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JoJo Kemp

By ASHLEY SCOBY

As long as you don’t outfit Jojo Kemp in Ralph Lauren Polo, he has the potential to have quite the sophomore campaign.

Kemp, Kentucky’s leading rusher last season as a freshman, traveled to offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s house this weekend directly after attending an Easter church service. With several athletes who couldn’t go home for the holiday there, a spontaneous kickball game broke out. By the time it was over, Kemp (and his Easter Sunday outfit) was a little worse for the wear.

“I was struggling out there because you know I had on my Polo,” he said. “It was Ralph, though. I had on Ralph Lauren everything. So we had a little kickball game and it just got competitive. I ended up slipping. I done ruined my Polo jeans. I got grass stains on them.”

Kemp struggled so mightily, in fact, that Brown took to Twitter to talk about it, tweeting “FYI … You don’t want @mikelhorton1 or @J_Kemp3 on your kickball team! Back to what they do best in the am. Spring prac 12. #GetBetter.”

To clarify, Kemp smiled and said, “I’m a real good kickball player if I have my gear right.”

Kickball skills notwithstanding, Kemp is gearing up to be the starting running back on a team that is deep with talent at that position. Josh Clemons, back from an Achilles injury, is practicing again. Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska, is eligible this year. Mikel Horton, a true freshman, is looking to make a splash after enrolling at UK early and going through spring practice. Stanley “Boom” Williams, another true freshman with big upside, will arrive in the fall.

Kemp has recovered from his own injuries: He had surgery right after last year’s loss to Tennessee for bone spurs in his ankles, and has sat out a couple of spring practices as a precautionary measure against a tight hamstring.

But even with those setbacks, Kemp is ready to roll in the game that is finally slowing down for him.

“Last year I had my bone spurs so I wasn’t able to stick my foot in the ground and get up field,” he said. “I was beating a lot of guys with speed. Now, I’ve got speed and I’ve got that cut to get up field. I’m more of a complete back now. I know all my assignments, I know all the blocking techniques, I know all my run reads so right now, it’s just building and getting better, where last year I was trying to learn and get used to the game speed.”

For Kemp during his freshman year, it wasn’t about the physical reps. It was about the mental reps that both taught him how to be an SEC running back and slowed him down at the same time. Instead of planting his foot and cutting through a hole, he was usually half a second behind because he was thinking about what he needed to do.

This year, according to Kemp, that won’t be a problem.

“Now I’m just reacting as the play goes on,” he said. “When I get the ball and I see something, I go at it. I’m trying to make my high school plays again. I’m trying to be that dominant player in the SEC, so I’ve got to keep fighting and working hard until I’m that type of guy.”

One of the factors that could lead to Kemp being that dominant player is the competition he faces during practice. Not only is he competing for the starting job against guys like Clemons, Heard and Horton, but he is also competing against an improved Kentucky defense.

In particular, Kemp battles the most with junior linebacker Khalid Henderson.

“It’s just like a challenge,” Kemp said. “He was here last year and he played, and I played, so we were the only two guys that played a lot out of both groups. We just try to compete with each other, get each other better. We’re kind of used to each other.”

As spring practice – and his battles with Henderson and the rest of the linebackers – continues, Kemp will try to set the foundation for his sophomore year. After carrying the ball 100 times for 482 yards and three touchdowns last season against stiff SEC competition, Kemp is jetting right into his comfort zone.

“I’m trying to make this like high school again,” he said. “I got that first year out of the way. I know what it’s like to be playing big teams – the Alabamas and the South Carolinas and the Georgias.”

Just make sure that when those games come around for Kemp this year, his pads aren’t Ralph Lauren.

By LARRY VAUGHT

With so much attention focused on Kentucky’s quarterback battle, there has not been as much buzz over the competition to see who will emerge as the starting running back among JoJo Kemp, Bryalon Heard, Josh Clemons and Mikel Horton.

I think running back, you can be by committee. Now, we’d like a guy to jump up and just be the guy and be able to do everything. But I think you can kind form that running back position around what people do the best. But I know coach (Chad) Scott wants a guy to emerge, and I’d like for that too, but you can — it’s not a negative if we do it by committee,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Monday.

What does he like best about the running backs currently?

