Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: After ‘good, long scrimmage’ Mark Stoops much more pleased than week ago

MARK STOOPS

“It was good work today. Feel like it was a better scrimmage than it was a week ago, as it should be. I thought we had a really good solid week of practice this week. We got a lot of work in. Wrapping it up today with a good, long scrimmage. I feel like we did some good things on both sides of the ball. Like always, I’ve got to watch the film and get more detail and see exactly who stood out and who didn’t. But just overall I thought it was a good, competitive scrimmage. Necessary to get that live, physical work in with the tackling and all the above.

“I thought it was good. I thought, again, both sides did good. Defensively I think we’ve made some progress. Still not perfect. I think we did a better job if you put all the 1s and 2s together early in the scrimmage, the first 12, 13, 14 series were not nearly as many points. Didn’t get it in the end zone as much, particularly early in the scrimmage when we were at full strength on both sides. Overall good work.”

On Josh Paschal: “He made -- I always stand right behind there during the scrimmage. He made a play or two that really stood out to me. Wowed me a little bit. I noticed that on the field. He showed three, four plays during the scrimmage that he just stood out today. I don’t want to get everybody all excited. He’s a freshman. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s very, very talented and does stand out out there. He’s a physical guy. He’s got a lot of twitch. He has good instincts. He’s smart. We can move him around, do some different things with him. He’s one of those versatile guys for how big he is. He did some really good things.”

On the defense eliminating explosive run plays: “Not good. We gave up one big run. It was a mixed down. It’ll be a good learning situation for us. I’ve gotta go watch it to see exactly how it was but they creased us. That led to one of the touchdowns early. I’m not saying one side did better than the other, but I just look at drive charts while I’m out there. I go watch the film, but when I was looking at the drive chart during the scrimmage, that led to one of the touchdowns. I want to say it was 17 points with maybe 12 possessions. 12, 13 possessions. That’s getting pretty close to a full game. I felt like we did a better job of keeping them out of the end zone. We did a better job of getting some 3-and-outs. Had one interception. I don’t think there were any fumbles which was good to see from our offense. The offense was like they always are. They’re physical, they really had some good runs. We didn’t want to scrimmage Benny too much so he probably had 20 plays or what not. He had some good, strong, physical runs like he always does.”

On judging the maturity level of this team compared to last year: “I feel like we’re much further ahead in our maturity level. This team has been a lot of fun to coach. I don’t know if it’s different with the structure of it. This is the first time we’ve gone through this structure of training camp without the two a days. Starting earlier with the day off and all that. I don’t know if that has all to do with it or if the team is just more mature or we’re just further along or the continuity of our staff, but it’s been an enjoyable camp. There’s still so much work daily to do but it’s been fun. The guys have really taken to the coaching. I think it’s very important to them. I feel like we’re further ahead with the details.”

On if this is the time of year where guys start separating themselves: “It is. I told the team that point blank yesterday in a team meeting that we’re going to be making some decisions with playing time and moves on the depth chart after this scrimmage. Guys that either can’t do it or won’t do it are going to get passed up because we do have a lot of depth and a lot of talent on this team. At least a lot more than we’ve had.”

On if there’s a backup who have pushed for a larger role: “I think there’s plenty of that to go around. We feel like there’s definitely seven or eight guys that can start on the offensive line. I feel like at the receiver position, that can go either way a lot of times. Certainly on defensive line that’s the case. I feel good. I feel like we have some good, young defensive linemen. We’re not where we need to be but we feel like we have some good bodies and we’re going to make some progress there. I’ve been very impressed with Quinton Bohanna. I feel like it’s important to him. He plays tough; he plays physical. He’s a big man out there that’s athletic for how big he is. I have high hopes that he’ll continue to progress a little bit.”

On if he feels like they’re getting more players who feel like football is more important: “I do. Again, I just said it. I’m very comfortable and happy with this team, with their mentality. We’re not 100 percent there. We’re not. I don’t know if anybody ever is. But we’re striving to be that way. I really feel good with our team, but I love this freshmen group. I think they’re instinctual, they’re ball players, they love playing, they’re here all the time. They’ve been impressive.”

On how the offensive line has responded since losing Cole Mosier: “Just like you would expect, we take that right in stride. We know what a loss it is for Cole, because it does weaken you in certain ways. You’ve gotta start moving George (Asafo-Adjei) more outside, and he gives us a big physical presence inside. He gives us the depth inside and the versatility for him to play either way. So, Cole’s a big loss, but we can absorb that. But now you just want to keep working depth for the future. One of the things that helped us a year ago was playing nine guys on the offensive line. With losing him, it weakens us to a certain extent. I didn’t really answer your question there did I? I hate when I do that. I always circle back. You know, we’re gonna miss him. I think you know we have some guys who can step up and play. Now it’s a matter of depth and developing some other guys that we’re really comfortable with.”

On if Naasir Watkins is one of those guys to step in on the O-Line: “Yeah, Naasir has been really impressive. Again, just like with Josh (Paschal), I don’t wanna get everybody too jacked up on him, but we really like him and we feel like he’s further ahead right now than Landon (Young) was last year at this time. That tells you what we think of him.”

On how much of a change he’s seen in Lynn Bowden from last Saturday to now: “Lynn had a solid week. You could see how easy the game looks to him at times. I think, I know he’s gonna be one of those guys where if you get the ball in his hands enough, he’s gonna make plays. He makes things look easy. Today, I felt like he had an opportunity to make some really special plays and that didn’t happen. But I anticipate he’ll do that — the ‘wow’ plays. He had some balls that were slightly overthrown or in traffic. I expect him to come up with those, and he’s been consistent all week. He’s another one like I talked about. He loves football. It comes fairly easy to him. His instincts, his intelligence — it’s there. It’s just a matter of getting him comfortable, getting him some reps and getting him out there.”

On if the four freshmen wide receivers we’ve heard about in camp could all play: “I think we’re going to. I do. I feel like they’re really good players. They’re just ball players. They could probably help us on special teams. Bring them along, and as you know, we lose a pretty good group after this year. So, it’ll be important. It’ll probably leak out there, and I don’t want everyone poking around or anything, but we did get an injury today that was fairly substantial. I’ll give you the details later when I know, so please respect the kid and his family and everything, but Dorian Baker did get hurt today. I’ll let us clean that up with the doctors and give you an update on that next week. I appreciate it. I just wanted to tell you so you don’t start hearing things and seeing him with a boot on. He has an ankle injury. I’ll update you on that next week.”

On what kind of camp Jordan Jones has had: “Good. He shows his plays. You’ve seen him. You’ve heard me talk about him. He has that passion. He has the instincts, the pop. He’s still around the football all the time. He’s explosive. I’d say he’s been more consistent. He’s not perfect yet. We’re gonna keep on pushing him to get that way, but he’s definitely getting more consistent. He’s a good football player. He’s just gotta be 100 percent all the time.”

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