After fan day's open practice and Eddie Gran's Tuesday press conference, the Kentucky Wildcats’ offense has dominated the news cycle.
Today was the defense's day to shine, and coordinator Matt House had much to discuss during his after-practice briefing.
Overall, House said he thought his players performed well but had issues in one critical area: the run game.
However, House stated that the unit responded well during crunch time and that both sides of the ball brought out the best in each other.
"I thought at the end we really turned it up in the red zone,” House said. “It was a good back-and-forth practice. I’ll tell you what, it’s fun to see guys making plays. Making contested plays, whether it’s offense or defense. I thought that’s how the practice went. Ebb and flow, but both sides made competitive plays.”
House touched on several other subjects as well.
On the Youth Movement
The coaching staff is keen on several younger players on defense, most notably true freshman defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna.
“Yeah, he’s done a great job. He’s really attacked every rep. I think he’s gotten better every practice. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities", House said after he confirmed Bohanna is getting more reps.
House also said that Paintsville native and sophomore linebacker Kash Daniel's movement needs to improve. Daniel is still farther along than he was last season though.
“Mentally, he’s a year ahead, and you can tell he’s gone through spring ball,” he said. “It’s hard for a freshman during training camp and so much is coming at you so much faster. You can tell he’s a year more mature."
While he did not provide names, House is also high on several greenhorns in the secondary
“A lot of potential. A lot of potential. There’s great competition back there. I think they’ve shown up some but they also, as you put more in, they kind of take a step back then take a step forward. But definitely some potential there.”
On Darius West
Junior safety Darius West is expected to play a primary role in the secondary after missing last season with a knee injury.
Coach House gave the Lima, Ohio native mixed reviews, however.
“You know, he’s flashed some, and he’s got some areas where he needs to improve.”
So what area does West need to focus on to be the best player he can be?
“Mental — I think he’s got to have a — I think he’s done a good job physically. He’s got to put more of an onus on, ‘Hey, I’ve got to improve mentally every practice,” House answered.
On What He Wants to See from the D
House offered a fair and far from sterling assessment of the defense's performance since the preview practice last weekend.
"I thought yesterday there were a couple of things that got a little sloppy, but we put some third down coverages in. That’s to be expected a little bit.”
The Wildcats have another scrimmage on Saturday, and House is adamant that he wants to see them do a better job of stopping the run and using better situational awareness.
A scrimmage, according to House, is an excellent way for the players to learn on the fly.
"A scrimmage, a great thing about it is, you’re playing a whole game, right? So in your own mind, you have to put yourself in that situation that, ‘Hey we just went from normal down and distance to it’s third-and-long without the period flipping it,’” he said. “Now the kids have got to play situational football and playing the game.”