Lost in the shuffle of a busy Monday of news, Mark Stoops revealed just how much attrition the program has suffered as the Wildcats limp into the final week of the season.
Kentucky and South Carolina are the only teams in the SEC that have not been forced to cancel or postpone games. Even so, COVID-19’s claws have dug into the Joe Craft Football Training Facility over the last month. Stoops was without 10 players against Alabama and at least 15 at Florida. Last week he was also without ten staff members. Those totals include injured players.
When Stoops was asked the secret to Kentucky’s relative COVID-19 success on Monday, he revealed that “26 to 27″ people in the building are not available right now.
“Well, you mentioned the word luck. I’d say it’s just a matter of circumstance. It’s very different. In hindsight, the teams that really, I don’t want to use the word exposed, but that kinda used the word immunity and got a lot of guys that contracted it a lot early, were able to overcome it. We were really, really good for a long, long time and then it hit us. It hit us at a very bad time,” he said.
“When you’re already pretty thin and beat up at the end and you’re playing two of the top 5 or 6 ranked teams in the country, that’s not when you want to be thin. It’s just circumstance. It’s just what it is. It’s strange and I know we worked extremely hard to keep our players safe and worked to adhere to the protocols that were in place. It’s hitting us. I see other teams cancelling the day of and a player here and a player there. We have 26-27 people in this building who have it right now but we’re still competing and we’re playing by the rules. Again, we’re not gonna duck anybody and we’re gonna play. That’s the way I’ve always been. That’s the way we’re gonna do it.”
It’s an alarming number when you consider that college football teams only have 85 scholarship players. However, “people in this building” includes staff members, from trainers and graduate assistants, to tutors and cooks. The numbers Stoops shared also includes injured players, like Naasir Watkins and J.J. Weaver, who are out for the year after suffering season-ending knee injuries.