In the lead-up to Kentucky's game against Florida Saturday sophomore running back Jojo Kemp made the decision to talk some trash:
I’m familiar with a lot of those guys. I went through whole high school being on the recruiting list, going to the games every Saturday, every home game, staying down there every weekend. So I’m familiar with a lot of guys, hang out with those guys. A couple of my teammates actually went to Florida, so I’m familiar with a lot of those guys. It’s going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing in their faces.
I don't have much of a problem with this. Kemp probably was recruited by Florida (though probably not at the top of their recruiting list at running back), and I'm sure went to several games, and so knows many of the Gator players. He may have stayed in touch with at least a few of them. Also lost in the shuffle is that this message was probably also directed to his high school buddies and other friends who are just Florida fans.
BBN mostly liked Kemp's confidence, and Kemp's good reputation in Lexington for two seasons didn't leave many thinking he was engaging in more than good-nature ribbing among friends. This level of trash-talk barely doesn't approach the threshold of typical fantasy football fare. Before you knew it attention quickly turned towards the news that Calipari invited NBA scouts to an October showcase. Gone were Kemp's comments, fluttering away into the digital ether.
But we live in a connected world and it didn't take long for Kemp's words to reach the ears of Florida players. Alligator Army carries the response from linebacker Mike Taylor, and now this poster hangs in the Gator's locker room:
Mark Stoops' reaction was swift and forceful. Stoops is right that the Florida players have a lot of pride, and there's no sense giving them more ammunition. This is exactly the public stance a coach should take. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he told Kemp to say those things via text, email, Snapchat, etc to his friends. Perception will always change when strangers get involved.
And now strangers have gotten involved and let me be clear: it will have zero bearing on the outcome of the game. It's an insult to the Florida players coming off a bad season that they would need any additional motivation heading into their first SEC game. Kemp's words won't have any impact on his UK teammates either. They would've already been expected to compete with swagger and confidence.
The majority of motivation derived from trash-talk happens spontaneously on the field between players caught in the heat of the moment. More motivation, and potentially bad results for Kentucky, will come from far worse things said under helmets in The Swamp on Saturday.
No, bulletin board material means far more to the media who love a story that spoon feeds itself to the masses. It also means far more to adults whose self-worth is wrapped up in the athletic performance of 18-23 year-olds they'll probably never meet.
These comments were never going to affect the outcome of the game. Let's all go back to worrying about limiting the performances of Dante Fowler, Demarcus Robinson, Vernon Hargreaves and Jeff Driskel. Those factors will actually matter, and are worth the hand-wringing.