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Keith Taylor: Gran says Kentucky offense ahead of schedule; Malik Monk confident on, off the court

It’s crunch time for the Kentucky football team and the Wildcats have made strides in the first two weeks of fall camp.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran liked the way the offense performed in the team’s first scrimmage last week and added the Wildcats are ahead of schedule.

 UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran likes the way the Wildcats' offense has progressed in fall camp (Keith Taylor Photo)

UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran likes the way the Wildcats’ offense has progressed in fall camp (Keith Taylor Photo)

“I thought we caught the ball well,” Gran said earlier this week. “I thought we ran the ball well at the point of attack. We have a long way to go, but it was exciting for the first scrimmage. We’re so far ahead of where we ended spring. And that’s where we want to be in the first scrimmage of camp.”

Gran has especially been impressed with redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Barker, projected as the starter in the season opener against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 3. Gran said Barker has been on target during practice, completing more than half of his passes, a sign the team is embracing BArker’s leadership in the pocket.

Gran said Barker was “efficient” in the scrimmage last week and has gotten a handle on the team’s offensive schemes. Gran, Kentucky’s third offensive coordinator in four years, liked the way Barker threw the ball last week.

“I thought Drew knew where to go with the ball,” he said.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops also likes the progression Barker has made during the first two weeks of camp and liked the way he performed in the first of two scrimmages last weekend.

“Drew, I thought really made some good decisions,” Stoops said. “I felt like he was really smart with the ball and was decisive, made really good decisions, quick decisions, took care of the football and moved the offense.”

Despite the positives, Gran said the Wildcats need to improve on first- and second-down plays to create better opportunities on third down.

“We can’t not get a third-and-1, that’s ridiculous,” Gran said. “We have to be 100 percent on that.”

Along with Barker, Gran said Kentucky’s starting center, Jon Toth, has been a consistent performer during fall camp. Toth, a senior, has started 35 straight games and has been a key component on the offensive line.

“He hasn’t missed a snap, hasn’t missed anything,” Gran said. “A couple of our guys have had cramps, gone out and he’s the workhorse. He’s that guy. Drew’s led pretty well, just going out there. We always talk about playing in the game, every snap every rep that you’re playing the game at quarterback. I would say, Jon Toth. He’s our dude.”

Monk confident, wants to be the best

Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk isn’t depending on his past successes to carry him through in his first season with the Wildcats. In a “Meet the Wildcats” interview with CoachCal.com, Monk said the secret to his success on and off the court lies within.

“Confidence is the key. If you don’t have confidence – self-confidence for sure – I don’t think you can do anything,” Monk said. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself you might as well just stay in the house or something because you don’t want to do anything. If you don’t have any confidence to do it it’s not going to work.”

Monk led Bentonville High School (Arkansas) to the state championship game and averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season. He also scored 53 points in one contest, setting a school record for most points scored in a game.

Although he arrived on campus with a track record of success, Monk isn’t satisfied and yearns for more improvement.

“You want to be the best,” he said. “It’s pointless if you’re not the best or try to be the best. Being the best is fun.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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