Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops was pleased with his teams scrimmage Wednesday morning at Commonwealth Stadium. The coach was mainly pleased with the offense, which he said moved the ball well.
Here are comments from Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot after the scrimmage:
Very good scrimmage. I was really pleased with certain parts of our program that weve really improved. I think just putting it all together offensively, we need that. Youve heard me talk about it, youve seen some of our open practices. We really need to just put the ball down and move it. Obviously theres a fine line there with all the tackling that goes on, but this was a full, live scrimmage over there (at Commonwealth Stadium) today. I think we stayed relatively healthy and we got a lot of good work in, and we really needed to do that. Like I said, just put drives together, figure out the quarterback situation and other positions, just see who can play for us and all those things. I thought the offense really played better than I expected by what Ive been seeing at practice this week. It was nice for them to put it together. I thought they really did some good things. And thats why we need to do that just put it down and go so they can put all their play-actions together and their runs and their passes and all those good things. So it was good to see. I was a little frustrated defensively, just because when we do go with that tempo, it does suck the life out of defenses sometimes, and we saw parts of that today. Weve not arrived or anything like that, but it was better. At times, when they put good play on top of good play, it gets hard to defend. And that was good to see. Id like to see the defense respond a little better.
On the quarterbacks: Its really hard to figure out. You guys have been here. Ive opened up practice for you, and you saw two full practices two or three, what has it been? But watch all the practices, its the same thing. I just dont want to make a decision when Im not ready, when were not ready. Each guy does some really good things at times. Well figure it out. Well get it figured out here in the next week. We will. Well get it figured out, and theres some guys that are doing some really good things in certain situations. Were starting to see what the strength and weakness is from each quarterback, and really what were gonna be. Whats our identity offensively? So thatll kind of fit and play into that decision.
On if theyre narrowing it down some: We are. Weve really tried to keep it open to this point with being equal with reps, with the exception of Max because of his shoulder. But the other three are getting equal reps still at this point in time and got equal reps with the ones for the most part, depending on the drive. But lets put it this way: Every time you think you might be close to making a decision, maybe somebody has a real good practice or that guy doesnt do as well. So like I said, well get it figured out.
On how rule changes might affect the tempo of the offense: I dont think itll affect the tempo of it very much. It was good. We had SEC officials out there today, and they let you go as fast as they can set it. Theyre not gonna go out of their way to rush and jump over people to get the ball set, but when theyre ready, they go. Obviously when the offense substitutes I noticed them today, they did a nice job of holding it until the defense gets their subs in, and then they let us go. If theres no substitutions it could go pretty fast.
On having young QBs and how much upside factors in to their decision: It factors in. It factors in. Obviously, talent factors in and like you said, the upside in where were gonna go. One of the reasons why were trying to be very critical of ourselves in making this decision is because its so important, and when we give that person the reins, we want them to go. Youve heard me say that for a year now. Every time a year ago when we thought we were giving somebody the reins to the quarterback situation, something happened. Maybe they got hurt or maybe they didnt play very good. So we want to make sure were very precise in our decision-making, and once we give them the keys to the car, we want them to drive it.
On if anybody in particular gave the defense trouble today: I just thought honestly, not any one person stood out very much today that way. I thought they did a nice job of youve heard me it time and time again making the routine plays. So when we have our play passes or the situations where we have a slant thats open, we catch it and make a first down rather than be second and 10. Thats a huge difference. And so that I noticed, just our operation, we were more efficient today. More so than any one person, I really thought a lot of the guys played better offensively.
On Daron Blaylock: Were trying to play him at the Will linebacker position, and hes getting a ton of reps. Were seeing if he can help us at that position. Hes getting some playing time. Well see where it goes.
On if Blaylock is alternating with Khalid Henderson: No, hes getting second-team reps. Khalid is getting first-team reps.
On Stoops seeming more upbeat and excited than weve seen him: Yeah, Im more upbeat today, Id say. Im always upbeat. (Laughter). What to you mean? (Laughs). No, I think were making progress. I think were making progress. Again, you know, we know we have a lot of work to do. Its frustrating at times, you know, certain situations, injuries. When youve got to play some young guys it gets frustrating at times, but it was a good day. I think we got a lot of good situations in today. We got some good short-yardage in. We got some good red zone. Just the tempo of the offense with SEC officials and game-like conditions, it was good. Good to get out there and operate a little. But theres a lot of things weve got to go get cleaned up right now before the next practice, but I thought overall we made some progress.
On if the rotation at defensive tackle is starting to clear up: Yeah, we got a bunch of guys. Yeah, were getting a bunch of reps in there. Obviously with our offense going fast and if theyre putting long drives together, theres a lot of guys that got to play. So were just trying to develop all those guys.
On if he thinks at all about the future in picking a quarterback so they dont have a competition every year: I think youve got to look at putting ourselves in a position to win games right now, and whatever happens from there well see. But you also heard me say earlier that I want to give the keys to somebody and let them go. So, well see what happens.