“They’re catching the ball really well. They’re actually catching the ball better than our receivers, which I’m not sure is a good thing but they are,” Brown said. “They are doing a nice job. We do a deal where we do a catch percentage, and we want everybody — everybody should have a 90 percent or higher catch percentage. All the running backs do. They’ve had very few drops. We’re doing some things this spring to get them more involved in the pass game because all those guys that are playing can do that. So, I’m pleased with those.

“Pass protection wise, technique wise we’re good. We have a few technique errors, and some of that is because our defense is doing a lot as far as blitz. But I’m pleased overall with them in the pass game, from catching and blocking.”

Josh Clemons (20) carries the ball for Kentucky. (Victoria Graff photo)

Josh Clemons (20) carries the ball for Kentucky in 2011. (Victoria Graff photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Here is what JoJo Kemp had to say about Josh Clemons, perhaps the biggest surprise in spring practice, after Saturday’s scrimmage:

Question: Has it surprised you how running back Josh Clemons has come back from a second knee surgery and is playing so well this spring?

Kemp: “Yeah and that is good. I look at him as one of those guys who will never give up. He is going to keep fighting and that’s what you need. When I am down and I have a bruise that makes me want to pop up, I look at him and he is one of those guys that is determined. He had those two major injuries but it is not stopping him. He is still out there fighting and competing. He has been making a lot of plays and that makes me get fired up and makes the coaches get fired up. He is good person.”

Question: Is he making more plays than you expected considering his injuries?

Kemp: “Exactly. Josh, he is one of those guys that is like a man-child. He is big. He is aggressive. He is one of those guys that will fight through anything.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

JoJo Kemp led Kentucky in rushing with 482 yards and three touchdowns on 100 carries  — 4.8 yards per carry. He had a 47-yard run and three touchdowns along with nine catches for 56 yards.

He’s involved in a spring practice battle with Josh Clemons, Braylon Heard and Mikel Horton for the starting job. Clemons is coming off two knee injuries, Heard is a transfer from Nebraska and Horton is a true freshman who enrolled at UK in January.

Kemp was wearing a T-shirt to support Special Olympics after Saturday’s scrimmage and offered his perspective on a number of subjects.

Question: What were the stats for the quarterbacks in today’s scrimmage?

Kemp: “I don’t even know my stats, sir. But all the quarterbacks looked good today. They all stood out. That’s going to be the coaches’ call. They have got a handful, I can tell you that. All of them looked great.”

Question: How has the depth at running back impacted what the team is doing this spring?

Kemp: “Actually it is easier. Everybody is competing and trying to make plays. It is just a whole group of guys and when we are done we are on the sidelines focused and remembering what we did out there on the field. We are a talented group and a lot more competitive this year than last year.”

Question: How many different looks can the running backs give defenses this year?

Kemp: “It is real good because we have something different to bring to the table with each of us. We are all competitive and just want to compete and make plays to get our team a W.”

Question: Is there anyone in particular on defense who has given the offense problems this spring?

Kemp: “All of them but of course (defensive end) Bud (Dupree). I think all of them are doing a great job. Everybody is competing, flying around, flying to the ball. It’s hard to kind of pick out one.”

Question: Is Dupree different this year?

Kemp: “That guy is huge. Huge man. When I first got here he had that swag about him and now it is even better. Bud is just Bud. He is an athlete. He is a stud.”

Question: Has there been a different intensity level in practice versus the scrimmage?

Kemp: “Yeah. Practice they try to lay off the hitting and tackling a lot more. When we are out there scrimmaging, they let the guys loose and everybody is out there flying around. Everybody is treating it like it is the real game. Everybody is competing and that brings out the best in everybody.”

Question: Have you seen any upperclassmen take on more of a leadership role off the field?

Kemp: “Everybody is, even us. We are about to be sophomores, but we know what it is like to lose and nobody wants to go through that losing feeling again. I came here to win and I want to change the program around, too. Even the young guys are trying to step up and the guys coming in trying to step up and be a leader. That’s what you need. Everybody to know his role, everybody going to class on time and making the grades they need to make. There are no individuals out here and everybody is doing great on and off the field and that’s what I like.”

Question: Is the four-man quarterback battle or four-man running back battle more heated?

