LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky held its final practice on Thursday before facing Miami (Ohio), working in shorts to stay healthy ahead of its home opener on Saturday at noon ET.
Mark Stoops was pleased with the Wildcats' day.
"Good to wrap up the week's practices," Stoops said. "Good Thursday. Looking forward to moving on, getting to Saturday. So, good cleanup day today. Very good practice defensively, so ready to get out there and get going."
Stoops has had nearly a week to reflect on why UK didn't perform as it wanted to last weekend, but he hasn't identified a concrete reason. However, he has reason to believe the Cats will be better this weekend.
"I really don't know the exact reason why we didn't play as well as we could have," Stoops said, "but I think maybe there's less pressure this week and just more taking care of business and concentrating on the details but not -- you know -- maybe not as tight. I'd like to say that we seem more comfortable, and I hope it shows."
UK has spent the week toeing the line between short- and long-term preparation. Stoops wants to put his team in the best position possible to win games now, but not at the risk of mortgaging the future.
"We as a coaching staff and an organization are trying to find the right balance," Stoops said. "Just getting the most out of everybody, whether that's practicing harder or backing off a little bit or having that energy before the game or being calm. Everybody's got to do what they have to do to prepare to have a successful day."
Stoops spent the remainder of his Thursday session with the media fielding questions about individual players. He confirmed that TraVaughn Paschal will start at weak-side linebacker, while Khalid Henderson will back him up. Stoops also told reporters he was pleased with Daron Blaylock and his play on special teams after not being named a starter at safety.
"And I was very happy to see that, because once he lost his position, he has stayed consistent with his preparation and he went out and did a heck of a job on special teams and really worked hard and, like I said, helped us," Stoops said. "That's encouraging to see. I think he's earning our trust to possibly get more and more reps on the field as well."
Also getting more reps this week will be Ryan Timmons. The true freshman had two touches for 39 yards last Saturday, but had a crucial fourth-quarter fumble at the end of a 33-yard rush. Even so, he showed enough playmaking ability to move to the top of the depth chart at one wide-receiver spot.
"I think he's just a good football player, which we all like," Stoops said. "The game, it's not too big to him or anything like that. I expect he'll get better every time he steps on the field. He's just one of those guys. He has good vision, catches the ball well, he's strong."