LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The bumpy transition Mark Stoops experienced last season as a rookie head coach with Kentucky has become much smoother entering Year 2.
That says something about the Wildcats' commitment and understanding of the system, and Stoops now expects players to transfer that into on-field execution as they aim for respectability in the tough Southeastern Conference.
"Guys have worked extremely hard and are much more accountable to each other," Stoops said at Friday's kickoff luncheon.
Kentucky opens fall camp on Monday looking to improve from consecutive 2-10 seasons and end a two-year conference winless streak. The Wildcats' last SEC win came against Tennessee in the 2011 season finale.
Kentucky is picked to finish last in the SEC East this year as a result, but Stoops believes his young roster can win more games this year and build on that confidence for more success.
"I think we're real close," said defensive end Bud Dupree, who recorded 61 tackles and seven sacks last season. "We just have to go out and put it together and win some games. People will start seeing it these first couple of games. We were close to closing the deal, but we really didn't step on their throats when we needed to and make the right plays.
"We just need to come together as a team and make those plays."
Kentucky's veterans are optimistic about an upswing thanks to familiarity on both sides of the ball. Stoops praised the upperclassmen's leadership, which will be critical in welcoming a top-20 recruiting class.
Stoops' first order of business is choosing a quarterback, a situation he faced last year when he took over for Joker Phillips. The competition is more crowded this time as he and offensive coordinator Neal Brown must choose from a group featuring sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, freshman Drew Barker and junior Maxwell Smith.
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