Flannigan playing catch-up

Ryan Flannigan was known for chasing down backs and receivers during his time as a highly-recruited linebacker at Blinn College in Texas.

This summer, his closing speed has been tested in a different manner.

Flannigan, who just reported to Kentucky on Friday after completing his academic work at the juco level, has been working hard to play catch up with his new teammates who have spent most of the summer in Lexington in preparation for the approaching season.

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“It’s fast,” Flannigan said of his first impressions following the Wildcats’ opening day of fall camp.

Snapping his fingers quickly, he added, “The tempo. Everything is moving.”

Welcome to the SEC.

In order to make the transition smoother, Flannigan had to do a lot of work on his own at Blinn College and back at his old high school in Missouri City, Texas. He stayed in touch with UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who provided playbook and workout advice. Eliot even gave him pop quizzes on the playbook at times, Flannigan said with a smile.

“Pretty much everything the players were doing, I was doing too,” he said.

Did it pay off?

"He did a good job (during Monday's practice)," Eliot said. "He's very athletic, caught on quick, so I was impressed with him on the first day."

Most newcomers wouldn’t necessarily garner the type of offseason attention that Flannigan did from the UK staff, but the Cats are counting on him to be an impact player on defense this season at one of the linebacker spots. His presence is magnified even further by the departure of leading tackler Avery Williamson to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Flannigan said he knows the team is counting on him to live up to his lofty reputation as a prospect. He chose UK over programs like Arizona State, Missouri, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Texas Tech and even a late push from Oregon.

“I had to grind,” he said. “I knew I was coming to the SEC, so I had to grind. I knew I had to be ready for my teammates to hold my own so we can be better. I just had to do it. I knew I couldn’t complain and just sit around on my butt. That’s not what they recruited me for.”

Now that he’s finally in Lexington, he’s trying to absorb as much as possible in a short amount of time.

“Right now, I’m just trying to stay in coach’s pocket and learn everything I can,” Flannigan said.

Asked if he’s got a teammate that he leans on for advice, Flannigan indicated it could be anyone in blue.

“I’m asking linebackers, defensive line… Anything that I’m confused with, I’m asking everybody that I can, everybody that I can get my hands on,” he said. “I’m asking questions because I know that’s the only way I can get better.

“I figured I’m pretty important, but I’m not important if I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Flannigan, who will be a junior this season, has big goals for Cats during his two years at UK.

“I felt like coach Stoops and his staff were building something here, and I wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “I wanted to be around when Kentucky is up on the national level… I felt like it’s coming with the great coaching staff that we have and the great defensive coaches we have, I feel like we can push it that far.”

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