippi State.
“He’s back. This will be the first week he’ll be available. He dressed against Alabama, but didn’t practice that week. But he’ll be available for this game,” Brown said.
So will sophomore A.J. Legree, who has not been in the rotation at receiver and was behind a walk-on player until working his way back up the rotation during UK’s bye week.
“Had a great special teams game against Alabama, and I expect to use him more at wideout. He’s probably the guy that benefited from this break, this off week, because we got him back in the rotation and he made some plays. I’m expecting him to play more offense than he has,” Brown said. “He’s just got to be consistent, make some plays. He’s exactly what you’re looking for, from his height, from his athletic ability. He really jumps well. He’s got good burst off the ball. He’s just got to catch the ball consistently.”
Quarterback Jalen Whitlow sprained his ankle against Alabama but has returned to practice and Brown said he’s “got a chance” to play Thursday night.
“We’ve got a package in for him, and I probably won’t be able to tell until later in the week how much of it we’re going to use, or how much we’ll be able to use. If he keeps progressing then I think he’ll be fine on Thursday,”Brown said.
With Whitlow injured, Maxwell Smith got the reps with the No. 1 offense during the bye week before both quarterbacks have taken reps this week.
“In a perfect world, we’d like for one guy to play well and keep playing,” Brown said.
Brown said he had a plan for a third quarterback if needed but wouldn’t discuss whether it would be sophomore Patrick Towles or freshman Reese Phillips. Kentucky hopes to redshirt both of them.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but in our business, you’ve got to kind of (prepare for) worst-case scenario. We’ve had those discussions and we’ve gotten a third quarterback some reps,” Brown said. “In a perfect world we would rather not take either one of those kids’ redshirts off. It’s been helpful. Jalen’s worked really hard to get back where I think he’s going to be an option on Thursday.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
From the day he arrived at Kentucky, assistant coach Vince Marrow has believed that the Wildcats’ football program is going to rise to a new level under coach Mark Stoops, his childhood friend.
Marrow, Kentucky’s tight ends coach, has had incredible success recruiting in Ohio, and the Cats’ 1-2 start has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.
“This thing is going to change, and it’s going to change quick. I have a good group of experience at tight ends. They are hard kids that want to win and they play hard for me. But I can’t say these guys are not used to losing. That’s why you see the younger guys are coming. They are making plays,” Marrow said. “But I believe this: Some programs are where they are at, and some are on their way down, and some are on their way up. I am telling you, these people we recruit against, they know. They know, and that’s why the people in the Midwest are so upset with kids we are getting from Ohio and other places. We have their attention.”
Here’s more of what Marrow had to say about the Kentucky program:
Question: How much better do you feel about this team because of the fight it showed against Louisville that was missing against Western Kentucky?
Marrow: “I am like Mark (Stoops). I am from the same place. We don’t believe in having somebody say, ‘You guys played well.’ We want to win the game. But from week one to week three, it was a big improvement, and I have to give these guys credit — they are really fighting. I really was encouraged.
“Of course you want to win, but they took to the field what they have been taught in practice.”
Question: Can a team lose a game and still take a step forward?
Marrow: “This may be the first time you will hear me say this, but I was very proud of the way these guys played against Louisville. The crowd had to see these guys fought to the end. We had our opportunities … that’s what the fans are going to see.
“We are going to coach real hard, and it is going to get better. We are going to get more and more players in here. I am just speaking for myself, but we are going to refuse to take a back seat to anyone. I really like where we are going. I really do.”
Question: Is that the same thing you are telling players verbally committed in the 2014 recruiting class?
Marrow: “Yes. You can’t be a second fiddle or second character to people or other programs. When we came here, we said we were going to recruit the best players. That’s what we are doing, and they are buying into it.
“People think, and we keep hearing it, that our recruits may back off after we lost to Western Kentucky. Those guys were texting me and each other and Facebooking each other saying they couldn’t wait until they get here. They know our staff and what we are doing here.
“I am very proud of the players we have here now and very proud of the players we will have in the future.”
Question: How much do the current freshmen help sell the program to recruits?
Marrow: “I want to say 80 percent or more of them are playing, and they ain’t just playing because we are throwing them in there. They are good. You look at Ryan Timmons, Marcus McWilson, Jaleel Hytchye, JoJo Kemp, Jeff Badet, Jason Hatcher. You can go on and on.
