I asked for your Media Day questions via Twitter on Saturday evening. Got some really good ones. I typed the following remarks as if we were having a tailgate discussion in the Blue Lot. Here goes:
@DACats86-Serious question, who’s more tired of talking season by now, players/coaches, or the people who cover them?
Answer: All of the above. I’m fairly certain that coaches are sick of answering questions that are projective in nature sense the football portion of camp has yet to start. Some players enjoy and embrace Media Day; others loathe the annual event. I can’t speak for the 2017 Wildcats, but I’d assume they’re ready to start popping pads instead of their gums.
As for the media; again I can’t answer for any other than myself. I’m ready to move on and am tired of talking and writing about 2016. I’m ready to focus on the current; the here-and-now; authentic 11 on 11 competition that leads up to facing off with a tangible opponent. That’s why I’m having so much fun analyzing Southern Miss. I love the X and O chess match that takes place in the trenches. I’m infatuated with how the Golden Eagles will game-plan vs. Benny Snell. Why the USM fascination? Because it’s UK’s week one opponent. It beat the Cats in 2016 and presents an atypical road opener vs. a Group of 5 opponent. I guess I just love the game of football.
@yankeesky— At the end of fall camp does #3 on QB depth chart stay or leave?
Answer– I don’t think so. Apparently there is a legitimate quarterback competition between Stephen Johnson, Drew Barker, and Gunnar Hoak. Johnson proved his worth a year ago. Barker looked superb in a half before falling out to a painful back injury. Hoak steadily impressed for a second consecutive spring game. The focus should be on the Cat’s quality depth at quarterback instead of a competition. I’m moderately confident all three can win in the SEC.
@TailgatingCzar— Would like to know what new faces are catching people’s eye this summer. Or any current players that have made a big jump since last year.
Answer– Not sure that question can be accurately answered until at least one week of full-padded practices are in the books. I can say that Abule-Abadi-Fitzgerald has impressed by his relentless work ethic and strength-weight gain improvements. Josh Paschal is supposedly even better than advertised, and that was a high ceiling he had to surpass. But the fact is that we have to wait and see. One or two rookie receivers could separate from the pack and jump over veterans that have been developmentally stagnate. LB Jamin Davis reported to campus around 200-pounds. He’s now 220 and was the spring game’s leading tackler.
@RoushKSR Are you staying away from press box Diet Cokes?
Answer– Yes young man, I will try my very best. I’ve slowly and painfully weened myself off the Diet Coke. It’s been a tough transition; but I’m not backing down from the fight.
@WendellCombs-– Is the punting going to improve?
Answer– Can’t get much worse. It has to improve or the Cats will have to go to a fulltime rugby kick or deploy the Hal Mumme philosophy and go for it on 4th down regardless of down/distance. Roster announcements revealed on Sunday may clear up the situation (grad transfer).
@UKDad21— Will Dorian Baker finally rightfully earn the nickname Highlight Maker? Catch against UL in ’16 was big time. Need more of that this year.
Answer-I think and hope so. Receiver coach Lamar Thomas has raved about Baker’s increased maturity and sense of urgency going into his senior season. Baker’s body and athleticism is that of a professional football player. Results need to match potential. If UK is to average 30+ points per game, it will need Baker to have a 50+ catch season.
@johall914— Which of the redshirt freshmen will make the biggest impact this year?
Answer-I’d go with Jamar “Boogie” Watson based off spring practice. Watson’s a future star and benefits from playing behind an All SEC player like Denzil Ware. Safety Tobias Gilliam and defensive tackle Kordell Looney are others that will have an opportunity. Offensively AJ Rose has enormous expectation and possesses the ability to transform Eddie Gran’s Wildcat package to another level. Offensive linemen Luke Fortner and Drake Jackson are two of the big fellas to keep your eye on as well.
@jddyceh— Punting situation. Is there going to be a real QB competition? Impact of Coach Hood. Plans for using Charles Walker. DBs. Punting situation.
Answer-Lots of questions in one sentence but on par for a professional question asker. Hope you’re well sir. Punting is addressed above. Dean Hood’s impact could have significant influence both at his position (OLB), special teams, and as a voice of reason from his time as a head coach. Real QB competition is seemingly the situation but I find it difficult to not start the signal caller that won 7/10 regulars season games. Chuck Walker will be a valid starter at inside receiver. He’s a team leader and will also factor as a punt returner although that role may be on a rotational basis. As for DB’s; Coach Clinkscale has the deepest and most talented collection of secondary players that I can remember at UK. Two, three-year starters at cornerback and an All SEC safety comprise an awfully strong nucleus. Plus, there’s a surplus of young talent that is anxious to show their worth in fall camp.
@CatsKast— Who is going to emerge as the leader on the field & in the meeting room for the receiving corps? Also, what DL will make the biggest impact?
Answer– Chuck Walker appears to be the leader. Starts, sustained-proven high level of effort, and an earned scholarship put him in the position to lead the group that sorely needs an internal spearhead. Coach Lamar Thomas has worked wonders as far as confidence and route discipline; but Wildcat pass catchers require more production in 2017. I think that happens simply based on how defenses will be forced into scheming for Benny Snell. Biggest impact along the defensive line needs to come from nose tackle Naquez Pringle. But, my pinpointed interest lies within the defensive ends. TJ Carter is young but flashed influential potential in the Taxslayer Bowl. It’s time for Kengera Daniel to play with consistency and intensity. Calvin Taylor Jr. is 6’9, 305-pounds. I found him to be intriguing during spring practice as he emerged as the team’s most improved player.
@DonB10times— Matt Elam’s mindset after recent criticism and Drew Barker’s response to QB battle with camp upcoming.
Answer– That’s literally a million-dollar question for Matt Elam. If football is to be his profession of choice, then his mindset needs to be that of players like Jon Toth, Courtney Love, or Wesley Woodyard. I’ve said it before; I’m pulling for him to play well. That’s probably not an objective media response, but hey; I don’t care. We had dinner with Drew Barker the night before the spring game during a former player function. I found him to be mature, focused, and engaging. He will respond, I have zero doubt in that. The only question I have is can he take a hit? His toughness will never be questioned after fighting through an extremely painful injury a year ago.
@NewAge_Rage— A few random?’s I’m curious to learn answers to. How will special teams be better? How will we pressure the QB? Where’s Blake Bone at?
Answer– Other than punting, special teams were solid a year ago. Maintaining all aspects and improving punting will be under the supervision of Dean Hood. In other words, I have full faith that the unit will be extremely well coached. Blake Bone is now a senior. He’ll be pushed by JaVonte Richardson and Kayaune Ross at the X receiver spot. Tavin Richardson has already moved ahead of him on the preseason depth chart. Fall camp is very, very important for Blake Bone.
There you have it. Thanks for the questions and hope the answers made sense. I look forward to covering Media Day and enjoy it much more on this side of the microphone.