HOOVER, Ala. – New Kentucky coach Mark Stoops probably won’t make any new friends among Georgia fans. He was asked Wednesday at SEC Football Media Days if there were any SEC East teams that stood out to him and he failed to mention the two-time defending East champion Bulldogs.
“On our side of the division, certainly you have to look at Florida and South Carolina, you expect them to be very good,” he said. “Shoot, we’re just worried about ourselves to be honest with you. We have so much work to do. All the teams in this league are good. We all know that. . . . Top to bottom there’s no break.”
Stoops did throw in this qualifier: “It’s hard for me, a first-year guy in this league, to predict who the top guys are going to be.”
While Georgia might not be prominent on Stoops’ radar screen, it is for Atlanta native Raymond Sanders. Kentucky’s senior running back out of Stone Mountain’s Stephenson High School admitted that he probably gets up for the Bulldogs more than any other team.
“It’s very special to go against Georgia, because I know I lot of those guys on that team,” said Sanders, who led the Wildcats in rushing last year 669 yards, 5.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns. “I’m from Georgia. I always look forward to that game. Every guy from Georgia wants to win that game. You know your family and friends and everybody’s going to be watching and everybody’s going to be there.”
Sanders has played well against the Bulldogs. In Georgia’s narrow 29-24 victory in Lexington last season he had 73 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown.
Stephenson said he remains close friends with several UGA players, including fellow Atlanta residents Garrison Smith and T.J. Stripling and Stephenson teammate Mike Thornton. “Big Mike,” as Sanders calls him, is in a heated battle to start at noseguard this season.
“I’m eager to see him play and I’m proud of him,” Sanders said. “I’m glad he’s been working hard. He’s been working his tail off and waiting his time behind those big guys (John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers) that were ahead of him. I hope he can be successful, except for one week, when we play them.”