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March 29, 2013

Defense stuffs offense in first spring scrimmage

Kentucky's defense stayed one step ahead of the offense in the team's first scrimmage of spring practice on Friday morning.

The Wildcats played about 140 snaps as part of their seventh practice of the spring. Each side showed some improvement over earlier spring practices, but the Wildcats had adjusted quicker to the new 4-3 defense than to the new spread offense.

"Just like you would expect, the defense is further along," Stoops said. "If the defense just gets lined up right and makes them execute, the offense, it's always a little bit harder for them to get started."

Turnovers, dropped passes and penalties kept the offense from finding a rhythm as three quarterbacks rotated in. Stoops and offfensive coordinator Neal Brown declined to discuss the play of specific quarterbacks, but said Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow had an up-and-down day. Those three rotated with the first and second teams, while early enrollee Reese Phillips played with the third team.

Part of their struggles was normal with an adjustment to the new offense. Stoops was pleased with the tempo of the scrimmage -- which the defense still hasn't adjusted to -- but said the offense is struggling to find players who can make big plays. The wide receivers continue to struggle to hold on to passes.

"That's obviously an issue," Brown said. "We've got to do better at catching the football. But more positives than negatives overall."

Ball security issues extended into fumbles also, as the defense was able to tackle for the first time in spring. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot thought his unit needed to improve on fundamentals and increase the tempo, but saw plenty of things to be pleased with.

"I think they're grasping the base defense and we're getting communicated and we're getting lined up," Eliot said. "If it wasn't for the tempo, I think we'd be lined up almost all the time."

The defense held its own despite struggles with the pace. The hope is that by the time the offense has adjusted and found its groove in the fall, other teams will be struggling to be catch up.

"A lot of teams in the SEC aren't going to go as fast as that," senior linebacker Avery Williamson said. "So when we go against the different teams, other fast-paced spread teams, it'll be a lot easier and we'll be in a lot better shape than the other defense."

Rumph to undergo surgery

Senior defensive tackle Donte Rumph was expected to undergo shoulder surgery on Friday after sustaining an injury in practice on Monday. He'll miss the remainder of spring practice, but should be back in time for fall camp.

"We expect Donte to make a full recovery and be back with us in the fall," Stoops said.

Senior defensive tackle Tristian Johnson has been working with the first team in his place. Rumph has started 18 games over the last two seasons, while Johnson started the final nine games of 2012.


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