“The good thing about that is the type of guys we were recruiting, we knew we were going against the best teams in the country. We are getting these guys and they are making an impact.”
Question: Do you feel even more strongly that future recruiting is going to get better and better?
Marrow: “I feel that. We had six weeks in recruiting last year, and it was a top-25 class. With the 2014 class, we are in the top five, top 10. We are on them, and our 2014 class is almost filled up like the other big programs do. We are on to the 2015 and 2016 kids. We have a good jump on these guys.
“We have some major, big-time kids here for the Louisville game that will be top-200, top-250 kids in the country. They see what the 2014 class is doing … and I am not just speaking for Ohio. I am speaking nationally. You got the top Kentucky kids, the top Ohio kids, and nationally other kids want to come and play with great players.
“So they look at the offer list and they see they have got Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska, and they are coming to Kentucky. So they want to go play in the SEC and be close to home, too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
One Kentucky player who doesn’t need an energy boost, or hasn’t one game days, has been freshman running back JoJo Kemp. He is Kentucky’s leading rusher and has the swag about him that Stoops wants from more players.
Kemp has not been discouraged by UK’s 1-2 start going into the Florida game Sept. 28 and says future UK commits should not be, either.
“To those guys who are getting recruited by Kentucky, if they really want to go to a program where they can just change a program around get their name out and be part of something special, this is the place to be,” Kemp, a Florida prep star, said. “When I was getting recruited here, I just always wanted to go to a place where I could make a name for myself.
“I didn’t really want to follow nobody’s footsteps. I just wanted to come to a place where I could say I was part of that team when it was on the rise and Kentucky is a place where the fans love them and the coaches are going to push you and support you. This is the coaching staff to do it with and I am very pleased and happy with my decision.”
He says roommate, Florida receiver Jeff Badet, feels the same way and is the same type explosive playmaker.
“Jeff, he is the man. He is a good player. Every time he gets a chance, he is going to make plays that you won’t expect,” Kemp said. “I know he made some plays in practice that opened my eyes. I know when he gets on the field, he is going to make the best of it as well. We always talk about it. We keep each other motivated and keep pushing. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
What about Alex Montgomery, another freshman receiver from Florida?
“Alex is another one. When he gets his chance, he will do big things as well,” Kemp said.
And what message would Kemp give to future Cats?
“The guys coming in next year, I want them to know if they ain’t ready to work, they better get ready to get their heads on straight. Like I said, Kentucky is on the rise from here on out. We are on the rise,” Kemp said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
If there is one thing Kentucky freshman running back JoJo Kemp does not lack it would be confidence. Kentucky is 1-2 after last week’s loss to Louisville and faces Florida, South Carolina and Alabama in its next three games after this week’s open date. The Wildcats will be a decided underdog in all three games, but that doesn’t bother Kemp.
“We are a sleeping beast. We are going to open some people’s eyes as the season goes on. I am telling you. I feel it and I know I believe it. We are definitely going to open some eyes. They won’t even know what hit them,” said Kemp.
The freshman has provided some of those type moments for UK in his limited play so far this season. He led the team in rushing against Louisville with 80 yards, including a 47-yard sprint he almost broke for a score. He now has a team-high 167 yards on 21 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per attempt.
“He gave us a big-time spark. The thing that he has to do is, and these young guys — that’s the best he’s looked since he’s been here, in any scrimmage, practice, that’s by far the best he’s looked,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said after the game. “And he’s got to do that in practice. Now I’ve seen it in a game, so I understand that he has that in him, and I’ve got more confidence in him than I ever have, but he’s got to continue to do that in practice. He hasn’t shown that in practice.”
Kemp has also been trying to show Brown and the UK staff that he’s more than a speedster/receiver. He takes pride in his inside running, too.
“I wanted to actually show coach Brown that because I know I made a lot of plays, especially at the beginning of the game, when I was doing the outside running and had a very nice run. He’s seen that but I wanted to show him I can run inside and I think he saw it for himself,” Kemp said. “From now on I am just going to keep on doing it and every time I get the opportunity to get in the game, I am going to make the best of it like I have. They gave me an opportunity, so I had to do what I had to do.”
Kemp thinks it’s hard to appreciate his explosiveness and all-around ability until you have seen him play in person.
