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The Kentucky football team held its second practice of the spring on Monday morning.

To follow up a solid day of work on Saturday, the Wildcats took another step forward.

"Guys had good energy for a Monday morning, came out and had a real good practice," Mark Stoops said. "Still obviously got a lot of work to do, but overall pleased, pleased with their attitude, their effort. Playing a little bit cleaner. There weren't as many footballs on the ground today and execution was a touch better. Just overall pleased with the effort. Continuing to get better and work hard."

Stoops is preparing for his third season as UK head coach and is already noticing growth from his first two springs with his team. The evolution continues.

"It's just another year in the program," Stoops said. "As we would expect, just more progress, more bodies, a little bit cleaner, more efficient in what we're doing. We're certainly further ahead than we were day two last spring, but we should be, and that's good to see."

Under Stoops, UK has been blessed with continuity on the coaching staff for the most part, but a new face has been added to the equation this spring. Shannon Dawson is replacing Neal Brown as offensive coordinator and though two coaches' scheme is similar, there's learning to be done.

That's especially true when it comes to communication.

"They're getting signals from me, and then they're communicating with the group," Dawson said of quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Drew Barker. "That's all like learning a new language. It's like if I told you to learn Spanish in two days. That'd be tough, right? I mean just communication is -- and you've got some miscommunication. You've got the quarterback flashing signals quickly to the receiver and the receiver not getting it, which is typical."



UK football held its first practice of the Spring on Saturday morning. Check out what Mark Stoops had to say about a productive day right here.
If you've been awaiting word on the construction of Kentucky football's $45 million practice facility, wait no longer.


Last week, crews broke ground and began the initial phase of the project that will turn the area adjacent to Nutter Field House into the state-of-the-art home of the entire football operation in 2016. If you want to see what it will look like when finished, check out this gallery of renderings.


Riding the momentum of a recovered onside kick that kept his team's NFC Championship aspirations alive, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews entered Super Bowl XLIX with zero career receptions. However, through the first half of Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots, Matthews was arguably the frontrunner for MVP honors, pending a Seattle victory.

Cat in the Spotlight

Chris Matthews | #13 WR | Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

Not only had Matthews never recorded a single catch going into Super Bowl Sunday, but the 6-foot-5 former Wildcat had only played in 26 offensive snaps all season. Nevertheless, Matthews was targeted early in his first career Super Bowl appearance, coming up big in the process. The former Canadian Football League Rookie of the Year caught a 44-yard bomb for his first official NFL reception, followed by an 11-yard touchdown catch less than seven minutes later. Matthews concluded the evening with four receptions, 109 yards and one touchdown. In the end, the Seahawks failed to defend their world championship, falling to New England, 28-24.

2014 NFL Regular Season Statistics:


Offense
2014 offense.jpg Defense
2014 defense.jpg
Special teams
2014 ST.jpg





Big finish paves way for another solid Stoops class

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UK's 2015 signing class is rated 35th nationally according to Rivals.com. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK's 2015 signing class is rated 35th nationally according to Rivals.com. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Everyone from the media in attendance to the diehard fans watching live online at home and at work knew exactly what Mark Stoops was talking about.

"As you all know and have been following, it's been a little bit of a grind," Stoops said.

Stoops had just put a bow on his third recruiting class as Kentucky head coach. After reeling in a record haul the first time around and doing it again in 2014 with a group remarkable for its lack of turnover, the 2015 ride had, in his words, some "ups and downs."

The downs were very public, with a handful of longtime pledges opting to de-commit and go elsewhere in January. For the first time since his arrival in late 2012, momentum seemed to trend in the wrong direction.

But not for long.

By securing a number of late commitments, Stoops and his staff put together a 23-member class - the exact number they set out to hit - that ranked 35th nationally as of Wednesday afternoon according to Rivals.com. Outside of Stoops' first two classes - rated 29th and 17th, respectively - it's the best in the history of the ranking service and the ranking doesn't take into account Nebraska transfers Courtney Love and Greg Hart.

"There are some very good football players that are going to be joining us and very excited to have them," Stoops said. "So just overall very pleased, very happy. I really appreciate our staff. I feel like this group of coaches worked extremely hard. They work relentlessly, around the clock, did an awful lot of traveling, and really worked hard to hold this class together."

They did more than hold the class together; they filled needs.

Thirteen of the 23 members of the class are defensive players, headlined by unanimous four-star linebacker and Bowling Green, Ky., native Eli Brown. Brown joins Love and Jordan Jones - both of whom enrolled in January and will practice this spring - and Josh Allen in adding depth at linebacker, while the likes of Kengera Daniel, Courtney Miggins, JaVon Provitt and Alvonte Bell - a Signing Day surprise and UK commitment out of high school - give the Wildcats some much-needed size along the defensive line.

But Stoops, with his background as a defensive backs coach, is most excited about the infusion of talent his secondary will get. That talent, by the way, is tall, too. Derrick Baity, Will Jackson and Chris Westry all stand 6-foot-3 or taller.

"Y'all know, you've listened to me enough after each game, we had some bad matchup problems at times," Stoops said. "We play against some guys in this league that have great size and great skill at the receiver position, and I felt like we really needed to upgrade and get some quality guys in the secondary, and I feel very good about this group."

Baity, Jackson and Westry figure to have some good battles on their hands with the wide receivers joining them in this class. Therell Gosier, Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson are 6-6, 6-3 and 6-3, respectively.

"When you're talking about physical in length, you're talking about all levels of your team," Stoops said. "So I really felt like we needed to continue to improve that size and that physicality in the secondary and in the wide receiver position and linebackers and so on and certainly tight ends."

At tight end, UK added two 6-5 targets in Hart and C.J. Conrad, both of whom are on campus this spring. Four offensive linemen - all standing 6-5 or taller (surprise, surprise) - also join the class. The trend of Stoops and his staff transforming Kentucky's roster continues.

"I think we're much closer to where we want to be," Stoops said. "... So it's very exciting to wrap up this class.  Everybody asks me all the time, what do I feel about this?  We put a lot of hard work, and it's good to get it wrapped up. It's good to introduce them to our fan base and to the media and talk about these guys publicly, which is nice."

Now that the class is public and Letters of Intent are signed, the risk of further de-commitments evaporates. With that in mind, Stoops spoke Wednesday on behalf of a rule change that would create a new early signing period.

"I think it's a situation that probably needs to be addressed on a national level, but, again, I'm not concerned about the guys we did not get," Stoops said. "I'm very excited about the players we got."

He has reason to be.

"Overall, I feel very good about this group," Stoops said. "I felt like it was key for us this last week, these last couple days, into last night and into this morning to close on a few guys. As you know, it gets very delicate when you try to hit that number perfectly. Heading into this recruiting class, we had 23 spots available. ... That's what we signed. I feel very good about that."

Video: Marrow recaps Signing Day

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Video: Eliot on UK's Signing Day haul

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Video: Dawson's Signing Day press conference

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Video: On the way to Signing Day with Marrow

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