The Kentucky Wildcats made a big acquisition this year in the form of wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas.
Despite a wealth of talented players at this position, no receiver showed any resemblance of consistency last year as dropped passes, poor route running and failure to consistently get open hamstrung the offense. That's why Thomas was brought in, and he's already leaving his mark.
On Tuesday, Thomas spoke with the media about the confidence level of his group, surprise players emerging and how championships are won in the offseason. Here's a recap of what he said:
On how the receivers are overcoming drops
"We're making strides. With anything, repetition. We're doing a lot of drills, trying to get the guys better. A couple guys have some thumb issues so it's kind of holding them back with casts on, but they're still trying to make the plays. Just making sure that they understand that it's not acceptable to drop a pass. It's not acceptable. You shouldn't feel happy about it, you shouldn't feel sad.
"You should just say, hey, let's go to the next play and let's get better. Don't hang your head. Just get ready for the next play. I think once you get the confidence up, and that's what I see in this group is guys that maybe didn't have the confidence coming into the spring practice.
"They're getting the confidence and they're understanding how to put things behind them and continue to build on success."
On if he was surprised at the lack of confidence
"I was a little surprised. This is college ball. With anything - and not saying I'm gonna invent the wheel or something like that, but just making sure they understand it's a long season and you got to start baby blocks. You got to build on things, even just going back to the basics of catching the football.
"You start from the basics and you just keep building and building. I think the guys are looking forward to each day of practice, getting better. They're coming in, watching more film, asking more questions. Just wanting to know how to get open. It's very important.I really enjoy coaching these guys with that type of attitude.
On surprise players thus far
"I didn't know (Jeff) Badet was really that fast. That was very surprising to me. Timmons, his moves when he catches the ball. Juice, Garrett, being smooth running his routes. Charles Walker has done a good job inside running routes. Tavin Richardson, a big body. He's surprised me a lot. He can do a lot of great things like with that big body. He's made a lot of plays out there.
"Bake Bone when he was out there was making some plays. Jabari (Greenwood). I mean, they've all done different things, all been kind of surprising to me, just seeing them in the growth in the couple days that we've been here. It's been amazing from Day 1. That's what I'm really telling them every day, how proud I am of them of how far they've come from Day 1."
On if the receivers have more freedom in this offense
"Well, it's not really that much freedom. We just tell 'em that, make 'em feel better about themselves. (Laughter) It's all in the same frame. We're not letting them run crazy out there. We do allow them to make some option reads, and as long as they're on the same page with the quarterback then it looks great. When they're not on the same page, it looks bad.
"But that's where practice comes in. You're getting the extra reps off the field and during the offseason. I think this whole thing, learning this offense, has been great so far and it's gonna get even better during the offseason. They're gonna become accustomed to making a lot of plays and being on the same page."
On if he'll find out about his players' work ethic during offseason
"Yes. You definitely find out. I truly believe that championships are won during the offseason. How much work you put in. Unfortunately for them, but fortunate that I won some championships, so I kind of know a little bit about what I'm talking about.
"And they listen. That's great. I thought they were gonna have a chip on their shoulders. I quickly knocked that off at the beginning. They've been great. They've been really good."
On if he has more credibility because of his background
"Well, I like to wear my championship rings, there's no doubt about it. (Flashes ring, laughter.) Just the fact that - I tell them, the thing that I want the credibility on is I sat where they're sitting and I've been where they want to go. I was able to make it and I tell them all the time, you guys are probably better athletes than I ever was.
"I lie a little bit, make 'em feel better. Just the fact that I once sat where you are, I want to coach you the way I wanted to be coach. I wanted a coach that cared about me as a person. That's what I want to portray to them, because I know if they feel like I care about them and they know that I care about them, they're gonna run through a brick wall for me."