VAUGHT: Improvement no surprise to Hopewell

Count former Kentucky running back and special teams standout Andrew Hopewell among those who has not been surprised by Kentucky's improved offense this year.

Count former Kentucky running back and special teams standout Andrew Hopewell among those who has not been surprised by Kentucky's improved offense this year.

"I thought we had a lot of talent last year. We just didn't always use it," said Hopewell.

So what's the difference? "Confidence and having coaches like Joker Phillips and Kurt Roper that believe in the players. Then all the people on the offensive line love coach (Jimmy) Heggins. It's hard when the coaches don't believe in you for you to believe in yourself. We had a lot of that last year."

Hopewell had to give up football this year after suffering another concussion in spring practice. However, he remains close to team members and probably can say things now in regards to former offensive coordinator Ron Hudson that current UK players still wouldn't.

"The coaches didn't believe in us last year. If we did do well, Hudson would take all the credit. If we didn't, he blamed the players," Hopewell said. "Some coaches would not allow other coaches to share their views or have enough input on the offense.

"I don't think the players had a lot of confidence in the coaches. It's hard to play for a coach when you know he does not believe in you. When Joker took over as offensive coordinator, all the players were ecstatic. Then when Roper came in to coach the quarterbacks, it just got better. It's amazing to see the morale among the players and coaches this year. Even with all the injuries, they still believe they can win. That was not the case last year."

Hopewell says linebacker coach Chuck Smith has also been a popular addition on the defensive side. "They all really like him. He's probably not as tough on them as he was at Boyle County (High School) when he coached there, but he's big on fundamentals and has a way of just making the game fun. Even in college, that's important."


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