Cats return to practice, focus on Florida

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team hit the practice fields for the first time this week, beginning preparation for the Southeastern Conference opener with No. 14 Florida on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

After practice, both offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and defensive coordinator Rick Minter talked about the running part of the game. Both put a point of emphasis this week in their respective run games.

The Wildcats currently rank 13th in the nation in passing offense but Sanders said he would like to run the ball more moving forward. UK’s tailbacks have combined to average more than six yards per rushing attempt this season.

“We need to run the ball better than what we have,” Sanders said. “I thought that we ran the ball pretty well against Louisville, but the game got out of hand and then we couldn’t run it. Last week, I would have liked to have ran the ball better than we did … We need to be able to run the ball more efficiently and consistently than we are right now.”

Developing a rushing attack this week is a stiff challenge for the Wildcats as Florida ranks 29th in the nation is rushing defense. Sanders said when asked what kind of defensive looks he expects in Gainesville on Saturday, “we are going to get a bunch of big, angry guys on the other side.”

On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats continue to work on its rushing defense. The Wildcats allowed 3.2 yards per rushing attempt vs. WKU, the best showing of the young season. However, Minter realizes that UK still has work to do, especially against Florida’s Mike Gillislee, who ranks first in the conference in rushing.

“We have to keep practicing,” Minter said. “We need to hold our edges when it is time to hold our edges and take our proper gaps when it is time to. They (Florida) have a lot of different kinds of ways to run the ball, which is challenging. They run right up the middle with the power running game, much like Western Kentucky did. That is a sign of a physical team when they try to do those things. They also run a lot of jet sweep plays where they are coming from the outside with their wide receivers and hybrid athletes. They have a lot of ways to attack you in the rushing game and they are getting a lot of production, even with a ‘Wildcat’ quarterback who took one for 80 last week against a solid defensive team. They are very diverse, much more so than I remember in the past. So the challenges are great, but we have to get out there and see what we can do.”

For the first time since early in fall camp, the Wildcats were forced inside to the Nutter Field House for practice due to a heavy amount of rain in the Lexington area over the last two days. Overall, Minter said Tuesday’s practice was good, but he expects Wednesday’s practice to be better. Minter said that is normally par for the course.

“Tuesdays are always much different than Wednesdays because today is the first day we have seen them since Sunday,” Minter said. “All we do Sunday is watch the film, correct the errors and those sorts of things. We didn’t even go out (to practice) because Rock (Oliver) takes them and exercises them and lifts them and runs them. They are always a little sluggish due to (lack of) playing reps on Tuesday and then you have the mental saturation when you introduce things for the very first time. Tomorrow’s practice will always be better than today’s practice in terms of a little more bounce and a little more secure.”

Kentucky will return to practice Wednesday as rain is expected to be out of the area by then.