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MARK STOOPS (April 10)
“Good practice today. I was very encouraged. I thought we got a lot of really good work in. Good, physical day. Went a little longer and got some good situational work done. The defense responded well and had a good day today. Overall, I was pleased.”
HAS THERE BEEN A POINT WHERE YOU FELT LIKE THE TEAM AS A WHOLE WAS GETTING WHAT YOU ARE ASKING OF THEM INSTEAD OF JUST A FEW PLAYERS?
“I think that's the big thing, rather than individually I think as a unit I'm feeling it more and more right now. As a team, I feel more guys getting themselves into a position to be successful, working hard and buying in all the way understanding concepts. We're getting there.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE ON-FIELD COMMUNICATION?
“Coaches are still coaching every play, every rep. We want to do things right and it's still frustrating at times, but some of that is to be expected. We're just trying to keep on limiting those errors and mental mistakes and communication. I think on both sides of the ball we're getting better but we're nowhere near where we need to be.”
DO YOU HAVE A SENSE THE PLAYERS ARE READY TO SHOW FANS THEIR IMPROVEMENT IN SPRING GAME?
“I think they are. I think they're excited. I've commented on it before but I think they feel the excitement and the support that they have and they want to go out there and do well.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR RECEVIERS?
“We're getting better as a group. The effort is better. Their attitude is better. Again, we're not where we need to be. We need to continue to get better and we need more guys to step up, but coach is getting the best out of them.”
WILL YOUR WR SIGNEES PUSH THOSE RETURNING PLAYERS IN THE FALL?
“We definitely think there will be some guys who can come in and get in the fold and hopefully help us.”
IS THERE STILL A CHANCE YOU MIGHT ADD SOME GUYS THIS SUMMER?
“Possibly. We have room for maybe one more so we may possibly go out and look for a linebacker or wide receiver that can come in and help us.”
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PLEASED ABOUT TO THIS POINT OF THE SPRING?
“I'm pleased with their overall attitude. Again, it's not where we want it to be but I see the improvement. I see them wanting to do things right. I see their attitude being good and their effort. That's what I'm most pleased about. We have good players that need to be led and put in a position to be successful and we need to improve in all areas but I see them wanting to do that.”
NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN ON THE FIELD FOR A MONTH WITH EACH OTHER, IS THE TRUST BETWEEN PLAYERS AND COACHES GETTING BETTER?
“Yeah, it's better. It's not a finished product and probably never will be. We're always working on those relationships but it is getting better.”
FROM WHAT YOU'VE SEEN DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A QUARTERBACK WHO CAN BE WHAT YOU NEED?
“Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I've said it over and over again and I still feel that way, they all have different strengths but they can all help us win.”
WHAT MESSAGE WILL YOU SEND THEM INTO THE SUMMER WITH?
“Just to build on what we've done. We need to constantly strive to get better each and every day and control what they can control.”
WHAT WILL YOU BE LOOKING FOR IN THE BLUE/WHITE GAME?
“I want to see just good football on either side. I just want to see good competition, good effort, good execution and make good plays. I don't want one side or the other to be successful because the other side is not playing right or busting plays, playing inept. I just want to see good ball.”
Neal Brown's comment to follow...
(NOTE: A thank you to KyForward.com's Jon Hale for filling in some gaps of this interview. The wind was howling over at Nutter today and thus some of my tape was garbled.)
HOW ARE THESE QUARTERBACKS DOING WITH JUST A FEW DAYS TO GO BEFORE THE SPRING GAME?
“They do some really good things and then do some things that are head scratchers. And some of that is they just have to focus better. There is some good and some bad. Really, there is not much separation. Just when I think there is, the one I think is on the bottom (has a good practice).”
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE SPRING GAME FOR LEAVING A LASTING IMPRESSION (re: QBs)?
“It is a last impression, and that’s the way I approached it with them. It’s a last impression as a coaching staff, but it’s your first impression for the fans. I think that’s probably more important, really. I’m not going to treat it with any more weight than the first two scrimmages. The reps have been about equal throughout. We’ll do the same thing in the spring game. Don’t get too caught up about who goes out there first, who goes out there second. We’ll probably flip a coin or something like that.”
