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Artose Pinner rushed for 1,414 yards during his senior season at UK in 2002. (Ed Reinke, AP Photo) Artose Pinner rushed for 1,414 yards during his senior season at UK in 2002. (Ed Reinke, AP Photo)
Artose Pinner was the exception. The thought of playing in the NFL didn't cross his mind until the last second.

Even as he was running to first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors during a banner senior season, the Hopkinsville, Ky., native only ever had one thing on his mind.

"I didn't get to start until my senior year, but everything I did was always bigger than me as far as thinking about all my teammates who put in the same time I put in," Pinner said.

It wasn't until his final season as a Wildcat that Pinner moved into a featured role, and he excelled. In 2002, he rolled up 1,414 yards -- second most in a single season in UK history. He topped 100 yards in seven of his 12 games, totaling 13 rushing touchdowns and adding 37 catches for 264 yards.

In spite of all that, Pinner was surprised by a phone call he received not long after the season ended.

It was an agent exploring the possibility of representing the bruising running back and he began the conversation by asking Pinner about where he expected to be drafted. Since he hadn't heard anything, Pinner threw out "fifth or sixth round."

"He laughed at me," Pinner said.

The agent explained that Pinner, in fact, was projected to go in the second round. A broken ankle sustained during the preparation process hurt his stock, but Pinner was still taken in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

"It just didn't hit me," Pinner said. "I was having a great year and I was having fun doing what I was doing and the NFL was just a blessing that came from making it bigger than myself and working hard."

Pinner would go on to a five-year professional career with three teams, far exceeding his own expectations for where football would take him. He only ever wanted to help his team win games and fulfill his famiy's vision of receiving a college degree.

In that memorable senior season, he did the former. Last week, he took care of the latter as well by graduating.

"It was something that I wanted to keep my word to my mom and grandma that I was going to do it."
Pinner said. "And to myself."

Pinner returned to Lexington over the summer to restart work toward a degree in media art studies.

Pinner admits that all the changes on campus made adjusting to life as a college student challenging, but the people -- many of whom were around more than a decade ago during his playing days -- made it feel like home.

"I don't think many people can say that they can leave a place and they still treat you like family," Pinner said. "From athletics to academics, the professors, everybody is a close-knit family and that is blessing."  

With that support system in place, Pinner completed his coursework this fall and graduated in December.

"It's an overwhelming feeling," Pinner said. "It's a humbling experience because I knew realistically I couldn't do it all by myself. This is not only for me, but also the people who helped me get to this point."

He isn't exactly sure what he will do with his degree, but his immediate plan is to continue his work mentoring children through the NFL's Play 60 program and an author. He published his first children's book -- "Willville" -- earlier this year.

"It's a book about encouraging kids to believe in themselves and chase their dreams," Pinner said.

Similarly, Pinner hopes his graduation can serve as motivation for others working toward their diplomas, continuing what he believes has always been his reason for being.

"I think my whole purpose was just to inspire people," Pinner said.

He certainly did that during his UK career, persevering even as he was labeled as a blocking back in Hal Mumme's pass-happy attack. When Guy Morriss took over in 2001, Pinner almost gave up, telling his new coach of his intent to transfer.

"Coach Morriss said, 'If you stay here we are going to run the ball and run this offense around you,' " Pinner said. "I was shocked. I didn't believe it."

Pinner couldn't help but believe it when he became the main weapon for one of UK football's best teams in recent memory. With Pinner carrying the load and standouts like Jared Lorenzen, Derek Abney and Dewayne Robertson surrounding him, the Cats went 7-5 after managing just two wins the season prior.

Perhaps somewhat unjustly, the 2002 is best remembered for being ineligible for postseason play and for falling victim to the "Bluegrass Miracle" against LSU. But Pinner and his teammates -- many of whom he still calls close friends -- recall their three SEC wins and three defeats that came by a touchdown or less.

"It was bigger than us," Pinner said. "It was bigger than the individual. Everybody was just for team. When you make things bigger than yourself, good things will happen."

Now that he is a fan, Pinner can draw on his experience as a player as he gets ready to watch Mark Stoops' second season from his home in Lawrenceville, Ga.

"You are playing against top-notch competition every week and I know and have been there with Coach Morriss and those guys when we went 2-9 his first year," Pinner said. "Everybody has to buy into the system and once they buy into the system and what the coaches are saying there is going to be a big difference."

Busy with classes, Pinner didn't spend a lot of time around the Nutter Training Facility, but he did meet much of Stoops' staff and knows of the work the group is doing on the recruiting trail. Based on all he has seen, Pinner looks forward to seeing what's ahead.

"I think next year that is going to be a huge difference," Pinner said. "They are going to be reacting and playing and he is going to bring in more guys that are buying into what he is doing which is going to add to the guys who are there and who are buying into what he is doing. I am excited to see the future of UK football."

Degree in hand, Pinner feels the same way about his own future.

"It makes me a little bit more marketable, I can say that," Pinner said. "But I'm interested to see what the future holds with it."

