Kentucky defense focused on fundamentals, handling tempo

Published 12:15 am Saturday, August 19, 2017

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — Although run defense is a priority, Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House wants to see his unit get better in every phase of the game.

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House said the improvement starts with the basic fundamentals and alignment and that’s an area the coaching staff hopes the Wildcats improve on during the last two weeks of camp. Kentucky practiced Friday morning and a second scrimmage of fall workouts is set for Saturday at Kroger Field. Once the final depth chart is set during the next week, the Wildcats will focus on the season opener set for Sept. 2 at Southern Mississippi.

“Fundamentally we have to get better in every area,” House said earlier this week. “I think the thing we really have to focus on is handling tempo. Getting lined up to tempo.”

House said the team’s run defense has made strides during the past two weeks, but added it’s far from a finished product.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “We’re not there yet but I think we’re becoming stout in there.”

Ware being aware: One of the veterans House will be counting on this season is junior linebacker Denzil Ware. In his first two years with the Wildcats, Ware has made 24 starts and collected 109 tackles, including 17.5 for a loss. Ware also has recorded 6.5 sacks. Despite those lofty numbers, Ware wants to build on his past success.

“I think Denzil continues to improve every practice,” House said. “He’s really worked. I think he’s had a good training camp.”

In addition to his football skills, Ware has stepped into a leadership role in an effort to help lead the younger players on the defensive side of the ball. House said Ware has been leading vocally and by example.

“He’s had a really great attitude,” he said. “On top of that he’s made a lot of great plays. He’s made very few mental errors and he’s been in better football position. It’s been good.”

Ware also has taking a liking to new outside linebackers coach Dean Hood. In effort to motivate his outside linebackers, Hood related to his unit recently a story about Tiger Woods, who sought advice from his high school coach on how to improve his grip.

At first, Ware “didn’t have a clue what he was talking about” but after giving it some thought, Ware figured out Hood’s original intent on Woods and his grip.

“Once he explained why he did that, it really made a lot of sense to me,” Ware said.

Making sense of Hood’s logic has proven to be beneficial to Ware as he prepares for his junior campaign.

“If I get off right, I get a sack. If I get a false start, I just get a QB hit and they live to see another day,” Ware said. “After you practice on just those little things and doing them right, once you finally mess up, you know you messed — because it just feels different. Work on the little things, it’s the most important thing.”