Quotes from 2009 Football Media Day
Aug. 7, 2009
Head Coach Rich Brooks
I'm anxious to get this season off this afternoon with our first practice. It was great seeing the team arrive yesterday and last night. We had an organizational meeting and took care of all of the compliance paperwork last night. We just got through taking pictures with all of our newcomers. I've got to say that they look pretty good on the hoof. So now I am anxious to get them out on the football field and see how many of them are going to be ready to contribute this season. But there's no question that many of them will contribute obviously in the future of Kentucky football. I'll just open it up for questions.
With these hot summer days, can you talk about the changes the NCAA has made over the last 10 years?
"Well, the very obvious change is the old axiom about going to college and going to two-a-days is a misnomer. I think during our fall camp we'll have two two-a-days. We are required to have two practices, our first two with no pads of any kind. The next two days you can add helmets and shoulder pads and that's all. Then the fifth day, you can put on full gear. I understand the caution because obviously the heat can be a very difficult thing to deal with. On the other hand, for almost every player out of 105 that we have in here, there's probably about only five that have not been here working out all summer. So if you are going to err, you err on the side of caution with NCAA obviously."
How have you been able to do such a good job of keeping the kids out of trouble?
"Well, I don't think that's something that we have done, that's something that our kids have done. By and large, we have outstanding young men in our program. I am proud of the way for the most part of how they conduct themselves off the field as on the field. That's something I think is important. A lot of players don't like to admit it but when you play college football, particularly in the SEC, you are a role model of some sort to the young people that watch the game. Having said that, they need to conduct themselves in a manner that we can all be proud of."
Can you talk about how the season is going to play out after bringing in two very talented freshmen quarterbacks?
"Well, I am excited about both (Morgan) Newton and (Ryan) Mossakowski. But I haven't really had the chance to coach them and get on the field with them and work with them to see them throw the out, the fade, the post. So, I need to observe that and probably in a couple of weeks I'll have a lot better feel about those two quarterbacks. Obviously, we were very impressed with them or we wouldn't have offered them scholarships. I'm excited that they chose to come to Kentucky. Now we just have see where their progress is on making the transition from high school to college. At that position, it is often a more difficult task than it is at some other positions. I know. I listen. I read. I hear. Mike Hartline is our guy and we'll see how that progresses and we'll see how other people, if they do, step up and challenge him or if they don't But right now, in my mind, there is no question who our starting quarterback is for the Miami of Ohio game."
Are there any plans to redshirt one of those guys?
"There is no basic plan right now. The basic plan is to get them out on the practice field for at least two weeks, all of our freshmen and all of our newcomers, and decide who is ready to help and who isn't. We will end up deciding who is going to redshirt and who isn't and all of that stuff a couple of weeks down the road at the earliest."
After losing Jeremy Jarmon, how big of a concern is there at defensive end this year?
"There's always a concern when you lose a quality player. We went through spring practice knowing we had an appeal that was yet to be heard. I think we felt that it was going to be difficult at best. The difficulty is that we don't have a lot of experience returning at that position. Chandler Burden is our most experienced player. That's the bad news. The good news is we have four or five guys that look the part physically - run strength, explosion - but now we have to get them up to starting speed, if you will, in a short period of time before we open against Miami of Ohio. We're not without talent at that position and that's the good news."
What does Alfonso Smith have to do to be a successful feature back in the SEC this year?
"He has to perform and stay healthy. I might add that Derrick Locke is not here today and will not return until Sunday. He had a tragic death in his family and left to go home for the services and he won't be back until Sunday night. He will miss the first three days of practice then he will have to start his NCAA cycle mandate before he can get into full gear."
With all of the talk about the quarterbacks where does Will Fidler fit into the picture?
"Well, Will Fidler right now is our number two and he'll stay there as long as he earns the right to stay there. It is conceivable that one of the freshmen could move up to number two. It is conceivable that Will could keep them at number three. Again, I won't know the answer to that for several weeks. I do know that Will at times looked better than I have ever seen in spring practice and one of those times was his opening drive in the Blue/White scrimmage."
With a tough schedule this year could the team be better this year but the record not reflect it?
"Yeah, we could, I suppose. I know we're a better team than we were at this stage last year. In my mind, I think we are clearly better than we were at this time last year. Having said that, we have to go out on the field and win games. We know the schedule can be very difficult in this league and I think particularly the front part of our league schedule - even though we're at home the first two games - we get probably the top two ranked teams in the conference right off the bat, not only in our conference but probably in the nation. I suspect Florida will be ranked number one this season when the poll comes out and I would expect Alabama to be in the top five somewhere."
Could you talk about the offensive line going into the year?
"Even though we lost some good players from last year, I think we have some outstanding experience. Almost every one of them is stronger, bigger, and one of them is a lot slimmer than he was in the spring, in Christian Johnson. I think there's going to be some serious competition for us in the offensive line. Our depth in the offensive line is better than it's been."
