Stoops more upbeat following second scrimmage of fall camp

Published 3:18 pm Sunday, August 20, 2017

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON —Mark Stoops was more upbeat about his squad following the second scrimmage of fall workouts Saturday and likes the direction the team is headed going into the final week of camp.

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“I thought we had a really good solid week of practice this week, wrapping it up with a good, long scrimmage,” Stoops said Saturday. “I feel like we did some good things on both sides of the ball.”

Now with two scrimmages completed, Stoops and his staff will start piecing together a depth chart going into the season opener set for Sept. 2 at Southern Mississippi.

“I told the team (it was separation time) point blank yesterday in a team meeting that we’re going to be making some decisions with playing time and moves on the depth chart after this scrimmage,” Stoops said. “Guys that either can’t do it or won’t do it are going to get passed up because we do have a lot of depth and a lot of talent on this team. At least a lot more than we’ve had.”

The emerging stars have shown up at wide receiver, where Javonte Richardson, Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps and Lynn Bowden have made a push for playing time during the past two weeks. Stoops expects all four to contribute immediately.

“I feel like they’re really good players,” Stoops said. “They’re just ball players. They could probably help us on special teams. Bring them along, and as you know, we lose a pretty good group after this year.”

The defense also has been bolstered by newcomers, especially Quinton Bohanna and Josh Paschal, both of whom have been impressive behind the scenes.

“I’ve been very impressed with Quinton Bohanna,” Stoops said. “I feel like it’s important to him. He plays tough; he plays physical. He’s a big man out there that’s athletic for how big he is. I have high hopes that he’ll continue to progress a little bit.”

Stoops said Paschal made “a play or two” during Saturday’s scrimmage that “really stood out to me.”

“(He) ‘wowed’ me a little bit,” Stoops said. “I noticed that on the field. He showed three, four plays during the scrimmage that he just stood out today. I don’t want to get everybody all excited. He’s a freshman. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s very, very talented and does stand out out there.

“He’s a physical guy. He’s got a lot of twitch. He has good instincts. He’s smart. We can move him around, do some different things with him. He’s one of those versatile guys for how big he is. He did some really good things.”

Baker hurt: Kentucky senior wide receiver Dorian Baker injured his ankle Saturday. The extent of Baker’s injury wasn’t known, but Stoops said it was “fairly substantial.”

Baker missed three games last year after suffering a hamstring injury during preseason workouts, but hauled in 14 passes for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 35-yard score in a 41-38 win over Louisville.

Running backs impressive: Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was impressed with his backfield following a sub-par performance in the first scrimmage last week.

Sihiem King had a 60-yard run during the scrimmage, signaling the improvement over last week’s outing.

“We had some explosive runs,” Gran said. “A.J. (Rose) had a long run and Benny (Snell) is Benny. Benny really ran the ball well for the limited time he was in there. We ran it better, I wasn’t very happy last week.”

Making a stand: Kentucky’s defensive unit has been among the surprises during fall camp and Saturday was no exception.

“They are getting it,” Gran said.

The point of emphasis has been stopping the run and the veterans are providing the leadership.

“When you have (cornerback) Derrick Baity out there yelling plays before they happen, that makes it difficult,” starting quarterback Stephen Johnson said.

Overall, the defensive unit wanted to make a “statement” in the scrimmage.

“We did a good job, but we can always do better and improve,” Kentucky junior linebacker Josh Allen said.

Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House agreed.

“(We’re) nowhere near where we need to be yet, but we’ve got another two weeks essentially,” he said. “We’ve definitely grown. I thought we did a better job handling the run game. Now I’ll see it upstairs. They still popped one explosive run on a third-and-four, so that’s not acceptable obviously. But I thought it was better than a week ago. I definitely think we grew this week.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or via twitter @keithtaylor21.