I’m not quite sure what to think of the most recent UK Football Media Day activities. For three frenzied hours this past Friday, media members from around the Commonwealth were given an opportunity to meet and question coaches, players, and administrators about the upcoming football season. You would think the age of Twitter would have rendered any information coming out of this gathering as virtually obsolete, but such is not the case for you lucky, loyal readers of this column. By paying particular attention to body language cues, subtle voice inflections, and the various unspoken inferences, I was able to cut through all the coach speak and player cliches, channel my inner Sigmund Freud and effectively dissect what was really being communicated to the reporters, columnists, and photographers in attendance. Following are the highlights of the main interview sessions:
What Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart actually said: “We sort of need to get off to a good start. That’s where this football season, this soccer season, this cross-country season, this volleyball season, to get started in the fall well is something that’s important to us.”
What Mitch Barnhart really meant: If we don’t beat Southern Miss on opening day, we’re probably not going to make a bowl game. Darn it, I’ll more than likely have to fire someone even though all our minor non-revenue producing sports are doing great.
What Head Coach Mark Stoops actually said: “I’m done with the talking season. You know, it gets to this point, we’re ready for practice one. I can’t wait to get out there.”
What Mark Stoops really meant: All these preseason press conferences are a waste of my time. You guys won’t believe anything I say until I prove it on the field anyway. When we win nine games this year, then maybe you’ll listen. We’re just getting started, bro!
When I asked defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot about whether preparing for Shannon Dawson’s Southern Miss offense was a definite advantage or an unwelcome distraction, he answered without flinching.
What Defensive Coordinator D.J. Eliot actually said: “It hasn’t been a distraction. As much as it is advantage, it can be a disadvantage. I’m comfortable in what he does, but also he is comfortable in what I do.”
What D.J. Eliot really meant: Oh it’s a distraction alright. There’s enough pressure on winning our opening game without dreading getting beaten by the guy we just let go who knows all our defensive schemes. I really wish we were playing someone else.
What Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran actually said: “It’s real, it’s time. You just don’t need to talk about it anymore. At the end of the day we gotta go take care of business, and I’m old school that way.”
What Eddie Gran really meant: When it comes right down to it, wins and losses are all that matters. Me and Hinshaw are gonna show you SEC boys how it’s done, the old fashioned way!
What Quarterback Drew Barker actually said: “It’s kind of hard to be vocal when you haven’t really played a lot. So I’m more of a person I guess who leads by example, but once you go make those plays I feel like your voice carries more weight.”
What Drew Barker really meant: My history with the team consists of air guns and fisticuffs. No one’s going to listen to me until I get some TD passes under my belt. You want vocal? Go interview Courtney Love.
And finally when I asked Mitch Barnhart about his thoughts on the use of social media by coaches and administrators to reach out to recruits and fans, he looked me directly in the eye as if he had been monitoring my own personal Instagram account.
What Mitch Barnhart actually said: If you want to text that you got cheesecake last night, tweet that you got cheesecake out there last night. Who cares, great. Frankly, most of the stuff out there, I say, Who cares? I don’t really want to know what you did, who you’re having dinner with, it really doesn’t matter to me.
What Mitch Barnhart really meant: You pathetic, self absorbed and insecure sportswriters posting food pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram need to get a life.
As we all filed out of the cramped media room and onto the field for player photos and interviews, several things jumped out at me. First of all, the lower bowl of Commonwealth Stadium with all blue chairback seating looks really cool. Secondly, I discovered that it takes a long time to get everyone organized for one single official team photo. Everybody looks bigger and stronger this year. Jacob Hyde is super nice and always has a smile on his face. Boom Williams is shorter than my 5 foot 8 inches and Matt Elam is still a huge guy, even having supposedly lost all that excess flab. Ryan Timmons is totally focused on his senior season and was caught off guard when he saw his former orthodontist with microphone in hand. C.J. Conrad, looks like Gronk, talks like Gronk, and hopefully will play like Gronk.
Overall, my media day experience indicates an exciting and compelling football season is in store for all of us. Talking season is over. Twenty nine practices until kickoff. I can’t wait!
This blog posting was originally submitted as a UK Football Column for Nolan Group Media publications.