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By LARRY VAUGHT

Jacob Tamme had “very realistic expectations” about Mark Stoops’ first year as Kentucky’s head coach and despite UK’s 2-7 record going into Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt, Tamme says he likes what he has seen.
“If anything I’m even more optimistic because of the way our young guys are playing and the fight that the team as a whole is showing — Mississippi State and South Carolina games being prime examples,” said Tamme, a former UK All-American tight end and current tight end with the Denver Broncos. “I am encouraged, not by the won-lost record, but by a lot of the little things I am seeing.”

Former UK players Derek Abney, Freddie Maggard, David Hopewell, Andy Murray and Anthony White joined Tamme in offering their analysis on this Stoops’ first year and the UK program.

Question: What has impressed you the most about Stoops and his staff?
Tamme: “Their ability to sell the vision they have for the program. I think they have sold the current guys on it and I think they’ve done an absolutely incredible job putting together this 2014 class. I’m also impressed with the improvement as this season has progressed. I was really disappointed in the way we played as a whole, but especially on defense versus Western Kentucky. It just felt like there was something missing in our attitude and approach. Every play WKU ran they ‘finished the play forward’ – going toward their end zone … 2-3-4 extra yards at the end of plays. But I have been amazed at the improvement I’ve seen up to this point in the season and was very impressed by our defense at Mississippi State and against Alabama State. The mindset of our defense seems to have improved a lot over the course of the season, which is impressive especially considering we’ve been losing. They are improving, and they keep getting up off the mat and bringing it, and that’s what you want to see on defense.”

Abney: “His ability to keep players accountable and committed all four quarters. There are no excuses with Mark Stoops and you, and the players, know where he stands.

Murray: “My first take on this staff is that they are very organized and are sticking to their plan. They know the task and are taking all the right steps in recruiting and fundamentals.”

Hopewell: “Their continued resolve.  Stoops won’t throw his players under the bus even though there are some names that would pop up regularly I bet.  I like his feistiness on the field and I think his players are gradually starting to pick that up.  Thats still part of the problem too, these players are picking things up “gradually”.

Maggard: “His fire, his demanding that players cannot ‘hide’, accountability and realistic expectations. He’s improved the defense dramatically, and is consistent quarterback play away from being a .500 team. Defensively is most noticeable improvement and that has a great deal to do with senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson. Offensively, unfortunately the quarterback play has not been close to what is needs to be. That would slow down any offense, any coordinator.”

White: “I’m extremely impressed how coach Stoops is able to bring in top notch talent and recruits, and not only have them commit to play at UK but also buy in to the belief that they can win big here in Lexington at UK.

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