By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media & Promotions Service Inc.
As the head coach of the UK football program Joker Phillips meets daily with the media that shows up at the end of every practice to give his assessment of each day's practice so the fan base across the Commonwealth and abroad can get some type of an idea of what to expect once the season starts and each saturday game day during the season .
Why is this a ritual or time honored privilige of the UK head coach you ask ?
Because by Phillips orders no one is allowed to watch pre season camp ( except for fan day festivities ) or in season practice's other than a few of the players family members and insiders of the UK football family and UK athletic department personnel . The general public and media are off limits to being witness to any UK football practice . To be fair and honest this is a method used by the majority of all Div. 1 A football programs and not just UK .
But occasionally when prodded long and hard enough an assistant coach will leak a little inside info but only if you delicately read between the lines . In this particular case it is Randy Sanders the UK offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who spilled a few beans on the UK quarterback race . After saturday's first official 11 on 11 team scrimmage , Jennifer Smith , the Lex. Herald - Leader UK football beat writer got Sanders to if nothing else reveal his personal thoughts on how the QB position was playing out after one week of pre season camp .
When ask to explain how each candidates camp was going Sanders responded with these comments to the Herald - Leader beat writer :
Sr. Morgan Newton - " Morgan is working hard , doing pretty well , but it is obvious he is coming off shoulder surgery " . According to Sanders Labrum surgery to a quarterback is like Tommy John surgery to a baseball pitcher or ACL surgery to a running back . It takes time to build up strength and muscle memory in the throwing shoulder and then the confidence level must be rebuilt to before surgery status .
Soph. Maxwell Smith - " Max has done a really nice job " , said Sanders after saturday's 140 play scrimmage in picture perfect weather .
Special note : Maxwell Smith was the # 1 QB the entire spring practice and for all the summer 7 on 7 workouts . Plus Smith was the starter for the remainder of the 2011 season after Newton went down until Smith's own injury in the Georgia game which brought the brainchild idea of Sanders to make WR Matt Roark an emergency QB for the historic UT win in the finale of 2011 .
Fr. Patrick Towels & Jalen Whitlow - " I like what the freshman are doing , but they're freshman " said Sanders . " Sometimes they revert back to thing's they done as a sophomore in high school and you wonder , where did that come from " .
Standing just a few yards away from Sanders after saturday's initial scrimmage was the lead Wildcat , Joker Phillips , and his assessment of the QB position was not as definite and individually accommodating in Smith's favor as Sanders was .
Phillips painted a QB position that was still very much up in the air . What should one make of all this drama being slowly built ? Absolutely nothing .
Although one should keep in mind even though UK's offensive philosophy is pretty much the same for both Smith and Newton if you sift thru the video tape ( which Charlie Strong is presently doing ) on each player you will see there is a somewhat different package of plays for each player within that offense .
In the famous words of the old major league baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean , " keep'em guessing it may be your only advantage " .
UK Linebackers Young But Have Size , Speed , and Skills
Skill level and the best pure raw talent trumps experience according to John Calipari when he is laying the blue print for his basketball teams .
Whether that's good advice or not for the pigskin sport we may never know because I don't ever for see any one and done's in football but this particular linebacker core that UK will put on the field this fall may be as close to a group of yearlings or young colts as you will ever see on a college football team , especially an SEC team .
Based on early scuttlebutt coming out of fall camp the 8 players listed on the two deep depth chart at the four linebacker positions has 7 players either entering their sophomore , redshirt freshmen , or true freshman year of college football . Listed below is a small caption of each players abilities and / or expectations :
Soph. / 6' 4" 247 lbs. / Alvin "Bud" Dupree - Displayed enormous potential as a true freshman with a unique combination of outstanding athleticism and big play ability from the hybrid outside LB / DE position in UK defense . On the path to being UK's next all star caliber defensive player who should end his career playing on sundays .
Soph. / 6' 3' 218 lbs. / Malcolm McDuffen - In state product from Christian Co. that has shown good speed and gets to the ball in a hurry but has been relegated to back up duty last two years behind AA Danny Trevathan . Coaches think he's only touched the surface of his true abilities .
Jr. / 6' 1" 245 lbs. / Avery Williamson - Has the physical tools and ability to make plays in space which is essential for a middle linebacker . Has more experience than any LB having played in 25 games .
