After a ten-win season and a Citrus Bowl victory, Mark Stoops has a ton of talent to replace. As almost a dozen Cats prepare for their NFL future, Stoops is cranking the physicality in spring practice up a notch to provide their replacements with valuable reps.
“It’s hard to replace that. We gotta put them in as many game-like situations as we can,” Kentucky’s head coach said on Friday’s edition of Kentucky Sports Radio.
“We’ve tackled more. We’ve been more physical this spring. There’s a fine line there. We’re not trying to get guys injured. But the by the time it’s all said and done, we’ll have four live scrimmages and I’ve never done that before.”
Stoops has never had more than three scrimmages in one session of spring practice.
“I just gotta put pressure on our guys and put them in as many game-like situations as we can,” he said.
Three position groups need the experience more than others: defensive backs, outside linebackers and wide receivers. Stoops is confident that Terry Wilson’s second year as the starter will help the passing game grow. Josh Ali, Isaiah, Epps, Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver are emerging targets that will complement Lynn Bowden, but at the end of the day, the passing game is not Kentucky’s bread and butter.
“We just gotta be more consistent to take it to another level, and offensively to take it to another level. We are going to have to do that. You’ve gotta find ways to win football games,” said Stoops. “By the way, we’re 14-1 the last two years when we out-rush opponents by a yard or more at Kentucky.”