With opener looming, Stoops Cats ready to ‘go forward’
Published 3:00 pm Friday, September 1, 2023
Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is tired of talking and ready for action.
The Wildcats will open the season at noon Saturday against Ball State and carry a 16-game winning streak against non-conference foes in regular-season contests. The Wildcats and Cardinals have met just once, with Kentucky posting a 28-20 triumph in 2001.
“We’ve been doing a lot of talking through the last month and we’ve been doing a lot of practicing,” Stoops said Monday. “The players have worked really hard. The coaches have worked hard. … Sometimes (camp) feels extremely long, and then other times it feels like it goes by rather fast. But (we are) definitely excited to get in our normal game week preparation.”
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Going into his 11th season at the helm and already the program’s all-time winningest coach with 66 victories through his first decade on the sidelines, Stoops likes the way his team performed during fall camp.
“I felt like there was some consistency,” he said. “You know, there’s always going to be some good and some bad, but I feel like it’s a good team with a good attitude and a mentality. And that needs to stay at a high level and be like that each week and each day.”
The expectation level is high, and Liam Coen will begin his second stint as offensive coordinator, but Stoops added there will be some differences in the team’s schemes from two years ago used by Coen.
“We all change and evolve and grow weekly and yearly, certainly in this profession. I mean, you have to. Whether it’s the way you’re presenting plays, the way you’re setting it up. You have to grow. There’ll be certain things that you will see that you’ve seen before, and there’ll be some new things as well.”
As for Stoops, the Kentucky coach said each season is different.
“It’s always an exciting time and you know, it definitely, you know, it picks up,” he said. “I mean, you get warned, you know what I mean? Like, I have a hard time sleeping anyway. … it feels good getting in the game week. It never feels routine. And each and every year it’s a different challenge, different excitement level and different anxiety level, whatever you want to put on it. But, it’s time to go forward.”
Ohio State transfer Ben Christman, a sophomore offensive lineman, suffered an undisclosed injury. Also an offensive lineman, Nik Hall will miss the rest of the year.
The revamped offensive line features battles at nearly every position, including right tackle, where Courtland Ford and Jeremy Flax are in contention for the starting slot.
“(We) just need to see where that position goes,” Stoops said. “Both of them have a lot of talent. I think Jeremy has improved over a year ago and certainly, Cortland has that ability. We just need to see the consistency and see him dominate like I believe he can. We just got to take it in the some games here and we’ll see. See how that goes.”