UK Football

‘I’m better than half the guys in the SEC.’ UK newcomer is bold, but can he help right now?

Mark Stoops says any extra motivation is good

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks at SEC Football Media Days on Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. Stoops said he is fine his team taking motivation from being picked to take a step back this season.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks at SEC Football Media Days on Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. Stoops said he is fine his team taking motivation from being picked to take a step back this season.

Junior-college transfer Brandin Echols came to the University of Kentucky looking to help the Wildcats fill out a secondary in need of bodies, particularly those that have matured beyond the high school ranks.

He was hamstrung earlier in fall camp — literally, a nagging hamstring injury kept him from going 100 percent through most of August — but was cleared to resume full activity last week. Echols played in UK’s second scrimmage of the camp on Saturday, and looked good, head coach Mark Stoops said.

“It’s good to see him back out there,” Stoops said. “He was out there the last couple days and looks like he’s getting more and more comfortable.”

Echols, a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback from Southaven, Miss., showed up at Northwest Mississippi Community College as a wide receiver with no Division I prospects. He switched to defense and excelled, becoming a three-star prospect and earning offers from Mississippi, Houston and Minnesota, among others, before ultimately choosing UK over the home-state Rebels.

His grooming at earlier stops made moving six and a half hours north of home easy.

“I always had the proper work ethic from my high school coach and my juco coaches, they always pressed my to work hard and go 100 percent at everything I did, so coming up here I really just had to figure out the plays and get in the playbook,” Echols said.

Sophomore cornerback Cedrick Dort Jr. and junior safety Jordan Griffin are the only scholarship members of UK’s secondary who’ve played for the Wildcats outside of Davonte Robinson, who will miss the season with a torn quad. It’s possible that more than one true freshman could see the field for that unit this fall.

Defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale doesn’t let his guys forget what people outside the program are saying about them.

“He constantly reminds us that everybody’s looking down on us because we’re inexperienced and stuff,” Echols said. “He keeps stressing that we’ve got to prove everybody wrong and grind like everybody’s against us.”

As someone who’s played at some level of college football, Echols takes that perception especially to heart.

“Cause I know I’m better than half the guys in the SEC right now,” Echols said with a grin. “I’m up there. People just ain’t seen me play. They’re just talking from the outside looking in.”

Echols doesn’t lack confidence. Clinkscale, who was involved in Echols’ recruitment, values that trait when he’s scouting potential additions to the roster, but knows there’s still a lot for the transfer to learn in Lexington.

“I’m not looking to see guys in the SEC, I’m looking to see if Brandin can be the best Brandin,” Clinkscale said. “And so far, nobody’s their best guy yet, so he’s always got more to prove and more to show. I’d like to see him play before we make any statements like that.”

Josh Moore is in his first year covering the University of Kentucky football team and in his fifth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore, a Martin County native, graduated from UK with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English in 2013. He’s a huge fan of the NBA, Power Rangers and country music.
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