YOU'RE EXPECTED TO HAVE A GOOD CROWD FOR THE BLUE/WHITE GAME...
“I hope there is a good crowd. I think it will be good for our kids to see the fan base get behind them. I think it's something they deserve. It's our job to put out an entertaining product and, more than anything, play hard. It will be the second time we went in that stadium and we performed well last Saturday so it's my hope and my plan that we can finish the spring out strong and do it in front of a good crowd.”
HAVE YOU SETTLED ON A POSITION FOR STEVEN BORDEN?
“He's going to be a real hybrid for us. You're going to see him line up in the backfield, line up at slot receiver and line up at tight end. That's the reason we signed him, because he did all three of those in junior college. He's a smart kid and he's done well. He's put himself right in the mix in spring practices for sure.”
HAS ANYONE TAKEN CONTROL OF THE CENTER JOB?
“I think Zach Myers is playing the best. I think he is playing the best. He’s separated himself probably over the last three or four practices. I’m excited about Jon Toth. The big thing about…Zach Myers has played center his whole life, high school center, he played all last year. For Jon Toth, it’s brand new to him, not played in high school. That’s a whole different deal. When you start playing, you’ve got to look between your legs, and you’ve got to snap. It’s a lot goes on. Now I’m really pleased with Toth, how he’s reacted. About a week and a half ago, I thought he kind of hit the wall and had a couple poor practices, but he’s bounced back and done well. He’s starting to play with lower pad level and do what we ask him to do.”
IS IT A BIG CONCERN TO HAVE A REDSHIRT FRESHMAN THERE?
“It is. We talked about it the other day too. I think it’s a concern, but it is what it is. We don’t really have a guy that’s a natural center coming in, either. We feel like both of those guys are smart enough. We think they’re both at a point physically where they can do it, but they’ve got to go out. We’ve got to protect them some scheme-wise too. We can’t ask them to go out and go one-on-one against some top draft picks. We’ve got to protect them and help them that way and give them some confidence, especially early in the year.”
IS ZACH WEST STILL A CANDIDATE AT CENTER?
“Yeah. He will. He’s just coming off…He was late getting out here, he was rehabbing an injury and he was late getting out, but I think he will definitely factor in that. We’re getting him snaps. Again, he hasn’t snapped the ball a whole lot in his career either, but he’s getting better and I think he’ll be a factor once he gets back fully in the fall.”
DOES THE CENTER HAVE A DIFFERENT ROLE IN THE AIR RAID OFFENSE?
“It is. Because what we ask them to do…We try to take a little bit off our quarterback and get it on our center, especially in our pass protection, cadence, those type of things. So they’ve got to kind of tell everybody else what to do. That’s what makes it difficult. They’re redshirt freshmen, but they’re in a leadership position just because of how we are coaching and the system that we’re in.”
IS THERE A DEFENSIVE GUY OR TWO WHO HAS CAUSED PROBLEMS FOR THE OFFENSE DURING CAMP?
“Bud Dupree. He kills every two-minute drill we’ve done. He gets off the edge fast, he’s athletic. I really like his game. I think he’s doing a really nice job. Ashely Lowery is making a ton of plays in the secondary. Those are the two guys that jump out. Now, (Donte) Rumph and (Mister) Cobble up front. Rumph — when he was practicing — those guys gave us issues, but we can schematically do some things to help on them. But Bud Dupree on the edge is giving us fits and Ashely Lowery’s made a bunch of plays.”
