Excitement grows as season approaches

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles tries to avoid the Tennessee defense during a run during the first half of the University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee men’s football game at Neyland Stadium in Lexington, Tn., on Friday, November 14, 2014 Photo by Jonathan Krueger

By Joshua Huff

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With a schedule consisting of 10 opponents that advanced to the postseason in 2014, it would be a wise assumption for UK to enter this season with some trepidation.

Shannon Dawson, UK’s offensive coordinator, however, flipped that notion on its head during his opening statement Friday at UK’s Media Day.

“I’m excited. I’m ready to get going,” Dawson said. “The summer and everything rolls around, and when football season comes around, it gives everybody a reason to live, especially me.”

The Cats begin training camp with change evident all around. The football program has two projects in process: the nearly finished “reimagining” of Commonwealth Stadium and a just-begun practice/office facility on the south side of Nutter Field House. Both projects total more than $165 million.

“We are really excited about those projects,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK’s Athletic Director. “We are ‘All In’ and it’s probably a $170-180 million investment in our football program. We are just trying to give us the best opportunity to compete in the great conference we are in.”

Officials, coaches and fans aren’t the only ones excited about the prospect of opening the season on Sept. 5 with a shiny new backdrop. The players expressed excitement about running through the new tunnel located directly under the new recruiting room, playing on new turf and playing in front of fans with increased expectations.

Freshman RB Sihiem King: “I feel blessed. In my first year I’m in a new stadium.”

Sophomore WR Blake Bone: “It’s beautiful, they put millions and millions of dollars in this place and the least we can do is win games here.”

Freshman TE C.J. Conrad: “There’s going to be a lot of people. I’ve never played in front of this many people, I’m excited. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome, the stadium is beautiful so it’s going to be a great atmosphere. I can’t wait for the first game.”

Junior QB Patrick Towles: “It’s exciting. It’s going to be fun. We get to play under the lights, it’s going to be awesome. The first three games are night games. This place is beautiful, I love it. Being a Kentucky fan growing up, even now, being able to play in the first game here is special.”

Freshman QB Drew Barker: “Everybody is excited. We’ve been here a few times doing practice run throughs and everything. It’s really exciting. I think the energy is going to be crazy in here. The new seats and everything, it’s going to be awesome.”

Senior S A.J. Stamps: “The freshmen are excited about playing in the stadium for the first time. The older guys are exciting about playing in the stadium too. The new press boxes that we got, the new lights that we got, we’re very excited to come in and enjoy the new turf as well.”

Senior LB Josh Forrest: “I think it’s going to be crazy. Coming through that tunnel right here in the middle, it’s a sold out crowd from what I heard. It should be fun.”

Senior LB Ryan Flannigan: “I think so too,” Flannigan said in tandem with Forrest. “And it’s a new tunnel so I mean words can’t even explain it, for real.”

Junior DE Alvonte Bell: “Everybody is excited for this new stadium to be built. Ever since I’ve been told about it, seen it on the news, it’s just a big dream to come through this newly awaited door that’s waiting for us to walk through.”

Sophomore RB Stanley Boom Williams: “It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a different feeling. Fans, and the new stadium it’s just a new era around here at Kentucky and you can feel it walking into this stadium. It’s definitely going to be a special moment for everybody that’s here. Running out of that tunnel is going to be something special. I’m looking forward to it.”

Junior DT Courtney Miggins: “I’m waiting for it. I’m pretty excited and I’m waiting for it. I’m just taking it a day at a time.”

Head coach Mark Stoops: “It’s an exciting time with the stadium, with the facility that’s being built, with the staff that we have in place. There are a lot of good things, a lot of positive things. So that’s why we’re anxious just to get going. As I said, we’ve got our first practice today and we’re ready to go.”