The Kentucky football team has leaned on its experienced players to lead the team this season. The 5-2 Cats have been paced by quarterback Will Levis, running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., linebacker DeAndre Square and other experienced players who have been through the rigors of Southeastern Conference play during their careers.
But it’s not just the upperclassmen who are contributing big for the Cats in 2022. In fact, a number of rookies have been big contributors for Kentucky this year. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello made the point about the youth of this team following Wednesday’s practice.
“If you really look at this time, if you pulled Will out and you pulled C-Rod out, we’re very young. Very young. On the O-line, tight ends, receivers, so they’re only going to get better and better. There is depth and I do believe those guys are ready when given the opportunity. We’re finding ways to keep them involved and I value that.”
Among the players that Scangarello has been pleased with are some playmakers within his unit.
“Dane (Key) is one of those guys who lays it on the line every week,” Scangarello said. “Barion (Brown)’s got grit. (Josh) Kattus played really well in this game. He’s a pest, I’ve said it before, and he was a pest to them (Mississippi State).”
The UK defense generally plays a more experienced group of personnel. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t young playmaker on that side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Brad White cited a couple of guys who are contributing early in their UK careers – Kobi Albert and Deone Walker.
“Deone’s a small house,” White said. “He gives you the ability to (play with one down lineman). A lot of times, you don’t see guys that big in that spot. You see smaller bodies moving around but he’s so athletic for a guy his since that he can get into those situations. He can play.”
As far as Albert, White has seen him getting better and fulfilling some of his potential already.
“Kobi’s got so much athleticism,” White said. “He’s got quick twitch. He can close a lot of ground. He’ll come down and he’ll strike you. So, he’s got all the tools. It’s figuring out what to do is the biggest step. And that’s going to be the biggest stepping stone for him, figuring it out. But when he does, he’s going to be a really good player.”
With the Cats having Saturday off, this is a week when some of the younger players are able to get additional reps that the don’t always get during game week. Scangarello noted how important these reps can be for young guys.
“These weeks are good,” Scangarello said. “We had a practice today and we were able to focus on fundamentals and work with some of the younger guys and they did a nice job. It was a really good practice on both sides of the ball.”
Despite a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, a number of talented young players have made their marks for the Cats this season. They expect to do that for the remainder of the season as well.