HOOVER, Ala. — It was like a gnat pestering Jordan Swindle all of last season.
Crouched in his position at the line of scrimmage, the Kentucky offensive lineman would have to shoo away the nagging worries about flinching before the ball was snapped.
Swindle, perhaps UK's top offensive lineman, struggled all season with-false start penalties, amassing at least 10 during the season.
Coach Mark Stoops gently urged Swindle to get it fixed.
"He's getting a little antsy," Stoops said last fall. "He has to get in there and settle down. He's getting too excited. He has to settle in and he'll be OK."
Swindle, who represented Kentucky at the annual Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday, is hopeful that some offseason work has squashed those problems once and for all.
"I've worked with our sports psychologist, Dr. Ben, and he helps you kind of realize what you're doing and why you do it," Swindle said of Ben Conmy, who was hired recently by UK to work with several teams.
"It's a lot about emotional-state type of thing," Swindle said. "I would be too high emotionally, and I need to calm myself down before some plays, and that helps a lot."
There aren't a lot of drills he can do or mantras he can use. There's nothing "super specific" for fixing it, Swindle said.
"Just thinking about how your emotional state is and analyzing that," he explained. "It's not any routine or anything like that."
Swindle hopes to get it settled before he takes over at a new position this season, moving from right tackle to left tackle.
It's a position Swindle has played sparingly in his time at UK, but after a spring of full-time work there, the 6-foot-7, 309-pound senior has gained confidence.
"I'm very comfortable," he said. "I wasn't sure going into spring how I'd feel, but I picked it up really quickly. So coming back from freshman year, doing both sides, I think that definitely helped me. And then last year, playing some left as well definitely helped that process."
For those looking for tangible ways to judge whether Kentucky's recruiting and development have improved, Swindle offered an anecdote to show just how much more explosive the Cats have become.
Two years ago Kentucky had five players that could run faster than 19 mph. When the team tested again two weeks ago, 33 players eclipsed that speed.
Stoops confirmed the figures. "That's encouraging," the head coach said. "I know each year, as I look at the data, I see improvement; I see the strength and the speed improving."
Stoops also likes that the numbers offer clear evidence for the players. "Part of the good thing about some of that stuff is you can't hide from it," he said. "The numbers are the numbers."
Swindle confessed that he wasn't one of those players who hit 19 mph. He topped out at 18.1, and "I was moving." But he said most offensive linemen average 16 mph, so he felt good about his time.
More than anything, he feels good about what those numbers mean for this season.
"We're making huge strides physically," Swindle said. "Mentally we're growing up and learning how to manage our time and how to take care of our bodies and how to be SEC football players."
QB Phillips improving
It's been four months since Reese Phillips went down with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. The Kentucky quarterback has healed nicely, but he's still not 100 percent, Stoops said Wednesday.
"I saw him in the training room yesterday," the coach said. "He feels very good. He's out there. He's throwing. He's doing some drops on his own."
Because of the injury, Phillips missed a lot of snaps in the spring and is going to have to learn a somewhat new system with first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
He's behind quarterback contenders Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, but he'll have some chances to become a factor in the competition, Stoops said.
"We will do a boatload of snaps certainly early in camp for a couple of weeks," Stoops said. "So he'll have his opportunity if he's 100 percent. The other two guys certainly have a leg up just from the reps, and Patrick with his experience a year ago."
'A few loose ends'
Players are scheduled to report for fall camp the first week of August, and many are on campus already, but Stoops confirmed there are a handful of question marks.
"We're working on it," he said of getting several players eligible, without naming names. "We have a few loose ends to tie up with a few kids. We'll let you know how that goes. But we're working on getting everybody there."
Asked if there were any players from the 2015 recruiting class who definitely wouldn't qualify, Stoops said he wasn't aware of any.
Veteran Media Days tips
Making his second appearance at Southeastern Conference Media Days, offensive lineman Jordan Swindle tried to offer some tips to Kentucky defensive players A.J. Stamps and Melvin Lewis, who were making their first appearances at the annual circus.
"I just told them it's not that big of a deal," Swindle said. "There's going to be a lot of people here, a lot of questions and everything like that, but everybody's just there to talk to you."
Swindle did try to prep his fellow seniors for some of the weirder queries: "The hardest questions you'll get are those funky ones like, 'What does football smell like?' or 'What's the weirdest thing that's happened on the bottom of a pile?' Stuff like that."