In a growing program such as Kentucky, spring practice focuses on young players in an attempt to see who can play at a high level in the SEC. For the purposes of this writing we will touch on the young players that have performed at said level and will be looked to for improvement. Also they can pinpoint youngsters that have we haven't seen from scrimmage but all indication points to the probability of them performing at that level.
Sophomore linebacker Micah Johnson; sophomore kicker Lones Seiber; sophomore defensive end Jamil Paris; junior college transfer senior defensive end J.D. Craigman; and sophomore defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, to name a few have exhibited an ability to play at the SEC level. As Brooks said, it's just a matter of them getting better in spring practice.
Coach Brooks has been very upbeat this spring about the potential of some of the youngsters. Last season against Tennessee, A.J. Nance, a walk on linebacker from Tennessee along with Wesley Woodyard almost cut a kickoff return guy in half. It was a scary scene when it took about eight minutes for him to get up off the ground. Nance has looked good in spring practice and according to Brooks will push other mike linebackers for playing time. Nance and Seiber are from the same school and Nance said it was Seiber who convinced him to walk on to Kentucky.
Sophomore linebacker Sam Maxwell had two interceptions on the first day of practice and has continued his improvement in each practice session. "Sam closed and made plays," Brooks said. Maxwell played on the punt and kickoff teams last season. "Coach (Chuck) Smith as a position coach is a great man," said an upbeat Maxwell. "He talks to you off the field and cares about you off the field."
"I came in a little over weight," said junior college transfer cornerback Ahmad Grigsby Jr., who was red shirted last season because of a hand injury. "It gave me a chance to clear my mind. The difference between junior college and Dl level is big. I use my time to workout and lift weights. There's a sign in our weight room that says ‘champions are made when nobody's looking.'" Brooks said Grigsby is leaner and quicker than last year.
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin is expected to add depth to the defensive tackle position. "It's not beyond the realm of possibility that a guy like Ricky Lumpkin will be pushing for a starting spot," Brooks said. Lumpkin came to the university weighing 260-pounds and now is up to 290-pounds. Lumpkin said – "The red shirt helped me to get stronger. Overall, I wasn't ready last year. I wouldn't trade that red shirt year for nothing."
Redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Thurman has shown up well in practice and should be in the linebacker mix. "Brandon looks like he going to press for playing time," Brooks said.
Redshirt freshman Zip Duncan has been moved to an offensive guard spot. And with a few more pounds over the summer, should give the Cats some valuable depth in the offensive line. Having been a former tight end, that parlays into good feet in the O-line
In a recent practice, a hyper-extended left elbow to center Eric Scott created a situation in which red shirt freshman walk on Marcus Davis took all the snaps for that session. And when the team did their running gassers at the end of practice, Brooks hollowed out for Davis to drop out of the running because he had taken all the snaps for that day. Was he surprised? "Yeah, it did surprise me," a grateful Davis said. "I didn't think he was paying attention like that." It's obvious the coach was paying more than attention and liked what he saw from Davis. The walk on from Boone County, Kentucky said he is now up to 290-Pounds. "I think I can play at this level," Davis said. Most of the aforementioned has shown up as pleasant surprises so far in practice but more will be found about them in the first full scrimmage Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.