Stoops says Cats haven’t arrived, but right pieces are in place

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mark Stoops is optimistic about the upcoming season after Kentucky finished five weeks of workouts last weekend with a workout at Kroger Field.

“I’m just pleased with this group,” he said. “I like this team. I like the way they work and they compete. And, you know, they’ve got a really good attitude. I feel like we’ve got a lot of good pieces in place.

“We’ve certainly not arrived. We have a ton of work to do this summer. So I just challenged them and lectured them after this practice to really get back in and stay focused.”

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Going into the summer, Stoops said the Wildcats will need to continue the trend in order to build toward the future. He said the players will need to be accountable and is confident his squad will build on the current foundation set this spring.

“They’ve got to come back and have a really strong summer,” he said. “We’ve got to have great leadership. They’ve got to do a lot of work on their own to continue to evolve, particularly offensively, because it’s new. We’ve got a lot to do.”

Stoops isn’t ready to name a starting quarterback just yet but likes the way Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen performed this spring and said both players have made “big” strides when it comes to learning the revamped offensive schemes. Both players will be competing for the starting job when camp resumes in August.

“Both guys, you know are in competition for the starting job and have alternated days and both of them have done some really good things,” he said.

“You could see the confidence in both guys growing. They’ve really done a nice job. … both guys are really showing some good signs.”

In addition to the quarterbacks, the team’s running backs, anchored by Chris Rodriguez, also have played well this spring, all while learning a new offense.

“All the running backs really stood out to me the way that they have been running the ball this whole spring and that all together, all of them have been really pushing it,” Kentucky tight end Justin Rigg said.

Although the offensive schemes have changed, Rigg is looking forward to becoming more involved in the passing game. Rigg said the offense is capable of scoring a lot next season with a balanced attack.

“I feel like there’s always a lot of excitement,” he said. I think that kind of fuels our fire because it really excites us. And with this new offense, there’s a lot of fun that comes with it.

“I feel like when we get out there for our first game, we’re going to have a lot of fun with it and a lot of showing how we can pass the ball and showing how we can still run the ball and really opening up our offense a lot. I feel like putting up a lot of points would be a very exciting thing.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or Twitter @keithtaylor21.