UK Developing Front-Seven Depth before Florida
The Swamp is going to earn its nickname this weekend.
Temperatures for a game between Kentucky and Florida that will kick off at 3:30 p.m. are expected to climb into the 90s, the heat index into triple digits.
Playing a thin rotation in such an environment really isn’t an option.
“We do have to continue to bring some guys along,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “We played 95 snaps this past week. We played our starters too many snaps. We’re going down in The Swamp, different talents, probably very hot and humid. Hopefully we won’t have 95 snaps again but you never know.”
UK will rely on its offense to lighten the defensive load on Saturday, but the Wildcats are preparing like they’ll need all the depth they can get anyway.
Last weekend, Kentucky substituted very little in its front seven, leaving many Wildcat linebackers and defensive linemen on the field for very long stretches. This week in practice, the coaches are working to bring more players into the rotation.
“We’ll get them ready and that just comes from hard work in practice and the trust to get them in there and get them some game reps,” Stoops said. “We’ll run some guys along this week, play some different guys up front.”
The first position Stoops named was nose guard, the spot junior Matt Elam manned for upward of 80 snaps against Southern Miss. There, Naquez Pringle will play more of a role.
“Naquez is extremely strong, he’s a big load, he’s hard to move,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said, referencing Pringle’s ability to bench 355 pounds and squat more than 700 pounds. “He can knock people off the ball.
Pringle was itching to play last weekend, but he’s not getting ahead of himself now that more playing time is on the horizon.
“I just gotta stay humble and keep a level head and just be ready for it,” Pringle said. “I just gotta be ready when the coaches call my number.”
Elsewhere, Stoops named De’Niro Laster at a pass-rushing outside linebacker spot and freshman T.J. Carter at defensive end as possible contributors. But before they can do it on Saturday, they need to take care of business during the week.
“They have to execute in practice,” Eliot said. “So as soon as they execute enough in practice to have us feel confident in playing them then they’ll get more reps. And so we’re working on that, we’re working on getting as many guys as we can ready for the games and today was another step in the right direction.”