Tuesday’s practice report

Kentucky wrapped up camp on Tuesday afternoon and will have a non-practice day on Wednesday as players begin classes. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson chatted with the media afterward:

  • Feeling better? There was a strong emphasis on being a more physical offense this fall camp and his group didn’t disappoint, Dawson said when asked if he had any questions answered that he may have had going into this. “I feel comfortable in the fact that if we have to grind out some wins and grind out some yards, I think we can do it,” he said. “We have the mentality up front. I think we have the guys up front. We definitely have the running backs that can do it.” At all of his other coaching stops, Dawson said he was never completely positive his teams could line up and run the ball when it had to be run. ”We’ve worked it enough (in camp) that I think I feel comfortable with it,” he said. “Now ultimately, we have to do it in a real game, but our kids are playing physical and their effort’s there.”
  • Tight end talk: Kentucky will put a real emphasis on recruiting more to the tight end and full back spots under Dawson. He said that while discussing true freshman tight end C.J. Conrad, whom he called talented. But he doesn’t want to overuse and possibly injure or wear down a true freshman. “Obviously he’s a big part of what we do,” he said. “Tight ends and fullbacks are a huge part of what we do. We’re going to use those guys and we have guys other than him that are capable and that definitely helps.”
  • Big-play Baker: Patrick Towles was asked if there were any offensive players who have been consistently good in camp and like any good quarterback would, he gave a nod to center Jon Toth. But he also had this to say about sophomore wide receiver Dorian Baker: “Dorian’s making plays – he made one today where I almost lost it,” Towles said. “One of those one-handers on his back hip that he makes look like he’s been doing it for 15 years.”
  • ‘It has nothing to do with me’: Dawson made it infinitely clear that his quarterback is a huge factor in his game planning from week to week. If Towles tells Dawson that he’s not comfortable with running a play — even if it’s one of his coordinator’s favorite plays — that it does not go in the game plan. “He’s a lot more important than I am when it comes to that,” he said of his QB. “He has to be comfortable, not me. It has nothing to do with me. If he isn’t comfortable with something, then it’s out.”
  • Injury updates: Dawson doesn’t usually provide a lot of injury updates, leaving it to head coach Mark Stoops, but he did say that running back Stanley “Boom” Williams seems close to 100 percent. “He looks good out there. I don’t know what percent he is, but he looks close to it if not 100,” Dawson said.
  • Daily links: Colleague Mark Story takes a look at Patrick Towles and his confidence … The NCAA denied the hardship waivers for Nebraska transfers Hart and Love, but UK is still appealing.
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Q&A with Dawson after practice

SHANNON DAWSON
On what kind of camp Ryan Timmons is having: “Good. I mean, it’s up and down. He has some good days and he has some days where he needs to do better. But overall, that kid’s had a good camp. I don’t see anything extremely negative about his camp. He just needs to be more consistent. I could say that about everybody really.”

On if Boom Williams looks 100 percent: “I think so. I mean, if not close to it. He looks good out there. I don’t know what percent he is, but he looks close to it if not 100.”

On if there was much rust evident after he missed practice time: “Not really. I mean, we’re not that complicated.”

On if he’s ever practiced in the dark before: “Nope. Have not. First time for everything.”

On if it’s the first time he’s allowed drops to be counted as receptions: “Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was hard to see. Whatever the head coach says (laughter). If he wants to call it a catch, I’m good. Surprised me, but I was like, ‘Hey, we’ll take the completion.’”

On who was the best at catching the ball in the dark: “I’m telling you we didn’t drop many. That was kind of the interesting deal. We caught a few balls, which was good. We didn’t throw it a whole lot, but the ones we threw we did catch it, which I was surprised.”

On the message he wanted the team to receive before classes start: “Well typically today when school starts the practices, there’s a lot more distractions. So, the biggest thing that we were telling them is really to push through. ‘Don’t think it’s over. It’s not. It’s just the beginning of the end, really at the beginning.’ So, now they have to get going to class. Now there’s a lot more distractions in college life now. So now we have to manage that along with everything. It’s easy when you have them all to yourself, but now when you’re dealing with a lot more social factors then it becomes different.”

