By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops certainly liked Saturday’s scrimmage and the improved efficiency and energy he saw from his team on both sides of the ball.
“We got some good work in. Definitely really the best we’ve played this spring, for sure. Look a whole lot better. Again, not where we need to be. We’re a little bit nicked up at wide receiver, but overall I thought we really did some good things,” Stoops said. “No significant injuries. Good physical scrimmage, got a lot of plays in. Felt like the quarterbacks did some good things. So, overall very pleased with the effort.”
He said the scrimmage, which ended a bit earlier than scheduled, was a “lot better” than the first one this spring.
“We probably weren’t quite ready. That’s maybe why I was a little frustrated: looked a little bit sloppy,” he said. “But it was good to get back out there today. We had a couple days to meet and to get set and kind of just went out there today, basically got a warm-up, did a little seven-on-seven and did some special teams and rolled right into the scrimmage. So that was kind of good just to get into that mode, put the ball down and play.”
He said there was no noticeable edge for the offense or defense.
“I thought both. I really did. That’s why it’s hard for me, because if one side does well I’m disappointed in the other,” the UK coach said. “But I really did feel like both sides had some moments today. I thought we were a little bit more stout in some of the run game with the ones on defense. Had some good stops, but the offense bounced back, had some good drives, threw the ball well, caught it better. We’re still a little thin — I don’t want to get in too much to the injury situation, nothing major, but we’re still a little bit thin at wide receiver. But they still managed to throw it, catch it, move the ball.”
Stoops said it was nice to have more to work with now than he did a year ago during his first spring practice at UK.
“We feel better. At times, you get out here during practices and everything, we’re running a lot of teams and doing a lot of reps, so you’re getting ones, twos and threes,” he said. “Already in the spring, you’re already a little bit thin if you don’t have your whole group here. So it’s sloppy at times, but overall you put it together, get out there on the scrimmage and get going. We’re definitely further along. We just operate our offense and our defense better at this point. We’re getting there, getting better. Need to get everybody healthy obviously. We’re not deep enough to have a bunch of guys out.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown was just as happy as Stoops.
“Had a good day. Probably our best in a scrimmage or a game-type atmosphere — the best, just from the mechanics of the game, the best we’ve executed,” Brown said. “What I mean by that is playing at the tempo that we want to; we’re getting closer.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we ever were at any point last year. We didn’t have a single turnover, very few penalties. So all those types of things, a big-time improvement from where we were last spring and last fall.”
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot liked that his unit “played with some better energy” than in the first scrimmage.
“I think that we got some things to build on. Still got a long ways to go, but we got number of practices left to get better,” Eliot said. “I think that on defense we tried to just be vanilla. We weren’t trying to out-scheme anybody and we just wanted to find out who could make plays and who could play hard and so we got something to build on.”