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August 4, 2011

Reporting day a fresh (hot, cramped) start for Cats

It's hot and the dorms are cramped. You're sequestered away from girlfriends and off-campus life.

There's a lot not to like about a preseason football camp. Unless you ask Brian Adams, the Kentucky wide receiver who was practically beaming when he met reporters Thursday on UK's reporting day.

"I can't think of many worst things about camp," Adams said. "You get free food, a free place to live. It's really a college athlete's dream. It's a whole lot of fun."

Sure, you can find the dark cloud if you try.

Nobody - particularly the Wildcats who live in off-campus apartments - wants to get thrown into a cramped dorm room for three weeks with no chance to venture far from the Nutter Training Center.

Offensive lineman Stuart Hines said he's moved into a dorm room in which either he or roommate Billy Joe Murphy might have to turn sideways for both to fit.

And then there's the weather.

"The heat is the worst," wide receiver La'Rod King said. "On the turf, it's like I'm about to melt. Last year, I think my cleats molded to the turf and I couldn't move. I was like, 'Oh my God.' Definitely the heat. That's it. Everything else, I love it."

If you ask the Cats, you can get complaints about those undersized beds and the rising mercury on the practice field. But pessimism is in short supply as Kentucky opens camp.

Most of the talk at Nutter on Thursday centered on a veteran offensive line, an improving and remodeled defense and optimism that this year's team is going to be better than the one that went 6-7 a season ago.

So with the positivity percolating, players were much more apt to wax poetic about the good in fall camp than the bad.

"You form a brotherhood," linebacker Ronnie Sneed said. "It's what's going to last throughout the years when football is over, and it's what's going to carry us when we're out there on the field."

And there's some fun to be had, too.

The facial-hair growth that has become a preseason tradition is continuing, with cornerback Randall Burden sporting a full beard that he said has led to friends calling him everything from "Abraham Lincoln" to "Osama bin Laden."

Hines is rocking a thin mustache that he admits his girlfriend hates.

"She's like, 'You've got to get rid of that thing,'" Hines said. "I'm not going to see her for two or three weeks here, so what's she care?"

That's part of what Hines finds appealing about camp.

"There's no distraction or anything," he said. "You don't really have TVs, usually. You don't have your girlfriend around or whatever. There's no distractions and you can just focus all on football."

And for all the jokes about the heat and the dorms, it's clear that the Cats are focused on just that. It's about football now, and about getting the season off on the right foot in August.

"(Reporting day) signifies the opportunity to have a really great beginning," cornerback Anthony Mosley said. "I was talking to some of my teammates a little while ago, and we just realistically have two weeks to get ready for three weeks of football. It's really critical that we knock out some of the mistakes early so when the season comes around there's not as many mistakes."


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