LEXINGTON, Ky. — Eli Brown’s decision to transfer came from nowhere given the playing time he saw in his sophomore season at inside linebacker, and Mark Stoops admitted Monday he was at least a bit surprised.
“Yes and no,” Stoops said at his first spring football press conference. “It just depends.”
And then Stoops, who said he wasn’t specifically talking about Brown, spoke quite a bit about the need for accountability.
“We’re going 100 miles an hour right now,” Stoops said. “It’s full force accountability. You better be doing what you’re supposed to be doing 24/7. Some guys are gonna like it, some guys aren’t. Just in general, guys need to lose weight, guys need to gain weight. Certain positions we weren’t big enough last year, and we need to get bigger. We need to get stronger, and they have some personal accountability to do those things whether it’s eating, lifting, going to class, going to tutors — there’s a lot of things.
“As our accountability picks up off the field, it’ll directly affect some of the things we do on the field,” Stoops said. “And I think our team is getting very much improved, and we’re getting closer to that 100 percent we’re striving for, but that’s across the board so you never know how things are gonna go. But with Eli I wish him the best. He’s a good kid. He’s played, he’s helped us, so we wish him the best.”
Brown was undersized at inside linebacker, and while Stoops said he wasn’t directly referring to Brown, the response was at least an indirect reference to him.
The Bowling Green, Ky., native was listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds on last year’s roster — a light weight for an inside linebacker in the SEC. But it didn’t stop him from playing. Brown started four games at weakside linebacker when starter Jordan Jones was out with a shoulder injury.
Brown, a U.S. Army All-American coming out of high school, was ninth on the team in 2017 with 38 tackles. He had two tackles for loss.
“Being a UK Wildcat was an honor and a privilege,” Brown tweeted at the time of his transfer. “I learned a lot about myself as well as the game of football. My time as a Wildcat has come to an end. But I’m walking away a better athlete and better young man. UK will forever be in my heart.”
His absence hurts Kentucky’s depth at inside linebacker. Senior Jordan Jones will start at weakside linebacker and junior Kash Daniel and redshirt freshman Alex King will compete for the middle linebacker job.
As for who backs up Jones now that Brown is gone? Redshirt freshman Jamin Davis will be the first option.
“Jamin, there’s a perfect example of a kid who’s come in, and he came in at about 195 maybe 198 pounds and 6-foot-3,” Stoops said. “Now he’s 6-foot-3 and about 220 pounds and on his way to looking like a grown man. That’s what we need in there.”
Kentucky started spring practice Monday morning.