UK Football Notebook: Wednesday

After scrimmaging twice in the previous four days, Kentucky had what Mark Stoops described as a "pretty mellow day" on Wednesday in the Nutter Fieldhouse.

After scrimmaging twice in the previous four days, Kentucky had what Mark Stoops described as a "pretty mellow day" on Wednesday in the Nutter Fieldhouse.

"Just kind of cleaned up some things from camp," the UK head coach said. "Went a little lighter than usual today, and really just wrapped up some corrections from the scrimmage from yesterday, just cleaning up things, and we'll get started on Western (Kentucky) tomorrow."

Stoops said one of the main things he'd like to get improved between now and the season opener on Aug. 31 against the Hilltoppers is the defense's tackling. The unit got beaten badly at times in Tuesday's scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium.

"Position on the football," he said. "A good part of being a great tackling team is having good position on the ball, great leverage, and everybody being where they're supposed to be. Usually great team defenses are pretty good tacklers, and we need some work.

"If we play with great energy and we play with a lot of passion and we play very hard and we're in the right spots, you got a chance. Without that, you have no chance."

In defense of the unit, it has been without some of its main pieces recently due to injuries. The defensive line is playing without Za'Darius Smith (ankle). The secondary is playing without Cody Quinn (ankle). And cornerback Nate Willis was also held out of the last scrimmage with soreness in a hamstring.

Stoops said the defensive front, when healthy, is one of his smallest concerns on his first UK team.

"Once we get into our injuries and things like that on the defensive side of the ball, it kind of limits us some, but when we're healthy, I think both sides of the line of scrimmage are in decent shape," he said.

Sophomore defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree has been a consistent playmaker for the defense.

"Bud's active," Stoops said. "We've missed Z (Smith) the last couple of weeks. That slowed down some of that activity, but Bud, I'd say, is the most active guy up front."

"He's got a lot of juice off the edge," added UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown. "He's a quick-twitch guy, obviously, playing linebacker (last season). He's going to be as good, maybe minus (South Carolina's Jadeveon) Clowney and a couple other guys -- his initial burst off the edge -- as good as anybody we see."

Brown added that being able to replicate that kind of explosiveness each day in practice is helping his offensive line get better.

"Is it frustrating some?" Brown said. "Yes, because (Dupree) gets us some, and we also have to do some things protection-wise to go up against him in practice, which we'll use as we get into the season also.

"(Sophomore tackle) Jordan Swindle is a much better player because for all spring and all fall camp, he's lined up 90 percent of the time, Bud's been in front of him. His weaknesses have been exploited, and he's either had to get better or take a beating every day... and he has gotten better."

The Cats are still looking for answers at outside linebacker, where players like Kory Brown, Miles Simpson, Khalid Henderson, Josh Forrest and Malcolm McDuffen have been competing since the spring with little or no movement on the depth chart.

"In the perimeter, there's been nobody just jumping out, making a bunch of plays," Stoops said. "We've seen some improvement, but like I said, we've got a lot of work to do… I've said that since I've been here. We've got to continue to work."

Stoops Likes Schedule Change:

Earlier on Wednesday, the Southeastern Conference released its 2014 league football schedules. The UK slate featured a bombshell for fans across the Bluegrass State with the Wildcats' annual Governor's Cup game against Louisville moving to the last weekend of the regular season.

Asked if he was in favor of playing the game last, Stoops said: "I guess so. Why not? I just left a pretty good rivalry at the end of the year. The Florida-Florida State game's a pretty good rivalry at the end of the year… From my understanding, that's what was best for both conferences. That'll be great. That'll be fun."

Louisville is moving to the ACC for the 2014 season. The two leagues will have four in-state rivalry games played on the last week of November, including UK-UofL, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson.

Kentucky's final scheduled game had been Tennessee since the 1953 season. Only once have the Cats finished the regular season against another team, Indiana in 2001, due to the terrorist attacks associated with Sept. 11.


Raymond Sanders took a handoff from Maxwell Smith during the Fan Day open practice. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
Who's The Star?

Stoops was asked Wednesday who may emerge as the star of this year's team. There have been many candidates in fall camp, but the staff has been hesitant to pour too much praise on any single player.

"Well, we feel like we've got some good quarterbacks," Stoops said. "That's why there's been competition through camp…. I think Raymond (Sanders) may be a guy who we expect a lot out of."

Sanders, a 5-foot-8, 187-pound senior, has been described as an ideal fit for Neal Brown's new "Air Raid" offense thanks to his ability to make plays in the ground game and by catching passes out of the backfield.

He may not be the only standout in his position group. Brown said another veteran has stood out in camp as a potential star.

"Jonathan George has had two tremendous scrimmages," he said. "He's done very, very well. Those two seniors, we've leaned on them heavy."

Good Battle at ‘H' Receiver:

Freshman Ryan Timmons has put himself in contention for a starting role at the Cats' ‘H' receiver with an impressive camp. He's also lit a fire under one of UK's veterans he's competing against.

According to Brown, sophomore Daryl Collins has come on strong in recent days and turned in a good performance in the last scrimmage.

"I'm pleased with how Daryl Collins has stepped his game up and accepted the challenge that Ryan has given him," Brown said.

Timmons' explosiveness may be hard to overcome in this particular battle. The former Franklin County standout, who averaged a touchdown every 2.7 times he touched the ball as a senior, was one of the Bluegrass State's fastest and most elusive prospects in many years.

"Ryan can run," Brown said. "Ryan is familiar with this offense, so the learning curve wasn't as steep for him as it was for some of those other freshmen. And he's really good with the ball in his hands. He's fast and he can make people miss."

"Ryan is really electric with the ball in his hands," said UK wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord, who added that, when he first got to UK and watched Timmons' highlight film "I really got excited because I never saw anyone tackle him. I was excited that we had a chance to get a kid like that."

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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