HOOVER, Ala. (KT) — Kash Daniel waited for his opportunity on the field and it was his chance to shine off the field on Thursday.
Daniel was one of three Kentucky players who attended Southeastern Conference Media Days Thursday and he found the experience to be surreal. Lynn Bowden and Logan Stenberg also attended.
“I was telling my dad that it’s kind of crazy sitting back and looking at things to where you are now, but he said it’s not crazy — you’ve worked your tail off and did everything the right way and enjoy yourself,” the Kentucky senior linebacker said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”
And he did just that.
Daniel, one of the core players returning on defense, said this year's team has the potential to produce better results than last year's 10-3 team that defeated Penn State 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl.
“This ballclub could be as good, if not better, than last year’s team,” Daniel said. “Just because we lose a lot of talented guys that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of talented guys going to step up. … It’s a set of steps, you want to go higher higher and higher.”
Daniel said the program has moved past the rebuilding phase and it’s starting to show on the recruiting trail and said the toughness and resilience within the program “isn’t by a habit if luck” but rather by “it’s by a habit of work we put in each and every day to get the best results as possible out there on the field.
“Like I’ve told so many people, coach (Mark) Stoops, he’s not going to offer (scholarships) to come here, sit on the bench, get free gear and just walk around and go to school. He’s not doing that. He’s recruiting players right now to come in and take my job.
“He’s recruiting players to come in and take over for Josh Allen and Benny Snell. That’s what building a program is about and that’s what coach Stoops is doing. He’s just not building a two- or three-year team. This is now a program to where we can reload instead of rebuild.”
What type of player would it take to replace himself?
Daniel said, “you would better have to kill me. That’s about the only way you’re going to get (my job),” he said.
Landing a starting role didn’t come easily for Daniel, who played behind Courtney Love for two seasons before getting his opportunity last season.
“When you come in, everybody wants to play right away,” he said. “In the reality of it, it’s the SEC and it’s college football. Some freshman can come in and play right away, like Benny and some other defensive players, but for me, I had to wait a couple of years. It gives you time to hone in on how to take mental reps and how to watch film and what to look for in practice and how to practice, basically. Me playing behind Courtney and getting the chance to watch him was good for me not only as a leader, but as a player as well. You just have to soak in everything that is around you.”
Also a noted fisherman, Daniel is ready to switch gears.
"I’m ready to get to football right now,” he said. “It should be a really exciting season.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.