By LARRY VAUGHT
No one could have been surprised that Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, a former defensive coordinator, was not happy with UK’s defense in its first preseason scrimmage on Saturday.
Remember Kentucky lost national defensive player of the year Josh Allen off last year’s team along with another three-year starter at linebacker in Jordan Jones. The entire secondary from last year is gone and UK’s most experienced returning defensive back went down with a season-ending leg injury before practice even started.
“Defensively, we got a lot of work to do. I was disappointed with the strength of our team,” Stoops said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “The inexperience is no excuse, but you know you’re going to make some mistakes, and some things are going to happen. But the strength of our team needs to be the strength.”
Granted, UK has only been practicing a week. However, the first game is only three weeks away against Toledo, a team with a potent offense.
“I just didn’t feel like we were up to the challenge defensively. That’s disappointing. Fortunately, we have a lot of time left to get some things rectified,” Stoops said.
The flip side is that when one unit looks bad in a preseason scrimmage, the other side looks good. Stoops said he was “really pleased” with UK’s offense.
“I thought we really played and did some good things. Things that set us back were some typical mistakes, things that have hurt us in the past. We’ve gotta get those corrected,” Stoops said.
“We were sloppy. We did take care of the football, but any time we got behind the chains with a sack or anything, it was hard to overcome. But overall, they did some good things.”
One plus for the offense was that Justin Rigg, No. 1 on the tight end depth chart, had four catches. Kentucky expects Riggs, Keaton Upshaw and Brenden Bates to provide big targets for quarterback Terry Wilson all season.
“We did hit them through the middle there,” Stoops said. “They’re big targets and really make good adjustments to the ball. I think we need to continue to build on that. That’s good for Terry to have that comfort zone with some targets like that, to be able to throw to some guys.”