Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Defense regroups with team meeting, developing some depth

▪  Defensive meeting: Linebacker Denzil Ware has assumed a leadership role, calling a defensive players-only meeting Monday after the defense went 96 plays in the loss to Southern Miss and allowed the Golden Eagles to storm back from a 25-point deficit. “He let us all know he has our back and we’re in this together and it’s not a single effort,” linebacker Courtney Love said. “This is a unit. We have to become stronger as a unit.” Some people might assume a players meeting is a sign of locker room problems  or something else, but Love said it’s not that way. “We’re not in panic mode or anything like that. We know that last week was not our best showing and that we can do a lot better and that’s what we will do.”

▪  Building depth: A 3:30 p.m. game at The Swamp is difficult on just about any defense, but what about one that just played 95 snaps against Southern Mississippi the week before and has limited supplies at key positions like defensive line? Head coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot both said they’re looking at reinforcements. “We’ll run some guys along this week, play some different guys up front, try to get our backup nose in there a little bit, Naquez Pringle,” Stoops said Wednesday. “We’ll get him some reps. We feel like we have another pass rusher in De’Niro Laster that we can get in the game some out on the edges to play.”

▪  All apologies: Some fans liked that Stoops apologized after Kentucky’s 44-35 opening loss to Southern Miss that included UK blowing a 25-point advantage. Some fans didn’t. On the SEC coaches’ teleconference, Stoops was asked about the repeated apologies to fans in his post-game presser. “Yeah, I said it at the time that I didn’t think I’d ever do that, but it’s just what I felt,” he said. “It was on my heart at the time, said what I felt and that’s it.”

▪  Streaking: Many coaches and players on both teams have come and gone, but the streak lives on. It’s the 29-game losing streak the Cats have against the Gators, the longest current streak in the nation among teams that have played annually. It was a topic of conversation again Wednesday during the teleconference. “It’s obviously there, but it really doesn’t mean much because these two teams have never played,” Gators Coach Jim McElwain said, noting that he’s more concerned about how close the last two games have been. He said these two teams are 0-0 against each other, and that’s what he’s told his team this week. Stoops, who now has three of those 29 losses to Florida (a 14-9 defeat in Lexington last season and a three-overtime heart-burn inducer in Gainesville the season before that), said the streak isn’t motivation. “No, we're not worried about the last 30 years. No.” He said UK has enough to worry about cleaning up mistakes and problems it uncovered in the opener. The UK coach even went so far as to say that playing close the past two seasons “means nothing to us.”

▪  Sound system working well: It was loud outside the UK football practice facility on Wednesday. For the final 30 minutes or so of practice, the coaching staff pumped in crowd noise, hoping to simulate the noise the Cats should expect for a 3:30 p.m. game at The Swamp on Saturday.

▪  Defensive injury report: Defensive back Blake McClain and linebacker Josh Allen both were practicing Wednesday, but in red, no-contact jerseys. When asked about Allen, Eliot said: “He’s been in and out of certain drills, but he’s been practicing.” Stoops usually gives a more detailed injury report when he meets with the media on Thursdays after practice.

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