This week began the postseason practice schedule for UK football as the team gets ready for the upcoming Music City Bowl against Northwestern. The Cats are also getting ready for the early signing period for their new recruits, which starts on Dec. 20.
The Cats are getting a much-needed break after a season that featured injured quarterback Stephen Johnson needing to score a game-winning touchdown with a hurt left shoulder to beat Tennessee. Johnson said that it was really helpful for the Cats to get back to nearly 100 percent during this month-long break in between games, meaning that any UK player without an extended injury should be at his best by the time Dec. 29 comes around.
The first practice for the Cats was an extremely productive one, according to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. He said that backup quarterback Drew Barker got plays in with the starting lineup, but that Johnson was still the main quarterback moving forward.
He’s also happy with the amount of practice people in the third spot on the depth chart got in Friday’s practice, as they gear up for this postseason and even some preparation for having bigger roles in the next season.
Gran said he “absolutely” feels like his younger players have been encouraged by teammates like center Drake Jackson, who moved into a starting role about halfway through the season, bringing stability to the offensive line. His advancement as an underclassman has been encouraging to other younger players wanting to move up in the rotation, according to Gran.
Starting this year, football commits can sign with their desired university on Dec. 20, which has heavily impacted the recruiting schedule for schools, like UK, who have to prepare for a bowl game while trying to secure recruits for the 2018 football season.
UK coach Vince Marrow was unsure whether or not he liked the early signing period.
“To be determined,” he said.
He agreed with the decision to start the early signing period, though, because schools could sit on commitments for nearly a year, only for the athletes to lose interest at some point in January. By letting them sign early, Marrow said, he finds out who is serious. Marrow’s goal is to sign 80 percent of his class during the early signing period.
“Recruiting’s like shaving. If you don’t do it, it shows,” quarterback coach Darin Hinshaw said after practice.
He said that the recruiting process has been exciting so far.
The Cats will be practicing for quite some time before their bowl game right before the new year, so UK has a lot of preparing still to do.