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Q&A: Stoops on bye week work, defensive injuries, looking ahead

UK using off week to get healthy

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked to media Tuesday as his team works during a bye week before playing Mississippi State on Oct. 22.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked to media Tuesday as his team works during a bye week before playing Mississippi State on Oct. 22.

MARK STOOPS

“We’ve got a lot to get done this week. We need to get our players healthy. We had the extra day off yesterday – was good. Today was a good start to getting a lot of things corrected that we did not play very well in the first half of the season. We fundamentally got out here and worked on a lot of areas of weakness and continued to work on the things we’re doing well and got a head start on Mississippi State just a bit. So, good start to the week. We’ll get back at it tomorrow, so I’m anxious to get a lot of work done this week.”

On how he approaches this game differently with no game: “It will be nice on the backend of the week for our players to heal up, because normally you’re going to go out there on Saturday and get very much bumped and bruised. So, they won’t have to worry about that on Saturday. They’ll have a complete day off. That alone mentally and physically hopefully will recharge us a little bit. But during this week, again, I think it’s a big emphasis on us getting a lot of areas, taking a look and see what we did good, what we did bad, how to get it corrected, whether they’re fundamentals, scheme. Any areas we need to improve, we’ve got to do that. The things we’re doing well we’ve got to continue to emphasize that and build off the things we’re doing good and get ahead on Mississippi State.”

On health at outside linebacker: “Yeah, we’re a little thin there right now. So, we’ll see. We’re starting to move some guys around a little bit. Kobie (Walker) will be out, it looks like for some time as well. Denzil (Ware) and Josh (Allen) have been banged up.”

On De’Niro Laster: “De’Niro is out right now as well.”

On who they’re moving to OLB to help: “We’re moving some of the other guys. Alvonte (Bell) is a guy. Kengera (Daniel), we’re looking at at the outside linebacker position.”

On if Stephen Johnson’s wrist was bothering him before the Vanderbilt game: “I really don’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to talk – it’s not an issue. He’s got a little banged up. Everybody is banged up and bruised. Nobody here is looking for that excuse, and certainly not Stephen. So, everybody’s got to play banged up.”

On what kind of grade he’d give himself for the first half: “Thank goodness I don’t have to grade myself. I leave that to you. (Laughs). That’s for darn sure. I’ve got a lot of people that have got a lot of opinions. I for darn sure don’t need to worry about that. I’ll let everybody else tell me that.”

On impact Ware and Allen have made: “Yeah, they really, really did some very good things. They played extremely hard. All the things we’ve talked about for the past couple weeks: Fundamentally we’re getting much better and in the proper spots on first and second down in the run game. And in the pass game they’ve just really got after the quarter and affected the quarterback. Even if it’s not always a sack or a pressure, they feel those guys coming, so they’ve been doing a nice job across the board.”

On offensive line: “Yeah, I think the depth is a big issue. We’re more physical. I think playing more guys helps with that, playing physical. They’re just playing better, getting more experience. Having Cole (Mosier) come and give Landon (Young) just a little bit of a brake and playing both of those guys helps as well. So, I think it’s a combination of us getting the experience, getting more depth and also being able to run the ball effectively.”

On where he thinks his team is through six games with winnable games still ahead: “Again, you hate to keep on going back there, I’ve said it. I’ve said we didn’t get off to the start that we wanted to, but we can only affect where we go from here. What are we going to do this week to get ourselves better to put ourselves in a position to win some games down the stretch? It starts with a week from Saturday.”

On if this is a perfectly timed bye week for them: “I think so. I think it comes at a good time. I think our guys really have pushed themselves the past couple weeks, and we are getting thin and banged up. So, it should help.”

On what he saw from Benny Snell as a recruit: “Well, everything that he’s doing. We thought he was a very impressive running back. He could run the ball. He had great vision, he had great strength. You could see he’s not very easy to bring down, but you’ve got to have great vision with that as well. Big guys don’t always have the balance that he has. He has very good balance, but also I think the things I’m talking about are his intangibles. Off the field, the accountability that he has, the work ethic that he has, that rubs off on a lot of guys.”

On if Boom Williams has bounced back the way he wanted: “Yeah. I do. I think he’ll be fine.”

On if they start preparing for Mississippi State this week: “We will start with them. We’ll focus a lot on us and fundamentally and scheme-wise things that we have not executed very well. We’ll do a lot, maybe a little bit more good against good. So we’ll go against our offense. We just wrapped up with a – we don’t normally do a two-minute drill on Tuesday, but we just wrapped up with a good two-minute drill right here as well. Wanted to get some things cleaned up, and that was good to do. So, it will be a combination.”

On what he likes the most about the secondary’s play since New Mexico State: “Just a lot of things. We’re in a lot better position, we’re competing for the football better, but I think it’s position on the football. When we’re playing our zone coverage, playing in the right way and getting in good position. And straining. In some man-to-man situations, they’ve won. We’ve got to continue to do that. Competition will get harder and harder as we go here, so we’ll be stressed but they’re playing better.”

On if they add things to the game plan during a bye week too: “Maybe a touch. I think you’re always looking to see what you can do and how we can build on things on both sides of ball and on special teams. So, it always gives us an opportunity to do that.”

On if they will look at guys down the depth chart or redshirt guys this week: “We do. Yeah, we do and we’re going to do more of that. We worked with several today, even with the ones and twos, even if they’re redshirting just to work some guys. Also we’ll do more of that tomorrow. We’ll cut it loose and maybe give them some scrimmage time or maybe some team reps.”

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