By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday he wasn’t sure if he could trust UK’s depth against Florida Saturday any more than he could last week when the defense was on the field for 96 plays in the loss to Southern Mississippi.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said Wednesday that developing depth has been a major struggle for the last four seasons.
”I think that we’ve had some good players at different positions, but we’ve never really had them all at the same time. We had Bud (Dupree) and Za’Darius (Smith) here for a while, but we didn’t have the secondary that we have here,” Eliot said.
“I think that we’ve been able to develop players at different positions. We haven’t necessarily been able to develop enough for an SEC schedule at every position.
“Some of that’s just because guys take longer, some guys take longer to develop, and some of that is that maybe we had a player like Bud that was so good why would we ever want to put his backup in? You know? So the younger player behind him didn’t get developed.”
Eliot says younger players have to execute in practice to get on the playing field and give the coaches confidence to play them.
“We’re working on that, we’re working on getting as many guys as we can ready for the games and today was another step in the right direction,” Eliot said.
Two players that could play more this Saturday at Florida are T.J. Carter and Naquez Pringle.
“They have a lot of ability. Naquez is extremely strong, he’s a big load, he’s hard to move. He can knock people off the ball. And then T.J., for his size, is extremely athletic and physical. T.J. has a lot of talent as a defensive lineman. We’re wanting to get both of them on the field and trying to get them ready,” Eliot said.
But what happens if the young players are not ready and he has no confidence in them against Florida?
“We need to get more players on the field. We need to get more guys in the rotation. And so, you know, every day in practice is crucial,” Eliot said.
One player who figured to play more in game one was linebacker De’Niro Laster, but he played sparingly. Why?
“Laster is mainly working now at outside linebacker. He’s mainly playing outside linebacker. And so we’ve gone back and forth with him to figure out what’s the best fit for him and for us. That’s where he’s been getting a lot of reps now. He’s catching up on his assignments there and getting better every day,” Eliot said.