For a Kentucky defense giving up an average of 195 rushing yards per game, Saturday’s matchup against a Vanderbilt offense known for its versatile ground attack will be a challenge.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot elaborated on what makes Vandy so hard to defend and what UK has to do to stop them earlier this evening after practice.
"Well, they have a very good scheme. They have a lot of different personnel groups and a lot of different ways to attack you, and their players execute their scheme very well. You’ve got to be sound. You’ve got to be physical. Ultimately you have to tackle well."
The Vanderbilt game might be the most important game of the season because if Kentucky wins they stop a four-game losing streak and are one game away from bowl eligibility.
That is a lot of pressure for any team but for one that plays as many freshmen as Kentucky does having seniors is a real blessing.
"It always helps to have seniors, guys that have been there and guys that haven't been there. I think our senior leadership has been very good down this tough stretch. I anticipate that they will lead our team very well towards the end", Eliot said on the subject.
Another big boost for UK this week is a healthy Jason Hatcher. The junior defensive end has been limited the last two weeks with ankle injury, but Eliot thinks he'll be back at full speed Saturday.
"I think to have him back would give us some more depth and give us some more speed at that outside linebacker/defensive end spot. I think he's close. He's had a good week of practice and we're anticipating him to play on Saturday."
During the week, Shannon Dawson and Mark Stoops mentioned that getting the team to play loose is another must for the team if it wants to break the losing streak. Eliot agrees with that sentiment.
"We definitely have been concentrating on us and getting better but also while you are at practice having fun. You always play best when you play confident and play to win, but you also enjoy being out there and getting better too."
Since Kentucky does play many underclassmen it is safe to assume that making a mistake will increase their fear of making another, but Coach Eliot does not see that with his team. While he’s seen some players make mistakes, he believes that the coaching staff has done a good job helping the players correct their errors and keeping them confident.