Wildcats stay sharp midway through opening game week

By: Jake Most - UK Athletic Media Relations
By: Jake Most - UK Athletic Media Relations

Fall classes began on the University of Kentucky campus Wednesday.

The start of the academic semester may have added a new dynamic to the Wildcat football team's preparations for Saturday's season-opener, but once the team stepped onto the Tim Couch Practice Fields for Wednesday's practice their focus appeared to be squarely on WKU.

The Wildcats could focus almost exclusively on football the previous 24 days since reporting for fall camp. Balancing a fulltime students' schedule with the responsibilities that go along with playing on a Southeastern Conference football team will now come into play.

At least through one day, the Wildcats are answering the challenge.

Considering the start of classes, that it was a hot humid day in Lexington, the fact that the Wildcats have been in "game week" preparations since last Thursday and Eric Korem's High Performance player tracking, Mark Stoops worked his team out in just helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on Wednesday.

"It was just good work today," the UK head coach said. "We just lightened up a little bit and went in just uppers and had about an hour and a half workout and again just worked a lot of situations and just getting ready to go."

Midway through Kentucky's first game week preparations under Stoops, UK's top two quarterbacks have been among the most impressive Wildcats by the coaching staff's accounts.

"They've practiced really sharp," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said of Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. "It's kind of the way you want it to happen. When you kind of get centered in on what you're going to do, they're getting a lot of reps, especially the first game.

"I guess we've been repping Western Kentucky since last Wednesday or Thursday. So we've got a lot of reps in the things we're going to do. We're going to be relatively simple, so they've been sharp, especially the last two days."

Much of the external focus around UK's 2013 offense has centered on quarterbacks, but Brown is quick to point out the running game's importance within the team. UK's offensive coordinator wants his Air Raid attack to pose just as much of a threat to opposing defenses from the ground.

Brown's track record backs up his desire to balance his pass-happy scheme with an efficient rushing attack. Texas Tech rushed for 135.7 yards per game and scored 52 rushing touchdowns during the past three seasons with the current UK coordinator at the offensive helm.

Texas Tech finished last season second nationally in passing offense, while TTU's primary backs averaged 5 yards per carry to complement the lethal pass offense.

"We need to run the ball," Brown said. "That's going to be the case for most of the year. Those guys that are out there, whoever we put at wideout, we're going to have trust in them and have confidence in them that they can make plays. We're not going to alter from a play standpoint what we did at Texas Tech. We gave those guys an opportunity to make plays at Tech and we're going to do the same here and have full trust in those guys."

After some speculation over the summer, Stoops also confirmed that the Wildcats will take on a new look when entering stadiums before games this fall.

"We're wearing a sport coat and khaki pants and a button-down shirt," Stoops said. "Tie's optional, but it's a nice, clean-looking shirt, button down and all that. So we should look good."

With the questions about Kentucky's pregame sartorial choices answered, attention may turn to the uniform UK chooses to wear at LP Field. That question, however, may not be answered until Saturday evening.

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