What makes you think you are clearly better than you were last year?
"Well, offensively we're a team that virtually lost all of its production going into last season. This we return virtually 80% of it, probably. The experience that those players gained last year is making them better going into this season. We've added a few new pieces to the puzzle that I am anxious to see how they play out in practice. I'm anxious to look at Chris Matthews at receiver and see how he is going to impact the receiving corps. I have a pretty good feeling going into it but we have to go out on the field to see it play out. Mike Hartline is going to be a much better quarterback than he was a year ago. He'll be able to do more and have a better grasp of things and he'll have more help."
Can you talk about Danny Trevathan and how good he can be?
"Danny Trevathan is a big-time player, pure and simple. He's as good as any four-star guy that you can talk to me about at linebacker. He will have major impact on this team if he stays healthy this year. He's very fast. He's very instinctive. He doesn't look very big, but weighs about 220-225. He's a very special talent to see so now we will just have to go out and see what he can do. He's not exuberantly shouting all the time in practice or anything. But I think he is a very confident young man and a guy that loves to play the game of football."
How important is it for junior college transfer Chris Matthews to hit the ground running as a wide receiver threat?
"Well, we've got a month before we open, then we have a week before we play our second game, so I don't know that he'll hit the ground running the first game. I would hope by somewhere in the second, third or fourth game of the season that he'll have a total grasp and feel totally comfortable in the offense. Maybe that will happen sooner, I don't know. There is not any question about his ability and size. He brings something that we don't have at the receiver position - size. He's 6-foot-6 and can run and catch. Now we have to get him comfortable in the offense to play full speed without thinking about it."
How do you feel about your special teams going into this year?
"We have a major question mark on the kickoff end. Tim Masthay spoiled us for four years. I think Ryan Tydlacka is the guy that will replace him there as well as replacing him as a full-time punter. Ryan got to punt last year in the red-zone area. So he's not just starting fresh. He's punted in the SEC. He's been in games and competed. He did an outstanding job of punting the ball. I am more concerned about the kickoffs. Lones Seiber has battled some nagging hip injuries. Those have seemed to calm down a little bit. We need him to convert a higher percentage of his field goals and be more consistent. We were one of the better kick-off return teams in the nation last year but our punt return fell off. We need Randall Cobb to stay healthy. We have some other candidates that may help in that regard too. The major question mark to me is the kickoffs."
Can you talk about the schedule and is it hard to take it one game at a time when you have so many tough games coming up soon?
"You are right, when I first saw the schedule I looked over the entire thing and had a feeling of who we were playing and where we were going to play. I knew that it was going to be a tough road, but the great thing about this schedule is that we have a lot of good home games and we don't have to travel too much, which is good. Of course, traveling in the SEC anywhere is difficult. It is hard to take one week at a time, but that is what our focus is and you have to do that. You see those tough games, but you have to realize that you are in a tough week and every week is going to be tough. So you have to take it week-by-week and prepare well and work hard."
How do you see yourself better now than a year ago?
"I think that I am more mature and more of a vocal leader. The biggest thing that Coach (Randy) Sanders and I talked about was to get on guys when I need to get on them, but number one I have to take care of my business first. I believe that I have and I am at the point where I have great relationships with every single person on this football team. To be that extra voice of motivation and determination other than the coaches for these guys is going to help us tremendously. I am just trying to get these guys excited about starting camp, practicing well and being where we want to be. Not just talking about it, but actually doing it. Obviously, I also have to execute and keep the offense performing well."
How close do you think that this program is to making some noise for in the conference?
"I think that we are right there. Coach Phillips always talks about it and I truly believe him. You look at last season, and we lost some games but we were also right there with a few teams. Our offense wasn't great last year, we had some struggles in different places but we are right there we just need to put it all together. These guys need to understand, and I think that they have, that practice and in the weight room is where it is going to happen. By ourselves outside with seven-on-sevens is where it is going to happen, and they have really responded and with the excitement and effort that we gave in the spring will hopefully carry over into camp."
What are your expectations for this season?
"I expect to have a good year. I'm a fifth-year senior, and a lot of other guys have been around the program for a few years. We know what it takes to win and go to bowl games, so I'm excited to go out on the field. Hopefully we can go a little farther this season."
What are your expectations for the offensive line?
"It will be fun to play on the offensive line. We can finally get everyone back and healthy, so I'm excited to bond together and improve upon last year. There are a lot of red shirt freshman who can do a lot of good stuff for us."
How were summer workouts?
This year I worked on getting acclimated to the tackle positon. Whether that was improving my agility and quickness, or working in the weight room. We have all been out here working hard and we will be much improved.
What are your expectations for this season?
"We have to come out and surprise and shock the world, like we did a couple of seasons ago. We need to take Kentucky football to the next level, protect our home field and win those are two big games."
How has the team mentality changed from last season?