On if any freshmen have hit a wall: “Yeah. Through camp, I mean yeah. They’re in and out. Just like everything else, those kids, their bodies aren’t used to competing against better guys. They’re going to be days where they’re nicked up. Through camp everybody’s nicked up really. So we had days, especially those young guys there were days where they looked healthy and days that they didn’t. But that’s normal. It’s going to take — those guys really aren’t physically ready to compete until they’re with Ed and those guys for a calendar year. More sometimes.”

On what he wants the offense to know about Lafayette’s defense when they start install: “We break down tendencies just like anybody else. But my message to offenses in general (is), we’re gonna do what we do good. So I really don’t get too overwhelmed or detailed with what they do. We’re gonna tell them the blueprint of what they do defensively, but who knows what they’re gonna do. We really don’t know. They have a whole new defensive staff. We can go back and look at games that those guys have coached at, but I don’t know what their meetings were like all summer. And so we’re gonna focus on the things that we do well. Going against our defense, it’s so multiple, which is a great thing through camp. It kind of covers everything up front, because they throw a lot of things at you, blitz-wise and coverage-wise and front-wise. So we feel like we’re prepared to go against anything based on the fact that we’ve been doing against our defense for the whole camp and the whole spring. Our defense really does change. Their looks change every day, every play. And so if we can change with them, we feel like we’re prepared. I don’t know what they’re gonna do. We’re gonna prepare for a certain look, and if they give us a different one, we’re gonna do what we do good.”

On how valuable it is to have veteran, smart guys in Patrick Towles at QB and Jon Toth at center: “Yeah. I think it’s invaluable. It’s the most valuable thing is experience. You can say what you want to about everything, as far as talent and everything, but experience is the most. So obviously we hope that holds true when we start playing.”

On how sharp Toth is: “He holds it together up front. We demand a lot on him. Up front, protection-wise and everything, he does a lot. So when the real bullets start flying — I’ll tell you Sunday of next week, or whenever, two weeks. But up to this point, extremely satisfied with that guy. I think as far as what we look for in a center — because we do dump a lot of communication on him with the other o-linemen and everybody else — he’s spectacular at all that.”

On if he takes into account what the QB likes to do in building a game plan: “Absolutely. I’m gonna develop a game plan, and obviously my meetings with the quarterbacks are probably twice as much as anybody else. So when we get to Thursdays and Fridays of game week, then we’re gonna sit down and we have a game plan, basically, dissertation deal and we talk about what we feel good about and what we don’t feel good about. Because ultimately it isn’t about what I feel good about, that doesn’t matter at all. It ultimately matters what he feels good about. Inevitably, there’s things they don’t feel comfortable with and they have to be honest with that because you don’t want to be calling that play, so yeah, definitely, the last couple days of the week game plan-wise, that’s a big part of it.”

On if he ever overrules that: “No.”

On not even a bread and butter play for your offense: “Absolutely not. He’s a lot more important than I am when it comes to that. He has to be comfortable, not me. It has nothing to do with me. If he isn’t comfortable with something, then it’s out.”

On if there’s an area where he was concerned going into camp and he’s feeling much better about it now: “One emphasis was we wanted the ability to be physical and I think that throughout camp, the structure of the way we practice and everything, I think we’ve accomplished that. And I feel comfortable in the fact that if we have to grind out some wins and grind out some yards, I think we can do it. I think we have the mentality up front. I think we have the guys up front. We definitely have the running backs that can do it. Throughout the course of my coaching career, that’s the one thing probably that was missing: the ability to line up and run the ball when you needed to. So that was the biggest emphasis since I got here and I think that we’ve stressed it enough and we’ve worked it enough that I think I feel comfortable with it. Now ultimately, we have to do it in a real game, but our kids are playing physical and their effort’s there. So that’s half the battle when you talk about that.”

On C.J. Conrad being a true freshman and how Dawson handles him and if Conrad looks ready: “Yeah. I think he’s definitely ready. The kid’s talented. We have to be careful with that kid as far as how much we dump on him. I think there needs to be a certain percentage of the game plan that fits him perfectly and that we use him. But we’ve got to be careful with using him like 90 percent of the time and everybody needs breaks. We have certain personnel groupings designed to give that guy a rest. Then obviously he’s a big part of what we do. Tight ends and fullbacks are a huge part of what we do. We’re going to use those guys and we have guys other than him that are capable and that definitely helps. As years go, we’re going to keep recruiting guys to build those positions, which is obviously going to help.”

