August 15, 2014 marks the 44th anniversary of the opening of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, or as us normal folk simply call it, Woodstock. One of the most significant events in the history of rock and roll, took place in small White Lake, New York. Expecting a crowd of around 50,000, the major music event became free when the small security fences were overflowed with people, with the attendance peaking around 400,000. Of those 400,000, 399,000 were on acid, pot, or a mixture of the two (a made-up stat, but probably close to true). Rain played just as an integral role as the drugs, creating a scene of muddy hippies playing in the mud. The self- proclaimed “3 Days of Peace and Music” brought people together like never before, with limited violence and many volunteers helping those in need (the ones without food on a bad trip). The scene set by the people alone had never happened before, only being surpassed by the unbelievable lineup. CCR, The Who, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and The Band are just some of the great 32 performers at the event (which can be seen in the full-length Woodstock documentary). The event culminated with a show by Jimi Hendrix, whose performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” (which awesomely led into Purple Haze) has been regarded as a defining moment of the 60s.
Woodstock marked the culmination of the 60s social revolution, making music an integral part in every person’s life. Woodstock also informally spawned a subculture of summer music festivals. Now hippies, hipsters, and Average Joe’s all have the opportunity to travel across the country and listen to live music for an entire summer, from Bonaroo, Forecastle, Lollapalooza, all the way to the Electric Forest. Whether you love or hate rock n roll, you cannot deny the cultural significance of the “3 Days of Peace & Music”.
Today has been a rather slow news day, so here are the 5 things I’ve learned about since the beginning of football practice.
1. The starting QB position is Jalen Whitlow’s to lose. When Spring practice began, if you asked three people to answer the question of, “who will run Neal Brown’s Air Raid?”, you would probably receive three different answers. Max Smith has the most starting experience, home-grown Pat Towles has the biggest arm, but Jalen Whitlow’s arm outplayed the others (even his phenomenal feet) during the Blue/White game, providing evidence to #BBN that he should be the starter. That evidence has only continued to build since camp began last week. With the ‘Eye of the
Tiger Wildcat’, Jalen’s killer instinct and improved accuracy has made him the front-runner for the starting position. He wowed the crowd on Fan Day, making progressive reads and hitting WRs into their break while putting the ball in a position where only the offense can catch it. From a schematic standpoint, his fast feet bring more to the table than any other QB, pulling off a 50-yard touchdown run in practice yesterday. To top it off, he changed to #2 in the offseason, a number made for an Air Raid QB. If anyone other than Jalen Whitlow is starting at QB on August 31st, I’ll be the first to apologize (I don’t do it often, and I don’t plan on it any time soon).
2. The freshman are just as good, if not better than advertised. If you couldn’t tell after last season, the Spring revealed some serious deficiencies in talent and depth. After popping out an almost Cal-esque recruiting class, Stoops has addressed his two weakest positions, cornerback and wide receiver, while adding legitimate depth at running back and the defensive line. JUCO WR Javess Blue was expected to be an immediate playmaker, bringing size and depth to the table, but Javess hasn’t even been the most impressive of the four newcomers. Alex Montgomery has been applauded by the coaches on the most consistent basis, more so than any other player. Stoops spoke about Montgomery’s skills yesterday, saying, “He’s very big and strong. He comes from a very good background, just a good tough kid and very mature. He’s handled himself very well.” The cornerback position will rely even more on the young bluebloods. After Cody Quinn came down with an injury, Stoops didn’t even know who to say would be filling in behind him. Luckily Nate Willis practiced today for the first time, joining FR cornerback Jaleel Hytchye (who has been the #1 CB).
While those players will be heavily relied on for their services in the upcoming weeks, plenty of young guns are pushing for playing time, despite having to make a long climb to the top of the depth chart. JoJo Kemp has two experienced Seniors in front of him, but it hasn’t stopped him from going ‘too hard’ in practice. Kemp’s pitbull-like mentality has been infectious while drawing plenty of positive attention from the coaches. The defensive line is about the only non-issue on the defense this year, but freshmen aren’t going to let the Seniors sit comfortably. Jason Hatcher and Regie Meant have been brutal in the trenches, helping a position that receives more physical punishment than any other on the field. These young kids have a difficult task ahead, but they have the proper mindset to create a stable foundation for Mark Stoops.