On Thaddeus Snodgrass and Blake Bone making plays in Tuesdays open practice and how the young receivers fared in the scrimmage: Thaddeus showed up again today. I thought he had a couple nice plays. Blake (Bone) is going to be a really good player. Hes a little young, hes a little you know, needs to develop a little more physically but he has that ability to go up and make catches over people, which we havent had for awhile. The bigger receivers you guys were at practice, even a couple you commented to me to see bigger receivers out there it was nice. Now weve got to get them to grow up fast.
On if it helps defensively from a teaching standpoint when offense is making plays: It does from an urgency standpoint. Sometimes when you break things down and we can line up a pressure or line up a defense and have all the time, thats easier to zero in on what youre looking at. That tempo creates problems, because youve got to have a great sense of urgency to get lined up and execute quickly and think faster. Were much further along than we were all year last year, but thats the good thing, thats what I told the offense, thats what they can do when they go put that kind of pressure on you. Thats what helps them put some pressure on defenses. You all watch college football and you see some great defenses struggle with tempo because it neutralizes you a little bit because of what you can call and what you can execute.
On if this is the best theyve done in a scrimmage: Yeah, I think so. I remember a scrimmage or two last year when they showed signs as well, but I think this was probably the best weve looked. Part of that, I never like seeing plays where its just given to them. In other words, theyre not really beating anybody. Its just somebody not getting lined up one way or the other. Our defense stopped them just because they dropped it, thats not good to me. Id rather see just good football and people making competitive plays. Again, I think were growing in that area. Were not there yet, but were certainly getting better.
On how important Mike Douglas is as a senior at defensive tackle: Mikes real important. Hes done a really nice job. Hes really playing hard and playing well and being a good leader. I like his energy, and hes really doing well.
On if he knows he has the full complement of guys eligible this fall now that summer school has ended: Yeah, yeah, yeah. As far as I know. I dont see any of those people come grab me at practice. Yeah, looks good.
On if thats a coaches worse nightmare, when someone grabs him: Yeah, you get a little nervous when you see some of these suits come and grab me.
On progress of the secondary: We didnt play as well today. For me part of thats good because you see the offense going up and making some plays and receivers getting stronger and making competitive plays. It obviously frustrates me from a defensive point of view, so its always the double-edged sword there. But, were better. I know you get tired of hearing me say that. Thats not I dont know if were playing at the level, championship level, by any stretch, but were improving and guys are improving. I see them working hard. The good thing about a year ago is we did get some good experience from a lot of different guys.
It was a competitive scrimmage. Offense made some plays today, which is encouraging for our offense. We had some times that we couldve made plays on defense and we didnt. We had times when we did make some. It was a very competitive scrimmage.
On secondary: Were improving. We are. A.J. Stamps, like Ive mentioned before, is playing well for us. And weve got some guys who have been in some of the same spots now that are getting more and more experienced and getting better.
On if there are teachable moments from scrimmage: Yes. Yes. Definitely. In practice, its not good if you win because they screw up. You didnt do anything, right? So a good practice is one where they execute, you execute and then a player makes a play. Sometimes you get a pick or sometimes you get a tackle for a loss and its because they blocked the wrong guy or they ran the wrong route, so we try to harp with our defensive players that that is nothing to get excited about. You need to make a play when they execute and you execute and who makes the play.
On interceptions, nine so far of camp (according to Blake McClain). Are there more of those now? We are. Were seeing more in practice and Im very excited about it. Its something that we harp on in the offseason and well continue to harp on it.
On if its close to nine or more now? Blake would know better than me. Blake would know better. Id take his number.
On TraVaughn Paschal: In his development, TraVaughn is a really good athlete for his size and moves around well and is getting better every day at linebacker. Having transitioned last year from defensive end to linebacker was tough for him. We put him in the middle of the season, and then this camp hes starting to get a little bit better and starting to get a little more feel for it.
On determining rotations: Some guys are separating and some theyre not. In the next week is when well start making those decisions.
On if its too early to tell how much better defense will be: Yeah, thats a tough question. Its hard to judge right now because were not playing perfect. Were giving up plays at times. Were not executing at times. So its too tough to tell right now.
On defensive tackle rotation: Thats one of our positions where I think that were playing about the same. Everybody is playing good, you know what I mean? Everybodys playing good at that position so I feel like well have a lot of depth at that position because guys are understanding the defense and are playing technique at that position.
On whether young guys like Elam are challenging older players: Competition always is great for a team. And definitely, I think thats our team. Definitely I think thats been an influence, not just with him but all our players. When theres more competition, youre more motivated, youre more into it. Theres somebody right at your heels, its just natural to play better.
On how Bud Dupree and ZaDarius Smith looked in scrimmage: Really good. They are tough on the edges, they were tough to block. They played with enthusiasm. They lead through adversity, so I was very pleased with their play.
On Cory Johnson playing better: Yes, youre correct. Cory Johnson has for the last few days played extremely well. Im very pleased with his play, very pleased. about the ongoing quarterback competition and said the staff hopes to make a decision on a starter next week.