Plagued by injury, but still sitting 5-1, the UK football team is heading into their bye week with high hopes and high expectations.
The Cats had several players sit out or be taken out of their win against Missouri on Saturday, including All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones and senior leader Nick Haynes.
The team ran a light practice Tuesday, where they’ll look to recharge before preparing for Mississippi State on Oct. 21.
During the light practice Tuesday, Jones practiced without contact, according to head coach Mark Stoops. Stoops said that the plan was to have Jones back by the game against the Bulldogs. Other injuries, including those to Chris Westry, Naquez Pringle and Courtney Love, should be resolved by the end of the week, and Stoops said he expects that those players will be practicing well before game day.
Luke Wright, the backup quarterback that collapsed on the sideline during the Missouri game, is still expected to be part of the team, Stoops said.
“[Wright]’s getting better. I mean, obviously I can’t get into details about that but everything’s been positive,” Stoops said. “Any of the tests that he’s done so far, everything’s been positive. So he’s feeling better, his parents are in town, he’s doing better.”
After the team is at full strength, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said that the biggest point for the offense moving into the last six games of the season was touchdowns in the red zone.
“We’re 90% right now scoring [in the red zone], but we’re 55% touchdown and we need to be at 65 or 70,” Gran said. “That should’ve been done easy already. We have really, really messed up some things.”
To get into the end zone, the ever-changing UK offensive line has to hold their ground, something they’ve improved on with the emergence of freshman center Drake Jackson.
“He’s a very conscientious player,” offensive line coach John Schlarman said after practice Tuesday. “Learns, wants to learn, wants to be a student of the game, so I see him learning a lot from his mistakes or from other guys kind of giving him advice, older guys maybe, if that be the case.”
With the bye week giving the injured Cats a chance to rest and the younger players a chance to improve for the second half of the season, UK expects to be a tough team as they continue their tough hunt for a bowl game.