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Football Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©July 31st, 2015 @ 8:00pm
The big story of the day is the unofficial announcement that Little Brother will take on the Crimson Tide in the Citrus Bowl in 2018 to kickoff the college football season. The Tide will likely Roll, but you can’t deny that it’s pretty cool, and a big step for a program that has given away tickets at gas stations in my short lifetime.
I know Kentucky has a tough enough schedule as it is, but if the Cats’ upward trajectory continues under Mark Stoops, I’d like to see the Cats add another big school to the non-conference schedule. Here are five games that I could see happening.
Even if they only had Antwaan Randle-El, those games were a lot of fun in the 90s. If we can’t have them on the basketball schedule, we should have them on the football schedule.
We’ve always wanted to see the football, men’s and women’s basketball Triple Header, and there isn’t a more compatible school than UConn. The women’s team is ALWAYS the team to beat in the country, we have a grudge to settle with the men’s team for back-to-back Final Four losses, and their AAC-caliber football team is a beatable, yet formidable, opponent.
I know it didn’t work out well the first time around, but not much in the Joker Phillips era did. Western is even better than before, so what better way to prove how far you’ve come than by beating down the Toppers?
Mark Stoops would LOVE a chance to take his alma mater down. Even though they’ve been on the decline in recent years, beating a Big Ten team is still satisfying.
It would never happen (because if you thought UK liked easy non-conference opponents, look at Urban Meyer’s schedule) but it would be pretty awesome.
1. Shutting their fans up for the foreseeable future would be amazing.
2. The Horseshoe would be a cool place to watch a game.
3. If it’s at a neutral site, you still get the pleasure of watching their amazing band.
4. The Ohio kids on the roster would play OUT OF THEIR MINDS.
5. If you can beat them in recruiting, why can’t you beat on ‘em on the field?
Ohio State is the optimum opponent, but who would YOU like to see on Kentucky’s non-conference schedule?
I asked for the BBN to tweet more UK Football questions. You didn’t disappoint. Some interesting topics surfaced:
-@AdamLucketBOS: What are the differences in Dawson’s Air Raid compared to Neal Brown’s Air Raid?
Have to start with recruited and developed talent. Neal walked into a skill position dumpster fire. Dawson inherited better developed and more talented players. Schematically, Dawson relies more on a four receiver lineup. Neal preferred to feature a TE. Dawson will adjust for Conrad and Long. Shannon Dawson will stress the power run game and rely less on the horizontal emphasis. Vertical pass plays will also be more prevalent. Both are very good coordinators. Stoops hit a home run with Shannon Dawson.
-@natedyer66: Give me a reason to be optimistic about the cornerback play. Right now the thought scares me to death.
Legitimate concern Nate. I am also uneasy about the position. Tiller, Harmon, and Quinn are all seniors. They’ll be schematically sound and assignment reliable. A three year work sample indicates the trio have maxed out in terms of ability. The veterans have played a great deal of football and have earned the right to be named as pre-camp starters. In the 15 class, Stoops signed multiple CB’s. This group wasn’t recruited to sit. There’s a good chance that the starting cornerbacks will be different from game one to game four. Also, I’m intrigued with redshirts and former Nickel players that may fill the void. These include Kendall Randolph, Blake McClain, and Jared Tucker. There will be intense competition and position changes in preseason camp. I have to be completely fair and balanced. I re-watched all 12 games from last season. At times, when receivers were running wide open, it was not the cornerback’s fault. Instead, linebackers and safeties lacked the athletic ability to matchup with SEC skill receivers.
-@thrtzn: Could UK recover from a first game loss to UL-Lafayette or does that cripple the season?
No and yes. I do not think the Cats could recover from an opening game loss. Therefore, yes it would cripple the season. If that happens, I could easily imagine a 0-4 start. However, I don’t think UK will lose on 5 September. Matter of fact, through in-depth personnel study, I tend to believe that UK will win rather comfortably. 2013, ULL would have ran the Cats out of the stadium. 14 would have been a toss-up. 15, UK decisively wins.
-@KevinWFaris: Can UK stop the run? Or at least slow it down? Which of the new guys could help the most here?
