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August 17, 2008

The day after?

There's an old adage that suggests things are never as good or bad as they seem on the surface and Kentucky's abysmal performance in the first fall scrimmage on offense certainly fits the bill. A day's perspective left a good news-bad news taste in the coaching staff's mouths.

Sitting exactly 14 days away from the season opener there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time.

"It was pretty much what I saw (Saturday)," UK coach Rich Brooks said. "We were very fast on defense, looked like we were confident and knew what we were doing but on offense we did not move the same way. The receivers often broke routes or didn't run them very well, the line didn't protect as well, the quarterbacks weren't very sharp but they didn't have a lot of help so we have to clean some things up around them and then get them freshened up a little bit.

"We are running out of time and I think particularly some of the younger players were caught by the speed and intensity versus whatever few full speed reps we've had in practice. They weren't the same full speed as we had (in the scrimmage). They'll have to adjust their level of concentration a little better."

The offense was expected to be a work in progress after losing so many key components from the success of the past two seasons but the continued struggles of the offense line has been worrisome. Thought to be a strength of the Cats' offense this season the group has had some minor injuries, but mainly just hasn't performed to the level that was expected of them.

"I'm not pleased with it," Brooks said of the line. "(Jake) Lanefski's injury has hurt because he had the ability to play both guard and center but he hasn't been with us. We are going to experiment with (Brad) Durham a little bit at right guard to give us a little bigger body in there. We just need some more people to get up to speed a little bit and do a better job. We are not executing quite as well. (James) Alexander is on the injury list and he's basically our third tackle so we're missing a few of the pieces but they aren't competing as well as I'd like them to compete."

While the line was being taken to task by the staff the play of sophomore quarterback Mike Hartline was given a passing grade despite the rough offensive performance. Although he has a "tired" arm and did not throw during Sunday's practice he was not criticized by Brooks or offensive coordinator Joker Phillips for Saturday's effort.

"He did a lot of good things but he didn't get a lot of help," Brooks said. "His arm was a little weary and we held him out of throwing today but he just didn't get a lot of help. Protection broke down, routes were not run the correct way and the passing game is all about timing and when it's broken down by having to run for your life or the routes not being run then it can all go to...pieces."

Hartline would not make any excuses for the lack of production.

"I think you have to relate (youth) in some aspects but at the same time when we run our bread and butter plays that we've been running around here for four or five years there is no excuse for us not executing and being almost perfect," Hartline said. "Those little things definitely cannot happen."

Not when the opener is just two weeks away.

For more notes and insight from today's practice session, CatsIllustrated.com subscribers can read more on The House of Blue.

Matt May is the football beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here.

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