Defense leads the way

Coach Rich Brooks has said all week that the Kentucky defense has looked good during the first week of practice. The defenders showed why during Saturday's Fans' Day scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Coach Rich Brooks has said all week that the Kentucky defense has looked good during the first week of practice. The defenders showed why during Saturday's Fans' Day scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium.

The UK first-, second-, and third-team defensive units kept their offensive counterparts out of the end zone during the one-hour, 20-minute scrimmage. The offense had 17 total offensive possessions and managed just three field goals by kicker Taylor Begley. The first-team offense, led by sophomore quarterback Andre'Woodson, had six of the possessions and scored two of the field goals. The second-unit offense, directed by freshman Curtis Pulley, had four possessions and drove for the other field goal. The third-team offense, guided by redshirt freshman Joe Joe Brown, junior David Hamilton, and freshman Blake Bowling, did not score on seven possessions.

The defense did not force any turnovers, but did account for five quarterback sacks.

"The speed on defense is better," said Brooks, whose defensive unit is playing the 4-3 system this year after having played the 3-4 alignment the previous two seasons. "The offense made some good plays but wasn't consistent. The pass protection was mixed and the running lanes were not as good as they need to be. We have to get back on track with the offensive line. We just have to get better at it. This will be a good film for us to evaluate."

Brooks had praise for several Wildcat defensive players, most notably at linebacker and defensive end.

"(Freshman middle linebacker) Braxton Kelley keeps jumping out," Brooks said. "He's playing a position he's never played and showing the instincts he has is impressive. He's handling the transition from playing with his hand on the ground (defensive end) in high school to linebacker.

"(Freshman linebacker) Mikhail Mabry is making it hard on Wesley Woodyard to regain his starting position," Brooks continued. Mabry came out of spring practice as the starting weakside linebacker as Woodyard, a starter last season, had to miss the contact portions of spring while rehabilitating an injury.

"(Senior linebacker) Raymond Fontaine has made some plays, too. Although we're thin on experience at linebacker, they're playing very well right now.

"I'm feeling much better about the defensive ends," Brooks also noted. "Travis Day, Nii Adjei Oninku, and B. Jay Parsons are making plays." Each of those three players had a quarterback sack, tackle for loss, and/or pass breakup in the scrimmage.

Bright spots for the offense included a 34-yard pass from Woodson to Keenan Burton, who outdueled a defensive back to make the catch, and a solid rushing and receiving performance by senior tailback Arliss Beach. Beach caught several passes and made an impressive 30-yard run in which he bowled over a defensive back.

"Arliss is a really good back," Brooks said. "This is the first time in two years that he's been healthy after his ankle and shoulder injuries. The only saving grace to Tony Dixon's injury (see story below) is that we have some other good tailbacks in Arliss, Rafael Little, and Terrell Bankhead."

Begley, the senior from Danville, Ky., made all three of his field goal attempts from 31, 37, and 35 yards.

There was one injury during the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive tackle Jason Leger sustained what appeared to be a sprained knee ligament. Brooks noted that the injury did not appear to be serious, but more would be known within the next 24-48 hours.

Prior to the team's practice and scrimmage, the Wildcat players and coaches spent one hour, 40 minutes in Fans' Day activities, signing autographs and posing for photographs with fans.

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