Really good questions. First, can UK stop the run? I have to be vague but my answer is, possibly. Run defense success will greatly rely upon veteran LB development and health. Melvin Lewis/Matt Elam are prototypical nose tackles. In the 3-4, nose tackles and inside linebackers are vital against the run. Second part of your question, which of the new guys could help the most? I lean towards the JUCO defensive linemen, Alvonte Bell and Courtney Miggins. In addition to those two, outside linebacker Denzel Ware will factor.
-@EastKyBlue: What was your most memorable road game while at UK? Favorite UK memory?
Road games weren’t too kind to me. I’d have to go with winning at Vanderbilt my sophomore year. That victory was our sixth of the season, which guaranteed a winning season. In that era, UK played 11, not 12 game schedules. Jerry Claiborne somewhat viewed me as a loose cannon. I took joy in that. Kept the old man on edge. We were in the victory formation and I was supposed to take the snap, then take a knee and game over. Claiborne called a time out. You see, earlier in the year against North Carolina and in the same situation, I fumbled the snap. We recovered the fumble, we won. Scary. Back to the Vandy game. I came to the sideline, Claiborne gave me the “eye” and made me physically demonstrate just how I was going to take the snap then take a knee. I remember laughing on my trot back to the huddle. I also recall seeing Coach Claiborne’s face after the game. He was never satisfied, but I could sense relief. I’m not certain that he knew that 1989 was his last season. But on that day, he was tremendously proud of his football program. I think he took extra pride in the fact that we won the 6th on the road. We all wanted to please Jerry Claiborne. We all wanted his approval. We all loved our Coach.
As for memory? After beating LSU at home, my all-time favorite Wildcat, Bill Ransdell, waited for me in the locker room tunnel. After spitting out an ounce of Levi Garrett, he bear hugged me then told me how proud he was of my performance. That was my “arrival” moment. On that one instance, I thought I was pretty cool.
-@TheGarrd: What do you think about the potential of Jeff Badet, Alexander Montgomery, and Blake Bone as playmakers on O this year?
They will all certainly contribute. Tommy Mainord is an excellent receiver coach. Collective fundamentals will be better. Couple that with physical maturation, the WR group will be vastly improved. Badet and Montgomery will be hungry to impress after missing their second season. I expect Badet to be a break-out player and Montgomery to be that go to receiver in critical, third and medium situations. As for Blake Bone, the jury is out. As a true freshman, he impressed. Also as a rookie, well, he played like a rookie. If his upper body strength has improved, he will become a viable goal-line option. I really like the 2015 WR position.
-@avawam1417: Is there an under the radar guy that could break out his year and who do you think will return kicks/punts?
Under the radar can be interpreted many different ways. Offensively, Cole Mosier is the one player that stands out. He makes the 15 offensive line considerably better. Reasoning is that Mosier can effectively play multiple positions. That alone provides organic depth. Defensively, Adrian Middleton is the 14 signee that has flown under the radar. At 300 pounds, he will factor and play. I expect big things from Adrian. I’ve tracked his development. Just got a hunch. Who will return kicks/punts? Hope not Boom. Much too valuable at RB. I really don’t have an answer.
Thanks that was fun. We’ll do this again before camp starts then make it a weekly occurrence.
By Freddie Maggard on ©July 31st, 2015 @ 5:00pm
Think about this for a minute. 700 folks attended a UK function in downtown Louisville. If I were from the ‘Ville and wore red on a daily basis that would absolutely drive me nuts. Well done Jefferson County’s BBN Chapter. Mark Stoops finished up speaking season with a short question-and-answer session with Tom Leach and his two coordinators. No Earth-shattering news came about as the Wildcat coaches appeared to be ready to put the jawing season to bed and get camp started.
Over 30 former football Cats attended. That is by far the most in the event’s history. The luncheon was great. Tons of folks there. Food was tasty. But the noteworthy aspect to me was all the has-beens in the crowd and their pre-lunch interaction with Stoops, Eliot, and Dawson. Former players represented coaches from Bear to Brooks. Impressive.