On saying Timmons needs to be more consistent:If you wanna go back to what I really said, I said that everybody needs to play more consistent. Not just him.”

On if there’s anything particular Timmons can do to be more consistent:Well, I mean, he needs to have more attention to detail to his route running, just like every other receiver needs to have more attention to detail to his route running. And just attention to detail overall. We’re missing some signals from the quarterback that needs to be cleared up. But, I mean, he asked a question about Timmons. I didn’t bring it up about him. Everybody needs to do better. Not just him. He’s doing fine.”

On if there’s anything new or unexpected he’s learned about his players since the start of camp:Not really. I mean, overall, just pleased. Pleased with the effort. We have physical practices, so we’ve gotta continue to build depth because this league’s a physical league. So, we have good players, I think we have good depth, but to sit here and think those players are gonna be able to play a hundred percent of the time, all the time — we gotta get guys ready. So that’s the biggest thing is getting young guys ready. And they’re really all young, so getting everybody ready.”

On if there has been a guy that has played at a high level consistently throughout camp:Has there been a guy that’s brought it… I think there’s been a few guys that’s brought it consistently all camp. I think that you talk about Toth the other day. That guy is extremely consistent, you know? His level of work has been consistent since day one. He’s definitely a guy that goes out and performs. But throughout camp, everybody has got their moments. You know that as well as I do.”

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Monday’s practice report

With just one more full day of practice before Kentucky turns its attention to Louisiana Lafayette, Coach Mark Stoops had a few bits of news.

  • Hardship waiver denied: Nebraska transfers tight end Greg Hart and linebacker Courtney Love likely won’t see the field this season with Stoops announcing that the NCAA had denied their hardship waivers to play immediately. “Right now it was denied,” he said. “So we have one more appeal going with Courtney, but I feel like Greg’s will be denied.” Hart missed spring practices with an injury after playing last season for the Cornhuskers, mostly on special teams. He red-shirted his freshman season there. Love played in 12 games at Nebraska last season with six tackles, including one for a loss.
  • Veteran linebackers back: Senior middle linebacker Josh Forrest, whom Stoops said had missed a few days of camp “sick as a dog” returned. Senior weakside linebacker Ryan Flannigan, who has missed more than a week with a shoulder injury, was back on the field today in a red, no-contact jersey. “Trying to protect his shoulder a little bit, but it was good to see him out there taking some reps and doing some seven-on-seven and doing drill work and just getting out there conditioning and running some plays,” Stoops said. “So it was good to see him out there.” As for the linebacker depth all around (departure of Dorian Hendrix comes to mind), Stoops called it “a little bit of concern. If we can get Flannigan and Josh back completely healthy, that’ll obviously help with the experience inside.”
  • Still on the rebound: Kentucky managed to string together two good practices following the poor scrimmage on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. First, at the much discussed after dark practice on Saturday night and then on Monday as well. “Guys had good energy, good focus, did some good things on both sides of the ball, worked some more situations,” Stoops said. “One more day left before school starts, so we got to get a few more things cleaned up, but better work today.”
  • Position notes: Stoops said UK had not yet made any decisions on punt and kick return spots. Punt return coach Derrick Ansley said Ryan Timmons and T.V. Williams “have really shown some flashes” and Garrett Johnson was mentioned as someone who has made people miss in practice at that spot.
  • Livingston still not at UK: Three-star offensive lineman Levon Livingston, whom Stoops said he hoped would arrive at UK after “working through some things,” is still not on campus, the coach confirmed.
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Q&A with Stoops, Eliot after Monday’s practice

MARK STOOPS
“Good practice today. It was good to come back after a day off yesterday. Guys had good energy, good focus, did some good things on both sides of the ball, worked some more situations. One more day left before school starts, so we got to get a few more things cleaned up, but better work today.”

On if he was holding his breath wondering if they’d go back to the energy level of late last week: “No, I felt like they would come out pretty good. I’d have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t after Saturday night’s practice, and just re-focused again. We had a pretty good camp going, and then hit a little lull there. Got their attention and got things back on track.”

On if Levon Livingston is on campus: “Not at this point, he’s not. He’s not here at this point.”

