LEXINGTON Ky. — Kentucky’s defense was on the field longer than all but one defense in the country in Week 1.
Forty minutes and 32 seconds of action didn’t bode well for a UK defense laden with depth issues. Only Ole Miss’ defense was on the field longer last Saturday of the 127 FBS teams that were in action.
A key contributor that kept UK’s defense on the field was its own offense. Sophomore QB Drew Barker and company had just three drives over two minutes last Saturday against Southern Miss. It was a combination of quick scores, three-and-outs and turnovers.
“We were taking what they gave us,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “It was great and everything in the first half, short drives are okay then when you’re scoring. But when you’re not scoring and you go three-and-out, you can’t do that.”
No matter the reason the Wildcats defense was on the field for so long, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s side was gashed for 262 yards on the ground and rendered defenseless for much of the second half. A lack of depth on the UK defense, specifically in the front seven, led the coaching staff to limit the amount of substitutions.
Junior DE/LB De’Niro Laster, junior NG Naquez Pringle and freshman DE T.J. Carter played little in Week 1, but coach Mark Stoops and Eliot mentioned the three as players that might join the rotation. Senior DE Courtney Miggins is all for more rest for the starters.
“Definitely,” Miggins said. “Just to rest up for a little bit. That’ll be a huge help because right now we lack in depth a little bit.”
But improving depth is typically handled in the offseason as it doesn’t happen overnight, or in college football’s case, week to week. Eliot is in his fourth year as the Wildcats defensive coordinator and was asked Wednesday if he thought the problem would be better by now.
“I think that we’ve been able to develop players at different positions,” he said. “We haven’t necessarily been able to develop enough for an SEC schedule at every position.”
That SEC schedule starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.
“We had some hydration issues that I think you see across the country,” Stoops said. “Some of these guys have very little body fat and they don’t keep very much water in their system. That’s an issue. That’ll be an issue as we go down there. But fatigue – depth is an issue, but I think our team is in good shape.”
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