July 19, 2012

Kentucky players focused on season opener

HOOVER, Ala. -- Matt Smith never needed any reminders about how big the Wildcats' rivalry is with Louisville. The senior center, a Louisville native, was aware of it from the day he first arrived on campus.

"It's a huge game for me especially, but a lot of these young guys don't know about how big of a game it is when you're actually on the team," he said. "Especially guys who are from far away and not from Kentucky. We remind them every day."

Even if Smith and the upperclassmen didn't tell the youngsters about the rivalry, they didn't have to look far for clues about what to expect. Louisville football players have tweeted pictures of a UK logo in a urinal, a burning Kentucky flag, and made statements predicting a win in the season opener. A few UK players traded barbs about Louisville earlier this summer on Twitter also.

UK head coach Joker Phillips has instructed his players to avoid similar behavior going forward. They're content to wait until Sept. 2 before making any comments about the Cardinals.

"Talk is cheap," senior guard Larry Warford said.

But there's no doubt about how important the game is. The Wildcats have a clock in their weight room counting down the days until the game, and both Warford and Smith knew exactly how many days were left when asked on Wednesday.

Kentucky had a four-game winning streak over Louisville snapped at Commonwealth Stadium last year, when freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a pair of touchdown passes to beat the Wildcats.

The loss still stings for the players. The war of words from this summer is a different story.

"You hear about it, but it really doesn't bother us at all," senior defensive end Collins Ukwu said. "We know what we need to do and we're just ready for Sept. 2."

Phillips reiterated on Wednesday that he's in favor of the Southeastern Conference keeping an eight-game conference schedule rather than expanding to nine games.

Smith hears about the Louisville rivalry every time he goes home. Every red flag, bumper sticker and t-shirt he sees is a reminder of the Wildcats' loss last September. This year, they're working to change all that.

"We have a desire to beat Louisville," Warford said. "It causes us to work so much harder in the offseason when we know it's coming up first in the season. It's a big game for us and a big game for the state. It drives us every day to work harder in the offseason and that'll translate to the rest of the season."

Jarmon hired to replace Cook

Former UK defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will be joining the UK football staff as assistant director of player personnel, Phillips announced Wednesday morning. He'll be replacing former UK wide receiver Tommy Cook, who was named director of football operations at Kent State yesterday.

"It's positive news for us and for our program," Phillips said. "It's really huge that we get a young man like Jeremy around our freshmen."

Jarmon, who played from 2006-2008, ranks third in school history with 17.5 sacks in his career. He was a third round pick in the NFL supplemental draft before the 2009 season after testing positive for a banned substance.

Jarmon was well-rounded in his career at UK. He was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection, but also studied abroad and starred in a campus play during his time at UK. In his new position, he'll be a resource to players and help run the day-to-day operations of the football program.

"The biggest problem in college football is getting guys from their freshmen to sophomore years and it's really huge to have a guy like Jeremy around, who's been a part of our program understands how we do things and also he's just a couple months removed from being an NFL player," Phillips said. "It's huge as far as developing young players in our program."

Clemons to be limited in fall

Sophomore running back will be limited early in fall camp as he continues to recover from a torn meniscus suffered against South Carolina last year. Phillips said Clemons will work out two days a week in camp in an effort to help him stay healthy and reach the season opener at 100 percent.



 

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