Most years, the beginning of fall camp is highlighted by sloppy play and frustrating moments. Due to the coronavirus throwing a wrench into things and pushing the schedule back, though, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is actually pleased with where his team is compared to most years four weeks out from the season-opener.
Following Kentucky’s first official scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning, Stoops praised his team’s work, specifically noting impressive play from the quarterback group.
“Very good scrimmage today, it was good to get out there,” said Stoops. “We were fortunate, got a beautiful day. Overcast, but dry, nice and cool. We were able to get a lot of plays in. Believe we came out of it relatively healthy, I don’t think anything major. Got a lot of reps in, got a lot of players to look at, so I’ll be excited to wrap this up and get in and watch the film and and see what stood out, who stood out. … I felt like we did some really good things.”
“I know the quarterback position is what everybody’s excited about, and to be honest, I thought we played really well,” Stoops continued. “All four guys got some good some snaps today, really looked effective and were very comfortable in there. Did a lot of good things. I’m sure there’s many things to clean up and get better at, but that’s why we’re out here practicing. Good first scrimmage.”
As for the team’s starter, Terry Wilson, the Kentucky head coach said the extra time he has received to rehab and continue to build confidence has made a difference in his return to action.
“It’s just that extra time with the rehab, training, lifting and running to build up his legs and his body, that time has helped,” said Stoops. “The slow introduction to football, I believe it has to help. Once again you could go back two, three, four weeks and the time that they allowed us to spend with our players and be out there with a football, no pads on, but doing some things, that was a good introduction for him. Then he had an opportunity go back again and and develop his body, lift, rehab, come back. Now it’s different this year because, once again, we are not forced to pack so many reps and so many practices into a week so he has time to recover in between. I believe that has to help him. But he definitely looks comfortable and I’m pleased.”
In terms of specific plays, Stoops said Wilson is growing more confident in his ability to run, something that has led to some quick whistles from the UK coaching staff. In fact, the UK head coach noted that after four impressive series, he decided to pull the senior quarterback altogether.
“He was in there today with live bullets flying all around him, and he wasn’t going to get hit, but you still have some big defensive linemen in blitzes and pressures, people in his face,” said Stoops. “He looked very comfortable about stepping up in the pocket and delivering the football, but also pulling it down and scrambling and buying time to throw the ball down the field or to pull it down and run. I definitely try to have a quick whistle on that because I saw him opening up and running, but I definitely want to go quick with that. To be honest with you, I want to say he had four series and look really good and got a couple long drives in there. I saw enough and then pulled him, put some of the other guys in there.”
Beyond the quarterback group, Stoops enjoyed watching the battle up front between the offensive and defensive line, specifically the latter. While the backups let up just a touch, the UK head coach said the starters failed to give up any explosive runs.
“Once again impressed, impressed with the way we’re playing and moving people around,” Stoops added. “There were some good battles today because I was impressed with our, in particular, our starting defensive line. Those guys are pretty stout and have done some really good things. It was probably, just from me watching without watching this film yet, I was impressed with both sides. I thought there was sent some really good blocking and some good running by the running backs, defensively I thought we did some good things. I’m a little more concerned down the line defensively because some of the twos did rip off some big runs that we got to get cleaned up and got to get fixed.
“There were some explosive runs in there, but I don’t think there were too many against the number one defense, maybe a few good runs, but nothing extra long that I can recall.”
At the end of the day, the way things unfolded today is exactly what he prefers. Any individual unit dominating usually equates to poor technique and sloppy play from the other side of the football, which isn’t the goal. Stoops is looking for “good, clean football” across the board.
“It’s always going to go back and forth,” said Stoops. “I need to get in there and really study this film right now and take a good look at it, but you know what? You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s so true. I’m looking for quality football, not one side having success because the other side missed an assignment or did something wrong and you just give it to him. I’d rather see competitive play on on each side, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for good, clean football.
“You hate to see them give up explosives because we use poor technique or somebody was doing what they weren’t supposed to do, and vice-versa. I don’t think we were perfect in that area today, but overall, in general, I was pleased. Sometimes early on in camp, it’s very sloppy. I saw some sloppy plays, but I also saw us regroup and get things together and fundamentally play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”