On if they got final word on Courtney Love and Greg Hart: “Yeah, right now it was denied. So we have one more appeal going with Courtney, but I feel like Greg’s will be denied.”

On if Love was denied and they’re currently appealing: “Yeah, another appeal.”

On if the Saturday night practice accomplished what he wanted it to: “Yeah, it did. I think it certainly — they understand very clearly what’s acceptable and what’s not. You only have so many learning opportunities and you either get them corrected, get them rectified, or things will stay the same. We’ll see. I think we certainly learned something from Saturday morning and from Saturday night, and hopefully we’ll carry that with us throughout the season. Because I can promise you there’s gonna be some other times this year when we’re beat down, beat up and we have to dig down and go play some football.”

On if they found some leaders in this process: “I believe so. I believe so. More than anything, just with the whole team, the individual accountability — to make sure each individual responds and is ready to go. I think we will.”

On how big a role he expects his redshirt freshman safeties to play: “I believe they’re gonna have an impact. They’re very good football players. You put on the film and you see them showing up. They need some game experience and they need to play, but I’m excited about seeing them play. The first impact that they’ll have will be on special teams, and I know they’ll show up. I can just tell by the way they play. Again, you put them on a scrimmage tape and you see them making the plays, just doing something a little extra. I mean, getting off blocks and just having the instincts and playing physical. So I anticipate they’ll have an impact. How soon and to what extent, we’ll see.”

On if they’ve settled on kick and punt returners yet: “Not really. No, no. We’re still mixing. We feel confident we’ll have some guys ready to go, but we’re working on a few guys.”

On Ryan Flannigan and Josh Forrest: “Yeah. Josh was back. He was back. He was just sick as a dog for a couple days, but he was back. Flannigan was out there in a no-contact jersey. Trying to protect his shoulder a little bit, but it was good to see him out there taking some reps and doing some seven-on-seven and doing drill work and just getting out there conditioning and running some plays. So it was good to see him out there.”

On if anybody else is out: “I don’t think so, no.”

On if they’ve started Lafayette install: “We’ll start that on Wednesday. One more day of mixing in camp stuff and good on good. We worked some other opponents a little bit throughout camp, some teams that we may play beyond the first game, game two or game three, game four. We look at certain things in camp, but certainly all of our focus will be on Louisiana Lafayette on Wednesday.”

On if the defensive line rotation is settled: “Oh, I don’t know about settled. We’re working our way through it. We’re gonna need all those guys at some point, so we’re really just working to get fundamentally better right now up front.”

On if anybody jumped out at him today: “No, not really. Not until I go see the film. I just felt like it was a better practice. You saw routine plays look routine and you saw some competitive plays. About what you would expect through camp.”

On if he hesitates to play freshmen Chris Westry and Derrick Baity at corner together: “Not if they’re the best. Not if they’re both ready to go. If they’re clearly playing the best, then they’ll be out there.”

On if they might be: “I’m not sure. Not right now. Not right now.”

On if he’s seen Fred Tiller respond to the challenge from those freshman corners: “Yeah. Yeah, I have. I’ve seen Fred practicing hard. Made a couple plays today. He’s out there. He doesn’t have his head down. He’s not out there pouting or anything like that.”

On if Courtney Miggins is progressing: “Making progress, yeah, he is. He’s a very good player, very explosive, very active. There’s a few techniques, a few things we’re asking him to do that he hasn’t had to do in a while, so it’s a little bit of a learning curve, but he’s a very good player.”

On how concerned he is about linebacker depth: “There’s certainly a little bit of concern. If we can get Flannigan and Josh back completely healthy, that’ll obviously help with the experience inside. And Jabari outside played a lot of football last year. So hopefully we’ll keep it to one position in the starting four with not too much experience, game experience. But again, we just got to develop all those guys. We’re gonna need them at some point in time, so we’re gonna continue to work with all the backers and work some different combinations and get the best guys on the field.”

 

D.J. ELIOT

We had a good practice. It was good bouncing back from our scrimmage and our second practice the other day. Some guys are back and practicing, so we’ve got more numbers out there too and that’s always good. Just around the corner, so tidying a few things up but heading forward and looking forward to getting things going for our first opponent and finishing up camp.”

