By LARRY VAUGHT
If you had told me a Kentucky football player might post critical comments about the UK coaching staff on Twitter the night before the UK-Louisville game, I probably would have needed at least 75 guesses — if not more — to name Nick Haynes.
The senior offensive lineman has never said or done anything wrong during his Kentucky career. He’s been a team leader and was a team captain this season.
Yet this is what Haynes posted on Twitter late last Friday night before the noon kickoff the next day against Louisville:
“Most of these coaches don’t care about us personally. It’s all about that (pay)check. That’s the one big thing I’ve observed here at UK. They’ll use you up for all your worth and then throw you to the side,” Haynes tweeted before later removing the message from Twitter.
Haynes didn’t play in the game but he really was not expected to play. Despite being a dominant player at times last season, Haynes was not the same player this season and barely played the second half of the season. However, it was not his fault.
A battle with Type 1 diabetes led to severe weight loss. He opened the season starting at guard and was the backup center. Then Bunchy Stallings was moved from center to guard and redshirt freshman Drake Jackson became the starting center.
Give Haynes credit. He did all he could to stay ready as a backup and also help Jackson. More than once, Jackson credited Haynes for helping him and making sure he knew his assignments.
Is that the type of player who suddenly creates a problem the night before UK plays its biggest rival?
So what happened?
Haynes was not available to media members after the Louisville game and has not been this week, either. Coach Mark Stoops said after the game he was “disappointed” with Haynes because the team had held one of its best team meetings during his five years at Kentucky a few hours prior to Haynes’ tweet.
“We’ve got a really good group of seniors, and we had a really good, emotional meeting. There were a lot of good vibes in that room,” Stoops said.
Stoops added that Haynes was “rubbed the wrong way after curfew” by one of the younger coaches on staff. Maybe that meant graduate assistant because I would not put offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, offensive line coach John Schlarman or Stoops in the “young coach” category. Haynes had also shown his displeasure earlier in the day with Senior Day tweets that didn’t mention him.
Haynes is popular with his teammates. His mother, DeDe, has been one of the team’s biggest fans for four years and has been known to let fans criticizing the Cats on Twitter that they need to stop.
Sophomore offensive tackle Landon Young has played beside Haynes. He said Haynes’ tweet was not the reason UK played so poorly against Louisville.
“Things just happen. I don’t have any problems with our team, no problems with our coaches. We just have to go forward. We just didn’t play well. That was not Nick’s fault,” Young said.
Running back Benny Snell didn’t want to talk about Haynes after the Louisville game. No, it was not because he was upset with Haynes — a player who opened plenty of holes for him to run through at UK. He referred to Haynes as a “great guy” he liked being around.
“Nick don’t got nothing to do with this. Nick is a great guy and I’ve learned too much from him for this negative to even be on Nick. That don’t matter,” Snell said.
I tend to agree. I just don’t think Haynes meant it to be a malicious attack on UK’s entire coaching staff. Again, based on what Stoops said, I tend to believe Haynes was just frustrated with how this season has gone for him and UK and if given a do-over, my belief is that he would not have posted the tweet no matter what he observed.
Stoops said there was “zero” issues between him and Haynes during his weekly radio show Monday.
“I think it would be silly to think everything is peachy keen and perfect all the time and everybody’s happy. You have 110 kids and there’s a lot of egos in the room, but our team cares about each other and Nick cares about his team,” Stoops said.
I doubt if things are “peachy keen” at Alabama or Tennessee today, either.
But I am not going to let one late-night tweet from Nick Haynes change the way I think of this personable young man and team leader. Or let it change the way I’ll remember all he did at UK and just how much he loved being part of the rebuilding program the last few years.
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