UK Football practice report: Aug. 31


Members of the University of Kentucky Football Team hangout on the field during the media day at Kroger Field on Sunday July 30, 2017 in Lexington, KY.

Chase Campbell

In the second to last practice before UK Football travels to Hattiesburg to try to exact their revenge on Southern Miss, head coach Mark Stoops spoke to the media Thursday about a couple last-minute focal points for the Cats.

Stopping Ito Smith

Stoops emphasized the importance of team defense after being asked about the Golden Eagles’ dynamic senior running back. Smith ran all over the Cats last season, racking up 179 yards on the ground while averaging nearly five per carry. He also led the Golden Eagles in receptions with five for 40 more yards.

Stoops said that when reviewing the tape, the most obvious thing to them was missed tackles, but that bad positioning was the core of the problem.

“When you’re not playing great team defense, really good athletes are going to expose you really quickly,” Stoops said after practice.

His hope is that with a veteran defense that has experience against Southern Miss, Smith won’t have nearly as explosive of a game as he had in the 2016 season opener.

Using the clock wisely

While no coach is unhappy with their team scoring the ball quickly, Stoops did say that he wanted his team to have a longer time of possession than they did in last year’s battle with Southern Miss.

“The time of possession was out of control,” Stoops said. “That’s no good by the defense not getting off, but the offense was either scoring in one or two plays, or throwing two incomplete passes and then scoring.”

He wants UK to be able to grind it out a bit more on offense to control the amount of time the Golden Eagles have to work with.

Controlling the excitement

The Cats’ season opener in Hattiesburg will also be a homecoming game for starting center Jervontius “Bunchy” Stallings. He’s expected to have around 50 family members attending the game, and Stoops does have some concern about controlling the level of excitement for his players.

He said that Stallings has, “a lot of family members, so that’ll be fun for him, and exciting, and you know, I think we all have to learn from that, that first game.”

He continued, saying that, “everybody’s excited to play, but you have to be very poised and you’ve got to execute.”