Stoops pleased with first UK football scrimmage

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 13, 2014 

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops was pleased with his team’s 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:

MARK STOOPS

“Very good scrimmage. I was really pleased with certain parts of our program that we’ve really improved. I think just putting it all together offensively, we need that. You’ve heard me talk about it, you’ve seen some of our open practices. We really need to just put the ball down and move it. Obviously there’s 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 I’ve been seeing at practice this week. It was nice for them to put it together. I thought they really did some good things. And that’s 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. We’ve 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. I’d like to see the defense respond a little better.”

On the quarterbacks: “It’s really hard to figure out. You guys have been here. I’ve opened up practice for you, and you saw two full practices — two or three, what has it been? But watch all the practices, it’s the same thing. I just don’t want to make a decision when I’m not ready, when we’re not ready. Each guy does some really good things at times. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get it figured out here in the next week. We will. We’ll get it figured out, and there’s some guys that are doing some really good things in certain situations. We’re starting to see what the strength and weakness is from each quarterback, and really what we’re gonna be. What’s our identity offensively? So that’ll kind of fit and play into that decision.”

On if they’re narrowing it down some: “We are. We’ve 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 let’s 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 doesn’t do as well. So like I said, we’ll get it figured out.”

On how rule changes might affect the tempo of the offense: “I don’t think it’ll 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. They’re not gonna go out of their way to rush and jump over people to get the ball set, but when they’re 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 there’s 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 we’re gonna go. One of the reasons why we’re trying to be very critical of ourselves in making this decision is because it’s so important, and when we give that person the reins, we want them to go. You’ve 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 didn’t play very good. So we want to make sure we’re 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 — you’ve 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 that’s open, we catch it and make a first down rather than be second and 10. That’s 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: “We’re trying to play him at the “Will” linebacker position, and he’s getting a ton of reps. We’re seeing if he can help us at that position. He’s getting some playing time. We’ll see where it goes.”

On if Blaylock is alternating with Khalid Henderson: “No, he’s getting second-team reps. Khalid is getting first-team reps.”

On Stoops seeming more upbeat and excited than we’ve seen him: “Yeah, I’m more upbeat today, I’d say. I’m always upbeat. (Laughter). What to you mean? (Laughs). No, I think we’re making progress. I think we’re making progress. Again, you know, we know we have a lot of work to do. It’s frustrating at times, you know, certain situations, injuries. When you’ve 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 there’s a lot of things we’ve 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, we’re getting a bunch of reps in there. Obviously with our offense going fast and if they’re putting long drives together, there’s a lot of guys that got to play. So we’re just trying to develop all those guys.”

On if he thinks at all about the future in picking a quarterback so they don’t have a competition every year: “I think you’ve got to look at putting ourselves in a position to win games right now, and whatever happens from there we’ll see. But you also heard me say earlier that I want to give the keys to somebody and let them go. So, we’ll see what happens.”

On Thaddeus Snodgrass and Blake Bone making plays in Tuesday’s 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. He’s a little young, he’s 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 haven’t 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 we’ve 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, that’s easier to zero in on what you’re looking at. That tempo creates problems, because you’ve got to have a great sense of urgency to get lined up and execute quickly and think faster. We’re much further along than we were all year last year, but that’s the good thing, that’s what I told the offense, that’s what they can do when they go put that kind of pressure on you. That’s 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 they’ve 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 we’ve looked. Part of that, I never like seeing plays where it’s just given to them. In other words, they’re not really beating anybody. It’s just somebody not getting lined up one way or the other. Our defense stopped them just because they dropped it, that’s not good to me. I’d rather see just good football and people making competitive plays. Again, I think we’re growing in that area. We’re not there yet, but we’re certainly getting better.”

On how important Mike Douglas is as a senior at defensive tackle: “Mike’s real important. He’s done a really nice job. He’s really playing hard and playing well and being a good leader. I like his energy, and he’s 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 don’t see any of those people come grab me at practice. Yeah, looks good.”

On if that’s 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 didn’t play as well today. For me part of that’s 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 it’s always the double-edged sword there. But, we’re better. I know you get tired of hearing me say that. That’s not — I don’t know if we’re playing at the level, championship level, by any stretch, but we’re 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.”

D.J. ELIOT

“It was a competitive scrimmage. Offense made some plays today, which is encouraging for our offense. We had some times that we could’ve made plays on defense and we didn’t. We had times when we did make some. It was a very competitive scrimmage.”

On secondary: “We’re improving. We are. A.J. Stamps, like I’ve mentioned before, is playing well for us. And we’ve 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, it’s not good if you win because they screw up. You didn’t 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 it’s 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. We’re seeing more in practice and I’m very excited about it. It’s something that we harp on in the offseason and we’ll continue to harp on it.”

On if it’s close to nine or more now? “Blake would know better than me. Blake would know better. I’d 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 he’s 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 they’re not. In the next week is when we’ll start making those decisions.”

On if it’s too early to tell how much better defense will be: “Yeah, that’s a tough question. It’s hard to judge right now because we’re not playing perfect. We’re giving up plays at times. We’re not executing at times. So it’s too tough to tell right now.”

On defensive tackle rotation: “That’s one of our positions where I think that we’re playing about the same. Everybody is playing good, you know what I mean? Everybody’s playing good at that position so I feel like we’ll 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 that’s our team. Definitely I think that’s been an influence, not just with him but all our players. When there’s more competition, you’re more motivated, you’re more into it. There’s somebody right at your heels, it’s just natural to play better.”

On how Bud Dupree and Za’Darius 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, you’re correct. Cory Johnson has for the last few days played extremely well. I’m 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.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service