Kentucky is hoping to create a significant splash with its Signing Day coverage on Wednesday morning, including a live webcast from the Nutter Training Facility that will take an in-depth look at Mark Stoops’ signing class.
The live stream will include exclusive access to UK’s coaches, including a special “Xs and Os Room” starring former Cats quarterback and current football analyst Tim Couch. He will help break down film of signees with their respective future position coaches.
Several local media members and another former UK quarterback, Freddie Maggard, will join Couch in the coverage.
Kentucky’s seven mid-year enrollees will be interviewed as part of the coverage as well.
Along with the webcast, UK will host its annual live blog. Fans will be able to welcome signees on Twitter to the Big Blue Nation using the “Congratulate a Cat” feature. The signees who generate the most Twitter buzz will be put up on a leader board UK’s calling “Trending Cats.”
Signing Day coverage will start at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
People may ask: Why a Kentucky football Super Bowl commercial?
Kentucky’s marketing gurus say: “Why not?”
That was the theme of a sharp, forward-spinning UK football ad that ran during the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
“The feedback has certainly been positive,” said Jason Schlafer, a senior associate athletics director. “I think Twitter broke last night with people sharing the YouTube link to the spot.”
The 60-second commercial was purchased and shown in the Lexington market for a little more than $17,000, that price was up from the $10,000 paid for last year’s spot, which was only 30 seconds long.
Less than 12 hours later, it had been viewed on YouTube nearly 40,000 times, which meant it had done its job of being seen by other UK fans worldwide, Schlafer said.
“The entire target market for that spot are people that care about Kentucky football,” he said. “They’ll find a way to it and it will find a way to them.”
The Super Bowl ad, narrated by UK Coach Mark Stoops, is looking ahead to the future, including a hidden single-frame artist’s rendering of a view of the new Commonwealth Stadium near the end.
“People ask me: ‘Why here? Why Kentucky?’ I said: ‘Why not?’” Stoops says to open the spot.
He talks about laying the foundation and the commercial includes several key returnees from last season like Ryan Timmons, Jojo Kemp, Javess Blue and Blake McClain. There was heavy focus on UK’s two returning defensive ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith.
The commercial also shows the seven new signees and early enrollees for this 2014 signing class, the center piece of the group being Conner quarterback Drew Barker, who is donning the much discussed but never worn in a game gray uniforms.
When asked about whether or not those uniforms are going to become a thing this season, Schlafer was coy.
“I wasn’t on the wardrobe committee,” he laughed. “We worked with the coaching staff … anything new and exciting we could put in there based on their recommendations.”
The other early enrollees are linebacker Dorian Hendrix, running back Mikel Horton, defensive tackle Cory Johnson, wide receivers Thaddeus Snodgrass and T.V. Williams as well as defensive back A.J. Stamps.
The commercial, created by Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions, was shot on Jan. 20.
UK did inquire about moving the commercial more regional, into a secondary market (Louisville), but that local station required vendors to buy multiple spots. Schlafer said he only wanted it to be shown on Super Bowl Sunday “when football fans are watching TV.”
Those fans heard Stoops’ refrain loud and clear: “People ask me, ‘Why here? Why Kentucky?’ I said, ‘Why not? It can be done here. It will get done here.’”
One of hundreds of things that Kentucky will be pondering as it moves forward with a new $45 million practice facility is whether or not to change the playing surface at Commonwealth Stadium.
It was something brought up unsolicited by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as he discussed how the new facility will impact some of UK’s current ones.
“We’ll have to make the decision: Do we go to turf in the stadium, in the game-day stadium, in Commonwealth or do we stay at grass?” Barnhart asked aloud.
He argued that it might be in UK’s “best interest” to install turf at the stadium, per a discussion with Coach Mark Stoops, who would like to start using that facility more to better prepare his teams to play there. Turf is less maintenance and suffers less wear and tear with the extra use.
“I think it might be in our best interest to be turf in the stadium, indoor turf and two grass practice fields,” Barnhart continued. “It gives us lots of options in terms of practice.”
According to the UK athletics website, UK installed the stadium’s current Bermuda grass playing surface in 2005. It’s had several upgrades since the stadium opened.
If Kentucky were to move to a turf surface, it would be one of just five Southeastern Conference programs to do so. Other schools with synthetic surfaces include Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri.
The field at Florida State, where Stoops coached most recently, was Bermuda grass.
Kentucky football’s full plan for its future came into better focus with the release of a simple agenda for the school’s Board of Trustees meeting.
