Just a few days ago, Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks seemed miffed that his football team did not receive more consideration in the top-25 rankings.
Brooks wasn't talking like the coach of a top-25 team after Wednesday's practice. A fuming Brooks lit into his squad for what he called a lackadaisical practice as the Cats (2-0) prepare for Saturday's game against Middle Tennessee State.
"We're not practicing well," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We better understand that we've got to work a lot harder than we are in practice. It was a lack of energy, lack of effort, focus, you name it."
"We're not getting a lot of leadership in practice, and that is very, very disturbing," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of guys talking the talk, but they're not walking the walk. I'm not very happy."
The Wildcats have won their two games by a combined score of 65-5 and rank in the top 10 nationally in points allowed per game, total defense and pass efficiency. When asked if his team was resting on its laurels, Brooks said, "What have we done? We haven't done anything."
Defensive coordinator Steve Brown and offensive coordinator Joker Phillips both agreed with Brooks' assessment. Phillips said it was probably the worst practice of the year.
"We have two days through the week to get better, and we basically wasted one of those days," Phillips said. "We can't afford that."
Brown said the UK defense is in no position to waste days considering the fact that MTSU runs the tricky spread offense.
"You have to be disciplined, aggressive, read your keys and play fast," Brown said. "And you can't just turn it on in a game. You've got to practice fast, and we'll get that corrected. They pose a big-time challenge for us because they can attack you in a lot of ways and keep you off balance."
UK is in the midst of a three-game homestand that will take them up to the Southeastern Conference opener at Alabama on Oct. 4. But judging from Brooks' harsh words, the Cats should not be looking down the road.
"I'm interested in winning this game first, and we'll deal with the rest when we get to it," Brooks said. "We need to find a way to win this game. When you're not very good, you have to work hard to get better. It just doesn't happen by accident."
Brown was particularly hard on his veteran defensive unit and said the group is still searching for a leader in the mold of Wesley Woodyard, a four-year starter at linebacker who had no problem getting in the face of a teammate to get things cranked up in practice.
"All you hear is my voice screaming," Brown lamented. "I'm tired of screaming. You'd think you'd hear a couple guys saying, 'Let's go! Let's go!' But we're not getting it. No one's assumed the leadership role. They don't necessarily have to be vocal, but you better work your butt off."
Brown also challenged his unit's toughness.
"You got guys thinking, I'm sore and I'm this and that, who played maybe 30, 40 plays. And they're talking about maybe being pro football players? You've got to be kidding me. Pro football players practice hard and play hard and play for a lot more snaps."