LEXINGTON - Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders knows UK's offense has to be better than it was last season when the Wildcats struggled to a 5-7 finish and missed a bowl game. He says the emphasis in spring practice has been on finding playmakers to give the offense a boost.
Here’s what he had to say after Saturday’s scrimmage.
Question: What improvements have you seen out of sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith this spring?
Sanders: “He understands the offense a whole lot more. He is making strides in understanding protections and things like that. Last year when he dropped back (to pass), there were lots of times our backs had to stay in and block because he didn’t fix protections. We are getting better at getting our backs out. He understands defensive and secondary contours and what they mean to him pre-snap. It allows him to play fast post-snap. If you have a clue what is coming and can eliminate one side of the field or one receiver, it allows you to get on about your progressions a lot faster and he is making a lot of progress in those areas at this time.”
Question: What have you thought of the play of the receivers?
Sanders: “I think they are working hard and doing a good job. I have been impressed with a couple of the young guys that are looking like they are going to become the receivers we expected them to be when we recruited them. We are thin. E.J. Fields not here two practices a week. LaRod King is steady and has done his thing. Some of those young guys, though, are coming on and we need them to come and make a contribution. No question.”
Question: Which young guys have caught your eye the most?
Sanders: “DeMarco Robinson and Daryl Collins. Losing Daryl (to a preseason knee injury) last year hurt us. He has stepped up.¿I have been pleased with some of the things Rashad Cunningham is doing. He can definitely have his role in this offense. They have to play. We are not very deep at wide receiver right now and we need those guys to come through for us.”
Question: What could a healthy Collins add to the team?
Sanders: “Daryl has good speed and quickness. He’s a very good runner with the ball. He is more of the complete package than any of the other guys. DeMarco is small, quick, nifty. Not going to break many tackles. He has a lot of quickness, but not know how much flat-out speed he has got.¿LaRod has the size, understands how to play.
But again he does not have the speed and quickness to beat people. Daryl is a little bit more of the complete package from a physical standpoint. He is not there mentally where he is the complete package yet, but from the physical standpoint he has the combination of good size, good speed, good quickness and I¿think can be a dynamic player for us in the future.”
Question: Did he use last year to his advantage even though he was injured?
Sanders: “I think he tried to. Again it is hard to know what to work on and what to really study until you do it. When you are doing it, that exposes what you don’t know.
Spring practice is great for him because hopefully it will be a great building block for his summer and will teach him what he really needs to work on and what he knows and doesn’t know.”
Question: Does backup quarterback Jacob Russell have a chance to play this year?
Sanders: “He definitely has a shot. As a coach, you are always going to put the people out there that give you the best opportunity to win. It’s up to him to prove to us he gives us the best opportunity to win. If he does that, then’s he going to play.¿He will be playing quarterback in the spring game for us to evaluate and I hope he plays well and expect him to play well.”