LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky football team had a two-hour practice Thursday morning as the Wildcats prepare to take on Kent State, which has been on a roll since mid-season 2011.
Kent State will prove to a formidable opponent for Kentucky, according to UK Coach Joker Phillips, who said the Golden Flashes will come into Commonwealth Stadium confident and energetic. Kent State raced to a 41-7 lead in its season opener vs. Towson before coasting to a 41-21 win.
“They are physical and won four out of their last five last year and beat a team handily (last week),” Phillips said. “They have a lot of confidence. They have won five out of the last six games they have played. They are a team that has seen their league go into top conferences and come out with wins. They will be excited.”
The Wildcats will have to take on the Golden Flashes without the services of senior starting tailback CoShik Williams and redshirt freshman linebacker Josh Forrest, who will not play in Kentucky’s home opener Saturday against Kent State due to injury.
Phillips said neither player has seen action in practice this week due to a lingering injury from the Louisville game last Sunday. Phillips said. Junior tailback Raymond Sanders will get the start Saturday, according to Phillips. Junior Jonathan George and true freshman Dyshawn Mobley will also get playing time, Phillips said.
Phillips said. Williams, who led UK in rushing against Louisville with 10 carries for 62 yards, will be missed against the Golden Flashes, but the priority now is to get him healthy.
“The guy is a tough guy,” Phillips said about Williams. “The thing that we have to have him for is the long haul too. He is not a really big guy and he needs to be full speed. The guy busts his gut on every play, whether it be practice or pregame. We have to take care of him and make sure we get him to the field healthy.”
Phillips said that Kentucky had a strong final practice to get ready for the game as the staff continues to emphasize the players zoning in on assignments. Part of the high energy level in practice this fall might be attributed to the youth on the 2012 squad. Phillips said several underclassmen bring a higher level of energy when game day approaches, specifically freshmen linebacker Pancho Thomas, wide receiver DeMarcus Sweat and redshirt freshman wide receiver Daryl Collins.
“Pancho is a different guy on game day,” Phillips said. “I like that. DeMarcus Sweat, Daryl Collins are guys that are different on game days. Sweat is running up and down the sidelines screaming and yelling and cheering on the defense. We have to play those kinds of guys because they like to play. Pancho, you can tell leading up to a game that it was different for him and how he approached things closer we got to game day.”
Phillips noted after practice that there will be more playing time for the underclassmen on defense, naming specifically defensive backs J.D. Harmon and Fred Tiller. The head coach said he sees those two getting better as the season progresses.
“Those young guys will play in different packages,” Phillips said. “They played a little bit last week on third downs. They are going to get better as the season goes. Next year, we will be sitting here saying they are inexperienced so we have to get them experience now.”
Kentucky will have a short walk-through practice Friday before completing preparations for the home opener.