"...Never-ending Progress"

...The BigBlueNation caught up with the UK Wildcats' DE and Special Teams Coach Mark Nelson recently to get his thoughts on Spring practice in Lexington, success at Special Teams, and the prospects for the coming season. Here are some insights from a coach that believes in and inspires "never-ending progress." ( Photo Courtesy of UK Athletics )

To get the ball rolling we asked if there were there many changes this spring at DE.

"While we had a lot of kids nicked up at many positions, the depth charts didn't change much. The leaders going in are still there going into the off-season. Otis and Vincent are still the starters."

While we're on the subject, can you tell me a little more about your starters and what you do to motivate these guys to get better once they earn that starting role?

"Well, Otis and Vincent are both self-motivators. The best players are. The great thing about Otis is that he is a student of the game. He's a technician. He works hard in everything he does and makes up for many things with a great work ethic. On and off the field he pushes himself. Vincent was slowed a little by injury this spring, as you know. The hardest part for him was not being out there playing every chance. With both of these young men I don't so much motivate as I do push them to be better players wherever possible."

Coach Nelson went on to say that for the most part the changes this spring occurred in the backup positions at DE as they did with many positions on the team. With a lot of the starters banged up, the backups got significant minutes. He's confident that will be reflected in increased time for them and will allow for more time to rest the starters this season. "Mielsch, Holts, Fontaine and Steuber all got a lot of reps. These guys are going to play. Trey and Deion really made an impression, but all of the backups have improved."

So, we could be looking at fresher legs in the 4th quarter this fall, and not just among the defensive ends. Coach observed this among other positions as well. "The young corners Coach McGriff is working with as well as some of the outside safeties are really coming along. Huffman, Williams, and Agboke all had a good spring. Some of the walk-ons at OL, too." All-around "team improvement" was what he saw.

And what you thought was improvement on special teams last year? Forget about it. The former Special Teams Coach of the Year in the CFL didn't see it that way, "We weren't good (on special teams) last year. We're gonna get better." The reasons we will be better, he said, "...there shouldn't be any more 80 rep games for the starters at every position. We haven't been able to use our starters on special teams because they've played too many snaps at their regular positions." That is where backups like Mielsch, Huffman, Abdullah, Fontaine, Holts, and Williams really will make a difference for UK. They will give the starters the breaks they need and allow special teams to be as effective as possible.

The difference between last year and this year according to Coach Nelson is that, "...more kids will definitely be playing". So, if you're the "glass is half full" kind of person, here's the silver lining to the cloud of spring injuries for the Wildcats this year. As unfortunate and unwanted as they were, they may have helped pave the way to progress.

AllWildcats Top Stories