By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — After a lackluster performance in the first scrimmage of fall camp, Kentucky’s defense took a step forward and has been in the upswing for the past two weeks.
“As a whole (on) defense we’ve picked it up,” Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said Thursday. “We felt the urgency a little bit. We did some things in the second scrimmage that were better, we did some things in the second scrimmage that maybe weren’t quite as good as the first scrimmage. I think we’ve found a little bit more consistency, especially in today’s practice.”
That’s good news, considering Kentucky’s defensive unit — mainly the secondary — is inexperienced going into the season opener in less than two weeks.
White singled out the improvement of veterans Quinton Bohanna, T.J Carter and Calvin Taylor during preseason camp.
“If they’re talking, that means they’re getting mental reps while those two’s are going,” White said. “They’re not just playing around in the back, they’re not just trying to get water, they’re not just trying to take a knee. They’re dialed in from started to finish. Even if you’re not in there getting a physical rep, you can always get a mental rep, and we try to preach that to the guys. … When you get that kind of leadership, good things happen.”
Josh Paschal, Boogie Watson and Jordan Wright also have been impressive, while Jared Casey, a true freshman, could be among the newcomers to watch on defense. Wright could be poised for an expanded role on defense and enduring what White termed a “little bit of a roller coaster.”
“He’d have some good weeks and he’d be excited and then he’d fall off a little bit or he’d get dinged and he’d have an injury,” White said. “It’s been his most consistent four weeks thus far and we need to keep that, because he’s playing at a high level right now at both (linebacker) positions.”
The biggest question mark remains the secondary and White isn’t sure exactly what to expect when the season kicks off against Toledo on Aug. 31.
“Some of it we’re gonna have to see how they react,” White said. “Are they gonna be able to put it behind ’em? Because in this league, against the wide receivers and the quarterbacks that you’re gonna have to face, plays are gonna be made.
“It’s the ones that can put it behind ’em and continue to compete at a high level that are the good ones and the great ones. The ones that sulk, the ones that put their head down, the ones that are thinking about it for the rest of the game, those are the ones that’ll get beat consistently and until you’re in that situation, we won’t know.”
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.