ATLANTA (KT) — Benny Snell was all smiles in his first appearance at the Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Snell, a junior, has always been one of the team leaders, but never got the opportunity to represent the Wildcats on the league’s biggest stage of the preseason.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Snell said. “This is one of the things I’ve wanted to do as a leader and since I’ve been a freshman.”
Snell also can’t wait to get back on the field after he was ejected during the first quarter of a Music City Bowl loss to Northwestern last December in Nashville. Snell rushed for 1,333 yards year and has gained 2,424 yards in his first two seasons with the Wildcats.
“I’m very excited,” Snell said. “They tried to take me away and I’m back and I’m coming back even harder than before.”
Snell has spent most of the off-season helping his teammates become better players both on and off the field.
“It’s been about making the players around me better,” Snell said. “Over this past year, we’ve (changed the culture) and we’re a lot closer. There is a lot more closeness and we’re doing a lot more bonding outside of football. We’re doing a lot of film work together and a lot of things together and the brotherhood with the team has brought us a lot closer.”
Former Florida State coach and Texas A&M boss Jimbo Fisher made his first appearance as coach of the Aggies on Monday and shared the spotlight with Kentucky coach Mark Stoops.
Stoops served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator at Florida State before taking over at Kentucky prior to the 2013 campaign. Stoops still maintains a friendship with Fisher.
“I do rely on Jimbo for some advice from time to time and we keep in contact,” Stoops said. “I consider him a friend. I have fond memories (of coaching with him at Florida State) and appreciate him. We all share ideas and a lot of times it may be about the staff and people you have been in contact with before and recommendations. We will always be there to support each other.”
Stoops added he has no doubt Fisher will turn Texas A&M into a consistent winner.
“You’ve heard me every time I've been here in some form or fashion about some of the things I've learned from my time working with Jimbo. I have great respect for him and the way he goes about his work,” Stoops said. “There are many things I do at Kentucky that I took from him.”
Stoops relied on Fisher for postseason planning prior to Kentucky’s appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl two years ago.
“Certainly you have to be your own man and do things that fit your own program, but there are things I've taken from him I still implement to this day. There's no doubt he'll do well. He'll recruit at a high level. His teams will play extremely hard. There are things I learned from him. He's a very hard-nosed, tough football coach. And I am as well, but those were fond memories.”
Fisher agreed and shares the same mutual respect on and off the field.
“Mark has done a great job in Kentucky getting to the Bowl game and playing. I think we did an unbelievable job at Florida State,” Stoops said. “I have great respect for Mark. He's not only a fellow coach but a friend. He's a great guy and a better person than he is a coach. He's one heck of a football coach. I have a lot of respect for him.
Stoops said defensive signee Ashtan Pierre (Deerfield Beach, Florida) likely won’t play for the Wildcats because of an academic issue. Pierre, a defensive end and linebacker, chose the Wildcats over LSU, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Miami, Michigan State and North Carolina.
“There was an issue with grades and transcripts,” Stoops said. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to get it situated before the year starts,” he said. “It’s a clearinghouse issue.”
Former Kentucky defensive lineman Courtney Love will be joining the coaching staff as a graduate assistant this season. Love was one of the team’s most consistent defensive performers during the past two seasons after transferring from Nebraska.
“We're excited to have him,” Stoops said.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.