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Christmas in August

Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari and UK Football defensive coordinator Brad White gear up their respective units for what promises to be a season of unmatched expectations (Dr. Michael Huang photo).

If you’re a University of Kentucky sports fan, you undoubtedly woke up this morning with a pep in your step. Not only does your basketball team tip off its preseason this evening against the Dominican Republic National Select Team down in the Bahamas, but UK golfers Laney Frye and Jensen Castle are tearing it up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships at Chambers Bay in Washington.

A little closer to home, the No. 21-ranked UK Football Wildcats continue fall camp with expectations through the roof. It’s like Christmas in August as all of BBN waits eagerly for what promises to be a year of unmatched thrills and chills.

Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White met with the media earlier today after practice and further stoked the fires of anticipation. Not one to be overly optimistic or emotional, the usually reserved White threw out a few nuggets of positivity that should calm the nerves of every worrywart still grappling with their rosary beads.

Contrary to what many have reported, the defensive secondary is not in shambles. The reinforcements through the transfer portal are doing well. Their transition is typically much quicker than that of the standard incoming freshman who might have never had this type of volume of defense before.

“The terms may be different from school to school,” White explained. “But a lot of schools run similar coverages, so [the transfer players] can come up to speed quicker. We’ve been lucky. Those transfer defensive backs are smart, they’re conscientious, so they pick it up a lot faster than most.”

White loves the way his guys are competing. Seven out of 25 practices in, he now wants to see what they can do in live action, pressure-packed, one-on-one battles. Who can play when they’re doggedly tired? Who can tackle in the open field? Keidron Smith (savviness and intelligence), Zion Childress (natural zone coverage abilities and quick learner), and Jordan Robinson (length and talent) were individuals that White singled out as early standouts.

“Everything we do, everything Coach [Stoops] does, and every player that we sign and bring in, it’s to improve the roster.” White acknowledged. “It makes people uncomfortable—which is good. As soon as you get comfortable, you get complacent. That group of defensive backs have all checked their egos at the door, and they want what’s best for that room.”

As much as offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello bragged on his offensive unit, https://justthecats.com/no-dummin-down/ White claims his defensive guys are just as smart.

“We’re a group—especially the older guys who have been in the system—that understand what we’re trying to get done,” White conceded. “Yeah, I do think we’ve got some intelligence in that. But what I need those old guys to do is to pass that on. Because where you’ve got that smaller group of older guys, I need that to get dispersed all across that whole bunch of young guys that are underneath them.”

Combine intelligence, talent, competitiveness, and humility on defense with an offense capable of scoring points quickly in bunches. All the BBN needs now is for some mad scientist defensive coordinator to dial up some aggressive blitz packages and creative coverages. Any chance of that happening, Coach?

“We’re going to be who we are,” White answered predictably. “You always have to adapt. If you get a lead, can you be more aggressive at times? Yes, but the other thing you like to do is if you’ve got a comfortable lead, you’d like to preserve that comfort as well. There’s a give and take to that, but it’s always fun to look up and know that ‘alright if I take a chance, if something went wrong, like we’d still be okay.’”

Not exactly braggadocio, but that’s about as rosy a picture as you’re ever going to get from Brad White.

“Hopefully, obviously, nothing goes wrong,” he playfully added.

It’s August, but September’s coming. Enjoy it while you can.

Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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