Off weeks and football fundamentals go together like Sarah Palin and mooseburgers.
So no surprise at Monday's news conference when Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks noted how his team worked on tackling and blocking last week.
The unexpected came when defensive end Ventrell Jenkins said that Brooks asked for simple-to-understand, back-to-basics conduct off the field, too.
"Coach Brooks' main emphasis was to stay out of trouble, don't get behind bars or anything," Jenkins said Monday. "So I accomplished that."
Besides his edict to avoid arrest, Brooks also ordered the players to use off days Friday and Saturday to rest and refresh.
"Staying in the house," Jenkins said of how he spent his off time. "Being lazy. Watch football on TV.
"I felt I did that pretty well."
More importantly, and certainly more timely, Brooks liked what he saw on the practice field. Earlier this month, he lamented the poor practices that came before the Wildcats struggled to beat Middle Tennessee on Sept. 13. Only a tackle at the 1-yard line on the game's final play prevented a loss.
"Tempo in practice was much better," Brooks said.
Kentucky (3-0) will continue to be shorthanded. Brooks said that freshman quarterback Randall Cobb will not play against Western Kentucky on Saturday. Cobb is out indefinitely because of a high ankle sprain.
Brooks listed defensive regulars Micah Johnson and Ricky Lumpkin as "doubtful." Each also has a high ankle sprain.
"They're out of the (protective) boot now," Brooks said. "They can get on their toe and bounce on it. But there's a lot of pain. Cobb's not that far along.
"I'm saying 'doubtful' for this week because if they get remarkably better in the next 48 hours, I'd look like an idiot if they could play."
Brooks then playfully termed the status of Johnson and Lumpkin as "doubtful on the side of maybe being out."
UK will get back starting offensive left tackle Garry Williams, who had knee surgery Sept. 4 and hasn't played since the Louisville game. Brooks said freshman Billy Joe Murphy, who filled in for Williams, could play some at right tackle Saturday.
Braxton Kelley, who moves from outside linebacker to the middle as Johnson convalesces, reported good practices since the Middle game.
"Coach mentioned leadership that week and how we weren't practicing as well," Kelley said of the preparation going into Middle Tennessee. "The whole bye week, we had a good practice every day. I don't think there was a day we had a bad practice and Coach was on us."
Brooks noted how UK used the off week to take a long look at the wide receivers. The result has been a reshuffling at the position.
"We're still working with all eight of them," Brooks said, "but some of them aren't working as much. And the order they have worked has changed. Not as many will get into the (WKU) game, particularly in the first half."
Senior Dicky Lyons Jr. remained first string at receiver on a depth chart included in the media notes for the UK-WKU game. E.J. Adams, who hasn't started since the opener at Louisville, was listed first at the other receiver spot.
Freshman Matt Roark leapfrogged sophomore Kyrus Lanxter on the depth chart behind Adams.
Brooks cautioned against using the depth chart to draw conclusions.
The depth chart has "day-to-day fluctuations," he said before adding, "The thing I like about people moving up is they're competing and they're trying to do the right thing and they're working their fannies off."
The implication made at the news conference was that the team had shown better practice habits during the off week. While noting how well UK practiced last season, Brooks said teams typically need to learn the value of good practice habits the hard way.
"Sometimes it's like trying to pound sand into a rat hole," Brooks said of getting that point across. "It's hard."
Kicking job in flux
Missing four of six field-goal attempts against Middle Tennessee cost Lones Seiber his status as UK's place-kicker.
Since the Middle game, Seiber has been competing to remain the kicker. Brooks was non-committal when asked if Seiber retained the job.
"We don't know that yet," Brooks said. "That's still under review. It's in the box."
Senior J.J. Housley is "not a factor" for lengthy field-goal attempts, Brooks said. Seiber is locked in a competitive battle with Ryan Tydlacka.
When asked later if naming a place-kicker would be a game-time decision, Brooks paused nine seconds.
"I'd think after Thursday's practice we'll probably have a decision," Brooks said.