ON HIS VERSION OF THE AIR RAID OFFENSE:
“We’re playing at a little higher tempo. And I think if you look at it, at the people who are running our system, and we run a similar system, so whether it’s Kliff (Kingsbury) or Dana or Tony Franklin or any of those guys, Coach (Hal) Mumme, any of the guys who are running that system. They take the personnel and they’re kind of different with it. If you look at what Sonny Dykes and Coach Franklin did at La. Tech, a lot of bigger sets. I think they were still first in the country in total offense. You look at what Kliff did at (Texas) A&M last year with Manziel, letting him be in a quarterback run kind of center deal. What everybody does is they see what their personnel is, they go into situations, they evaluate the personnel and use it to the best of their abilities and I think that’s what we’ve got to do. And to be honest with you, in the evaluations, I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to put the pieces we have, then incorporate the pieces we have coming in the summer, give those guys two weeks to show what they can do and let’s figure out the best way to run this offense.”
ON THE WIDE RECEIVERS:
“They stepped up. We had that conversation last Wednesday or last Friday and I thought on Saturday, they played physical and they played harder. The thing is — and I think this is what the fan base wants to see too — they want people to play hard and they want to play physical. There’s going to be some points that maybe you lose a one-on-one situation because the other person is better. What I want to see is we want to play at a fast tempo. We want to play as hard as we possibly can and we want to be physical. I thought they did a better job on Saturday. Today we probably took a little bit of a step back in our team period. Defense got us today. But I think we’ve gotten better.”
THE QBs HAVE TALKED ABOUT THEIR IMPROVED FOOTWORK. IS THAT BECAUSE THEY WERE BEHIND OR BECAUSE IT'S JUST DIFFERENT?
“I think Randy Sanders is a good coach. I don’t think anything they were doing — anything they were doing differently — doesn’t mean they were poorly coached before, by no means. But I think everybody has a little different. We’re a little bit more timing oriented. We’re in the shotgun more and there’s some things that are really important fundamentally as far as drops and things like that. For instance, it may be three steps and a hitch because the receiver is running an 8-yard route. It may be three steps and hold because we’re running a crossing route. We don’t have time to step up. Every offensive system, your drops and your routes kind of match up with your protection.”
IS THAT AN UNDERRATED PART OF PLAYING QB?
“There’s a lot of details other than just going out and playing throw and catch. There’s a lot of little things that go into being an accurate passer and that’s what we talk about: How can we be an accurate passer? Well, our lower body has got to be in a position to make us accurate. We’ve got to have our feet shoulder width apart. Our toes have to be to our target, OK? That’s a huge element and then another part of it is taking the easy throws. Another part of it is throwing to your running backs. Those are all things. I think people just look at stats and say, ‘Ah. Well, here’s the deal.’ But there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Man, I am loving what I'm hearing from Spring Practice this year. It is so much more positive, and with that I think we're also hearing what I believe to be the truth. And I'm not saying that our former staff was not telling the truth, but I just feel like sometimes they didn't tell us what exactly was or wasn't happening with the team.
I just feel a lot better with Coach Stoops & his staff running our program. We may not see a winning season right away, but I am very confident that we will, and sooner rather than later.
Trying hard to hold down my expectations but I really hope and expect to see a vast improvement on the field this weekend and especially come the fall. Thanks for the notes.
Great read Matt! Love these updates. Especially with the OC and HC..you get to see the different takes and personalities. Would like to see Eliot..even Scott,Marrow,Mainrod some.
I like what Im hearing. You have to be able to decipher coack speak a little. From what Im hearing this team is giving the effort..just need to focus more. WE also need more talent..more competition. That will come later on.
Nice to hear Ashley Lowery is doing well..I like our options at saftey this year. Daron Blaylock could blossom into a star..6'1 220ish big hitter and athletic. Lowery too..another big, physical saftey that can hit. Faulkner, Zach Blaylock, D.Tyler, McWilson coming in, Josh Harris coming in. I hope Nate Willis lives up to expectations..if he can come in and lock up one corner spot..allow Quinn,Harmon,Tiller,Hytchye to push each other..this young defense could surprise.
