Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Mark Stoops on possible redshirt rule, early signing period and more


“It was a very good spring for us. I was very pleased. I feel like we made a lot of progress. Played better the second half of the year last year and went into the spring and really tried to build on that. I think it starts with an experience offense. We have a physical offensive line, some quality running backs and developed an efficient running game last year. Trying to build on that in the spring. Stephen Johnson got better as our quarterback here this spring, and we welcomed back Drew Barker off of injury, who is getting close to full strength. He participated in spring and we're excited about having him back. And then defensively, we needed to get better. I felt like we made a lot of strides in the spring. Matt House is our new defensive coordinator. He's done a very good job, and overall, I feel like there's a lot less questions for us coming out of spring than there's been in the past.”

On if there's a position group he's eager to see what the 2017 recruiting class can add this summer: “I think we're stronger across the board as a team, but we still have some questions. I think you have to look at defensive line as an area that we've got to continue to recruit and develop and get better at. We have some guys coming in, but we'll see how that goes. It's hard to count on true freshmen to come in and help you win quality SEC football games, so we'll see where it goes.”

On his thoughts on the early signing period: “I think like anything, there'll be some good and some bad in anything new. We'll take some time to make an educated decision on that. Right now we'll play with the cards that were dealt to us. I think, like I said, there’s good and bad. If you look through the years it certainly could have benefitted us in certain ways. I think it’s good, as far as having the early signing period, having that ability. As far as changing the calendar and all those things when you package it together I don’t think I was total in favor of that, but you have to make due with the rules that were given to you. So, a player that we have committed that I know very well that we’ve had a relationship with for a year, year and a half or so, if you want to clean that up and get him signed in December I see no harm in that. With the change and bringing in the visits so early and all that, that’s something that’s going to take some thought and we’ll work our way through that.”

On if a certain type of program might benefit from this rule: “I don’t know. I really would have no idea. I think each school you’d have to look at that independently. I think there are time where it maybe would have benefitted us, but you never know. We’ll see how it goes in the future.”

On proposal to allow players to play at least four games without losing redshirt: “I think that rule change would make a lot of sense. We were in that situation last year when we had a quarterback hurt early in the year in Drew Barker and played most of the year with our backup quarterback being a redshirt guy. We decided to keep that redshirt on Gunnar Hoak in game 11 and played our third-team quarterback who did some good things, but anyway, it was a situation where it could’ve benefitted us a year ago. I think it makes a lot of sense. It can protect the player and their redshirt year, help gain a little bit of experience for the following year and overall I think it’s a very good rule.”

On Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams having to give up football after neck injury: “I have heard about it. Bret (Bielema) and I are good friends. Just wish the best for that young man. There’s a lot of life outside of football that I’m sure he’ll be very successful in and we wish him the very best. I really don’t know too much about his injuries and things like that, but you just wish him the very best in his future.”

On conference pride: “Yeah, it doesn’t take long for you to realize the camaraderie we have within the league, and it’s very competitive. We have a lot of respect for each other and the programs. There’s a lot of people in this league who invest an awful lot. And you build the friendships within the coaching staffs and you have a lot of respect for the programs and their players. Didn’t take me long to feel that.”

On if he will use the new signing period to lock in players who are ready to sign in December: “Well, I think yes, definitely. If we feel very comfortable with the player and we have a good feel for them personally, for their character and their families and we can get it knocked out, I definitely think we would use it to try and get them locked up.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader