Cats confident with few question marks going into fall camp

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, August 4, 2022

The first day of fall practice for Kentucky produced rave reviews from coach Mark Stoops.

“I felt like (Wednesday) was by far the best day one practice we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been here, but it should be,” “Stoops said during the team’s annual Media Day Wednesday at Kroger Field. “Our foundation is set in stone, and we have a returning quarterback, and we’re able to work with our guys more than we ever have this summer, so we should be further along in Day 1.”

As the Wildcats delve into the daily grind of fall camp, as he mentioned, Stoops already has a starting quarterback in place, which usually hasn’t been the case in Stoops’ first nine seasons at Kentucky. Returnee Will Levis will be the starting signal caller in the opener and the bigger question is who will be the backup quarterback?

Beau Allen, who battled Levis for the starting job last year, transferred to Tarlton State, leaving the backup position wide open. The backup race will feature redshirt freshman Kaiya Sharon, a standout signal-caller at Somerset during his prep career and Deuce Hogan.

‘“I think both of them have taken a really big jump this summer and have worked really hard,” Stoops said. “They both have shown signs, and we’ll let them continue to play. We have a lot of time until our first game, and everybody will make a big deal about that because we’ll just practice one day at a time and see where we’re at and make a decision on that later.”

Much like his boss, Rich Scangarello, the team’s fifth offensive coordinator in Stoops’ tenure at Kentucky, is in no rush to put a backup in place five weeks before the team’s season-opener against Miami of Ohio.

“I think it’s going to be a good competition,” Scangarello said. “Both guys are worthy of winning the job and it will take time to work itself out. They both had really good summers and they’re both talented guys. I’ve seen huge strides, probably more than I expected out of both of them. … It will be a good, fun competition.”

Sharon isn’t taking the opportunity likely and is looking forward to the challenge.

“Every repetition I take, I’m the No. 1 (quarterback),” he said. “There’s only one quarterback on the field on every play and when I’m in on that rep, I’m the No. 1 guy. I’m just taking every play like that.”

The bigger question mark is the status of veteran running back Chris Rodriguez, who took part in the team photo session, but wasn’t a available for interviews Wednesday. Stoops offered no comment on Rodriquez, but likes the makeup of his backfield with or without Rodriguez.

“We feel just fine about it. We feel like there’s some really solid players there that have a chance to break out and do some really good things,” he said. “All those guys, La’Vell (Wright), JuTahn (McClain), Kavosiey (Smoke), Ramon (Jefferson), the new transfer; Michael Drennen. All those guys we have confidence in.”

That confidence spills into the entire squad.

“I really feel like our program is in a position that we’re very confident in what we’re going to do,” Stoops said.

Things have changed in a decade and for the better.

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.