LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Jared Lorenzen had more weight around his waist but perhaps less on his shoulders as Kentucky opened spring football practice on Tuesday at the Nutter Field House.
Kentucky coach Guy Morriss announced that the "Hefty Lefty" is once again flirting with the 300 mark on the scales, yet officially tabbed the junior quarterback the starter heading into spring drills based on Lorenzen's 2001 performance, strides made in the classroom and a greater role in team leadership.
"I think he's growing up a lot," Morriss said of Lorenzen, who was never officially named the starter last season and wound up losing the job briefly to redshirt freshman Shane Boyd after the season-opening loss to Louisville. "He's done well, and we're real proud of him."
Both the coach and the player took a lighthearted approach to the weight issue.
"I don't think complacent is the word for it. I just think Jared loves to eat," Morriss said. "And he's a big, big person anyway. It's easy for big men to gain weight.
"Jared understands where his weight's got to be by the beginning of two-a-days... I don't think his weight is going to be an issue. I think it will get down to where it needs to be."
"I'll probably be talking about (weight) until the day I die," Lorenzen joked. "So I might as well have fun with it... I love eating. Look at me. I've been eating since I came out of the womb."
When asked what his diet consists of, Lorenzen grinned and turned the question around: "What don't I eat?"
The eating habits have been a bit better the closer the calendar got to spring practice. Some heavier meals have been replaced with cereal.
"I can't even tell you the last time I ate pizza," he added. "Gosh, I miss that stuff. Pizza and chocolate... But my big problem was eating late. That's what gets me."
Lorenzen expressed no doubts about reaching his prescribed weight by August. Last year, that figure was 265.
"I'm not at my playing weight, but I'm not that far from it," he said. "It's just going to take a little bit of running, a little bit of watching what I eat, not eating late. It happens every year.
"I'm not in bad shape. The shape part's not a problem... I can run as much as you want me to," he said. "Once we get to the summer and do the running in the hot, summer heat, it'll go down just like it did last summer."
Despite starting only six games and playing in just eight, Lorenzen threw for 2,179 yards and 19 touchdowns with only seven interceptions last season. He finished the year on a roll, throwing 12 TD passes in the final three games.
But he also knows he can be even better at a lower weight.
"I think I'm more mentally tough when I'm down in my weight," Lorenzen said. "There's things that I know I can do that I can't when I'm bigger. I can take off running easier, lose people easier.
"At 300-plus, I suck and I'm bending over by the fourth quarter. Coach (Brent) Pease looked at my third and fourth quarters, and I was terrible. My first half was great and we jumped out to a big lead, but my second half was just awful."
On Tuesday, he sounded relieved to know Morriss considered him the starter entering spring drills, but was not letting his guard down.
"That's good," Lorenzen said, "but it still doesn't change anything because if I'm not as sharp as I was, Shane will step right in and do what he did last year. And now he's got experience, he knows what it's like to be out there."
Ironically, with all the questions surrounding their quarterback's weight, the Cats are likely to face a bigger problem with being thin.
Kentucky lost two of its better players, defensive end Dennis Johnson and tight end Derek Smith, to the NFL draft. The Cats also had two key players transfer in offensive lineman Kip Sixbery and running back Chad Scott. They return only 41 lettermen and are extremely thin on the offensive line and at defensive end.
On the offensive line, only senior guard Keith Chatelain and junior tackle Antonio Hall have more than six career starts. The Cats are working with only 13 players on that unit this spring, four of which are walk-ons and one player (Daniel Burnett) who is making the switch from defense.
"Right now, (depth) is my biggest concern -- definitely," Morriss said. "Coming out of spring, if some of these kids can come along and develop, I would at least feel a little bit better, if they do come along like I think that they will."
Morriss said this spring would be a key time for last year's redshirts. He expects running back Alexis Bwenge, fullback Ron Johnson and wide receiver Demarcus Wood to get a long look on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, the staff will be closely evaluating safeties Travis Atwell and Muhammad Abdullah, defensive back Antoine Huffman, linebackers Dustin Williams and Jon Sumrall, outside safety Keith Shelton, and defensive ends Vincent Burns and Trey Mielsch.
Burns, a 2001 transfer from Northern Arizona, impressed the coaches with his play in practice last year. Senior Otis Grigsby is the team's only other experienced defensive end.
"What I like about Vincent is his leadership, his quickness and his work ethic," Morriss said of the 6-foot-2, 261-pound Burns. "He's a kid that has a motor like you wouldn't believe. He really knows how to get to the football, and he tries to get there in a hurry. He plays hard, and he's a vocal kid. I think he can be a leader on our defensive line and with our defensive group. The kids respect him."
Burns has displayed an aggressive streak as well, never hesitating to mix it up in practice if necessary.
"He's always around the pile or at the bottom of it, one of the two," Morriss said. "And you've got to have some guys like that."