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Football Practice Report: Wildcats bounce back with strong Wednesday

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STOOPS

ELIOT


At this stage in preseason camp, it is typical for young players to begin to hit the wall with physical and mental fatigue.

After Kentucky had a practice that left room for improvement on Tuesday evening, the coaching staff was eager to see how the team would react for Wednesday's practice.

"We had a good practice," UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "It was competitive, enthusiastic -- one of our most enthusiastic practices of training camp, which is good. The guys were flying around, playing fast, and it was encouraging.

"It was in response to yesterday. And sometimes that's the way it goes, you know? Guys have got to bounce back and they got to play better and they got to practice better and they did today."

Stoops echoed Eliot's assessment of the effort level in Wednesday's practice.

"Not bad work," UK head coach Mark Stoops said after coming off the practice field on a steaming Wednesday afternoon.  "We're getting to the point where guys are getting very beat up and wore down like you'd expect through two and a half weeks of camp. But we got some good situation work today."

After Stoops tabbed sophomore Patrick Towles the starting quarterback on Monday after a four-way competition for the spot, the announcement dominated the storylines over the last two days.

With Stoops, Eliot and UK's defensive players available to the media on Wednesday, the conversation shifted to the development of Eliot's squad. While Stoops has been dialed into the progress of the secondary, he emphasized that the linebackers were also ready to take that next step in their development.

"We have some (linebackers) that have done some nice things," Stoops said. "We need to be on point there. We can't be hit-and-miss and missing some responsibilities here and there. That's where, like I said earlier in the year, there's always that fine line. As you get into year two, as you get better and better, there's a balance between doing more things or being simpler. The better you are, the less you really have to do, to be honest with you. So, we'll see. We're working our way through that, but I think we have some guys to work with at linebacker. Josh (Forrest) has done a nice job. Ryan Flannigan has been a nice surprise. We've got to continue to get him a lot of reps and get him ready to go."

Kentucky's defensive unit is, as a whole, a more experienced group that will greatly benefit from being in the second year of Stoops and Eliot's system.

"They definitely do," Stoops said about the unit's increased understanding of what the defense is trying to accomplish. "That just comes from experience. Some of those guys are in year two. There are not as many newcomers. They had an offseason to look at things, what we did and did not do well. They had spring practice, so obviously they understand things better."

Over his career as a defensive coordinator, Stoops' teams have had notable improvement in his second year, something he is eager to see translate to his second-edition of the Wildcats.

"Yeah," Stoops said about the defense making a jump in year two. "I think you've always got to increase your talent level. You've got to make the players you have better. And I think we've done that. I think you've got to be able to execute the nuances of the defense. As you always talk about doing more or less, whatever it is, when you do it you got to be able to execute it right. You got to be more on point with what you're doing, and you've just got to play at a higher level. I think we're getting to that point. We're getting better. I don't know how much. We'll see how much of a jump we made. I know we've improved. I know we'll play better. To what extent, we'll see. We got to go prove it."

Just 10 days from the 2014 season lidlifter vs. UT Martin at noon ET on Aug. 30 at Commonwealth Stadium, Stoops is starting to get the squad geared towards preparation for the Skyhawks.

"We've got to get some guys healthy," Stoops said. "There's nothing major. A lot of lingering issues, bumps and bruises like you'd expect. But we've got to get some guys healthy and get them back out here, start our prep here for our first game here soon."

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