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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky redshirt defensive lineman Patrick Graffree believe he is “learning and getting better” every day he practices under Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot this spring.
“I have been getting in with the twos (second unit) and rotating in. That is what I want to do. I don’t want to sit the bench any more. I didn’t come here to do that,” said Graffree, who had 11 quarterback sacks during his senior season at Central Hardin High School in 2011.
Here’s more of what Graffree had to say about spring practice as the Cats adjust to Stoops and his coaching staff.
Question: How is spring practice going for you?
Graffree: “I am excited for the season. Every day is a new day and we are getting better every day. The defense is easier compared to last year. The coaches like everything done right. So if you have to do everything right from little drills to team periods.”
Question: Did the redshirt year help you?
Graffree: “Yeah it did because I got in the weight room. I came in at 260 (pounds) and last year I swear I was like 280, so I gained 20 pounds in a year. I put on a lot of muscle. But the only thing that hurt me was like last year in the summer I was stiff because I was getting strong too fast. I am just trying to loosen up and work on technique things so I can play this year.”
Question: How is defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh to play for?
Graffree: “He is a good coach. He knows everything because he played in the SEC at Auburn. He teaches us everything he knows and he coached great players like Glen Dorsey, Tyson Gay at LSU. They are in the NFL and making money. If a coach has coached guys in the NFL, I want to listen to him because he is a good guy.”
Question: Is he tough, laid back, funny?
Graffree: “Coach, it is just a matter of the day. There is a time to joke around, a time to be serious. You just have to know when he is serious and when he is not.”
Question: Can his physical size/prowess be intimidating?
Graffree: “No, but I think I could take him a wrestling match. I am pretty strong myself. I could take him.”
Question: Is there a particular teammate that has helped you the most?
Graffree: “(Senior) Donte Rumph. Watching him and PC (Cobble) work and play last year was great. I look at them and make sure I do everything right like they do.”
Question: Is it ironic that Rumph’s shoulder injury could lead to more playing time for you this spring?
Graffree: “It is football. Everybody is going to get hurt. So you just have to step up when Coach calls your number.”
Question: Are you still enjoying life as much daily as you did before you got to Kentucky?
Graffree: “I am a dream chaser, so I like doing everything. I like the school aspect of it. I like football. You can’t do one without the other, so I am just having fun with my teammates. I love Kentucky. I am glad I am here. Football has taught me a lot of things. The classroom has taught me a lot of things. I have met a lot of new people. It has been a good experience.”
Question: How have classes been?
Graffree: “It has been good. The professors work with you on a tough schedule that we have. They try to base their schedule around you to make you feel comfortable doing homework. Overall, it’s really a good thing.”
Question: What is the weak part of your game?
Graffree: “I have to read the cutoff block. I am playing three technique and noseguard. I have to be able to play both positions. I just want to get on the field. I don’t care where I play.”
Question: Will this be a more physical defense this year?
Graffree: “Yes it will be. We have a lot of blitzes and formations we are going to come and tackle you. That is our mentality. We are going straight to the ball.”
Question: How good is junior college defensive end Za’Darius Smith?
Graffree: “Z is a grown man. He knows what he is doing. He does everything right. His technique is just great. Him and Bud (Dupree) pass rushing and playing those end spots, ain’t nobody stopping them. That will help us all.”
By HAL MORRIS
Patrick Graffree may say the Twitter ban coach joker Phillips instituted for the Kentucky football team is no big deal. His coach thinks otherwise.
“So Patrick Graffree, you guys might want to say goodbye to him today, okay?” Phillis joked at Friday’s UK media day.
But Graffree said the ban, which is in effect until Aug. 15, is fine with him. He’s too focused on football anyway to worry about anything else.
“Coach Philips said we can’t tweet, so we can’t tweet. It’s football season, you don’t have time to tweet now. Tweeting doesn’t matter when you’re out here on the football field and playing,” said Graffree, a freshman from Elizabethtown. “I’m not a Twitter fiend. I just get on there when I’m bored. And I’m not going to be bored with training camp. There’s going to be a lot of hard work going on around here.”
Graffree, whose Twitter address is @PGraffree_UK52, may not consider himself a “fiend,” but he is very active in social media. He has tweeted 7,459 times, has 1,992 followers and follows 1,952 people. He tweeted 52 times, counting retweets, on the Thursday before the tweet ban went into effect. He had eight tweets shortly after midnight on Friday.
Graffree said he likes to keep in touch with fans to spread the word about Kentucky football as well as potential future teammates through social media.
“It just feels like somebody knows you and somebody cares about you,” he said. “I talked to (freshman linebacker) Khalid Henderson a lot when he decommitted from Tennessee. I like to talk to some of the younger 2013 recruits.”
But as Graffree said, his focus is not on Twitter or Facebook. It’s on making his mark along the Kentucky defensive line.
The 280-pound Central Hardin product was a second team all-state selection by The Associated Press and the Louisville Courier-Journal and participated in the National Guard Border Bowl against Tennessee and the Best of the Bluegrass All-Star Game. He was named one of the top-10 prospects in the state by Rivals.com, 24/7 Sports and SuperPrep, and was the No. 72 defensive tackle in the nation by 24/7.