On more than one occasion, a letterman would ask Mark Stoops if it was ok to stop by practice. I saw a semi-mad Stoops come out during these questions. His repeated answer was absolutely. And he meant it. See, I think he finds it offensive that players felt that they had to ask. The “All In” mantra sincerely extends to us. That’s refreshing. That’s also not new. Joker had that policy, so did Brooks. But there’s something different about this staff. Something that signifies to former players that UK is on the horizon of reaching a point in which most failed to meet. For the first time in my has-been career, I felt like part of the program. I had at least five others tell me the same.
I loved it. But, I again badly failed KSR. Much like the Governor’s Cup, I couldn’t keep up with interview questions and to be honest, I got caught up in the informal reunion and joined the boys in telling lies and making fun of each other. I’m sorry. Maybe one day I’ll actually report something newsworthy. Every time I reached for my phone to tweet, I’d get slapped in the back of the head and asked if I played defensive tackle or right guard. Very funny. Fat jokes never get old around the alpha-dog heavy world of washed up football players.
I can accurately say that I saw thirty plus former players with a sincere look of excitement. We almost had to tie former fullback and SEC knockdown block leader, Andy Murray, to his chair. He was full nostril flaring and had the same look he had in the huddle on third and short situations. I fully expected him to head-butt Matt Bradford or Ronnie Robinson. Andy epitomized the mood. We were all carrying on sidebar conversations before the coaches walked up to the podium. When Stoops started to talk, I was reminded of being back in the Nutter Center when Jerry Claiborne would begin a team meeting. We all sat up straight, sucked our guts in, and paid attention. No matter how old the audience may be, Mark Stoops is a motivator.
You have to remember, not all of us ever experienced a winning season. I did, but just one. You don’t think that hearing about UK’s less than stellar football history for thirty years doesn’t get our blood boiling? It absolutely does. We take it personally. However, hearing about the state of the program and where it is headed is our vindication.
John Ryan and Dean Wells should be commended. They worked for months inviting alumni and preparing for today’s festivities. Not surprising from each. Both highly successful men with a passion for all things Blue. I’m tired of talking season. I’m tired of projection. Let’s tee the darn ball up and play some football.
Today we celebrate the birthday of a UK football legend. Tim Couch turns the ripe old age of 38 today, but judging by recent pictures, he looks like he could still sling it around the field like he did 20 years ago.
When Jermaine Eskridge committed yesterday, many said he could be the most important UK Football recruit since Tim Couch. I don’t think UK football has ever been as exciting as the years Tim Couch and Hal Mumme ruled the roost, and watching him turned this UK basketball fan into a football one as well. My parents made me clean out my room at their house on a recent trip home, and I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my old #2 Cleveland Browns jersey. In fact, I had to bring it back to Nashville with me.
In a neat moment, a fellow Eastern Kentucky boy wished Tim happy birthday on Twitter today:
— Tim Couch (@timcouchtv) July 31, 2015
Let’s relive Tim’s great game against Alabama in 1997 in his honor:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 31st, 2015 @ 1:30pm
Mark Stoops, Shannon Dawson, and DJ Eliot just wrapped up their remarks at the UK Alumni Kickoff Luncheon in Louisville, and Stoops received a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd of 700+ fans when he walked in. After a historic recruiting week, the man certainly deserves it.
“It’s been a slow week,” Stoops joked to raucous cheers. Freddie was at the event and will be by with his take later, but here are some quick newsy bits to tide you over…
— Stoops wasn’t afraid to address what he called “the elephant in the room.”
“We started 5-1 and didn’t finish,” he said. “You’re going to see progress, you’re going to see a better football team.”
— Stoops told the crowd he’s proud of his team’s discipline and hard work this summer. “You’re going to see a team you’re going to be very proud of,” Stoops said. “They’ve worked relentlessly.”
— Still no word on the eligibility of Courtney Love or Javon Provitt, but Stoops told reporters he expects to know by Media Day.
— By all indications, the quarterback race will continue into camp and no timetable has been set.
— Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson landed a big commitment in 2017 quarterback Mac Jones this week, his second QB commit at Kentucky behind Gunnar Hoak in the 2016 class. While Dawson couldn’t speak about either of those players specifically, he did say that the main things he looks for are accuracy, timing, and leadership.
