Stoops: "It's time to get to work"

First-year Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is ready to trade in the suit and microphone for a cap and whistle.

Mark Stoops is ready to trade in the suit and microphone for a cap and whistle.

The Wildcats' new head coach made the last of five public speaking appearances leading up to the season on Friday, thanking fans at the UK Kickoff Luncheon for the warm reception he has experienced since arriving in Lexington.

Now he's ready to get down to business.

"I love being with all of you and being with the community and all the wonderful things that I've done and my family has done with all of the coaches since we've been here," Stoops told the sold-out crowd at the Hyatt Regency ballroom in downtown Lexington. "It's been a fantastic six months, but it's time to get to work, and we're very excited about that."

Hard work has been a mantra for Stoops since he took the job in December. He said he's happy with the way his fellow coaches and players have embraced it, and joked that he may wear a hard hat to the Wildcats' team meeting on Sunday night before opening practice on Monday.

"I know we haven't won a game yet," Stoops said, "but we're laying a foundation to win games.

"Our players have worked their tails off, through the winter, all through the spring, and through summer. We've had a great summer, relatively healthy, and the players have worked extremely hard. We're prepared for this upcoming season."

Reality sets in soon. The Wildcats will open the season in only 29 days against Western Kentucky and the Hilltoppers' new head coach, Bobby Petrino, at LP Field in Nashville. That matchup is part of perhaps the most demanding schedule in the entire country.

"We've got a long road ahead of us," Stoops said. "We understand that, but we're excited to embrace that process. We're excited to get to work."

Players will officially report for camp this weekend. Stoops said 80 percent of his newcomers have been on campus, but he expects 100 percent by Sunday evening.

He's heard good reports from the strength and conditioning program and various unofficial workouts this summer like informal 7-on-7 games against area schools.

"I'm anxious to see how much we've improved," Stoops said.

QUARTERBACK QUESTION:

Stoops joked with the crowd while introducing Neal Brown, prompting his offensive coordinator to name a starting quarterback.

The staff has been tight-lipped about the key position ever since spring practice began, a situation that became even more clouded when no clear leader emerged from the competition between sophomores Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles.

Brown said the early stages of camp will feature all three quarterbacks and freshman Reese Phillips operating in "two spot" drills to maximize repetitions for each player. First-team players will be going against third-team players simultaneously while second-team players face the fourth-teamers.

"That gives an opportunity for all four quarterbacks to get a lot of reps," Brown said. "They'll get equal reps with the 1s, and hopefully one shows up… It will be based on who can get us in the end zone. At the end of the day, that's what has to happen."

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