He’ll be backing up junior starters Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble, and hopes he can earn his way into the rotation as a true freshman.
“I’m just going to do whatever I have to do, whatever the coaches tell me I have to do. The older guys are going to teach the younger guys what we have to do because they’ve been here longer,” Graffree said. “So we just have to learn from them and see what we can do.
“Everybody around here, we’re hungry and everybody is ready to compete on the field, and we’ve been working hard.”
Graffree knows there is also a chance for younger players like him to come in and contribute, which a real motivator for him.
“A lot of freshmen, we want to play, but it’s up to the coaching staff. I’d love to get out there. It’s my dream. It’s why I came here,” he said.
Graffree said he’s cut “a lot of baby fat off” and has put on about four pounds while getting stronger, which he said is a must to play in the Southeastern Conference.
“It’s the SEC. This is the best league. I know it’s going to be hard. I knew that coming in, so we’re just working hard,” he said. “This is the closest thing to the NFL. If you playing good here, you’ve got a chance to go to the next level.”
So for now, that’s the only thing on Graffee’s mind. Twitter can wait.
Heâ€™s a three-star player, but more importantly for the Kentucky football program, Centralâ€ˆHardin defensive tackle Patrick Graffree is a five-star recruiter.
He was one of the players that signed with the Wildcats, but he did more than just commit to UK and sign with the Wildcats. He actively promoted the UKâ€ˆfootball program even when the Cats struggled during the season, and was always on Twitter and Facebook connecting with fans and other potential recruits.
â€œPatrick Graffree, is he the type of kid that you want at Kentucky? All you have to do is follow him (on social media). He’s going to give you information every day,â€ Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. â€œHe’s a guy that’s proud to be a Wildcat and not ashamed to show it. Patrick Graffree is proud to be a Wildcat.â€
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Graffree was a second-team all-state selection and was ranked as one of the stateâ€™s top 10 prospects. One recruiting service also ranked him as the nationâ€™s 72nd-best defensive tackle.
â€œIt’s real important to grow your big guys close to home, I think that’s real important,â€ Phillips said. â€œWe have had success in doing that here. (Corey) Peters, (Myron) Pryor, (Garry) Williams, we have had guys that have had success here and not only success here but at the next level. It’s real important for us, if we can, to grow our big guys close to home.â€
Itâ€™s perhaps more important, though, to have a â€œbig guyâ€ commit to Kentuckyâ€ˆso early and then go out of his way to sell others on that idea.
â€œHe was on the phone, twittering or tweeting, calling guys. On Facebook. We told him we were going to put him to work and go and make your class as strong as you can possibly make it. That makes everybody better. He took the ball and ran with it as well as any kid Iâ€™ve ever been around,â€ Kentucky defensive line coach David Turner said.
Turner says Graffreeâ€™s enthusiasm is infectious and can only help the team.
â€œIt means a lot. He is a kid that is proud to be a Kentucky Wildcat, and that says a lot. If we had 85 guys like him,â€ˆI think we would probably be a little bit better,â€ Turner said. â€œHe is really proud to wear the blue, and it means something to him. I am excited for the kid. Since he committed, I have talked to him every single day. I donâ€™t think we have missed a day. Itâ€™s great we have that relationship.
â€œHe is a young man that wants to be a really good player, too. I have tried to tell him he is going to have to work extremely hard. He says he is willing, but he really doesnâ€™t know until he gets here what it will be about. But Iâ€ˆlove his attitude and what he brings to the table and Iâ€ˆknow heâ€™s proud to wear the blue and white, so that means something special to me, too.â€
Turner says his job know is to turn Graffreeâ€™s personality into a plus on the football field.
â€œEvery kid has different personality. My job is to figure out what buttons to push to get them going,â€ Turner said. â€œI think that is why now that we are so limited in time that we can get out and evaluate kids that kids coming to camp like he did just makes it so much more important. You get to be around them, coach them, see how they move and adapt to coaching. You try to get on them a little bit and see how they accept it or duck their tail. He is the same every day. He is bright eyed, bushy tailed. He wants to work and be really good. He makes me a better coach because he is excited.â€
But is there a chance he might worry the coach too much with his constant enthusiasm once heâ€™s on campus?
â€œNo, I thinkâ€ˆI can handle that part. I am not worried about that,â€ Turner laughed and said. â€œI hope for him, and just because of his personality, that he has a lot of success, and Iâ€ˆknow he will be successful in whatever he does in life. But he wants to be a great player and we want him to be a great player. Heâ€™s already done a lot to help us in recruiting,Â and heâ€™ll keep doing that while heâ€™s here. However, I think he can be a really good player, too.â€
By LARRY VAUGHT
Central Hardin defensive lineman Patrick Graffree was disappointed that Kentucky lost 24-20 to Tennessee in the National Guard Border Bowl Saturday at the University of the Cumberlands in the fifth annual all-star game.Â He was also one of the first players to verbally commit to sign with Kentucky and has been enthusiastic about his future, including regular messages on Twitter to fans and other UKâ€ˆcommits.Â He shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects.
