Returning Cats weigh-in on Stoops hire

Kentucky Wildcats guard Zach West (75) celebrates with Kentucky Wildcats running back Raymond Sanders (4) after a touchdown during the first half of the UK Football game v. Samford at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, November 17, 2012. Photo by Genevieve Adams | Staff

By Nick Gray | @KYKernelGray

Four days removed from a 37-17 final game loss at Tennessee and a day after UK hired Mark Stoops as the 37th head coach in UK football history, comments from players show reinvigoration inside the program.

The group of players included all three returning quarterbacks who saw time during the 2012 season. Even though Stoops is known for his defensive work, each quarterback displayed strong excitement for their new head coach.

“I was surprised, in a good way. I didn’t really expect that and I think it is a good answer for our team. I have heard a lot about him and heard a lot about his defenses so I thought it would be a good fit for us,” sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith said. “I watched a lot of Pac-12 football being from California, so I know a lot about that defense.”

Freshman quarterback Patrick Towles repeatedly said he was excited about the hire. Towles also mentioned the desire to win games and eventually travel to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship.

“I would say that last week we were all just waiting patiently for a decision. When we heard who the coach was going to be there was definitely a since of excitement and anxiousness to meet him. Now it is go time,” Towles said. “First impressions are everything and we are super excited to have him here to join us in an effort to compete to get to Atlanta.”

“We are ready for a fresh start,” freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow said. “I am excited for him to get here and try to get some wins and get to a bowl game next year.”

Freshman punter Landon Foster had a unique take on the news of a defensive-minded head coach.

“Defensively minded guys really enjoy punting, obviously, because of field position,” Foster said. “In high school, my defensive coordinator loved me and he would always take pride in telling me where he wanted the punts to go, which side of the field he wanted me to punt to. I think defensive-minded coaches really care, enjoy and understand the importance of punting and field position. That is obviously exciting.”

Junior linebacker Avery Williamson said he was excited and curious to play in Stoops’ defensive system.

“I started to look into it and got really excited. He is a great defensive coordinator and he has a great defense down there. I feel good about the pick,” he said of his first impressions of the hiring. “I know that he is going to be a really aggressive. I am excited to see what his coaching style is and what he brings to the table.”

Coming off of a winless campaign in the SEC and a 2-10 record overall, excitement for the next season is the only thing UK football players are looking forward to this early in the offseason.