It may not be hyperbole to say that the 2022 Kentucky Football off-season has been one of the most exciting and dramatic off-seasons in the history of the program. Our QB1 returns and is projected as a #1 overall pick, according to some publications. Off the field issues leave us wondering who will be available and, for those who aren't available, how long will they be suspended? Of course, our football and basketball coaches had their drama over who should be prioritized in terms of facility upgrades. Finally, we can start to put all of this to the side. For one, it is game week! Kentucky is set to take on Miami (OH) this Saturday in the recently renovated Kroger Field. Secondly, with it being a game week, we finally have a depth chart and another media opportunity.
Mark Stoops is starting his 10th season as Kentucky football's head coach, setting a record for the most continuity with that title in the history of the program. Ahead of the most anticipated season of that long tenure, here is everything he had to say before we officially kick off.
To begin, with the uncertainty following Chris Rodriguez's suspension, we now officially know he will not start week 1. Filling in his RB1 spot is super senior Kavosiey Smoke, with the transfer Ramon Jefferson listed as the backup. However, Coach Stoops refused to clear up any of the off-season drama surrounding Chris Rodriguez.
"I appreciate the respect (the media) have had through this process... These players have some rights as well, and I have to be conscientious of that."
In fact, he even refused to confirm that he will be missing time due to a suspension.
"I didn't say suspended, you did. They will be unavailable."
And following a question on if Stoops could clarify, in addition to the DUI, if there was a second issue surrounding Chris Rodriguez...
"No I cannot."
It is safe to say that we will not get a clear answer any time soon, as Stoops is heavily prioritizing protecting the privacy of his players, at least until next week.
Another surprise on the depth chart is Jager Burton starting over Kenneth Horsey at left guard. However, Stoops signified that this may not be a permanent status.
"Only because (Kenneth Horsey) has been hurt. We hope to get him out there today, but he is not at 100% right now... Jager has done a great job, Kenneth is a great leader and a starter on this football team when healthy."
Wohlabaugh, Burton, Cox, Manning and Flax round out the Big Blue Wall, from left to right.
The final big piece of depth chart news that was covered was the pair of true freshmen, Dane Key and Barion Brown, starting at the X and Z wide receiver slots, respectively. In fact, many true freshmen found their names on the opening two-deep depth chart.
"I think eight (true freshmen) will play for sure, with little chance to be redshirt unless they got injured. And as many as twelve could play this year... I am very pleased. I just like the way they are preparing, the way they are playing. Consistency is what we are looking at."
He made note of all the ups and downs that occur in football, especially when it comes to freshmen. How his young players respond to this adversity will dictate how many of them wind up playing throughout the season.
Lastly, Stoops made sure to make note of the support of the Big Blue Nation as the opening game nears a sell out.
"That would be very good for our team. Our team greatly appreciates that, they feel that energy... Our team has worked exceptionally well to go out and play well"
If he accomplished anything, Mark Stoops made it clear that he is ready to put this roller coaster of an off-season behind him, get down to business, and start to win some football games,