UK notebook: Brown goes back to basics with QBs

Herald-Leader staff writerJuly 19, 2014 

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Neal Brown during UK's 2014 Blue White Game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, April 26, 2014. Photo by Matt Goins


Like most Kentucky fans, Neal Brown was not a big fan of how the Cats finished last season.

So UK's offensive coordinator picked up the phone and made many, many calls. He called the so-called quarterback gurus, some former quarterbacks, some Air Raid offensive minds, pretty much anyone he could think of to get ideas to fix his team's offensive woes.

"Any time you don't get the results you want, you have to look inward and see how we're teaching," Brown told the Herald-Leader last week.

One of Brown's first calls was to former Cats quarterback Tim Couch.

"Tim came in and spent a day because I thought he was good," Brown explained. "Unfortunately in his NFL career, he had a lot of different offensive coordinators and a lot of different quarterback coaches. So I was just interested in him.

"We didn't talk a whole lot of fundamentals. I was interested in him more about what he thought from a quarterback, from a player standpoint, what was effective. What did you like? What didn't you like? Because he had such a run of them."

And while they didn't discuss them much with Couch, one thing Brown kept going back to was fundamentals.

He went back to the basics with his position group and focused on fundamentals for a good portion of the offseason.

"We really need to emphasize them more," Brown decided. "So we went through January, February and into March really focusing on fundamentals."

He created a core fundamental list for potential Cats quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Drew Barker, Reese Phillips and Maxwell Smith (who was limited by shoulder surgery).

The seven things they focused on were: ball security, drops, keeping a solid base, movement in the pocket, getting toe and shoulder aligned to target, trigger and release and then ball handling.

"We have drills for these seven things of what we want our Kentucky quarterbacks to play with and those are non-negotiable," Brown explained.

"We had meetings and we showed them the drills we actually do and explained why we're doing the drill and then give them good examples and bad examples."

Some of the good examples were from quarterbacks the players have grown up watching and respecting.

"So if they don't believe me, they're going to look at Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or whoever we have up there," Brown said. "That's reinforced. Then we go out and do those drills, spend a couple 2-3 days on each fundamental and move down the list."

And while it sounds like some boring ho-hum work during the summer, Brown said the players tried to have fun with it. The coaches don't want to put too much pressure on a group of players who already are experiencing the stress of an upcoming quarterback competition.

"They understand the pressure's on and they've got to perform, but I don't think you want to put too much pressure on them," Brown said. "They need to have a good time with it."

Three meats, two sides

Kentucky's quarterbacks probably needed to get side jobs by the time they were finished taking their offensive linemen out for dinner this summer.

As a thank-you to their game-day protectors, UK's quarterbacks picked up the tab for their linemen at Red State BBQ on Georgetown Road earlier this summer.

"It was awesome," UK junior lineman Jordan Swindle said this week. And he wasn't just discussing the food.

"All the offensive linemen went and the quarterbacks were there. It was just a good time to be around each other."

The quarterbacks were thinking ahead, though, and set a spending limit for each player. Apparently linemen can EAT.

"It would've been a little ridiculous if they'd let us buy whatever we want," Swindle said. "The most we ate was this 'three meats and two sides' (dish) or something. I ate it all and I was kind of still hungry and a couple of other guys did, too. But it was really good."

Little brother?

As the oldest of four girls, I never got those older sibling comparisons and sort of rolled my eyes when my younger sisters complained about them.

But I started to get a glimpse of what it must be like to get those older sibling comparisons at Media Days this week when poor Mark Stoops took multiple questions about his older brother Bob Stoops, you know the one, the head coach at Oklahoma.

In the main media room, Stoops was asked if his older brother treated him any differently now that he's a coach in the SEC.

"No. No different," Mark Stoops said. "It's been great to bounce ideas off of Bob. He's been a very successful head coach for a long time there at Oklahoma. It's great to have that resource to bounce ideas off Bob."

A few questions later, it was back to Bob and what kind of confidence boost the big brother could offer after Mark's difficult first season at UK. The youngest Stoops brother tried his best:

"He doesn't need to give me advice in that area," Mark Stoops said. "We discuss, you know, areas in our program where we can improve. We certainly talk about scheme and things like that. But he knows I have what it takes. He knows I've got a plan in place. Just stay the course."

The one interesting brother note that came out was that the four Stoops brothers: Ron, Bob, Mike and Mark all vacationed at the beach together recently and some played golf. "So that got a little competitive," is all Mark Stoops would say.

An alley oop?

The question Kentucky coaches can't help but get at SEC Media Days is the whole "do UK fans have room in their heart for football" question.

Stoops smiled at the person asking the question and nodded, noting he gets asked that question a lot.

"Since I've arrived at Kentucky, people have been nothing but good to me and passionate about football," Stoops said. "We know they love their basketball, as they should. That program has been good for a long, long time. So we have deep tradition in basketball. We embrace that. Coach Cal has been nothing but good to me, very supportive in what we do recruiting, and always visible to our team and to our recruits. So we embrace that. It's been nothing but helpful.

"Our fan base is passionate about a lot of sports. I don't know how close you follow it, but the Big Blue Nation is very passionate about football."

Loaded calendar

SEC Media Days isn't Stoops' last media stop. He joins the other SEC coaches at ESPN's annual coaches' "car wash" where the coaches head to ESPN's Connecticut headquarters and are interviewed on more than 25 different shows on the network's TV, radio and Internet platforms.

Stoops will go on Monday with Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, LSU's Les Miles, Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Georgia's Mark Richt.

It's the start of a loaded week for Stoops that will include two trips to Louisville for the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon (Wednesday) with Bobby Petrino and the Greater Louisville UK Alumni Club Wildcat Kickoff Luncheon (Friday). Then there's the women's clinic on Saturday morning and then another charity function Saturday night.

By the numbers

There are always some interesting numbers to come from SEC Media Days and this year's version was no exception.

■ On the UK front, Stoops gave out a few numbers about the new football practice facility, specifically that it's now slated to be finished in 2016 (previous reports had it at 2015 with the stadium) and that it will be 100,000 square feet.

Plans for the new facility are expected at the end of July.

■ As for SEC Media Days, there was yet another record number of scribes and hacks there, this time 1,267 for the four-day event, topping the 2013 total of 1,239.

That number is especially interesting when you check out previous attendance figures and realize there were only 500 media at this event 10 years ago.

■ One SEC official reported that 7,500 cups of Dr. Pepper products, 37 gallons of coffee and 2,200 meals were served to the media over those days.

The coaches and players combined to drink 384 bottles of water.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog:

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