Mitch Barnhart has heard the murmurs of concern and the whispers of worry about whether or not the $120 million renovations at Commonwealth Stadium will be done in time for the season opener.
So the Kentucky athletics director took some time to reassure those people before coaches took the stage for Media Day on Friday.
"I haven't been a part of a building project that didn't run down to the wire and every one of us in this enterprise in college athletics has been at those places where you are trying to get a facility ready for a certain moment and you are literally dusting floors and polishing things up at the last minute," Barnhart said.
From the belly of the stadium (which still sounded very much like an active construction zone Friday morning), Barnhart noted that there are nearly 400 people working on the project every day.
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"It's all hands on deck and that's what it'll be," he continued. "Everybody is working hard toward Sept. 5 (the opener). We certainly know the time line, the construction folks know the time line, our staff knows the time line, but that's exciting."
Between the $45 million practice facility (which Barnhart said they plan to have under roof before winter) and the stadium work, there is nearly $170 million going into the football program, he said.
"We are really excited about those projects, we are 'All In,'" he said. "We are just trying to give us the best opportunity to compete in the great conference we are in."
Several of the UK players marveled at the work going on around them while being interviewed on the new turf.
"It's going to be amazing; it really looks like an SEC stadium," redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Barker said. "It's really put a nice touch to it. The turf is cool; I like the two tone, the checkerboard."
Barnhart offered a few other updates on facilities work set to begin on campus, including a design in place for the new tennis center. The new baseball stadium is on the docket currently.
"Those are the next two steps for us and that is really important to move football into our new building and move gymnastics and track and field into the old Nutter football facility to use that efficiently for our students," he said. "We are excited about that. We are a part of the piece to a greater good."
Personnel news, notes
At least two high-profile recruits from the 2016 class are not on campus yet. Stoops announced Friday morning that 6-foot-6 wide receiver Therrell Gosier will not be part of the team this season.
"It's always a little bit disappointing, but we're going to play with the guys we have," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said of the absence of the Cats' tallest potential target this season.
■ Stoops also said that three-star lineman Levon Livingston is not yet with the team. He was most likely looking at a redshirt season. "We're still working through some things," Stoops said. "So we're optimistic we can get him back later this summer."
■ Offensive lineman Nick Richardson, a four-star tackle who redshirted last season, also departed during the offseason.
He was UK's fourth-highest-rated recruit in that class behind Stanley "Boom" Williams, Drew Barker and Mikel Horton.
Richardson follows Josh Krok, who left this spring.
■ Kentucky is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the eligibility of Nebraska transfers Courtney Love and Greg Hart, who both applied for hardship waivers and are hoping to play immediately. "We're not sure where that's at yet as well," Stoops said. "So we're waiting on that."
QB Phillips on the mend
Sophomore quarterback Reese Phillips, who tore his Achilles' tendon just two days before the start of spring practice, said he's close to 90 percent.
It was a miserable experience being sidelined, said last season's second-string quarterback.
"It was pretty terrible," he said. "I'm not going to lie. Mainly because it was two days before spring practice. I was really looking forward to it. I felt like I had built a good relationship with Coach (Shannon) Dawson. The offense really didn't change that much. So I felt comfortable. Stuff happens. It was pretty terrible. It was bad."
Phillips was in a boot and splint until May before he was allowed to start walking around on it. He now is able to throw, run and sprint, but won't be participating in live drills for a while, Stoops said Friday.
It's unclear what that means in the quarterback race for the Chattanooga native.
"He's coming off a pretty significant injury," Stoops said. "We need him out there. We need the arms in camp to operate and to practice. So he will be out there, and he'll do some seven-on-seven. His arm is good and he's throwing. ...
"Obviously, he will be behind the eight-ball a little bit missing all of spring practice and all of summer, really. He's worked on his own, but he hasn't been in there much with the team."
The change certainly looks more than cosmetic for Jacob Hyde, the story of spring practices for his move to dual duty as defensive tackle and fullback.
On the latest roster, the sophomore from Clay County has changed from No. 66 to No. 36 and he's dropped more than 10 pounds in the offseason.
The plan is to use Hyde in a situational way on offense.
"He's great at what he does, is a great kid, understands his role," Dawson said. "So there's going to be situations where it's a half a yard and we need to get one. So we'll put his big a-- in there and knock somebody down.
"Are you going to see him on first-and-10? Probably not. If you do, I'm just trying to get a laugh out of you. Are we going to throw it to him a lot? Probably not."
Hatcher misses Media Day
Junior Jason Hatcher missed Media Day on Friday morning while working to complete some academic work, but practiced with the team in the afternoon.
Rumors circulated on social media that the Trinity graduate had gotten in trouble after he missed the team picture and media festivities.
That's not the case, Stoops said.
"If there's any suspensions, if he was going to be suspended and I knew clearly any suspensions from anybody I would have divulged that today to you all," he said. "If there's suspensions, I want it out there as early as possible to move on and get the air cleared. When and if there are any suspensions and it's clearly defined with me and our administration, I will let you know."
On the post-spring depth chart, Hatcher was listed as the No. 1 strongside linebacker with still-injured red-shirt freshman Kobie Walker as his backup.
Hatcher had 28 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks last season for Kentucky.