For the first time in it’s history, SEC Media Days took place in Atlanta, GA at the College Football Hall Of Fame.
Mark Stoops did not beat around the bush when addressing members of the press on Monday. He was candid and owned up to the expectations of achieving more than he has during the previous 5 seasons at Kentucky. Improving on last year’s 7-6 record will be a tall task, most of the national rankings have UK finishing at the bottom of the SEC East. But with certified all conference caliber players like Benny Snell and Josh Allen, this could be the year that Mark Stoops and his staff can accomplish things that have eluded Kentucky football for far too long.
During his opening remarks, Stoops, made it very clear that he has talented players and that they know what is expected of them in 2018.
“Thank you. Great to be here back for my sixth. Hard to believe it’s my sixth year here at the SEC Media Days. Great to be in Atlanta. Last time I was in this venue, I was here with Courtney Love. He was accepting the Danny Wuerffel Trophy. So it brings back fond memories and great to be here. Appreciate you, Greg, appreciate Commissioner, what he does for myself, the support he gives me, all of us coaches, everybody throughout the league. They do a great job and appreciate him.
The media, thank you. Thanks for what you do to promote Kentucky, promote the league, and I appreciate your hard work. As I move into year six, the biggest thing you look at at Kentucky, the biggest thing I feel is the change in expectation, and that’s a good thing. We’re excited about that. We embrace those expectations. Really it starts with our coaches, our fan base, and most importantly our players. We expect more. We’ve been close. We’ve done some good things. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done, that we look forward to making a big jump this year. We return some players with experience. We returned some talent. We returned some players that decided to forego the NFL and come back to do more, to play with a chip on their shoulder, to win some football games.
We’re tired of being close in some. We want to win and get over that hump, and you’re going to get an opportunity to visit with some of those guys that are here today, Josh Allen, an outside linebacker from New Jersey. He’s the epitome of development. He comes into our program as a two-star recruit, 200 pounds. And he’s a solid 260 and projected as first-round draft pick. And we’re excited about Josh.
Next C.J. Conrad, a tight end out of Ohio, another guy, had he not been injured last year had an opportunity to come out and play in the NFL, a big tight end from Ohio. Benny Snell, of course, a guy that’s been over a thousand yards the first two years at Kentucky. Not only good football players, but they are great leaders in anchoring what’s going on this summer. I’m proud of our team, what they’re doing, the way they’re working. The attitude they have this summer is just what we’re looking for.
You know, we’ve talked in the past about building that capacity. We talked last year about being consistent. And now it’s a matter of just honing in and refining all of the things that we’ve been building the past five years to take it to another level. But I feel very good. I think the experience that we have and the talent that we have is going to give us an opportunity to win each and every time we take the field, and that’s where I talk about embracing those expectations and enjoying that and being ready for the grind.
Our coaching staff is back. It’s only the second time since I’ve been there we’ve had both coordinators back. Eddie Gran on offense and Matt House on defense. I like our staff and what we’re doing, have a lot of confidence in them. So we’re excited about the year. It’s always a challenge, but it’s an exciting one.” Stoops said on Monday.
Can I get a Snell yeah?
Coach Stoops definitely knows where his bread and butter is at and I am sure that other SEC coaches know as well. Benny Snell will likely play an even larger role in the UK’s offense this season. Snell himself said that he was the best running back in the SEC during Media Day. While that may be true it may also add an element of predictability if Kentucky just feeds Snell the ball three possessions in a row.
Here is how Mark Stoops said responded when asked if the departure of Stephen Johnson would create an even heavier work load for Benny Snell in the running or passing game this season.
“I don’t know. It would be hard to increase. You know he has been a big focus for us, and he’s been a work horse. You have to admire his ability to go back day after day and run after run in his consistency. He gets tough yards. You know how tough they are in this league. And Benny’s been extremely consistent.
I think what is most impressive about him is that attitude, that chip on his shoulder, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be done, it’s like that every day. Whether it’s in the weight room, the training session in the summer, every practice, every scrimmage, he goes hard. He’s very physical. Our local media certainly talk about that a lot. I would rather say whoa than giddyap.”
He is one of those guys that once in awhile in practice, he’s so playing physical when we’re not totally live, but you’d rather have it that way. He’s been very consistent. I think it will help us with the new quarterback situation that needs to be resolved. It’s nice to have an offensive line with some experience. It’s nice to have some tight ends that can play, that can block, be physical and catch the ball. And certainly with Benny, that will help.” Stoops told reporters.
The same question 31 years later, can UK beat Florida?
I was’t exactly thrilled to hear Mark Stoops directly address the 31 year losing streak to Florida. His comments to me were a lot of coach speak. I realize he can’t exactly say that the game against the Gators means more, but the losing streak is getting ridiculous and needs to end. Here is what stoops said when asked about getting over the hump of beating Florida.
“Yeah. I always look forward to that annual question here. Until we get it done. I know. I’m not blaming you. I’m going to get it a thousand times between now and that game.
You know, my answer, first three or four years, I really wasn’t concerned about it. I’m trying to build a culture at Kentucky and win games and get in position, but you do hear it. You can’t hide from the elephant in the room. It’s been a long time. We need to beat Florida, but we need to beat a lot of teams on our schedule.
We don’t put too much emphasis on that game until it gets there. We do play them early in the season. We’ll see. It is what it is. We’ll go down there and play them early in the year at the swamp. We all know it’s a very tough environment. They have a new change in coaching staff. We’re familiar with Dan and what he does and the great job he does. It’s a tough game, but we’re excited, and we’ll embrace that challenge when the time comes.” Stoops said
What are the new expectations?
I am not so sure that there are any real “new” expectations in place for Coach Stoops or the Kentucky football team. A better way to see it may be that there is a higher standard of accountability to achieve the previous set of expectations. In my opinion all goals must begin and end with winning a bowl game and getting over that hump.
A big win like beating Florida would go a long way, but the ultimate measuring stick will be post season success.