BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — While the theme of the Kentucky football program this season is "rise," the word the players seem to be most interested in is "extra."
It was the UK players' and Coach Joker Phillips' turn to meet with the media on Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days, and the word "extra" seemed to creep into just about every answer to every question.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan said the intangible "extra" might have been what separated the SEC East Division winner from the rest last season.
"We didn't come in extra, and do stuff like that," Trevathan said. "The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is 'extra.' "
On the opposite side of the ball, guard Stuart Hines had the same message.
"This off-season, we see people trying to do a little bit extra here and there," Hines said. "Whether it's running extra routes together or the defensive line doing a couple of extra drills together or the offensive line doing extra drills. Just trying to go a little bit farther and taking that extra step to get better."
This all comes from an urgency Phillips said he noticed just a few days after UK's bowl loss last season.
The defeat made the Cats a 6-7 team, which didn't sit well with his returning players.
"When we left here in January, we talked about who's happy? Who's happy with 6-7?" Phillips said. "To a man, all of them said they were not. ... I truly feel there's a sense of urgency to make sure we continue to grow this program in the right direction."
Hines said the 27-10 loss to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl definitely provided some off-season motivation for the returning players.
"It still stings a bit," he said. "It's not something that we really like to think about. ... We ended the season extremely disappointed and we're eager to get back out there this year and prove that how we played in that bowl game is not us."
UK player updates
Phillips said he expects highly touted freshman safety Glenn Faulkner of East St. Louis to be on campus in the fall, but said he's still in an "evaluation state."
"He's still gathering some documents," Phillips said of Faulkner's eligibility. "He's finished all the work he needs to do."
Another safety, Dakotah Tyler, will not be with the team in the fall because he has not enrolled for the semester, the coach said.
Phillips said there are several players, including incoming freshmen, who had some things to do over the summer — academic work, presumably — to make it to the field, but he expects them all to be on campus in the fall.
"We have a lot of them on campus right now," Phillips told the media. "There's a couple guys that had some things they had to get done this summer and they are on track to do those things."
Cloud over national title?
Auburn Coach Gene Chizik was asked repeatedly in several different ways about NCAA investigations into the Tigers' program, especially those concerning quarterback Cam Newton's recruitment.
Chizik didn't mince words with his response.
"The NCAA on more than one occasion has said that Auburn has done nothing wrong in the recruitment of Cam Newton," he said. "Nothing's changed. ... I'll say as I've said it maybe the fifth time today: I feel really good when my head hits the pillow tonight."
One question later, Chizik was asked if the repeated questions about NCAA investigations have sucked the joy from the school's national title last season. He said no.
Auburn defensive tackle Nosa Egueae confirmed that.
"When you walk into Wal-Mart, and every day, they're playing the national championship game; when you have fans walk up to you and start talking about the game; when older people walk up, and they're 80 years old, and they say how wonderful it was to see another championship, it's special," he said.
Laughter is best medicine
Two SEC East coaches, Mark Richt of Georgia and Derek Dooley of Tennessee, did their best to keep things light, especially when the questions got heavy for them.
Richt, an 11-year veteran at Georgia, was asked how he addresses off-season rumors about his proverbial hot seat after the Bulldogs lost seven games last season.
Being a long-tenured coach in the SEC is not "difficult if you win," he said to a room full of laughter.
"It's not difficult if you win 9, 10, 11 a year, win the Eastern Division every other year, win the SEC every three or four years," he said. "It's not a problem at all.
"It's when you get 6-7, that's when it's a problem. But greater days are coming. The best is yet to come."
It hasn't always been easy being the Tennessee football coach the past couple of seasons, but Dooley showed he's maintained his sense of humor via his opening remarks:
"Let me start by thanking you guys for being here, the great job you do covering the SEC, the exposure you give Tennessee," he said before pausing. "We've certainly done our part in giving you some material to write about over the last year. But that's what a good relationship is all about."