Mark Stoops praises Jeremy Flax's resilience, growth at RT

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim10/02/23

Kentucky right tackle Jeremy Flax took the road less traveled to SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week status. On paper, he wasn’t even supposed start for this team after a rocky junior campaign in 2022. Mark Stoops will freely admit he recruited the 6-6, 325-pound tackle’s replacement in USC transfer Courtland Ford.

Flax’s response? Win the job and prove why he was a former four-star recruit and the nation’s top-ranked JUCO offensive tackle prior to his time in Lexington. And he turned that into a zero-sack, zero-pressure effort in Kentucky’s blowout win over No. 22 Florida to go with zero missed assignments and five knockdown blocks.

“Jeremy has really been stepping it up, you can see the great size he has and the physical nature that he can play with,” Mark Stoops said of Flax during his weekly press conference on Monday. “It’s just really nice to see him continue to grow and get better and improve. We need him to be, he can be a very impactful player for us. We need him to continue to improve.”

After letting the senior lineman’s prestigious honor marinate a bit, Stoops had more to say about Flax and his situation during his call-in radio show Monday evening. Rather than taking the easy way out by quitting on Kentucky and hitting the transfer portal, Flax stuck it out. And not only did he win the starting job, he’s playing good football in that role.

Stoops doesn’t regret recruiting good talent to Lexington, nor will he ever. But he does give Flax credit for responding the way he has.

“I do want to point out and give him some praise. In this world we’re living in right now, it’s too easy to just leave,” Stoops said Monday evening. “I recruited somebody to come in and take Jeremy’s position. Instead of Jeremy leaving, he got better. And that’s what I tell every player: ‘I’m going to recruit somebody to try to take your job, period.’ I’m going to try to get the best players we can each and every year. And if that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry, but we need the best players we can get.

“Look at the guys we’re competing against this week. They’re there, believe me. They’re three-deep at every position with some talented players.”

And it’s not a jab at Courtland Ford or a sign he has fallen short of expectations. Stoops believes the USC transfer has been solid in his role and continues to make a positive impact. Flax has just done nothing to give up that starting spot Ford was brought in to potentially take.

“With Jeremy struggling a year ago, I had to go out and fix the offensive line. And we had some others that could have left and didn’t. Instead of Jeremy giving up in that position, he competed with Courtland (Ford),” Stoops said. “Courtland is still battling and doing some good things and everything, but instead of pouting or transferring, all he did was worry about himself and get better. He is and he did.

“Players like that deserve a lot more recognition and credit because it’s too easy to do it the other way.”

That recognition came in the form of SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors on Monday.

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