Kentucky football spring notebook (3/28): Haynes practicing at center

Derek Terry, Beat Writer
Cats Illustrated
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Senior offensive lineman Nick Haynes is seeing action at guard and center, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. He’s not practiced at tackle yet, but Gran said he could if the coaching staff needed him to.

Haynes has started at guard for two seasons, but his versatility allows him to potentially play center as well. Jon Toth graduated, leaving a void in the middle of Kentucky’s offensive line. Is Haynes a possibility to start at center this season?

“Everybody is,” Gran said. “We’ve got four guys working center position and everybody’s a candidate.“

Bunchy Stallings and Drake Jackson are considered to be the frontrunners for the center position. Just because Haynes has practiced some at center doesn’t mean Gran is unhappy with the players currently at the position.

“It's like your quarterback, right?” Gran said. “If you don't have three centers ready to go in the season, you're done. So what better way than to try to get three guys ready, with Luke Fortner and then you got Bunchy and you got Nick. It's fantastic for us to be able to put four guys in there, three for sure.”

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DENZIL WARE DISRUPTIVE UP FRONT

Junior defensive end Denzil Ware emerged as a solid pass-rusher during his sophomore season. He was 13th in the conference with six sacks last season.

When asked who was giving the offense trouble up front, Gran pointed to Ware.

“He's got a great first move,” Gran said. “He gets low, he's athletic, his speed rush is crazy and if you don't get back vertical then you're gonna be in trouble, and we got beat on some speed rushes because of that. We opened up the gate and therefore we're done. And when he makes our quarterback do that, then he's got to step up into that pocket and if they get pushed inside, then you usually have a broken play. So Denzil's probably been the biggest one out there for us.”

Ware, along with Josh Allen (seven sacks in 2016), will try to give the Wildcats a solid pass rush along the defensive front.

GRAN TO RECEIVERS "YOU'VE GOT TO GRIND"

Kentucky has plenty of options at receiver this season despite losing Ryan Timmons to graduation and Jeff Badet to transfer. One receiver who made an instant impact in his first game last season was Kayaune Ross. Ross only caught one pass in the Wildcats' 44-35 loss to Southern Mississippi in the season opener last season, but it went for a nine-yard touchdown.

He was often injured last season and only caught one more pass after the first game. he's healthy this spring and had a good Tuesday practice.

"A couple really good catches today," Gran said. "Another one with Tavin (Richardson) and the Blake (Bone) and Kayuane as I talked about. He would be the other one. I like where he's at right now."

It seems as though Gran was a bit hesitant to commend any of the receivers. He knocked on the podium after the above statement on Ross.

"That’s the one thing: You give them a compliment and that’s a good thing, but they’ve got to be able to handle that," Gran said. "You’ve got to come and you’ve got to go through the grind every single day. Coach (Stoops) talked about that today. We’re halfway through. At the beginning it was kind of tough getting everybody – you’ve got to go. Then we came back and we finished strong, had a great end to the practice. But man, you’ve got to grind. After a big scrimmage you’ve got to come back on Tuesday and you’ve got to get ready to go and you can’t waste one."

Gran finished by saying he didn't think the team wasted the practice and he likes how the receivers look to this point.

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