Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: ‘Part of this turnaround has been going on for a long time,’ Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS

“I was very pleased with our team's preparation and attitude last week, went on the road and played a tough game and I was pleased with the way we went about our business. It's gonna take much the same this week. We need to challenge our team and stay aggressive in our approach and preparation as we look forward to the Georgia game. We know it'll be a great challenge for us. We know they're a very well coached team and a lot of talented players across the board. We certainly will have our hands full and we're excited about the opportunity to be at home and play in front of a great crowd and have a great atmosphere here this Saturday.”

On how UK's wide receivers have been blocking the last few games: ”I think something we talk about all the time is being selfless, and that's not always the easiest trait to get accomplished within a football team because you have some very competitive guys and guys that want to make plays for their team. And we have some very talented wide receivers and they've been called upon to do quite a bit of blocking. We've made our fair share of big catches and big plays in the past games, but it takes that selfless attitude and that team first mentality to go downfield and be aggressive in our blocking and finishing off blocks. We've been very good and very selfless with that and with our approach to blocking and springing big plays, and you wouldn't get as many big runs if those guys weren't down there doing that. There's also room for improvement there. We show guys on film all the time that there's never an opportunity to take one play off and there's certainly a few things we'll get corrected. But I’ve been very pleased and proud of the way those guys have been aggressive downhill blocking and springing some big runs.”

On if that blocking is a credit to Lamar Thomas or a specific receiver or two for setting the tone: “I think it’s always a group effort, it’s a team effort in the approach and the attitude of our teaching. I think Lamar has done a good job of getting a lot of guys, and I think Coach Gran has and Coach Hinshaw and, again, just the whole team trying to be very selfless and play for each other.”

On if he was hesitant at all to give advice to Barry Odom: “I have no hesitancy to help and I’m not sure I can other than just sit there and talk with Barry. He and I — I saw him early before our game prep started on Saturday. We were at the stadium there very early and saw him out there on the field and went and sat and visited with him for a little bit because I can feel his pain as far as going through tough times. We’ve all been there as a coach and we’ve been there before and are probably going to be there again some time in the future. But I think Barry is a very good coach and he’s a very passionate guy and he certainly knows what he’s doing defensively and I wish him nothing but the best. But definitely have a lot of respect for him. I’m not sure I can help him in any way other than to just bounce ideas off of and talk when we can. But I have no hesitancy in that at all.”

On potential of being first Kentucky team to finish over .500 in SEC play since 1977 despite the rough start: “Yeah I think it says a lot about our team and the character our players have but I think it goes back a long way. I don’t think any one thing changed in the past five or six weeks. I think part of this turnaround has been going on for a long time. Our players have worked extremely hard, our coaches have for many years to keep on building and doing the right things and developing our players to put them in position to win. It is very gratifying to see us play better football. And it’s always week to week. We’ll have another opportunity this week but I have been proud of the growth we’ve made. We’re going to challenge them to continue to push forward.”

On Stephen’s relationship growing with Jeff Badet and how Badet has stepped up in recent weeks: “Yeah. I think Jeff has really stepped up big, and we needed him to. He’s a guy that’s really been around here for a while. He’s gone through some years and is really finally getting an opportunity to make some big plays when his number’s called. And we talk about that often. I think part of his relationship with Stephen is really in large part our team. I think we are getting much closer, we’re a more unified group and playing for each other and being very selfless. We need Jeff to continue to step up and make big plays and play to the standard we expect.”

On why UK is running ball so much better than last year: “I think it’s always a combination of things. We have a good nucleus of offensive linemen who are back. I had mentioned that earlier this summer that some of the guys inside in particular felt like we had some good depth inside. We’re starting to develop that depth at tackle as well. And so I think it starts with the core group of guys who have been around for a while and increased their capacity to handle more, whether it be assignments, technique, just game experience and physically are getting better. Then you sprinkle in some younger guys, some talented guys, and we have a nice nucleus. We have nine players that are playing quite a bit on the offensive line. That bodes well for the future for us. And again, it’s a nice combination of things and it starts with the one senior we have in Jon Toth. He’s an extremely good player, very smart and he’s a great leader. You have to give a little credit to him. And also the running backs are running hard, the scheme has been good. So it’s a combination of all of the above.”

On what he sees that UK can try to exploit in freshman quarterback Jacob Eason: “Well, I don’t know if there’s any one area that you can try to exploit. I think he’s like all quarterbacks, every rep they see, every snap they take in a league like this, they’re getting better and better. And he’s a very talented guy.”

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