On how much Josh Forrest being out reinforces his importance to the defense: “Well, Josh has a lot of reps. He has a lot of game reps, he has a lot of practice reps. At that position we don’t have anybody else on the team that has that much experience in game or practice, so we miss that. We miss that experience, we miss that confidence at that position when he’s not there at practice, but it’s also an opportunity for somebody else to get those reps and establish some depth and put them in those situations and let them fail so they can learn like he did.”

On if he feels better about Forrest in run defense than he did a year ago: “Yes. I think that Josh is a linebacker now. I didn’t necessarily feel like that at the beginning of the year last year. I felt like he was in transition, but I feel like he’s a linebacker now.”

On if he felt like more of a safety: “No. He was a very athletic linebacker last year and made a lot of plays early with athleticism. Then towards the end of the year he became more physical, he started reading his keys better. He finished out the year I thought very well, and he had a great spring and he’s had a great training camp. I feel confident in his abilities now.”

On how much better he feels about the DBs now: “I do. I feel a lot better about them. I think our young defensive backs are very good, and I think that they’ll see significant playing time and I think that they’ve played well throughout training camp. I’m glad to have them.”

On if this feels like some of Mark Stoops’ other transformations in the secondary: “Yes, we feel better. Yes, we feel better than we have since we’ve been here. I think that the good thing is, like I said, our talent is young and that leaves us with a bright future.”

On what makes Stoops a good teacher: “He just keeps things simple, doesn’t try to get too elaborate in things, keeps things simple and players understand that.”

On Darius West: “Darius is big and fast. And then he’s also a physical player, too. And he’s a guy that not only can cover, but can come down here and hit you.”

On if any younger inside linebackers stood out with Flannigan and Forrest out: “Eli Brown’s done some good things. Nico Firios has received a lot of reps. We need to get better with that. Excited about it.”

On if he’s anxious to see how guys will do in a game: “Yes. I am.”

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NCAA denies Hart, Love waivers; UK appealing

The hardship waivers filed by Nebraska transfers Greg Hart and Courtney Love were both denied by the NCAA, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday, but UK is still in the process of appealing the rulings.

“Right now it was denied,” Stoops said Monday night after UK’s practice. “So we have one more appeal going with Courtney, but I feel like Greg’s will be denied.”

Both Hart, a tight end, and Love, a linebacker, were hoping to fill serious positions of need for UK this season.

But the NCAA denied their hardship waivers to avoid sitting out a year per transfer rules.

Love, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker, said in February that details were still being worked out and that paperwork had been filed by the NCAA. Hart, a 6- 5, 240-pound tight end from Dayton, added that he was still “pretty much in the same boat” as Love.

“We’ve sent in the paperwork; we’re working on it and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “You never know with the NCAA.”

Hart missed spring practices with an injury after playing last season at Nebraska, mostly on special teams. He redshirted his freshman season there.

After also redshirting his freshman season with the Huskers, Love played in 12 games in 2014 with six total tackles, including one for a loss.

Love was a two-time All-Ohio selection at Cardinal Mooney, who had 110 tackles, 19 for a loss and nine sacks with four fumbles and two pass breakups his senior season there.

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Linebacker spots: Where is UK now?

A recap of where UK as far as linebacker depth:

■ Likely starting outside linebacker junior Jason Hatcher will miss UK’s first two games for a violation of university policies.

■ Hatcher’s listed backup on the depth chart, redshirt freshman Kobie Walker, is expected to miss the first couple of games while recovering from ankle surgery in the offseason.

■ Starting weakside linebacker Ryan Flannigan has been out for a few days nursing a shoulder injury that has him in a sling. Flannigan’s backup, Jordan Jones, is “going to be out a couple weeks with an illness, with a sickness that sets us back a little bit,” Stoops said.

■ There’s still no word on the eligibility status of Nebraska transfer Courtney Love, who has been getting reps at the middle linebacker spot with Nico Firios.

■ Red-shirt freshman Dorian Hendrix, who was repping with the second team at middle linebacker behind senior Josh Forrest has decided to transfer.

One name expected to fill a gap is senior Khalid Henderson (36 games with 15 starts and 130 career tackles) at the weakside linebacker spot that Flannigan had.

As for the outside linebackers, position coach Andy Buh said the starters for the moment are senior Jabari Johnson and redshirt freshman Denzil Ware, who have both had good fall camps.

Behind them for now are true freshmen Kengera Daniel (who was at UK for spring practice) and Josh Allen. Junior college transfer Alvonte Bell is slowing working his way into that mix as well.

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Two depart from UK defense

Two more players have decided to part ways with Kentucky, this time defensive back Jaleel Hytchye and middle linebacker Dorian Hendrix.

Hendrix’s departure leaves UK razor thin at that spot behind senior Josh Forrest, leaving just fellow red-shirt freshman Nico Firios there and Courtney Love, who is still awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility.

As of Monday afternoon, there was no update on Love’s status, a UK spokesman said.

Hendrix, a 6-foot, 232-pounder from Huber Heights, Ohio, was the first commit of Mark Stoops’ 2014 class.

Hytchye, a 5-10, 175-pound cornerback, was struggling to move his way up the depth chart. The Cincinnati native played in just one game his sophomore season, the win over Tennessee Martin. His freshman season, Hytchye played in eight games with one start, notching nine tackles. Seven of those tackles came against Georgia, where he earned his first and only start.

Hytchye and Hendrix are the third and fourth players to defect from UK this offseason. The others were offensive linemen Josh Krok and Nick Richardson.

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Q&A with Stoops at Special Olympics event

MARK STOOPS
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to spend some time with these special kids. Our players participated last year with the Special Olympics. This year the flag football teams, they weren’t invited, they weren’t there, so we just thought it was a great opportunity to come here, spend some time with us during camp and just give back a little bit and spend some time with them.”

On if this is a good break from rigors of camp: “I think it is. I know quite a few people that are so heavily involved with the Special Olympics, that’s what they said to us: ‘Thank you so much.’ That was my response to them: ‘Believe me, we’ll get more out of this than they do.’ We really appreciate it. It’s great for our players and our coaches just to spend some time with these special kids.”

On if some of the kids’ reactions teaches players how they can have an impact: “Absolutely it does. Just to see the pure joy in these kids hearts, on their faces. Just pure hearts and just having fun. Just out here having fun, playing a little football and spending some time with our players. How could it not help our players and help develop them as young men?”

On hearing all his players loud and getting into the day: “Well, it’s fun. Just like you guys heard me talk a little bit yesterday about not being happy yesterday morning, just hearing this passion, this energy, this excitement it’s what the game is all about. It’s just  — It’s good. It’s good to hear the players enjoying themselves and of course our guests.”

On the night practice Saturday and how much of a change it was from two straight disappointing days: “Well, it was. It was a big change. Yesterday morning was not good enough. I already talked about that. I don’t really care to go back there except to learn. Yesterday morning we had an opportunity to do some things and we didn’t take advantage of it, so we went out last night and rectified that situation. Came out here and practiced at night. It just goes to show you — the players were even more tired, they had been through a physical scrimmage, but it’s just about a mentality. We came out last night and had a strong mentality about us and got some work done and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

On if he’s every called an unscheduled practice like that before: “No. No, I’ve never done that.”

On if he’d ever done a night practice like that before: “You guys have been around me long enough I’m going to say what I believe and what’s true and I really don’t look on a script and say, ‘This day, I’m going to jump the players about this.’ I speak the truth. I tell them the truth, what I’m feeling and what I’m seeing and again that was a missed opportunity and I’d never done that before and I had chewed on it yesterday afternoon a little bit. After watching the tape, I was unsettled. It wasn’t good enough to just stop that day and not do anything about it. So we decided to go out and practice.”

On the details of how it gets put together: “That’s not too hard. I just say ‘we’re going’ and everybody’s scrambling. I didn’t worry about that for five minutes. Everybody’s on call.”

On getting jerseys cleaned, other logistics: “I don’t worry about that for one minute. Jim Madaleno and our trainers are always ready. TK (Tom Kalinowski) in the equipment room. Frank (Buffano) with operations. We’re always ready to go.”

On what made practice “fun” for players: “They were challenged. They were challenged by me. I think they were disappointed. They know that yesterday morning wasn’t good enough and we came out and I think what was fun about it, part of it was, we came out here and there was Big Blue U going on at the stadium, so we couldn’t use the stadium. These lights were on this field, but I wanted to go on the grass, so we went up and practiced in the dark. I think that added to it a little bit. It was a little bit fun. I had a rule that if any ball hit a player in the chest and they dropped it, I called that a completion. I think what changed, honestly, was our attitude and our effort. And I tell our players that all that time with a great passion, with great effort, with a great attitude, it gives you a chance. If you don’t do those things, you’ve got no chance. And last night it was great to see our players respond and come out and play with great energy, great passion, and just play physical and toughness and just have some fun.”