Kemp: “I am a running back, so I am going to say it is us. It’s good man and that’s what you need. I know I am better seeing those guys making plays and that makes me want to get better and I am making plays. Everybody knows their assignments. It is just great man. The atmosphere is great and practices are going great because guys know how defense is competing. I like it. It is a lot different from last year. You can tell that the program is changing and that’s what I came here for. Everybody is being positive and that makes me happy. I am blessed right now and you can’t even see it.”

Question: Has it surprised you how running back Josh Clemons has come back from a second knee surgery and is playing so well this spring?

Kemp: “Yeah and that is good. I look at him as one of those guys who will never give up. He is going to keep fighting and that’s what you need. When I am down and I have a bruise that makes me want to pop up, I look at him and he is one of those guys that is determined. He had those two major injuries but it is not stopping him. He is still out there fighting and competing. He has been making a lot of plays and that makes me get fired up and makes the coaches get fired up. He is good person.”

Question: Is he making more plays than you expected considering his injuries?

Kemp: “Exactly. Josh, he is one of those guys that is like a manchild. He is big. He is aggressive. He is one of those guys that will fight through anything.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Running back JoJo Kemp is never one to hide his emotions or enthusiasm and he didn’t try when asked how about freshman quarterback Drew Barker fared in Kentucky’s scrimmage Saturday.

“Drew looked real good. He was out there making plays. He stood out,” said Kemp.

No statistics were given for the scrimmage that was closed to fans and media members, but the consensus seemed to be that even though all four quarterbacks — Barker, Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow and Reese Phillips — performed well, Barker had the best day.

“Pretty good, pretty good. Did some good things,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said about Barker.

He said “completions and touchdown passes” stood out the most to him about Barker’s play.

‘You have to look at the tape and see who it was against, what happened, a few things, but overall pleased. Pleased with how he handled himself, how he operated the good offense. Had some good throws. I also think the other guys had their moments as well,” Stoops said. “Again, Patrick— I’ve talked about several times this spring — saw him make a couple very nice throws that I haven’t seen for awhile on our practice field. Really some good, strong throws in some tough spots. So that was encouraging to see. And again, Reese and Jalen  had their moments as well.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown also liked what Barker did and the maturity he showed in his first outing at Commonwealth Stadium.

“I think the biggest thing about Drew is, if you would’ve came out and just watched us today, you wouldn’t have know he was a high school senior. And that’s the most impressive thing to me. Because the mechanics of the game and not being in awe of being in that stadium for the first time and playing, that was what I was most impressed with,” Brown said. “You wouldn’t have know that here he is, went to the (high school) prom two weeks ago or gonna graduate in June, you know what I mean? You wouldn’t have known that, which is a credit to him.”

Brown said other freshmen who enrolled in January midway of their senior year in high school made plays, but also got tired during the scrimmage. But not Barker.

“That’s why I was saying it’s such a credit to Drew, because you could’ve watched some of those other guys and thought, ‘OK, they’re young; they’re making some mistakes.’ Well, Drew, you would’ve thought he was here for a year, he’d been here for a while,” Brown said.

Stoops and Brown both insisted it was still a four-player battle at quarterback with no clear separation yet for the job that Whitlow had last year.

” I know that we didn’t make as many big mistakes,” Brown said. “All four of them threw the ball better. Towles made some throws in live situations that he hadn’t made here, so I was pleased with that. They all got about equal reps and everybody got a chance with the ones and the twos.”

Brown said Towles, who played as a freshman in 2012 and then redshirted last year, made throws the staff had only seen him make before in non-game situations.

“Like when he comes out here and throws routes on air and we don’t have defenses, and y’all watched him throw the other day … he’s making throws that he’s always made on air, but he made those against the defense being out there,” Brown said. “I know he’s got really good arm talent; he always has. And you’ll see — even last year, I would see snippets of that when we were throwing on air, OK? Or maybe we were in a seven-on-seven drill. Well, today I saw some of those throws in a game atmosphere, which was encouraging.”

Brown doesn’t want the quarterback competition to go until close to the season opener like it did last year between Whitlow, Maxwell Smith and Towles.

