Mark Stoops’ sense of humor is responsible for that animated photo alongside Tom Leach. Following a ten-win season, Kentucky’s head coach is much more comfortable entering his seventh preseason training camp. In a 30-minute panel in front of fans at Kroger Field’s Woodford Reserve Club, Stoops thanked the fans and support staff, cracked jokes and provided a little insight into this year’s team.
1. Mark Stoops is an Adam Luckett Fan
The coaches don’t like to admit they read the press, but Stoops was happy to bring up this stat our Adam Luckett compiled last week.
UK’s SEC East finishes under Mark Stoops
— Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettBOS) July 23, 2019
“You know what’s next, Tom, so we gotta go finish it, finish first in the East and go to the SEC Championship Game.”
2. No One is Content
Piggy-backing off that message, Stoops has not felt a sense of satisfaction from this year’s team. They are not resting on their laurels from 2018.
“What I was really pleased by was how they attacked it, how hungry they were. It’s easy to say ‘we got this figured out.’ The minute you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re gonna get smacked in the head. That’s everywhere. The beautiful thing about football is you got an opportunity to get humbled every seven days. Our team had that mentality. They were like, ‘what do we have to do to repeat and improve?’ They’ve had that mentality. It started in the winter. They were hungry in the weight room. They worked extremely hard into the spring and it’s carried over into the summer. We cannot wait to get with those players who report tomorrow and to get on the field Friday.”
3. Impact on the Recruiting Trail
When Stoops first got to campus, he told Vince Marrow to recruit the best of the best within a six-hour radius of Lexington. Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw added the Florida element. After the Cats’ beat Penn State on New Year’s Day, “We can recruit nationally now,” Vince Marrow said. “We can go to New Jersey, we can go to California, we can go anywhere.”
4. Landon Young Made the Most of his Redshirt Year
Kentucky’s left tackle did not anticipate sitting on the sideline during the 2018 season. An untimely knee injury during a preseason scrimmage forced him to miss the entire year. Instead of moping, he used the time off to his advantage.
“It was a shame,” Eddie Gran said,” but if you look at him after a year with Coach Ed, he looks like a different person.”
London Young has always been an enormous human being. Now he’s bigger? You gotta be kidding me.
5. It’s just “Big Nik”
The newest addition to Vince Marrow’s tight end room is Nik Ognenovic. A 6-5 235 pound Ft. Lauderdale product recruited by Gran, Marrow is excited to get to work with him, even though he can’t properly pronounce his last name “Oh-GIN-oh-vick.” You’ll only hear the Big Dog refer to him as “Big Nik.”
6. A New Position for Paschal
The coaches did not elaborate on Paschal’s switch, but they were happy to share he will complete his final cancer treatment in August. Before he received his diagnosis last year, Paschal bulked up to play with his hand in the dirt on the defensive line. Ahead of this season he will stand up as the “Jack” linebacker, Josh Allen’s former position.
The move tells me two things. One, they’re comfortable with the depth they have developed on the defensive line. Two, they need to have Paschal ready to roll if Xavier Peters is not cleared to play. Stoops had no update on Peters’ status this afternoon.
7. Moving Forward
Stoops’ closing message to the crowd is one that will be the theme for this year’s team, if you couldn’t tell by the Super Bowl commercial.
“We’re all in this together. I promise you this staff cares. Our team cares. They’re working around the clock. They’re working exceptionally hard to make you proud. We have no intentions of going backwards. We only plan on continuing to improve this year.”