Since UK’s defensive struggles on Saturday, Kentucky’s coaches have applied more pressure on the players in practice.
“It was not a good performance by the defense. No one’s going to make any excuses about that,” said defensive coordinator Brad White. “We’ve got to play better across the board. We’ve responded at times this week, but still too many mistakes for all our likings.”
The lack of consistency is evident. There’s a lengthy list of players who have made great plays, but equally as many mistakes. To see who rises to the top, White has changed the rotations on the edge and in the secondary. It’s produced a mixed bag of results. This Saturday White is seeking clarity.
“I used the word ‘encouraged’ a lot because there are positive signs, but it’s just that. They’re signs. What we need is consistent players. I need to start using the word ‘pleased’ because that means he’s doing his job down in and down out.”
More from Kentucky’s 11th preseason practice:
Brandin Echols is BACK
The Kentucky cornerback suffered a hamstring injury over the summer. Projected to start this fall, the JUCO transfer said he received his first significant reps of fall camp today. The coaches will continue to ease him back into action over the next few weeks.
Still No Bembry
Another JUCO transfer has not yet reported to practice. Outside linebacker Marquez Bembry sat out the entire spring season after undergoing knee surgery. Brad White did not provide any details, but said Bembry has not been available.
Learning to Practice
Like Stoops, defensive captain Kash Daniel wasn’t happy with the product the defense put on the field last Saturday. Described as “lethargic,” the defense simply lacked a sense of urgency the team needs to have to be successful. It’s something the young guys are learning the hard way.
“We set a standard for ourselves each and everyday we come out on this field. On Saturday it felt like overall we didn’t meet up to that standard,” said Kash.
One Good Thing from the Scrimmage
The defense did not do a whole of things correctly last Saturday. They did excel in one area in particular: third down defense. If Phil Hoskins’ memory serves him correctly, the defense got off the field on 12 out of 14 third downs. That’s great, unless you can’t force the other side into a third down.
The secondary receives a ton of attention for its inexperience. Closer to the line of scrimmage, it’s the exact opposite. Derrick LeBlanc’s defensive line is filled with upperclassmen who have earned plenty of praise in preseason camp. The mentality is much different than any other position group. Even though plenty have secured playing time, they aren’t wasting any reps.
“You know it’s the last one (training camp), so you gotta go hard,” said Hoskins. “In your head you’ve gotta push through whatever adversity. If you’re hurt, bumps, bruises, there’s no time to sit out. There’s no red jerseys. You gotta go hard. That’s all that’s been going through my mind.”
That mental toughness is something Hoskins did not bring to the table until his final season in the trenches.
“I’ve always been a guy who’s had the tools and everything, but in certain aspects, I felt like, ‘Ah, this sh*t is killing me, this is hurting me, this is bothering me,’ and I’d slow it down. It’s just been full speed and I’m ready to go through whatever and do whatever it takes.”
The coaches can see the difference. Defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc said Hoskins is “above and beyond” where he was a year ago, while White said he’s “never been more consistent” since he became a Wildcat.