More Notes and Player Quotes From Media Day

Posted on Aug 10 2012 - 4:37pm by Nick Burch

Wednesday’s U of L media day was a pretty straightforward event, and while there was nothing overly signifcant news coming from the coaches, it was a successful and fun event to be apart of, as I imagine it always is. The most significant news from Coach Strong was that he was not sure where Zeke Pike would play, despite reports saying he would play tight end, and that he was strongly standing behind his friend Clint Hurtt. It was also a bit shocking to hear that Nate Nord nearly quit football after going through so many injuries, but Coach Strong talked him out of it. After hearing the coach talk about Hurtt, it would shock me if Strong would ask him or even allow him to leave. The only way I see it happening is if Tom Jurich forces Strong’s hand, and that will never happen. You can see the coach interviews in full below (as always, Vance Bedford was terrific). It was also interesting to here Strong say he not only has not named a “face” of this team, but does not plan to. He said he mainly gave the title to Bilal Powell in 2010 to give him confidence, and he felt he needed to give him some kind of boost. He did not plan on making it an annual title he would give.

After the coaches spoke and answered questions, I was able to catch up with center Mario Benavides, safety Hakeem Smith, wide receiver Damian Copeland, quarterback Will Stein, and running back Jeremy Wright.

BENAVIDES

On finally being healthy:

“It feels good…it feels different. It’s nice, but the nature of the game is that nobody’s ever 100%. This is as good as I have felt, but I’m not getting too excited or too comfortable, because I know (things can happen).”

On where the OL is right now after making such strides last year and whether they will have to regain that momentum:

“I don’t think we have to start all over again. I think if you’re a complacent group, it can lead to you having to start all over again, but with our group, I think we picked up right where we left off in the spring, although I wasn’t apart of the spring because I had surgery, as usual (reporters laugh). But I think those guys gelled and I was luckily able to spend the summer with them, and I think we’re ahead of where we finished off last season.”

On the lofty expectations for the team:

“To me, personally, I look at that as more of an honor. I don’t look at that as an opportunity to become complacent or cocky. The way I look at it is, ‘Man, that’s awesome. That’s an honor that people view us that way, but now let’s go prove them right and prove to the people (who don’t think we can do it) wrong.’ And obviously we have high expectations for ourselves, so we want to prove ourselves right.”

On teammate Daniel Brown referring to him as the face of the program

“This about as close as I’ve been to a group as far as teammates go since I’ve been here. I’ve had great teammates in the past, but I have a lot of respect for these guys, and I think in turn, that allows them to respect me. I think they respect me because I’m one of the old guys. I’ve been around the block, so to speak. But that means a lot coming from them, because that’s something I’ve always looked for in my teammates and have always asked for. I think that when they see you work hard every day and they see what you go through…I think it’s a little easier to have a little more respect for certain guys, and with the way our defense is working right now, I have respect for all those guys, as much as they have for me.”

 

HAKEEM SMITH

On what games he looks forward to beside Kentucky:

“North Carolina. It’s another big non-conference game that we need to win and this year we just have to go in and finish. Pittsgurgh, too. We haven’t beaten them in a while, so finally ending that streak and beating them will be just another success added to the season.”

On coming off a season where the unit ranked 68th in pass coverage and how he is using his role as a veteran to help the younger and more inexperienced guys get better:

“I’m just trying to coach everybody up, making sure everybody’s on the same page, gettin in and learning every little bit of what needs to be learned. No one in this group is a freshman anymore, and everyone here is now experienced. We have to be accountable for ourselves as well as for our teammates.

 

DAMIAN COPELAND

On lofty expectations for this season:

“You definitely don’t want to get caught up in the hype. The last two seasons everybody picked us last saying we couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that, and now everyone is starting to believe in us. We just can’t get caught up in the hype. We need to keep our guard up, go out there and execute every plan and every down.”

On the depth at receiver and what he needs to do to stand out:

“For me, my main goal is to just stay healthy, and everything else will take care of itself. As far as the team, our receivers group has just got to go out and execute every play. We need to believe in each other and believe we can be the top receivers in the nation. We have to believe that.”

On his progress transitioning from the previous coaching staff to this one:

“Oh, my game has progressed a LOT. I’m blessed to have these coaches, they do such a great job. We really believe in what they say, because we go out there and execute what they say, and it works.”

 

WILL STEIN

On being a leader while not being first on the depth chart:

“I embrace being a leader. You don’t have to be a starter to be a leader, and I want what’s best for the team and everyone to get better. You can still lead by example without being a starter. It’s something I take a lot of pride in and I fully embrace it.”

On what life after football will be like:

“Coaching is something I am definitely interested in and have been for some time. I truly love the game and is something I definitely plan on doing. Whether it means being a GA (graduate assistant) here at Louisville or somewhere else, coaching football is definitely what I plan on doing.”

On how his dad, a former UK player, takes the fact Will is a Card:

“Yeah, he played for UK, but he is all about U of L now. He comes to games decked out in red Cardinal gear. The moment I stepped foot on campus here, his allegiance switched over and he cheers as hard for us as the most die hard fans do.”

 

JEREMY WRIGHT

On the depth at running back:

“We all have something different to bring to the table, but we’re just trying to go out there and see who executes the best…who makes the least mistakes.”

On how the group gets along and works together:

“We’re a pretty good, tight unit. We understand practice situations. We know how to practice now much more than we did before Charlie first came. He definitely taught us how to practice.”

On his personal goals

“Just to let go. Just to go out there and play my best every day at practice and every game we play.”

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