RF / 6' 2" 225 lbs. / Demarius Rancifer - Showed great promise during his redshirt year last year when coaches came close twice to taking red shirt off him but bit the bullet and now are ready to turn him loose at weak side linebacker .
RF / 6' 1" 255 lbs. / Jabari Johnson - Another product from the talent rich Stephenson , Georgia high school program . Coaches have been raving about his talent's since he arrived but he has been fighting the injury bug . If he gets healthy and an opportunity word around the program is he won't come of the field often .
Soph. / 6' 2" 225 lbs. / Miles Simpson - In state product from Simon Kenton that has the responsibility of taking over the hybrid LB/Safety position in Minter's defense that Winston Guy flourished in . Simpson's athleticism should be idea for the various blitz packages in the Wildcat defense .
RF / 6' 3" 226 lbs. / Josh Forrest - Another in state product from Paducah Tilghman that should share duties with Simpson at the hybrid LB/Safety position and has a skill set similar with a great combination of size and athleticism .
Fr. / 6' 0" 215 lbs. / Khalid Henderson - Combines good size and excellent athleticsm rated the # 19 outside LB in the nation by ESPN and the # 16 prospect overall in the talent rich state of Georgia .
SEC Powerhouse Gators Still Having Early Turmoil In Muschamp Era
Kentucky , Vanderbilt , Ole Miss , Mississippi State , and in recent years Tennessee are suppose to have their fair share of problems and turmoil along with more losses than wins when compared with the rest of college football's powerhouse conference in the SEC .
However , down in the sunshine state where the Florida "Gators" ruled for much of the past 20 years the good fortunes that blessed Steve Spurrior and Urban Meyer haven't yet taken hold early in the Will Muschamp era . The defensive guru that Florida stole away from the Texas Longhorns has been dealing with nothing but trials and tribulations since he stepped on campus 1 1/4 years ago .
The latest Gator to bolt the "Swamp" is 4 star WR JaJuan Story who ask for his release and was granted it last thursday so he could take his talent's to richer pastures . Story wasn't expected to see more than a back up role on this years team , still , this can't be good news for a team that struggled mightily in last years passing game . Additionally , Story becomes the fifth 4 star athlete to leave the Florida program from the 2011 signing class .
Florida did not have a single receiver to catch more than 450 yards worth of receptions for the entire season in 2011 which is unique for this program with it's rich history over the last 20 years .
Story makes the 14th scholarship player according to the Palm Beach Post to leave the program that has enrolled and played during the first 1 1/4 year of the Will Muschamp era .
More UK - UL Drama With A Twist and Tweak
I hate to correct or critique the professional media folks in this state since I'm just a novice at this profession but sometimes I just can't help myself .
This goes under the category of I'm tired of beating that dead horse of when to play this game so I'll jump on the ticket bandwagon this year .
Last week most daily and statewide media agencies collectively reported in various negative manners toward UK football that the school sent a little over 2,000 unsold ticket's back to Louisville for their use or pleasure like the contract calls for and of course in the process put another negative twist on Joker Phillips and UK football .
Their was no mention to my knowledge that Louisville sent back a little over 1,500 ticket's last year when they were the underdog heading into game day . Oh yes , and nobody wants to bring out the fact that Louisville is mandating their home game be played first each season which is annually on the calendar as Labor Day weekend which is the last big 3 day holiday weekend in the work calendar until the Thanksgiving / Christmas Holiday season .
Families can and do choose to spend time together during these unique holiday vacation periods in other places than around a large drunken gathering in a football stadium where the states finest are told to keep the fans ( drunk & sober ) hemmed in like chickens in a coup instead of arresting them like they would do in any other public setting .
Last but maybe the most important and true reason Big Blue Nation decided to stay away from Papa Johns Stadium this particular season which forced UK to send ticket's back .
Our friend's down in Cardville put a price tag on this years game ticket of $78.00 .
According to my short but accurate research you could have seen 19 different college bowl games for less money last year not to mention a pretty good seat at several different NBA or NFL venues and a prime seat at virtually any professional baseball stadium .
UK places a premium on their home game as well but Louisville quite possibly might have finally priced the Commonwealth's football fan out of the market with this years ticket .