— DJ Eliot told reporters he’s expecting his freshmen cornerbacks to have an impact early on, some good news at a position that needs immediate help.
Like I said, Freddie will be by with more later…
Yesterday, Mark Stoops bought the Commonwealth Stadium construction crew lunch as a way to say thank you for their hard work, and KyWildcatsTV was on hand to film some footage, which they just posted online. Listen to Stoops talk about the crew’s “blue collar work ethic,” which he is trying to instill in his team:
Stoops is about to speak at the annual kickoff luncheon in Louisville. Freddie Maggard’s on site for us, so stay tuned for updates.
I have KSR business cards. I have a KSR office. I even purchased a KSR visor from Kentucky Branded. After all that, I still feel like a dopey rookie. For four months now I’ve been posting UK Football stuff. I hope it hasn’t stunk. Here are 5 things I’ve learned throughout my short journey:
–KSR is a monster. I don’t mean that in a bad way. There’s no denying the popularity of the KSR Empire. I knew that coming in. But, I had no idea of the depth and scope of the KSR brand. There’s obviously the radio show, the website, show tours, golf tournaments, merchandise, and more stuff that I haven’t even heard of yet. Seems like every day I’m reading another new name associated with KSR. I’ve not met many, but man, there seems to be a bunch of them.
–Matt Jones is the busiest dude in the business. The man is everywhere. As a casual observer, I didn’t understand the extent of Matt’s responsibilities. His occupation looks fun. But it takes sustained dedication to regale all things UK on a daily basis all while juggling the other 8,000 KSR responsibilities listed above. Matt’s work ethic is undeniable. He’s built the brand from scratch. There’s tremendous pride in that. There’s also a great deal of work involved. Just imagine how many texts, direct messages, emails, and phone calls he has to return on a daily basis. I had no idea. Respect.
–Tyler and Drew are boundless editors and wicked smart. I was a KSR reader before I joined the team. Like most, I thought Drew was hilarious and Tyler was the glue that held it all together. What I didn’t know was that the pair manages the KSR website around the clock. As a blogging novice, I write posts then email to Tyler and Drew. They then add pictures or graphics and edit my material for the overabundance of grammatical errors. I greatly appreciate their support. Trust me on this, I’m a technological idiot. Telescope is beyond my reach. Computers are not my friend. Tyler Thompson and Drew Franklin must think I’m either a complete moron or a dinosaur. I will never, ever publish our group text messages. But I can say some are comical.
–Hitting send for the first time was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. No crap. I must have read my first post at least 183 times before emailing it to Drew and Tyler. I was scared to death. I’ve done a ton of radio and television, so I’m used to that process. Speak your piece, get up and go home. But when the information is posted, especially on a website that is as heavily read as KSR, my babblings are eternally on the internets. Terrifying. An early fear was that the KSR fanatics wouldn’t approve of the new addition. Other concerns were my own self-doubts. I worried that I couldn’t possibly write anything that would remotely be of interest. Truth is, I still get nervous before I submit a post. I hope that never goes away.
–KSR is dedicated to bringing you football coverage. There is a significant difference in radio and website material. Matt, Ryan, and Shannon crush the radio waves on a daily basis. UK Basketball and other off-the wall topics are what a significant portion of listeners want to hear. On the site, I’d argue that KSR has covered more football than any other Kentucky related media outlet. Tyler crushed Media Days, Women’s Clinic and her Korem post was gold just to name a few. Drew constantly posts recruiting updates, player profiles, and stadium construction apprises. Truth is, and I agree with Matt, there’s not a great deal of football topics to talk about during the summer months. That was until the four days of Yahtzee which was discussed in length. No offseason news is good news. Typical summer football discussions include arrests, transfers, or suspensions. When practice and games start, interest will peak.
I often get asked how I became a KSR football contributor. Simple answer really. Matt asked. I said yes. Best move in my fledgling, part-time media career. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
So there you have it. A rookie’s take on KSR. I’m having the time of my life. And remember, for UK Football coverage brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible, click on kentuckysportsradio.com often. Then refresh. We are going to have fun this fall.
If you thought things were moving too slow at the New Commonwealth Stadium, the paint crew is certainly getting things done quickly. After showing you some progress yesterday, the blue paint job on the outside of the scoreboard is complete.
Like the construction workers, I work much better after the boss buys lunch (cough Matt, cough cough).
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 30th, 2015 @ 2:56pm
And now, for some unfortunate football news. The Cats’ Pause’s Jon Hale is reporting that senior safety Glenn Faulkner will have to miss this season after undergoing surgery for a right knee injury.
This is just the latest injury to plague Faulkner, who came to UK as one of Joker’s biggest recruits. He was listed as the fourth-string cornerback in the latest depth chart and played primarily on special teams last season.
You hate to hear this type of news. Best of luck to Glenn in his recovery.
The 2015 season is little over a month away, but UK is already finalizing their schedule for 2016. According to FBSchedules.com, UK will host New Mexico State at Commonwealth Stadium on September 17, 2016.
The Cats will pay the Aggies $1.3 million for the game, which completes the 2016 non-conference schedule:
- September 3: vs. Southern Miss, Commonwealth Stadium
- September 17: vs. New Mexico State, Commonwealth Stadium
- November 19: vs. Austin Peay, Commonwealth Stadium
- November 26: @ Louisville, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
As Freddie Maggard points out, New Mexico State is coached by Doug Martin, who both played (1981-1984) and coached (1986-1987) at UK.
Bring it on, Aggies.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 30th, 2015 @ 1:00pm
Construction crews are frantically trying to finish the work on Commonwealth Stadium before September 5th’s opener, but today, they stopped for a brief break to enjoy a nice lunch courtesy of Mark Stoops and the UK football program. Stoops, who you can see on that ramp up there, stopped by to thank the crew for their hard work and maybe give them a pep talk as they enter the final stretch.
Enjoy the pics, via @UKAthletics.
Now get back to work. Seriously.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 30th, 2015 @ 11:27am
The first coaches’ poll for the football season is out, and Kentucky may not have been in the Top 25, but they did receive one vote. Hooray! Here’s the complete ballot:
1. Ohio State (62)
2. TCU (1)
3. Alabama (1)
6. Michigan State
8. Florida State
11. Notre Dame
15. Ole Miss
16. Arizona State
17. Georgia Tech
24. Boise State
Others Receiving Votes: Mississippi State 164; Texas A&M 149; Oklahoma State 89; Virginia Tech 70; Utah 40; Kansas State 37; Louisville 27; Nebraska 27; Minnesota 25; Penn State 20; South Carolina 18; Miami (Fla.) 16; Texas 8; Illinois 7; Duke 6; Air Force 5; Louisiana Tech 5; Marshall 4; Utah State 4; West Virginia 3; North Carolina State 3; Brigham Young 3; Florida 2; Georgia Southern 2; North Carolina 2; Maryland 1; Michigan 1; Kentucky 1; Central Florida 1; Cincinnati 1; Washington 1.
Before you say Mark Stoops voted for his own team, he’s not on the panel of 64 voters; however, his brother, Bob is. Did Bob give us some brotherly love? Considering he forgot his little brother’s own birthday, I’m not so sure.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 30th, 2015 @ 11:00am
NFL players across the country are reporting to training camp, and this morning, Randall Cobb reported for the Green Bay Packers. According to Packers reporters, Cobb is returning punts alongside fellow former Cat Javess Blue, a nice UK football family moment.
The first preseason game is next Sunday, which means it’s almost time to start worrying about your fantasy football team. If you’re smart, you’ll prioritize Randall Cobb, or if you’re in a keeper league like this blogger, you’re even smarter and picked him up in the late rounds his rookie season and still have him. As the best slot receiver in the league, Cobb’s a hot commodity in fantasy leagues, which is why it makes total sense that he now co-stars in a new fantasy football commercial for NFL.com alongside Eddie Lacy:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 29th, 2015 @ 11:00pm
One man tried to make his way across the crowded floor at the Nutter Field House Saturday morning, backpack slung over his shoulders and eyes on the exit. All along the way, fans stopped him to ask questions, and patiently, he obliged, even though it meant whatever was next on the agenda would have to wait. While more prominent staff members and starting football players stood idly by, Erik Korem was the rock star, fans rushing up to get in one last compliment, question, or threat to keep him in the room.
