There are two different schools of thought surrounding Bye Weeks: 1. Players get rusty during the week off and take a step back in improving. 2. Bye Weeks allow for players to heal and improve their game further with more practice reps. Coach Stoops knows that some guys can get rusty, but is taking everything he can get during this week, “We need to take this time to get better as a football team. It’ll help us prepare a little better for Florida and help us get better in a lot of ways.”
The team used today to correct as many mistakes as possible from the Louisville game, using the day to strictly focus on fundamentally improving. After formulating game plans and watching film today, the team will begin practicing for Florida tomorrow. “We’ll do a mixture tomorrow with a little bit more than a typical Wednesday (working) ‘good on good’, and we’ll also do Florida for the next two days.” The extra preparation for Florida will exponentially help the players but for Stoops’ staff, it isn’t their first rodeo against the Gators. In Stoops’ three seasons as the FSU defensive coordinator he won twice, holding the Gators to only 7 points in both wins (2010-11).
The pieces are in place to hold the Florida offense to only a few points again after an impressive first half of defense against Louisville. The variety of packages were executed well, but most importantly “they showed some toughness” according to Coach Stoops, displaying the intensity that DJ Eliot expects each week, “The biggest thing is playing on edge and playing with intensity, having the guys coming out there fired up. The crowd helped and I think getting them in the right state of mind is the biggest thing.”
With the right mentality in place, getting players like Jason Hatcher more comfortable with their roles in unique packages is the next step forward in making this defense great. DJ Eliot is working to get Hatcher on the field more, but without ever having played the position before the staff is working on ‘getting him going in the right direction’. Hatcher knows that there is plenty he still needs to improve on, but his confidence is higher than ever before after watching film, “The most (important) thing is staying on my feet. There was a lot of lessons that I learned that game, staying on my feet is just one of them; closing down fast, playing the cutbacks.”
Using the Bye Week to get better, the Cats are taking the right steps forward to be ready for the spotlight against a ranked opponent that has beaten the Cats 26 years in a row.
Boone’s Butcher Shop Injury Update
“If there was an injury that I felt would keep somebody out of the Florida game I’d tell you right now but that doesn’t appear to be the case.” Three key veterans will be using this week to return to full health by game time next Saturday night; Max Smith’s shoulder, Donte Rumph’s shoulder, and Demarco Robinson’s ankle that has forced him to miss the past two games.
— The game against the #7 team in the country could’ve been a lot closer had a few plays gone UK’s way. Stoops said today, “It was frustrating, it always is after a loss.We feel like there’s a lot of plays we left on the field, and we need to execute better and play better.” The biggest play that comes to mind is the fumble at the end of the 2nd quarter that occurred deep in Louisville territory, when Max Smith and Raymond Sanders fumbled the ball away on a handoff exchange. After watching film, Stoops says “it was a combination of both” to put at fault for the mishap.
– Za’Darius Smith flashed a big, bright smile when asked if he was ready for SEC play to begin. With 4.5 sacks through 3 games, he is ready to embrace the difficult challenge of reaching his pre-season goal of 13 sacks.