UK Football

Kentucky player leaves practice, rips coaches on social media, says he’s ‘stepping away’ from team

Mark Stoops addresses E.J. Price situation

Kentucky's head coach discussed the situation with offensive lineman E.J. Price on Thursday morning.
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Kentucky's head coach discussed the situation with offensive lineman E.J. Price on Thursday morning.

A Kentucky offensive lineman took to social media to announce that he’s stepping away from UK football and to blast his coaches after an apparent problem at practice on Thursday morning.

E.J. Price, an offensive tackle from Lawrenceville, Ga., by way of Southern Cal, was seen leaving before practice ended Thursday and then posted on Twitter a string of beefs with the UK staff.

“I am stepping away from @UKFootball,” he tweeted at 9:43 a.m. just before practice ended. “This is completely my decision. I have great grades right now and look forward to continuing my academic career if possible.

“I want to thank UK for giving me this opportunity and being a man of his word. I WAS NOT KICKED OFF I AM LEAVING.”

E.J. Price tweeted this photo of himself with UK quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, left, and offensive line coach John Schlarman shortly before he transferred to Kentucky. After sitting the last two seasons, Price is looking forward to getting back on the field for the first time since 2016. Twitter

Price continued with the series of tweets, which he deleted later Thursday morning.

Before announcing his departure, Price seemed to take issue with some Cats staff, tweeting that “Mediocre standards equal mediocre results,” and added “can’t coach character of (sic) you have none.”

Price said many have been “silenced in the past,” before tweeting, “You can’t preach accountability and you don’t even hold yourself accountable to your players.”

He mentioned “slushie cups and nutrition shakes” in another tweet, saying that “it’s a reason guys aren’t gaining weight around here and it isn’t the players fault.”

Head coach Mark Stoops, who was not scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday, addressed the Price comments.

“Not sure where he’s at or what the status is, but we’re trying to help E.J.,” the head coach said, noting that Price was absent from the start of the closed practice and Stoops had some coaches try to track the transfer down.

“I talked to him and he told me he was tired,” Stoops said. “So I said, ‘We’re all tired.’”

Price started to participate in practice, but was working through a pectoral muscle strain and was held out of a drill.

“Next thing you know, it was off the handle,” Stoops said without elaborating.

He later added: “We’re trying to protect him, but there’s things we need to help E.J. through as a young man and help him through his future. We’ll try to do that as best we can for him.”

A UK spokesperson later in the day confirmed that Price is no longer a member of the UK football team.

Thursday was not the first time Kentucky’s coach hinted that Price had some things to work through off the field. In his pre-spring news conference, Stoops said there had “been some inconsistencies” with the lineman.

Price seemed to address that in another tweet on Thursday morning, saying: “Inconsistent? I have 3 A’s and 1 B haven’t been late to anything since January but I am inconsistent. … And please try to downplay my talent.”

He added: “Your best guys know who is the best they went up against.”

When asked Thursday if there were any offseason problems he’s had to address with Price, Stoops replied: “Oh yes. I don’t want to get into details in fairness to the young man. We’ve tried to help him since he’s had quite a few issues at USC.

“So we’ve been trying to help him, trying to help him through some ups and downs. That’s just it. We haven’t had any long periods of time where it’s been up to standard. He’s been doing good.”

Before transferring to Kentucky, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive tackle had reported scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Louisiana State and other national powers before ultimately choosing UK.

Addressing rumors surrounding Price’s departure from USC, Coach Clay Helton said: “I hate that it presents a perception of a kid, because this is a really good kid,” he told reporters then.

“He’s going to be a very good college football player. I wish him nothing but the best and look forward to him being successful.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader