On Friday UK held its annual Media Day. The 2016 Cats didn’t physically resemble the version that was last seen surrendering a significant first-half lead against Louisville. Mark Stoops’ offseason adjustments paid noticeable dividends. Strength and Conditioning coaches Mark Hill and Corey Edmond earned their collective pay and then some. By far, the most comprehensive observation from Media Day was the prevalence of body transformations.
UK averages 6’5, 313 pounds across its starting offensive line. While observing player pictures being taken before the start of interviews, I noticed that Cole Mosier, Kyle Meadows, Ramsey Meyers, Nick Haynes, and Jon Toth were void of belly fat and their waist line seemed to be much smaller. This grabbed my attention.
The OL looked fit while maintaining target weights which allows the big fellas to keep the strength mandated by position. Lower body fat percentages mean increased stamina. I can only take this as a precursor to Eddie Gran’s desire to play at an up-tempo as well as a testament to offseason player dedication.
In the past three years, Matt Elam has weighed as much as 380 pounds. Friday saw a different variety. Standing 6’7, Elam indicated that he’s down to 350 pounds and possesses the body type of a defensive end or offensive tackle. I’m very proud of Matt. His weight loss is great for his life both on and off the field. But I took it as a step in maturation. Understanding that if he is to play professional football and help his team win, he could not do so while tipping the scales at 380
Rookies TJ Carter and Kordell Looney look the part. Alongside Regie Meant, Alvonte Bell, Courtney Miggins, Adrian Middleton, Jacob Hyde, and Tymere Dubose; the group looked the part of a SEC defensive line. That doesn’t always translate to effective Saturday play. Only time will tell, but much like Matt Elam, the DL has obviously dedicated themselves and made the most of the offseason.
Players that Looked the Part
Tight end CJ Conrad is closing in on a healthy 250 pounds. That’s up from 230 from a year ago. While speaking to the sophomore, he said that added strength and weight will help with line-of-scrimmage blocking as well as receiving yards after catch.
Outside linebacker Josh Allen played his freshman season at approximately 210 pounds. He’s up to 235 and has taken on the look of a veteran SEC defender. Same can be said about fellow linebacker Jordan Jones who gained 15 pounds and is now 220.
6’4 Freshman All American cornerback Chris Westry weighs 200 pounds or more. Proud of his new body, Westry flexed his arms while on set. He struck me as a humble young man who is eagerly hungry to be great. Of all the interviews I conducted today, Chris Westry was the most impressive. He’s not a flashy talker. He didn’t use big words or try to be Mr. Thesaurus. Chris spoke softly, honestly, confidently, and with team-first intent when asked if he’s had to prepare differently since he is now a marked man in the Southeastern Conference.
–Drew Barker looked like, talked like, and acted like a starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. Confident, self-assured, and surprisingly humbled; the third year sophomore has accepted the role of being a team leader. Again, translation to on-the-field play is yet to be seen, but it was obvious that Barker has taken instruction and his new-found role seriously.
-Barker spoke of the advantage of being a starting quarterback on an offense that returns nine starters. He went on to discuss the benefits of having Jon Toth at center and how if he makes an incorrect call, Toth automatically makes on-line corrections to ensure the play’s success. There are two types of leaders: Self-aware and self-absorbed. Basing this off spring and Media Day interviews; I view Barker as a self-aware football player.
Overall Media Day was a success for the Kentucky football team. It presented itself as a confident, understanding, and hungry team that recognizes and is willing to correct past mistakes. UK won the day. That’s not always been the case. I’ve witnessed Wildcat teams that portrayed a false sense of value as well as others that were defeated before the start of the season. Not this group. Now let’s see if that translates to winning football on September 3.