Question: What has it been like for you since you committed so early to Kentucky?
Graffree: â€œIt has been awesome. It has been a good ride. Itâ€™s just like a field trip that you donâ€™t want to end. Itâ€™s very, very good. The coaching staff is amazing. I just canâ€™t wait to get up there and play.â€
Question: Why are you so excited about coming to Kentucky, especially since you grew up in Alabama and were not always a Kentucky fan?
Graffree: â€œItâ€™s just the Big Blue Nation. I get on Twitter every day and it is so exciting when you get on there and other people that love Kentucky football follow you. They tweet your name and then retweet. It is just amazing. It seems like Iâ€ˆhave a big fan club already.â€
Question: Will you be that active on Twitter once you get to Kentucky?
Graffree: â€œI want to meet people on a personal level, too. I want to get to know my fans and let them like me even more. I want to get to know them face-to-face.â€
Question: Have you always had such an outgoing personality?
Graffree: â€œIt has always been me. Iâ€ˆlike to meet new people and do new things.â€
Question: So are you the class cut-up in school?
Graffree: â€œI am not the class cut-up, but Iâ€ˆam very talkative. I donâ€™t know really how to explain it. It has just always been me. I like to talk a lot.â€
Question: What do you like to do if you are not playing football?
Graffree: â€œI like to lift weights, watch movies and stuff. Thatâ€™s pretty much it, along with eating. I like that.â€
Question: Has football always been the sport you loved?
Graffree: â€œActually when I started out playing Pee Wee football, I didnâ€™t like it. I got hit one time and wanted to quit. I was going to play baseball and I moved to basketball and then I started playing (football) in middle school and I wasnâ€™t any good to be honest with you. The coaches said Iâ€ˆhad a lot of potential and just worked me in the weight room and I began to like it.â€
Question: When did you get over that fear of being hit?
Graffree: â€œMy freshman year in Alabama. There were guys my size and bigger, and that was back when I was 225 pounds, and Iâ€ˆused to get hit by the varsity team, the JV (junior varsity) team when I was playing freshman and got roughed up pretty bad. It is probably going to happen next year at UK. But Iâ€ˆhave at least already been through it.â€
Question: When you moved to Kentucky for your junior year, did you know anything about UKâ€ˆfootball?
Graffree: â€œIâ€ˆknew who Tim Couch was. I used to actually like the Cleveland Browns when he played for them and that was about the only thing Iâ€ˆknew about Kentucky football.â€
Question: Did you know Bryan Station coach Craig Yeast, one of your Border Bowl coaches, was a star receiver at Kentucky?
Graffree: â€œYes. He was Tim Couchâ€™s favorite target. I talked to him. Actually, he said I wasnâ€™t ready. He said I was not ready to be a Wildcat yet. I guess he was playing with me. He is trying to be like a big brother to me, and Iâ€ˆlike that because he is a good coach. I know he will be there for me in Lexington (since he is head coach at Bryan Station). Thatâ€™s one thing Iâ€ˆreally like about Lexington, there are a lot of people who are really friendly.â€
Question: What did you think of Border Bowl head coach Sam Harp of Danville?
Graffree: â€œHe is pretty fun, but heâ€™s very intense as a coach. He wants us to do right. It was kind of hard because we had to come out and learn new schemes and everything, but he did a good job teaching us.â€
Question: Did you know his son, Chase, played football at Kentucky?
Graffree: â€œYes, he told me that and I heard he was pretty good, too.â€
Question: What do you think of Harp saying you are the most talkative player heâ€™s ever been around?
Graffree: â€œI like to talk. But even when I am on the field making plays, I like to talk. Thatâ€™s just me.â€
Question: Was it disappointing that future UK teammate Tyrone Pearson of Seneca had a conflict and could not play in the game as he planned?
Graffree: â€œYes it was. I wanted him to come down here. I liked it when we played in the all-star game before this in Louisville with me, him and Daniel (Ross of Jeffersontown) got to play together at the same time. That was fun.â€
Question: How good is Pearson?
Graffree: â€œVery good. Heâ€™s a good pass rusher. He might be a little better than me at that. Heâ€™s a good kid. Heâ€™s just like all of us. We just want to go up there and play.â€
Question: Do you communicate a lot with Indianapolis defensiveÂ lineman Langston Newton?
Graffree: â€œYes, we talk on Twitter a lot to everybody. He looks just like his brother (UKâ€ˆquarterback Morgan Newton). Heâ€™s very tall, even taller than me. He is the outgoing type like me and is very friendly.â€
Question: What about Ross?
Graffree: â€œHe is a beast. He is a big play guy who makes a lot of plays.â€
Question: How do you feel about the future of Kentucky football?
Graffree: â€œThis defensive line being recruited is going to be monsters.â€
Question: Do you worry about the speculation that coach Joker Phillips has to win big next year to keep his job?
Graffree: â€œEverything takes hard work. You canâ€™t just say you are going to do this and that. Everybody has to work. Coaches have to work. Players have to play. You have a lot of responsibility. Our class has to come in and help. But we think we can do that.â€