With Kentucky Football's second scrimmage of preseason camp on the horizon, offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is happy with the progression of his offense, but knows there's work to do.
Kickoff against Miami (OH) is just two and a half weeks away, and according to Scangarello, there's still multiple starting positions up for grabs:
"We're almost there. There's still guys working for competitive spots, so you want to continue to stay in camp mode," he said. "We've installed our entire offense. So now it's just honing in on what you're gonna do in game plan weeks against teams."
One of those competitive spots is the tight end position, a room that Scangarello has been excited about since he arrived in Lexington. Between veterans Keaton Upshaw, Brendan Bates and Izayah Cummings, there's a bulk of leadership and experience that will provide benefits for both the passing and running game.
A newly-found fan favorite that has caught the eye of even Scangarello, however, is freshman Josh Kattus. The Cincinnati native drew praise from his OC once again on Tuesday.
"I don't know if there's a room I'm more excited about or happy with the depth, the talent and the types of players that we have," Scangarello said. "I really think we got a gem in the freshman Kattus, and I think you can combine him with some of those older guys."
In the backfield, there's still no clarity on the status of star running back Chris Rodriguez. Whether he's carrying the ball on Sept. 3 or not, UK possesses multiple options behind the senior that will more than suffice for his potential absence.
The trio of Kavosiey Smoke, JuTahn McClain and transfer Ramon Jefferson will all see the field, it's just a matter of splitting up the snaps. At the moment, there is no front-runner for the second spot on the depth chart, and Scangarello isn't sure there's a need for one:
“I think they’re all kinda the two, as crazy as that’s gonna sound. I feel like they all kinda have a little different style to them and they all can play a role,” he said. "I think JuTahn's got really special skills out of the backfield, I think Smoke's a fast, dynamic type player and I think you've got some thumpers back there that can run a little more like C-Rod, so it's a good mix."
In the trenches, there seems to be plenty of competition left for positions on the offensive line. We know that Eli Cox will man the center position, but as far as what the rest of the line will look alongside him come the first game of the season, that's still up in the air.
Scangarello was complimentary of veteran Jeremy Flax, but otherwise wasn't keen on mentioning names for who's currently in contention for starting jobs.
"The tackle position, there's four guys taking a lot of the reps. One of them I know for sure (will start) and the other three we're gonna find out, so it's good healthy competition," he said.
While blocking will dictate the successfulness of the offensive line, there's been a focus on the contribution of blocking from the wide receivers in camp, something Scangarello says is as important as anything for his offense.
"As proud as I am of anything we've accomplished at this point, is the competitive nature and how hard the receivers have blocked in the run game," he said. "One of the things that people know with this offense and where my background and where i've come from is, you will not play receiver in this offense if you do not block and that's the way it is."
Scangarello noted the progression of freshman trio Dane Key, Chris Lewis and Barion Brown, three of the many young players looking for snaps amidst a packed WR room.
This Saturday, Kentucky's second fall scrimmage will commence, and like everyone else, Scangarello is ready to whittle his group down and finalize his depth chart heading into the regular season.
"I would like to get closer to having the guys that are going to run in that first huddle and play with Will (Levis) rather than rolling 20 dudes through," he said. "As we're starting to hone in on it, I would love to see it be a little more focused with the exact group that we're going to play with come the first Saturday."
Competition is almost always a good thing, and there seems to be no shortage of it in preseason camp.