Cats trying to close gap with Georgia in SEC East

Jul. 30—LEXINGTON, Kt. (KT) — Kentucky received some recognition from the media on Friday.

The Wildcats were predicted to finish second in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, behind defending national champion Georgia. Kentucky finished second behind the Bulldogs in the East last season and have been chasing the Bulldogs in the standings the past four years.

"We had an opportunity a few years ago to play him for whoever won that game, essentially one shot in the East," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "They took care of business. Hopefully next time when we're in that situation, we're more prepared. That's the way I've always approached it with us. When we started at 14, worked our way up. Last year we were fortunate enough to finish second in the East. However, we all know there was a large gap between Georgia and No. 2. We're all trying to close that gap."

Stoops added that he's "excited about where we can go" especially on offense this season.

"We're always going to be a team that's going to be physical, that can pound the football," he said. "But where we are falling short, a couple years ago we got better a year ago, I want to continue to build on that, is with the success of the running game is pushing the ball down the field. When you have a quarterback like this, there's not a throw he can't make. Very excited to build on that and continue to grow."

The Bulldogs received 1,254 votes, followed by Kentucky, which collected 932 votes, three ahead of Tennessee. Florida was fourth, followed by South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Alabama was the preseason favorite to win the Western Division and the SEC title. The Crimson Tide received 1,262 votes, followed by Texas A&M with 968 votes. Arkansas was third, followed by Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez was named second-team All-SEC, while offensive lineman Kenneth Horsey was also named to the second team. Quarterback Will Levis was a third-team selection.

Stoops is entering his 10th season as coach of the Wildcats and is the second-longest tenured coach in the league behind Alabama's Nick Saban. Stoops credited his longevity to staying true to his "core beliefs."

"(You just have) to be authentic," he said. "To me it's just being authentic, staying true to who I am, my core beliefs, what I know is right, but then also adjusting and adapting when you have to. For the longevity, you have to. You have to adapt and overcome any situation."

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com and via Twitter at keithtaylor21