“We are tired of being close.”
That sentence was la phrase du jour for the Kentucky Wildcats at SEC Media Days. Last season’s losses to Florida, Ole Miss, and in the Music City Bowl to Northwestern were by a grand total of five points. That’s a razor thin line from 7-6 to 10-3 and Head Coach Mark Stoops knows it.
“We expect more, ” Stoops said in his opening statement. “We’ve been close. We’ve done some good things. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done, that we look forward to making a big jump this year. We return some players with experience. We returned some talent. We returned some players that decided to forego the NFL and come back to do more, to play with a chip on their shoulder, to win some football games. We’re tired of being close in some.”
Stoops is excited for his defense. Defensive-end/Outside Linebacker Josh Allen and Safety Mike Edwards were named to the 2018 Bednarik Award Watch List, which is given to the best defensive player in all of college football. Previous winners include Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o (2012), LSU Defensive Backs Tyrann Mathieu (2011) and Patrick Peterson (2010), and Nebraska Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh (2009).
On offense, Benny Snell, is a player to watch for the Wildcats. With the departure of quarterback Stephen Johnson, Kentucky will have to rely on the Sophomore tailback that poured in 1,333 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. Based on his mood today, the Westerville, Ohio native is up for the challenge.
“I do think I’m the best [running back] this year,” Snell proclaimed. “I have a very close relationship with my running back coach on and off the field. Passing and catching the ball in the backfield is something that I will be picking up on as well as correcting my pass blocking. I think this will make my aspects other than running the ball much better.
“What separates myself from other running backs is that I am very durable. I can get 200+ carries and still be okay for the rest of season without any injury. In the beginning of the season, I broke my rib during a game. I came in at halftime and ended up going back in, scored and finished the game as well as the rest of the season. Whether it’s nagging injury, I’m in the training room and I’m going to get it fixed. Whether it’s something to do with pain tolerance, I’m going to play through it. I’m playing through everything.