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Stoops focuses on present, not future SEC expansion at annual Kickoff Luncheon

Mark Stoops is excited like never before about the upcoming season. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Mark Stoops expressed his excitement on the upcoming season during Southeastern Conference Media Days last week and echoed the same sentiment during the annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Woodford Reserve Room at Kroger Field on Wednesday.

“We’re excited like never before,” said Stoops, who was joined by offensive coordinator Liam Coen and defensive coordinator Brad White. “ “I feel the energy just to get back to normal, to have a normal season.”

The three coaches took questions from Tom Leach of the UK Radio Network during the 20-minute session.. Stoops didn’t take questions on the SEC’s discussions with Texas and Oklahoma to join the league and the status of what expects to be a three-man quarterback battle once fall camp begins.

Coen did shed light on what he will be looking for in a starting signal-caller in his first season with the Wildcats. Penn State transfer Will Levis, along with returnees Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen, are expected to compete for the starting job. Much like Stoops, Coen said “it really goes back to what coach Stoops continues to mention as far as running the operation.”

“The guy that’s going to be able to run the whole show, run the operation on a day-to-day basis, be a leader in and out of the huddle (and) on and off the field — the type of guy who really rallies the players,” Coen said. “Whoever the team really wants to play with and can make plays in competitive situations, that’s ultimately who coach Stoops and I will talk about being the starting quarterback.”

Coen and Stoops discussed the excitement surrounding former Kentucky Mr. Football Wan’Dale Robinson’s addition to the roster. Robinson gives the Wildcats an explosive option both at wide receiver and special teams. Coen said the Nebraska transfer was “just an amazing pickup for us.”

“We want to get (Wan’Dale) the ball as much as we can,” Coen said.

White is equally excited about the team’s defense, which returns the nucleus of last year’s squad. White will be replacing four players and added that his returnees are expected to “take it to another level.”

“We have 10 seniors coming back on defense that we feel strong about and a real strong youth movement from that freshmen and sophomore class who can learn from those guys,” White said.

Stoops also addressed the Name, Image and Likeness issue during the session and is confident it won’t be a divisive issue.

“You have to continue to address it,” Stoops said. “Each and every Wednesday I’ve touched on it and I believe you have to address it. You can’t avoid this. It is what it is. It’s the way it’s going to be until someone tells me different, so I have to address that.”

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Keith Taylor
Keith Taylor is an award-winning journalist who has covered Kentucky athletics since 1995. He is the sports editor of Kentucky Today and his work appears in 12 daily newspapers as well as various weekly and web sites throughout the state. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor 21.

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