In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles some exaggerated “trash talk” leading up to the game, familiar faces for both sides and quarterback Tim Tebow returning to Gainesville, Florida, for the second time in two months.
The Florida Gators (1-0) open their Southeastern Conference slate by hosting the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will air live on SEC Network.
During a post-practice interview on Tuesday, Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (a Deland, Florida, native) was asked about playing at Florida in front of friends and family. In the middle of a rather innocuous reply, he dropped a line that – when singled out and defined as “trash talk” – has since drawn some attention.
“A couple of my [high school] teammates actually went to Florida, so I’m familiar with a lot of those guys. It’s going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces,” said Kemp with a light laugh when he was asked if he knew some players on the Gators.
Check out the three-minute interview, courtesy of The Courier-Journal:
Of course, that would not be the end of this story.
During the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference on Wednesday, Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops made a mountain out of Kemp’s mole hill of a comment…while simultaneously putting it in proper, correct perspective.
“I was furious,” said Stoops about Kemp’s comment. “The thing is – I was outraged, I talked to him about it. But the thing is, he was trying to make light of some friends that he has [in] this program.”
“But like I told him [Tuesday], ‘You think they’re gonna hear all that? They’re gonna hear the last five seconds of what you said,’” Stoops continued. “And I know the great pride of the players in that locker room at Florida. … I know personally quite a few of those players and the pride that they have, and one thing: it’s not very smart to try to challenge their pride before you play them. Believe me, I know them. And so I don’t think that was very smart. It’s not something that I teach. It’s not how we talk.
“And really, if you listen to his whole conversation, he was quite humble and really handled himself the right way until the end. But again, that’s just not very smart on our part, and we’ll get that fixed.”
Stoops is in a strange position here. On one hand, he understands full well that Kemp meant nothing by his comment, that it being defined as “trash talk” is ridiculous. On the other, pre-game fodder is pre-game fodder and even perceived slights will be used to help motivate an opposing program.
Considering Florida has won 27-straight games against Kentucky and enters Saturday’s home contest as an 18.5-point home favorite, one would think the Gators would just brush off this very benign comment.
Florida redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor sent the following tweet about one hour after Stoops finished his turn in the teleconference:
Heard u were talkin shit but your Kentucky's 3rd string back pic.twitter.com/Gmf7uVDtAV
— Michael R Taylor (@theMiketaylor51) September 10, 2014
A couple hours after that, redshirt senior walk-on fullback A.J. Mobley posted the following photo on his social media services. Apparently the Gators felt it was necessary to turn Kemp’s now-completely-overblown and somewhat-taken-out-of-context comment into a poster – complete with UF’s new, strange and terrible font style – that was stuck somewhere in Florida’s football facility.
— Landon Watnick (@LandonWatnick) September 10, 2014
While Mobley’s picture was making the rounds (before it got pulled off his accounts), Taylor was meeting the media and had the following to say about Kemp’s comment, his Twitter response and whether the Gators will use it as motivation for Saturday.
“I don’t know him too well, but I just wanted to respond, so that was about it,” he explained. “After the season we had last year and after watching myself and after watching how we played last year, there is no extra motivation needed. This whole summer here and all that stuff, seeing the results of last year, no extra motivation was needed. That was taken into training camp. That was taken into the spring practice and everything we did leading up to this point.”
It would be nice if this was the last you heard of Kemps comment, but you know that will not be the case. Look for it to be mentioned on ESPN‘s College GameDay, SEC Network‘s SEC Nation, during the game broadcast and in every other preview you read for UF-UK ahead of kickoff on Saturday evening.
Overlooked throughout the week has been first-year Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers and his connection to Kentucky. Summers, who began his coaching career as an offensive line graduate assistant with the Wildcats (1980-81) and recently spent a three-year stint at UK as the run game coordinator/offensive line coach (2010-12), is quite familiar with many of the players on the team, even if the schemes have changed since he left the program.
Of course, Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has his own ties to Kentucky, serving as quarterback coach for the school in 2005, though that was a one-year gig under Rich Brooks as he waited for David Cutcliffe to get a new job (as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator the following sason).
While Stoops himself does not have any direct connection to the Gators, he is certainly familiar with Florida after serving as defensive backs coach at Miami (2001-03) and most recently the defensive coordinator at Florida State (2010-12).
Stoops is 5-2 against UF overall in his stops at UM (2-0), FSU (2-1) and UK (0-1), holding a 2-0 against the Gators at The Swamp.
THE PRODIGAL SON RETURNS
Before Florida-Kentucky is even able to kick off Saturday night, Gators fans will be cheering in Gainesville as former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow will return to campus for the second time in the last two months.
Tebow, one of the four men featured on SEC Network‘s Saturday morning show, SEC Nation, will undoubtedly be the focus of the program this week as it eminates from Gainesville for the very first time.
It will also be interesting to see which Florida player Tebow chooses as his “Freak of the Week,” a segment in which he spotlights a weight room superstar on the host team’s roster. Senior tight end Hunter Joyer might be my pick.
@onlygators I think he'll go with Joey Ivey. Of all the players I've talked to he's a top pick for the strongest on the team.
— Daniel Morales (@DanielM0828) September 12, 2014
The SEC Nation set has been built on campus at the Plaza of the Americas. The show airs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, but fans can begin showing up for a prime spot behind the analysts at 9 a.m., one hour prior to the show going live.