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Newest Cats have confidence in common

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Kentucky's 2013 signees are a diverse group.

Some have been familiar with the UK program since a young age, growing up in the school's backyard. Others only came to know it through the recruiting pitches of Mark Stoops and his coaching staff.

Over the last two months, most of the members of that decorated signing class have gotten to know one another after they reported in June for summer workouts. The differences between the newest Wildcats are plain, but so too is one important similarity.

"All of us have our own different personalities we bring to the table," cornerback Jaleel Hytchye said on Media Day. "As a collective group, we all have the same goal: We all came here to win."

With that shared interest in mind, Stoops' first class has bonded. Where one UK newcomer goes, others will follow, whether it's to the weight room, the fields at Nutter Training Facility for drills or just to hang out.

"That's a good thing, because everybody wants to stay together in this class," Alexander Montgomery said. "With Stoops and the new staff, we want to bring something new here. If we're all apart, we can't be a team. If we're together, we can build that team."

Montgomery's words reflect another characteristic shared by the UK newcomers: confidence. They understand the work that lies ahead for them, but they are unwavering in their belief that the "process" Stoops emphasizes constantly will lead to results.

"We all have to come out with the right attitude," Montgomery said. "It's all about attitude. If you don't have the right attitude, you shouldn't come to practice at all."

It's with that attitude that they have approached the summer months.

"We've made a lot of progress, all the freshmen to tell you the truth," Montgomery said. "We have 7-on-7s to learn the plays. It helps a lot, it really does help a lot. We do it full-tempo, so you have to learn it or if you don't know it you've got to get out."

Particularly for Montgomery and his fellow wide receivers, that's important. Due to a lack of depth at the position and the nature of Neal Brown's Air Raid offense, the youngsters will need to step up.

Included in that group is Ryan Timmons. The Frankfort, Ky., native will start camp working at receiver due to the more complex technical nature of the position, but his offensive coordinator did not rule out the possibility of Timmons also playing running back. He lined up both in and out of the backfield playing in an offense similar to UK's in high school.

"It's great," Timmons said. "It's another opportunity to help this team out and be able to play. I'm familiar and comfortable with going in the backfield if I need to be, or slot receiver."

But just like with the rest of the class, Brown is quick to point out that contributing early at this level is not a given, regardless of how talented a player may be.

"I think everybody in the state is excited about Ryan and they should be but also you have to realize that these freshmen, they are 18 years old, and they are going to go out and play in front of 60,000-plus the first game and it's going to be like that every time," Brown said. "So I think our expectations have got to be realistic, but at the same time, if they are the most talented guys, we have got to take those bumps."

For that reason, the arrival of Javess Blue was a welcome one.  After two seasons starring at Butler Community College, Blue is more seasoned than the incoming freshman wide receivers. He didn't arrive in Lexington until a few days ago, but he is expected to compete for playing time regardless.

"We thought he was, if not the best, one of the top two or three junior-college receivers in the country last year," Brown said.

With that sort of praise comes high expectations, but Blue isn't feeling the pressure. His main concerns right now are learning the signals in a new offense and simply playing the game he loves.

"As soon as I landed Friday, I'm like, 'Where's the football? Somebody please throw me a football,' Blue said. "I'm ready to practice. I'm ready to go."

Another player looking to make an instant impact is Louisville native Jason Hatcher.'s eighth-ranked defensive end prospect was one of the crown jewels of the top-rated class in school history, and that was before he added 12 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame over the summer.

"There's even more weight that they say I'm going to put on," said Hatcher, who now weighs in at 256 pounds. "I don't know where or how, but they said it's going to come."

The "they" he refers to is UK's High Performance staff, led by Erik Korem. At first, Hatcher was a little overwhelmed by all the information at Korem's disposal ("It's like he has a Google search bar on the top of his head," Hatcher said). But now, he understands how powerful it can be.

"It's not what we want; it's what we need," Hatcher said. "They make sure that we're eating, that we're getting enough sleep. Coach Korem takes a lot of information that he's gathered over the years and it's proven."

Hatcher, who grew up a Louisville fan, was swept up in the momentum created by the hiring of Stoops and couldn't help but join. Because of that, Hatcher and his classmates believe big things are in store. But for now, the small stuff is what counts.

"We worry about today," Montgomery said. "Today is today. We're worrying about Media Day. Then tomorrow we worry about the first full day of camp. We're not worrying about Western Kentucky, we're not worrying about Louisville, we're not worrying about anybody during this season. We're worrying about getting ourselves better."

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