“I want it to get narrowed down. The thing I’m pleased about is they’re all much, much better. We’re better. Whoever the quarterback is going to be, they’re going to be better than we played last year,” Brown said. “So that’s pleasing. But I do want to get it narrowed down quicker. When we do that, I don’t know. I’m not going to put any false deadlines.”

Does he want that done by the end of spring practice in two weeks?

“I don’t know. You’re putting words in my mouth now.  I’m not saying yes or no. We haven’t had that discussion. I’d love for one of them to take it and run, but nobody’s done that necessarily yet,” Brown said.

Kemp said he would hate to pick a starting quarterback based on what he’s seen.

“All the quarterbacks did good. They all looked good,” he said. “They all stood out. To me, they all looked great. Don’t count none of them out. They are focused, going through reads. They are all talented and trying to get the starting job and do what is needed to do that.”

Linebacker Khalid Henderson has the same view after going against all four quarterbacks Saturday.

“Each guy is making plays. They are all doing good,” Henderson said. “Barker is showing good leadership and making a good effort. I see a real good competition.”

By HAL MORRIS, Advocate-Messenger

LEXINGTON — Braylon Heard was ready to get back on the football field this spring

The junior running back spent last season sitting out after transferring from Nebraska. But Heard is ready to go out and compete for a starting spot.

“I was real anxious of course, I was just really happy to be back out there with my teammates and we’re working hard,” Heard said after UK’s first spring practice Friday. “The first practice, there was a lot of energy and we’ve got a long way to go.”

Heard, a 5-11, 198 pounder out of Youngstown, Ohio, said he got better last season.

“I ran scout most of the time, so I just tried to work on little mechanics, like my steps and stuff. And try to stay humble and hungry for year,” he said.

Heard, who ran for 464 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons at Nebraska, said he likes the “tempo” of UK’s offense.

“It’s Air Raid, and with a great passing game, you’ve got to have a great running game,” said Heard, who feels his skills fit in well with the offense. “Running the whole zone plays, I feel I run those really well with my speed and all.”

What will make him, and all the back better, Heard says, is the competition this spring, with at least four backs competing for playing time.

“There’s a lot of great guys back there, you know, with JoJo (Kemp), Josh (Clemons), Mikel (Horton),” he said. “It’s a fun room, I’m going to enjoy the competition.”

Although there is the Youngstown connection with head coach Mark Stoops and assistant Vince Marrow, Heard said he chose Kentucky for Kentucky, not because the coaches were from his home town.

“A lot of people think that’s why I came here, but I had to do my own research and look into things. This was a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a lot closer to home and I like where the program was headed.”

And Heard wants to be a part of rebuilding the UK program, something he and his teammates discuss.

“We talk about it yes we do. We want a culture where we’re more family than individuals,” he said. “Just a hard-working group of people that want to win. We want to win. and I feel we’re heading that direction.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky will also add Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska, into the running back  mix with JoJo Kemp, Ryan Timmons, Boom Williams and Mikel Horton next season.

“One thing about Braylon Heard is that he is very fast, but he has experience of playing big-time college football. As experienced as those guys (Horton and Williams) are, they have not played college football yet. Braylon Heard has played two years and knows what it takes and how to prepare. Just having that experience factor gives him a big boost,” Scott said as UK gets set to start spring practice Friday.

Scott also knows that Kemp, who had a productive freshman season, should be a lot better this season.

“The competition will make him better. It will make them all better,” Scott said. “That ultimately gets us to the point where we want to be as a program, which is championship level.”

Scott isn’t worried about having too many talented running backs, either.

“That is what you have to have. When you have competition and somebody behind you just as good, that keeps you on your toes,” Scott said. “It makes you do extra work and continue to do little things to separate yourself. If you don’t have that competition, you are constantly pushing guys to do that on a daily basis. But if they have somebody behind them just as good, you are getting the most out of that kid.”

Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (3) runs against the South Carolina defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (3) runs against the South Carolina defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky didn’t win a Southeastern Conference game, lost to in-state rivals Louisville and Western Kentucky, and finished the season just 2-10. Yet freshman running back JoJo Kemp said the year did not shake his confidence at all in the program or himself.

