Less than ten seconds into his first press conference of the new season, UK Head Football Coach Mark Stoops declared it was time to get down to business.
"I'm done with the talking season," Stoops joked with a massive grin on his face to a chorus of laughter before he began fielding questions at the team's annual media day.
Just days before his fourth team hit the practice field for the start of pre-season camp, Stoops discussed new starting quarterback Drew Barker, what he expects from the team on both sides of the ball, the new football building and much more.
On Drew Barker
From the moment he committed himself to become a Wildcat, Drew Barker has faced enormous expectations from the Big Blue Nation. Mostly due to the proud lineage of home state signal callers such as Tim Couch and Andre Woodson.
Coach Mark Stoops doesn't believe that his new quarterback wants to be known as a "hometown hero."
"You can label him how you want to label him. I don’t think he wants that label. He wants to be labeled as a quality football player and a quarterback that’s going to lead this team", Stoops remarked.
Barker certainly had to earn his turn at the helm of Kentucky's offense. He twice lost position battles in the spring and summer and went through another duel this spring aginst JUCO transfer Stephen Johnson.
Stoops indicated that Barker had a "calmness and confidence about him" throughout the competition, which was vital to him winning the job and apparently Barker's new aura carried over to now at the dawn of a new season.
On the Defense
Under Coach Stoops and Defensive Coordinator DJ Eliot, the Kentucky defense has improved during the last three seasons with a few spurts of inconsistency thrown into the mix. This season promises much of the same on a first glance.
Despite having a young and talented secondary, key losses on the defensive line, such as Melvin Lewis and the departure of Josh Forrest from the linebacking corp left significant holes to fill on defense.
However, Stoops thinks that he has several young players ready to step up and in.
Matt Elam, Lewis' heir apparent at nose tackle, showed up to media day in superb shape.
"He’s worked hard. He wants to be an impact player. He’s lost weight. He’s trained hard…Matt looks very good. Hopefully, that will translate to the field", Stoops commented.
Nebraska transfer Courtney Love is expected to plug the middle of the defense when Kentucky faces Southern Mississippi on September 3rd. Love has already made an impact off the field though according to Stoops.
"He's not afraid to be unpopular. He lives the right way", Stoops said on Love's leadership before adding that Love is aware that he needs to bring such dedication to the field as well.
On the Offense
When asked about the strength of his offense, Stoops stayed away from buzz words like explosive and replied "experience."
"There’s a bunch of guys who have played a lot of football", he said
Stoops made sure to mention the running backs, wide receivers, and offensive linemen pressed into service early in their careers; which he believes built the substantial depth the unit has going into the season.
"We took our lumps, as you well know," Stoops added on the subject.
Stoops did not shy away from cliche when describing star running back, Stanley "Boom" Williams, calling him "explosive"; and also added that Boom's dedication to fitness in the offseason will be key for him going to the Georgia native's junior season, where the challenge for Boom will be to stay healthy and be more consistent.
Stoops also mentioned that he had high hopes for senior wide out Ryan Timmons after the Frankfort product's disappointing junior campaign and indicated that wide receiver Alex Montgomery is still not one-hundred percent healed from injury.
On the New Football Building
Big blue fans traversing Alumni Drive are sure to have seen the fabulous new football building that has been under construction for the past year or so.
Stoops called the facility "a fresh start for the program."
UK's head coach said he thought it was appropriate that the university will honor four African-American football players who broke the color barrier in the SEC with a statue. Stoops also said that it was part of the program's proud history, one he tries to instill into his teams by having past players return to speak to the current Cats.
On What He is Most Excited for this Season
Coach Stoops indicated that he is tired of "going over the broad strokes" of football.
At this point in his tenure, Stoops wants his players to reveal in the minute details of the game such as paying rapt attention during team meetings.
Stoops hinted that the team is embracing his want because they asked for a private meeting the other night after conferencing with the coaches.