UK football notebook: Stoops expects players to be careful with social media

Herald-Leader Staff WriterJuly 27, 2013 

Mark Stoops doesn't even need all 140 characters to summate Twitter: "See? That Twitter. That Twitter might get you."

The Kentucky coach is learning quickly that things said in a private meeting might be public domain in 30 seconds or less. That's about how long it took for news to get out on social media that Stoops wants his players to wear dress clothes for their pre-game attire.

At the Governor's Cup Luncheon in Louisville last week, Stoops said he didn't even have time to discuss the new policy with his own boss before he was taking questions about it.

"I just started working on this and the next thing you know ... there's always leaks," he said.

When asked if he planned to put a Twitter muzzle on his players at some point in the near future, Stoops smiled.

"Not yet. Not yet. We'll see how things go with Twitter," he said. "They're good right now, as long as they keep things in perspective. It can be good, as we know, and it can be harmful at times, so you've just gotta be careful."

Stoops' predecessor, Joker Phillips, had two different Twitter blackouts last season, including cutting off the social media platform for players during the one month of fall training camp, noting: "We've got better things to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We don't have time."

Later in the season, two poorly timed and worded tweets from freshmen on the team caused Phillips to ban Twitter for the Cats both 24 hours before and then 24 hours after a game.

(That ban didn't seem to stick by midway through the season.)

Stoops wasn't the only coach discussing Twitter policies and policing this month.

A couple of coaches at Southeastern Conference Media Days chirped their Twitter takes.

When Louisiana State's Les Miles was asked if coaches are scared to ban Twitter because it might turn off potential recruits, he chuckled.

"It's kind of like saying, before they had cars, I'm not allowing any of my players to drive cars. Why? Well, I like the old buggy. It's safer," he said. "The horse is a problem, but as long as you keep the horse pointed in the right direction, you're OK.

"I guess what I'm saying to you is, we've got computers now that you can carry in your pocket. If you hit the right button, you can talk to people. For us to not admit that's America, that's what we're doing, now let's do it right. It's not easy. It really isn't. You make mistakes in a flash. Very difficult to correct.

"Again, we're trying to educate, not necessarily make it a yes or no."

He said it's fascinating to see how this generation of players "get behind the social media cloak" and speak in a different way.

"It's like, 'Where did you get that? How did you think this was even appropriate?'"

For his part, Stoops said the coat and tie before game leak wasn't enough to merit a ban.

After all, it's hard for a coach and a staff that have relied so heavily on Twitter to recruit to be negative about it.

Dressed for success

Whether it's gray uniforms leaked via Twitter or the need for a new gray business suit before games, Stoops clearly has some ideas for how he'd like his team to look.

As for the gray prototype uniforms that were leaked by UK recruiting target Matt Elam, who tweeted out a picture of Cats commitment Denzel Ware holding a gray UK jersey with blue sleeves and a helmet with a matte-gray finish, Stoops was mum.

"He said we are always looking at different options but have not made any decisions about uniform changes," spokesman Tony Neely quoted Stoops as saying about the gray threads.

Stoops was asked again multiple times last week and declined to elaborate on plans for new UK uniforms.

"We're working through some different ideas," he said.

As for the suits, Stoops did confirm that he wants to see his players look more business-like before games even though the logistics of it are still being worked out.

"It's important to me to have our players looking right when they get off the bus, represent our university and represent this state the right way," he said. "I want them to look good, look classy and get off the bus with a sport coat and tie and look good."

On target?

At SEC Media Days, the league's coordinator of officials called the new targeting rule "the most significant rule change in my tenure ever. It has an impact on our game and is very, very important."

The targeting foul itself hasn't really changed, Charles Shaw said. It's still when a player hits a defenseless player above the shoulders.

But the new rules expand the definition of a defenseless player and they call for immediate ejections for players flagged for targeting.

"Coaches have to teach head-up tackling, and players have to execute what they're taught," Shaw explained.

The fear among some coaches is that the new rule is too subjective, that there are those problematic gray areas.

Stoops, who has coached defense for 20-plus years, said the new targeting rules present problems.

"Obviously we want to take injury out of our game as much as we can, but that's a sensitive situation for us defensive guys because the last thing I want to start teaching is for guys to (tackle) very low," he said, noting that it can hurt wide receivers' knees or maybe cause neck injuries for the tackler himself.

"The bottom line is we're going to do our best and teach them to go a little lower, but still keep head up, wrap it up and just use their technique and be sensitive, certainly, to attacking the head."

D.J. Eliot said the constant rules changes make his job as a defensive coordinator more difficult.

"I'm just going to have to change how we tackle and live with it," he said. "It's part of the game."

There have been discussions nationwide about whether or not a monster hit by South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney on Michigan's Vincent Smith in last season's Outback Bowl would have been illegal under the updated rule.

Eliot said that is discouraging, especially from his perspective.

"There's going to be a lot of play on defense where there's nothing the defensive player can do," Eliot said. "You know, two guys run into each other and one is going backward and the one going backward is an offensive player, so now the defensive guy targeted. There's a lot we can't do, but we're going to adjust as best we can to try to handle the new rule."

Defensive line U?

It was hard to miss them at the women's clinic on Saturday morning.

New freshman defensive linemen Regie Meant (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) and Jason Hatcher (6-3, 250) were men among boys even though they both just graduated high school a few months ago.

They've drawn the eye of their new coordinator as well.

When asked Friday about what freshmen he thought could help UK's defense right away, Eliot specifically mentioned hearing good things about cornerback Jaleel Hytche and those two linemen: "Jason Hatcher's been doing some good things; I've heard good things on Regie Meant. A lot of those guys have had great summers.

"I'm hoping we can get some development out of those guys in training camp and they can help us in the fall."

It was quite a change from what former UK coach Phillips was talking about just two summers ago. He was specifically discussing UK's need to "grow" defensive linemen like Collins Ukwu who arrived on campus a scrawny 200 pounds and trained to put on 60-plus pounds of muscle by his senior season.

"We've been a place that has had to grow and project defensive linemen," Phillips said at the time.

He lamented that "all the great defensive linemen migrate to the same places" and that it wasn't usually Kentucky.

Made me wonder if UK has now become one of those places with 2014 commitments from linemen like Cory Johnson (6-3, 295-pound four star), Adrian Middleton (6-4, 275-pound three star), Tymere Dubose (6-6, 265-pound three star) and Denzel Ware (6-1, 241-pound three star).

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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