Just hours after the regular season ends, Mark Stoops is usually on the road meeting with potential future Kentucky players.
The timing is especially important this season with an early signing period looming in December.
But there was too much that needed to be addressed at home, so Stoops spent Monday meeting with the team and individuals to discuss on-the-field events from Saturday’s loss to Louisville.
“There’s some things that need to be addressed,” Stoops said on his weekly coach’s call-in show with Tom Leach. “There’s no excuse for the way some of that game played out. I was not very proud of it.”
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One of the players he met with individually was linebacker Jordan Jones, who was involved in a brawl with Louisville players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, and then several what Stoops called “undisciplined penalties” later in the game.
“There’s no excuse for what he did and the way he acted and he’s embarrassed by it and doesn’t like it,” Stoops said of the incident.
But it doesn’t sound like Jones is going to miss time in the Cats’ upcoming bowl game. UK finds out where it will play on Sunday.
“There’s disciplinary actions but there won’t be anything as far as (missing) game time,” Stoops said, before clarifying.
“But we’ll see. There’s things Jordan needs to do to get back in good standing with me,” he continued. “We’ve had a good, long meeting today and got some things ironed out. He knows exactly how I feel.”
Leach asked why Stoops didn’t leave Jones out the remainder of the game if he was so disappointed in the actions of the junior and Stoops said Jones’ backup, Eli Brown, was not at full strength and could’ve been hurt worse if he’d stayed in.
“There wasn’t really a lot of options at that point,” Stoops said, noting that pulling a redshirt off another player wasn’t an option in the final game. “Honestly I didn’t want to (play him) and Eli got hurt. At that point, you really feel like you’re letting other people down.”
It would have been penalizing “more people if I’d just left him on the bench,” Stoops continued.
As for Jones, he’s staying with on the team and needs to grow considerably from this event.
“The easy thing to do sometimes is just to kick kids to the curb, but that’s not what we’re in this business for,” Stoops said of Jones, a player from his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, who has had a few disciplinary issues in his time at UK, including a back-and-forth with Southern Miss fans on the road that included him spitting and cursing at them.
Also, Jones sat out the spring game for failing to show up at a team meeting.
“He has fallen short in some of those instances and he will be held accountable for that,” Stoops said of the Saturday events. “It would be easy for me to dismiss him and move on.
“The hard thing is for me to continue to develop and grind and have him be accountable and make him be the person and the player he can be. That’s what you struggle with as a coach.”
Kentucky’s coach met independently and had “a long conversation” with junior defensive end Denzil Ware about what appeared to be him throwing a trash can during the sideline skirmish against Louisville. Stoops opted not to discuss it further when Leach pressed.
▪ Will there be any staff or coaching changes this offseason? “I haven’t made any decisions at this point,” Stoops said, noting that it’s not something he was going to address right now.
▪ Tight end C.J. Conrad and Stoops will meet at some point to discuss the NFL evaluation process for the junior, who had season-ending surgery on his left foot last week. But Kentucky’s coach sounded optimistic that Conrad would return for his senior season.
▪ Kentucky’s staff anticipates using most of its available scholarships during the early signing period on Dec. 20, but it might save a couple to use in February for the secondary signing period.
▪ There could be schematic changes coming for Kentucky’s defense. Stoops didn’t rule out moving back toward a 4-3 defensive plan or other schemes. “You have to look at all options,” he said.
▪ There is no lingering issue between himself, his coaches and the team, Stoops said when Leach asked him again about the Nick Haynes’ pregame tweet bashing the coaches.
“No. Zero,” Stoops said. “I think it would be silly to think everything is peachy keen and perfect all the time and everybody’s happy. You have 110 kids and there’s a lot of egos in the room, but our team cares about each other and Nick cares about his team.”