That plan includes the addition of a brand new, privately funded $45 million football training facility and practice fields that will be voted on by the school’s governing board on Friday.
The two-story building and two practice fields with an adjoining drill area will be located at the east end of the existing Nutter Field House will be coupled with the already planned $110 million going into Commonwealth Stadium renovations.
Officials hinted that there might be more to come in December when they unveiled the stadium project but didn’t include renovations to the Nutter Training Facility as initially planned.
In late November UK Coach Mark Stoops was asked how much of a hand he had in the stadium renovation plans and he nearly tipped UK’s hand.
“The stadium, I’ve got too much on my plate to get involved with all that now,” he said. “Hopefully we can do some other additions as we move forward that I’ll be very involved with.”
The new project, which is called “a comprehensive complex to support the entire football operation including Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Field House,” has a wide-ranging list of amenities.
They include: administrative offices, locker spaces, team meeting areas, training areas, high performance and weight room space, a hydrotherapy room, new locker rooms and lounge facilities, an academic lounge and student study area.
The plans also note that the current Nutter Training Center on South Campus near the baseball stadium will be repurposed to serve UK athletes in other sports.
Mark Stoops was the guest speaker at the Kentucky Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting on this snowy Saturday morning and the Kentucky coach had a couple of interesting tidbits, including:
There will be no staff changes, but Stoops said a few coaches had opportunities, and opted to stay at Kentucky.
UK’s coach said he’d like to sign two more players on Signing Day (Feb. 5) and he would like them to be an offensive tackle and a defensive lineman. There are three official visitors on campus this weekend.
Stoops said he thinks Kentucky’s recruiting class will finish ranked somewhere between 10 and 15 nationally.
The UK players playing in Super Bowl have said they will wear UK blue items in workouts this week, part of care packages the program sent to them.
The Kentucky coach told the alumni group that he likes the idea of playing Louisville at the end of the season because UK will be a much better football team at the end of the year.
Kentucky wide receiver Demarco Robinson is scheduled to be arraigned in Fayette County district court Friday afternoon after an incident last night.
UK spokesman Tony Neely said Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops is aware of the pending charges, related to an incident on Thursday night, but is out on the road recruiting and could not be reached for comment.
Stoops will deal with the situation when he returns, Neely said.
There was no police report available and the arrest records have not been updated to include Robinson. Fayette County police have not returned calls.
Robinson, who already was serving a suspension for unspecified violations of team rules late in the season and missed UK’s final two games, was expected to return.
When asked if Robinson was going to be with the team next season, Stoops told reporters: “Yes. Provided he meets some requirements that we’ll put on him.”
Despite missing games with suspensions and injuries, Robinson was the team’s third leading receiver with 20 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned 11 punts for the Cats for 114 yards.
Kentucky has not yet determined when spring practice will start, but could have those dates as well as a finalized date for the Blue-White Spring Game by as early as the end of this week, Tony Neely said.
Last season, after the hire of Stoops, Kentucky saw a record 50,831 show for its spring game at Commonwealth Stadium.
Two Kentucky players will miss spring practice after having successful shoulder surgeries in the off-season, a Kentucky spokesman confirmed on Wednesday morning.
Quarterback Maxwell Smith as well as safety Ashely Lowery will not be available for contact during spring training as they recover from their surgeries.
Freshman wide receiver Alexander Montgomery also will not participate in spring drills while recovering from season-ending knee surgery.
The surgery for Smith was on his right throwing shoulder, but UK spokesman Tony Neely said he was not sure if it was for the initial injury to Smith’s AC joint that he suffered his freshman season at Georgia or the strain this past season.
In August, Smith said he opted not to have shoulder surgery last winter. He did have off-season ankle surgery in 2012.
“It was definitely a discussion I went through,” Smith said in August when asked about the surgical options for his shoulder.
Smith said UK doctors made a lot of calls for him about the shoulder, which he said was similar to the injury suffered by former Oklahoma star quarterback Sam Bradford.
“His was just the worst degree possible whereas mine was one degree away from the worst degree possible,” Smith explained in August. “So I easily could’ve had the surgery, but they’re saying Sam Bradford, he still could have the same complications that I’m having right now. So the surgery might not have helped that much.”
Another shoulder injury against Louisville, which Coach Mark Stoops and Smith said was unrelated to the previous AC joint injury, caused the quarterback issues all season.
Smith was asked about his shoulder’s health after the Cats’ loss to Tennessee at the end of the season.
