Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: How will defense define progress? A look at Stoops’ more active role

▪  Signs of progress: The scoreboard might indicate progress to fans, but how defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot defines progress for his group will be different. “I want to see guys be in the right spots and I want to see guys execute the call and if they get beat, they get beat,” he said. “I can live with that.” Then Eliot discussed all of the ways UK has found ways to get beat over the past two weeks and challenged his group to do the little things right again. “I would like to see our players be in position to make the play and, you know what, if somebody’s better than them and they don’t make the play, then we can build on that,” he said. “That’s what I want to see from our guys.”

▪  A more active role: There were no specifics offered, but Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops offered a little more clarity about his comments on his coach’s call-in show on Monday night that he would become more involved in fixing the Cats’ woeful defense, ranked 123rd in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of 542 yards in their first two games. “The question was asked, and I think you’re asking the same thing: Will you take a more active role?” Stoops said on the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference. “And the answer to that is yes, I will take a more active role. As far as the structure of our staff, that has not changed.” He reiterated that Eliot is still the defensive coordinator. “I’m assisting him but I’m much more involved this week and I will be until we get things turned.” Stoops did not make it clear what additional work he would be taking on. Eliot seemed to welcome the help. “Anytime you can get a coach like coach Stoops to coach with your players and be involved in the game plan, it's a good thing.”

▪  ‘Did not see that coming’ While Cats fans continue to scratch their heads about how a team that looked strong in the first two quarters of the opener against Southern Miss could look so completely different in the six quarters that followed. Fans are not alone. “The biggest surprise is how we can play like we did in the first half of game one and then since then disappear,” Stoops said of UK being outscored 79-7 since then. “So that is surprising. Did not see that coming.” The UK coach went on to say he thought this group would handle adversity better. How he has handled the team since then hasn’t changed much, though. He said the staff still approaches it like 12 one-week seasons. “So week to week we always hit that reset button and get back to work,” he added.

▪  Visitors: There were more than a dozen uniformed police officers at practice on Wednesday night as a part of a week recognizing first responders that Stoops put together. “Coach Stoops has been honoring service men in the community on a daily basis and today he had the police force out,” Eliot explained.

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