When Mark Stoops stepped to the podium today, he did so with a heavy heart. As some of you may know, former UK great Talbott Todd passed away yesterday. His name is on the walkway between the Nutter Training facility and Kroger Field. Coach Stoops had this to say to begin:
“I can’t help but having mixed emotions today. So excited about the opening week, but I also wanted to acknowledge the loss of a great Wildcat last night in Talbott Todd. We’re thinking about him, and praying for Marilyn and the family. Excited about this week. We’ve got real challenge ahead of us, but we’re excited to get going.”
Moving on to the rest of the press conference, Stoops echoed excitement from years past, however with a growing sense of confidence in his team and rebuilding effort hitting year 5.
“Definitely. I felt it today for the first time because – the things that are necessary, that you know, all the things you have to do as a head coach and the fundraising and the recruiting, just everything, you’re getting pulled in a lot of different directions. But then you get into training camp and it’s a lot of fun because you get to just hone in and coach ball for the most part.”
Looking ahead to this week's game against Southern Mississippi, Stoops talked about the challenges his team will face. One of them is not knowing who will be under center for USM. Another is keeping his players emotions in check, coming up with a common theme for his players since last season, “Do your job.”
Stoops was also asked how many true freshmen may play this Saturday. His answer may surprise you.
“I would say possibly up to eight. True freshmen. (Josh) Paschal, (Quinton) Bohanna, (Cedrick) Dort, (Isaiah) Epps, (Lynn) Bowden, (Josh) Ali, possibly (Bryant) Koback and (Naasir) Watkins.”
He clarified that Koback was 50/50, still nursing a hamstring injury he has been battling during fall camp. He also added latter that Clevan Thomas would play, possibly being the first freshman to enter the game.
One area he touched on was punting, offering up that he hasn’t made a decision on who will be booting the ball just yet.
“We’re working on it. We’re working through it. I’m interested to see how Matt (Panton) does in the game. I’m not sure how it’ll go. Whether both punters get an opportunity, we’ll see how it goes. I think it’s been close. They’ve both had some days. But I’m excited to see what Matt can do with the ball. I think the same thing with Grant. I think he’s been more consistent than he’s been and he’s had some better days. He’s improved. But there’s still some inconsistencies there.”
Stoops appeared to be calm and collected throughout the press conference, laughing it up a few times with the media assembled. He’s just as excited as the players and fans are, ready to lead Kentucky into the 2017 season.