By LARRY VAUGHT
Kelvin Joseph was named to the preseason all-Southeastern Conference team before he ever played a down at Kentucky.
That’s how highly regarded the cornerback who transferred from LSU to Kentucky after his freshman season was by the league coaches.
He’s been very good at times, too. He has a team-high four interceptions along with 25 tackles in nine games.
But Joseph has always made a lot of not so good plays. He’s been beat for touchdowns — something that happens to any defensive back — but he’s also talked way too much on the field and got useless penalties like he did in last week’s loss at Florida when he showed Florida quarterback Kyle Trask in the chest well after a play was over.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has been unbelievably patient with Joseph’s antics much like he was with former UK linebacker Jordan Jones when he had numerous on-field issues.
“I have to continue to do the best I can. It is not, as you know, it’s not the way we want to represent ourselves at times with the penalties and the undisciplined plays,” Stoops said Monday when asked about balancing Joseph’s playmaking with his immature behavior.
“Kelvin is a competitor. He understands once you talk to him and get him on the side and talk to him. He’s very competitive in games but some of it is absolutely unacceptable. You know, like the one play on Saturday, there’s just no excuses. You can’t have it, it’s totally unacceptable and it will be addressed. It won’t happen again for a long time I can promise you that.
“Kelvin is still relatively new to our culture and the way we do things, and we will continue to teach him and that’s our job, to coach, teach and bring guys along. So, we will continue to work on that.”
A few hours later Monday Stoops found out he would not be working on that with Joseph any more. And Stoops was right about Joseph’s immature behavior not happening again because Monday Joseph opted out to prepare himself for the NFL draft. He’s the first UK player to opt out this season.
“Growing up in North Baton Rouge, not many have had the opportunity that I have to play in the NFL. My family struggled but still managed to raise a successful young black man. I am taking this opportunity to focus on preparing for the NFL draft,” Joseph posted on Twitter.
“I want to thank LSU for bringing me into the brotherhood & the Kentucky Wildcats coaches, teammates and the community for accepting me and allowing me to showcase my ability. I know it was a short stay but it’s BIG BLUE NATION ALL DAY!”
Kentucky only has one regular-season game left against South Carolina on Saturday night. There could be a bowl game after that if UK is extended a bowl bid and then accepts.
Stoops said earlier Monday if a player opted out, he would shake his hands and wish him well. I’m sure that’s what he did with Joseph.
However, it just seems a bit ironic that with the immature behavior Stoops has tolerated from Joseph at times this year that he would be the first Cat to opt out. I hope he makes it in the NFL and he has the skills to do so. NFL personnel, though, are not as patient with immature behavior as Stoops was unless a player has extraordinary skills. Joseph is good, but not good enough to make the same immature mistakes he did at UK too often.