It’s time to get serious.
After more than a month of workouts, the Kentucky football team shifted its focus to Western Kentucky Monday. The Wildcats will open the season against the Hilltoppers at 9 p.m. on Sept. 1 at LP Field in Nashville.
“Today, we got started on Western Kentucky,” Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips said Monday. “We went this (Monday) morning against the Western Kentucky (scout team) and it was a little bit sloppy this morning and a little cleaner (Monday) afternoon. A lot of that has to do with seeing some new looks. Our guys on offense are going to be ready for whatever, especially with what they have been seeing on defense. Same thing on defense, we are getting more of a downhill running game, which is what Western Kentucky does on offense. It was a good practice this afternoon.”
Phillips also is getting closer to narrowing down his depth chart as the season opener draws closer. Phillips said Saturday’s scrimmage offered a degree of separation.
“There were some guys getting after it and there was some separation at some positions,” he said.
One competition spot is at tight end, where Danville’s Jordan Aumiller appears to be the front-runner for the starting job.
“Jordan Aumiller has been as consistent a player that we have had, not only at the tight end position, but on the football team,” Phillips said. “After him, Tyler Robinson has been out and the rest of them have been hit or miss.
“I think Nick Melillo has moved himself to the second team today. After watching the film, that is how it has been. After Jordan, every other day, somebody moves up and somebody moves down.”
Another battle brewing is at tailback between Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George and CoShik Williams. Sanders is the top returnee, but the competition in the backfield during fall workouts has failed to yield a starter, at least for the time being.
“We have a solid group at running back,” Phillips said. “There is a lot of depth there. Raymond Sanders has done a really good job, but after him one of the freshmen is in the mix along with some of the older guys. CoShik Williams has been as solid as we have had around here and is a guy that practices at a different speed than everybody else. He has a chance to help us here also.”
Phillips likes the progression of the offensive line and said injured lineman Stuart Hines is on the mend.
“Stuart is still a little banged up, but we think he will be ready to go on game day,” Phillips said. “It is good seeing those guys (offensive line) and I know Morgan (Newton) likes seeing those big guys back out there. We like seeing them out there so they can start getting all the calls and playing beside each other. Billy Joe (Murphy) has been playing beside a different guard every day. Morgan has been taking snaps with a different center than he is used to. All of those things work well if we can get those guys back.”
Phillips and his staff have settled on Randall Burden as the team’s starting punt returner, but Phillips added that Gene McCaskill and an “unnamed freshman”remain in the mix leading up to the season opener.