By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics
Mark Stoops will never accept a lackluster practice, but he would have at least understood if Kentucky had had one on Tuesday.
It turns out he was in for a pleasant surprise.
“I was impressed with practice being that we had the long layoff with spring break,” Stoops said, “so kind of figured it would be a little slow, a little sluggish, need to prod them a little bit, but they came in with a good attitude.”
After the Wildcats had their first two practices of the spring two weeks ago, they spread far and wide for spring break. They returned from a week away for their third of 15 practices this spring on Tuesday.
“Had a good practice,” Stoops said, “were sloppy from time to time as you could expect from having that many days off with spring break, but they really have been consistent in their approach to practice and I’ve been impressed with that. So that’s been a good step for us.”
The practice also happened to be UK’s first in pads since the end of the 2015 season. Stoops won’t pass final judgment until later, but his initial impression was good.
“There were some guys that looked like we were more physical; we’ll see,” Stoops said. “I’ll go watch the film here right now, but overall, pleased with practice, pleased with their effort and enthusiasm and the way we’re approaching it.”
Seeing physical improvement
It makes sense that UK would look better in pads, what with the way Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis praised the program at its pro day earlier this month for the physical improvement he’s seen in the Cats. That growth has been Stoops’ handiwork, both in recruiting and in installing a rigorous strength and conditioning regimen.
“I just think it doesn’t take much when you walk around our building and you see our players and you see our young guys watching the older guys and you see the players, just physically,” Stoops said. “I would say that, and you’ve heard me talk about that the past couple years: We’re starting to look like that, starting to have that length that you need and the mass that you need. As you’ve heard me say, you need some sharp arrows to work with.”
The idea of spring practice is to further hone those naturally sharper arrows. With another practice Thursday and a scrimmage ahead on Saturday, so far so good.
“We’ll see if we can continue to do it the rest of the week, and that will be the key for us to be consistent throughout this spring, throughout this next four weeks to get much better,” Stoops said.