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Looking At UK Football’s X Factor

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If you’re reading this on a Friday night, I’m sure you can relate to what I’m about to say.  Have you ever broken up with a significant other, and found yourself wanting to spend a lot of time just getting to be a better version of you?  You’re hitting the gym more often, you try out that sushi place down the street, you pick up a few hobbies.  All of a sudden, that 2 star guy (or gal) you were in the past has shaped up and turned in to a 4 star stud.  We’ve all been there.

Remember that feeling – we’ll get back to it.

There are a ton of reasons to get excited about Kentucky football these days – Stoops, his troops, Neal Brown, air sirens, grey uniforms, the free pom-poms they give out in the student section, the *literal* ton that wears blue and white named Za’Darius Smith – trust me, I could go on and on.  But amidst all that excitement, there is one big factor that has been getting overlooked.  We’ve still got a lot of quality players on our team that are just getting over a figurative breakup, feeling great for the first time in a long time, and ready to pick up some new hobbies – like winning games.

That’s all to say – don’t overlook our returning boys in blue.  It’s easy to forget that at one point, Joker’s saving grace was his ability to recruit.

I know.  I know.  2-10.  0-40 at home.  The team stunk.  But the players didn’t.  Football, more than any other sport not named synchronized swimming, is a team game.  Everyone has to be on the same page of the playbook, they have to execute as a squad, or the plays just don’t work.  One blown assignment, and the QB gets blown up, or you miss the WR streaking to the end zone.  Because of the team nature of the game, coaches matter in football more than they matter in most any other sport, both during the game and in practice.  Unless we are talking Adrian Peterson’s here, you can’t just have a single player drop 54 points – in spite of a bad coach – and talent a team to a win.  So you can’t look at a teams results, and judge the talent pool off of that.

So what does this mean for the 2013 Football team?  It means there is a healthy amount of untapped potential, ready to burst.  Mark Stoops famously took the 108th ranked defense at Florida State and turned them in to the 2nd ranked defense.  Neal Brown had the benefit of following Mike Leach at Texas Tech, so the offensive jump wasn’t as drastic – but he did finish top 15 in total offense all three years at Texas Tech.  Is there any better pair of coaches out there than these two at utilizing the talent on their teams?  Maybe, maybe not.  But sometimes all it takes is a new system, a new approach to practice, a new attitude – like not accepting wasted days of practice – to get a team turned around.

So before you write off next season, or the players left at Kentucky in Joker’s wake, think about what it was that lead to 2-10.

Remember all those missed tackles the past three years?  Dropped balls?  Missed blocks?  Fundamentals.

The look of disorganization at the start of games?  Game planning.

The lack of half time adjustments?  Coaching.

Those symptoms aren’t derived from lack of talent or lack of athleticism – they are derived from lack of guidance.  These were players we were all excited for at one point or another, and they haven’t shown out yet, to no fault of their own.  The talent is still there, and Mark Stoops may just be the man to tap in to it.

Article written by Will Lentz

23 Comments for Looking At UK Football’s X Factor



  1. Rei
    8:15 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    I think overall, Joker was an average recruiter at best. He did bring in some quality guys, but beating out Toledo and Bowling Green State for “top” players was a joke (no pun). I’m excited to see how Stoops does with former Joker players and his own recruits this year. I imagine there will be much more heart, at the least, this year.



  2. James
    8:52 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Great post, Will. I think you make some excellent points and problems that are all correctable and will hopefully turn into some wins. And if not wins, I just want to be competitive again and have fun while watching it.



  3. Stone Cold
    9:05 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    The X Factor is UK sucks. And that’s the bottom line.



  4. Bulldawg
    9:06 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Hell yeah Will, this is what I have been trying to tell people. Just having offensive and defensive coaches that actually know how to coach is going to make a huge difference. I believe UK finally got some top tier coaches, the only problem is, the rest of the SEC has had top tier coaches for a while now. But I do think the Cats will win the games they are supposed to win and a few they are not supposed to win. I also think even in the losses this team will be way more competitive and more fun to watch. Go Cats! Shock the world! Bowl bound baby!



  5. Bulldawg
    9:19 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Oh and I went to check out the loserville message board on the Kevin Ware thing just to see how many UK fans troll on the loserville site. I figured their would be quite a few considering every other comment on Ksr is made by a troll. I am vey pleased to say that out 94 comments not 1 was from a UK fan. It was all loserville fans talkin bout how we are obsessed with them. One only needs to look at the comment section to see who is obsessed. I think it’s funny. I guess these loserville trolls are to damn dumb to realize that they will be single handedly responsible for the purchase of Matt, Drew, and the gang’s next car… Lol keep them hits comin retardinals you really showed us up with that comment. It was so clever BBN may never recover if we get another comment from a loserville fan. Please don’t. We can’t take it anymore. Ha ha ha what a bunch of nerds. However, if I was a retardinal fan, I probably wouldn’t want to interact with other tards either. Go Cats!



