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Erik Korem: Stoops’ secret weapon and the facility that could keep him here

One man tried to make his way across the crowded floor at the Nutter Field House Saturday morning, backpack slung over his shoulders and eyes on the exit. All along the way, fans stopped him to ask questions, and patiently, he obliged, even though it meant whatever was next on the agenda would have to wait. While more prominent staff members and starting football players stood idly by, Erik Korem was the rock star, fans rushing up to get in one last compliment, question, or threat to keep him in the room.

“I’m tying a rope on you. I don’t want you to ever leave us,” UK football superfan Suzanne Allen whispered to Korem, reaching out and pulling his arm towards her. “They need to raise your salary, do whatever they have to do to keep you.”

Korem smiled and assured Suzanne that he and his family are very happy in Lexington. While I admire Suzanne’s determination to keep Korem here by tying a rope to him, after listening to his presentation at the UK Football Women’s Clinic, I don’t think it’s necessary. He’s already tethered to Kentucky by the new state-of-the-art $45 million practice facility, which Stoops gave him complete control over to design from the ground up.


A “first of its kind” facility

Korem talks about the training facility with the same passion, excitement, and pride one would a child, because, basically, this is his baby. The 100,000-square foot facility will serve as a one-stop shop for the football program, and include a massage therapy room, high-performance weight room, sports science facility, and team doctor’s office with an in-house X-ray machine. Players will want for nothing, with a tutoring center, full-service kitchen, Gatorade and juice bar, and lounge all under the same roof.

“This building encompasses everything that involves the student athlete’s life, from training to eating to meetings and academics,” Korem said, singling out the new CATS tutorial center in particular, noting that it often takes players 20 minutes to walk from the current training center to CATS. Even just a few trips back and forth a day takes away a lot of time they could be dedicating to football. “It’s going to simplify things and bring all of that under one building. I think it’s really going to speed up our development process and it’s really going to make us feel like we’ve got a cool home.”

We’ve already heard about a lot of these features, but Korem gave the clinic and KSR some exclusive details:

  • A sensory deprivation tank similar to those used by Navy SEALS and special warfare units. This will help calm players down and alleviate stress, promoting faster mental recovery from workouts, games, life, etc. (Can I use that, too?)
  • An indoor turf area, 25 yards long by 20 yards wide for players to warm up on before lifting and utilize for speed drills
  • Glass garage doors that open right up onto the training fields from the indoor turf so the players can extend their workouts outside during warm weather
  • A 70-foot long, 6-foot deep cold plunge tank capable of holding 30-40 players at once. Korem saw the concept in Australia and prefers the large pool to more common cold tubs because the deeper you get in the water, the higher the pressure gets. In addition, players will be able to move around in the pool, which will release the microbubbles that surround the body, creating a better cooling effect. The first of its kind in the US. “The cold plunge tank was a big deal,” Korem admits.
  • Turf training hills, one sloped at 20 degrees and one at 15 degrees, along with two plyometric ramps. Oregon is the only other program in the country — college or pro — with this feature.

Korem says the state-of-the-art high performance lab is the first of its kind, and he and head strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond are still customizing equipment as it comes in.

“We created some of our own stuff, so I’m excited for people to look at us and see it’s not just in the high-performance realm, it’s a lot of stuff,” he said. “I think the people of Kentucky are going to be pretty stinking proud of this building.”


“God made Bud Dupree. We just polished him up.”

What makes Korem’s high-performance program even more impressive are the results it’s producing heading into year three. Like Avery Williamson last year, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith opted to train with Korem for the NFL Combine instead of paying for outside training, and the results spoke for themselves. Dupree was one of the standouts at the Combine, turning in the fastest results for a player his size, vaulting his stock into the first round. Pittsburgh is now grooming him as a starter heading into training camp.

“You can’t make Bud Dupree,” Korem said. “God made Bud Dupree and we just polished him up. He’s still going to get better.”

What’s the method to Korem’s magic? He worked as a speed development consultant with track and field athletes during the 2008 Olympics and applied those drills and tactics to the Combine training. Dupree had all of his meals before the Combine designed by a nutritionist and delivered to him to achieve maximum results. Korem’s program has been so successful that many former players in the NFL, including Williamson, Randall Cobb, and Tim Masthay, are coming back each offseason to train at UK.

The craziest part? Korem says he enjoys helping former players prepare for the combine and train so much that he does it all on his own time. The high-performance program has always been interesting, but now that it’s turning UK players into first round NFL Draft picks, it’s an integral part of the new Kentucky football.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.18.50 AM

The best is yet to come

At SEC Media Days, senior offensive tackle Jordan Swindle trotted out the much-ballyhooed stat that two years ago, only five player on the team could run over 19 MPH, and now, over 33 players run over 19 MPH. I mentioned that stat to Korem and he laughed.

