UK Football

Visit by ex-UK coach Brooks gives Cats, Stoops a lift

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks saluted the crowd as he left the field after UK defeated Vandy 24-13 to become bowl eligible in a previous season.
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks saluted the crowd as he left the field after UK defeated Vandy 24-13 to become bowl eligible in a previous season.

A coach who knows a thing or two about trying to rebuild the Kentucky football program made an appearance on campus just in time to make the new head coach feel a little bit better.

Rich Brooks, who took UK from probation to four straight bowl games before retiring, met with Coach Mark Stoops on Monday in the office that used to be his own.

"I really enjoyed it," Stoops said after Tuesday's practice. "That's the second time we got a chance to sit down and talk, and I love visiting with him and have a lot of respect for Coach Brooks and what he's done, and I want him to feel welcome and be around here."

Stoops, still smarting from a 48-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama on Saturday night in which his defense was gashed for nearly 700 yards, had a sympathetic ear in Brooks.

"He was actually telling me that — I forget what year it was — the year they took a thumpin' (by) LSU and they had a bye week and they came back and won five of their next six," Stoops said of the 2006 season, when UK went on to beat Clemson in the Music City Bowl. "So that was good to hear."

Stoops said it just takes one game to jump-start a program. He wouldn't mind if that game is at Starkville, Miss.

"And I think that's where he started turning the program," Stoops said as his team prepared to visit Mississippi State on Oct. 24. "It just clicked and it turned and they had some good success from there. So it was good to hear those stories and just visit with him."

Brooks, who went 39-47 as a head coach at UK from 2003-09, also met with players during practice.

"I asked him to talk to the team for a little bit, and it was great," Stoops said. "It was a great message, and coach was here and visited with the team for a few minutes, and I love that."

Having Brooks as a resource has helped, Stoops said.

"He's got a lot of experience and he really understands this place."

The admiration appears mutual if Brooks' tweet from Monday night is any indication.

"Stopped by the Nutter Training Center today and got to see some great people that made our stay here special," he said, then added:

"Support Stoops he will do it!"

Ho-hum Tuesday practice

A Tuesday practice in a week in which Kentucky is coming off its fourth straight loss led to what Stoops called an "average practice."

"We've still got a little work to do physically and emotionally getting back, getting our energy level back up again," he said.

The coach explained that it "just took a little while to get going. The energy wasn't what I like it to be. We'll gear that up as we get going here."

When asked what the coaches did to help get the players motivated on a down day, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot smiled. "Just called them a bunch of names," he joked.

"We just tried to motivate them, try to create the energy out there for them."

The players said early in practice there wasn't as much urgency.

"It was a little quiet, but that was just from our bodies being so tired, us having a physical game," freshman nickel Blake McClain explained. "Just rest and we'll be back out there."

Linebacker TraVaughn Paschal said the practice immediately followed a lifting session, which sapped some energy as well.

"We came out a little soft; we came out a little sluggish," Paschal confirmed. "I'm not sure if it was the lift, full pads or what, but some people came out a little sluggish. I'll tell you one thing, though, we had a lot of energy in our lift. That's a positive."

Injury updates

After saying on his Monday night radio show that he was optimistic about Jalen Whitlow's ankle sprain, Stoops didn't offer much more at his Tuesday night media availability.

As expected, Whitlow didn't practice.

"Not much different," Stoops said, indicating that he'd probably offer updates every 3-4 days as warranted. He only meets with the media on Wednesday this week and then not again until Monday.

"Things change with ankles; people respond differently," Stoops said.

As the team moves forward in planning for its trip to Mississippi State, Stoops said they are planning as if Whitlow will not be available.

■ Kentucky did get one positive piece of news on the injury front. Defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree, who missed most of the South Carolina game and all of the Alabama game, is expected to be back.

"It's good to see him out there at practice, moving around," Eliot said. "It's nice to have him out there."

■ McClain, one of three UK defenders playing with a cast, said it's scheduled to come off this week, as is linebacker Avery Williamson's.

Next game

Kentucky at Mississippi State

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24

Records: Kentucky 1-5 (0-3 SEC), Mississippi State 3-3 (0-2)