3. It will take awhile before Stoops is happy with his defense. Even though #BBN has a defensive-minded head coach, it’s going to take some time before his defense’s performance live up to the Stoops standard. The one shining light on the subject is the defensive line. The front four could all start for any SEC team, however they can’t make the necessary 180 turn by themselves. For Stoops, it starts with the linebackers, the quarterbacks of the defense. The good news is that Avery Williamson is the team’s best overall leader, bringing to the table experienced results that made him the SEC’s 2nd most leading tackler last year.
Here’s the problem: that’s the only good. Whenever Coach Stoops is asked if any of the other linebacker’s are improving, he gets a look on his face that would make you think someone is pulling his hair out as he speaks. Khalid Henderson has been OK, but after that, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will fill the 3rd linebacker spot. Avery’s back will likely be sore from carrying the linebacking crew, but it only gets worse the further you go back. As I mentioned above, 2 Freshman are likely to start at cornerback. The safeties have a solid Senior leader in Ashley Lowery, but if Lowery has to miss time, it could be up to more freshman, or sophomores with next to no experience. While the defense will most likely be 3000000000000000000000000000 times better than last year, it will take a year or two before Stoops has the shut down defense that he expects week in and week out.
4. This team will be in phenomenal shape. There are a lot of people that have made monumental differences in changing the atmosphere around the once-suffering program, but the person that has changed them physically should receive a hug and a handshake from every member of #BBN. I firmly believe that Erik Korem will become one of the most historically significant figures in the science of sports medicine. That’s a very bold statement, but Korem already has evidence to prove that the ingenious system he brought from overseas works. His players lost an average of nearly 5 pounds of fat, while gaining nearly 3 pounds of muscle in one summer alone, staggering figures. Individual results are more impressive, with multiple players adding/dropping double digits in weight while adding more muscle. The emphasis on flexibility while strengthening muscles that are often neglected, will pay dividends down the road by preventing injuries (too bad you can’t prevent them all).
The team didn’t meet the staff’s high tempo expectations in the Spring, but there have been no complaints since the beginning of camp. In addition to what Coach Korem did over the summer, the team is utilizing multiple practice fields in order to get the players as many reps as possible. Learning how to play through fatigue will be essential for a team that lacks depth. With more time to recover once practice is over, they are maximizing their daily performance on the field. The staff is getting everything they can out of their players, and it all starts with the fabulous work of Coach Korem.
5. The ‘losing atmosphere’ has significantly changed without playing a down. Alan Cutler’s question during Mark Stoops introductory press conference seemed a little abrasive, but that’s Alan Cutler: “Can you explain what you need to do to change a losing culture, which is what this is, and turn it into a winning culture, which will make all True Blue fans happy?” The questioned task seemed too monumental at the time. The honest truth is that there really wasn’t a bigger group of losers on campus than the football team, and they knew it. It was painful to sit in class with one of the footballers who had to listen to his peers’ (and professors alike) unrelenting criticism.
That simply isn’t even a thing anymore (as I shake my head). It’s something that you can’t read in practice reports, it’s something that you feel when you watch the players and coaches interact with one another and the media. While it can be comical to poke fun at D.J. Eliot for cracking a smile, the truth is that smile and laugh is a symbol for how much the team has bonded thus far. They not only have bought into Stoops’ ideologies, they’re excited to do whatever a coach asks of them. Players were more likely to play well out of spite for the previous staff; nothing close to the level of comfort they share now. For those that have been a part of football camaraderie, this team is there, and will only continue to grow as the season develops. The positive attitude is infectious, spreading through the media even when all of them want to chase Matt out of town with their pitchforks. One of Mark Stoops’ primary goals was for his players to walk around campus with their heads held high. By playing together with a positive attitude, this team will shine brighter than they could have ever dreamed of a year ago.