On feeling more at ease after seeing complete change: “Well, I’m certainly a lot better than I was yesterday morning because it’s never fun to break for a day and a half — as far as being on the field — with that taste in your mouth. We really pushed them yesterday both mentally and physically and it was great to see them respond.”

On having “Sooners” flag football team out there: “I saw the Sooner team, so I had to take a picture with them and I’ll have to send that picture to Bob. I can’t get away from the Sooners on my own practice field. So yeah that was fun. I’ll send that over to Bob.”

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Will Aug. 22 be key date in UK history?

If Kentucky finds a way to turn around its football futility from the last few seasons, players and coaches likely will point to Aug. 22, 2015 as a key date.

It wasn’t the date of a huge upset at Commonwealth Stadium or the Cats’ first road win in dozens of tries.

It was an unscheduled practice that followed a shoddy scrimmage that followed a poor practice the night before.

At 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, Coach Mark Stoops brought the UK players back in for a full practice.

“Not up to our standards this morning so we are go to start over tonight,” Stoops tweeted with a picture of players warming up on their practice field with the sun partially setting in the background.

The end result of the practice under limited lights was a night to remember apparently.

There was no media availability afterward, but players and coaches took to social media to discuss the turnaround, with Stoops simply tweeting: “Old School Blue Caller” with a darkened picture of players on the Tim Couch Practice Fields.

“Best practice I’ve ever been apart of,” tweeted quarterback Drew Barker. “You can’t make this stuff up!! Movie esque.”

Landon Foster added: “I may be a punter, but I was ready to hit somebody tonight.”

Players at almost every position chimed in, feeling better about the direction of Kentucky football than they did that morning when Stoops could only find reason to praise the kickers.

“We got better tonight,” offensive lineman Ramsey Meyers tweeted. “I love my team.”

Patrick Towles tweeted later that it was the “most fun I’ve ever had at a football practice in my life.” And added “Love y’all!”

 

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Saturday’s scrimmage report

A less than pleased Mark Stoops met with the media after a less than pleasing scrimmage on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

  • Not good: That was pretty much the gist of Mark Stoops’ less than four minute interview with football media on Saturday after the closed scrimmage. It was the second straight day he’d walked out of a practice with his team and been displeased. “Not a good scrimmage; took a step back,” Stoops said. “I’ve got to re-evaluate what we’re doing. It was going to be the last big scrimmage, but we may have to look at it and do it again because that wasn’t good enough.” He wasn’t pleased with anything on either side of the ball and said the team struggled with energy and communication.
  • One good thing: Stoops’ good pal Steve Spurrier is no doubt smiling somewhere. When the UK coach was asked if there were any bright spots in the scrimmage, Stoops said. ”The kickers kicked good,” Stoops said. “Coach Spurrier will be talking about that again this year, about how good our punter does ’cause we ain’t gonna get a lot of first downs if we play like that.” Stoops was making reference to the 2011 game when the Gamecocks pummeled UK 54-3 and Ryan Tydlacka punted nine times for a 44.2 yard average, leading Spurrier to say: “Kentucky has a heck of a punter, I know that.”
  • Injury updates: Without discussing them, Stoops mentioned that several players did sit out the scrimmage with illnesses or injuries. “We were down some guys, but it’s no excuse,” Stoops said. “It’s gotta be the next man up and we didn’t really have that mentality today with guys stepping up and guys competing. It wasn’t a tough enough mindset, it wasn’t a tough enough attitude.” … When specifically asked about Boom Williams, Stoops said running back did scrimmage some on Saturday.
  • Depth chart struggles: This second scrimmage of the season was supposed to be about getting a depth chart close to set for the Cats’ season opener on Sept. 5 against Louisiana Lafayette, but Stoops left with so many questions, it may take more time. “It complicates things,” he said. “I know this: When we release our depth chart, it’s going to be a bunch of guys that have an attitude and they’re going to go out there and compete. And we’ll find 11 on either side of the ball.”
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