Kentucky senior running back Derrick Locke could be UK’s fastest player. He’s had three straight 100-yard rushing games this season. But he also knows he has not faced a defense like what he’ll see Saturday in Gainesville.
“I imagine we are going against a defense that is better in every phase of the game with better speed than we have seen. I don’t know if the scout team can simulate that kind of speed. Florida plays fast. Practice will be speed, speed, speed,” Locke said after the 47-10 win over Akron.
Kentucky’s secondary was beat deep four times by Akron. Only one pass was completed — a late fourth-quarter score — but Phillips and his players know the same mistakes against Florida will result in touchdowns.
“Every week we have to play better,” cornerback Randall Burden said. “I think we are ready for Florida, but Florida will watch this film (against Akron) and see what we messed up on. We have to avoid the same mistakes.”
Needed a wake-up call
Louisville and Western Kentucky had not tested UK’s deep pass defense because both teams had success running. Phillips was glad his cornerbacks — who he says get “put on an island” a lot in pass defense — needed a wake-up call.
“We got ran past a couple of times. We can’t get lackadaisical and not play great technique. We have speed on the perimeter, but we have to stay on top of receivers,” Phillips said. “Our safeties have to tackle better. A couple of times our safeties were unblocked and came up and missed tackles.
“But this was really the first time we were challenged vertically down the field. We expect to be challenged from here on out. We are making huge commitment to stop the run. It’s demoralizing when a team runs the ball on you. We have made a commitment to stop the run and at times we will be vulnerable (on pass defense), especially at the corner positions. But we will play against even better receivers this week.”
Phillips says Kentucky has closed the speed gap on Florida and cited freshmen running back Raymond Sanders and cornerback Jerrell Priester as the type of speedy players the Cats are recruiting.
“We have a lot better team speed. We have depth with speed, too,” the Kentucky coach said. “Our receivers are big. Do they have great speed? No, but they have good speed, especially for their size.”