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Q&A: Mark Stoops loves what he’s seeing from Cats newcomers

MARK STOOPS

“I hope everyone enjoyed practice and an day and the whole deal. It was a really beautiful day. Couldn’t ask for a better day. Great practice this morning as far as the weather is concerned. Football team, like I said I hope you guys enjoy what you see. It’s our sixth practice in seven days. I thought we did some good things and guys had some good energy. Better in certain areas and need to keep on improving, but I like the mentality of this team. I love the work ethic. They’re trying to get better each and every day. That’s what we like about them. We’ll get back to work with some meetings this afternoon, but pretty good morning session.”

On quarterbacks and receivers looking sharp: “It was good to see some competitive plays today. Guys that were covered and they forced it in there and made good plays. I’d like to see us win some more defensively, some contested plays. But it is good to see them throwing and catching, yes.”

On if Lynn Bowden is cleared: “Yeah. Lynn is good to go. We got cleared yesterday, late afternoon. We were able to put him through an individual practice. Today it was his second with no shoulder pads. So he has to go uppers our next practice and then he’ll be good to go.”

On what kind of shape Bowden is in: “I don’t know. We’ll see. We haven’t been able to work with him so I’m not sure.”

On the team’s injuries:“We’re a little banged up. I have a few injuries if you all want to know specifically. But we’re not too bad. There’s six practices in seven days, that’s pushing it a little bit. With the way our summer school finals fell, had to push it a little bit. We're not in too bad of shape. There's some guys banged up. Nothing major. You saw (Derrick) Baity in a boot. He rolled his ankle yesterday. He finished practice yesterday and then it swelled a little bit, but it's a regular ankle, not high or nothing like that, so he should be fine. Eli (Brown) has a little hammy that he tweaked. There's some other guys that haven't practiced.”

On if team looks different after six practices vs. last year: “I believe so. Definitely. I feel better about it. I felt better about it going into it. Defensively we have a little bit more experience. We worked really hard in the offseason to minimize the mistakes that are out here. There's still some that are popping up that we need to get ironed out, that I'm not real happy about. But overall we're much further ahead with some experience defensively and of course the continuity and experience offensively, so I think our coaches and our players worked extremely hard all offseason, all summer, and definitely evident the first six practices.”

On if he has to exercise caution about what Bowden can do early: “He'll do what he can handle. We've got to bring him along. He's missed some days. He can't install everything. Nobody can handle that, so we've got to go to day one install and feed him a little bit, yes.”

On if Quinton Bohanna is a player that can help right away: "I’ve been very pleased. I’m pleased with what he can do athletically. He’s a big, strong guy. He’s tough. It’s very important to him. He has shown up. He definitely will be a guy that we’re gonna start forcing into the two-deep."

On the growth of Charles Walker:"Charles has been a really good player. He definitely has a big role with our team. He’s a great special teams player. He’s hard to cover. He makes competitive catches and he goes hard every day. You’ve gotta love Charles and the way he competes."

On if the play he’s seen from Josh Pashcal matches the eyeball test: "Yes. Absolutely. Very good football player. What’s great about Josh is, he has a lot of things going for him. He’s physically what you’re looking for, but he’s a great kid, very consciousness. He works hard. He’s a gym rat. He’s one of those guys a lot like Jordan Griffin. He’s in here. Football’s very important to him. He’s in here all the time, he’s taking care of his body, he’s lifting, he’s running, and he’s got instincts. He’s definitely gonna be a guy that plays as well."

On what position Paschal is playing:"He’s playing jack (linebacker) right now. But, we’ll move him around a little bit as much as he can handle."

On if they’re trying to manage Nick Haynes’ reps: "We are. We are managing it. We’re just monitoring how many reps he gets. Trying to get him some rest and check on his blood levels and all that. If he’s not really in good shape, then we’re not practicing him. He’s very smart. He’s been around awhile and has great experience. His health is most important to us. We’ll monitor that."

On if he’s ever been in a situation like this with an offensive lineman: "No. It’s very difficult. It’s very hard on him personally. His health and his long-term health is most important to us. We’ve got to stay on it to help him in any way we can."

On Drew Barker moving around well: “He absolutely does. He looks very confident and stronger, can make all the throws again. Last time we saw him in the spring he wasn’t quite 100 percent and he was tentative like you would expect. He had a major surgery that he dealt with a lot of plays. The last time I saw him he wasn’t the same as he is now. It’s really nice to see him out there strong, confident and just going through practice.”

On if older guys yelling at youngsters from sideline is part of leadership: “Yeah, it’s definitely a part of it: Encouraging one another. There’s competition across the board and it’s nice to see. I really like this team in that way. There’s very little selfishness going on. There’s guys they know they’re competing for their jobs and still trying to help them. It’s about the team. We had a great session last night with Jason Cummins last night about some of that. So, this team they’re taking it. They’re taking the medicine, they want to be better. It’s important to them.”

On if bowl practices helped with team being ahead: “Of course. I absolutely believe that’s got to play a part. We didn’t have as much time off and we had a lot of reps, and we had a chance to work with some of the guys that have redshirted or didn’t play much and bring them along. So it definitely helps.”

On Stephen Johnson and C.J. Conrad connecting on short routes: “Yeah, I have. I’ve seen a lot more efficient. Stephen looks sharper making the routine plays look routine, throwing and catching. The guys are open. C.J. has made some catches. He showed up today, but he hasn’t been perfect. The tight ends continue improve. We believe they have some talent. They’re big, strong guys. They’ve got to make tough, competitive plays a lot.”

On Boogie Watson: “He’s done a good job. Boogie is a guy that has played very well. We feel very confident with him playing SAM or Jack. Picks things up and he’s athletically what we’re looking for. He’s going to play a big role this year as well.”

On if Lynn Bowden can contribute as a returner even if he’s behind on playbook: “Absolutely. We’ll get out there and give him a shot in live looks and see what he can do.”

On if he notices guys turn it on for crowd: “Not really because this was a normal practice to us. It was just a normal day. I wanted everybody to get an opportunity just to see a practice, not necessarily a scrimmage or game or whatever. But we change certain segments of practice throughout camp, but that’s the pace, that’s the shell of what we do.”

On approach going into second week without two-a-days: “Well, as I just told the team, we’re out here a little earlier than normal, so when we’ve had six practices in the first seven, you’ve got to be a little careful with that because of all the reps and all the training they do. Football’s different, when you get out here and the little change of direction and stress and the hitting and the pads, it’s different, but now they’ll get a day off tomorrow. We’ll have meetings and walkthroughs and all that, but then we’ll get into our schedule and we’ll start really pushing them next week with some of that volume, that capacity I’ve talked about. So this week was still good, good work. The next two weeks will be amped up.”

On if he’s had time to form any impression of the punting: “Not really. We’ll look at it and see where we’re at.”

On Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps and his impressions of those young receivers: “They’ve been strong; they’ve been very good. They’re what we’re looking for. They’re guys who can run; they make competitive plays. The whole freshman class, I’ve been pleased with. Very conscientious. They work. Football’s important to them. They’re competitive, so I’ve been pleased.”

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