Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on bouncing back, early road starts and Barker injury update

MARK STOOPS

“We’ve had a really good week of practice and excited about our opportunity. You know, we’ll have our hands full. It’ll be a real challenge going up to Tennessee. They seem to be playing very fast after the bye week. So, our team’s had good preparation. We’re excited. We’ll put the finishing touches on it tomorrow and then head to Knoxville.”

On bouncing back from early adversity and how much confidence that gives them this week: “Yeah, I definitely think it helps. Our players know, even in the loss, we did some very good things. We’re just trying to get any mistakes we’ve had cleaned up and play better football. But, our guys, like I’ve said, they’ve showed no signs of slowing down. We had a good week of practice and hopefully we’ll continue to play well.”

On if the win at Missouri prepared the team for how to be successful in an early road start: “I do. I definitely think that helped and we know what it feels like. We’ve emphasized all week trying to get to bed earlier and getting our sleep. You’re not going to make it up in one night so hopefully they’ll get some rest tonight and they’ll be ready to go.”

On what he's seen from J.D. Harmon as he's gotten more playing time:He's gotten a lot of playing time throughout his time here. He's versatile. He can play several positions for us. We are thin in the back end and he can play either safety, corner, nickel or dime, so he's played quite a few positions for us even if it's just in practice, backing up roles at different spots so we can execute our nickel and our dime packages, so he's been very helpful that way.”

On how big a factor turnovers will play vs. Tennessee: It's definitely gonna play a factor. It always does, and hopefully we'll protect the football a little bit better. And we did – I was pleased this past game with the emphasis on trying to get some turnovers, but as you know, sometimes the ball's on the ground, you get it or you don't. We were fortunate to get a few breaks this past week. Unfortunately we lost some as well.”

On if it's difficult to put true freshman cornerback Jordan Griffin in game when they are so close:It is. It was hard. We do trust Jordan, and I want to play him and we need to play him. So it is. Every possession as you know has been very close, but we do trust him and he's been practicing very well so we gotta get him some reps.”

Injury updates: “I would also like to notify you that Drew Barker is scheduled for season-ending surgery. We’ve exhausted all treatment that doesn’t involve surgery and it has not improved to the level our doctors are comfortable with. So we are scheduled for surgery the week of Thanksgiving. So, he will be done for the year.”

On if Barker will be on schedule for next year: “Yes. Yeah, if everything goes right he should be back for spring, the latter part of spring in some capacity. I don’t know how much, but Jim said he thought he could be back and throwing the ball around in 7-on-7, things like that.”

On if he thinks Barker could get this year of eligibility back: “I’m not sure about this one. I don’t know, because that would be a sixth. He’s already redshirted. I don’t know if that’s the normal protocol or not, to be honest with you. I believe you have to be injured twice. So, I’m not sure.”

On any specifics on Barker’s back injury: “No. I really don’t. It’s a back injury and I’m no doctor.”

On how UK is health wise: “We’re in decent shape. There’s some guys banged up, had some guys miss some practice. Hopefully they’ll be at full strength on Saturday. I think everybody’s banged up pretty good at this time of the year. We’re in relatively good health.”

On Kash Daniel’s play on special teams last week: “He’s a guy who plays extremely hard. He cares. He’s passionate and he’s getting better at linebacker as well. He’s another guy I mentioned that we need to get him a few series and get him some snaps.”

On UT backs being banged up and emergence of John Kelly: “Yeah. They’re all talented backs. They’re all very good players and can certainly make big plays and make you miss. They don’t seem to miss too much.”

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