By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops doesn’t have the capacity to keep an eye on each and every member of his team but trusts the Wildcats are doing what it takes to stay focused amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“(In) talking with our coaches, I know that some of our players are doing that and getting on the phone and challenging their teammates and checking in with their teammates and making sure they are doing the things necessary to be successful,” Stoops said.
One of his veterans — Josh Ali — has taken matters into his own hands when it comes to challenging his teammates to stay on task while away from campus.
“I know Josh Ali is a guy the players have told me have been on the phone with them and challenging guys to do right,” Stoops said. “I know there are others and they are checking in on each other. I feel good about it, but again, there is no way to monitor all that. I do trust our team and believe they are doing the right things. I know it is not 100 percent.”
The Kentucky coach uses the 10-80-10 rule to monitor the progress of his team and doesn’t want his players to slip into the bottom echelon.
“There is always 10 people in any organization that are elite, there are 80 that are floating around somewhere in the middle and then there are 10 at the bottom,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t have too many guys in the bottom 10 percent. We want the guys that are elite to drag guys up and make sure they are doing the right things and make sure we have a lot of people that are elite and in the top 10 percent of our program.”
Stoops is hopeful he can have a full roster on campus in July and make adjustments to the traditional schedule in an effort to prepare for the upcoming season and make up for lost time during spring workouts.
“We’re allowed to watch them train, we’re allowed to watch them lift and run and do all of those things, and then we have to leave the field to watch them do 7-on-7, which, the players are going to do anyway,” he said. “So, maybe it’ll be the type of thing where we say let us watch them do 7-on-7, let us coach them, let us improve the product because we are crunched a little bit.”
Regardless of what transpires in the future, Stoops said safety is a top priority.
“The first thing we all have to do is put safety first with our players, making sure they’re conditioned and ready to play,” the Kentucky coach said. “Undoubtedly, that’s the No. 1 thing, just to make sure they’re physically ready to play, and in good shape, and taking care of their safety. That’s first and foremost, and then from there, what can we do to make sure we’re putting a good product on the field.”
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.