Stoops: Cats sloppy in Fan Day practice

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was not pleased with the focus he saw from the Wildcats during their Fan Day open practice at Commonwealth Stadium.

Fans got their first look at the Wildcats since spring practice during Friday night's open practice, but Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said his team didn't show supporters who braved steady rain at Commonwealth Stadium the same kind of focus they've had since camp began.

"A little bit sloppy today," Stoops said. "I don't know… It was our first time practicing at the stadium. Just the organization and everything, it wasn't as crisp as we have been. A little bit of weather, and we got off schedule because they said some lightning was coming in, so we skipped a punt period, got off track a little bit. No excuses. Not an acceptable practice. We've got to get better."

The first three practices of fall camp had been much more satisfying from Stoops' standpoint.

"It was the first practice I had to walk off and be disappointed," he said. "I just didn't think the energy was great or our concentration was great. I didn't think we executed as well as we have. All the dropped balls… Just overall sloppy."

UK's quarterbacks – Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips – appeared to throw the ball well, but the workout was plagued by many dropped passes.

"Too many balls on the ground," Stoops said. "We haven't seen that through camp. We've been practicing a little bit better than that."

Although the receiving corps was inconsistent as a whole, Stoops was pleased with the performance of newcomers like Javess Blue, Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons and Alex Montgomery. Blue, one of the nation's top juco receivers in the Class of 2013, showed why he was so heavily sought-after, making several nice catches and runs after catching the ball. Badet, a freshman from Florida, got behind the defense several times and made big plays with his speed.

"They've been impressive the whole time. They really have," Stoops said. "What I noticed today just from the naked eye is they had a good day again."

Asked how much the new blood at wide receiver has eased his concerns about the position coming out of spring practice, Stoops said: "We're a lot better right now, even though this wasn't one of our better practices. But overall, the group is executing better than it did in the spring. By far."

Stoops said he would need to watch film on the practice before he could comment in depth on the quarterbacks' play. "I was with the defense a lot today, so I've got to watch the film."

Right tackle could be a key position for the Wildcats this season opposite standout Darrian Miller on the left side. Sophomore Jordan Swindle is currently running with the first team, and appeared to have a strong showing on Friday, particularly when matched up with expected defensive standout Alvin "Bud" Dupree at defensive end.

"I like him," Stoops said. "He always fights hard. He's a battler. I think he's going to be a good player because he cares, it's important to him, and he fights."

The first-team defense was without some of its key players on the defensive line. Defensive end Za'Darius Smith was sidelined with a "boot" protective device on an ankle after rolling it during Thursday's workout. Defensive tackles Donte Rumph were also held out of 11-on-11 work. None are considered to be major issues, though, Stoops said.

"We need them to be healthy (for the season)," Stoops added.

Asked about the performance of his defensive backfield on Friday, Stoops continued to stress that group needs to get better as the season approaches.

"They were doing some good things, but we're just OK there," he said. "We need to improve."

The Cats plan to have their first full-scale scrimmage a week from Saturday.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.
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