LEXINGTON, Ky. - Mark Stoops was all smiles as he left the field at the Nutter Training Facility on Wednesday morning.
His team had just concluded the first half of the second two-a-day of fall camp and the first-year Kentucky head coach saw positives on both sides of the ball.
"I'm in a good mood," Stoops said. "Good practice. Very pleased. I thought we did some really good things. Offensively, had a very good practice, the best they've been in blitz pick-up and a lot of drills, then didn't have a great team (period), but I think the defense had a better team period today."
In addition to the blitz pick-up drill, the offense was solid during the practices run segment, while the defense asserted itself during the second half of the session. Even though he's an offensive coach, Neal Brown concedes that that kind of tug-of-war is ideal.
"There was some give and take, which is positive because you never want to be where offense completely dominates your preseason or spring or defense completely dominates either," Brown said. "So today we really had our best day."
Bad injury news threatened to derail the day when Zach Myers - one of two main contenders to start at center - went down with a foot injury early in practice. Stoops said the initial diagnosis is that the injury is "nothing major," but it still underscores the balancing act coaches must undertake in structuring practice while building depth.
"It's a very physical league," Stoops said. "You have to be tough and you have to be physical, but yet we're not very deep. So we're still going about our business, trying to find that balance. But we've been very physical. (Myers) got hurt on a physical drill at the beginning of practice, but we need that. We can't slow down."
UK got a boost at a position where depth is particularly problematic as cornerback Nate Willis arrived on campus. The junior-college transfer completed coursework at Arizona Western College this week and flew into Lexington Wednesday morning. He filled out paperwork and got a physical this morning, but will practice with his new team this afternoon. Willis will likely be thrown into the fire quickly with Cody Quinn sidelined by an ankle injury.
Another day passed at fall camp without any official announcement about a depth chart at quarterback, but Brown confirmed Stoops' comment that the race is becoming clearer.
"We're getting closer," Brown said. "Nothing we're going to talk about, but we're getting closer. We're getting some separation there, which I think's good because I think anytime you get separation it means people are starting to play well. That's been a positive."
Stoops said on Tuesday that contender Jalen Whitlow, due to his athleticism, will likely have a role even if Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles or Reese Phillips wins the job. Brown agrees with that as well.
"I thought Coach Stoops voiced it very well: He's going to play at some point," Brown said. "If he wins the job, he wins the job and plays all the time. If he doesn't, then he's going to play some."
The coaches still have given no official timeframe on a decision, but for the first time Brown suggested it could be made and not announced publicly.
"There's a good chance," Brown said. "I don't know, that's going to be up to Coach Stoops. But I figure, why tell Western (Kentucky, UK's first opponent)? Let them figure it out."