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It wasn't as chaotic as National Signing Day will be in February, but Mark Stoops was a busy man on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

With mid-year junior-college transfers able to sign, Stoops and his staff were hoping to add two players to Kentucky's 2014 class and they wouldn't rest until those faxes came through.

"Believe me, we were working all night last night," Stoops said at a noon ET press conference. "This deal, one of these deals didn't get closed until about an hour ago. We were working all the way through."

The work ultimately paid off, as defensive tackle Cory "C.J." Johnson and cornerback A.J. Stamps put pen to paper and signed with Kentucky.

"Cory and A.J. were outstanding players on the junior-college level and will help us address needs at their positions," Stoops said.  "They will be able to enroll in January, go through our winter high-performance program and participate in spring practice."

In discussing the pair -- as well as a number of other offseason topics -- Stoops confirmed that it was Stamps who kept the coaches up the night before. He also joked that the 6-foot, 190-pounder will be in for some additional running when he and Johnson enroll in January after the last-minute stress he caused.

"We've felt good about it for a while, but you know it's never over until it's over," Stoops said. "Then the last 48 hours some things turned, and it's always a hard-fought battle when you're going after players of this caliber."

Stamps -- a teammate of UK defensive end Za'Darius Smith in 2012 -- arrived at East Mississippi Community College as a wide receiver after he caught 77 passes for 1,289 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Vicksburg (Miss.) High School. But before the 2013 season, he converted to corner and thrived.

Stamps registered 51 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four interceptions and nine pass breakups in leading the Lions to the 2013 national championship. Because of his late emergence, Stamps isn't listed in many recruiting databases, but the other finalist for his services says everything about the kind of player he is. Stamps chose Kentucky over Ohio State, citing relationships with coaches and players, the city of Lexington and UK's fan support.

Stoops admits it's a thrill to win that kind of battle.

"We want the best players," Stoops said. "We know that's the lifeline of our program, is recruiting. Very encouraged because I feel like we really try to do things right and cross every T and dot every I and don't leave any stone unturned. We try to go about our business the right way, and after that you let the chips fall where they may."

Johnson has an impressive offer sheet of his own. Rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and the No. 31 junior-college player by ESPN.com, he picked Kentucky over Miami (Fla.) and Texas Tech. Johnson attended ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., and led the Junior College Athletic Association's top scoring defense with 49 tackles to go with 15 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

"Cory comes from a very successful junior college, won a lot of games," Stoops said. "He is a very active, productive player. The fact that he led his team in tackles as a defensive lineman is very impressive. I look forward to adding a big, strong lineman to help at tackle."

Both Johnson and Stamps project to compete for immediate playing time, particularly after going through offseason workouts and practice next semester.

"I'm confident these guys will come in and help us," Stoops said. "That's why we recruited them."

With UK losing starters Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble, Johnson would appear to have a good opportunity to do just that at defensive tackle. Stoops praised his size, suggesting he is even bigger than the 6-3, 275 pounds at which he's currently listed. Stamps, meanwhile, adds a veteran presence to a corner position lacking that a season ago.

Johnson and Stamps become the sixth and seventh official members of UK's highly rated 2014 class. They join the following high-school mid-year enrollees: quarterback Drew Barker (Burlington, Ky.), linebacker Dorian Hendrix (Huber Heights, Ohio), running back Mikel Horton (West Chester, Ohio), wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass (Springfield, Ohio) and wide receiver T.V. Williams (McKinney, Texas).

Much of that class was together in Lexington last weekend, including the two most recent signees.

"The weekend was fantastic, really, this past weekend, and really a good portion of how this 2014 class is coming together is one of the most unique recruiting experiences I've been a part of," Stoops said.

Stoops is unable to get into specifics since the majority of the players remain unsigned, but he sees a personality developing in his first full recruiting class.

"I think if you look at some of the characteristics of this class that we're bringing in, obviously they're great and very talented football players, but they're great leaders," Stoops said. "I think they're very humble kids."

