Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: A look inside defensive improvements, Stoops discusses Horton exit, other player updates

▪  Defensive bounce: For the first time in a long time, rain forced Kentucky to move practice inside Nutter Training Center on Wednesday afternoon. From the sounds of it, the offense was the group struggling this week compared to last week when Coach Mark Stoops had his tirade about the defense’s poor play. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot seemed pleased after practice. “I think we did some things better, he said. “We’re still not there yet. We’re working on cleaning up a few things, but I think we did get better.” When asked about his group’s higher energy and aggression on Saturday in the win over South Carolina, he credited it to execution. “They were playing faster, felt more confident in what they were doing and playing faster,” he said.

▪  Stoops on Horton transfer: News broke on Tuesday night that running back Mikel Horton had left the team and had plans to transfer. On the weekly Southeastern Conference teleconference a day later, Stoops said he saw the departure coming. “It’s just one of those situations where for whatever reason he gets behind on the depth chart and has to earn the trust of the coaches and the players as he moves forward,” Stoops said of the junior, who was a four-star recruit out of Ohio. “He was starting to do that and doing a better job and being more accountable, and then some other guys emerged.” With so many options at the running back spot, including the emergence of a similar style back in freshman Benny Snell (209 yards and five TDs on 33 carries), there weren’t enough carries for Horton. “We wish him the best of luck,” Stoops said, adding that he wasn’t concerned about depth at that spot moving forward with players like Boom Williams, Jojo Kemp and Sihiem King on roster as well. Horton will finish out the semester at UK, but is no longer with the program.

▪  WR Baker ‘getting close’: Four games into the season and one of the Cats’ most productive offensive targets last season, Dorian Baker, still has yet to make a catch. Stoops said the junior wide out continues to battle a hamstring injury, but is listed as day to day and has been able to participate some in practices. Baker was dressed for practice on Wednesday. “He's getting close,” Stoops said. “We thought we had him back a couple weeks ago and just kind of re-aggravated it just a touch.”

▪  Defensive player updates: Kentucky defensive lineman Kengera Daniel has returned from his early season suspension and practiced with the team this week. Eliot said he will be working with the second string defensive unit, “but we plan on seeing plenty of playing time from him on Saturday.” The 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end played in three games last season and finished with one tackle. … Linebacker Kobie Walker (shoulder) is still not back to 100 percent, but he has been able to practice.

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