Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Mark Stoops on defensive dominance in Saturday scrimmage


I hope you guys enjoyed the scrimmage. I mean, it should be short for me to talk about. You guys can tell me what you saw. We’re getting into it. Like I told the team, we’ve been going at this a long time. With us only practicing three days a week and spreading it out, we’re getting a ton of work done, we’re getting a ton of meeting time, but it gets long. We’ve got one more week, one more really true practice on Tuesday. We’ve got one more helmets day, we have to go in helmets Tuesday. On Thursday it’ll be an organizational practice and we’ll get some work done and have the spring game on Friday. I hope you guys enjoyed the practice. You can see we’re getting a lot of physical work in. We’ve been really working at it on both sides of the ball up front to be better fundamentally. Certainly defensively you can see the strides we took today. The last two days it’s been like that — really good defensively up front — and it’s a start. We have a long way to go, but I like the energy they’re playing with, I like the confidence they’re playing with. You can see we made some turnovers, made some big plays, and that’s good to see. Offensively we’ve been having a really solid spring. Last couple days, like I said, defensively I think we’re making strides. But they’re doing good things as well. Getting better.”

On Denzil Ware and Mike Edwards not practicing: “Denzil had a funeral, and Mike actually, his sister got married.”

On the defense playing well even without those two: “Those are two guys we sorely miss. So, we need those guys healthy. It’s good to see other guys step in, get some reps, get some quality reps and get better. Those guys have played a lot of football.”

On if the defense is improving versus the offense making mistakes: “I think it’s always a combination of things. But there’s more in. We really tried to stay basic and fundamental for a good portion of the spring just to get better. Get better at techniques, get better at playing the game. Now we’re starting to put more in, and we’re executing it a little better. We’ve been very cautious about what we’re installing and making sure we can execute it properly.”

On if Zy’Aire Hughes is a defensive back full-time: “We’re exploring. We’re looking at him. He’s only made that move, I wanna say two practices. So this was just his second day out there. Wanted to get a good look at him. It’s a double-edged sword. We lose a bunch of wide receivers after this year, and he’s doing a good job at wideout. But we’re getting thin in the secondary, and he’s just so quick. He has such great change of direction. He can run, so I just wanted to look at him a bit.”

On Tobias Gilliam: “He did have a good day. What he is, he’s a hard working guy. It’s important to him. He tries to do his very best. Again, just like any of these guys, experience is a factor. The more you do. Sometimes he looks real good and sometimes not so good.”

On Jordan Griffin: “We’re overloading him right now. To his credit he handles it very well. Playing that nickel position, you’ve heard me talk about it through the years, there’s a lot to it. He’s playing corner. But I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s a guy that has an unbelievable work ethic. Just a quality kid and he’s very talented. But things that happen in there, it is experience. It’s trial and error at that position. He needs a lot of reps and he’s been getting it.”

On the structure of the spring game: “We talked about it briefly. We’ve gotta look at it with numbers but I believe we’re gonna do it a lot like last year. Just put the oness and some replacements on one side and the twos and threes on the other.”

On if he’s excited about the redshirts: “Yeah, definitely. In the spring everyone wants more depth I would think. Every school across the country. We don’t have everybody here. Some guys are getting more and more mid-year games. That helps. But I feel like we have some good freshmen that will contribute. We need them to.”

On special teams in the spring game: “It’ll be just like last year. It’ll simulate special teams but it won’t be. It’ll be like the offense just punting it so we can work the operation of the game. We’ll just keep the offensive team in there. Punter, snapper, punt the ball, fair catch it and go from there. It’ll be very basic.”

On trying out different punts: “Yeah, we are. We’re trying. We’re moving the pocket a little bit and letting them try to unload a little pressure from him, yeah.”

On Jamar Watson playing well in the scrimmage: “We can’t play enough for those guys. Just Jordan Bonner, Jamar, we need a bunch of reps. Those guys, just experience, just playing. Good body types, good looking guys. They just need to get some reps.”

Kinda like the nickel? “Yeah, exactly. Two positions that I talk a lot about with how hard it is. It is. It’s the outside backer and the nickel. And really, it’s the same position at times.”

On Naquez Pringle giving the energy they need: “He’s doing some good things. Both him and Matt (Elam) need to continue to pick it up. We need more production out of the nose. We’re pushing those guys to play better.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader