I was not planning on attending the Blue/White game due to a previous commitment, but when they fell through at the eleventh hour, I decided to head out to Commonwealth Stadium to take in the only open spring practice. Darren gave his take ealier this week HERE, and Jason gave his thoughts HERE. This is what I took away from the game…
Weather: The weather was as bad as it could have possibly been. Not only was it blisteringly cold, but there was an overcast that drizzled off and on and a sharp wind that dropped the wind chill to make it feel even colder. I know its April, but it sure felt a lot like December.
Attendance: The announced attendance of 4,500 is probably pretty accurate for the first half. The stadium was well short of even 1/10 of its capacity, but I thought it was a relatively good showing. Between the a disappointing 2011 campaign, awful weather, Keeneland being in full-swing, and Thunder over Louisville keeping a lot of people away, I don’t think you could have expected much more. Add to that that all other spring practices were closed and that inevitably hurt fan interest. The place did drop down to about 1,000-1,500 after halftime though. I heard a lot of crying kids in the first half, so I’m sure some of the parents wanted to get them inside as the weather got progressively worse.
Game Set-up: The game set-up was awful. I don’t know how things could have been more confusing. The teams were KENTUCKY(starters) vs. WILDCATS(backups), but it wasn’t rally that simple. The offenses both were dressed out in white, and the defenses in blue. Several players played for both squads, and the sidelines were split between offense and defense, not first and second team. I know that this was probably due to depth at certain positions and other factors, but I would have enjoyed the game more if they had split the teams up and had a true Blue vs. White game. Also, there were no special teams plays except for field goals. No glimpses of punting, punt returning, kickoffs, or kickoff returns.
Note: Morgan Newton was on the sideline without pads and called in signals to both offenses.
Maxwell Smith looks very good. His passes are sharp and he’s getting rid of the ball quickly. He seems to have a very good grasp on the offense and the team ran almost exclusively out of the no-huddle offense. He did dump off to the backs way too much, but positive yards are positive yards and beat a sack or incompletion. He had a beautiful 69 yard bomb to Demarco Robinson for a touchdown. Even if Newton is fully healthy, I think he would have to have made serious improvements to outplay Smith.
Jacob Russell is vexing. He seems completely lost at times and looks better than Smith at others. After a 50+ yard touchdown run, there’s no doubt that Russell is the superior athlete, but he looks uncomfortable in the pocket and has no time to throw at all. Russell was plagued by drops much more than Smith, and had significantly less time to throw as well. I thought Russell should have gotten some snaps with the first team to see how he could play with better talent around him. It’s hard to fault him for a less than stellar performance when surrounded by redshirt freshmen and walk-ons.
If Morgan Newton cannot play this fall, I think Towles plays as a true freshman. There’s some upside with Russell, but I didn’t see enough to make me feel confident that he can be the guy if something happens to Smith.
Starter: Maxwell Smith
Second Team: Jacob Russell