Cats Trying to Keep It Loose, Physical in Vandy Prep

Mark Stoops said Monday Kentucky would keep its foot on the gas pedal, not backing off physical practices as the Wildcats did late last year.

UK is putting the plan into action this week.

“We’ve had physical practices this year and today was one of them,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said on Wednesday. “We’re going to continue to do that at Coach Stoops’ direction throughout the season and throughout the week.”

The week is leading up to a Saturday trip to Vanderbilt (3-6, 1-4 Southeastern Conference), a game in which the Cats (4-5, 2-5 SEC) will look to end a four-game losing streak. Eliot sees UK being on the right path to this point.

“It was a good practice,” Eliot said. “Excited to be out there. Full-padded practice again on a Wednesday like it is every Wednesday, but we had some competitive periods with the offense and it’s always good to compete.”

That competition is exactly what Stoops and his staff are looking for in emphasizing late-season physicality in practice.

“Keep them on their edge,” Eliot said. “Keep playing fast. You go against each other and you go against fastballs and more physical blockers, more physical defensive linemen, more physical run plays. You want to keep them on edge and keep those techniques sharp.”

Along with encouraging players to keep their edge, the coaches are also thinking about the spirit of fun that has been missing at times during UK’s midseason swoon. The Cats want to balance intensity and looseness.

“We’re definitely concentrating on us and concentrating on getting better, but also while you’re out at practice having fun,” Eliot said. “You always play best when you play confident and you play to win, but you enjoy being out there and getting better.”