Spring game: 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Questions answered: Even though Jake Lanefski had his spring cut short after suffering a shoulder injury, the Wildcats are set in the offensive line, an area that should be the strength of the team next season. Four starters return from a year ago, and Lanefski is a fifth lineman with experience who should be back in time for fall camp. He’ll be the utility guy and can play center, guard or tackle. Left tackle Chandler Burden was thought to be out for the spring after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, but returned for the last part of practice. The Wildcats will be big and experienced up front and should also have some options with a couple of guys who can play different positions. Billy Joe Murphy will settle in at right tackle, but has played every position but center. The only downer was losing reserve guard Dave Ulinski, who had had to give up football after a series of concussions. It’s also been a productive spring for junior quarterback Morgan Newton, who’s been more consistent and thrown the ball with increased accuracy.
Questions unanswered: Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has been outspoken about wanting to see more guys step up at receiver, and he called out junior La’Rod King following last weekend’s scrimmage. The truth is that replacing somebody as talented and versatile as Randall Cobb is never easy, and the Wildcats also lost Chris Matthews, who led the team with nine touchdown catches last season. Brian Adams, who’s splitting time between baseball and football, showed that he will be able to help, and Gene McCaskill should be healthy in the fall after missing this spring and all of last season while recovering from major knee surgery. All in all, there were too many drops and not enough plays made to suit Phillips, and it sounds like the Wildcats will look to some of those incoming freshmen at receiver to help replenish the passing game.
Spring stars: Sophomore Raymond Sanders stepped right into Derrick Locke’s role as one of those running backs who can do a little bit of everything. Phillips said Sanders has bulked up 10 pounds from last season and actually gained a step. Sanders has also emerged as one of the Wildcats’ leaders on offense. Junior offensive guard Larry Warford just keeps getting better and is poised to be one of the top offensive linemen in the SEC next season. He’s penciled in at right guard, and at 6-3 and 330 pounds, will be the guy Kentucky runs behind next season in a lot of key situations. On defense, junior Collins Ukwu has been a force from his end position, while senior Winston Guy has made even more plays than he did a year ago now that he’s closer to the line of scrimmage in a linebacker/safety hybrid role.
Of note: The Wildcats’ spring game will consist of an offense vs. defense scrimmage with each side generating points based on a pre-determined scoring system. … Defensive tackle Mister Cobble underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum last week and will be out for four months. He’s expected to be back in time for the start of preseason practice in August. … Phillips kicked two players off the team this spring after they violated team rules – tight end Alex Smith and linebacker Jewell Ratliff. … Similar to Guy, the Wildcats also moved Ridge Wilson into a hybrid role on defense. He’s a cross between a linebacker and defensive end. … Phillips said Rick Minter’s new defensive scheme will be more aggressive and is designed to create more turnovers. Kentucky was 11th in the SEC last season with only 16 forced turnovers in 13 games.