“I am one of those guys that will keep that humbleness and confidence in me and just try to get the job done,” said Kemp, who led UK with 482 yards rushing . “There are a lot of great players on this team and a lot of great leaders. We had some seniors that led the team correctly and I was pleased to have them teaching me.

“I just want to keep building. I came here for a reason and I won’t lose focus of the task at hand. I am just going to keep grinding on and off the field and in the classroom, weight room and just get this ship moving.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown wants Kemp to be one of those that keeps the “ship moving” forward. He had a long run of 47 yards and caught nine 56 passes for 56 yards. His numbers likely would have been even better if he had not been hampered by ankle injuries.

“I think he learned a lot. I don’t really feel like our young guys ever questioned themselves,” Brown said. “I think they are disappointed and they got frustrated in the outcomes and how things were going, but I don’t think they lost confidence. He (Kemp) was banged up and had some ankle injuries that we didn’t make a big deal out of that are not long term, but he was not as explosive as he was early.

“It’s so hard to depend on freshmen because it is a 12-week grind. In high school they are not going against the same competition week in, week out and the level of contact and the load on them is so hard here. Their bodies get so wore down, and I think he did that. But he’s going to be a productive player. He’ll be much more explosive next year than he was this year.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says because Kemp was not “100 percent healthy” late in the year it impacted his play.

“He needs to physically get bigger and continue to develop, and he will,” Stoops said.

Kemp said he planned to “get my ankles fixed, rehab, get in the weight room and get bigger and just keep fighting” to get better during the offseason.

“The amount of cuts I have to make, it (the ankle injury) kind of limited me a couple of times at the end of the year,” Kemp said after UK’s season ended. “I am fine. I am just one of those tough players that can fight through pain. I don’t make excuses for myself. I am just going to get better on and off the field and just trying to be the dominant player I know I can be.”

Kemp called this a “learning” season for him.

“Just learning the game speed. Playing in the SEC, it is the top conference and just getting down the speed and learning new techniques, picking up blitzes, and just learning the playbook. It is a lot different,” he said. “Six or seven months ago I was in the high school playoffs. It has been a learning year and I know what I have to do to get better. I am going to get my ankles fixed and get bigger and get that mentality other SEC players have got and become that dominant player I was in high school.

“I want to make college like the same thing like in high school that I had where every time I got the ball, I just made plays. That’s what I want to do. I know I have got it in me and the coaches know I have it in me. I just want to make them proud and make my community back home proud and make the city of Lexington proud because I know this program will be changing and there are a lot of people behind it. I just want to make everybody proud so we can have a good time in Lexington, Ky.”

He’s convinced the good times can come, too.

“We’ve got a quarterback (signee Drew Barker) in, so that’s going to make more competition, so everybody’s going to get better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Kemp said. “We’re trying to get this ship moving. I came here for a reason, and that’s to win. I see it.  We’re going to get this program moving and things will change. I’m going to always have faith in this team, this coaching staff.”

Brown anticipates the increased competition — transfer Braylon Heard and signees Mikel Horton and Stanley Williams — will help push and motivate Kemp next season, too.

“To improve, you have got to have competition. We have got to get competition on our offensive line, wide out. We have to get more numbers. With that, you have better outcomes,” Brown said. “And JoJo, he’ll embrace that. Everybody that is great does.”

Kemp agreed.

“Of course it motivates you. That’s what it is all about. Great players coming in to keep us all on our toes and getting better and not wanting to lose your job,” Kemp said. “That is what changes the program around. You get the best out of everybody because everybody wants to see the field. It’s a great thing.

“I am not mad at anybody. I am not down at competition that is coming in. It is just going to help each other get better each and every day. When you have guys that are selfish, that is just going to lead the program in a bad direction. I am not one of those guys. We won’t tolerate it. When guys come in, we are going to help them just like we got helped when we got here.

“It’s all about the program, not me, and I like that we are getting good people. We are rebuilding and I want to see this program change. It don’t matter if I am playing or not. I just want to win. That’s what should matter to us all.”

Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (3) runs against the South Carolina defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (3) runs against the South Carolina defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Freshman running back JoJo Kemp called this a “learning” season for him.

