Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s media day on Friday:
1. How will Friday’s double dose of bad news affect fall camp?
Head coach Mark Stoops dropped a couple of bombshells at the start of his question-and-answer session with the media, announcing that sophomore defensive lineman Josh Paschal has been diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on his foot and that offensive line coach John Schlarman is also facing a “health issue.”
We know that kids are resilient. Still, you have to wonder what the cumulative effect of those situations will be on a team of young men who are preparing for the season. By all account, Paschal is a popular member of the team. And Schlarman has been a UK stalwart, first as a player and now as a coach.
Stoops said the players and coaches can compartmentalize. Plus, there is so much going on during camp with practices, meetings, workouts, etc., the players are busy at all times. That might help with the situation. And, hopefully, there will be good news with both situations in the not too distant future.
Paschall tweeted: “Appreciate all the love, support, and prayers. God has a plan for me and this is just apart of it. I’ll be back.” #BBN”
2. Football is a big man’s game
Mitch Barnhart was first in front of the firing squad, er media, on Friday morning. The UK AD did his usual year-in-review talk, lauding the athletics department’s successes over the past year while peeking ahead to the new academic year.
When it came to football, Barnhart said he felt like the administration had answered questions about its support for the sport, but added the team still has to win games on the field. He also said has noticed a visible change with the current players. “We look like an SEC football team,” he said.
Stoops agreed with that assessment and said that in the SEC size is mandatory. “It’s the league we play in,” said the coach. “If you get pushed around, you’ve got no chance.”
“You’re generally more durable,” said defensive coordinator Matt House, who agreed the players are “noticeably bigger, broader.”
3. Three key veterans counted on for fall camp
There is always a lot of talk about the incoming freshman and the young players at the start of training camp. But here are three returning players to keep an eye on during these preseason practices.
We’ll start with Kash Daniel, the junior linebacker from Paintsville expected to take over for the graduated Courtney Love. Stoops said he has been very pleased with the way Daniel has progressed and taken a leadership role in the off season. After two years as an understudy, Daniel will be a starter at a position where UK has plenty of question marks.
One of those question marks is fellow linebacker Jordan Jones. The senior from Youngstown ended the 2017 season on a controversial note. He was hit with multiple unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalties in the loss to Louisville in the regular season finale. He picked up another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in UK’s 24-23 loss to Northwestern in the Music City Bowl.
Jones missed spring practice because of a shoulder injury. Stoops said he is ready to go, though he may be held out of the first two days of non-contact work. Jones is obviously talented. It will be interesting to see if he has matured into the player he can be as a senior.
We’ll finish with Dorian Baker, the senior wide receiver who missed last season after dislocating his ankle during a fall scrimmage. The season before, Baker tore his hamstring during fall camp and missed a large chunk of the season.
Baker said Friday he can’t worry about injuries — and rightly so. If you worry about getting hurt, you will get hurt. Hopefully the law of averages will swing back his way this fall. He could have a big senior year.
Kentucky football commitments 2019