Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Eliot on Stoops’ extra involvement and how defense plans to simplify

D.J. ELIOT

“We had a good practice today. I think that our emphasis has been that we gotta execute and we’ve gotta play fundamentally sound, so we’ve spent more time on that. We’ve harped on it and we’ve addressed it with the players, and I think these last couple days of practice we’ve seen improvements in that. We’ve got to take that into Saturday.”

On Mark Stoops saying he’s more involved in defense and what that looks like in practice:Well, as a head coach he’s got a lot of duties, but he’s always been involved in the defense. Now we’re together on a lot of things. He’s helping us and he’s doing everything he can as another coach on the defensive staff, which is really good. Anytime you can get a coach like coach Stoops to coach with your players and be involved in the game plan, it’s a good thing.”

On who he sees on defense as a difference maker:Starting to be a difference maker… I think that we’re not there yet. We don’t have one yet. We still are trying to find who that’s going to be.”

On what simplifying on defense means: “The biggest issue that we’ve had is we haven’t been able to execute what we call. We haven’t been able to execute and run the defense effectively and make the right checks, make the right adjustments, get in the right spots. That’s been one of our problems, I think more than we anticipated. We lost our core of our linebackers and our defensive line last year, so they could handle a lot. Those guys last year could handle a lot of calls, they could adjust, they could get lined up, they could communicate, they could be in the right spots. And what we’re finding with this group is they can’t, so we’re trying to limit some of those communications, some of those checks, maybe some of those calls to get these guys where they can line up and play fast.”

On if Kengera Daniel is a guy they’re trying to work in more: “Yes. We’ll be working him in, um, in the next couple of games for sure.”

On if the defense will run fewer plays until they get the ones they’re comfortable with: Well on defense you don’t run plays. (On if they’ll be fewer calls) Fewer calls, yes. Fewer calls and fewer changes.”

On how much the defense needs to get its confidence back: “You know we really have practiced pretty confidently. The kids have not shied away from their belief in who they are and what they can do. They’ve really come together and have made a decision as a unit that they were gonna get better and that they were going to focus on fundamentals, assignments and communication in practice. And so I haven’t seen a falloff in confidence. I’ve been really pleased in the way they’ve responded.”

On what he’s seen from Jordan Bonner, him moving up the depth chart and trying to work him in more: “We have, and what we’re seeing is a big, fast, athletic guy. So he has some pass rush ability. He’s a guy that plays well in space. We’re trying to get him in the rotation. He didn’t get here until August so we’re trying to get him caught up on the assignments and techniques.”

On what the key is for the secondary to improve: “I think they just have to go back to the basics. They have to go back to alignment, assignment, effort every snap, making sure they’re taking care of the little things. You know, getting good at fundamentals and executing and playing one play at a time.”

On a particular thing they can do better against the run: “Overall we have to execute. When we call a blitz we have to execute the assignment. We call a run blitz and the guy doesn’t go in the right spot and it ends up being a big run play. So we have to be able to do that. Then from a run-fit standpoint the linebackers have to get lined up and they have to get in their right spots and they have to execute it. Then from a defensive line standpoint they have to play with excellent technique. So, the main thing is execution, but those other two things need to improve as well.”

On if players are getting tired in the second half with too many snaps: “We do have guys that are playing a lot of snaps but in this last game we had more of a rotation. 0ur defensive line rotated quite a bit more, and throughout the season we’re going to continue to build on that rotation. But you have to have faith in the guy that you put out there that he’s going to do the right thing. And the more practice reps that they get at doing that then the more faith that you’ll have in putting them in the game and doing the right thing.”

On if young players have a tendency to try to do too much when things go bad: “They do. Yeah, they do. We have that problem at times. I think more in the Southern Miss game than in the Florida game, but we definitely have that problem where they abandoned their responsibility and they learned the hard way that that’s not the way to go”

On if they’ve changed the scheme at all this week: “Every week we tweak. Our scheme changes every week. Everybody does. Nobody runs the same thing every week. We change a little bit every week and try to develop the best game plan we can for our opponent to attack them.”

On what he needs to see Saturday to feel better, scoreboard aside: “I want to see guys be in the right spots and I want to see guys execute the call and if they get beat, they get beat. I can live with that. The frustrating thing is they’re getting yards because somebody didn’t cover the right guy or they’re getting yards because somebody wasn’t in the right run gap or they’re getting yards because somebody didn’t execute the blitz the right way. Those are the frustrating things. I would like to see our players be in position to make the play and, you know what, if somebody’s better than them and they don’t make the play, then we can build on that. That’s what I want to see from our guys.”

On problems New Mexico State presents: “They run a very good offense. I think that they make a lot of hay on spreading it out and not only throwing it around, but then their run game is more effective because of how much they do spread it out and get you in space. They, Larry Rose is a very good tailback. I think he’s got size and speed and was very effective last year especially it was impressive how well he ran the ball in the Florida game. So they’re a team you can’t, you’ve got to understand that they can attack you in a lot of different ways and you’ve got to be able to defend that.”

On if they’re planning like Rose will play: “We are preparing, yes. We are preparing that he may play.”

On changes in day to day preparation since first two weeks: “A little bit here and there. We may decide let’s practice more third down on Tuesday. So we may take a period of practice and instead of working on first and second down plays, we may work on more third down plays. Or you know what? We may need to get some more short yardage in, so we may adjust our practice schedule to defend some more short yardage plays. We have adjusted things here and there, but nothing major.”

On uniformed people at practice: “The police officers? Coach Stoops has been honoring service men in the community on a daily basis and today he had the police force out.”

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