Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Punters’ averages are improving, UK special teams coach says

Wednesday was a defense day, but it also included some updates on special teams, including punting, a category where Kentucky finished near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference last season behind Grant McKinniss (39.19 average).

New special teams coach Dean Hood said the sophomore was looking “a lot better” in practice along with newcomer in graduate transfer Matt Panton. Both punters have been averaging right around 42 yards a punt or so, Hood said.

“The averages have been way better than spring practice, so really pleased with those guys,” he said. “Just we’ve got more flexibility now with some of the variety of things we can do.”

As for the coverage teams, Hood seemed pleased with where UK is with a variety of players who are at the one and two spots on the depth chart as well as some younger guys who are trying to get on the field. … No kick or punt returners have been named or determined quite yet, Hood said.

Kentucky will scrimmage on Saturday and it’s not clear yet how much special teams work the Cats will get in, but Hood anticipated there would be some reps at punt, field goal, field goal blocking. They might sprinkle a few other things in as well.

Matt House is most excited to see how the defense handles live game action (versus scheduled practice work) on Saturday at the closed scrimmage. “So much of when we go out here in practice, practice is scripted,” the new defensive coordinator said. “A scrimmage, a great thing about it is, you’re playing a whole game, right? So in your own mind, you have to put yourself in that situation that, ‘Hey we just went from normal down and distance to it’s third-and-long without the period flipping it.’ Now the kids have got to play situational football and playing the game.” He’s most interested to see how UK’s defense does at stopping the run. The Cats were 12th in the SEC last year in run defense, giving up 228.2 yards a game on the ground.