UK Football

‘I got two guys hurt in there today.’ Why UK’s Stoops is rethinking spring practice plan.

Mark Stoops says UK football starts spring with a learning curve

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks to the media after his team’s first day of spring practice on Monday, March 4, 2019. The Wildcats must replace several experienced players from last year’s 10-3 team that won the Citrus Bowl.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks to the media after his team’s first day of spring practice on Monday, March 4, 2019. The Wildcats must replace several experienced players from last year’s 10-3 team that won the Citrus Bowl.

Due to near-freezing temperatures, Kentucky’s spring football practice started inside Tuesday morning. Head coach Mark Stoops moved it outside midstream, but not because the weather drastically improved.

Two players — Lynn Bowden and Kavosiey Smoke — got “banged up” in Nutter Field House. Smoke, a redshirt freshman expected to bolster UK’s running back corps this fall, couldn’t finish practice after planting a foot and going down to the turf.

“Hopefully it’s OK, we’ll get it checked out,” said Stoops, who decided to move practice outdoors in response to the injuries.

The indoor facility exists in part because of poor weather, but it can’t match the parameters of an outside space.

“I had to get out of the indoor,” Stoops said. “I gotta rethink practicing in the spring in the morning.”

There’s nothing particularly preventing UK from practicing in the afternoon, but morning practices have proven better for UK’s football players in one important area: Having guys start their day with practice and then having the remainder of it to dedicate to their academics has been beneficial to the program.

UK has held morning practices during the spring semester for the entirety of Stoops’ tenure.

“We do so much better academically in the spring,” Stoops said. “ ... But with the weather being so cold in the morning I might have to rethink it ‘cause that indoor, I just can’t get the work done in there. With that track around there, it’s so tight and that turf, I got two guys hurt in there today.”

Tight end Keaton Upshaw, a redshirt freshman who sat out last season with a torn meniscus, tweaked a hamstring during UK’s most recent scrimmage and missed Tuesday’s practice. His status for the remainder of the spring is uncertain but he hopes to be able to play in the spring game.

“It’s frustrating, knowing I came off a torn meniscus and then just dealing with this too, it’s tough,” Upshaw told the Herald-Leader. “But everything happens for a reason.”

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is high on Upshaw, a 6-5, 234-pound threat who had more than 1,500 receiving yards in his final two years of high school ball.

“We need to get him healthy, ‘cause he’s been hurt now a couple times,” Gran said. “But you can see something pretty special there I think.”

Sophomore safety Tyrell Ajian also has been dealing with a hamstring injury but practiced Tuesday. Senior wide receiver Ahmad Wagner has also missed time with a hamstring injury.

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