Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Cats plan for ‘poised’ Southern Miss QB, defense cuts loose, Toth helps Elam improve

▪  Talented QB alert: Kentucky seems fully aware just how full its hands will be against Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens on Saturday. On the Southeastern Conference teleconference, Coach Mark Stoops again mentioned Mullens’ accuracy (27th nationally last season, connecting on 63.5 percent of his throws). With his 4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns with just 12 picks, he could be one of the best QBs the Cats face all season. “He is very good, very poised, you can tell he has great vision,” Stoops said. “He’s seen everything. What I’ve been very impressed with is how accurate he is and how beautiful he throws the deep ball.” Changing up defenses isn’t going to fluster Mullens, so UK’s going to have to win some one on one battles. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot also discussed Mullens’ ability to make plays with his feet as well. “He’s pulled it a few times and gotten some good yards, you know what I mean?” Eliot said of Mullens, who had three rushing TDs. “He’s effective running the ball and scrambles well at times, too. And on top of that, like I said, he’s an excellent passer that makes good decisions.”

▪  Ready to go dancing: There was music blaring, players moving with a little swagger. It’s game week and middle linebacker Courtney Love doesn’t sense any tightness or nerves. “We’re ready. The best thing is today we came out here they were playing some music. Everybody was just loosened up, ready to go, dancing. We were flying around today. It was a really good practice.” The players know that Saturday’s game with Southern Miss is going to be a difficult one, but they’re trying to find some fun in the preparation, defensive end Denzil Ware said. “At the end of the day nobody wants to go into a game being tight or being worried,” he said. “We got a chance to go out and have fun and be ourselves.”

▪  Defensive line help: Two defensive linemen on the UK depth chart released Monday (nose guard Naquez Pringle and tackle Calvin Taylor) hadn’t gotten much pub during fall camp, but Eliot said both had excelled during fall camp. “This fall we saw huge strides from him,” the defensive coordinator said. “We’ve seen him become a technician, he’s a guy that now understands how to use his strength and being a good nose guard.” As for Taylor, he’s up to 300 pounds after his redshirt season and developing.

▪  Toth making Elam better: When you’re going up against one of the better centers in the Southeastern Conference every day, it has to help you improve. So facing UK senior Jon Toth has benefitted Cats nose guard Matt Elam, Eliot said. That’s good news since Southern Miss has its own watch-list center in senior Cameron Tom. “It’s been good experience for him and he’s going to have his hands full this week because Southern Miss has a very good center too,” Eliot said of Elam vs. Toth. “He’s done well this camp. He’s got a good center he’s got to face on Saturday.”