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.