10 things we learned (or didn't learn) at SEC Media Days

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

CatsIllustrated.com takes a look back at Kentucky's turn at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., and breaks down both what we did and didn't learn.

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10. We're just going to have to wait and see on the offense's explosiveness. One of the more curious aspects of media day was how Stoops made it through the whole event without really talking about how Kentucky replaces the explosiveness that departed with Boom Williams' draft decision and Jeff Badet's transfer. He might not have given much detail even if he had been pressed on it, but the topic just didn't seem to really come up.

9. Stoops is thrilled (and that's not too strong a word) to have a more experienced team. When Stoops was asked whether he can echo Derek Mason's comments about the importance of having a junior and senior-laden team you could see Stoops become visibly more relaxed, as if breathing a sigh of relief.

"Oh, amen. Absolutely," Stoops said. "It's the same, you see that. And you look at our defense right now and we have, what, nine seniors coming back...nine starters that played some significant playing time a year ago. Now you know why some of the struggles we had a year ago. We have nine guys back. And I think, I didn't look exactly, but I think seven of those guys should be back if they come back for their senior year for another year."

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That's a point CatsIllustrated.com made recently. It's no given that Mike Edwards, Jordan Jones and everyone else returns in 2018, but next year you'll have experience on top of experience and, potentially, the most hyped Kentucky defense in a really long time.

8. The defense will be a collaborative effort. Yesterday Mark Stoops said, "Matt's the defensive coordinator but it will be a collaborative effort. It has been." Stoops obviously felt empowered by the success (or improvement) of the defense after he took over the playcalling duties early in the season. The numbers reflected that improvement, though not in an entirely linear fashion over the whole course of the season. It sounds like House and Stoops will almost be operating as co-defensive coordinators, and House probably knew that up front when he was promoted.

7. Bob Stoops' retirement surprised Mark, too. When the former Oklahoma coach made the unexpected announcement of his retirement it took a ton of people by surprise. What's really surprising, though, is that it took Mark Stoops by surprise. Stoops did backtrack a little, saying it wasn't too surprising if you consider his brother headed an elite program with high expectations for 18 1/2 years, but he didn't see it coming and admitted he's got mixed feelings about it. Mostly, though, he's happy his brother got to leave on his terms, and can rest easy knowing he left a team that can contend with his successor.

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6. The bowl practices helped ... sort of. When Kentucky was selected for the TaxSlayer Bowl immediately pundits started breaking down the significance and what it means for the program's future. Almost everyone seemed to agree that the extra practices would be a big help. Stoops agreed, and reiterated that agreement on Wednesday, but he made an interesting point.

He said working against Georgia Tech's triple-option, aside from the loss, was the major downside to the bowl game shaking out how it did. That's because so much of Kentucky's practice time had to be geared towards preparing for an offense they won't face in other games. Rather than focus mostly/exclusively on their own concepts, principles and schemes, Kentucky diverted a lot of its focus in that bowl prep to triple-option prep. And that will only help so much.

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5. Mark Stoops seems to know the defensive line is a major issue. He didn't say it like that, but how he talked about the defensive line was pretty telling. When he met with local media, including CatsIllustrated.com's Derek Terry and Anthony Crawford, he prefaced some of his remarks by acknowledging that he knew a lot of questions were going to come related to the defensive line. He didn't try to calm fears or reassure people too much. That's a pretty good indication that he knows there are some real issues there.

4. Joshua Paschal, Clevan Thomas and Jamin Davis are really impressive. And that's no surprise. On a recent CatsIllustrated.com podcast we mentioned that Paschal, Thomas, Alex King and Yusuf Corker were among freshmen who were impressing sources in summer workouts. What Davis did in the spring game was on full display for everyone to see.

But yesterday we got some reinforcement that these players have been impressive, when Rivals.com's Woody Wommack got Courtney Love to say Paschal and Davis "are guys that are going to be awesome ... I just can't wait to see those guys play." And Stephen Johnson singled out Thomas.


3. Be patient with Phil Hoskins. As part of a banner defensive line class in the 2017 recruiting cycle, and as a JUCO transfer, some might have been expecting Hoskins to compete for early playing time...especially given the state of Kentucky's defensive line, or how people perceive it. However, because of a rehab process, Hoskins isn't in ideal condition yet.

"He's not quite ready yet. No. I wish he was. But he had to get two shoulders fixed before he got here. So hopefully, I know I'm going to get a lot of D-Line questions, I mean, we're improving, we're working hard, we have some bodies and hopefully Phil will be able to step in and help but I would anticipate that not until game three, game four, game five as the season goes on. And if there are some injuries, which there generally are, hopefully he'll be ready to go at some point.

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2. Lynn Bowden and Michael Nesbitt's status is unchanged. According to Mark Stoops the two Class of 2017 signees are still expected to enroll in time to start fall camp. When Stoops was asked whether folks should tap the brakes on some of the excitement over Bowden's potential as a true freshman, due to his late arrival, it sounded like he hadn't made up his mind.

"I don't know. We'll see. We'll see how it goes. As you know, the SEC rule, he's not allowed to be in town or working out with us unless he's going to summer school. So he's not in summer school right now. We do anticipate that he'll be here for the first day of fall camp," Stoops said.

On Nesbitt, Stoops would only say, "We anticipate he'll be here for the first day of fall camp."

1. We didn't learn a whole lot new. For all the sound and fury of SEC Media Days, what we know today compared to what we knew before Mark Stoops and Kentucky's players took center stage is basically the same. That's okay, because Media Days isn't supposed to be an event with a lot of breaking news, and preseason practices haven't started. Just take this as a reminder that nothing has changed since last week and the real news will start flowing in next month.

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