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By LARRY VAUGHT
HOOVER, Ala. — Senior offensive lineman Matt Smith and Larry Warford — coach Joker Phillips calls them “two big boys” — appreciated having a chance to come to the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days Wednesday. However, they would enjoy getting Kentucky back to a winning season and a bowl game even more after the Wildcats had their five-year bowl streak snapped last season when the Cats finished 5-7.
“I think that it is something we took for granted that we would make a bowl game and have a winning record. Last year we maybe got too comfortable. We realize that and keep it for motivation. We don’t want to be home whole month of December again. We want to make a bowl game,” said Smith, a center. “I got spoiled going to bowl games. I never knew what it would be like not going to one until last year, and I didn’t like it.”
Smith said stumbling in the first game last season against Western Kentucky in Nashville and having to rally to win seemed to set a bad tone for the entire season.
“I think it surprised us last year that we came out and were not as good as we thought we were,” Smith said. “We thought we would be better. We were never able to get our feet back under us the rest of the season.”
That’s one reason that helped bring Warford, a guard, back to UK for his final season rather than putting his name into the NFL draft a year early as teammates Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy did after the 2011 season.
“I thought I could help the team out a lot if I came back. I love these guys. They got me to this level. Coming back was the best decision. I believe that I have a lot to improve on and I can be much better and improve my chances in the draft,” Warford said. “This whole offseason has been about beating Louisville. We have been so motivated. I haven’t seen so much motivation as a collective team. I feel that we have been doing a good job just preparing and getting mentally focused and physically ready with our strength coach.
“I feel that the young guys we have on the team and the guys that have been around have been doing a great job. The young guys especially have come in and picked up our offense so quickly. It’s so impressive what they have been doing.”
Warford says despite the struggles UK’s offense had last season, it’s not impossible to think the Cats could be much better offensively this year.
“One of the big things that has really been killing us the last few years is the little thing, the smallest mistakes. The smallest mistakes kill our plays. That’s all we’ve really been working on. We’ve been trying to fix those little things and just getting ready because that’s the most important thing: fixing those little mistakes,” Warford said.