UK MEDIA DAY BLITZ | ‘Boring’ Barker, Thomas and Allen talk Cards, more
Notes from University of Kentucky media day: Drew Barker doesn't make waves, Lamar Thomas talks about his Louisville comments, Josh Allen talks about his sister on the Louisville basketball team and head coach Mark Stoops talks new facilities.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — What’s the biggest sign that junior quarterback Drew Barker is ready to settle into his role as leader of the University of Kentucky football team?
He talked for 20 minutes on Friday at the team’s annual media day, and didn’t say a single outlandish thing.
Barker has had his share of off-the-field incidents. (A bar in Richmond, a BB gun on campus.) During his recruitment, he was one of the most vocal signees the Wildcats ever had, on social media and elsewhere.
But when the red lights went on for interviews at Media Day, Barker was standard-issue straight-man. Peyton Manning couldn’t have been more dry.
“I’m confident in all our guys. The whole team has worked hard this summer. We’ve got 29 days to get better,” Barker said. “. . . I’ve been through a lot of things here. I’ve seen three different coaches (offensive coordinators), I’ve seen a lot of different players come through here. I should be in a position to step up and lead.”
UK coach Mark Stoops, asked about how Barker will respond to the “Hometown Hero” status of a Kentucky player starting at quarterback for the Wildcats, brushed it off.
“You could label him how you want to label him. I don't think he wants that label,” Stoops said. “He wants to be labeled as a quality football player, as a quarterback that's going to lead this team. I think he's ready to do that. All the other stuff, that's for y'all to write and for him not to read.”
More highlights from UK’s Media Day:
THOMAS: UK A ‘QUALITY OF LIFE’ DECISION
Former University of Louisville wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas has raised some eyebrows with comments he’s made about Lexington and a few shots he’s taken at his old employer over the summer.
When asked about it on Friday, Thomas was philosophical.
“I’m at Kentucky,” he said. “I love being here. Big Blue Nation. That’s all I can day about that. It is what it is. Quality of life is important. It’s time to move on. I thank coach (Bobby) Petrino for the opportunities. . . . There’s no hard feelings. I don’t have any ill will. The crazy thing, would we be having this conversation if I got fired?”
Thomas said his Tweets were in response to some things he’d heard said about his departure, and when fans asked him questions, he replied.
When asked about the chatter that Louisville coaches hadn't planned to have him return for this season (including a note in a Rick Bozich story in December), Thomas shot back.
“I guess I wasn’t on his grapevine,” he said. “I didn’t get that. I wish they would have given it to me more, it probably would have saved Kentucky a little money. It is what it is. I’m happy to be here. I know coming from over there, there are a lot of media guys that like to throw little jabs in, that’s your job. I’m a little wiser than that.”
GRAN LOOKING FOR TOUGHNESS
New offensive coordinator Eddie Gran comes to Kentucky from Cincinnati, and inherits an offense with nine starters returning. He said he’d like to find some leaders in that group who are willing to play with an edge, including Barker.
“You’ve got to be that guy,” Gran said. “You’ve got to have some toughness, you can’t be the guy that’s liked all the time. If you want to be a leader it’s not a popularity contest. And I tell him all the time, if I’m a quarterback and a running back misses a protection, look what Peyton Manning did, look what (Tom) Brady does.’ What do they do, they undress them on the sideline, and let them know that’s not what we’re going to do. If a receiver is supposed to go 14 yards and he goes 12, well, he better fix it.”
UK’s ALLEN ROOTING FOR HIS SISTER WITH U OF L WOMEN
Josh Allen, a sophomore, has moved to the top of the depth chart at strong side linebacker for Kentucky.
But Allen admits there are times when he cheers for Louisville. In fact, he visited Louisville two weeks ago.
There is a reason for that: His older sister, Myisha-Hines Allen punctuated her sophomore season at the University of Louisville by being named the ACC women’s player of the year.
Allen came to Louisville to visit his sister before she departed this week for Cuba with the U of L women’s team.
“She asked me what I wanted her to bring me back,” Allen said. “I told her some T-shirts would be fine.”
Allen played in all 12 games for Kentucky last season as a true freshman, contributing four tackles while breaking up a pass. He played high school football in Abbeville (Ala.) for three seasons before returning to New Jersey to complete his career at Montclair High School, where he earned all-state recognition.
At 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, Allen expects to supply a consistent pass rush.
NEW FACILITIES BRING ‘OWNERSHIP’
On Thursday night, Stoops addressed the team in what players said was a talk that was fiery at points, and motivational throughout.
One of the things Stoops said he talked about was the commitment the university has made to football facilities, and what that means for players.
“I believe that was something that I touched on briefly,” he said. “I don't want to make a big issue of it, but it is a fresh start for us. We're in a new building. We're going to start right now with what we can control. I like that. . . . We appreciate all the effort that so many people did, the people that worked so hard to get this building done. Like I said, the administration for making it happen, the generous people and the donations that it took to get it done. It's a fresh start. We're excited about that. But none of that matters except what goes on between the white lines. That's what we've got to take care of starting today.”
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