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Despite altered spring schedule, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops pleased after final open practice

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The renovations at Commonwealth Stadium created a one-year hiatus for Kentucky's annual Blue-White spring game, leaving Wildcats coach Mark Stoops to measure growth through practice.

That included Saturday's final open workout featuring a scrimmage which had the coach encouraged with two more practices next week.

"Overall, I was pleased with the effort," Stoops said. "I challenged our team to really have a good week and make some progress as a team and grow. It was the most consistent week that we've had in a while with all of the things that we're doing."

Kentucky aims to bounce back from a 5-7 season that ended with six straight losses.

New Kentucky offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is putting his touch on a pass-oriented attack which is similar to predecessor Neal Brown's scheme but with more downfield passing.

Dawson's changes seem to suit quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, who chose from several wide receiver targets in Blake Bone, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet. All caught deep throws from the two QBs.

"We're comfortable with the offense," said Towles, who started every game last season and threw for 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. "We're trying to be more consistent and efficient. We're comfortable with the guys that we have (on offense)."

Here are some other notes from Saturday's open practice:

NO QB DECISION YET: Stoops didn't commit to a starting quarterback because neither Towles nor Barker have separated themselves this spring. "It does go back and forth," Stoops said. "Patrick has done a nice job and I feel like he's getting better and that's the most important thing. Rather than naming a starter, I think all the guys need to get better, in particular at quarterback.

HELP WANTED: The Wildcats seek replacements to key players such as defensive ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'darius Smith, wideouts Demarco Robinson and Javess Blue and bruising running back Braylon Heard. Competition for those positions will likely carry over to fall practice.

MISSING IN ACTION: Running back Jojo Kemp (illness) and Mikel Horton (high ankle sprain) didn't play in the scrimmage, and injuries at other positions resulted in the scrimmage Stoops called "a little watered down" in parts. "I wish we could do it at full strength at certain positions, but you still see the progress," he said. "Offensively they moved the ball some and the defense came up with some stops and big plays at times. I still like the direction we're headed."

CATCH, FORREST, CATCH: Kentucky senior linebacker Josh Forrest intercepted Barker twice and just missed picking off a third pass that bounced off his chest late in the scrimmage.

HOME SWEET HOME: Kentucky won't be displaced from its stadium much longer. The makeover is expected to be completed by the start of the season and will feature a new recruiting area, press box and synthetic turf field.

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