SEC MEDIA DAYS: Flexing Cats

HOOVER, Ala. – To hear Raymond Sanders describe it, the weight room at Kentucky's Nutter Training Center has become one of the most narcissistic places on the UK campus. And that's a good thing.

HOOVER, Ala. – To hear Raymond Sanders describe it, the weight room at Kentucky's Nutter Training Center has become one of the most narcissistic places on the UK campus.

And that's a good thing.

Thanks to a new strength and conditioning program ushered in by Mark Stoops & Co., the Wildcats have seen some pretty dramatic physical changes during the offseason.

Tighter-fitting team gear has become the norm. Sleeves have been sheered from T-shirts. Long glances of self-admiration into mirrors have become commonplace.

"I'm not going to give those guys up," Sanders said with a laugh during SEC Media Days when asked to name UK's main offenders of excessive mirror time. "But when you see your body changing and improving, you can't help but sit back and say ‘Yeah!'"

"I'm more confident. I look better. I feel better," added Sanders, a senior running back who is expected to carry a great deal of the load in the Wildcats' ground game this season.

Senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson says UK's work in the weight room shows that the team is serious about getting the program back on a winning path.

"It really got me excited to see how many guys were excited about the weight program," Williamson said. "Overall, everybody's changing a little bit, and I think we'll look a little bit different on the field."

Asked if he's ever been guilty of admiring his new physique in the mirror, Williamson initially said "Nah, not much," before a grin gave way to a confession. "Maybe sometimes."

And who's the Cats' worst offender?

"I'd say Za'Darius (Smith) … He's always walking around going ‘Ugghh,'" Williamson said while striking a flex pose. "We've got some offenders."

Sanders tried to keep a straight face as he offered his best defense.

"When you got all those mirrors in the weight room, it's not hard to find a mirror to look into," he said.

Sanders pointed to junior receiver/tight end Ronnie Shields as one of the most physically-improved players on the UK roster. Williamson offered sophomore cornerback Fred Tiller as his choice.

One of the Wildcats' most physically-imposing players, 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior defensive tackle Donte Rumph, didn't want to single out any one player. The transformation has been too wide, he said.

"This whole team is just, like, ‘Wow,'" he said. "… It's a good thing because everybody's proud of their bodies and we're going in a good direction."

Rumph said he doesn't do much mirror-flexing himself, but noted that the offseason program has given him confidence to do things he didn't previous realize he was capable of doing.

"It was just different," Rumph said of what he descried as a ‘sports-science' training method. "I was differently tired than I'd ever been. I've never been that kind of tired in my life. I'm tired, but I can go again because my recovery is so much better. It should help me at times when I may have come out of the game for a couple of downs."

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988. He began covering the Wildcats FOX Sports in 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, Drummond resides in Lexington.
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