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Stoops pleased with Wildcats’ performance in second scrimmage; defense, special teams make progress

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

What a difference a week makes.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops liked what he saw in his team’s second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, A week ago, Stoops wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance, especially on the defensive side of the ball, an area of expertise for Stoops, a former defensive coordinator.

“It was a better second scrimmage,” Stoops said Saturday. “The offense, the defense and the special teams — all three units — did some really good things at times.”

Stoops said the defense was “more sound” and made the offense “work” for yards. He added there weren’t “as many explosive plays” by the offensive unit compared to last week’s scrimmage.

“That’s a good thing for the defense,” Stoops said.

Stoops added the offense wasn’t lacking in the scrimmage and isn’t worried about that side of the football.

“They continue to run the ball very effectively,” Stoops said. “We’re doing some very good things as far as our play calling and the system we have out there (and) there are some hard plays to defend. (Quarterback) Terry (Wilson) is getting more and more comfortable with the first- and second-down passing game.”

The biggest worry on defense is in the secondary, but Stoops is confident the unit will be established before the season opener against pass-happy Toledo in less than two weeks.

“We’re still working through it, we’ll be ready to go (and) I feel confident come game time we’ll have five, six and seven defensive backs that are ready to play,” Stoops said.

According to Stoops, things weren’t always perfect and the veteran coach is seeking more improvement in the next two weeks.

“There are times where one side or the other had success because of the other side being a bit sloppy,” Stoops said. “And that’s what we’ve got to get cleaned up. I would like to see more just good fundamental football across the board — one side or the other is winning because the other side is making outstanding plays.

“That wasn’t always the case (Saturday). I feel like our position on the football was much better defensively (and) we were much more sound across the board (and) made the offense work for their yards. The offense did some good things as well (and) moved (the ball) at times. We stalled them early and kept them out of the end zone and then late in the scrimmage, they got a few (touchdowns). Overall, it was good work. “

Although some units are stronger than another, Stoops continues to seek consistency on both sides of the football.

“Without question, across the board we need to continue to step up,” Stoops said. “Certain position groups are inexperienced, but that’s not an excuse. Certain groups and players that have experience and strength, we need to play like that. We need to play to the best of our ability and overcome some inexperience at certain position groups. We have to find a way to win as a team.”

As the Wildcats inch closer to the season opener, Stoops and his staff are prepping the depth chart and assigning individual roles for the upcoming season.

“We have to get locked in on the two-deep (depth chart),” Stoops said. “That’s where it gets a little bit difficult right now, because a few guys are banged up and we want them at full strength, so the first team is watered down a little bit and the second team is watered down a little bit and so on.

“We’ve got to work hard and concentrate on putting one great unit out there on each side of the ball and have some guys who can go out there and play winning football as well.”

Relatively Healthy

The Wildcats came out the scrimmage mostly healthy, with the exception of freshman quarterback Nik Scalzo, who injured his knee in the scrimmage. Stoops was concerned about Scalzo’s injury following the mock contest.

“We’ve got to look at how he is, but outside of that, we’re pretty healthy,” Stoops said. “We’ll see what the situation is with Nick. Other than that, we came out relatively healthy.”

Gametracker: Toledo at Kentucky, Saturday, Aug. 31, noon. TV/Radio: SEC Network, 98.1 FM WBUL.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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