“If you watch my highlight and see how fast I am, you don’t really get a chance to see how physical I am as well. I think of myself as a very physical kid, more than people probably realize. Now I just want to get the blocking game right and keep moving forward. Every time I get that chance, that is what I am going to do,” he said.
His roommate is Florida freshman receiver Jeff Badet. They are from the same area and basically decided to come to UK together. Like Kemp, Badet does not lack for confidence and has also shown big-play ability.
“Everybody is confident, but me and Jeff both decided to come here together. We always have had that connection, that chemistry together. He is like my brother. I look out for him and he looks out for me,” Kemp said. “There is that whole Florida thing with us. Everybody on the team has their own state swag coming in, but we all have to get that swagger together. But me and Jeff do think we can back it up.”
Just don’t think he is stat-driven because he values winning over individual yards.
“I’m not that type of person to be happy if we lose. I’m still down. I’d rather rush for, like, one yard and get a W than anything,” Kemp said. “I don’t really (care) about the yardage I got. It was good that I did a little something when I got in, but I’d rather get the win than anything.”
He came to Kentucky because of Brown’s offensive reputation and says the offense has been “all I thought” if not more.
“I know from me running the ball that I still left some yards out there on the field. Other guys probably left some yards, too,” Kemp said. “But yes, this offense is very explosive. We can do better and we will. I am very excited to see what happens as the season goes.
“We didn’t really play like ourselves that first game against Western Kentucky. Everybody was a little timid and had thoughts that they were not playing for the next play at times,” Kemp said. “Coach (Mark) Stoops told us not think about the future, don’t think about the next play. Just worry about the play going on and that’s what everybody did against Miami.
“But we have to do better than we did against Louisville. We just can’t have those mental mistakes and like fumbling, jump offside. We cannot have those, because you’re not going to win off those. Every chance and every opportunity I get, I just want to make the best of it. So if they’re going to give me one carry, I want to make sure that one carry I give it all I got. And if they put me in on a fake, I’m going to make sure that’s the best fake in the country. Whatever I can do to help this team out, I’m going to do it. That’s how we all are. I know we have a lot of stuff still to work on, but we are going to keep turning it up.”
By ASHLEY SCOBY
Kentucky’s freshmen class isn’t exactly a troop of knights in shining armor yet, but they are showing a little bit of promising sparkle.
Jojo Kemp, after breaking off a long run against Miami (Ohio), came through again versus Louisville Saturday as the top offensive contributor on the team. He rushed five times for 80 yards, accounting for at least 20 more yards than any other Kentucky skill player.
The top three receivers Saturday were all newcomers as well: Javess Blue (a junior college transfer) caught 6 passes for 58 yards, Ryan Timmons (freshman) had 3 for 72 and Jeff Badet caught 3 balls for 44 yards. Alex Montgomery also scored his first touchdown as a Cat in the fourth quarter of the losing effort.
“He (Montgomery) kept getting on me about my first touchdown last week so I was telling him, ‘Wait ‘til you get your first touchdown,’” said Badet, who had his first collegiate touchdown last week against Miami. “Then he went out there, and Coach Brown called a real great play and he went out there and executed real well. We’re all just happy for each other. Somehow I was the first one to score a touchdown and then Alex. We’re waiting on Timmons and Jojo to get their first touchdown so we can all celebrate together.”
It’s the kind of thing that isn’t expected from many SEC programs’ freshmen classes, but what is necessary at Kentucky: newcomers contributing as much, if not more, than the vets. And they recognize that kind of responsibility and potential.
“We can be real good. We’ve just got to stay humble and keep pushing other guys that surround us and hopefully when the next class comes up, they’ve got the same mindset as us so we can get this program to the top,” Kemp said. “We’ve got a good fanbase to back us up and I just want to see great things happen here.”
For now, though, the freshmen are still getting their feet wet at the collegiate level. Both Badet and Kemp cited the speed of the game as the biggest difference between high school and college football – a popular observation. But for Badet, the receiver, the size of his competitors is what stands out to him the most.
“That’s the big difference, just the size of the people I’ve got to go at,” he said. “Blocking is a big aspect in this offense. Coach Mainord – he’s always telling us we’ve got to be a gnat to these DBs. You know that one fly that’s always in your way, and it always comes back to bother you. If we want to be good in this offense, we’ve got to have good perimeter blocking. So we just go out there and try to block our tails off so we can get the running backs a way to run and open up big plays.”
