Lexington, Ky. - UK took another step toward its matchup with Alabama, logging a solid day of detail-orientated preparation on Wednesday.
"Good work in today," head coach Mark Stoops said. "Good situations. Worked on some third down. Overall good day. Pleased. Pleased with the week so far, and we'll see if we can cap it off tomorrow with another good practice."
The coaching staff continues to emphasize third down on offense even though the Wildcats showed significant improvement against South Carolina. UK was a combined 1-for-21 converting third downs against Louisville and Florida and started 1 for 7 against the Gamecocks before converting its final four in a near-comeback.
Jalen Whitlow was a central figure as UK scored 21 fourth-quarter points, repaying Stoops for sticking with him at quarterback throughout.
Whitlow played the best game of his career last Saturday, completing 17-of-24 passes for 178 yards, running for 69 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns. Stoops attributes his emergence to a couple factors.
"I think some of it was confidence," Stoops said. "You could see he was a little bit uneasy, and he's working his way through that. I think, like I've said many times, it has to do with a lot of players around him. You gotta have good players around him making plays. A lot of times, quarterbacks look good because of the other players around them, and I think we're improving in that area as well."
Brown estimated that Whitlow got 65-70 percent of the snaps in practice last week and even more this week and UK's offensive coordinator agrees that assuming a more regular role has helped the sophomore.
"He's learning," Neal Brown said. "It's an ongoing process. He's learning how to prepare week in and week out. But as far as, I think his personality's coming forward a little bit more maybe. That would be fair to say as far as speaking up."
Whitlow, meanwhile, insists he has tried to approach his preparation the same way. He still treats practice as a competition, and so does Maxwell Smith.
"It's always competition, so you gotta try to be at your best because you don't want to go through what you've been through earlier," Whitlow said. "You just try to prepare and try to stay on top of your game."
Dupree sits out again
Defensive end Bud Dupree aggravated a strained pectoral muscle he suffered during weight training last week in making a sack against South Carolina. He has not returned to the field this week.
"He hasn't practiced," Stoops said. "He has not. Has not practiced, so it doesn't look good."
UK has been hard at work coming up with plans should Dupree be unable to go.
"Well, we're working on some things, but (Jason) Hatcher will get a amped-up role," Stoops said. "We're moving some guys around and getting the best options."