“I’m tying a rope on you. I don’t want you to ever leave us,” UK football superfan Suzanne Allen whispered to Korem, reaching out and pulling his arm towards her. “They need to raise your salary, do whatever they have to do to keep you.”
Korem smiled and assured Suzanne that he and his family are very happy in Lexington. While I admire Suzanne’s determination to keep Korem here by tying a rope to him, after listening to his presentation at the UK Football Women’s Clinic, I don’t think it’s necessary. He’s already tethered to Kentucky by the new state-of-the-art $45 million practice facility, which Stoops gave him complete control over to design from the ground up.
A “first of its kind” facility
Korem talks about the training facility with the same passion, excitement, and pride one would a child, because, basically, this is his baby. The 100,000-square foot facility will serve as a one-stop shop for the football program, and include a massage therapy room, high-performance weight room, sports science facility, and team doctor’s office with an in-house X-ray machine. Players will want for nothing, with a tutoring center, full-service kitchen, Gatorade and juice bar, and lounge all under the same roof.
“This building encompasses everything that involves the student athlete’s life, from training to eating to meetings and academics,” Korem said, singling out the new CATS tutorial center in particular, noting that it often takes players 20 minutes to walk from the current training center to CATS. Even just a few trips back and forth a day takes away a lot of time they could be dedicating to football. “It’s going to simplify things and bring all of that under one building. I think it’s really going to speed up our development process and it’s really going to make us feel like we’ve got a cool home.”
We’ve already heard about a lot of these features, but Korem gave the clinic and KSR some exclusive details:
- A sensory deprivation tank similar to those used by Navy SEALS and special warfare units. This will help calm players down and alleviate stress, promoting faster mental recovery from workouts, games, life, etc. (Can I use that, too?)
- An indoor turf area, 25 yards long by 20 yards wide for players to warm up on before lifting and utilize for speed drills
- Glass garage doors that open right up onto the training fields from the indoor turf so the players can extend their workouts outside during warm weather
- A 70-foot long, 6-foot deep cold plunge tank capable of holding 30-40 players at once. Korem saw the concept in Australia and prefers the large pool to more common cold tubs because the deeper you get in the water, the higher the pressure gets. In addition, players will be able to move around in the pool, which will release the microbubbles that surround the body, creating a better cooling effect. The first of its kind in the US. “The cold plunge tank was a big deal,” Korem admits.
- Turf training hills, one sloped at 20 degrees and one at 15 degrees, along with two plyometric ramps. Oregon is the only other program in the country — college or pro — with this feature.
Korem says the state-of-the-art high performance lab is the first of its kind, and he and head strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond are still customizing equipment as it comes in.
“We created some of our own stuff, so I’m excited for people to look at us and see it’s not just in the high-performance realm, it’s a lot of stuff,” he said. “I think the people of Kentucky are going to be pretty stinking proud of this building.”
“God made Bud Dupree. We just polished him up.”
What makes Korem’s high-performance program even more impressive are the results it’s producing heading into year three. Like Avery Williamson last year, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith opted to train with Korem for the NFL Combine instead of paying for outside training, and the results spoke for themselves. Dupree was one of the standouts at the Combine, turning in the fastest results for a player his size, vaulting his stock into the first round. Pittsburgh is now grooming him as a starter heading into training camp.
“You can’t make Bud Dupree,” Korem said. “God made Bud Dupree and we just polished him up. He’s still going to get better.”
What’s the method to Korem’s magic? He worked as a speed development consultant with track and field athletes during the 2008 Olympics and applied those drills and tactics to the Combine training. Dupree had all of his meals before the Combine designed by a nutritionist and delivered to him to achieve maximum results. Korem’s program has been so successful that many former players in the NFL, including Williamson, Randall Cobb, and Tim Masthay, are coming back each offseason to train at UK.
