Observations from UK football’s open practice


Head coach Mark Stoops of the Kentucky Wildcats looks on during the second half of the TaxSlayer Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at EverBank Field on Saturday, December 31, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

For the first time all spring, UK football opened up its practice to media on Thursday, giving media the chance to see what the Cats are working on heading into the Blue-White spring game. 

The practice lasted a little over two hours and concluded with some team scrimmaging situations inside Kroger Field after starting off with solo drills inside the Joe Craft Training Center. 

There was a lot to take in on Thursday’s practice; here are the highlights:

Offense has a good day.

After struggling in the scrimmage last Saturday, the offense seemed to have a better day against the defense with receivers running good routes and quarterbacks completing passes in tight windows.

“It was good to see the offense make some competitive plays, you guys were in there and saw some of that during the early part of practice and there at the end on the last play,” head coach Mark Stoops said. 

The last play of the practice caused the most excitement with the team. About 25 yards away from the end zone on fourth down, Terry Wilson threw a well-placed ball to David Bouvier, who caught the pass with one hand on the goal line.

That was arguably the best offensive play of the day, along with another fantastic catch from Brett Slusher off a touchdown pass from Danny Clark. 

“When they throw the ball in good places, just like the last play of that team period there that you guys saw – you got to catch it, but that was a fantastic catch that leads to a touchdown, that makes the quarterbacks look good,” Stoops said. 

For the most part, Wilson and Gunnar Hoak split first team reps, but Wilson had the better day. None of the drives Hoak ran ended in a touchdown while Wilson led two drives that ended in the end zone.

Mid-year enrollee stepping up at thin position

After practice, Mark Stoops announced that Jordan Jones suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out until August.

Jones isn’t the first inside linebacker to get injured this spring, as Jamin Davis is also out for the spring with a knee injury. Filling into the inside linebacker spot in Thursday’s practice was mid-year enrollee DeAndre Square.

“The thing that I like about DeAndre that you don’t necessarily know until you get him here is he loves contact,” defensive coordinator Matt House said. “He’s not scared to mix it up and he’s really serious about his craft of getting better.”

Square’s head coach is also pleased with the progress the freshman from Detroit has made.

“You can tell he’s got a lot of natural instincts; I like the way he’s playing,” Stoops said.

While his instincts and talent have helped Square move up the depth chart, Square attributes a lot of his early success to activities off the field.

“Just studying and being here extra hours after practice, coming in watching film,” Square said.

Adding Square to the mix of rotational players would provide a big boost to the defense that’s already thin close to the summer. The lone starting position that needs replaced from last season was the linebacker position that belonged to Courtney Love, who was actually present at Thursday’s practice.

Darius West experimenting with linebacker

Since the inside linebacker position is so thin, Darius West also got some linebacker reps on Thursday and didn’t make any noticeable lapses. 

West usually plays in the backfield with the safeties, but Stoops is comfortable moving the six-foot 210-pound safety in the box if needed.

“In our bass defense, he drops into the box and basically plays a linebacker position, so he can do it relatively easy,” Stoops said. “It gives us some other options in different packages to play that spot.”

West actually played some linebacker early in high school, and his dad was a linebacker when he played football. 

West hasn’t played any linebacker since coming to UK, but he isn’t having too hard of a time transitioning over to the new position

“It’s the same type of defense, we all do the same thing,” West said.

West is a team player and said he’ll do what it takes for his team to win, and he’s also pleaed the coaching staff is giving him another way to get on the field.

“It makes me just want to become a better player and add things to my game that I need to get better at,” West said.