Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on gearing up for bowl, holding onto Gran, defensive line improvements

MARK STOOPS

“We’ve had some good work. We’ve got a long way to go, so I’m glad we don’t play for a bit. We have a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive side defending Tech’s offense. Got a lot to do, a lot of work to do, but the attitude has been good. Glad to get finals over with and get our full concentration on this game prep.”

On how practice has changed with recruiting dead period starting and classes finished: “Yeah, it changes to where we can concentrate 100 percent on what we’re doing, and that’s getting ready for Tech, both the players and the coaches. So that definitely is a lot better for us and our preparation and not being divided with all the recruiting.”

On general thoughts about recruiting success since Louisville win: “General comment, I feel like we’ve always had a good pulse on recruiting and things were going well for us. It definitely didn’t hurt. That’s for sure…I think we were doing good no matter what, but, again, it has to help.”

On how impressive it was for Gran and Hinshaw to change offense after Barker injury: “Yeah, I think they did a really good job. We’ve talked about it all year. I thought the coaches did an excellent job of putting our players in a position -- we talked about the right recipe for both sides of the ball to be successful. We kind of worked our way through that early on. Once Drew got hurt, we started evolving to the offense that we really liked at the end of the year. I think that we all like the way that we were playing and it helps us across the board. It helps us with our team as we move forward, being physical, being able to run the ball and being able to defend the run. It helps your football team. It’s been a good change.”

On conversations with Eddie Gran about a new contract: “I just said that he and I have talked an we’re both on the same page. We don’t have everything ironed out specifically at this point, but he and I were on a plane together, traveling a bunch so we’ve been in touch quite a bit. We don’t need to talk about it every day. We have a understanding that we’re going to iron something out here pretty quick.”

On boost to the program from Benny Snell being a Freshman All-American: “I think it helps us a great deal. I think it’s impressive to have a true freshman due that, and hopefully it will excite some other recruits to come here and have an opportunity to play early. It just goes to show you, because that’s a position we were very deep but the best players are going to play.”

On what it says about staff that they saw potential in Snell despite not having the recruiting hype of some other players: “We did. I think our staff has done that over the years. You’ve seen that where maybe early on we may get a guy committed and doesn’t have a whole bunch of stars but by the time he comes out he’s ready to play. I think Benny is another great example of that, where our coaches just did our evaluation of him and we were very excited about him all along. He’s been steady. He was steady with us through the process, and we were steady with him. It’s been very good.”

On if A.J. Rose will be a scout team QB again for Georgia Tech prep: “He is. Yeah, he is. He’s doing it right now as well. He’s got the quicks. He’s a big, strong guy, but he also is very elusive.”

On if learning Georgia Tech offense is almost like a foreign language: “It is very different. It is different. It’s nothing like a zone-read option or anything like that, or any option we’ve seen this year. It’s totally different, so yeah, like I said, I think it’s very important that we have some extra time. It takes awhile just to get your scout team to give you a decent look. You’ve got to get some guys that can really move there. I think when you watch them, they’re so skilled at what they do. You look at their offensive line, and they’re skilled at their skill positions, but their offensive line moves exceptionally well. Those guys run and they make it hard on you. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

On how Courtney Love has progressed through the season: “Yeah, I think he’s been very steady. He gives you everything he has. It’s very important to him. He’s very steady when it comes to the things you’ve talked about right there when it comes to leadership and coming to practice every day with the right mindset and the right attitude and being a leader and being important to him. He’s exceptional. On the field, he’s had some good and some bad and he’ll continue to get better with more experience.”

On the defensive line play after so much turnover: “Well, I think we all know that we needed to play better and as we talked about early on with the inexperience and there was just a lot of things we needed to get better at and they did. I think it starts with coming to practice everyday with the right attitude to improve and get better and technique wise, the coaches working extremely hard with them. And playing within the scheme and a lot of things. I’m pleased with the way we progressed and we’ve still got a lot to improve on and we will, but they’ve done some really good things and we need to play well in this game.”

On getting some experience back on defensive line: “It’s very important and we’ve got to continue to recruit guys and it’s not a good feeling being thin at any position in particular the defensive line. That’s not a good place to be thin and/or inexperienced. So hopefully we’re going to continue to recruit really well, develop our guys and have some bodies to work with there.”

On Jimmy Brumbaugh saying that Adrian Middleton had been the biggest surprise and what Stoops has seen from him: “I may agree. We needed him. We had to have him play well and he really stepped up and did some good things.”

On if they use these practices to start looking at options to fill holes of starters UK does lose: “We do. We definitely work the threes or the redshirt guys into practices every day. Today, we go some good on good. We do some physical contact where it’s team run good on good, so we’re working the redshirt guys in there. So I want to know coming out of this bowl practice what we have and getting ready for spring and what they look like. We definitely look at them.”

On if he’s talked with other coaches about defending the triple option: “We definitely do. We reach out and talk with coaches about this scheme, yes. We do have time. It’s bowl season and last week and all that, we definitely do. We definitely lean on our experience and what we’ve done. Big part of that will be what we did at Florida State and how we defended them. Then how they change and ways to evolve or how to improve from there, but the base principles, we had some success with at Florida State and we’ll stay with that.”

On moving spring game to night: “I meant to talk to Tony (Neely) about that. We discussed that and I put the stamp ‘OK’ on that, but I didn’t know it was finalized until I saw it on Twitter.” … I have bosses, too. (Dan) Berezowitz and (Frank) Buffano.”

On if that helps in recruiting at all: “We just looked at it and looked at the schedule and talked about getting a night game and hopefully getting some fans in there and some recruits in town. It was just a different option and maybe not having as many games on that night as there are the following Saturday.”

On the timeline for players getting NFL evaluations: “We’ll hear back before the bowl game on some guys. Right after the bowl game, we’ll try to get serious with the players who may be thinking about that and give them as much information as they can have to give them an informed decision.”

On how many are interested in that NFL information: “Uh, not very many to be honest with you. Just a few.”

On schedule for players with practices and holidays: “Next week -- we’re practicing every day -- so we go Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then they break Wednesday the 21st and they’ll go home and they’ll either report back here and go with us on the 26th or they’ll meet us down there.”

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