Growing out of that is a collective pride that makes the class feel like a team even before its members have arrived on campus.

"When they're on campus amongst themselves, they interact with each other in a way that they've known each other for years," Stoops said. "They feel like they're almost brothers, and that's coming from them and their quotes and different things. But I think that's why it's unique: because they just feel a very strong bond with one another and they feel a very strong bond with Kentucky and with our fans and with our people here and all the staff and all that."

Video: Stoops talks midyear JUCO transfers

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UK has led the nation in men's basketball attendance each of the past eight seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK has led the nation in men's basketball attendance each of the past eight seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Over the coming months, Cat Scratches will be providing a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of UK Athletics with an exclusive mini-series. For the first installment, we explore how attendance is measured for each men's basketball game in Rupp Arena.

For eight straight seasons, Kentucky has led the nation in men's basketball attendance. In each of those seasons, an average of at least 22,000 packed Rupp Arena.

So how do UK officials determine the announced attendance for any given game?

It starts with the number of tickets distributed for each game, which includes season tickets, student tickets and single-game tickets. That number -- calculated around halftime - for the last six years has been then communicated to DeWayne Peevy, UK's deputy director of athletics and men's basketball administrator.

Working in conjunction with the primary media contact, Associate Director of Media Relations John Hayden, and event manager, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Event Operations and Championships Kevin Saal, Peevy estimates attendance by combining the amount of tickets distributed with the more than 1,000 credentialed attendees at each game. That number includes players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, dance team members, staff, media and workers.

No NCAA guidelines are in place for calculating attendance, but most of UK's peers use tickets distributed when determining estimated attendance.

Playing a very limited role in UK's process is the actual amount of tickets scanned at entry.

The primary reason for scanning at entry is to ensure event security and that each patron has a valid ticket for the game, but many attendees are not counted in this process. Rupp Arena officials also use scan counts to determine when fans arrive for the purposes of stocking concessions and staffing the venue.

Because scan counts do not provide an accurate picture of how many are actually in attendance, UK does not record these counts from past games.

To provide an example, let's inspect how UK arrived at the estimated attendance for its last home game vs. Eastern Michigan. For that game, there were 21,721 total season, student and single-game tickets distributed. Adding in an estimated 1,000 credentialed attendees in Rupp, the attendance was announced as 22,721.

From the very beginning, Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble were tied together.

Not only did they play the same position, but the two defensive tackles also shared a longer-than-expected journey from signing with Kentucky to finally arriving on campus. Once they gained eligibility the same offseason, that link turned into an unbreakable bond.

They became roommates and, by the description of both, brothers over their four years in Lexington, which made it fitting that they would share the final moments of their careers.

Cobble and Rumph walked into the room for their last postgame interviews arm in arm before sitting down in adjacent chairs. They weren't about to be separated.

"The best way to do it is just hanging with my brother and that's how I'm doing it," Cobble said. "That's why I'm here."

The time would have been a little sweeter had UK managed to take down Tennessee in its season finale, but a 27-14 loss undid that ambition. In spite of 13 tackles and 1.5 for loss between the two, the Wildcats couldn't overcome the Volunteers in finishing the season 2-10.

"It was an emotional game," Cobble said. "Being here five years with my ups and downs and the relationships and the bonds I made, especially with Donte. Just after the game, I told him, I stopped him and was like, 'Keep your head up. Let's just stand of the field and just enjoy it one last time.' "

Mark Stoops, as he has after each defeat during his first season, rued opportunities missed on Saturday night as he fielded questions. But in spite of his disappointment and self-critique, he couldn't overlook the contributions of Cobble, Rumph and the other 17 Wildcats who played in Commonwealth Stadium for the last time.

"It's always difficult, probably most difficult for the seniors that come in with a coaching change:  A bunch of new coaches, new schemes, new everything, and I thought those guys really handled themselves well," Stoops said. "You know, really continued to fight and tried to lead us through the end of the year, so I appreciate those guys."

Leading every step of the way for this UK team was Avery Williamson, the linebacker who closed his illustrious career just four tackles shy of 300.

"He's one of the best I've been around," Stoops said. "I love him. He's just a great person and very good football player. He cares. He's a good leader. He's going to be very successful in life."

Even though they only spent a season together, Stoops and Williamson built a relationship marked by mutual respect.

"Remarkable coach," Williamson said. "He knows what he's doing and he's a great coach, aggressive guy and he gets what he wants. He demanded perfection out of me. I wasn't perfect, but he made me into a great player and he's a great person to be around, on and off the field."

Williamson took it upon himself to Stoops' staunchest ally in this season of transition, reinforcing his coach's process-oriented approach at every turn. For that reason, he won't stop being part of the rebuilding effort going on at Kentucky even though he won't play another game in blue.

"I feel like I left my leadership and the way I play," Williamson said. "Guys are going to see that on film and I feel like I instilled the leadership qualities in a lot of guys in here. They really look up to me and I'm glad of that and I'm really hoping it's going to carry over. I know it's going to carry over and these coaches are going to make it carry over. I feel like I laid the foundation for this program. It's going to get better."

With recruiting, offseason workouts and self-evaluation, that begins immediately.

"We know that we are laying a foundation in our program and everybody in that locker room knows that we are going to get back to work here real soon, like Monday, and be ready to go and push forward for the future," Stoops said.

Williamson, Cobble and Rumph will go back to work themselves, but with a different objective in mind. All three have aspirations to play in the NFL.

"I've really got a good chance," Williamson said.

"That's a dream that I want to pursue," Rumph said. "Hopefully I get picked up and, hey, I'm just looking to play any role. I just want to be a part of it. I'm going to work my butt off and I'm going to try my best to represent the Big Blue Nation and represent Kentucky as a school, as a university 'cause Kentucky has turned me into the man I am today."

Said Cobble: "Hopefully, by the blessing of God, I get picked up as well, go to a team somewhere with Donte or somewhere I at least go against Donte because he's always going to be my brother."

Together or not, the three standout seniors and a handful of their classmates will have opportunities to continue their careers, but the realization that their time as Wildcats is done is beginning to set in.

"It was definitely tough knowing that I wasn't going to be on that field in pads anymore," Williamson said. "It still hasn't even hit me, the fact that I won't be playing for them anymore. It's tough, but I'll always bleed blue and I'll always be a part of Kentucky. I'll be back to support those guys."

Video: Stoops' post-Tennessee press conference

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Live blog: Football vs. Tennessee

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Avery Williamson addresses the crowd at the unveiling of Commonwealth Stadium designs on Monday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Avery Williamson addresses the crowd at the unveiling of Commonwealth Stadium designs on Monday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Avery Williamson has been the face of Kentucky football, so it only made sense that he would represent his team at the unveiling of the designs for the new Commonwealth Stadium.

There, Williamson drew praise from nearly every speaker. University of Kentucky Athletics Committee Chair Dr. C.B. Akins, Sr., praised Williamson for being the model student-athlete, while Mark Stoops said he wished he had a team full of players like the star senior linebacker.

Now, Williamson will play the final game of his collegiate career on Saturday.

"It'll be pretty crazy, just knowing that it's going to be my last time on the field," Williamson said. "I really don't know how I'm going to feel. Like today, I realized it's my last Tuesday practice, so it's definitely different knowing I'm going to be moving on to something else."

Though he won't be putting on the uniform again after Saturday's game against Tennessee (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU), Williamson's legacy will last. Not only is he 10 tackles away from 300 on his career, but Williamson has also played an important role in a foundation-setting season.

"I feel like I was a part of building the building blocks of this, call it the new Kentucky, I guess," Williamson said. "This new era. I really feel like these coaches are going to get this thing turned around."

In his first year on the job, Stoops has consistently called on Williamson to be the most visible example for the kind of commitment needed to succeed.

"You've heard me talk about that, but when you walk in the door, when you walk into these meeting rooms and into the practice sessions and things, just how you go about your business and attention to detail," Stoops said. "That doesn't mean he's perfect all the time. We all make mistakes and all that. But he's just got a great attitude, and it's very important to him."

Williamson has helped shaped the highest-rated incoming recruiting class -- potentially the next generation of UK stars -- with his vocal leadership and example. Stoops sees the results.

"I don't want to single out guys, but I really feel good about a lot of the younger guys," Stoops said. "And a lot of our guys are starting to get it, but I feel good that the younger guys are willing to step out there and be more vocal, and I feel like there's a very good unity with some of the young guys, and even some of the guys that are redshirting."

Williamson hasn't been the only veteran helping his younger teammates along that path.

Clearing space for Williamson to make plays all season have been defensive tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph. They have only played better as the season has worn on and they expect Saturday to be emotional.

"Exciting, sad and fun all at once," Cobble said of Senior Night. "I've been thinking about this day since the day I signed, really."

Cobble had to wait a year after originally signing to come on campus, while Rumph attended prep school for two years before finally arriving. That will add even more meaning to their final game.

"Just going through the adversity that I went through in the past in the two-and-a-half years of prep school and trying to get eligible and the whole situation of trying to get here and then finally getting here and four years just flying by," Rumph said. "It's like, man, where did the time go? I remember still getting a call saying, 'Hey, you're accepted.' And now I'm on my way out."

With it coming to an end, the seniors couldn't be any more motivated to close with a win.

"Oh, we're desperate," Rumph said. "But at the same time, we're just trying to hold it together and stay focused on the task at hand and just make memories this last week."

For every member of this class, one the best memories from the time spent at UK was made the last time Tennessee visited Commonwealth Stadium. It was then that Matt Roark quarterbacked the Wildcats to victory and was carried off the field on his own Senior Day.

Tennessee enters the season finale with a 4-7 record after a last-minute loss to Vanderbilt last weekend.
In scouting the Volunteers, Stoops sees shades of his own team.

"They are a team I think a lot like us in that they play some games extremely hard trying to do anything they can to get a win," Stoops said. "They are a team that's getting better and their program is moving forward as we all know. I think similar to us in a lot of ways, and I think I respect the way they coach them and the way they play them."

Williamson, having grown up in Milan, Tenn., shares that respect, but also can't think of a better way to put a final stamp on his career than to beat his home-state team.

"I know people on the team and everybody back home is a UT fan so it would really be great to go ahead and beat them again like I did my sophomore year because when I went home I got a lot of praise for that," Williamson said. "So it would be real good to beat them."

Head coach Mark Stoops



Neither immediately after Kentucky's loss at Georgia nor on Monday after he had two days to process it did Mark Stoops hide his displeasure at the Wildcats' performance.

He described the defeat, at various points as "disappointing," "frustrating" and "unacceptable," saying he would challenge his team to respond with a strong week of preparation for a season finale against Tennessee.

So far, the Cats are doing just that.

"We've had some good meetings and a good practice yesterday," Stoops said. "Very good practice today and, yeah, I think we're bouncing back fine."

With winter weather on the way, UK practiced indoors on Tuesday. Quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith each participated, though Stoops didn't give any insight into who will start Saturday's game.

Whoever lines up at quarterback, this weekend will serve as Stoops' introduction to UK-Tennessee. Two days into game week, it feels like a rivalry to him.

"I know it's very important to us and I'm sure they feel the same way," Stoops said.

This will be the final season Kentucky and Tennessee play the week of Thanksgiving with UK-U of L moving to the last game of the regular season in 2014. On Tuesday, Stoops detailed the team's plans for the holiday.

UK will hold regular Wednesday and Thursday practices, but the Cats will spend extra time together as well.

"We're gonna practice and then we're gonna have a dinner together (on Thanksgiving Day)," Stoops said. "And because they're out of the dorms and out of school and all that, tomorrow after practice, each position coach will take them to their homes for dinner as well. So they'll have dinner with their position coaches on Wednesday night. Thursday after practice we'll have a team Thanksgiving dinner."

An artist's rendering of the outside of the new Commonwealth Stadium, which will open in time for the start of the 2015 season. An artist's rendering of the outside of a renovated Commonwealth Stadium, which will open in time for the start of the 2015 season.
Visit www.TheNewCWS.com for complete information on Commonwealth Stadium renovations.

He had long worked toward a renovation of Commonwealth Stadium, but as it became closer to reality, Mitch Barnhart began to sort out exactly what he wanted to accomplish through the project.

His priorities were clear. Above all else, Barnhart wanted the transformation of Commonwealth to serve three groups: fans, current Wildcats and future Wildcats.

With plans now set, Barnhart believes that mission will be accomplished.

"I think we've changed the personality of the stadium," Barnhart said. "It is hopefully more intimate, hopefully it is more fan-friendly, and at the end of the day it provides our program with things we need for recruiting and people that want to come and participate in a great league and a great facility."

With construction set to start in December, designs for the new Commonwealth Stadium were revealed in front of hundreds of season-ticket holders and media at the Nutter Field House on Monday. Gerardo Prado -- the principal architect for HNTB, UK's partner in the project -- walked attendees through a presentation detailing the highlights of the renovation that started by showing a view of the East end zone.

A new multipurpose recruiting room will be located in the East end zone. A new multipurpose recruiting room will be located in the East end zone.
There, a new multipurpose recruiting room space for 200 will be surrounded by the UK student section which will feature between 4,000 and 5,000 lower-level seats. The recruiting room will feature a patio overlooking the field with a new centrally located tunnel through which players will take the field directly below it.

"I want to fast-forward and get to that look right now," Stoops said after seeing renderings of the new stadium. "That's beautiful."

Senior linebacker Avery Williamson represented his team at the ceremony. Like everyone else in attendance, he was impressed by what he saw. In fact, his only regret was not getting the chance to play in the new Commonwealth himself.

"I'll bleed blue until the day that I die," Williamson said. "I love this school and I love this community and I love the fans and I feel like it's really going to be a turnaround. I just can't wait for the future of Kentucky, and ready to go beat Tennessee this weekend."

Adding to an already exciting day, Stoops announced the signing of five talented members of UK's 2014 class. Quarterback Drew Barker (Burlington, Ky.), linebacker Dorian Hendrix (Huber Heights, Ohio), running back Mikel Horton (West Chester, Ohio), wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass (Springfield, Ohio) and wide receiver T.V. Williams (McKinney, Texas) have signed scholarship papers, laying the foundation for what many expect to be the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history.

"This is a great start to our 2014 recruiting class," Stoops said. "They will benefit from enrolling in January. Going through our winter conditioning program and spring practice will give them a much greater ability to compete for playing time next season. In addition to being outstanding players, their academic commitment is shown by graduating high school in three-and-a-half years."

Barnhart and Stoops were joined at the unveiling by UK President Eli Capilouto; Senate President Robert Stivers; House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly; Dr. C.B. Akins, member of the UK Board of Trustees and Chair of the University Athletics Committee; and Gov. Steve Beshear, who signed the legislation approving the $110-million project in February.

"This stadium upgrade will ensure the continued financial success of UK football -- an integral part to a truly self-sustaining athletics program that also funds millions of dollars to the university's academic programming," Gov. Beshear said. "I am proud to have supported the agency bond legislation that is making this renovation possible and I congratulate UK's officials and leaders for taking this visionary action."

The renovation -- a result of an unprecedented partnership between UK Athletics and the university it represents -- will decrease the capacity of Commonwealth from 67,606 to approximately 61,000 when construction is completed in time for the 2015 season. That was no accident.

"We have got to provide an experience that people want to come, competitively and from a fan amenity perspective," Barnhart said. "And then we've got to create an environment that's fun for people to want to come. And I think that this is the right size for us."

Not only does Barnhart believe it to be the right size, he also thinks it has the right look.

"Now, as I'm looking at this picture, my first thought is, 'Pretty cool. Pretty cool,' " Barnhart said. "Then we can walk in and it has a different feel to it on the inside. I just wanted from start to finish, as you begin the process of coming into this stadium and you see it from the road or you see it for the first time, that it's a different-feeling stadium and it's something that is classy and can span the test of time a little bit, and I think it is."

UK launched a website (www.TheNewCWS.com) featuring the designs of the new stadium and pertinent information regarding tickets and the history of the project. It will be updated regularly throughout the course of the renovation.

The revamped exterior of the stadium will take on a uniquely Kentucky feel with Kentucky limestone and reclaimed barn wood. Inside, concourses will be widened and modernized, while new concession stands and restrooms will also be built, improving the game-day experience for every fan.

A view from inside the new loge-level club seating area. A view from inside the new loge-level club seating area.
Playing a central role in both the renovation and its funding will be premium-seating areas constructed during the renovation. Approximately 2,300 club seats will be added at the loge, mezzanine and field levels along the South sideline, allowing fans to enjoy UK football in style. Also, approximately 20 sellable sideline luxury suites will be added below the newly constructed press box, bringing Commonwealth's total seat count to approximately 61,000.

The amenities available in premium seating areas are not yet finalized, but they will include separate restrooms and covered concession areas.

These new premium seating areas, as well as the multipurpose recruiting room, will be rentable spaces at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The field-level club area will also house a new training table where football student-athletes will eat many of their meals. Other player-centric upgrades include a special game-day locker room and state-of-the-art training room.

When UK was granted bonding authority for the $110-million football project in February, plans initially included upgrades to the Nutter Training Facility, which houses football offices and day-to-day practice facilities. After seeing everything that could be done for players at Commonwealth, the decision was made to spend all of those funds on the stadium.

"We are absolutely committed to getting this program to the spot where we can all enjoy some very special moments," Barnhart said. "We're resolute in that. I am absolutely not backing down from the fact that we can compete at the highest level in this league. I want to get to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship) and that's the goal, make no mistake about it.

"The transformation of Commonwealth Stadium is the first step in that process, but it's not our last. We have more plans that we are still working on, but today is a celebration of our new home."

Construction on that new home will begin shortly after UK's season finale vs. Tennessee on Saturday. Crews will work through the start of the 2014 season to prepare the site and take steel deliveries, and the Cats will play next season in Commonwealth with construction ongoing.

The majority of fans will be unaffected, save for approximately 2,000 seats in the South upper level. Rows 22-39 in sections 219-232 will be unavailable in 2014. UK Athletics staff will contact affected season-ticket holders personally in December to provide a variety of alternative seating options for next season.

UK will conclude its 2014 home schedule on Nov. 8 of next year, more than three weeks earlier than this season's finale, which will provide important extra time ahead of the 2015 season opener.

"We're very fortunate in that respect," Barnhart said. "It gives those guys a chance to really jump in there and get going on that."

Ticket information for the 2015 season is still being finalized and will be announced in the first quarter of 2014.While significant premium seating is being added through the renovation, approximately 25,000 seats will be available at the current $100 K Fund annual donation level or lower.

"What I can tell you now is that the process will be fair, equitable and transparent," Barnhart said. "We will work closely with each fan to help them choose the right seats."

Barnhart encouraged fans to put themselves in the best possible position for 2015 tickets by purchasing 2014 season tickets when renewals are sent in January.

As curious as fans may be to learn details about ticketing, Monday was primarily about the overarching vision for the future of Commonwealth Stadium and the Kentucky football program. Too much work by too many people -- from UK Athletics to the university to the Big Blue Nation -- for it to be anything other than a celebration.

"When the Wildcats take the field and you fill the stands for our eight home games -- I repeat, eight home games -- in 2015, you will be proud of the new home we have created together for Kentucky football," Barnhart said.

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