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From the Pressbox: Pre-Missouri notes

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With young quarterbacks, coaches stress the importance of avoiding negative plays, to start out of second-down-and-long or third-and-long situations. That will be an especially tough challenge for the Cats this Saturday at Missouri.

The Tigers rank third in the SEC with 59 tackles-for-loss - that's 27 more than Kentucky has in one less game.

One positive trend for the Cats is that they have not turned the ball over since the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game. And Kentucky has only lost two fumbles all season, both against Louisville in the season opener.

And both UK and Mizzou are having trouble hitting big plays. The Tigers and the Wildcats rank 13th and 14th respectively in yards-per-pass attempt this season.

Former Cat Van Note relates to 2012 struggles

Staying focused on your job, ignoring distractions, keeping a positive attitude. Those are the things coaches talk to their players about when a season doesn't go as well as they hoped it would. Former Wildcat and NFL star Jeff Van Note knows all too well what it takes to stay true to those things.

In three seasons of varsity football (1966-68), "Note" played on a teams that won a combined eight games. But it did not deter him from improving as a player and eventually earning a paycheck in the NFL for almost two decades.

"You do all the things to prepare to win and when you don't, there's a huge letdown. Back when I was in college, there were two papers and the coverage was minimal and it wasn't talked about day in and day out and your coach's job wasn't in question on talk shows (and the like)," Van Note said in a recent appearance on "The Leach Report" radio show.  

"This is a young football team so they'll have to lean heavily on their leadership. They need their seniors to stand up and make them realize that this is a week-by-week grind. The 24-hour rule comes into effect - whether you win or lose, you get past that game," added Van Note, a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. "You have to be mentally tough. More than anything I learned in college was how to mentally tough. The mental toughness is so very important, to block out that outside influence."

How does one learn mental toughness?

"It's a combination of things. What are you there for? What am I doing with my life at this time? Life is nothing but overcoming a series of obstacles, in every walk of life. 'People are down on us, they don't believe in us. Do I believe enough in myself and my teammates to prepare myself mentally and physically to be the best I can be?' " he explained. "You get better or you get worse every day of your life. I always wanted to improve and the right kind of coaches teach people how to get better. Winning is habit-forming and so is losing."

DeCourcy on Harrow, UK

Like the previous three, John Calipari's fourth Kentucky basketball team is blessed with an abundance of talent. But any squad, especially a young one, comes into a new season with some question marks.

For veteran college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy of, they start at the point guard position.

"My first question is Ryan Harrow. I think he's a talent and I think that playing under Cal will help him. Cal finds a way to make his players succeed and he's willing to change until he finds that level of success.  I think he'll be fine but how fine does he need to be? That's what we don't know. It depends on how good (others are)," said DeCourcy, adding that the one player he has the fewest questions about is Kyle Wiltjer.

Conventional wisdom about college basketball pundits is that this is a more wide-open year, with less strength at the top than last year. Does DeCourcy agree?

"I don't think that the level of players entering college basketball this year rises to that level (of seasons like last year). We don't have a lot of veterans who have hung around. You look at most preseason All-America teams and there's a lack of proven talent," he said, noting that is why he expects more unpredictable results.

Long talk about Harrow stepping in at the point

Brian Long doesn't have any questions about Harrow at the point guard spot. Long has seen him in practice for more than a year now and he's convinced the NC State transfer will do just fine.

"It will definitely help him in the long run because I feel like being the point guard in Coach Cal's system is the hardest thing to do," Long said of Harrow's opportunity to go through a season of Calipari's practices at UK. "Watching Marquis (Teague) from the beginning of the year, he struggled and then we couldn't have won in the end without him. So, for Ryan to have a year under his belt should help him a lot. Still, it will be difficult, have a new group of guys and a lot of factors but it should help him a lot."

Why is the point guard spot so difficult to master?

"Because you have to control, know when to let go, when to pull back," Long observed. "You have to control everybody. The ball is in your hands 80 percent of the time probably. So you just have more decisions to make than anyone else."

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