"This team is hands down better than last year's team. Last year we had a mediocre mindset, but this year we are hungrier. We're hungry to get the victories people say we aren't supposed to get. We want to make big plays, and we want to be the team that Kentucky was in 2006 and 2007. Going into the season, we had guys that believed we couldn't win certain games. Right now, everyone on the team believes we can win every single game. We have the talent, coaching staff, maturity and experience. Now, it's time for us to do our thing."
How has your role changed since becoming wide receiver?
"My role is more defined this year than it was last. Last year, I had to learn two positions and go to two-a-days knowing everything. This year, I only have to know one position and it will help me a lot. Leaving the quarterback position was fine with me."
Can you talk about your senior season and what you expect this year?
"I think that I will get the opportunity and it is all up to me to continue to work hard and do all the things that I need to do and maintain my weight. Basically, just make plays when I am called upon to make plays."
Should we expect to see a lot of screen passes this year, like in years past?
"I think so, but the offense is going to be opened up and it will involve a little bit of everything. We are going to pass the ball, run the ball and do screens as well. Hopefully, we can keep the defense honest and off-balance, that is the best way to go about it."
How important is the passing game as far as it relating to the running game?
"We have to have a passing game, but if we don't have a running game then that makes the defense drop more people into coverage and possibly run more zone. If we run the ball better it will keep people honest and have the defense put more people in the box which will open up the passing game. Everything works together. If we do screen passes then it keeps the defense from firing off at the quarterback because they have to worry about the screen pass."
What do you expect out of your senior season?
"I am excited. We have a lot of ups to our team and I think that we will be very good. I am very excited about this season and looking forward to get things going."
What did you do this off-season to try to get better?
"Just basically the same old stuff. We have great strength and conditioning coaches and we really worked hard with them in the offseason to make sure that we get better every day and are ready for the beginning of the season."
Do you need to be more of a leader this season?
"Number one, we have a bunch of seniors on the offensive line and a bunch of seniors on this team all together so I need to just go out and work hard and show everyone my work ethic. That is how I have to be a leader. In a way being a center, I do need to be more vocal on the field because I have to let everyone know where we are going to go and everything. I am not the type that is going to bark at people after practice, I would rather get on someone on the field and tell them, `This is how you do this' that sort of thing."
How do feel about the team and coming into this year?
"I feel pretty good coming back for my senior year and want to go out with a bowl game. I just want to go out on top and trying to just come back and be a leader on defense. We have lots of chemistry, we're a tight family and I just want to go out and have a big last year with them."
What do you need to do to get more picks this season?
"Pretty much just catch the ball. I need to go out there and practice hard and try to read the receiver before he makes the route. I need to jump the route of the receiver and hopefully catch the ball."
Talk about your pick for a touchdown during the South Carolina game.
"I saw the quarterback throwing the ball to the receiver so I just tried to jump up and knock the ball down. I ended up stripping the ball and I caught it and ran back to score."
What do you think about the defense this year?
"I think we're probably going to be one of the best defenses because we have a lot of seniors and juniors who played early in their careers and have started. We're going to go out there and work hard and practice hard and try to be one of the top defenses in the nation."
What do you think about the newcomers?
"It's hard for me to make an honest decision until we get to tomorrow, even later today in practice. You don't know until you see how the younger guys look in practice. A lot of our success is based off the performance of the defensive line and we have a lot of improvement among the guys. I have a lot of confidence in the world from what I've seen that the younger players can be successful and great players but only time will tell. We will see how things will work out."
Do you feel any pressure to be a leader?
"I definitely feel some pressure to be a leader. I'm the only senior on the defensive line now and I probably have the most experience and try to lead by example for the young guys. Some of the younger players don't understand yet what it takes to be successful in the SEC and I feel like that is something I can bring to the defensive line and to the team."
Talk about your work ethics.
"I just want to be first in everything and show everybody the right way to do it, even beyond football, including academics, being on time and representing yourself and the program well."
What are you going to focus on during camp?
"I just want to do everything right on the field and be more of an example for the younger guys to follow. Not necessarily talking as much but if I have to be vocal I will. I really want to focus on doing the right thing on the field and coming to camp, always hustling, going hard on every drill and paying attention to detail. We have a lot of young talent and I think if they pay attention to details and technique we will be fine."
Do you think guys need to vocal to be successful leaders?
"I think if you are vocal but don't do the right things especially on the field, you won't look as good in the long run. People aren't going to listen to someone who isn't doing things right. If you have a guy who does the right thing, that's great. And if he can do the right thing and be vocal too, that's icing on the cake."
What do you think of the linebacker depth this year?
"We have a lot of younger talent that has come in like Qua Huzzie and Ridge Wilson. We still have guys who are coming up like Ronnie Sneed and Jacob Dufrene that haven't necessarily touched the field yet but know what they are doing. I think our team has good depth and that I, Sam [Maxwell] and Danny [Trevathan] will be a great linebacking corps. We have some other solid guys that will be able to step up and get behind us."