“I have to correct Jordan. Our first year, we had five that could run over 19 MPH in the first game and next year, it was like 14, and two weeks ago in training, we had 31 over 20 MPH, so I didn’t even count the guys running over 19, so it’s even faster.”

(For perspective, when Boom Williams broke out for his first touchdown against Ohio, he was clocked at 21.7 MPH.)

While Korem and Coach Edmond have been focusing on acceleration with the Catapult tracking system, a lot of the improvement, of course, is due to Stoops and the staff recruiting better talent.

“I’ll be honest, you have to bring in good talent. It makes your job way easier when you have good talent to work with,” Korem said.

Ready for another mind-blowing stat? Korem said when he and Stoops’ staff came in, only six to eight guys could jump over 30 inches vertically. After one summer, 35 players could jump over 30 inches and now, 40-50 players clear the benchmark. Whoa.

“Getting the best players better is important, but one thing Coach Edmond always talks about, if we can improve the average player, that’s really important. So, if our average player is significantly better, then we’re a better football team,” Korem said, noting how players now pass the eye test. “All you have to do is look at our guys in their uniforms and you can tell we look better, we’ve lost a lot of fat, we’ve gained a lot of muscle. In between the ears, we’ve improved as well. Our guys are making big strides and being more accountable. Mentally tough and it’s only going to get better.”

Jacob Hyde

All-in on results

Korem said he’s spent a good part of this offseason helping players form better habits to support improved performance, and he’s noticed players are taking ownership of their training both in and out of the weight room.

“I want guys to manage the training process themselves. We want guys to become self-aware, we’re creating ways for guys to see the data on their cell phones,” Korem said. “Guys will pull me aside and say, ‘Coach, I wasn’t at my best, why not?’ I’ll say, ‘well, let’s look at the past three days, what were your habits like? And then when guys start buying in, getting to bed earlier, turning the video games off, hydrating more, and all of a sudden the changes come and they buy in? That’s when the locker room culture changes because ‘hey, this stuff works.'”

“To us, it’s the 22 hours outside the building that will affect their performance more than anything else,” Korem said. “We train two hours. They’ve got 22 other hours that they’re training but they don’t even know it.”

Now they do, and that awareness is paying off.

So, about that rope…

Since his first summer at Kentucky, Korem’s high-performance program has been turning heads, attention he credits to the hard work of his entire staff, specifically Coach Edmond. Korem told me that representatives from NFL teams, NBA teams, and Australian rules football teams regularly contact him to pick his brain about what he’s doing at Kentucky. In fact, he said he talked to an NFL team just the other day. (I can feel Suzanne’s arm reaching out instinctively.) When I asked if these teams try to poach him, Korem admitted he’s had some offers, but he remains loyal to Mark Stoops.

“There have been some opportunities,” Korem said. “But I’m happy here and Coach Stoops is a great man to work for. To me, it’s all about people, really. If you’re working with a good group of people, it makes things so much fun and I think we have a good group of people here.”

Also, a brand new training facility that will open next July; a facility that Korem’s been dreaming of his entire career, and is now molding, brick by brick.

“As far as my input, the administration said ‘hey, what do you want in this building?'” Korem said. “The high-performance lab, I think that’s kind of unheard of. When I explained to Coach Stoops what would go in there, he said, ‘hey, let’s do it.’ You don’t want to be different just for different’s sake, but you want to actually have things that will make a difference.”

For a program trying to succeed in a league as competitive as the SEC, you have to be a little different to make a difference.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

46 Comments for Erik Korem: Stoops’ secret weapon and the facility that could keep him here

  1. Spartan
    9:21 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    Well done Tyler!!! Great read!

  2. chimichanga
    9:32 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    That facility is damn impressive! An excellent article through and through.

  3. hangin#9
    9:50 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    Nice article Tyler, is Korem involved in the recruiting pitch? I mean if you had Coach Stoops, Marrow and Korem in the room explaining where the program is headed and Korem telling you about a facility like this it would hard to pass it up.

  4. Kathy Molen
    9:56 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    I was at the Women’s Clinic Saturday, and this guy is doing amazing things at UK! I certainly hope he decides to stay here a very long time!

  5. Greg
    10:06 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    It should impress a young high school recruit.

