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For WTA: Running shines in lengthy wildcat scrimmage.


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Midway through his team's first official scrimmage of the spring, Rich Brooks pulled linebacker Sam Maxwell aside and took him to task for letting running back Moncell Allen escape his grasp in the backfield en route for a big gain.

That is, until he heard Maxwell's defense.

"He said, 'But coach, he doesn't have any legs,'" Brooks said with a laugh. "& Moncell's just a load. He's so hard to tackle."

Allen, a 5-foot-7, 225-pound sophomore often described by his coaches and teammates as a "bowling ball," was one of the stars of Saturday's lengthy scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium. The New Orleans native carried the ball eight times for 50 yards and caught one pass out of the backfield for 19 yards.

"You've gotta climb on his back and get three or four guys to come with you," UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said of Allen. "And you still may not get him down."

It was a good day overall for UK's backfield, which many expect to carry the load for the Wildcats' offense this season after the departure of Andre Woodson and his three main passing targets. Junior Alfonso Smith rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, sophomore Derrick Locke picked up 33 yards on four carries and senior Tony Dixon added 25 yards on six attempts. Fullback John Conner even got in on the action, scoring on a 35-yard touchdown run.

"We lost one of the best backs in Kentucky history," Brooks said in reference to departed senior Rafael Little, "but we've got four guys who can go in and really do damage... All four of those guys are capable of doing some really good things."

"I was really pleased with the way we ran the football," UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said. "That was one of the things we wanted to get out of this scrimmage, to get an idea of where we were running the football.

"I think we'll be able to run the football when we need to, and that's something you've got to be able to do in this league, especially times when the other team knows you've got to run it."

The Cats ran a total of 95 plays in a surprisingly long scrimmage with the first-team offensive and defensive units squaring off along with 2s versus 2s and 3s versus 3s. Both the blue-shirted offense and white-clad defense had its moments.

Smith scored the first points of the day, finding the end zone on a 6-yard run for the second-team offense. The eight-play, 65-yard drive was highlighted by a 12-yard run and 19-yard reception by Allen.

The first offense, led by junior quarterback Curtis Pulley, marched to the 6-yard line on their second possession of the day, but the defense stiffened and held Lones Seiber to a 24-yard field goal.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Hartline led the 2s to a first-and-goal at the 8 on the next possession, but the defense again got stingy and forced a field goal attempt. This time, redshirt freshman Ryan Tydlacka missed a 22-yard attempt.

With Hartline rejoining the 1s for his next drive, he led the offense on a 13-play drive that resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Tydlacka.

Conner rumbled in from 35 yards out on the next possession pitting 2s versus 2s. Allen had runs of 10 and 7 yards leading up to junior fullback's surprise score.

Sophomore Will Fidler got a series with the first offense midway through the scrimmage and connected with tight end T.C. Drake on a 20-yard pass to help move the ball to the White team's 30 yard line. The defense, however, came up with a big play when defensive end Ventrell Jenkins hit Fidler as he was releasing the ball and linebacker Micah Johnson intercepted the fluttering pass.

Back with the 1s, Hartline connected with receiver E.J. Adams for 39 yards and tight end Ross Bogue for 21. That gave Smith another chance to find the end zone, this time scoring from three yards out.

The next matchup of 1s versus 1s saw the Blue team reach the 35, but the defense came up with another big play when safety Marcus McClinton picked off a deep ball from Pulley intended for Kyrus Lanxter.

The scrimmage ended on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Fidler to Adams during a 3s versus 3s matchup. Adams, who recently converted form corner to receiver, finished with four catches for 167 yards.

"Overall, I was very pleased," Brooks said. "We got through the fairly-lengthy first scrimmage with no injuries of any significance. We made, I thought, some very good plays in every phase of the game. We also made some bad plays, inconsistencies, which you expect. You can't be happy about both sides of the ball when you scrimmage yourself, but overall I thought it was a very, very good first scrimmage."

Hartline put up the most impressive statistics of the three quarterbacks competing for the starting job this spring. The Ohio native completed 12 of 18 attempts for 179 yards and no interceptions. Pulley was only 3-for-9 for 31 yards and one interception, but did gain 38 yards on five rushing attempts. Fidler completed four of his eight attempts for 85 yards and the only touchdown pass on the day.

"Quarterback-wise, I thought all three of them did some good things and some things that they can't do, that we need to get better at, but that's why we're practicing," Brooks said. "In the sixth day of spring practice, I was relatively pleased."

In addition to Johnson's interception, the linebacker corps had several good moments. Senior Johnny Williams had a forced fumble and fumble recovery to go along with several quarterback hurries and a sack of the agile Pulley. The staff noted that he expects to be used in more pass-rushing situations this season, sometimes as a stand-up end.

Maxwell, a junior, was in on eight or nine plays. Redshirt freshman Chris Cessna also displayed some glimpes of potential working with the third unit. He had a sack of Fidler that forced the quarterback to fumble.

"I hate to single out anyone in particular, but we had some flashes out there," Brown said.

Quarterback-turned-safety Matt Lentz caught Brooks' eye with several nice plays in space, including the most solid hit on Allen all day.

"He's got a chance to see some playing time in the secondary and be a force for us as we move forward," Brooks said.

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Headshot (4/6/2008)
Kentucky has a very talented group of running backs, unfortunately that is literally all they have.

Concerning the offense I'm afraid you're correct... On defense we should be more talented and deep than we have been in a long while... Really the only impact player we're losing on defense is Woodyard... There's some talent along the D-line (Jeremy Jarmon is probably our best defensive player ATM) but hardly any depth... We have great depth in the secondary and at the LB spots as well... I'm not concerned about our defense at all... If one or two receivers emerge as threats (i.e. Stevie Johnson last year) then we could easily find ourselves back in a bowl game...

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WTA (4/6/2008)
Thanks for posting this...

Losing Little will hurt, but we should still have some pretty sick depth at RB... Whether or not it will make up for our virtual lack of a receiving corps remains to be seen...

Your welcome.. when I see a good reason on kentucky i will post. your rb situation is very very nice.. it will help with the loss of all that offensive firepower.. i think this year you guys fall to maybe 6-6 or 5-7 because it's in essence a rebuilding year..

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