If Rumph comes back in good shape..our front 4 will be a force. Big Z Smith and Bud Dupree at DE, Cobble,Rumph solid veterans inside that will be on thier final ride..both good talents with possible NFL futures..the only question is..will they stepup..work thier butts off and go out with a bang end up solid 2nd-3rd rd picks that could start in the NFL in a year or two or will they go through the motions..slip down the draft boards and be late round reserves or free agent types? There will be depth across the front. Tristan Johnson was playing at a high level last year in Cobbles absence..Coleman has some exp. under his belt. I look for Graffree and Reggie Meant to factor in later on..both 6'5 285ish former De's with great speed for DT's..both could become good inside pass rushers and also play some De in Jumbo sets. Thomas Chapman was a 4 star recruit..and should be another immovable object once he gets going. Melvin Lewis should help out a lot..Miami dosent offer DT's that cant play ball. I think Huguenin will shine in this defense..hes made for the 4-3. Langston Newton is up to 270 and will be a valuable addition to DE. Jason Hatcher should factor in..both at DE and some OLB in certain situations.
Linebacker will be an area of great interest. Avery Williamson returns for his senior year and gives UK a solid veteran leader inside..Miles Simpson should man one OLB spot..he is UK's 3rd leading tackler returning and at 6'2 235ish..with good speed and athleticism..could become a playmaker on the outside for Eliot and Stoops. Khalid Henderson should man the other OLB spot..oozes athletic ability and potential..quick..hard hitting..sound fundamentally..Henderson should prove an adequate SEC OLB. I hope Josh Forrest steps his game up. This kid could be a star in this defense..6'3 could hold 245 on his frame..former wr/db with a real nose for the ball..has good quickness and speed for LB. Kadeem Thomas looked good at times last year..this kid could step up and help. Kory Brown is undersized but tough..plays with a lot of heart..Brown will see the field often unless I miss my guess.
Offensivley..I look for Max Smith to be our QB. Kid is accurate,tough, and smart. I think hes a future NFL starter. Our stable of backs is versatile and deep. Clemons,Sanders,Kemp,and Thomas all fit this offense very well. Mobley,george,and taylor will provide some stronger runners that can move the chains on short yardage downs and eat clock when Uk is milking a lead.
I'm in the minority that I think our recievers will be just fine come Fall. AJ Legree is a star in waiting. Collins,Robinson,Sweat all will help out. Our TE's will become weapons again and I look for Aumiller,Shields, and T.Robinson to contribute..not only as pass catchers but as blockers in front of our playmakers on screens and quick outs. Ryan Timmons will be a weapon from day 1, as a wr, rb, and kr. Javess Blue has all the tools to be a stud in this attack. Badet and Montgomery bring thier own varied skill sets to the table..Badet a slippery slot wr and Montgomery a taller, physical target that can go across the middle or be a deep threat that uses his height, long arms, and body to get separation from Db's.
I think our Ol will be just fine. Miller is a future NFL tackle, Mitchell returns, Swindle and TE Nared have picked up thier game..giving UK two monsters at 6'8 330ish. Zach Meyers will be fine at Center..kid came in benching 510 as a true frosh..his dad was a good guard for us in the 80's..so Zach is well coached in the nuances of OL play. Thats not even factoring in Zach West will be back..along with Shaq Love,Jordan Watson,Jon Toth, and massive 6'11 350 Jake Gruenschlager.
All in all..there are reasons for hope..even with the nations toughest schedule..I think Stoops Cats will make a good showing of themselves..6 wins isnt out of the question..and a bowl game in year 1 with that schedule will sit just fine with me.
I am optimistic about everything but the WR's. Our WR's have not been consistent catching the ball, only half-heartedly block on running plays and have not helped other receivers get more yards after the occasional caught ball. Honestly, I'm not even sure most them are even SEC caliber players. And with Kentucky now going to an up-tempo offense that relies heavily on the WR's catching the ball and gaining yards after the catch, I am hoping they'll start coming through for us. But based on past performances from the last 3 or so years I am not holding my breath.
I just don't think many of the returning WR'S will step up now, not even with a new offense that will put the spotlight on them. If they wouldn't perform before, then I have to believe that their behavior won't change now either. I hope they prove me wrong. We'll have to wait and see.
