Even when he's not in the film room, Rick Minter has found a way to hold his players' attention.
Like all coaches, Kentucky's co-defensive coordinator can't spend the summer working with his defense, but he's in the film room in spirit.
And in stereo.
When the defenders go in to watch film this summer, Minter's voice plays over the clips telling players what he wants them to pay special attention to and focus on before practices start officially.
"We're able to watch the film we need to watch as if we're in a meeting hearing his voice," senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed said.
In past seasons, the players had to rely on their own notes from previous meetings to try to remember what their coach told them during spring practice.
Senior cornerback Randall Burden admitted it's a strange sensation hearing the voice but not seeing the coach.
"It's weird because, in past seasons, we'd watch film and then talk amongst ourselves," Burden said. "Now he's talking during the film. It's kind of strange."
Burden smiled when asked whether the players are ever tempted to press the mute button on their position coach.
"Nah," Burden said. "We're still learning the defense, so we have to keep (the sound) up."
Both defenders said it's funny to listen to the voice-overs because Minter's fiery spirit comes out even in the mundane. When the coach sees something that displeases him on film, he makes it clear.
"He's never called my name out, but he's called other names," Burden said. "We've gotten a few laughs off of that."
All jokes and pokes at Minter aside, Sneed and Burden said it's made the transition to a new defensive scheme much faster.
"It's easier for us to understand what he's getting into with the new play calling," Burden explained.
Less running, more lifting
It was clear that Ronnie Sneed didn't like saying it, but he knew it was true.
Despite strength and conditioning coach Ray "Rock" Oliver's grueling regimen put in place last season, UK's players didn't always feel as if they were dominating on their side of the ball. They said they wanted to do more to change that.
"We just felt that last year, we might have gotten pushed around a little bit more than we wanted to," Sneed said.
So Oliver has taken what Sneed called "a different approach" to UK's off-season strength and conditioning. This summer, the Cats are lifting weights four times a week versus last summer, when they ran four times a week and lifted two times.
"This time, we have more emphasis on pumping iron a lot harder and not as much running," Sneed explained.
He added that he thinks the players are seeing a big difference. (And so will fans and opponents, he hopes.)
"Everyone has packed on weight and gotten much stronger," Sneed said. "We can really see it in our appearance, as well as in our weight-room numbers."
For instance, the senior said he was 233 pounds at this time last year, and he's bulked up to 242.
"If we want to elevate our game to the next level, we have to add more girth and strength," Sneed said. "We feel like that will help us win more ball games than maybe being faster."
It's been a positive change, Sneed and fellow defender Burden noted.
"It's better to do more lifting because everyone is more focused in the weight room, and we don't have to think about running as much," Burden said.
But don't think that means that staying in shape has taken a back seat, Burden said.
"When we do run, we come out here and run as hard as we can," he said.
It isn't lost on Kentucky's returning players that they were only a few broken plays here and a bad loss there from being a team playing for the Southeastern Conference championship.
That — and the seniors' first losing season in their time at UK — has been extra motivation this off-season, they said.
"We sit back, and we look at South Carolina," Sneed said. "South Carolina won the East, and I'd say they're a team that's sort of like us. If South Carolina can do it, then why can't Kentucky do it?
"They have the same type players, and people view them the same way they view us. ... It came down to, I believe, those guys worked a little harder than they have in previous years, and that's what we need to do."
It's a mind-set that the players have stuck to this summer. It motivates them to spend extra time in the weight room, the film room and out on the field in the heat of June and July.
"The summer is when you have to work on your game and get better," quarterback Morgan Newton said. "I just try to embrace the summer."
Newton said working out in the heat now might mean getting to play somewhere warm come bowl season.
"Sometimes, you just want to be like, 'Let's just win a few more games, and the weather might be warmer in January,' " he said. "We want to go to some better bowl games."
Coach Joker Phillips will take his Gameday Ready Tour to Pikeville and Covington in mid-July.
The events are open to students from age 7 to those entering their eighth-grade year, and they will teach skills such as agility, passing, kicking, the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.
There also will be family-friendly activities such as inflatable games and music for those younger than 7.
The Pikeville event will be held at the Bob Amos Track on July 17 with registration starting at 1 p.m., and the Covington event will be held at Randolph Park on July 19 with registration starting at 4:30 p.m.
For more information, call UK Athletics at (859) 257-8022.
■ Registration has started for UK's annual Women's Football Clinic, which will be held on July 30 at the UK Football Facilities on Sports Center Drive.
The event, which includes short presentations and question-and-answer sessions with various Cats coaches, starts at 8 a.m. and ends around 5 p.m.
The cost is $75, and you can register at Gate 4 of Commonwealth Stadium or go to www.ukathletics.com. More details also are available at the site.
When Morgan Newton's time on the field is over, he could run for office. When asked whether the football players were bothered by how basketball seems to have the monopoly on sports talk this summer — from Coach John Calipari's new contract to the new recruits coming in — the quarterback was careful with his answer:
"Basketball, they're pretty good. Calipari makes a lot of money. That's the extent of it for us. ... We come out here and continue to work just like they're working."
Jennifer Smith covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article contains her opinions and observations. Follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader and reach her at email@example.com.