Kentucky’s Mark Stoops has witnessed progress throughout his four seasons as Wildcats head coach. Given the makeup of the 2017 roster, Stoops and his players have an excellent shot of doing more than ever before.
The Wildcats are set up well as they look to fight within the SEC East division. Kentucky returns 19 starters from 2016, including quarterback Stephen Johnson, 1,000-yard rusher Benny Snell and its top four tacklers from the previous season.
To Stoops, the key for Kentucky to make the most of its seasoned team is simple.
“I think the biggest thing with our program is consistency, our attention to detail,” Stoops said. “Our players are doing that, and we're ready to take it to the next level. Each and every year I've been here, we talked about build, select, develop. And that's building a winning culture, selecting the right players, developing them and have an intentional development plan once they get on campus.”
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As important as the consistency will be, the players’ accountability may prove even more crucial. According to linebacker Courtney Love, the team is already coming through in that regard.
Love said the players held a practice amongst themselves on Wednesday morning. While coaches are not allowed around at this point in the summer, the players were still hard at work, busying themselves with building team chemistry and going through 7-on-7 drills.
Love explained that was far from the program he walked into after transferring to Kentucky from Nebraska.
“Two years ago, it was like a jungle,” Love said. “It was chaos because guys weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. Moving on to now, it looks like we’re a real team out there. We’re making sure we do what we have to do.”
The 2016 Wildcats notched their highest win total since 2009 and ended the campaign with two victories in their last three games. Kentucky has an opportunity to assert itself in the divisional race, and the players and coaches believe what they achieved one year ago was no flash in the pan.
“We have everything we need now,” Love said. “You have to have the best to be the best, and I think we have the very best. We’re just trying to do the best we can.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports