OUISVILLE — University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown both indicated Friday that the offseason buzz about sophomore wide receiver Ryan Timmons — a Franklin County High graduate — is merited.
“Timmons’ body - he’s the best that I’ve ever seen him,” Brown said minutes before a UK football kickoff luncheon at the Galt House. “He’s matured on and off the field. He got a 4.0 grade point average last spring, and that’s carried over to the summer. And his body looks a lot better. He’s filled out. He’s doing a wonderful job. I’m really expecting some big things for him.”
Timmons’ was Kentucky’s second-leading receiver this past season with 32 receptions for 338 yards.
He dinged a shoulder late in spring practice, but still caught five balls for 47 yards in the spring game, while showing more of the instincts that Franklin County fans saw in high school.
Brown indicated we only saw a glimpse of what Timmons can do in the spring game, due to caution about the shoulder, though Brown emphasized that it was not the same shoulder that Timmons had surgery on the winter after his senior season at FCHS.
“We were just real careful with him in the spring game, but he’s fine,” Brown said. “He’s been full-go, full-everything.”
Later, during a question and answer session after lunch, UK radio play-by-play man Tom Leach asked Stoops about the Wildcats’ return game, which has been anemic since Randall Cobb left three years ago.
“That’s something we worked on in the offseason is developing our return game, and a guy that jumps out at me right away, who is more comfortable now, is Ryan Timmons,” Stoops said. “We saw a year ago that he’s extremely talented with the ball in his hands. We’re developing him as a complete wide receiver now, and if he can field the punts much cleaner and be more confident than he was a year ago, he’s a guy who can step up right there.”
Both Stoops and Brown were asked again (and again, and again) about the race for the starting quarterback spot Friday, with sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, true freshman Drew Barker and junior Maxwell Smith competing.
“Hopefully, we’ll find out sooner rather than later,” Brown said when asked to name a starter. “I’m excited. We had a little time with all four of them this morning, and they are all eager. They’re excited and they’re fresh.”
Brown said he has not seen the four throw since the spring game (due to NCAA rules), but he added: “I know they have a much better feel for the offense than they did even in the spring. A week from Monday (Aug. 4) we get rolling. I’m excited to see them, and see how much improvement they have made.”
Brown said the pre-season demands on the quarterbacks will increase significantly over what they were a year ago.
“Last year we were trying to feel each other out,” Brown said. “I’ve got a good feel for all of them now. Drew wasn’t here last season, but I recruited him for a long time, so I have a good relationship with him. I have a really good feel for how they learn, what kind of makes them tick...what motivates them.
“So now we’re going to turn up the heat on them. I’m going to try to put a lot of pressure on them early and see how they react. We’re going to throw a lot at them, and try to put them in some tough situations.”
Brown said junior Braylon Heard and sophomore Jojo Kemp rate at edge at running back going into the pre-season, followed by junior Josh Clemons and then, perhaps, incoming freshman Mikel Horton.
Brown said none of those guys should worry about who starts.
“That’s over-rated,” Brown said of starting. “I think if you look at our league and at the NFL, everybody’s gone to a multiple back approach. I think we’re going to play them two at a time quite a bit, to be honest with you.”
Playing U of L
Stoops was asked, again, if he expects the football series with Louisville to continue if the Southeastern Conference requires its’ member schools to play nine conference games, up from the current eight.
“Oh yeah, I do,” said Stoops, saying that the rivalry is important to coaches, players and fans. “As you know, that (decision) is probably above my pay grade, but I do anticipate that.”
Wilbur Hackett, one of the first African Americans ever to play football at UK, was honored with the All American Award at Friday’s luncheon.
Hackett signed with UK in 1967, enjoyed an outstanding football career with the Wildcats, and went on to officiate in the SEC.
“People asked me, ‘Why UK?’” Hackett said of his choice to sign with Kentucky out of Louisville’s duPont Manual High. “It was my destiny to be at UK.”
Fan Day is set for Aug. 9 at Nutter Fieldhouse. It starts at 9 a.m., with an open practice from 10:45 to noon.