The Kentucky football team changed up its fall camp routine on Friday for Fan Day.
Prior to a late evening practice, Wildcat players and coaches signed autographs for thousands of eager fans. The line of UK faithful waiting to meet Mark Stoops was particularly long, with many arriving hours prior to the event.
After signing for more than an hour, Stoops and UK practiced in Commonwealth Stadium for the first time this fall in front of a good crowd that braved a spotty weather forecast and rain toward the end of the night.
"It was, once again, very good support," Stoops said. "To come sign autographs for a couple hours and hang around practice, it's great to see."
Maybe it was the altered schedule, maybe it was nerves and maybe it was even sitting and signing for so long, but UK turned in its first lackluster practice of camp.
"It's a little different to come out here and sign autographs for a while, go in, get dressed and then come out," Stoops said. "Doesn't matter. No excuses. It's just not acceptable practice and we gotta get better."
Nonetheless, Stoops believes the group fans watched on Friday is better than the one that took the field the last time the Cats were in Commonwealth.
"We're a lot better right now even though, again, this wasn't one of our better practices," Stoops said. "That's why we practice: We need to get better. But overall we're executing better than in the spring by far."
UK wasn't able to work on multiple fields as it does at the Nutter Training Facility, but still made the most of space and time by working two groups at both ends of the field for much of the evening. Stoops and his coaches will begin to whittle down its depth chart "pretty soon," but for now all that work is necessary.
"That's why getting all these reps is going to help us," Stoops said. "It's going to help us build depth for years to come."
Not participating in practice on Friday were defensive end Za'Darius Smith, who wore a walking boot to protect an ankle he turned on Thursday. Stoops, however, said the injury was not major and turned the junior-college transfer "day-to-day." Defensive tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble were also limited, but reported little cause for concern.
"We need those guys to be healthy," Stoops said. "They'll be out there. They've been practicing. They're good. Nothing major there."
Returning to action was running back Dyshawn Mobley, who is working his way back from hernia surgery.