  6. Tomas
    9:25 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky’s problem won’t be their starters except in the secondary. It will be their depth. While teams like Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia are rotating 3-4 for guys at every position except QB Kentucky will have to rely on Avery Williamson and Bud Dupree every snap. Our O-Line is decent but there are no backups for those guys. In the 3rd or 4th quarter going against Alabama and their 8 defensive tackles wears you down. That is when mental mistakes happen and possible blowouts against good teams. Our receiving corp is talented buy also really young, I would expect a lot of missed routes and dropped balls especially early in the year. That is why you can’t judge this team on wins and losses but rather looking for signs hope for the next couple of years, also looking to see Stoops philosophy motivates these guys. And ultimately looking for improvement towards the end of the year maybe pull of a couple wins against the likes of Missouri and Tennessee.



  7. Mars Bonfire
    9:38 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Will, first of all, much better article than what that W guy writes. Lots of excellent points. I am looking to see how much a new coaching affects last year’s players. I really believe we had some good young talent last year and a new staff hopefully will bring out that talent. The attitude last year was so poor. I’m looking for a change in the players beginning with Cat
    Walk. Last year players came through looking like their puppy had just been run over, defeated body language even before they entered the stadium. Looking for a can-do attitude to transform to a better effort on the field. Another thing I’m gonna watch this year, is this new staff going to get us over the dreaded 3rd and long which has forever frustrated us with our inability to stop?



  8. Huh
    10:28 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    There is very little talent to speak of.



  9. ebell55
    10:59 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Joker left us some good talent. The main problem with the Joker regime was that the past 2 years we had to rely on true Freshmen QBs. We lost to UGA the east champs 29-24 and lead USC the #2 team in the east at the half. Our D Line has depth and I think our WRs will be better. If the O Line holds up we may shock some people. Go Cats!!



  10. You Can Call Me Cal
    11:39 pm August 16, 2013 Permalink

    Very sly dig Mr Lentz. I see what you did there and I appreciate it. Glad we got Cal



  11. Doo Doo Brown
    3:50 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Not getting trashed by your own fan base on a daily basis will help too.



  12. ribin
    7:29 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Good points — turn them loose — show their enthusiasm — they didn’t come to KY to be a bad team — they had a great deal of help from previous coaches. These guys should be exciting this year — looking forward to it.



  13. Jeffrey
    9:25 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    UK had flashes of brilliance last season, they just didn’t know how to maintain it. This season, our problem should only be depth.



  14. thats budda
    9:26 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    After watching things unfold I have been saying for a while that there will be one game at home this year that will lead to an unexpected win against one of the big boys. And it will be awesome



  15. tippytoe
    10:25 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Nice article for a change by someone other than the name Tyler.
    I don’t agree about Joker’s ability to recruit. Stoops hasn’t even coached his first game and we are in the top 3 in recruiting currently. I think UK’s previous highest recruiting spot was 27, and that was only once!



  16. All FB
    10:49 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Great article! This sums up what I’ve said all along. We had horrible coaching and good players last year. These coaches will get everything they can out of the returning guys.



  17. classof68
    10:55 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    This post made a lot of sense. At this point it’s not entirely crazy to think 6 wins and a bowl. And as 9. said, they had USC and UGA on the ropes last year.



  18. Tbartley
    11:16 am August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Ask Stoops about the talent. I have not idea where Joker got the label of super recruiter. You sure bought into it. I guess recruiting in South Carolina FOR South Carolina may get you there. But, at UK, we were competing against MAC schools for talent. the Jason Hatchers and Ryan Timmons of the world wounldn’t even return UK’s phone calls. No lay the rest once and for all that Joker was anything but a mediocre recruiter and a horrible coach.



  19. wildcats
    3:01 pm August 17, 2013 Permalink

    If they even got phone calls from Joker



  20. ebell55
    3:13 pm August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Joker was a good recruiter I hope Stoops is better. However Raphael Little Burton Tamme Corey Peters Myron Pryor The whole Lagrange Ga pipeline lets not discredited Joker. He also brought Yeast Kevin Colman Quinton McCord. Look at our current NFL talent. He failed at head coach but respect thetalent he brought in.



  21. Dufus
    3:52 pm August 17, 2013 Permalink

    For the first time since Bear Bryant and Blandon Collier days we have a “COACHING STAFF” with DEPTH!!!!



  22. N nardiello
    5:03 pm August 17, 2013 Permalink

    This report is one of the best I have ever read taking into account the fact that we did have good players on last hear’s team. our record didn’t show it, but these same players and our new freshmen are thriving under our new coaches and with the help of the Erik Korem high performance conditioning. I am looking forward to this season and I am so pleased that Coach Stoops has brought this strong group of coaches with him to Ky. I can’t wait to see our team succeed. GO CATS!



  23. AllBlue
    7:15 pm August 17, 2013 Permalink

    Just giving the guys hope is a big deal. Like the story of the little engine that could, believing in the team is half the battle. My old high school coach (many years ago at Louisville Flaget) used to talk about that burning desire to win. Winners win because they know they can. You can’t win if you don’t believe you can and that belief is what this coaching staff has returned to Kentucky. Go Big Blue!