LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – The Kentucky football team held its annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at Kroger Field, kicking off the season with its first official practice of fall camp earlier Wednesday. Head coach Mark Stoops called it the best first day of practice he’s seen in his 10-year career at Kentucky.
Among a number of storylines to follow this season is the program’s goal it stated at SEC Media Days last month in Atlanta: To get back to Atlanta for the SEC championship game in December.
“There’s climate and then there’s culture you know you can change a climate rather quickly and a culture takes a long time to engrave and if we do that and we do it correctly then we can sustain the highs and the lows and the turnover whether it’s players or coaches or anybody,” Stoops said.
Media day was highlighted by a ton of attention towards quarterback Will Levis, but his presumed steps forward won’t come alone this year. His connection with new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is something they both raved about when he arrived in the spring to replace Liam Coen.
“Yeah you know he earned my respect you know I say this to the quarterbacks or anyone who asks me about that relationship, you always hope that you start out coaching somebody, and then at some point, that relationship with that quarterback goes from player coach to you’re collaborating,” Scangarello said, who was the quarterback’s coach with the San Francisco 49ers last year.
“I think that as he sees me take reps in practice and understands how my brain works I think he already has a pretty good idea of that and understands how I’m able to see things and how to teach me and put me through whatever play we’re talking about and it’s just gonna be better with experience,” Levis said.
While the offense can rely on the budding superstar Levis and a number of weapons at the skill positions, the defense has new challenges but has the opportunity to be a plus unit. Questions at defensive line and in the secondary will look to be resolved while the linebacker core has everyone back and could be one of the better units in the SEC.
“This defensive unit has a chance to do something special because we have a good mixture of old guys and young guys and old guys that have checked their egos at the door and are pulling the young guys along there’s gonna be a lot of competition I don’t know what the starting 11 is gonna look like come September 3rd but we’ve got 31 days to figure it out,” defensive coordinator Brad White said.
“We have a lot of work to do as a staff and the players but we try we try to get our football awareness and football IQ very high so we play all situations right but I mentioned that to the team yesterday we could play 95% of the game right and play physical and do all those things but if you play a situation wrong you lose so there’s a lot of work to do but that’s our focus,” Stoops said.
Two of the team’s top three tacklers are part of this unit in Jacquez Jones (82 tackles) and DeAndre Square (81 tackles), with J.J. Weaver also back (34 tackles) who was second on the team in tackles for loss with 10.5 and led the team with 6.5 sacks.
“I’m trying to get after that quarterback this year for sure, sacks, I’m trying to get a sack record and I’m trying to break the sack record this year for sure,” Weaver said, who also said he called current-record holder Josh Allen to tell him of his goals. The previous single-season sacks record was 12.0 by Dennis Johnson in 2001 before Allen destroyed the record with 17.0 in 2018.
“Basically all the inside linebackers so we’re gonna hold the team down because we’re the older group it means a lot I know the playbook inside out I know every position so with that being said it’s a great group,” Weaver said.
The team’s season opener is slated for Spet. 3 against Miami (OH) at 7 p.m under the lights at Kroger Field.