  6. BenHur
    10:16 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    Wow Tyler, great writeup.

  7. Holy cow! This is unreal and it’s our best kept recruiting secret. I hope it’s not a secret to the actual recruits.

    • @BallBlog_Chad
      9:26 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      this is why those camps in Lexington are so important … getting recruits to come see what’s going

  8. JohnW
    11:10 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    It is definitely not a secret to recruits … I have heard it mentioned by recruits and even last yr sting was talking about all the great new technology on multiple interviews he was doing when asked about his son…. the word is spreading and KY football is about to awaken……

  9. Carter Hall
    11:21 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    Great job, Tyler.

  10. Ray
    11:43 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    This article gets me pumped more than any I have read in a long time! Beautiful stuff. Love the idea of this being our recruiting edge.

  11. J-Dub421
    11:43 pm July 29, 2015 Permalink

    The new training facility sounds very impressive. Great article Mrs. TT!

  12. Joeseph
    12:22 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    When I read it often takes the current UK football players 20 minutes to walk from the current Nutter Training Football to the CATS Academic Center in Memorial Coliseum, it is obvious that too much much time is being wasted walking on campus We now know the New Current Football Facility being built will include their own CATS tutoring facilities. Smart Move by UK Athletics! Nice work by Mrs TT. Go Football Cats!

  13. Blue_denim
    1:33 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    I want to run through a brick wall right now! This was a great read that has me thinking about how poorly I train the 23 hours and 15 minutes I’m not training in the gym (lol)

  14. Angelo
    2:36 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Great article Tyler! A fun follow up would be about how Korem increases their speed with the 15 and 20 degree inclined tracks.

  15. Couch to Yeast
    6:46 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    We have 8 home games this year. There will be zero excuse for Stoops and the staff not to win 6 games. Let’s make a bowl before talking about doing everything possible to get Stoops to stay.

  16. Duck Fuke
    6:47 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    “”god” made Bud Dupree”? Somebody might want to tell his momma she wasted her time carrying him for 9 months, they’re giving credit to an imaginary, presumably white guy, who lives in the sky. So this “god” has nothing better to do than create football players? Maybe can “god” do something more productive and like end poverty and war and not worry about creating atheletes. Is bud Dupree part of “gods” franchise mode?

    • PAK
      6:53 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Wow – you make some excellent points! Keep up the good work.

    • Duck Fuke
      6:58 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Ok . How about if “god” created Bud and “we just polished him up a bit” that means “god” is not perfect. Isn’t that blasphemous for those people that believe fairy tales?

    • seefus
      7:52 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      i guess god just cares more about sports than he cares about war and poverty duck. some gods are just sports junkies.

    • Hammer Time
      8:01 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Just another butthurt liberal. You sound like a miserable person. Good luck buddy.

    • asdf
      8:11 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      If that’s what you focused on, you sort of missed the point of the whole piece…

      10:03 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Duck Face…. get over it…. people believe in God … they have for as long as evolution gave us enough brain power to understand the concept of God.

    • Old_Pogue_Bourbon
      10:52 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      An individual who will isolate this one statement to get on a soapbox and denounce God reminds me of Holy Scripture that states that:

      …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

      God is real and we all know it…we choose to suppress this truth because we want self autonomy. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do and if we deny this existence of God then we’re in the clear. Open fire!

    • Calm
      10:53 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Behind every angry atheist there’s someone who is scared to death because of personal failings, and that fear comes out as anger toward God, who isn’t at all responsible for the situation, but He’ll gladly help anyway.

    • chimichanga
      12:54 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

      I’m an atheist and I like the headline. Don’t sweat the small stuff, people.

    • 8 god
      1:12 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Obviously this comment is ignorant, but so are the wingnuts who find it necessary to launch into full bible-banging mode on this poor idiot. Just keep scrolling, people.

  17. Josh
    7:12 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Fantastic article. Best read I’ve seen on here in a while.

  18. Fur-real
    7:52 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Every big program has a conditioning program/center. Just UK catch’n up with the Jones Boys (which ain’t a bad thing). Personally I’d prefer that UCLA coach that put a beat down on P-diddy!

  19. Hamburgers
    7:53 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Ok, Korem is a great trainer and knows his stuff about lifting and power training, but some of this is grade A bologna. A 6 foot deep plunge pool has higher pressure than a normal 3 foot tub? 3 feet of additional water pressure is going to be negligible at best. Its great that its 70 feet, I think that’ll be good because it can facilitate active recovery over static/passive recovery, but the 6 feet makes zero difference in water pressure for recovery. Also, microbubbles? I’ve been in kinesiology/PT for 10 years now and I have never ever heard any literature about micro bubbles or sensory deprivation in recovery. A lot of this stuff is great, but don’t buy in on some of this psuedo science that has no research to back it up. The hills, the long communal pool, the new turf are all great, but I don’t believe for one second that sitting in a sensory deprivation chamber for 10 minutes after an exercise will do anything at all.

