Stoops pleased with Cats’ play in scrimmage


Keith Taylor

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops jokes around during fan day last week at Kroger Field. The Wildcats open the season on Sept. 4 against Louisiana Monroe.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops was all smiles after his team wrapped up the first full week of fall camp with a scrimmage Saturday at Kroger Field.

Stoops didn’t give much insight into the quarterback race, but did provide an update on freshman wide receiver Dekel Crowdus. Stoops said the injury wasn’t season-ending and expects the former Frederick Douglass High School standout to make a return in the next few weeks.

“He does not have a torn ligament,” Stoops said. “He has a strained ligament (and) there’s a good opportunity he’ll be back soon. … We are optimistic.”

Junior receiver Wan’Dale Robinson also was pleased Crowdus will return sooner rather than later. Robinson recalled Crowdus was upset about the injury the day it occurred and both players expected the worse.

“At first, we thought it was going to be much longer than we expected,” he said. “It’s just really good to know he’s OK and will be able to bounce back and be healthy again.”

The quarterback battle continues between Penn State transfer Will Levis and returnees Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen. Stoops said all three “did some good things” but focused more of his attention on tight end Izayah Cummings, who continues to make strides at his new position. Stoops said Cummings made a “one-handed catch to keep a drive going.”

“Here’s a young man that always had a great attitude, works, does everything. And I think he’s a difference maker at tight end. He’s just so natural. It’s so friendly to quarterbacks, somebody that’s that athletic with that kind of catch radius and is so smooth. Those big guys sometimes they’re stiffer than you think. To have a big guy that’s that athletic makes a big difference. Now all of a sudden you’re looking at a young man out there and saying ‘wow, look at his athleticism’ instead of maybe at wide receiver where you know he can catch the ball, but maybe doesn’t have the top-end that you’re looking for. Now all of a sudden he looks very athletic.”

Aside from Crowdus, Stoops said the Wildcats came out of the scrimmage relatively healthy and without any serious injuries and just wanted “to continue to be clean.”

“As you could understand with the new offense, new offensive system, the players, just the whole operation. It’s really important just to … the terminology and all of that coming from a pro system. Sometimes all that just, the operation, the terminology, getting into formation and the shifts and the motions, there’s a lot to it. We’re getting better. A few pre-snap penalties. Just once or twice I would’ve had to call a timeout probably with the play clock. Just things of that nature. We want to be as game ready as we can.”

Stoops added his squad will focus on more situational schemes next week as the team prepares for its opener set for Sept. 4 against Louisiana Monroe at Kroger Field.

“We did some good things on both sides.” Stoops said. “We’re looking forward to getting these guys healed up for a day and getting back at its next week. I can’t wait to get back to work.”


LEXINGTON (KT) — Brad White likes the way Kentucky’s defensive unit has opened fall camp.

“The energy of this group is good and they need to keep it that way,” said White, whose squad focused on third-down situations in practice on Thursday. “ I was expecting it to be like that with the strong senior leadership that we have at every single level, with the mixture of adding (the) young guys in.”

Others on Kentucky’s defensive staff, including defensive backs coach Chris Collins, have been impressed by the energy level in the preseason and added that “slipping little things into practice” help keep the players remain active.

“It starts with the coaches bringing juice and energy for that position group and them challenging these guys and having them accept that challenge,” Collins said. “You have to be creative a little bit, but then again, competition a lot of times, that adds to it.”

White also has been pleased with the team’s chemistry leading up to the team’s season opener on Sept. 4 against Louisiana-Monroe.

“Young guys are feeling like they can cheer on old guys, and vice versa, older guys getting fired up for young guys making plays,” he said. “That’s what’s good but, then again, still a lot to clean up and fixed. We’ll get that done. I just like the energy.”

Some newcomers have been impressive this fall, including freshman linebacker Trevin Wallace, who is expected to give the Wildcats an added boost in the middle of the team’s defense.

“He’s a smart kid,” Kentucky linebackers coach Jon Sumrall said. “He’s really, really smart. There’s a difference between understanding it in the classroom and applying it to the field, but that dude in the classroom is incredibly impressive.”

Veteran DeAndre Square also has been impressed with Wallace.

“He’s going to be a player,” Square said. “I like everything about him. I like his size. I like his confidence. He listens to everything. He’s not a guy who thinks he knows it all at a young age. He listens to everything. He wants to improve. I think he’ll be an important part of the defense this year and years on because he’s a hard worker.”

A week into fall camp, White said it’s too early to single out players who have been making strides in practice. He added Saturday’s scrimmage will help the staff provide a thorough evaluation.

“There have been several guys that have flashed, but to isolate one early … I really think you need to get through a first scrimmage,” White said. “Who can pin a ball carrier to the ground in a live scrimmage when the ball is moving and there’s tempo and who can really rush a passer? … Scripted practice reps are different, than scripted scrimmage reps. To tag someone this early I think would be unfair to any of our guys.”

On the flip side, White said Liam Coen’s offensive approach on a daily basis is “great for our guys.”

“I don’t see it as a negative, I see it as a positive, with our guys having to adapt and adjust to things that are a little bit new,” he said. “I think it’s great for us coaches to adapt on the fly.”


LEXINGTON (KT) — It’s not time to pencil in Kentucky’s depth chart just yet, but some players are starting to make a name for themselves a week into fall workouts.

The quarterback battle between Will Levis, Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen has been getting the most attention during the past seven days but one of their top targets — junior walk-on receiver Rahsaan Lewis — has been turning heads this week.

Lewis, son of former NFL standout Ray Lewis, caught a pair of long touchdown passes at Fan Day last Saturday, including one from Levis late in the scrimmage. Lewis earned the trust of Kentucky’s quarterbacks in the spring as the team began installing Liam Coen’s offense.

“A lot of guys trust me, same, I trust them,” Lewis said. “I’m just doing my job.”

In addition to the fan base, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops also has been impressed with Lewis.

“He’s shown up quite a bit, which is really good,” the Kentucky coach said. “That’s a position that we need somebody to show up to make plays – he’s doing that. He’s been consistent so I like that.”

Lewis considers himself a “playmaker” regardless if it’s a short or long play from the line of scrimmage.

“I’m always trying to make a play. I’m not going to try to ever do too much, try to hurt the team because, at the end of the day, it’s a football game,” he said. “You don’t ever want to get negative yardage. I just like to make plays. I don’t care how it happens.”

A transfer from Florida Atlantic, Lewis landed at Kentucky after Lane Kiffin left to take over at Ole Miss. He battled through injuries last season before making a breakout during spring workouts.

“Rahsaan’s a savvy football player who has unbelievable ball skills. The kid’s got like a 40-inch vertical, he can jump through the roof,” Coen said. “He definitely showed up last Saturday and he’s continued to do so. Made another good play the other day.”

As for the quarterback race, Stoops said it’s too early to make a determination on who will start in the opener against the University of Louisiana Monroe on Sept. 4. 

“I don’t want to make too many comments,” Stoops said. “Too many people read into all that. I think, like you would expect through five practices, some guys will … each of them are having their moments where it’s like ‘wow’ and really good. And then they’re making some mistakes. We’ll continue to evaluate it. I think all the guys are playing good. … They’re doing some good things.”