Kentucky defense ready for the Tiger Tempo Test


Kentucky Wildcats linebacker DeAndre Square fights for the ball during the game against South Carolina at Kroger Field on Saturday September 29, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 24-10. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Eric Decker

Every time Mark Stoops’ team has made a mistake so far this season, his staff has been able to blow the whistle and correct it without repercussions. Starting Saturday, that’s no longer the case

Auburn has historically been one of the higher-powered offenses in the SEC. And with former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris as offensive coordinator, the Tigers system will heavily rely on no-huddle and quick decisions that force defenses into confusion.

“Tempo always creates a little bit of issue in terms of communication both from the sideline to the field and on the field amongst the players,” Coach White said. “Until you experience it live you can’t rep it quite the same in practice. We can try to get it as close as we can, and we’ve attempted to, but it’ll be a whole different speed once you’re out there on Saturday.”

Even some of the more experienced players on UK’s defense know that tempo is going to be a struggle to deal with at first, citing that it could create some issues early on.

“You’re going to have people that’s tired, you’re going to have people that’s not getting the call,” linebacker DeAndre Square said. “Just getting the call and getting back set is probably going to be the biggest challenge.”

The tempo is created the coaching staff, but it’s executed by Auburn’s rising sophomore quarterback Bo Nix. After beating now Kentucky Wildcat Joey Gatewood in the quarterback battle last year as a true freshman, Nix should be looking to make a significant leap after a promising campaign in 2019.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Josh Paschal said.

Coach White offered his own praise, and described how the Cats would need to try and wrangle Nix in, mentioning his ability to go off script.

“As far as getting pressure on Bo, you’ve got to be smart in how you do it,” he said. “He’s so athletic in terms of being able to extend plays and make plays… you’ve got to pick and choose when you want to pressure him.”

Despite concerns over tempo and other factors with the Tiger offense, White seemed pretty certain that his defense is capable and equipped to slow them down.

“I expect them to come out and play physical… we have got to match their intensity,” he said. “At some point we have to exceed that if we want to win this game.”

The Tigers boast a good amount of talent in the backfield, even after losing JaTarvious Whitlow’s 10 touchdowns from 2019. Shaun Shivers and D.J Williams are now set to split the load for Auburn.

“[Shivers] is a smaller back but he’s still pretty quick and the other two back are kind of bigger,” Square said. “During preparation I just try to get my fits right and I fit them all the same, just come down and play how I’ve been playing.”

The Tigers will rely on the combo of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz on the outside. The two juniors are looking to improve their production after promising sophomore campaigns.

Williams in particular poses a serious threat to the Kentucky secondary. He totaled more than 800 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and has the size to win 50/50 balls against Wildcat defensive backs.

“You could argue that they’re two of the best receivers in the league,” White said. “[Seth] can really make contested catches. He uses his size really well; you don’t see him drop balls… both of them present unique challenges to our guys and to how we’re going to approach this game.”