Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops’ final thoughts before Kentucky departs for Southern Miss

MARK STOOPS

“Been a good solid week of preparation. I really like the way things have gone. I’ve really felt like especially after Tuesday they’ve been really sharp the rest of the week. We had a great practice on Wednesday. They’re excited and ready to go. Had to get them going a little bit on Tuesday and it’s kind of like that sometimes when you’re putting a lot of stuff in beginning of the game plan, even though we’d worked on them a little bit. That first day of high intensity work of the first game week, a lot of information, but I feel good about it right now. I feel like our team is really focused. They’ve worked hard and we’re relatively healthy outside of the two guys we lost early in camp. So we’re excited and ready to go.”

On if he had any of those annoyed, unhappy with attitude and effort days in camp this fall: “I’ve had some moments that’s for sure. It’s a lot of time there, but I have been pleased with just the overall work. I just feel like as I’ve mentioned before in my previous press conferences. I don’t know — this is the first year we’ve gone through this type of a schedule — and this type of a schedule seemed to unload a little bit of the mental stress on those guys for whatever reason. We’re here all the time anyway, so you start a little early, you’re practicing. They get that day off and it seemed to help decompress them a bit. So I felt like you were able to get a lot of good, physical work because they did have a little time, a little rest. So it’s been good. I’ve been pleased.”

On containing Ito Smith: “When you talk about missed tackles, there’s always some of that that anybody can see. But then there’s also a big part of it is position on the football. When you’re not playing great team defense, really good athletes are going to expose you really quickly. So, you have to have a bunch of people around the ball and in great spots. You’re gonna get great individual plays, you see it every week in pro and college — guys that make you miss. But if you’re doing it time and time again, generally it’s bad position on the ball with a lot of guys. And so we definitely need to be on point. That’s for sure. We’ve watched them and our offense will make you accountable as well. You have to be in the right spot with our run game. So we’ve got an awful lot of work at that and we’ll see some new stuff. You just got to be able to adapt to it. That’ll be the big thing for our team. They’re so tuned into playing our offense all spring and all camp that they’ll be new wrinkles, there’ll always be new plays. So, we’ve gotta be tuned in and ready to play and have great position on the football.”

On if he reminded them of last year to get them going: “I did a time or two. Like I said, I never beat a dead horse on that. But yeah, when I feel like they’re going through the motions at times, I’ve certainly brought it up. You want to get in a bad mood, put on some of that tape.”

On how long Eli Brown has been practicing at the mike: “He’s practicing there on third downs, three, four or five days. We just got him there to cross-train him a little bit.”

On if Brown is doing what Boogie Watson is at that position: “They’re the same position. Boogie is gonna be fine. There’s just a lot of information there. Going from outside to inside is tough on him. We really like what he see, it’s just you’ve gotta be ready to play. We’ve got to have a solid two-deep ready to go in this game. And Kash (Daniel) will play as well. So Boogie will continue to work you’ll see Courtney (Love) and you’ll see Kash for sure. Hopefully we’ll get some reps for Boogie as well at mike. You’ll see Courtney and you’ll see Kash for sure. Hopefully we’ll get some reps for Boogie as well at mike.”

On if the team has voted on captains: “Not yet. I usually appoint those guys, I have in the past, week by week. We’ll see.”

On if he worries about young players forgetting the plays in a first game: “Yeah. Without a doubt. I saw that Tuesday. As you start really getting heavy in the scout team work and they’re not seeing the same things they’ve seen. You just add any wrinkle, it like blows their mind. We have to make sure we watch exactly what we’re asking people to do and make sure they can do it. We cannot beat ourselves. That’s happened from time to time. We cannot let that happen. We have to make people beat us and we’ve gotta be very conscientious with who’s in the game and what they can and can’t do.”

On scoring too fast against USM last year and how much it helps to maintain the clock: “Big time. The time of possession was out of control. That’s twofold. That’s no good by the defense not getting off, but the offense was either scoring on one or two plays and throwing two incomplete passes and then scoring. That doesn’t help at all. We talked about that last year: That’s just a bad recipe, especially for an inexperienced defense. So, definitely you saw the way we changed. We’ve talked about that. I mean, obviously, you’re never going to hear me complain if our offense scores on one play or two play, but you will hear me complain because I don’t think it’s good for long term if we’re constantly losing time of possession that drastically. That’s not good, but we know we got that rectified. So let’s hope we have a couple big plays and score quickly. I definitely won’t complain, because I know we can go back to churning it out and being methodical and grinding the ball and running it and that helps everybody.”

On if he has to worry about Bunchy Stallings being too amped up with so many family at the game: “I hope he’ll be just fine. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s been around. I did go to Mississippi and I went to his mom’s funeral. I saw first-hand his family. He’s got a bunch of big people in that family, as well, and a lot of family members. It will be fun for him and exciting.

“I think we all have to learn from that first first game. I touched on that in my Monday press conference about everybody is excited to play, but you have to be very poised and you’ve got to execute. You can’t leave it all in pregame warmups. With young, inexperienced players you have to worry about that a lot. We have a touch more experience now, so I hope that pays off.”

On memories from his first college game: “Lamar is better than me. I’ve been hit in the head too many times to remember that. (Laughs). Lamar probably played. I was on the bench my first college game. Lamar may have played.”

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