With a smile and a small sigh of relief, Mark Stoops bid adieu to his first summer of speaking engagements.
In front of a packed house for the Kentucky Football Kickoff Luncheon on Friday, the new UK coach said he was ready to begin fall camp this weekend.
"I think this is it," Stoops said. "This is the last luncheon, the last talk. It's been a lot of fun, but I'm ready to get to work."
Don't be surprised to see the head coach donning some unusual head gear for his first meeting with the players on Sunday night.
"I may be wearing a hard hat to get the message across that we have a lot of work to do," Stoops told the fans at the Hyatt Regency downtown. "It's one day at a time; brick by brick, we're going to get this thing done.
"Hard work. That's been our motto. Really, I'm not into all the clichés, all the mottos and those things, but one thing we will be as a football team is a hard-working group, blue-collar."
The speech, similar to the one he gave a week ago to a packed house in Louisville, included a few snippets of news, including that 80 percent of the team's newcomers participated in off-season work in Lexington this summer along with all of the returnees.
Stoops said "100 percent" of the freshmen and junior-college players will be on campus by the end of the weekend. Fall camp opens on Sunday, with the season opener Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky at Nashville's LP Field.
UK's first full team practice will be on Monday afternoon shortly after Media Day activities at Commonwealth Stadium.
In the nearly 30-minute question-and-answer session on Friday with Stoops, offensive coordinator Neal Brown, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot and special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, Brown offered a few more glimpses into how the quarterback battle will go.
At fall camp, the team will do a "two-spot practice," which will break the team into four units, with the first and third teams working together and the second and fourth teams going together all at the same time.
The three starting quarterback candidates — Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow — along with freshman Reese Phillips will rotate with the teams to get the same number of repetitions.
"It gives an opportunity for all four quarterbacks to get a lot of reps," Brown explained. "They'll get equal reps at the ones and then hopefully one jumps up. It's all going to be based on who can get us in the end zone."
UK football dates
Sunday: First team meeting
Monday: Media Day and first practice
Friday: Fan Day at Commonwealth Stadium, 6 p.m.
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville
Home opener: Sept. 7 vs. Miami (Ohio)