LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops said after he watched the film from Saturday’s practice/scrimmage he didn’t think his team was as far along as he thought. Specifically, he did not feel his defense played “with much of an attitude” on Saturday. He got the changes he wanted Monday morning in the team’s sixth spring practice.
“A little more spirited practice today,” Stoops said. “After going back Saturday and looking at the film, I was a little discouraged, a little frustrated and felt like we were not progressing as much as I’d hoped at certain positions. I didn’t feel like the defense played with much of an attitude Saturday. Today was much better, much more spirited practice, got a little bit better, much more physical today and both sides had their moments. The defense played with great energy today.”
Stoops said part of the frustration with Saturday’s scrimmage was the need for depth at every position and not seeing that progression as much as he thought he would. The head coach has said several times early on this spring that UK needs to get better and add depth at every position. With much being made about who will win the starting quarterback battle, Stoops said starting titles are not as important in certain situations because players will have injuries, so you better have depth.
“I feel like you can just tell the guys that played (wide receiver) last year and most of the guys that touched the ball were first-time members of our team and those guys are getting better,” Stoops said. “And then the newcomers come in and you take a step back because they need to mature and get the reps and grow up a little bit.
“We just need to continue to build depth at all those positions. I understand that (starting role) at quarterback because you’d like to put that one guy in there and let him roll and not alternate like you do at all of the other positions, just like running back. We need more and more guys there. You get guys banged up. As you know, it’s a big, physical league. The other spots, it isn’t as big of a deal (who the starter is) because they all play. I was at Florida State and we had three first-round players playing at defensive end. It didn’t matter who started and who didn’t.”
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot echoed Stoops comments about the defense bringing better energy to practice on Monday. Eliot said his positives from the short scrimmage Saturday were senior defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree, who he said is a “fantastic player” along with improved skills from several other returning players.
“I can see guys that have been playing, that played for us a last year, maybe for the first time, I can see them getting better,” Eliot said. “I can see those guys getting better, so I see the improvement with them. The new guys, we’ve got to get them caught up, but I can see the guys who played for us last year getting better.”
The team will have several more chances to impress the coaches in scrimmages as Stoops said Monday the team will scrimmage a few more times in practice, including a “bigger” scrimmage this Saturday and sometime next week leading up the Blue/White Spring Game on April 26.
Stoops, who will fly to North Texas this afternoon to cheer on the UK men’s basketball team in the national championship game, was asked if he had any advice for UK’s young players before tonight’s big game: “No, Cal’s got that down,” Stoops said. “Those guys are playing with a lot of confidence, or at least that’s what it looks like, and playing loose, so I’m just rooting for them, just there to support them and cheer for them. They’ve got that down.”
Stoops said he has drawn from Coach John Calipari’s team with how they have fought through adversity and come together as a team.
“Just to see them persevere through some tough times and everybody’s on their case, there’s a lot of pressure on them and they just responded,” Stoops said. “They just kept on playing and put their head down and went to work. Eventually it turned and good things started to happen for them. I think a lot of people and a lot of teams could take something from that.”