Stoops: Cats could 'shock a lot of people'

Midway through a press luncheon that featured mostly guarded comments from Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops on his team's rapidly-approaching season opener, a revelation of sorts materialized. The first-year UK boss thinks his Wildcats could be better than you think.

Midway through a press luncheon that featured mostly guarded comments from Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops on his team's rapidly-approaching season opener, a revelation of sorts materialized.

The first-year UK boss thinks his Wildcats could be better than you think. Maybe better than anyone thinks.

"I feel good about this team," Stoops said Monday when asked about the Cats' confidence entering a season against perhaps the most difficult schedule in the country. "We can have a very good team, and we can shock a lot of people. We've just got to do what we can do and do it to the best of our ability, and that's what I want to see out of them."

The excitement level surrounding UK football is nearing an all-time high, as evidenced by the nearly 50,000 fans who showed up at Commonwealth Stadium for the Cats' Blue-White Spring Game.

But most of those same fans are also resigned to the fact that their team may struggle this season with a schedule that includes preseason ranked teams like Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and defending national champion Alabama.

"I think it's reasonable that they may hear that," Stoops said. "We don't talk about it much. We talk about preparing to win every game. That's what we're going to do. We're going to go about our business each and every day and prepare them to win."

Stoops frequently praised his team's character and work ethic during fall camp. The Cats had very few bad practice days that angered the staff. But as they prepare for Saturday's game against Western Kentucky and its new head coach, Bobby Petrino, Stoops admits he'd like to see a little more swagger out of his players.

"I want to see them playing with more of an attitude," he said. "I don't want it to be false or fake, but I want them to give it the maximum they can."

Stoops wouldn't mind seeing the Cats play with a chip on their shoulder after suffering a stunning 32-31 overtime loss to the Hilltoppers last season. "It should bother them."

But he also acknowledged there's a fine line you can't cross.

"You want them energized. You want them very into the game," he said. "But the energy's not going to win you the game. The preparation, the team that's prepared, and the team that's the best team is going to win. Who makes the fewest mistakes and doesn't turn the ball over and things like that."

How will it look when UK steps onto LP Field in Nashville on Saturday?

"I want us to be exciting and make plays," Stoops said. "We have an exciting brand of offense and an exciting defense.

"We're looking forward to seeing what we're all about, seeing what we have... It's time for us to go out there and prove it and see what we're all about."


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