UK Football Notebook: Monday

A great position battle is being waged in Kentucky's fall camp, perhaps the best on either side of the ball. And it's probably not the first one that came to your mind.

A great position battle is being waged in Kentucky's fall camp, perhaps the best on either side of the ball.

And it's probably not the first one that came to your mind.

While most of the focus has fallen on the Wildcats' quarterback competition to date, the UK staff said Monday that the battle at center could be just as important as whoever lines up behind that man.

"It's 1 or 1A," UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said after the first of two scheduled practices at the Nutter Training Center. "No question (it's important). Because they're the quarterback of the O-Line."

Four players are currently in the mix at center: redshirt freshman Zach Myers, sophomore Zach West, junior Max Godby and redshirt freshman Jon Toth. They are vying to fill the spot vacated by one of the Wildcats' best linemen last season, Matt Smith.

Redshirt freshman Zach Myers snapped the ball to Maxwell Smith during Friday's "Fan Day" workout. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
"The snaps have been pretty consistent," Brown said. "Zach Myers and Zach West have gotten a lot of the (first-team) reps. Max Godby's gotten a lot of the 2s reps. We'll probably let that play out the rest of this week and see where those guys stand."

UK offensive line coach John Schlarman said the players competing at center offer different choices to the staff. The 6-foot-3, 277-pound Myers has yet to see game action, but has impressed with his athleticism and ability to make calls at the line. West started all 12 games at left guard last season, so he has more experience, and gives more of a physical presence at 6-4, 308 pounds.

Many of the offensive linemen have been cross-trained at multiple positions in camp with an eye on putting the best combination of players on the field when the season arrives. If West does not emerge as the starting center, he would likely be the starting left guard.

"Just getting depth with our O-Line is a big deal right now," UK head coach Mark Stoops said. "We need to get more bodies and more guys ready, so we're working hard and moving guys around to get some experience."

Schlarman said he's confident they have six players ready at this time: Myers, West, guards Kevin Mitchell and Teven Eatmon-Nared, and tackles Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle. He'd like to see that number grow to at least eight by the first game and, ideally, to 10 at some point in the season. He pointed to Toth, sophomore Shaq Love, Godby and fellow walk-on Jack Gruenschlaeger, as potential candidates to break into the roation.

"I'd like to have five go the whole season," Schlarman said, "but you know that's not realistic. They're going to get dinged up. You have to have depth there, so we're working on a lot of different combinations."

He's optimistic that will happen.

"I love their attitude. It's a hard-working group that gives great effort," Schlarman said.

Stoops Pleased with Practice:

Stoops said he was pleased overall with Monday's first workout.

"We're getting lucky here with this weather," he said of the unseasonably mild temperature in Lexington. "This is a fantastic day. We got a lot of work in today. Again, a good, physical practice. We got a lot of reps, a lot of good work. We were good on either side of the ball at different times, but overall, just a good work day."

The practice included officials to help the Wildcats get used to lining up correctly, Stoops said. He hopes to have officials work most of the remaining practices.

The morning session was capped with a physical "live" period.

"It was a good, active team period for a long time with moving the ball in a scrimmage-type situation," Stoops said. "And we had a really good inside period today, good and physical where we're getting our tackling and getting things that we need to get done."

Some of the UK defenders have talked about playing more physical, but Stoops said he has yet to see the intensity rise to the level he expects.

"We're not on the same page there," he said. "But I don't want to mock those guys because I like their attitudes. We had a much better team run period today where the defense was more physical. I was more pleased with the play in some short-yardage situations. Some good, physical tackling."

Jalen Whitlow threw during Friday's open practice at Commonwealth Stadium. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
Quarterback Competition:

Stoops indicated that some movement may be occurring at the quarterback position, where Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips have been splitting reps equally to this point in camp.

"We're getting a feel for it, where we need to go," Stoops said. "We'll let it play out a little bit longer and see where we're at."

Added Brown: "We're not in an extreme hurry by any means. But I think we've got to start narrowing it down and getting the reps focused more."

According to Stoops, Smith's right shoulder has not been an issue in recent practices. The sophomore from California missed some reps earlier in camp as a precautionary measure due to soreness.

Montgomery Continues to Shine:

Both Stoops and Brown again singled out freshman wide receiver Alex Montgomery as one of the big eye-openers for the offense going into the second week of camp.

"Alex Montgomery's probably made as many plays as anybody we've had in camp," Brown said.

All four of the Wildcats' newcomers at wide receiver – Montgomery, Jeff Badet, Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons – have been impressive at times.

"Those guys have all come in and been a factor," Brown said, "and it's making guys like Demarco (Robinson) and A.J. Legree and Daryl Collins (work harder). I think they're pushing them. Either they're gonna get better, or those young guys will be the first ones that roll out there versus Western."

Asked if he feels like he'll have more playmakers for his "Air Raid" offense than he originally thought, Brown said: "I don't know… I'll know Saturday the 31st."

Kendrick Making Push at Tight End:

One of the more pleasant surprises for the UK staff since spring ended is the emergence of senior Anthony Kendrick at tight end.

"Anthony Kendrick's had a really nice camp," Brown said. "That's good. I really didn't know what to expect out of him. He's got a lot of ability, but he's never played much football here. I had to go back to spring 2012 (film) to evaluate him when I first got here. But he's had a really nice camp. He can do a lot of things. He's really versatile."

Kendrick has been praised by both the staff and fellow teammates for having a great off-season. He's lost almost 30 pounds after playing at nearly 260 at one point in his UK career, and he's running better than ever.

"I feel great," Kendrick said during media day. "This is the best shape I've ever been in my life. I lost almost 30 pounds, but I'm stronger than ever. I'm faster than ever. I'm just excited to get back out there and show what I can do."

The Katy (Texas) native did not see game action in 2012. He played in five games as a sophomore and in 13 as a redshirt freshman, but those were almost exclusively on special teams. Kendrick has six receptions for 45 yards and no touchdowns during his UK career.

Injury Update:

Junior defensive end Za'Darius Smith was held out of practice again on Monday due to a lingering ankle sprain. Stoops said he was not sure if it was a common sprain or the more severe "high" variety, but it's going to take some additional time to heal.

"They don't think it's major, but it will take a little time," Stoops said.

Meanwhile, defensive tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble returned to action on Monday after getting a couple of days off from minor wear and tear.

Braylon Heard, who transferred to UK this summer from Nebraska, missed practice due to a cut he sustained over an eye.

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