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CSL Plasma Presents Thursday Night UK Football Practice Notes from the Defense

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Photo by UK Athletics

What’s up with the Facemask Mask? 

After seeing images of the look at Tuesday’s practice, I had to ask. Boogie Watson informed me that players get the choice to either wear a normal mask under their helmet or play with the piece of cloth strapped to the facemask. From what I can gather, most of the linemen have decided to rock the facemask garb, while position players are sticking to their often swagged-up masks.

Big Day for Vito Tisdale 

The true freshman safety from Bowling Green has made an impressive first impression. In only his second practice, Vito Tisdale snagged two interceptions. “It kind of surprised everybody but the thing is before practice, he told me he was going to get two interceptions today,” Cedrick Dort said, “so I’m very proud of him.”

The redshirt junior cornerback also singled out Joel Williams and Carrington Valentine as early standouts from the 2020 recruiting class. Valentine’s name has been popular around the practice fields after the high school track star displayed outstanding athleticism.

Emerging Leaders 

As camp began, coaches were asked many coronavirus-related questions. Instead of choosing to make a bunch of rules, Mark Stoops is leaning on his upperclassmen to provide leadership and set an example for others. Today defensive coordinator Brad White shared a few examples of what that looks like on his defense.

“What’s funny about this team is, we have a lot of really, really good young men and a lot of those guys that you would sort of tag as leaders are natural introverts. What they’ve had to do is come out of their own shell to not just lead themselves, but to lead others and influence others in that way.”

White has seen it from multiple individuals, so he was hesitant to single out one particular person, but he felt the need to praise DeAndre Square’s development as a vocal leader.

“DeAndre is a guy that I think is really starting to come out of his shell,” White said. “We need him to continue to do that because any great defense that you look at, it starts in the middle. It starts down the gut. You look at it and you’ve got a guy like Square and you’ve got a guy like Quinton (Bohanna). Then you go in the back end and you’ve got a guy like Yusuf (Corker). I challenge all of those guys to keep coming out of their shell and keep bringing along the young guys because that’s where we’re going to be able to take then next step — when we continue to develop underneath us and not just our individual selves. You can see it from the older guys. There’s so much more communication from the old guys to the young guys. They take it as personal if the young guys don’t do something right as in their own reps. It’s a great thing to see.”

White saw that on the first day of practice from Boogie Watson. When he wasn’t in the action, he stood beside White and acted as a second coach on the field.

Jacob Noger | UK Athletics

Emphasis on Turnovers in the Secondary

It’s difficult for Kentucky’s secondary to improve that drastically on the stat sheet. After all, they gave up the fewest passing touchdowns in the FBS last year. Despite the success, they still have a chip on their shoulders.

“The chip has never changed because the hardest thing is to be consistent. That’s our challenge this year. We want to be consistent,” said Cedrick Dort. “Exceeding the expectations that we had last year obviously gave us a confidence boost coming into this season. We really want to step up our game, but do it ten times better this year.”

How does one of the top five secondaries in the country get ten times better? Create more takeaways. The Wildcats picked off just eight passes in 2019, ranked tenth in the SEC.

“We wanna make more plays on the ball. Even though we were second in the nation in passing yards, passing efficiency and stuff like that, we feel like we really didn’t get a chance on the ball as much. We didn’t make a lot of plays on the balls as in interceptions and PBUs. That’s our main goal this year.”

Davonte Robinson is Knocking off the Mental Rust 

The Lexington Henry Clay product was poised to be the leader and breakout star of Kentucky’s inexperienced secondary in the 2019 season. Before training camp even began Robinson suffered a torn right quadricep, forcing him to miss the entire season. Brad White isn’t rushing Robinson back onto the field before he’s ready.

“It’s just a process. You don’t want to stress them too hard. You want to make sure that he gets into shape and that he’s ready to play. There’s been so much mention on this Zoom of the depth we had, which is nice because we don’t have to stress him. We can get him back to the shape and the confidence that he was playing with in that spring before last year. It’s only practice two. He’s coming along. He’s gotta knock off the mental rust a little bit but he’ll push. The great thing is he’s surrounded by a bunch of really good guys in that room. There’s some really good coaches that are going to continue to encourage and push him, but we don’t have to throw it on him and say hey, you’ve gotta take 70 snaps. We can spread it around until he gains full confidence.”

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR