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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.

Video: The New Commonwealth Stadium

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Mark Stoops (Jake Most, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops (Jake Most, UK Athletics)
Mark Stoops has been refreshingly honest about his team's performances throughout the 2013 season, so there was no sugarcoating things on Monday following UK's 59-17 loss at Georgia.

Ahead of Kentucky's season finale against border rival Tennessee, Stoops was still feeling disappointed about his team's performance the previous Saturday.

"This past Saturday, there's no denying it, that was a blow to our progress and that's disappointing because it's a mentality to me more than anything," Stoops said. "So that we need to get over and bounce back and move forward, but throughout the year, I did think we were improving.  I think we are getting better as a program, as an organization; I know we are ... There's (also) a lot of positive things."

Still, the Wildcats have one remaining game and the head coach made it clear he will challenge the team to improve during the final week of his first season at UK.

"We have a big game coming up with Tennessee," Stoops said. "It will be our last game at home for these seniors, and we need to see where we're at and how much progress we've made throughout this year.  I think we've been up and we've been down, and it will be very important for us to come out and have a good week of preparation and play a great game versus Tennessee."

Stoops and his staff certainly saw the Georgia game as a step back for the program. He admitted that many of the players didn't give their top effort every snap, but was also adamant that the Wildcats are now turning their attention to Tennessee.

"We all have to look at ourselves," Stoops said. "It starts with me. I said that after the game; it starts with me and what I'm doing to prepare the team and to prepare the coaches. It goes on with the assistant coaches and it goes on with the players.

"I think a big part of it is your attitude. We talk about that all the time. You walk in that building and you go to work, you've got to have an attitude about you and you've got to have a toughness about you. We (didn't) play with it (vs. Georgia) so we are going to challenge them to have that attitude today."

Dyshawn Mobley emerges

After going through the game tape from Georgia, Stoops was less than pleased with almost all his players performances, except for one.

Dyshawn Mobley, who had seen limited action in the backfield throughout the 2013 campaign, saw significant action against Georgia and turned some heads in the process, most notably his head coach's.

"Dyshawn is about the only guy I could really say that I thought played extremely hard for every play that he was in there," Stoops said of the sophomore running back, who busted a career-long 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Mobley ending up rushing for a team-high and career-best 92 yards.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown also took note of Mobley's breakout performance at Georgia as well.

"He did some positive things," Brown said of Mobley. "I think he had 10 carries for 92 yards, and the touchdown went for 69. We weren't doing a whole lot of good things in the run game so I thought he did a good job with some leg drive, and getting some yards after contact. I've always thought he could do the things in the run game that he did.

"Now I didn't think he was going to bust open on a short-yards run for 60. I was pleasantly surprised on that. What Dyshawn has to get better at is the pass protection and some of those things when he's not getting the ball."

Williamson embodies senior spirit

Saturday's game will also be Senior Night, with the UK seniors set to be honored on the field before the game.

Linebacker Avery Williamson has emerged as UK's emotional and on-field leader in 2013. Given his play and contributions to the team in other ways, Stoops took time to reflect on the contributions of the defensive play-maker.

"He definitely is a guy that jumps out at you right away," Stoops said. "(It would be great) to be a senior (and) get a victory here.  But Avery is definitely a guy that you think about when you think about this group that has done an awful lot for this program. Since I've been here, he's been a great leader and a great person to coach.

"I'm going to miss him.  It will be very important for us to help him get a victory in this last game, along with all the seniors.

Coordinators name MVPs on the spot


Given the late-season nature of Monday's media opportunity, both of UK's coordinators were asked to reflect on the year and name their respective unit's most valuable players.

UK's top defensive performers have been relatively clear, and so D.J. Eliot praised senior linebacker Avery Williamson and junior defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree.

"It would between Bud or Avery," Eliot said. "Bud is not only athletic and he has all the tools, but he's very smart too. You tell him to do something and he does it. He can adjust on the run and his football IQ is part of what makes him special.

"Avery is just a tremendous worker. He studies the game and wants to always be one step ahead of his opponent. He puts in the extra time, and is focused every practice and every meeting."

Brown's praise of offensive linemen Jordan Swindle and Darrian Miller may have seemed a little more unexpected. After all, rarely do offensive linemen, no matter how good, earn such praise so publically.

"The two guys that have played at the highest level all year are Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle," Brown said. "I'm really excited about Swindle. I know the right tackle position doesn't get a whole lot of thoughts in the media, but he has really played well, even last week. He's a true sophomore that played very little last year. He struggled early to be honest, so his growth has been a surprise."
 
Coaches look forward to the new CWS

Even with a big game coming up on Saturday, just about everyone on the UK campus couldn't help but look forward to the unveiling of the plans for the New Commonwealth Stadium, which will take place on Monday afternoon.

Stoops withheld his thoughts on the occasion as he was no doubt saving up for his remarks at the event later in the day.

Neal Brown, himself a Kentucky native, expressed his own excitement.

"It's a great day for the Commonwealth," Brown said. "It's something that's needed. (I'm) very glad the Legislature, Mitch Barnhart and Dr. (Eli) Capilouto were working behind the scenes got it done. It's going to provide another burst of energy in our program. To have the unveiling today, and then (if we can) go win Saturday night. That would be huge going into what's going to be a pivotal next two months recruiting."

Live stream: Commonwealth designs revealed

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UK football depth chart (Tennessee week)

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Offense

Tight end
Jordan Aumiller
Anthony Kendrick
Steven Borden
Tyler Robinson
Patrick Ligon

Left tackle
Darrian Miller
Jordan Swindle

Left guard
Zach West
Max Godby or Teven Eatmon-Nared

Center
Jon Toth
Zach Myers

Right guard
Kevin Mitchell
Jack Gruenschlaeger

Right tackle
Jordan Swindle
Shaquille Love

Wide receiver
Jeff Badet
A.J. Legree

Wide receiver
Ryan Timmons
Daryl Collins
Ronnie Shields

Wide receiver
Javess Blue
Joey Herrick

Quarterback
Jalen Whitlow
Maxwell Smith

Fullback
Cody Jones
D.J. Warren

Running back
Raymond Sanders or Jojo Kemp
Jonathan George
Dyshawn Mobley

Defense

Defensive end
Alvin Dupree
Jason Hatcher

Defensive tackle
Donte Rumph
Tristian Johnson

Defensive tackle
Mister Cobble
Mike Douglas
Christian Coleman

Defensive end
Za'Darius Smith
Farrington Huguenin
Alvin Davis

Strong-side linebacker
Josh Forrest
Kory Brown
Malcolm McDuffen

Middle linebacker
Avery Williamson
Tyler Brause

Weak-side linebacker
Khalid Henderson
Miles Simpson

Nickel
Blake McClain
Marcus McWilson

Cornerback
Cody Quinn
Jaleel Hytchye

Safety
Ashely Lowery
Daron Blaylock

Safety
Eric Dixon
Glenn Faulkner

Cornerback
Fred Tiller
Eric Simmons

Special teams

Snapper
Kelly Mason
Matthew Adolph
Tyler Robinson

Holder
Jared Leet
Landon Foster

Kicker
Joe Mansour
Austin MacGinnis

Punter
Landon Foster
Joe Mansour

Kickoff returner
Javess Blue
Dyshawn Mobley

Punt returner
Javess Blue
Daryl Collins

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