“My shoulder is all right; shoulder’s good,” he said at the end of the season. “I have a bad shoulder, and maybe we’ll get it re-evaluated. I didn’t practice, but I played, so that’s really all that matters. I did all I could.”
An ankle injury, which required surgery last off-season, ultimately ended Smith’s sophomore season and left UK with true freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles to lead the offense.
This season, Smith played in nine games, throwing for 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns, with one interception. He completed 57.4 percent of his passes (105 of 183).
Neely said Smith, who should be cleared to throw again this summer, would be a part of the “mental repetitions” in spring practice in what is expected to be a crowd behind the Kentucky offensive line.
UK returns starter Jalen Whitlow, red-shirt quarterback Patrick Towles as well as Reese Phillips, who was moved up to the No. 2 QB spot by the end of the season. Then there’s true freshman and star Kentucky signee Drew Barker.
Lowery’s shoulder injury happened during the season, but he was able to play through it, Neely said. The junior, who played in all 12 games, was ninth on the team in tackles with 46 last season. He also had one interception and three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Dyshawn Mobley, a running back who showed loads of promise at the end of Kentucky’s season is leaving the program, Kentucky confirmed on Friday.
UK did not elaborate on the reason that the 5-foot-11, 209-pound sophomore is departing, nor what his future plans are.
Through a spokesman, Coach Mark Stoops only said: “I thank Dyshawn for his contributions to the team during his time here and wish him the best in his future.”
Mobley was not an integral part of the offense until the final two games of the season, when he ran 27 times for 235 yards. For the season, he had 43 carries for 300 yards and the big 69-yard touchdown run at Georgia.
He was a key contributor on special teams for UK with 14 tackles and a recovered fumble.
For his Kentucky career, Mobley had 84 carries for 484 yards and a touchdown.
The Milan, Tenn., native, who set a state single-season rushing record with 3,068 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior, had drawn high praise from his coaches after the 2-10 season ended.
“I love the way he’s playing,” Stoops said of Mobley after the Tennessee loss. “He’s going all out and it’s good to see. He’s got great passion for the game. You could see that when he’s going down there and busting his hump on special teams and doing all those good things.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown seemed optimistic about Mobley, who had hernia surgery in the preseason that set him back, to be a “big-time factor for us moving forward” as he developed more consistency.
“He’s gotta be more consistent in his pass protection,” Brown said. “He practiced better the last three or four weeks. That’s encouraging.”
As Mobley started shining on special teams, Stoops joked in a news conference that if the running back didn’t get more carries he was going to move him to defense.
The head coach backed away from that comment by the end of the season, though.
“Again, that’s something we’ll address in the off‑season and talk with him,” Stoops said when asked about the potential position switch. “I don’t like talking about that publicly. That’s a compliment to me when you’re just simply saying he’s a good football player, and we need to find a way to get him on the field.”
DE Dupree will stay
Junior defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree took to Twitter to announce his plans to come back for his final season at Kentucky and not enter the 2014 NFL Draft early.
“I wanted to help Coach Stoops with the program,” Dupree said in a release. “Coming back another year can help me be a higher draft pick and I have a goal of graduating in December (2014).”
Dupree led all Southeastern Conference defensive linemen with 61 tackles this season. He also had a team-best seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
Dupree’s defensive line counterpart ZaDarius Smith has not announced his intentions per the NFL Draft. UK spokesman Tony Neely said Friday that Smith is still “going through an evaluation process” on that. He has to declare for the draft by Jan. 15.
Becoming a head coach has taught Mark Stoops one incredibly valuable lesson: always have a sport coat hanging nearby.
The Kentucky coach was asked on Tuesday about the Commonwealth Stadium renovation news conference the day before and the coach confided that he wasn’t exactly prepared for the hubbub, which included face time with the university president and the governor among others.
“I’m in the midst of preparing for Tennessee and I had the 12 o’clock press conference and we have team meetings and then they don’t tell me I’ve got to throw a suit on,” he said with a smile. “Thank God I found a sport coat in my closet up there. Just got a lot on my plate.”
But seeing the plans and having them available to share with the players he hopes will be future Wildcats made the rushing around worth it to Stoops.
“We’ve got great support right now,” he said. “It’s a great commitment by a lot of people, and that’s exciting. I thought it was a very nice event.”
Did the stadium event get Stoops more revved up?
“I didn’t need it, but yeah it definitely helps,” he said laughing. “It does. It gives you some motivation. It’s an exciting time. Just like I said, we’ve been through some tough times, but we’re gonna keep on pushing forward and excited about the future.”