Now that we are through Media Day, a day packed with talk and discussion on the upcoming football season from players and coaches alike, it's time to look at what the biggest talking points were and what was made pretty clear during the press conferences and interviews. Here's what I saw as the five biggest takeaways from media day.
No. 1: Mark Stoops is very excited for this season
There weren't many moments where he wasn't giving an indication of how excited he was during his press conference. You could tell from the opening statement.
"Alright, we'll get started. I'm excited to be here. The players are looking good physically and mentally. We're excited and ready to go. I'll fire it open for questions. I'm done with the talking season. You know, it gets to this point, we're ready for practice one. I can't wait to get out there."
Stoops' opening wasn't the only statement that showed his excitement with the team. When he was asked if he still had "passion," he responded with "Give me a break. You should have been in the meeting last night."
Stoops is ready to make this a season to remember for his Wildcats, and personally, I like the excitement and the confidence he is showing in his team.
No. 2: Matt Elam's weight is a big deal
It's no secret that Elam is quite large. On the roster that was handed out at Media Day, he's listed at 360 lbs. However, according to him he's down to 350. Elam was about 375 last season, so he's made good progress, but he still has a ways to go if he wants to get down to average lineman size. He certainly looks better, and there appears to be more muscle in his arms than he had before, which is always good. Elam was asked a lot of questions about his weight, and the coaches were asked to comment on it as well. Stoops had this to say.
"As I've said, you've heard me talk about it, he's worked hard. He wants to be an impact player. He's lost some weight. He's trained hard. All of our players have. Coach Edmond and our weight staff have done a really good job. The players have been very consistent and working extremely hard. Matt looks very good. Hopefully that will translate to the field.
"I think as you look at Matt, a lot of people have great expectations for him, as we do. But he's a different kind of player. He's a guy that's very good over the center in a zero technique which we play quite a bit of. He does a really good job in there. What he does and what we ask him to do, he's not always going to be that guy behind the line of scrimmage playing those flashy plays. But he's played some very good football for us. He needs to be more consistent with the weight loss, playing more, being lighter on his feet, playing more snaps. That will help all of us. He needs to continue to improve and have a great summer.
"He's done well. Sometimes it goes unnoticed. So we have to keep the expectations in check for him. Again, one of the most unselfish players on our team are some of the D-linemen and guys up front. You're not always going to see the flash, but he's played some good football and we're looking for him to play much better this year."
Elam losing weight and being able to play more snaps would be huge for the defense, allowing them to get more consistent contribution from the line. Elam certainly looks better, and we hope his weight loss continues a bit longer.
No. 3: Many were concerned about the pressure on Drew Barker
Barker now comes into the starting quarterback spot with the expectation that he will be the guy to lead Kentucky to a bowl game on the offensive end. This pressure can weigh heavy on a young quarterback, but Stoops likes what he's seen from Barker from a leadership standpoint thus far, saying "I like what I've seen so far.... Control what you can control, take care of your business, lead by example. He's done that."
Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran also mentioned Barker when asked about who the leaders of the offense may be this year, so it's clear the coaching staff thinks he is capable of being a leader and handling the pressure.
No. 4: Mark Stoops has NO FEAR.
Stoops was asked what he was most excited about and what he feared the most, aside from injuries. He said he was most excited about the team in general, but when it came to his fear, he said "I fear nothing." He went on to say that there's always going to be concerns and question marks, but at the end of the day, "You have to make sure you have enough playmakers and guys that can do things that are between them and God." This shows that Stoops has confidence in who he has recruited and brought in at Kentucky, and he has faith in them to do "things that are between them and God" in order to keep him from having fears.
No. 5: The coordinators think highly of Stoops
Both coordinators were asked questions about Stoops, and both had nothing but good things to say about the Head Coach's confidence and ability to re-build the program. Defensive Coordinator D.J. Elliot spoke on seeing a different type of confidence in Stoops, and had this to say.
"I think Coach Stoops has had a plan in place since we have been here. We feel like the pieces are falling into place and I think that he is confident. I will tell you there hasn't been many times when I have been around him that he wasn't confident, so I do sense a confidence in him and I think that it will transfer into training camp and into the season."
Elliot clearly likes Stoops' confidence and feels that it is a sign that Kentucky is improving; as the pieces fall into place, Stoops gets more confident.
As for Gran, he has built a bond with Stoops from leaving Florida State together, and thinks that Stoops has done a great job in his steps to rebuild the program thus far.
"Just because we left together at Florida State, we were so close that everything that he did here at Kentucky, I was following. So, just looking at where they were then, and where they are now, and I'm a part of it now, I think they've done a fantastic job. I've said that many times and I think they've changed where they're at and where they're going."
Stoops has the support of his coordinators and they all seem to be on the same page. With Elam dropping weight, Barker handling pressure, and Stoops being confident and fearless this will hopefully be a successful Kentucky football season.