UK Football Media Day 2018 was a grand ol’ time at Kroger Field today. We heard from Mitch Barnhart, Mark Stoops, Matt House and Eddie Gran to kick off the morning, and then the party moved outside and under the sun for an hour of player interviews on the field.
You’ll have plenty to read from the day on Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com today, tomorrow and beyond, but if you want my five brief takeaways before I go home, I’ll go ahead and give them to you now.
The Josh Paschal news was a rough start to the day.
Before Mark Stoops opened his mouth to speak, I could tell bad news was coming. He just looked bummed (teary-eyed even) as he sat down to begin his sixth media day. Seconds later, he delivered the tough news that one of his star defensive players has a much more serious issue than anyone imagined: malignant melanoma. It’s unclear how long it will keep Paschal off the field, but this is bigger than football. Hopefully the results from his second procedure come back with good news.
Stoops said, “Out of respect to his family, please, you know, don’t dive into this anymore. Josh wanted to be up front with this. Josh and his family are handling it well. They wanted to be open about this so there was no speculation. They also want this to be a reminder for people to pay close attention to any changes in their skin, and if so, have those evaluated.”
Benny Snell’s teammates love Benny Snell.
I spent all of the allotted interview time with the players going around asking them about Benny Snell for a piece for Hey Kentucky. After chatting with most of the key pieces of the offense, I came to the consensus that Benny isn’t the only player who thinks he is the best back in the SEC — they all do. Well, all but one. Lynn Bowden didn’t call Snell the best back in the SEC; he called him the best back in the entire world. “Now stop asking people about it,” he told me. “He is the best in the world. End of story.”
Drake Jackson is mature, ready to lead.
This year will be Drake Jackson’s first as the team’s full-time starting center. The Woodford Co. native took over midway through 2017 and the line immediately took a turn for the better for the final seven games of the year with him at the helm. In speaking with Jackson on Friday, I saw a much more mature, well-spoken and grown up version of Jackson as he enters his third year with the program, his second year on the field. He seems very comfortable with his role and ready to pick up where he left off in his debut season.
CJ Conrad is poised to have a big year.
Eddie Gran acknowledged Conrad didn’t get the ball enough last year. He said Conrad drew too many double teams and the offense just didn’t look his way as much it should’ve. But this year, they’re making Conrad a bigger priority with more schemes to get him looks.
The quarterback situation is wide open.
Regardless of what you’ve heard from the media or your co-workers or your cousin on Facebook, there is no clear cut favorite to win the QB job. Mark Stoops said he doesn’t know how it will play out, and when asked if he expects both quarterbacks will play early in the season, he said, “Right now, I do.”
Eddie Gran said both quarterbacks are throwing the ball well, and leadership qualities may be what ultimately decides the competition.