It's now a matter of days before Kentucky kicks off the 2013 season against Western Kentucky University.
With the opener looming on Saturday, the days of fall camp installation are long gone. Moving to more detailed preparation for WKU, UK got in a good practice on Tuesday focusing on various situations.
"A lot of third down, you know, we worked a lot of third and medium yesterday, third and long today," head coach Mark Stoops said. "We worked two-minute situations at the end, good against good. And then just all of the normal situations, normal down and distances, things like that. We tied up against each other quite a bit on Tuesday and Wednesday."
In his first season, Stoops has targeted third-down efficiency as an area for immediate improvement. On the heels of a season during which UK ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in third-down defense, Stoops is looking to continue his habit of quick defensive turnarounds by bolstering that facet of the Kentucky defense.
"I think you've got to spend a good amount of time on it and you've got to be, again, you've got to be multiple," Stoops said. "You've got to change things up. You've got to pressure. You've got to play coverage. You've got to mix your coverages up, mix your pressures up and you've got to be able to execute them."
Therein lies the reason UK spent the bulk of Monday and Tuesday working in third-down situations. Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot know what it takes to get off the field - Florida State ranked third nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 27.3 percent of attempts in 2012 - but how well they impart those principles to players will determine UK's success in 2013.
"As coaches, we could stay in here all night and draw up so many different things -- a lot of good things -- but then what can your players execute and that's what it comes down to: great execution," Stoops said.
UK had to execute on Tuesday in the same kind of weather it will face in Nashville, as temperatures reached the 90s after an unseasonably cool camp. Though the heat may be relatively new to this team, Stoops doesn't have any doubts about how the Wildcats will hold up. That's why they worked so hard over the summer.
"We can see data, see what we've done the past three years at Florida State, see where we're at," Stoops said. "Obviously, any time it's super-hot and humid, you always need depth, especially with the amount of plays that will probably be played in this game. You've gotta have depth. You've gotta be in great shape as well."
With his team in such good shape, Stoops is comfortable easing up on the throttle the rest of the week. After a physical practice Tuesday, UK will now begin to curtail the physicality of its work the rest of the week, heeding the counsel of High Performance Coach Erik Korem.
"I'm going to start cutting back now," Stoops said. "We've been going at it pretty good and I got some reports from Coach Korem as I was walking off the field. Yeah, we'll obviously still have a pretty good practice tomorrow and in pads and all that, but we'll start tapering it."