One of those running backs being Kemp, who Coach Mark Stoops said “needs to get the ball more.”
“I guess that means I need to get the ball more,” Kemp said when told about his coach’s comments. He is behind two veteran backs in Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George, but has performed well in the time he has gotten on the field.
“I’ve got faith in these coaches. If they want me to go sit on the sideline and warm the benches up, I’ll do it,” Kemp said. “Every chance and every opportunity I get, I just want to make the best of it. If they’re going to give me one carry, I’m going to make sure that one carry, I give it all I got. If they put me in on a fake, I’m going to make sure that’s the best fake in the country. Whatever I’ve got to do to help this team, I’m going to do it.”
Badet has that same mindset to do anything humanly possible to help the team.
“As soon as I touch the ball, I’m looking to score a touchdown or make the big play,” he said. “I just want to be a playmaker – catch the ball, drop my foot and just go.”
And that is exactly what Kentucky needs to build a program – dynamic, fearless playmakers with a team-first attitude. That’s what this class of freshmen brings.
“On our official visit, we decided to come here as a unit,” Kemp said. “So we are always pushing each other to do our best out there so we can get time on the field and help this team out a lot more.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
One thing Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown often talks about with coach Mark Stoops is that “success is contagious” at any level.
“We’ve had success other places, and we’ve got to be the catalyst for that success,” said Brown.
But other than the coaches, Brown believes UK has new offensive playmakers that know plenty about success, too.
“Javess Blue played in the national championship last year at junior college. Jeff Badet came from a winning program,” Brown said. ”Jojo Kemp won a good amount of games in high school. Alex Montgomery played in the state championship game in Florida at a big school. Jalen Whitlow is a young kid, too and he won state championship in Alabama.
“A lot of our young guys have experienced success. That is not new to them. With some of our older guys, things have not gone well the last couple of years and we have to repair confidence. With those young guys, we don’t have to. Those guys, they’re not shell-shocked. They’re not beaten. They’ve got a lot of confidence about them, and the more success they have, it goes out to the rest of the football team.”
Kentucky certainly had success Saturday when it rolled up 675 yards — the third highest total in UK history — in a 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) that had the Air Raid sirens sounding like they did when Brown played at UK under Hal Mumme. In fact, UK had not gained so many yards since the 1998 game against Louisville when Tim Couch was quarterback and Brown was a walk-on receiver playing his first game — and making his first catch.
“The kids had a different aura about them. We were really hard on them this week in practice. I didn’t think we played with the tempo we wanted to play with last week (in a loss to Western Kentucky),” Brown said after the win. “We didn’t play as hard, as a unit, as we’ve played at other stops I’ve been. And we didn’t play as physical.
“So on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we practiced really, really hard. We didn’t give an inch. I was probably worried a little bit too much about confidence going into that opener and should’ve coached them harder, so that’s my fault. But we got that corrected this week and I thought the guys came out and executed and played with a lot more energy. Our No. 1 goal today was ‘be excited to play,’ and I thought they were from the first drive on.”
Brown admitted he thought Mumme would have been pleased with UK’s 28-point first-quarter against Miami and having the Air Raid sirens sounding.
“It’s fun. There’s no question about it. It’s a good thing I think the fans got into it. Hopefully we’ll fill this place up next Saturday (for Louisville). We gave them a little excitement,” Brown said. “I don’t blame them for being a little frustrated last week. I was, too. But it was fun.”
Still, it was far from perfect despite the yardage total.
“We didn’t play as many plays as we want to, No. 1 because we got some penalties that were lack-of-discipline penalties, and No. 2 is because we were scoring,” Brown said. “I was pleased with the total. But there’s obviously — everybody in that stadium knows, too — we’ve got a long way to go.
“I think we are at the real infancy of the offense really. We are still not fluid at times. I was disappointed how we played the middle of second quarter to middle of third quarter. They changed what they were doing and we didn’t adjust very well. But I was pleased with how we finished. We rebounded there later in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter we came back and play solid. We are going see a lot of corrections to make. We have to play with more discipline. We had a lot of penalties. That’s one big thing.”
And Brown knows what lies ahead, too.
“Now obviously, no offense to Miami of Ohio (but) our deal gets a little tougher after this,” Brown said.
Kentucky plays Louisville, Florida, South Carolin and Alabama in its next four games.