Jen Smith on UK Football

Kentucky defense wants more from its ‘energy’ players. See who’s being called out.

Kentucky football looking forward to Saturday’s scrimmage

Kentucky football defensive coordinator Matt House said Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, that he will know more about his unit’s progress after Saturday’s scrimmage. Kentucky opens the season Sept. 1 against Central Michigan.
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Kentucky football defensive coordinator Matt House said Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, that he will know more about his unit’s progress after Saturday’s scrimmage. Kentucky opens the season Sept. 1 against Central Michigan.

There wasn’t a ton of news to come out of Thursday’s media availability with defensive coaches and players.

Saturday’s less than stellar scrimmage was too far behind Kentucky to really get a read on what was adjusted. But Matt House did make it clear that the energy players on defense needed to show more, well, energy.

We did some good things but we didn’t have the energy we needed to have,” the defensive coordinator said of the Saturday scrimmage last week. “We didn’t necessarily have the great plays and consistency.”

Who are some of those “energy” players that UK needs to show up and have a good scrimmage? Players like Josh Allen, Kash Daniel, Darius West and Derrick Baity were names that came to mind for House.

Cats Coach Mark Stoops also noted the lack of energy from the defense after that ho-hum scrimmage.

“Just the energy and the great passion and energy to get to the football,” he said of defensive problems. “I felt like today was one of those days when one side or the other had success, it was because the other side wasn’t playing good. And I’m really not interested in seeing that.”

After the first scrimmage of the 2018 fall camp, senior offensive lineman Bunchy Stallings talks about trying to improve. UK opens the season Sept. 1 against Central Michigan.

This Saturday, another closed scrimmage at Kroger Field will be the closest thing to a “moving day” for a UK defense that returns all but two starters from last season’s team.

It will help the Cats start to set a two-deep rotation and help them get a longer look at some of the younger players that might become defensive impact players.

It’s been a challenge on both sides of the ball to get the newcomers needed reps while making sure the veterans are ready, too.

Scripted practice plans have helped that process.

“When you script, you can get certain guys certain calls,” House said. “You’re intentional about who you’re putting in, what you’re asking them to do.

“Mike Edwards doesn’t necessarily need some of the day one learning reps. Now certainly he needs a lot of reps just to get game ready, but some of those reps could go to Ty Ajian or someone like that.”

At least two of the veteran defensive backs, seniors Derrick Baity and Lonnie Johnson, have a wager (for pride, not cash, I’m told) on who can get the most interceptions in camp. So far, Baity is winning 3-2. But while Baity has won the battle so far, he admitted the linebackers are winning the war. As quarterbacks work their checkdowns, the linebackers have been able to gobble up some of those passes.

Baity, who missed all of spring having shoulder surgery, confirmed that he’s feeling 100 percent again and is excited to be back on the field. Last season, he had 49 tackles and two interceptions along with a team-best nine pass breakups. He’s looking to improve those numbers this season, too.

Normally a coach who does interviews with the defense on Thursdays, special teams coach Dean Hood, was not available because of a meeting. So no updates on the battle for starting place-kicker until Mark Stoops chats with us on Saturday after the scrimmage.

We did learn via Twitter on Thursday, though, that the specialists are pretty proud of their locker room cleanliness. It’s good to see this Twitter account being used for fun things again.

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