    • Tduff
      9:02 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      that’s why you’re posting on here and Korem is actively trying to make the practice better. You may be right, but I don’t think there is enough proof to completely shoot his theories down. At one time, bacteria was not known to cause disease…science and research is amazing stuff.

    • Dangers
      9:23 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      The sensory deprivation tank is more of a meditative thing. Korem seems high on doing everything you can to get the mental edge, and meditation has been shown scientifically to do so, and is enhanced by a lack of outside stimuli. I’m not sure that it’s enough to plop down $10-20 grand for it, but hey, if it looks good to recruits, I’ll take it! As far as the cold bath, I have no idea, but I guess it allows more people to be in there at once. Jury’s out on the water pressure and microbubbles, though. Again, if it makes a recruit more likely to come here, I’ll take it.

      9:33 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      I think the sensory deprivation is more a mental/psychological issue that relieves stress, and stress can affect performance and mental acuity….

      if you think that the water pressure at six feet in a 3 foot diameter tube is not much different than the pressure of a 70 foot pool at six feet..then you have never been swimming in a lake….

    • theWilkman
      9:48 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Actually, the water pressure difference at 6 vs. 3 feet is significant. Now, since they probably won’t be sinking themselves 6 ft under in an ice bath, I don’t know how much difference it will really make, but having a large tub for 70 people to get in is a good idea in general.

      As others said, the sensory deprivation tank is for the mental side of training, often the most underlooked aspect. Korem has done the research, of which there is plenty. Just because you haven’t heard of it in your PT practice frankly doesn’t mean a damn thing.

  20. asdf
    8:10 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    This may be the single best article ever to appear on KSR. It’s so professional that it may ruin KSR’s reputation. The “most ridiculous manner possible” might have to come off the header if this sort of high-quality, serious work continues.

  21. JP
    8:17 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Another great article, Tyler. It is things like the investment in the training facility, and in people like Mr. Korem, that make me believe even more that we can build a sustainable SEC-competitive program

  22. charles humes
    8:25 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    HEY YOU’ALL ” BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME ” more top talent

  23. Bob Sodt
    9:25 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Any other UK teams, men or women, availing themselves of this guy?

    • @BallBlog_Chad
      9:32 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      exactly, we don’t have rock with the bball team any more, why don’t they have something similar going on … “gold standard”?

  24. DACats86
    9:55 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    I rarely/never post here, but I have to comment on this article – absolutely fantastic! With work like his from Ms. Tyler and the addition of Mr. Maggard, this is becoming the one-stop shop for UK football information. Kudos to all.

  25. Derek
    10:11 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

    A 5’10 male with an average standing reach(7’3-7’4) who can touch rim has a vertical of at least 30 inches. I find it hard to believe only 6 had a vertical of 30 inches or more. There are high school teams in KY that have more kids then that.

    • DTK
      11:15 am July 30, 2015 Permalink

      You do realize that the record standing vertical leap in the NBA is 38″, right?

    • Derek
      5:56 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

      Ok? I used a basketball rim as something people can relate to, look at the NFL Combine…Tim Tebow had a 38inch vertical. Basketball players don’t train like football players. Football players regularly have 40 inch verticals

    • Tampa satchel
      11:54 am July 31, 2015 Permalink

      Standing Vertical Jump (countermovement, no step)


      vertical jump




      46″ (117 cm)

      Gerald Sensabaugh

      (FS), North Carolina in 2005


      38.0″ (96.5 cm)

      Dwayne Mitchell (2012), Justin Anderson (2015)

      from NBA Combine


      34.5″ (88 cm)

      Marvin Baynham

      from 2014 Combine


      34.0″ (86 cm)

      Mac Bennett

      Hotchkiss School (HIGH-CT), 2009

      Maximum Vertical Jump with run up approach


      vertical jump




      45.5″ (115.5 cm)

      Kenny Gregory

      from 2001


      40.0″ (102 cm)

      Jared Brennan & Nick Naitanui

      from 2002 & 2008

  26. Roark
    6:26 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Great, now you can have a bunch of faster guys jumping higher, all stress free, and still go 3-9. Congrats!

  27. lafromky
    10:03 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Fab article Tyler! I fully admit to being one of the women not letting Erik out the door. It’s fascinating to hear what he is doing and SEE the results in our players. I’d vote for next year’s clinic to be held at the new facility and it be focused on the High Performance System!