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For the entirety of Mark Stoops’ 20-plus year coaching career, his focus has been on defense. From his time as a defensive backs coach at Nordonia High School in the early 1990s to his role as defensive coordinator at Florida State the past three years, Stoops has been focused on stopping the quarterback.
“I was happy when they threw it to the other team,” Stoops said, drawing laughter from reporters after the Cats’ second practice of the spring.
It was no surprise that the quarterback battle was the topic du jour Wednesday after the Cats’ concluded practice at Nutter Field House.
The Cats return three quarterbacks – Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow – who started games last season. Each of the three is getting equal reps during spring.
Here are some notes from the Cats’ second practice:
• Stoops said with so much going on during practice, the coaches will have to watch film on the quarterbacks to get a better idea of how they performed. But he said each of the three looked really good at times and really bumpy at times. But some of that has to do with the whole offense around them.
• Stoops said it’s hard for the quarterbacks right now because it’s day two of implementing the system. “The quarterback needs to look good cause the other 10 guys need to know what they’re doing as well,” he said. “Again, I think they’ll pick it up with no problem but it’s going to take time.
“I think those guys are good players,” Stoops said of the quarterbacks, “they just need some reps.”
• Stoops was asked if it was important to name a quarterback prior to fall camp.
“I'm not going to press that issue. If somebody emerges and they're the leader and they won the job, then we'll name them. Outside of that we're going to take our time and make sure we get it right.”
• Stoops said he was happy with the running backs so far. “Again, hard for me to tell until we watch film and identify each part, but we feel like we got some guys who can help us.
Stoops said the running backs have to be able to make people miss, be physical when needed and be able to protect. “And the last part of that,” he said, “is catching the ball.”
• Speaking of catching the ball, as reporters were waiting for Stoops, you could see the running backs doing some catching drills after practice. They were standing with their back to the ball just a few yards in front of the ball, and turning around to catch the ball just as it was arriving.
• Another common theme from Stoops was the need for depth. When asked about the linebackers, Stoops said they “need to build depth.”
Stoops did single out Avery Williamson. “Avery’s doing a nice job. Avery’s just a good football player.”
• When asked about the secondary, Stoops again said they “need to build depth.”
“I feel like there's some guys there that can play,” he said of the secondary. “We'll get them right and get them on the same page and get them executing, but we do need some depth.
• He added that depth was needed across the board, and mentioned wide receiver as a spot on offense that needed more guys.
• Stoops did point out that depth issues in the spring aren’t a surprise, and none of the teams he’s been around have been immune to that since teams don’t have all their players. When the 2013 signing class arrives in the fall, teams will be able to address some of their depth concerns. “I think it’s fairly common for us to say we want to be better.”
• The team was practicing indoors for the second time this week. Stoops said that was because of the weather and wanting to have better tracking. “We had a good work in here,” Stoops said of the Nutter Field House. “I like being in here.”
Stoops said overall Wednesday’s practice went well and he felt a little bit better today. He said guys were a little bit more comfortable, not as anxious and not pressing as much. He said overall it was a better practice and the offense was much more efficient.
• Stoops was asked about Monday’s practice after having time to watch the film. He said he thought Monday’s practice was good. He said they were good at times and sloppy at times.
“One person here or there can screw up a play,” Stoops said. “It's hard right now to get 11 guys executing perfectly and it's really hard to get 22 guys where we need it to be. Where the offense is playing good and the defense is playing good and it's just whoever makes a better play. Right now it's because one side or the other is not doing the right thing.”
“We’re trying to develop guys right now, get them to understand what we're doing, how we're coaching them and then see how they progress,” he said. “We have who we have right now so the only thing we got to do is get each and every guy better.
• Offensive coordinator Neal Brown and the quarterbacks were also available today. Look for a story on the quarterbacks later today.
I started salivating the second I saw the subject. Its footballll timeeee in the blueeeegrasssssss!!!!!
Agree 100% Cant wait till fall!!!
A few notes from offensive coordinator Neal Brown:
Brown said they should have everything with the new offense put in by Friday for the most part.
He said the biggest thing for the team is the players have to put in work outside of practice. "The No. 1 thing, they got to learn how to prepare. You're not just going to go out there and be an SEC winning team. You got to prepare and you got to do a lot of it on your own time because the NCAA limits us on what we can do. So if you want to be a great player and create great teams, you got to do a lot on your own and we're not there right now."
Brown said the Cats' are thin at wide receiver and said that it is a position of need. Expect to see the incoming freshmen have a chance to earn playing time. He did talk about how good he thought Demarco Robinson is.
He said the running backs need to get used to catching the ball.
Brown said the players are trying hard. "We got the pieces, I think, but the pieces we have need to get better."
He said the past three months have gone so fast he hasn't had time to think about what it's like to be back here as a coach.
Forgot to include this quote from Brown:
"As long as they keep preparing, as long as they keep giving great effort, we're going to have a chance."
I know they say there is no leader in the quarterback battle but to me...there is.
When a big recruit visited UK - who was his host? Maxwell Smith. That shows their confidence in him. At least to me that's what it says.
It is only fair to start with a clean slate though.
Max will be the starting QB he was by far the best qb last year he took to sanders system quicker than any QB has sine Randy took over. He reminds me of hartline with a little better arm.
Thanks for the info, Matt.
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