“Just learning the game speed. Playing in the SEC, it is the top conference and just getting down the speed and learning new techniques, picking up blitzes, and just learning the playbook. It is a lot different,” he said. “Six or seven months ago I was in the high school playoffs. It has been a learning year and I know what I have to do to get better. I am going to get my ankles fixed and get bigger and get that mentality other SEC players have got and become that dominant player I was in high school.

“I want to make college like the same thing like in high school that I had where every time I got the ball, I just made plays. That’s what I want to do. I know I have got it in me and the coaches know I have it in me. I just want to make them proud and make my community back home proud and make the city of Lexington proud because I know this program will be changing and there are a lot of people behind it. I just want to make everybody proud so we can have a good time in Lexington, Ky.”

He’s convinced the good times can come, too.

“We’ve got a quarterback (signee Drew Barker) coming in, so that’s going to make more competition, so everybody’s going to get better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Kemp said. “We’re trying to get this ship moving. I came here for a reason, and that’s to win. I see it.  We’re going to get this program moving and things will change. I’m going to always have faith in this team, this coaching staff.”

Brown anticipates the increased competition — transfer Braylon Heard and signees Mikel Horton and Stanley Williams — will help push and motivate Kemp next season, too.

“To improve, you have got to have competition. We have got to get competition on our offensive line, wide out. We have to get more numbers. With that, you have better outcomes,” Brown said. “And JoJo, he’ll embrace that. Everybody that is great does.”

Kemp agreed.

“Of course it motivates you. That’s what it is all about. Great players coming in to keep us all on our toes and getting better and not wanting to lose your job,” Kemp said. “That is what changes the program around. You get the best out of everybody because everybody wants to see the field. It’s a great thing.

“I am not mad at anybody. I am not down at competition that is coming in. It is just going to help each other get better each and every day. When you have guys that are selfish, that is just going to lead the program in a bad direction. I am not one of those guys. We won’t tolerate it. When guys come in, we are going to help them just like we got helped when we got here.

“It’s all about the program, not me, and I like that we are getting good people. We are rebuilding and I want to see this program change. It don’t matter if I am playing or not. I just want to win. That’s what should matter to us all.”

JoJo Kemp photo courtesy UK Athletics.

JoJo Kemp photo courtesy UK Athletics.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky didn’t win a Southeastern Conference game, lost to in-state rivals Louisville and Western Kentucky, and finished the season just 2-10. Yet freshman running back JoJo Kemp said the year did not shake his confidence at all in the program or himself.

“I am one of those guys that will keep that humbleness and confidence in me and just try to get the job done,” said Kemp, who led UK with 482 yards rushing — 4.82 yards per carry. “There are a lot of great players on this team and a lot of great leaders. We had some seniors that led the team correctly and I was pleased to have them teaching me.

“I just want to keep building. I came here for a reason and I won’t lose focus of the task at hand. I am just going to keep grinding on and off the field and in the classroom, weight room and just get this ship moving.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown wants Kemp to be one of those that keeps the “ship moving” forward. He had a long run of 47 yards and caught nine 56 passes for 56 yards. His numbers likely would have been even better if he had not been hampered by ankle injuries.

“I think he learned a lot. I don’t really feel like our young guys ever questioned themselves,” Brown said. “I think they are disappointed and they got frustrated in the outcomes and how things were going, but I don’t think they lost confidence. He (Kemp) was banged up and had some ankle injuries that we didn’t make a big deal out of that are not long term, but he was not as explosive as he was early.

“It’s so hard to depend on freshmen because it is a 12-week grind. In high school they are not going against the same competition week in, week out and the level of contact and the load on them is so hard here. Their bodies get so wore down, and I think he did that. But he’s going to be a productive player. He’ll be much more explosive next year than he was this year.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says because Kemp was not “100 percent healthy” late in the year it impacted his play.

“He needs to physically get bigger and continue to develop, and he will,” Stoops said.

Kemp said he plans to “get my ankles fixed, rehab, get in the weight room and get bigger and just keep fighting” to get better during the offseason.

“The amount of cuts I have to make, it (the ankle injury) kind of limited me a couple of times at the end of the year,” Kemp said after UK’s season ended. “I am fine. I am just one of those tough players that can fight through pain. I don’t make excuses for myself. I am just going to get better on and off the field and just trying to be the dominant player I know I can be.”

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