The Kentucky Wildcats are in the midst of what defensive coordinator DJ Eliot described as "the grind" of multiple two-a-day practices, which he believes is excellent preparation for the brutal gauntlet of SEC play.
Eliot said that so far they have been "good physical practices" but that the team still has "got some things to clean up."
However, when he spoke with the press earlier today, Eliot was not harsh in his assessment of the defense but honest and fair.
Below are the highlights of his remarks.
The most glaring hole on Kentucky’s defense is the lack of experience in the middle of the field at linebacker. Eliot said that at this point there is not any one thing that is not difficult for the group.
"Anything’s tough to do when you have guys that don’t have a whole lot of experience", he said.
So far the linebackers have struggled the most in the details of blitzing assignments.
Eliot hopes that putting a personal touch on the experience will help his players.
"I tell our defensive players all the time, I’m not trying to beat the offensive coordinator. I’m trying to beat the quarterback. I’m not trying to confuse the offensive coordinator. I’m trying to confuse the quarterback."
Even with their struggles, Eliot is still pleased with the unit and thinks they have come a long way since the start of camp.
The coaching staff has consistently praised redshirt freshman Eli Brown’s play and Eliot thinks that Brown has made huge strides in the last year. A lot of that has to do with his redshirt year.
Often a redshirt year for a college football is a blessing and not a curse because it allows them to slowly build experience and gain familiarity with the scheme the team runs, a process that was beneficial for Brown.
As a result Brown "can really concentrate on the details of things because he’s not expected to know the whole scheme by Saturday."
According to Coach Eliot, there is a much to like about what Brown brings to the table as a player in spite of his never having played a down of college football.
"Eli has a knack of getting to the ball. He has very good instincts. He’s always in good body position. He’s an excellent tackler. He makes a lot of plays. His size was the concern last year. He’s put on some weight. He’s still growing. You know he still hasn’t played a snap of college football and there’s still a lot to learn, but I’ve been very impressed with his work over training camp."
Kentucky’s defensive line was the biggest story of camp last week thanks to the temporary departure of Regie Meant. However, Meant’s absence opened up opportunities for other players like Courtney Miggins.
Much of Miggins better play is the result of him getting to go through a full year of practice and offseason workouts.
"Courtney Miggins is a player that didn’t get here until August last year and was a second team player the whole season last year. This year he’s been in that starting role. He got to go through an offseason workout, he got to go through a summer workout, got to go through a spring ball, and I’ve really seen his play pick up", Eliot said.
- Coach Eliot gave a brief update on the progress of prized in-state recruit Kash Daniel, saying that "it was good that he was here in the spring because it got him a little bit further ahead of the scheme and the playbook. Kash plays very hard. Kash is a physical player. Still has some assignment things and some technique things that he needs to improve on, but he’s doing a good job."
- Facing a duel threat QB like Stephen Johnson in practice every day has been, in Eliot’s words,"Tremendous. Tremendous. Tremendous. We get live reps of that all the time, and it’s really been beneficial for us."
- On the subject of cornerback Derrick Baity, Eliot has this to say,"I think Derrick, he earned a starting job last year halfway through the season. Chris (Westry) had earned his starting job at the beginning of the season, so Derrick had played half as many games as Chris. We went into the offseason and the spring and I thought Derrick had an excellent offseason and spring. He really played well this spring and he’s continued to play well in training camp. Derrick has made himself into a very good player."