The 2019 edition of Kentucky spring ball will culminate with Friday night’s Blue/White Game. The action on the practice fields concluded this morning. Mark Stoops was pleased with the Cats’ effort through 14 practices.
“It’s been a very productive spring,” Stoops said this morning. “It’s been a long time. Guys put in a lot of work. We had a good, strong winter. Guys are lifting and running. We stretch it out, going three days a week for five weeks, players getting up every morning, lifting and meeting on the off days…it gets to be a little bit old by this time so they’re looking forward to wrapping it up tomorrow with a good spring game. Got a lot of work done this spring, and knock on wood, we’ve been blessed with not too many serious injuries. Hopefully we’ll get out tomorrow, get some good work done and stay healthy.”
Kentucky has accomplished plenty over the last five weeks, but there’s still room to grow before there season kicks off August 31.
“We have a long way to go, but that’s what spring’s for,” said Stoops. “We know we have some holes to fill. Guys are working hard. We’re well aware of that.”
Prepare for Big Plays
Earlier in the spring season, Stoops joked that the secondary is making him lose his hair. Finding five new starting defensive backs is no easy task. Brandin Echols is one of the first cornerbacks to step up, but as you’ll see tomorrow, the group still has plenty of progress to make.
“It’s hard to tell right now. We go against each other so much and get a feel for it,” said Stoops. “I think tomorrow will be a little bit of a determining factor for that. Tomorrow they’ll be put in some bad situations. They won’t be protected much, so I don’t know if it will be a true indicator. It’s certainly geared up for the offense to have more success. We’ll be pretty vanilla on the defensive side so don’t go attacking them too much if they have some success tomorrow.”
Stoops is scheming it up for the offense to have success down the field, and frankly, I love it. The more big plays, the better.
Is it Friday night yet? See you at Kroger Field!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 10, 2019
Frustrations from Paschal
Josh Paschal has returned to action full-time this spring, but he’s not yet the same Josh Paschal. Still working through complications from his surgery, the UK defensive end cannot completely control the game like he could prior to his fight with melanoma.
“He’s still a little bit frustrated because if you know anything about him, he wants to come out and be the dominant player he knows he can be. He’s just not there yet,” said Stoops.
“There’s still just getting used to that foot where they reconstructed it and did a lot of surgeries on it. The poor kid — it’s just frustrating for him. So at times I’ve just got to talk to him about trying to be patient, and he is. He’s blessed to be out here. He greatly appreciates that he’s out here but he just wants to play at that same level and it’s a bit frustrating. We’re confident in time he’ll still be 100%.”
Squarely the Best
DeAndre Square had an eye-opening spring game in 2018 as an early enrollee. After playing in every game as a true freshman, he earned SEC All-Freshman honors. There’s still room to improve, but defensive coordinator Brad White likes what he sees so far.
“Great players never get satisfied, and he’s not satisfied where he is, but he’s definitely made some strides. It’s really been a comfort and a command difference you can see.”
No Dead Weight
The talent across the board has dramatically improved since Stoops first took control of the Kentucky football program.
“In general, I feel good about where we’re at. All of our guys seem to be improving,” Stoops said. “There’s not a whole heck of a lot of dead weight here anymore in our program. If there is, they have a tendency to move their way out, move on, so I think most of our guys are progressing.”
What White Wants to See
Obviously, an injury-free scrimmage is top priority. After that, he wants to see who rises to the occasion in front of the bright lights while playing a simple scheme.
“Hopefully tomorrow some guys stand out and flash. In really simple calls, who can stand out?” White said, “At the end of the day, it’s a bottom line business. We want guys that can make plays.”