The craziest part? Korem says he enjoys helping former players prepare for the combine and train so much that he does it all on his own time. The high-performance program has always been interesting, but now that it’s turning UK players into first round NFL Draft picks, it’s an integral part of the new Kentucky football.
The best is yet to come
At SEC Media Days, senior offensive tackle Jordan Swindle trotted out the much-ballyhooed stat that two years ago, only five player on the team could run over 19 MPH, and now, over 33 players run over 19 MPH. I mentioned that stat to Korem and he laughed.
“I have to correct Jordan. Our first year, we had five that could run over 19 MPH in the first game and next year, it was like 14, and two weeks ago in training, we had 31 over 20 MPH, so I didn’t even count the guys running over 19, so it’s even faster.”
(For perspective, when Boom Williams broke out for his first touchdown against Ohio, he was clocked at 21.7 MPH.)
While Korem and Coach Edmond have been focusing on acceleration with the Catapult tracking system, a lot of the improvement, of course, is due to Stoops and the staff recruiting better talent.
“I’ll be honest, you have to bring in good talent. It makes your job way easier when you have good talent to work with,” Korem said.
Ready for another mind-blowing stat? Korem said when he and Stoops’ staff came in, only six to eight guys could jump over 30 inches vertically. After one summer, 35 players could jump over 30 inches and now, 40-50 players clear the benchmark. Whoa.
“Getting the best players better is important, but one thing Coach Edmond always talks about, if we can improve the average player, that’s really important. So, if our average player is significantly better, then we’re a better football team,” Korem said, noting how players now pass the eye test. “All you have to do is look at our guys in their uniforms and you can tell we look better, we’ve lost a lot of fat, we’ve gained a lot of muscle. In between the ears, we’ve improved as well. Our guys are making big strides and being more accountable. Mentally tough and it’s only going to get better.”
All-in on results
Korem said he’s spent a good part of this offseason helping players form better habits to support improved performance, and he’s noticed players are taking ownership of their training both in and out of the weight room.
“I want guys to manage the training process themselves. We want guys to become self-aware, we’re creating ways for guys to see the data on their cell phones,” Korem said. “Guys will pull me aside and say, ‘Coach, I wasn’t at my best, why not?’ I’ll say, ‘well, let’s look at the past three days, what were your habits like? And then when guys start buying in, getting to bed earlier, turning the video games off, hydrating more, and all of a sudden the changes come and they buy in? That’s when the locker room culture changes because ‘hey, this stuff works.'”
“To us, it’s the 22 hours outside the building that will affect their performance more than anything else,” Korem said. “We train two hours. They’ve got 22 other hours that they’re training but they don’t even know it.”
Now they do, and that awareness is paying off.
So, about that rope…
Since his first summer at Kentucky, Korem’s high-performance program has been turning heads, attention he credits to the hard work of his entire staff, specifically Coach Edmond. Korem told me that representatives from NFL teams, NBA teams, and Australian rules football teams regularly contact him to pick his brain about what he’s doing at Kentucky. In fact, he said he talked to an NFL team just the other day. (I can feel Suzanne’s arm reaching out instinctively.) When I asked if these teams try to poach him, Korem admitted he’s had some offers, but he remains loyal to Mark Stoops.
“There have been some opportunities,” Korem said. “But I’m happy here and Coach Stoops is a great man to work for. To me, it’s all about people, really. If you’re working with a good group of people, it makes things so much fun and I think we have a good group of people here.”
Also, a brand new training facility that will open next July; a facility that Korem’s been dreaming of his entire career, and is now molding, brick by brick.
“As far as my input, the administration said ‘hey, what do you want in this building?'” Korem said. “The high-performance lab, I think that’s kind of unheard of. When I explained to Coach Stoops what would go in there, he said, ‘hey, let’s do it.’ You don’t want to be different just for different’s sake, but you want to actually have things that will make a difference.”
For a program trying to succeed in a league as competitive as the SEC, you have to be a little different to make a difference.
Zach West, Landon Foster and Jordan Swindle visited Prague earlier this summer and Kentucky Wildcats TV has a video recap of their trip.
Watch as the three football seniors explain what it meant to them and what they took away from their time overseas. It sounds like a really enlightening experience.