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Guest post: Could it be now or never for UK football

Lori Metcalf with UK linebacker Courtney Love at the UK women's clinic.

Lori Metcalf with UK linebacker Courtney Love at the UK women’s clinic.

By LORI METCALF

Coaches drew back the curtain on gamed ay preparation at the UK Football women’s clinic last Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Defensive Coordinator DJ Elliot started by describing the defense’s daily activities from Sunday to Saturday. The coaches have tons of meetings to assess UK’s performance on Saturday and to analyze the next opponent’s offensive tendencies and “tells”. Then they work with the players to correct mistakes and teach what they need to look for and how to react in the coming week’s game.

New Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran told how the Wildcats structure their practices. With only two hours each day, the team has to be super efficient and use its time wisely to maximize  efforts. Practice starts with work at the individual level as coaches help players improve the fundamentals and techniques that form the foundation of the entire game. Those are followed by group drills where all the players at one position work on the same task. That rolls up into what is called “half line” drills where one side of the offense works against the corresponding defense. Finally, it all comes together when the whole team is brought together.

Gran also gave us a peak at the playbook. For all the good it did us! He showed two slides with relatively miniscule print that listed the plays available in a dozen different game situations and scenarios. Of course, it was all in code and was Greek to all of us, but it sure looked impressive and made me appreciate even more all the intellectual work the players have to do in addition to their physical training.

Speaking of physical training, one of the highlights of the day was a detailed tour of the new training facility located next to the stadium. If you’re familiar with the layout at Commonwealth, you’ll know that the Nutter Indoor Training Facility was situated next to the stadium. That was expanded at one end (toward the Blue Lot parking) to house all new offices and training operations. Outside, on the side away from Commonwealth, is the new outdoor training space.

The building won’t officially be operational until camp starts on Aug. 4, but you can already tell it’s going to be pretty spectacular when the finishing touches are complete. It seems the designers have thought of everything and have used every inch of space to its maximum potential with the latest technology on display everywhere you look.

The highlights for me included these things:

  1. The entire space is designed to inspire. The Ring of Honor, All America players and former Cats in the NFL are featured prominently. Also, in the meeting rooms for each position there are pictures of former players at those positions. And the 1951 National Championship trophy is one of the first things you see when you walk in the door!
  1. The medical and training facilities have to be among the best in the nation. There is the standard training area where players are taped up and prepared for each game and practice. However, there are physicians and physical therapists on staff so that every aspect of a player’s health can be monitored and on-site diagnostic and rehab equipment so almost 100% of that can be done in house. That doesn’t even take into account the dining facilities, nutrition center and cardio- and strength-training equipment that also are state of the art.
  1. This building, the players’ home away from home, has a place for fun and family, too. There is a super-cool rec area for players with video gaming, pool, ping pong and many TVs. The dining facility is large enough to accommodate the whole team at one time. Last year, Coach Stoops’ wife told us the coaches’ families and the team all eat together once a month, so it will be well used. I think things like that probably help keep players grounded and feeling part of something bigger than themselves.
  1. The players’ reactions to the new space were awesome. There were many new and a few veteran players around throughout the day. The ones I spoke with were almost in awe of the facility. One said they almost couldn’t believe it when they saw it for the first time last week. Another said he thought a lot of guys would want to come to Kentucky to be able to take advantage of it.

I’ve already read a lot of negative comments from people who say a losing team doesn’t deserve such a nice facility or that those funds are wasted on a lower-tier program and could be better spent elsewhere in the academic areas of the university.

I say, let’s give the administration credit for being willing to take a shot, for investing in a program that isn’t where we want it to be and for giving such a program every chance to improve. Mr. Barnhart and his team have put into play everything we have been told is necessary for success in the SEC.

Now it’s up to the coaches, support staff and players – who, we are being told, are more talented than in many past years – to use the tools at their disposal and get out there and win some football games. I hate to say it’s now or never, but I think it might be now or never.

4 comments

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  1. Larry Pup

    Anybody who does not want this new practice facility for UK football is no football fan. Maybe not even a UK fan period. You listening MKG. It was long overdue. I say it will pay big dividends down the road and over the next few years. Thanks Mitch and Admin for a job well done. As a long time UK football fan, I am very happy for these players and coaches to have a facility that is second to none. Every Kentucky fan should feel blessed to have this available for our football team. Great article Lori Metcalf.

    1. tobi111

      Thanks, Larry Pup!
      Lori

  2. TheProfessor

    Nice report Lori. Thanks! I agree with your concluding paragraph completely. It is time for the coaches and players to succeed, but the question of “now or never” is complex when it comes to UK football.

    I remember about 3 1/2 seasons into the Brooks era seeing the program on the rocks, appearing to be in complete disarray following a demoralizing beat down at LSU. Two weeks later, after a bye week to regroup and recommit, the Brooks era began a run of historic proportions in the context of the UK football history and lore. The calls were loud for Coach Brooks’ head to roll, why wait to the end of the season some said.

    Barely 3 years into the Stoops era, the program has been hit in the gut each of the last two years by its inability to secure bowl bids with an elusive 6th win. There is an uneasy silence that I sense around the football community of fans. No one wants to be the one to say that it is now or never for this coach.

    Let me clear, I do not believe this should be a now or never year for Coach Stoops with this program. The program has advanced during his 3 years, and the journey required to take UK football to the level of competitiveness that we all want, and that Coach Stoops promised is a long distance event, not a sprint. Nevertheless, should things not go well in 2016 and there is no bowl trip, no 6th or more win in 2016, I fear that the fan base will become restless, and that uneasy silence will be broken.

    Lori’s last sentence tells this story very succinctly. She does not want to declare that this is the time for success, but senses just as I do, that it really is.

    BTW, I believe Coach Stoops also understands the tension that exists within the Big Blue Nation.

  3. tobi111

    I do see lots of parallels between the Brooks era and the Stoops era, Professor. You’re right that the program has made strides and I feel like they’re on the cusp of turning the corner. I surely hope so. Stoops knows as well as anyone and better than most the temperature of the water right now. I hope he’s given this year and next to prove that the plans he’s laid can bear the fruit we all want so much. I’ll always see my glass of Big Blue Kool-Aid as half full!

    Lori

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