That's not really a very fair comment, because most of the WR's who repeatedly had problems catching the ball are no longer at UK or are buried on the depth chart. Robinson, Collins, Legree and Sweat have not shown an inability to catch on a repeated basis. They have dropped some balls, but every receiver does.
I think you have to go back and look at the productivity of the first few games to get a glimpse of what this offense is capable of.
I think Sun's point is valid. The bigger problem is that our currnet WRs couldn't beat the guys out that were dropping balls consistently last year. Fast forward to today, Stoops and Brown are talking about the WRs drops and inconsistency again. Now the coaches are scowering the leftover JUCO ranks for a WR that can help. My guess is that at 3 of the 4 and probably all 4 of the freshman WRs play this year. The WRs on campus are probably 14 out of 14 in the SEC. Robinson apparently has had the best spring and he should be a number 4-5 WR. Again, Timmons and Blue will help from day 1. Hopefully Badet and/or Montgomery will be ready to roll too.
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this, mj. Our WR'S have been bad since Randall Cobb left for Green Bay. None of these guys have put forth any real consistent effort at much of anything on the gridiron since Cobb left. This is our weak link on offense, and has been for several years now.
Maybe with the new staff they'll improve. And maybe they won't, it's a tough call right now. But based on recent past performances I am not very hopeful. This is the weak link of our offense. With everything else on offense I am optimistic, but the WR'S have me concerned a lot. Then too, maybe some of the incoming freshmen will be able to step up and help, but that's an unknown quantity at this point.
I will say, the "Air Raid" offense has a way of making wide receivers look a lot better than their abilities are on Saturdays in the fall.
I think we will be pleasantly surprised by our wide receiver production this season.
I hope you're right.
Robinson was a starter most of last year and did pretty well, especially considering how poor our pass offense was after the first 1/4 fo the season when we had no QB play. Collins was injured prior to last year, but looked REALLY good last year and rarely, if ever, dropped a ball. He is a fantastic WR. Sweat was a true freshman and should have played a LOT more than he did last year, but Joker and Sanders were loyal to the horrendous SR WR's we had, for whatever reason, and he was in and out of the doghouse all season. He showed a LOT of potential when they put him in the games. Legree was also a true freshmen and should have been redshirted, but when they finally made pulling his redshirt somewhat worth it by actually playing him as a WR late in the season, he made several tremendous catches in traffic and while taking a big hit. He has also received a lot of praise for the same thing this spring. THOSE are the primary returning WR's, and they are all 4 very good. Bookie and Cunningham simply need to get their act together, although Cunningham has received some praise this spring.
The guys coming in are expected to be good and to help out immediately, but let's not act like Collins, Sweat, Robinson and Legree are a joke. They are good WR's, and will only get better with good coaching and a system that doesn't require the playmakers to think and read too much, but will instead simply get them the ball in space quickly so they can do what they do best.
Well, like I said, we'll see. And I hope they do pick up the pace and play well. I want them to. And I am not against these guys, I am for them, but when we're hearing the same stuff from Coach Stoops that we heard from the previous staff it just makes me wonder if any of these guys are really SEC caliber players.
I really, truly am for these guys and I want to see them succeed. But after what I've seen previously and with what we've been hearing from the new staff, I am not encouraged.
The problem with our WRs right now is just having enough bodies. We would be looking in the JUCO ranks regardless, given the gap in classes due to poor planning from the last staff. TT generally held about 15 scholarship receivers, we have A whopping 6 (9 if you include commits). So, yea, IMO your comment wasn't fair because of the reason I stated above plus what MJ said earlier. Not to say we don't need more talent in the WR core, because we do. We have some raw guys (Cunningham, Legree, and Sweat weren't stellar route runners from what I remember), but it isn't fair to put last years woes on this group, they barely saw the field and when they did they generally did a good job catching the football.
On another note, I think this lack of depth will really help our guys come fall and through the season. They are going to be conditioned MFers come the start of the season.
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