By LARRY VAUGHT
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Kyle Meadows says he has gained over 20 pounds since he came to UK. He was regarded as one of the top players in the Cincinnati area and No. 38 offensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com. He’s a former high school basketball player — one reason he says his footwork has always been good — and also threw the shot put and discus in track.
“My redshirt year basically made me into a better player,” Meadows said. “I went against (defensive end) Bud (Dupree) every day last year and I can actually block him now. Everything is more simple, faster and I can actually keep up with the other guys, so basically that year developed me into a better player.
“Even though it sucked not being able to play, it actually helped me because I gained weight, I am stronger and I can now keep up with everybody else. So basically I am now part of the offensive line.”
Kentucky offensive line coach Jon Schlarman certainly feels that way.
“Kyle is coming along, but he has some guys with a little more experience ahead of him,” Schlarman said. “He is super talented. He has great feet. He came in at about 270 pounds and it’s hard to play tackle at 270 in this league. Now he’s gained good strength and he’s up to about 295 and continues to grow and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
Meadows says linemen like Jordan Swindle and Zach West helped him last year — and “I kept going back to coach Schlarman because everything just makes more sense that way.” He says he “didn’t know anything” about big-time college football when he got to UK and it was not like he expected.
“Now I have learned,” he said.
Meadows’ high school coach, Larry Cox, did his best to prepare him for what it would be like, including dealing with the recruiting process.
“He helped me all the way. It was God, my mom and coach Cox. I just prayed on it and my mom told me not to listen to anybody and just do what was best for me. Coach Cox kept helping me with coaches,” Meadows said. “He was basically my father. He was always there for me when I needed something. He would always do his best to do what I needed. When I would go to him for advice, he always had an open door, so he was like a father to me.
“On the field, I know him as a tough guy and he would always get in your grill and tell you that you were wrong about this or that. But indoors he would always come to me with an open heart and say you need to do this so you can get that done and be successful. I listened to him and I am here now. Nothing would have happened without him.
“I have heard everything from my coaches. I am prepared for what coach Schlarman might say. Coach Cox taught me how to listen to coaching and take it the right way.”
Cox believes things are “going well” for Meadows as he fights for playing time after his redshirt season.
“He is that third tackle fighting to become the right tackle or at least be in the playing rotation and get some playing time,” Cox said. “Again, his maturity rate has been great. Kyle came in and they realized they would redshirt him because most big guys aren’t ready to go as true freshmen. But he’s done a great job, got his body weight up and worked hard to make it where he could be in the rotation this season.”
Meadows has tried to help true freshman running back Mikel Horton, his former high school teammate that enrolled at UK in January.
“I love it. It is just like blocking for high school all over again. We both have stuff to pick up on, but it’s the same as high school,” Meadows said. “I tried to tell him it is nothing like high school and that you are playing with grown men that are coming to knock your block off and they are so much faster.
“He didn’t heed my warning and when he did his first practice he was winded and exhausted. I told him I was the exact same way. I didn’t believe it either but reality hit me fast.”