LEXINGTON, Ky. - With Kentucky having played just two games in the last three weeks and with an extra two days to prepare following a Thursday game, Mark Stoops said early Wednesday afternoon that the Wildcats are as healthy as they have been in a long while.
Later in the day, the Cats practiced at close to full strength and -- for the second time in as many days -- practiced well.
"I like the team's attitude and their work ethic, and again a pretty good, physical day, and I liked the energy," Stoops said. "I think we got better again today, so hopefully we'll keep on improving. We all know we need a lot of improvement, so another day in the books."
According to Stoops, execution in "crucial situations" is one of the areas in which UK needs to improve the most. Perfectly replicating game situations is impossible, but the coaching staff is doing its best in practice. Take third downs as an example.
"Just keep on working our third downs and different pressures and offensively execute in third downs and third and short, third and medium, third and long," Stoops said. "We need help in all of them. I think that's a big deal, just execution on those downs and getting as much different looks as we can, as much pressure on as we can in practice."
The Cats hope to improve on third downs solely by virtue of Jalen Whitlow's presence. The sophomore quarterback played only sparingly against Mississippi State due to injury, but has returned to the top spot on the depth chart and has been getting all starter reps in practice. Maxwell Smith and Reese Phillips are splitting snaps with the second team.
"I think in a perfect world we'd keep our quarterbacks healthy and whoever was in there would be running the offense efficiently," Stoops said. "And in this case, Jalen starting the game, it would be really nice to have him start a game and finish a game unless we decide to take him out for good reasons."
Whitlow is dealing with injuries to both his ankle and the AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder, but he will once again tough it out on Saturday against Alabama State.
"It will just be trying to play through pain," Whitlow said. "It hurts. I'm not going to lie. It hurts a little bit. But I'm just going to try to play through it."