After back-to-back 2-10 seasons, Kentucky is ready for a change.
Coach Mark Stoops, who was only around for one of those seasons, said he’s not ready to declare how many wins would make him feel like the season was a success, but he knows his team has to show progress for him to feel good at the end of the year.
“How we measure success is how we prepare,” Stoops said. “Our players are paying the price. They're working extremely hard this off season. What we do in preparation for our games. Our coaches are putting them in a position to be successful. We're doing everything we can. That's everybody in our program, starting with myself, to do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to win each game.
“With the six games (for bowl eligibility), obviously it's important to us. But I won't put that mark on it because I don't want to give up the other six.”
Stoops noted that he’s confident about this team because it has 15 starters returning and 36 players that have started a game. But he also knows his team is still young and has a lot to learn. He said 60 percent of his players has been part of program since January 2013, so there’s still a lot of growing to do.
“It's a great challenge to be here and to be in this league,” Stoops said. “You better wake up in the morning getting it. You better wake up getting going and recruiting great players and developing the players you have. So that's motivation enough for me right there.”
Still looking for a quarterback
One of the biggest problems that has hampered Kentucky’s success is its lack of stability at the quarterback position. Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow played last season. Smith had the better numbers, but he couldn’t win games. And this offseason, he had extensive shoulder surgery, which kept him out of spring football and has him questionable for the start of the season.
That leaves the door open for a new crop of quarterbacks, including sophomore Partick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and early-enrollee Drew Barker. Phillips seems to be the leader heading into fall camp.
“I've been very pleased with Reese,” Stoops said. “He was a guy throughout spring that may have been the most consistent. He was a guy that just did a nice job of managing the offense and staying away from negative plays. Very impressed with Reese. He's got a good chance to win the battle.”
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