Cats match execution with excitement on day 1


After a summer away from football, energy is a given on day one of fall camp. Sound execution, however, is anything but guaranteed.

That’s what made Kentucky’s first practice on Friday so encouraging to head coach Mark Stoops.

“Guys are excited to get out there and play and practice, but I felt better because it wasn’t as much of a rah-rah day,” Stoops said. “It was more of just business, getting better.”

After a morning of interviews and photos for media day, the Wildcats opened fall camp with an afternoon practice. It was Stoops’ third such practice at UK, but this one was different than the first two.

“I saw us fundamentally, for the first day certainly better than any other first, whether it’s the first day of spring, first day last year or anything,” Stoops said. “So, as it should be. Like I talked about, we’re a better football team. It was a better practice. It was a better first day. So, that’s all we could really do — like I talk about all the time —is concentrate on today and getting better.”

Practicing in shorts per NCAA rules, the Cats avoided injury, including a group of freshmen that has Stoops excited.

“The freshmen were impressive,” Stoops said. “You don’t realize how long and how big some of those guys are until they put their helmet on and get out there and practice and get around our other players. But we’ve got some good-looking freshmen. We’ll see. I’ll go watch the film and see who stood out, but they looked good. I could tell there’s some talent in that group.”

The freshmen will now go about the business of integrating themselves with the veterans. UK’s returners have Stoops excited too.

“I could tell they did a lot of work this summer throwing and catching and just getting out and executing offensively and defensively day one install,” Stoops said. “We were able to go relatively fast and have a good, clean practice. So, it’s a good start. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I like the attitude of this team and where we’re headed.”

To stay on that path, Stoops will be asking for consistency throughout fall camp and beyond. If the Cats can deliver, 2015 could be a big year for Kentucky football.

“So I just think we have the talent, we have a more experienced football team,” Stoops said. “You see that out there. We need to be more disciplined in everything we do. So we do those little things, we continue to do the little things — when we do the little things over and over and over then the big things won’t be so big. That’s little things: landmarks, getting off hashes, balls that are completed when they shouldn’t be. We got to get rid of the ‘What ifs?’ That’s by doing all the little things over and over. We can create habits so when pressure hits our habits come right to the surface.”