Fall camp may not sound all that great when described by its component parts, but to Kentucky special teams coordinator and safeties coach Bradley Dale Peveto, it's about as much fun as anything could ever be.
"It's kind of like Christmas," Peveto said when asked about the first day of camp. "You wake up, you're excited. You say, 'Hey it's finally here.' You can't wait to get in the car and get here and get going."
First-year UK head coach Mark Stoops might be even more eager to get going than the always-energetic Peveto.
"To be honest with you, I didn't sleep very good last night," Stoops said at Media Day on Monday, hours before UK's first practice of the fall. "I was ready to go."
The last few weeks, Stoops has been on the luncheon circuit, delivering speeches to fans and boosters instead of his team. But on Sunday, student-athletes reported to campus and Stoops summoned the Wildcats to the Nutter Training Facility for their first official team meeting of 2013. He quickly learned he's not the only one who's ready for some football.
"We had a great meeting last night with our players, very attentive, and they are excited to get going, coaches are excited," Stoops said.
Since the Blue/White Spring Game in April, coaches have been prohibited from working with players. The staff has gotten good reports on the Wildcats' work over the summer in the High Performance program, but that's no substitute for actual practices.
"We've been away from it for a long time," Peveto said. "In the summer we can't coach our guys, so to get back with them, get them all together and start getting into practices and meetings is a lot of fun."
The players feel the same way, particularly the newcomers. Save for a few January arrivals, the newest bunch of Wildcats didn't get to participate in spring practice and have had to wait a long time since their last organized chance to play football.
"It's go-time, finally," freshman wide receiver Alexander Montgomery said. "I haven't played football in pads since December. That's a big break. I'm ready. I'm tired of waiting around. I'm just ready to put on pads and play football."
The only way fall camp could be better is the Cats could get a guarantee from Mother Nature that every day will be in the low 80s and sunny.
"I hope every day's like this, to be honest," quarterback Maxwell Smith said.
Stoops talks goals
If you've listened to Stoops talk for more than a couple minutes, you've surely heard him use the word "process." That's no accident.
In rebuilding Kentucky football, he refuses to let anything distract him from focusing on each individual step. Unsurprisingly, he didn't let a question about goals for the season take him off track at his Media Day press conference.
"We talked a lot last night and throughout the summer, throughout camp, the message is just simply to embrace the process of getting better," Stoops said. "I know that's boring to hear sometimes but it's true."
If anyone was going to get bored at hearing yet again about the process, it would be defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. Kentucky is the fifth different coaching stop he's made with Stoops over the last 16 years, but Eliot has seen the approach work too many times to stray from it.
"When he says we are concentrating on the process and not the outcome, it's what did we do that day or maybe that rep or maybe that meeting to make ourselves better," Eliot said. "And then the outcome will fall into place."
With that same concept in mind, Stoops offered a definition of success in his first season that is both crystal clear and completely open-ended at the same time.
"Just improvement, drastic improvement," Stoops said. "I don't know exactly where we're at, we'll see. We are going to go out there and we are going to get to practice today, and we're going to go about our business and we're going to grind hard each and every day to make this team better, and we'll see where that goes. We'll talk about that at the end of the year."
Lowery cleared to practice
After his hospitalization following a single-car accident in May, Ashely Lowery is on campus and cleared to practice as fall camp begins. Lowery was not available for interviews at Media Day, but Stoops said the junior safety will participate in all team activities during fall camp.
Lowery, however, was cited for driving under the influence after the accident in his hometown of Cleveland, Ga. Stoops said on Monday that he is monitoring the situation but is "not ready to name a penalty" for Lowery.
"He's gone through an awful lot," Stoops said. "We need to continue to go through the legal process, see what happens. I'm just trying to gather as much information as I can before we make any decision on his future, or suspension or anything like that."
The majority of UK's 2013 signing class - UK's highest rated ever since Rivals.com established its rankings - has been on campus this summer, but Stoops provided updates on four members who have not yet arrived.
Defensive end Alvonte Bell and offensive tackle Justin Day will not report to fall camp and will likely attend junior college in the fall. Stoops also said UK is "still waiting" on defensive lineman Melvin Lewis and cornerback Nate Willis - both junior-college transfers.
"We expect them to be here shortly, how long that takes, we'll see," Stoops said.