Congratulations to the following 30 current and former student-athletes who received their degrees in December: Jessica Stiles (women's tennis); James Jasis and Katie Fretts (rifle); Cassie Ransdell, Kirsten Robinson and Alyssa Telang (women's soccer); Caitlin Satkowiak (gymnastics); Cameron Wilder (men's soccer); Jerad Grundy, Walt Wijas and Chris Bisson (baseball); Tripp Crosthwaite and Travis Green (men's swimming and diving); Kelcy Perry (women's swimming); Ashlee Rose and Ashleigh Albrecht (women's golf); Anthony Rossi and Matt Davis (men's tennis); Cally Macumber (track and field); Jordan Aumiller, Max Godby, Mister Cobble, Jonathan George, Patrick Ligon, Kory Brown, Tristian Johnson and Artose Pinner (football); Chase Parker (men's golf); Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan (volleyball)
.

Quarterback Drew Barker with Mark Stoops on a visit to Lexington this fall. (UK Athletics) Quarterback Drew Barker with Mark Stoops on a visit to Lexington this fall. (UK Athletics)
By the nature of his position and his ranking according to most recruiting services, Drew Barker is viewed as the centerpiece of Kentucky's highly rated 2014 recruiting class.

A prolific high-school passer and adept runner, the Burlington, Ky., native projects as UK's quarterback of the future. But as good as Barker could be down the road, he's already proven invaluable as the lynchpin of Mark Stoops' first full class.

"He's played a critical role in this," Stoops said. "He really has, just with first of all with his commitment to us early in the process. And he did that to help solidify the rest of his class and help us recruit the rest of his class, and he's done that."

As soon as he chose UK over South Carolina -- and really even before that -- Barker went about the business of building relationships with classmates throughout the country who were considering joining him in Lexington. Many followed him and Kentucky is positioned to reel in its best class ever come Signing Day.

On Wednesday, Stoops praised the personality of the group, comparing camaraderie that has already been built to a brotherhood. That has a lot to do with Barker.

"It just shows he's just a very mature young man and he's got great leadership skills and obviously those are important qualities when you're looking at a quarterback," Stoops said.

Those qualities and more will position Barker to compete for playing time this spring. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder graduated from high school in December and will enroll in classes in January.

"Drew, you know, coming in at mid-year is different than a regular high-school kid coming in obviously, coming in, in the fall," Stoops said. "So he's going to go through offseason conditioning. Again, going through spring ball."

Due to the staggered practice schedule, Stoops says the spring is a better time to learn than fall camp. Instead of the daily grind of practice after practice, Barker will typically have off days during which he can process all the information being thrown at him.

"I think that's very big, and I think it's big at quarterback," Stoops said. "So, I'm excited to get him in here and get him rolling. I expect him to come in from day one and compete for the starting job, and that's why we recruited him."

When spring practice does begin in a few months, the competition will begin between Barker and returners Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips.

"I think any of us who have been around football would like to walk in here and say, 'Yeah, that's my guy,' " Stoops said. "We're not in that position, and that's the way it is. We'll go back to the drawing boards and open it up in spring. We've got some new additions, and we'll see where that takes us."

Stoops not slowing down in second year

Stoops has hardly had time to breathe since he was named head coach.

In his first months, he moved his family, hired a staff and rushed to put together a recruiting class. As soon as that was done, it was time for spring practice. After playing catchup and laying the foundation for the 2014 class over the summer, fall camp and his first season began.

That's exactly the way he wants it.

"So I've been going 100 miles an hour for a year now, and now this is the first week you can really decompress and put your feet on the ground and I'm pretty bummed out about that to be honest with you," Stoops said. "I'd rather keep going."

Even so, Stoops admits it's nice to have settled in.

"Obviously the comfort level is much greater, it's much more comfortable this year than it was at this time last year," Stoops said. "I was just trying to find my way around town this time last year."

Now officially in his second calendar year in Lexington, he's still finding plenty of ways to keep busy. He's also just as excited about the future as he was last December.

"Wrapping up 2013, obviously disappointed in the wins and losses, but very pleased and thought we made progress in a lot of areas," Stoops said. "We are excited about recruiting and the offseason and moving forward with wrapping up this recruiting class and moving forward with the program. Some good things are happening right now with the renovations getting started and all those good things."

Dupree, Smith return to solidify pass rush
Defensive ends Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree will return for their senior seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Defensive ends Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree will return for their senior seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
They won't fax in letters of intent, but UK's 2014 recruiting class got what Stoops would call its biggest two commitments in Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith.

"This past week, probably two of our biggest splashes in recruiting really came from Bud and Za'Darius with both of those guys announcing they were coming back," Stoops said.

The two defensive ends announced they will bypass the NFL Draft and return for their senior years. Dupree and Smith were UK's second- and third-leading tacklers in 2013, combining for 120 tackles -- 16 of which came for loss -- and 13 sacks.

"That was big for us and very important for our defense and team and leadership to have those guys return," Stoops said. "I am excited for them and to help them improve their stock in the draft the following year."

Stoops proud as FSU prepares for title game

All year, Stoops has watched as his former colleagues and players at Florida State have put together a dream 2013 season.

"Very happy for Florida State," Stoops said. "Very proud of those guys. I have an awful lot of good friends down there, and just love the way they play."

The No. 1 Seminoles are in the midst of preparations for the BCS National Championship, where they will take on No. 2 Auburn. As much as Stoops might like to see the Southeastern Conference extend its title streak to eight, he has to root for FSU.

"I'm sorry, I've got to go against the SEC on this one," Stoops said. "I've got too many close relationships with the people there and certainly the players there. I wish them the best of luck."


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."

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