Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops updates injuries, talks ‘iron man’ Toth and addresses issues created by Missouri offense


“Looking forward to another big challenge here this week with Missouri, a team that’s playing exceptionally well on offense and puts a lot of stress on you with their tempo and with the way they attack you offensively. You know they’re always going to play tough defensively, and I have a lot of respect for Coach Odom and what he does and how he coaches. Looking forward to that challenge. We’ve had a good week of practice so far. I was proud of or team this past week and finding a way to win and showing some toughness and some resiliency against Mississippi State, but there’s a lot of things that we can do better and that need to get corrected here before we travel to Missouri.”

On where team is mentally and the confidence he has it will finish the season they way he wants:I think it’s always week to week, but mentally, that’s always the challenge. Win or lose, getting right back to work on Monday and having a strong mindset throughout the week. We constantly talk to our players about paying the price during the week. Everybody wants to win on Saturday, but much of the game is won throughout the week in our preparation. So, we’ve challenged them on Monday and Tuesday. I think we need to get our energy level back up. Everybody at this point in the season is banged up and bruised, but we need to have great energy throughout the rest of the week in our preparation. We better be waking up ready to play an early start, an early kickoff on Saturday.”

On how Stephen Johnson has grown as starting QB: “I think he’s getting better each and every week and more comfortable. Any quarterback is going to go through some ups and downs, and I think with him and the experience that he has and that he’s gaining throughout this season it’s only helping him.”

On if Jojo Kemp and Landon Young will one or both play Saturday: “Yes.”

On Jon Toth not getting a lot of national recognition and if that’s taken for granted: “Yeah I’m not sure nationally. You know, that’s up to y’all. Jon’s not really worried about people talking about him as well. I think Jon is a guy that’s extremely consistent. Our offensive line has done some very good things this year. We’ve run the ball very effectively on a lot of people. He’s the guy that’s in there. He’s the iron man. He’s in there playing about every snap we’ve played this season. And we’re rotating guards, we’re rotating tackles, but Jon is the one constant. So, any success we’ve had has a lot to do with what Jon’s doing.”

On what he’s seen from Missouri RB Demarea Crockett: “Yeah I just see, very good player. A guy that, uh, very explosive. Reminds me of Boom and some of our guys, but he’s big. I think he’s around 220 pounds. I see a very good player, very explosive with great vision. He’s got a great future, he’s having a great year and he’s going to be around for a while.”

On what kind of challenge it represents leadership wise to have the fewest seniors in the country: Yeah I think it does present a real challenge. We only had eight seniors at the end of this year. I put three senior walk-ons on scholarship, so basically we had eight guys at the (beginning) of the year on scholarship. And that does present a bit of a challenge. You’re starting to see our team grow up a bit. Those guys, we wouldn’t have been able to win some close games and some tough games without their leadership. I think it’s also saying something about our other guys. We have a real good junior class and sophomore class with a bunch of guys who are playing in those groups who are starting to grow up a little bit. I certainly appreciate the seniors we have. Even though they’re small in numbers.”

On what he sees from a Josh Heupel offense and if it’s different than a normal SEC offense: “It is. It is. It’s definitely different. It’s very, very similar to the Big 12. They definitely -- and each of those offenses within the Big 12, and even Josh -- all of it’s tweaked to their own, to their team. Josh has done an excellent job. He is a good friend and I have a lot of respect for Josh and he’s been a good football coach for a long time. They put a lot of stress on you and they go extremely fast. They’ve got some very dynamic players. It’s going to be a real challenge.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader